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37 Comments

I sold my first bootstrapped SaaS business. AMA!

Hi again, Indie Hackers! 👏

I've been building harmonizely.com for over four years since the idea first popped into my head. Solo founder, fully bootstrapped while still working full time.

It's been a great experience. I couldn't believe that the biggest companies all over the world would use something I've built. It was a dream come true. Anyway, the competitor acquired it.

Here is how it started 👇

Over 4 years ago, an idea popped up in my head. I built an appointment scheduling app with the open CalDAV standard support. It was created from my own need and to gain more experience. I quickly realized that people have the same problem by reading the competitors' reviews. You can read my full story on how I bootstrapped it here.

It was a side project for me at the time, but I kept getting the new users coming organically.

In the beginning, I was doing there everything, starting from coding, answering customers and having the demo calls. When it was too much for me, a friend of mine jumped into work on the tech side so I could focus on other things.

The project was getting more and more organic traffic. More people were interested in it. I gradually minimized the number of hours in my full-time job. I started working 4 days a week. I ended working on my project full time over a few months.

There have been many ups and downs along the way, but I don't regret anything. I met amazing people who I still keep in touch with today.

What's next, then? I'm not stopping here, although I could already retire. I'm on a new project right now.

If you are at all interested, be sure to follow me here and on Twitter at @muszynski_rafal for more updates! ✌️

I would love to answer any questions you have 😊
Ask me anything!

  1. 2

    Congratulations. Enjoy your new life!

    What was your tech stack when you started? What would you use today?

    1. 1

      I code in PHP and JS/react and I wouldn't change it. That doesn't mean I don't experiment with new technologies, because I'm constantly testing and learning new things.

      1. 2

        Yes, PHP is good. I use plain PHP and plain JS for my side projects.

  2. 2

    Congrats @takeit , I am curious about your early days - When you were working on this as side-hustle, What mindset you had while speaking about this at your full-time work? did you ever let your boss know about it? At what point did you let your co-workers / bosses know about your project? What mistakes would you want us to avoid when disclosing your side hustle in day job?

    1. 3

      I worked remotely for my whole career. I never worked in the office for longer than one week. I didn't have to spend time commuting, so that was a huge privilege. In the beginning, I was doing it after working hours. Sometimes at late nights.

      Yes, I let know my coworkers what I was doing I think it was at the time I had the MVP ready, they were one of the first beta testers too :)

      I think you shouldn't hide anything. Your bosses should be happy that they have such treasure in the company that you are proactive and doing something after working hours. It can be helpful for your employer too unless you are not doing what you have to in your day to day job :)

  3. 2

    Awesome!
    Can you also tell what did you do to the get the first customers say the first 10 or 20 customers?
    Thanks!

    1. 2

      I posted about my project everywhere it was possible, where my ideal customers were hanging out, even when I didn't have an MVP. I built the mailing list with the early adopters. When I had the MVP ready, I posted about it everywhere elsewhere I could, for free. E.g. Betalist, IndieHackers, Facebook Groups, Product Hunt etc.

      1. 2

        Thanks, all the best for your next one!

  4. 2

    Rafael. Congratulations first off, very inspiring story. How did you land your first paid big client?

    1. 1

      Thank you, @Fishcakes. They found me through Quora. Other ones thought the Google search and the others by the referrals.

  5. 2

    Very inspiring. Great job, Rafal. :)

  6. 2

    How much did you sell for ? 😀 range 6 or 7 figure

    1. 1

      The price that lets me focus on things I love without worrying about anything :)

  7. 2

    Congrats on selling a side business and keeping a full time job. That is truly the dream. Is it taboo to ask a range of how much you sold it for? Also could you share the monthly cost of running the business? @takeit

    1. 1

      Thank you! I can't say much about that (sorry!) but it's more than the average you can get. The monthly cost was less than $300/mo.

  8. 2

    Congrats!

    So what is the future of Harmonizely? Will they land clients into their solution?

    1. 2

      It will work as it used to and will be developed further. It will be rebranded and the existing clients will be moved to the rebranded version.

