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Maybe you should be doing Research as a Service instead of SaaS

I just had a really great podcast episode with @ramykhuffash. He talked about how maybe more Indie hackers should be trying Research as a Service ideas instead of SaaS.

Here are a couple of reasons why.

  • Your product is also SEO marketing automatically
  • There is less work doing customer service
  • Very manageable business for a solo-entrepreneur
  • People are willing to pay for data that saves them time more than ever right now

Maybe something for you to look into.

Ramy had more great insights and takes in the episode. you can check it out here: https://share.transistor.fm/s/8a0d22f9

  1. 10

    Indie Hackers was basically a "let me do the research for you" initiative when I first started it. Lots of people wanted to learn how founders were bootstrapping profitable online businesses, but it was time consuming to do. So I figured it be valuable to do the research for people and put it all on one place. This brought in lots of traffic, and I monetized through sponsors.

    I was inspired by Nomad List, which was similar. Lots of people wanted to learn how to travel the world and be a digital nomad, but researching locations was a ton of work. So @levelsio crowdsourced the info and built tools to keep it up-to-date, then put it in one place to make research easier for people. He charged for community membership and also brought in sponsors.

    There are lots more businesses like this. For example, @stevebenjamins runs Site Builder Report, where he makes it way easier for people to research and pick the right website building tool, then monetizes through affiliate revenue. Labdoor does something similar with supplements. Etc.

    The value of code is that it can take action for you. It can do repetitive work, automatically, forever. But most people want to do research or at least gather some info before they take action. Thus, the market for people who need information will always be larger than than the market for people who need action, since info is closer to the top of the funnel. Thus, info products will always thrive. And the best info products won't look like your traditional courses and ebooks.

    I think this all becomes even more important as the internet grows, new niches form, more products launch, more writers start writing, etc. The more information that's out there, the harder it is to wrangle it, and the more valuable curators are.

    1. 2

      Really great analysis, thanks because it’s some useful perspective for a lot of what I am doing. My newsletter is essentially an info product. I don’t want to charge for it because that would limit the reach. I think I’m good at it, I’ve been essentially training for it my entire life.

      So that leaves freelancing, and sponsorships, both of which I have so far found to be challenging to get off the ground with. Very chicken and egg.

      If the market for information is much bigger than the market for action (seems like it could be true), that suggests that a lot of the information products are being written by people who aren’t actually really building things. And if that’s the case then isn’t that likely to cause a lot of people to run off cliffs and into dead ends?

      1. 1

        So that leaves freelancing, and sponsorships, both of which I have so far found to be challenging to get off the ground with. Very chicken and egg.

        What kind of freelancing opportunities are you interesting in? I know a few and am looking to make a section of my blog a place where developers can learn the various kinds of opportunities that exist.

        1. 1

          @ayewo thanks for reaching out. I build websites and workflows, more details including a portfolio on my blog about page. Send me an email, your project sounds interesting.

    2. 1

      "The market for people who need information will always be larger than than the market for people who need action... And the best info products won't look like your traditional courses and ebooks."

      I think this is a huge insight Courtland is hitting on.

      You can build an incredible business by capturing genuine attention around any topic with commercial potential. (Off the top of my head: guitar pedal reviews, how to buy a cottage etc.)

      I'm not sure I totally understood this until starting Site Builder Report... but now I see it everywhere.

      PS - There are lots of places to build your audience (SEO, Instagram, email newsletters etc.) but over the last two years Youtube has been working really well for me.

    3. 1

      Great Insights! So much opportunity here. You talked about some of these RaaS kind of ideas in your latest podcast that you were a guest on as well.👌

  2. 3

    RaaS has been around for long time @noahwbragg, it's just that we don't call it that way. Just look at the outsourcing industry. Billions of dollars are spent on data collection, analysis and reporting outsourcing.

    The demand for RaaS is not the issue. The problem is scaling it without hiring people. Scaling RaaS means hiring more people which is not always the way IH folks want to go.

    The other problem is valuation. If you want to sell, RaaS will have no value because it's essentially founder's time.

    That's where SaaS wins. It's relatively easier to scale and also more valuable.

    But if you can start with RaaS and convert into a platform like @csallen did with IH, then it's the best of both worlds.

    1. 2

      If you look at common examples we give, you can see that it's clearly possible for these types of businesses to be scalable and ideal for indie hackers.

      nomadlist.com was just 1 person for many years, makes a lot of money, and I'm sure could have been sold for a decent multiple.

      keyvalues.com is also makes a pile of cash and is run by one person

      My business, pageflows.com, is only run by me and is a decent enough indie hacker business.

      The whole point of research services is that they scale. One person (or a few people) does the research that many people want to do. If anything, SaaS is harder to scale. In a lot of cases with SaaS, more users means more server maintenance, monitoring, dev ops, customer support. It's much easier, at least technically, to deliver content or data to many people.

      Another aspect worth thinking about is that the research can be automated, or semi-automated. starterstory.com is very similar to what Indie Hackers used to be (interviews with founders). It's making a good amount of monthly income with a small team and hasn't had to convert into a platform. I'm pretty sure a lot of automation is used there.

      There are also businesses that use scraping to automatically gather data in a way that's helpful for a certain group of people (e.g. fastlien.co)

    2. 2
      1. scale is relative. I bet you could ‚scale‘ such a business to xx.xxx/mo as a solo founder by targeting profitable niches and still don’t work more than 40h/week.

      2. A ‚RaaS‘ business is also sellable because you have usually huge reach within a pay-willing niche which is interesting for the right people. Look and what @bramk did with his directory sites...

  3. 2

    A lot of good analysis here (did not yet have time to listen to the podcast though).

    I'm building a RaaS myself and this definitely strengthened my belief that I should keep building it. There are a lot of qualities I like about research specifically as a business model:

    • You can basically start charging right away. Publish your research and get paid.
    • Lower risk. You can work out quite quickly whether your research is needed or not. No need to build over 6 months and launch to see that no one wants your app.
    • Does it scale? To an extent, as already mentioned. You do need to keep pushing out new content consistently. But your old work can still be sold, at least for a period of time. So it's not strictly just exchanging your time for money. And not everyone needs/wants to reach $1M/MRR. Maybe $5k/MRR is enough.
    • There are more things you can build around your research. Communities. Events. Consultation. Books.

    So all in all, I think there are a lot of features that make RaaS a newbie-friendly way of trying out the solopreneur route. I think many would be able to build it to a level of ramen profitability at least. And that's not that bad for your first business.

  4. 2

    Great episode wish you released it 2/3 years ago.

    I think the market has changed a lot since then, seems like people are more willing to buy RaaS or info products.

    1. 1

      Thanks. Definitely has changed over the last couple of years.

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