I bootstrapped an open-source PHP app (Statamic) to over $1.5M as a company of 3. AMA!

Hello folks!

I'm Jack, the creator and founder of Statamic, a flat-file CMS built on Laravel. I started Statamic in 2012 and it has never been anything resembling an overnight success, but almost 10 years later it is a solid and sustainable lifestyle business and I'm proud of it. If you're curious, here's a video on our entire history as a product company.

We've spent next to nothing on marketing or advertising and have simply relied on good customer support, word of mouth, and social media to drive growth.

Ask me anything!

  1. 3

    10 years is pretty long time, have you ever feel bored or just want to stop because it boring or smthg . If yes how you handle that?

    1. 5

      Absolutely. I wouldn't stop just because I'm bored – who wants to throw away recurring revenue? But every so often I take a few weeks to scale back my time and do a side project for fun (or a little side money, because why not?).

      A few things I've done to give my brain a break:

      1. 3

        I just checked the Radical Design Course website and it's so cool ^^

        Especially the swear of never spamming when you click the email address deposit box. It's awesome!!!

        1. 1

          Holy shit it really is!! Hah never seen something like that.

  2. 3

    Hi Jack, I don't have any questions, but it is great to read your story on IH! At our Agency, we are using Statamic for quite a lot of clients (and our own -wip- company website), and they are all extremely satisfied!

    And to be honest, not our clients, but our Front-end team is probably your biggest fan.

    Keep up the good work and hopefully, you can grow the company even further!

    ~ Team Pitcher 🇳🇱

  3. 3

    Great story Jack! Keep on going!

    Can you share where exactly the first 15K in 6 months came from? Provided it 'sopen-source, is it client work, subscriptions, etc?

    Also, how did you acquire your first users, your seed community? What worked for you?

    1. 3

      So Statamic wasn't always open source. V1 and V2 were closed source and you had to buy it before using it. In the very beginning licenses were $29/site for personal projects and $99 for commercial.

      I had a decent Twitter audience at the time (can't remember but at least 2k-3k) because I had been doing a lot of work using ExpressionEngine and had some successful addons for that platform.

      When I launched Statamic, I promoted it as an EE alternative for smaller projects because it was a lot cheaper. So the first $15k were probably 90% EE users trying something else out for the heck of it.

  4. 3

    you mention your marketing spend was low - which social media channels have been the best for you? I know TikTok marketing has been a topic here on IH - are you seeing any success with it yourself?

    1. 4

      Never paid for social media marketing – just some industry newsletters and that kind of thing.

  5. 2

    How has being an open source project helped the company? Are there any differences between the Open Source code and the one offered to customers?

  6. 2

    I'm a big fan Jack. 🤗🤩

  7. 2

    Congratulations Jack. 10 years of hard work is always commendable. What would you say are the biggest challenges you faced as a small team in terms of finding a balance between growth and sustainability ?

    1. 8

      Thank you, and good question!

      The biggest challenge for me was mitigating risk. I have 3 kids and my wife homeschools them full time, so every dollar is super important. For a long time I couldn't let myself deploy those dollars on "riskier" things like hiring more people, ad buys, and so on. I was so afraid to blow money we desperately needed that I slowed our growth way down for years.

      We even built our own tools (like a custom forum, e-commerce marketplace, etc) to save money when what we really should have done is just spend the money on existing platforms and built a bit faster. Those things became tech debt later and we had to put more time in to shut them down.

      For the first 6 years Statamic was a part time endeavor and we would take on client projects (design, app builds, etc ) to cover the gap and put some money in the bank. Eventually I felt that the business was sustainable enough that we could start to go full time, one at a time.

      This is one of those things that's hard to learn, and for many you just have to go through it to look back and see how you could have done it differently. I can now see how spending money to make money works in a way that couldn't before.

  8. 1

    Do you think you would have achieved what you have in shorter time if you had external consultants coming into help you in areas you aren't strong in? Or was it a conscious choice to go slow?

    1. 1

      I don't think I needed external consultants, I just needed to work on it full time. That would have made all the difference in the world. I didn't have the money to dedicate the time, at the time. I wish I had saved up more before launching so I could have had a runway.

      1. 1

        Ya that makes a ton of a sense. It's a struggle at the beginning. Part a mental one of not sure if this is going to make you enough money so why waste your savings, part financial one.

        Thanks for sharing your journey.

    2. 1

      Congratulations and amazing work btw.

  9. 1

    Hi Jack, congratulations on the amazing growth.

    My question is about pricing. How did you decide on your current pricing structure? Do you plan on changing pricing/how you charge?

    1. 1

      The pricing structure we went with was basically what I would have wanted were I customer. I firmly believe that you should own your own website and content if it's important to you, and I didn't want to have a subscription model that locked that away if you canceled.

      Pay for it once, use it as long as you want. If you want some new features down the road, you can pay for an update (new major version etc).

      I may add additional options in the future (e.g. we could a subscription model if it also included hosting, I feel okay with that).

  10. 1

    is statamic support membership? paid-membership?

    1. 1

      We provide support when you buy Statamic Pro. It's $259 one time, and then if you want to keep getting updates and support, it's $59/year.

      1. 1

        I mean it has a feature of membership like a ghost has. Where I can charge for reading content?

        1. 1

          Not natively, no, but there’s an addon that does it : https://statamic.com/addons/silentz/charge

  11. 1

    Hey Jack, nice work! Is that $1.5M over the course of 10 years, or $1.5M a year?

    That question aside, if you were going to try to double it what would you do next based off what you know has worked so far?

    1. 5

      Over the course of 10 years. It took 8 years to hit the first $1M, and we're on track for 3 years for the second.

      In order to double it again, I plan to do a few things:

      Fist is a more evergreen content — especially videos and screencasts. I'm in the middle of rebuilding our documentation to make it easier to learn which will help new folks discovering it.

      I also want to build more "in roads" to get people Started with Statamic – like one-click deploy tools on Digital Ocean, Starter Kits that you can try out and deploy easily, and that kind of thing.

      Taking a stab at a hosted version could be huge growth, but also huge risk and a business an order magnitude more complex to run, so I haven't done it yet.

      I would love to find ways to get influencer developers (folks like Wes Bos) to take a real look at Statamic and hopefully talk about it, but they all want big chunks of money to do it. Not sure it's worth it.

      I can also just keep doing what we're doing – providing the best support we can, growing the community, and trusting in word of mouth. If I know myself, this is one thing I can count on working.

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