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23 Comments

I just quit my tech job to grow my own company. AMA!

Hey there!

My name is Anthony (on Twitter as @anthonynsimon), and I recently quit my job as an engineering lead to focus on Panelbear. It's an all-in-one website monitoring SaaS I launched in September 2020.

While I’ve been working for a search engine company most of my career, I also used to do computer graphics, soundtracks for short films, and video game development. I made my first dollar on the internet back in 2012 when I published an indie iOS game.

To me, it's very fulfilling to have someone pay for something I’ve created, especially if it involves some creative juices. That’s why after several years working in the industry I decided to leave my job and focus on growing my own business.

Panelbear is still in the early stages, but here’s some stats:

  • Serving 2,000+ websites
  • Sign ups +47% MoM
  • Self-funded and profitable
  • Run by myself as solo founder

For those interested, here's a post on the tech stack I use.

Feel free to ask me anything! I’ll be checking the post from time to time.

  1. 4

    Panelbear looks great, nice work.

    How did you go about the research/discovery phase of launching? How did you validate the idea?

    1. 1

      Hi Tim, thank you!

      I initially built it as an MVP for myself, as I wanted to explore the space for some personal projects. I had little to no experience in marketing, so I tried a few things and learned from this while keeping my day job.

      I iterated on the product and people subscribed for paid plans over time. ~42% of paid customers have subscribed for a whole year upfront, which gave me an extra boost of confidence about the direction of the product.

      Now I'm evaluating where to take it next!

      1. 1

        Iterating is the most straightforward product/market fit strategy 💡

        You can probably start from any product and iterate your way to product/market fit.

        Maybe that's nonsense, but I'm sticking to this story 😆

  2. 2

    Hello Anthony! First, thank you for the invitation to IH.

    How do you market Panelbear as a solo founder? What channels do you use? Is it word of mouth or SEO or social media content or you are going for paid ads?

    1. 2

      No problem at all - got a few invite codes when I got invited to do this AMA :)

      Regarding marketing, I'm probably not the best person to look up to (I'm still learning the ropes), but what has worked best for me so far:

      Sharing how you're building something, the challenges you face, what worked and what didn't. I feel people seem to enjoy content more when they can take something away from it, and I personally prefer that type of content too. However, I do crack some bad jokes on Twitter too 🙃

      Also, some of the blog posts I wrote received a lot of traffic, but the readers may not not be particularly interested about my product. While some posts receive way less traffic, but people engaged more with what I’m building.

      I guess it's about providing useful content to the right audience for your product. I'm hoping to increase my efforts here and see how it goes.

      1. 1

        Thanks for the insights Anthony.

  3. 2

    Thank you Anthony for sharing your stack, very interesting.

  4. 2

    Hi Anthony.
    Just a small question, how do you manage to live without salary while you launch or work on your new product ? :)

    1. 1

      Hey Jacquelin! I've been lucky to be in a position where I could try and save as much as I could over the past years, and now the product is growing in revenue every month - which gave me confidence about making this move.

      Also my employer was nice and allowed me to work on my side business over the past year (with written approval - don't want to mess with that!).

      This reduced the overall risk for me, so I could just focus on first validating it without the time pressure.

  5. 2

    Hey Anthony. Congrats!

    I love Panelbear a ton and think this will be a great pathway for you to pursue.

    How did you originally come up with this idea? What was the main pain point/struggle you were tackling?

    1. 1

      Thanks Brayden! I appreciate it

      Originally I wanted to "scratch my own itch" on a weekend project for myself. It grew from there.

      Also, at my previous job I worked closely on data pipelines / monitoring / reliability topics, so that's been helpful in identifying pain points with existing monitoring tools within a team setting.

      I try to draw from those past experiences plus customer feedback to shape the direction of the product.

      1. 1

        Awesome - thanks for the reply! Best of luck on your journey ahead.

  6. 2

    Good luck on your journey as a solo founder, Anthony!

    Plausible ($40k/mo) is playing in the same field, also SimpleAnalytics ($10k/mo). It seems that many people, at least in tech circles, are looking for Google Analytics alternatives.

    I see your product is serving a larger audience then these mentioned (you also offer performance monitoring, for example).