  9. 2

    Congratulations!
    How is the valuation done in these cases? Is it multiple of ARR or Growth Rate or both...

    1. 1

      thank you! It's up to you basically. I included the multiple of ARR and the YoY growth rate.

  10. 2

    Wow. Amazing story.

    What's the new project are you working on?

    1. 2

      Thanks! It's betterfeedback.ai - qualitative customer feedback analysis tool

      1. 2

        It looks awesome 🔥

        Would love to see it on microns.io someday 😁

  11. 2

    Super stuff @takeit
    I read through your journey and also checked out Product Hunt page.
    You mentioned you had many ups and downs.
    Can you share one of the downs and how to avoid it?

    1. 5

      Comparing to the competition - just don't. You won't have the features that they do. You don't have an army of 100 teammates to help you out in the beginning. Just know what they do in general but don't be obsessed about it. It can hurt your business and change the direction, move you from reaching the goals you set.

  12. 2

    Hi Rafal,

    Congratulations on the hard earned success of the project!

    Doesn't it hurt to sell a project you worked for 4 years? Did you think growing it much bigger than the acquisition offer? Did you feel you could've worked on it for significant part of life?

    1. 2

      Hi @praveentiwari, thank you!

      Of course, it hurts because you are selling something to put your all hurts, a lot of hard work and effort. I was thinking about it a lot. I backed it by a lot of calculations too :) I decided to give it a try. I wouldn't have done it if I didn't have another project in mind too which I started prototyping while building the SaaS I sold. When you don't have to worry about the money anymore, it's easier to do other stuff and take more risk building other products. I could've worked on it for a significant part of my life, sure. I saw it as a learning experience and that I can achieve more with other products.

  13. 2

    Hi Rafal,

    First of all: congratulations on the acquisition and thanks for sharing with us! I have two questions for you:

    1. How did the competitor's acquisition come about? Have you been actively looking for a buyer? Or did they come up to you? How long did the whole process take?

    2. What was your recent marketing/sales strategy? You were in a market with a lot of competition. How did you manage to successfully address new customers? In your 2018 post you mention that you got a good initial momentum eg. through Betalist. How did that work out in the mid/long term?

    1. 2

      Hi @nklsw, thank you!

      1. I haven't been actively looking for a buyer. I posted the offer at Microaquire. I put a price that I would be happy with and for which I would sell it without much thought to see how it would go. I didn't expect this to happen, but here is how I got in touch with a buyer. The whole process took over two weeks.
      2. We've been active on Quora, and we were doing content marketing (I outsourced that). Those were the main acquisition channels. Over time, I've built a small affiliate network from the existing customers, so new customers were coming from the referrals. AppSumo launch was helpful here too. It helped to build a community of users who referred us to others. It helped with brand awareness a lot too.

      I was also working with other companies on the custom integrations, thanks to which we were getting new customers.

      Posting on Betalist and similar was just a one-time bump. We didn't get much traffic over time from these channels. However, it's good to post there when you start to get early adopters, beta testers and actually the initial traffic :)

      1. 1

        Thanks for sharing.
        What was the company you outsourced content marketing?

        1. 1

          Kinga and the Brainy Bees. I highly recommend her and the team

  14. 1

    Congrats Rafal and good luck with your next project!

    What made you decide to sell, given that you weren't actively looking for a buyer?

    1. 1

      Thanks! Great question. There were many reasons, including mental ones. The offer was good too. I decided to invest in another startup that had been on my mind for a while (but I didn't have the time and resources to do it) and make it 10x bigger.

  15. 1

    Congratulations @takeit. Though it might sound a silly question but just wanted to clear that if you don't mind.

    Can you please tell how much ux and design elements costed you as an engineer. Do in early days you had to spend money from your pocket to get those. Or you used to design yourselves?

    1. 2

      @Aabhas, it only cost me my time and later my teammate's time to adjust it. I purchased a template for I think $20 and then we had a base to extend it and slightly modify it so we didn't have to reinvent the wheel and building the template ourselves.

      1. 2

        Thanks for your reply @takeit :)

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