    We are all curious about your MRR, but I think this is something you don't share right now (otherwise you would have mentioned it on your post I guess).

    So I wanted to ask you this: what do you think about sharing revenue as a solo founder and is this something that you are considering in the future?

    1. 2

      Hey Rauno - thanks for the nice words!

      I feel there's a lot of momentum in the simple analytics market, and the guys at Plausible, SimpleAnalytics, Fathom, Splitbee are doing an amazing job.

      You're right, I've been pivoting to serve a slightly different customer, who might want a more complete picture about their website (performance, uptime, end user experience), but to be transparent I'm still validating how Panelbear could offer something special vs say DataDog or NewRelic. It's still quite early.

      Regarding sharing revenue numbers, I’ve seen that posting MRR updates can help drive a lot of interest on social media, but I prefer to mainly share lessons learned, stories, and product updates. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with publicly sharing revenue figures - it's just my personal preference :)

  7. 2

    Impressive growth.

    1. What made you decide to enter such a hyper competitive and long established niche?

    2. How did you acquire your early paying customers?

    3. What are the top 3 things you wished you had known when you began this journey?

    1. 2

      Thanks!

      1. Initially I just wanted to scratch my own itch. I started it when the existing tools did not have some of the features they now offer (eg. data filtering), so I built something for myself and slowly turned it into a SaaS next to my day job.

      2. I think most of the early customers came through Twitter, I started posting product updates and talking about how I built it via blog posts.

      3. If I could go back, I'd evaluate my go-to-market strategy earlier (even if barebones). Essentially figuring out what's the product's positioning in the market, the messaging, distribution strategy, and driving product development + marketing from that.

      But I'm still new to this, so probably would have made other mistakes too :)

  8. 2

    Hey Anthony, I'm in a similar, but yet different position having just quit my job to focus on building my first product. And coincidentally it seems we also have similar backgrounds (computer graphics / game dev).

    I've seen your product before and the blog post you've shared and it really resonated with me - I'm a one-man team working with a similar stack, although my analytics product serves a different market.

    I mostly wanted to thank you for sharing your story and wishing you good luck in your endeavor.

    Since this is an AMA it would be rude of me not to ask a question, or two. I'll try not to ask the usual ones. So here they go:

    • What did you discover was holding you back when initially starting your journey (personal traits, bad habits etc.)

    • What was the biggest misconception you let go of (something you really believed in but turned out to be false)

    • What's your plan of action for the next quarter

    1. 1

      Thanks for the nice message Klint! Those are great questions:

      1. I sometimes overthink stuff before taking action, and I feel this is often stopping me from trying new things and taking risks.

      2. At this point it’s probably a meme but: “if you build it, they will come”. I keep making this mistake, but I now believe that having a solid positioning/market strategy and consistently executing it can make the whole difference. I'm still working on this one.

      3. For the coming months I'll be gathering as much feedback as I can, and shipping the stuff that I think have the most potential to help grow the business. Part of this includes new features, but also content and repositioning the product.

      Also, best of luck to you too! Looking forward to hearing your story too :)

  9. 1

    Hi Anthony, congratulations on the success!
    If your product would be targeted to serve Twitter Analytics, how would you approach that?

    1. 1

      Thanks!

      If I had to serve Twitter analytics I would go for a simpler setup on the backend (AFAIK the analytics data would be provided by Twitter's API), and redirect those efforts into content marketing.

  10. 1

    That's amazing. I love those kinds of stories.

    How did you manage your time while you had a full-time job?

    Also just added you to my "Indie Hackerz" Twitter list :) https://twitter.com/i/lists/1431004027827929088

    Cheers!

    1. 1

      Thanks Maxime!

      What worked for me: Avoid working on weekends or very late at night. Instead, during the week I try to find pockets of focused, uninterrupted time in which I could fully complete something without leaving it "half done". Usually 1-2 hours per day.

      Easier said than done of course 😆

      1. 1

        Interesting that you took that approach - Most entrepreneurs in the start up world are hyperfocused on using late nights and weekends as work time - Well definitely the ones who have a full time day job like I do.

        Best of luck btw

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