April 2, 2019

Office Hours with Courtland

Courtland Allen @csallen

Hi everyone! 👋 Courtland here, creator of Indie Hackers.

I'll be hosting an #office-hours session this week for about an hour. While I'm more of a jack-of-all-trades than an expert in any specific area, I've interviewed many hundreds of successful founders over the past couple years, and had a few successes myself with Indie Hackers. I'd love to sit down and talk to you about your business if you think my perspective would be helpful!

I'll pick 5-6 of you from the comments and email you the details. Hopefully I'll be able to do this regularly!

  1. 3

    @csallen thanks for offering your time to help us mere mortals out. Personally, I would like to use this opportunity to talk about sales. Some of the lessons and hurdles you face as you got your sponsorships rolling. How did you use sales and revise your playbook to rsvp guests for your podcast before you had a strong audience, traffic, and clout? Also, how your sales objections differ now? Or have you deprioritized sales for a better channel?

    This would help me greatly in my research on real problems impacting founders.
    Helen, a founder trying to do it right this time around.

  2. 2

    Hey Courtland,

    My cofounder (@sammy3612) and I are currently working on Strawberry Socials, a service that helps social media marketing agencies recruit new influencers and update data insights on their existing influencer database. Our goal long term is to help new creators earn an income and help non tech-savy influencer marketing agencies compete with those that have a dev team.

    We started this project ~3 weeks ago (after about ~6 months of trying other things) and have been trying hard to validate the problem with an MVP that we've build. We don't have a website yet, but just from cold emails we've managed to get ~20 customer interview calls and even our first sale (USD$200). We feel as though we've really touched on a true pain point for many small - med social media marketing agencies and can offer a better product than what's on the market at the moment.

    We'd love to ask your advice around how we can turn this very early stage current traction into long term momentum and how to validate if we are on the path to product-market fit.


  3. 2

    Hi Courtland!

    I'm currently working on Count, a personal knowledge base app for iOS. In principle, it's similar to a database. You define a table, add custom fields, and input new records. My goal is that you can track whatever you want, exactly the way you want to. For example, I use it to track everything from the cups of coffee I drink in a day, to new app ideas where I can assign a rating.

    The issue I'm currently struggling with is how to market the app in a succinct and simple way. It's very customizable and could be a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For example, some users who have tested it so far think of it as a notes app, while others see it as a life tracker.

    I would love to hear your feedback on how I might be able to test marketing strategies while I continue to work on developing the app as a side gig.


  4. 2

    Hey Courtland!

    Currently, I'm working on my book club discussion platform Bookerino. I'm planning on re-releasing it April 15th as I essentially rebuilt the entire site and am focusing more on marketing and getting it out there.

    I had a good chat with Rosie Sherry a few weeks back to try and get some advice for the site, and it allowed me to hone my idea down to a book club for non-fiction, and more specifically startup focused books. It also will enable you to store any notes you have on each book on your profile to keep for later.

    What I would like to get from a call with you is some insight on how you would tackle getting some users and any advice on creating a community based website at all. IndieHackers is something I've followed since almost the start, and it has been one of my primary sources of inspiration, so I'd massively value being able to have a chat with you directly!


  5. 2

    Dear Courtland,

    Thanks a lot for this. I have been working on developing a micro-community called "Lawyers Not Lawyering" (https://medium.com/@subhrosengupta.blr/tl-dr-law-graduates-lawyers-are-slowly-inching-towards-pursuing-careers-other-than-law-5cd831d135b9).

    I am a former corporate lawyer and presently work as an analyst at one of India's leading venture funds.

    In 2018 when I looking to make a shift outside law I realised that there was hardly anyone that I could speak to. The same problem was faced by my co-founder Abhilasha (former corporate lawyer; now Management Consultant at Deloitte).

    We figured that a large number of lawyers are not happy with what they are doing right now and want to shift outside the profession, however it is very difficult for them to (a) discover other lawyers (even within their own networks i.e. University alumni or workplace alumni) who went on to pursue something other than law (b) to connect with these Lawyers Not Lawyering ("LnL's") and finally (c) to receive meaningful in-depth mentorship. The challenge with the last issue is that very few lawyers who want to shift outside of law, know the correct questions that needed to asked prior to making the shift.

    We saw that the general trend was to think of "the grass being greener" on the other side and jump into the first possible boat that would take lawyers into any career outside the law.

    To resolve these issues:

    (a) We created a group on WhatsApp. The group has former Indian lawyers who are now entrepreneurs, product managers, management consultants, investment bankers, designers, venture investors etc.

    (b) As a means of discovery we created a directory (http://bit.ly/LawyersNotLawyering) where people could discover professionals based on professions being pursued / education pursued post law school / location.

    (c) Organized meet-ups in 3 Indian cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru) where lawyers and LnL's could network.

    (d) Started mentoring people: I started speaking to lawyers on the group who wanted to pursue venture as a profession. Abhilasha started speaking to people who wanted to pursue management consulting. Similar efforts are being made by other members as well.

    (e) Started sharing opportunities in terms of job openings, where group members explicitly stated that they would be willing either to recommend or help with the application process.

    (f) We have started creating podcasts in different tracks e.g. Working for startups / Doing an MBA etc. Each track will have 8-10 speakers who will deep dive into the topic and give deep insights e.g. ROI of an MBA / Skillset required / Internship opportunities etc.

    The key issues that we are facing are:

    (a) We understand that WhatsApp is not scalable. Therefore we have decided to move to a portal, but this is only for the purposes of archiving or diseminating job opportunities which members post on the group. Conversations remain on WhatsApp since we find that it is the platform with the highest rate of engagement, even with the most high profile members of the group. Is this the best way to do this ? Or should we migrate completely to a Facebook group or a custom forum ? Our apprehension is born out of the low usage of some of these specialised forums.

    (b) We are struggling to find monetisation models. Typical ones for groups like this are paywalling access / paywalling content / selling courses. We are apprehensive about paywalling podcasts since some of the interviewees are a bit hesitant. Paywalling access comes with the same issue. On selling courses, since this is a mentorship platform there is some apprehension on whether mentorship can be made into a course since there is no direct outcome of buying the course and neither is there a guarantee in terms of the mentoring spending one-on-one time with the mentee even if the mentor is monetarily incentivised to do so. Do you have any thoughts around this ?

    Since we have only 10 minutes I am limiting myself to two questions. Thanks a lot and hope to speak to you !

  6. 1

    @csallen thanks for the offer of help.

    I'm at a pivotal moment right now with catsnatcher.com

    I'm about to release v3 - the first full web app that will act as a hub for finding an Amazon niche. I have brought in a decent amount of money with the current version ($500/m average) but never reached its full potential as I was spending my time building out the 3rd version rather than writing blogs or tweaking PPC.

    I would love to chat on how I can build an effective marketing system (prioritising the most important bits) once the v3 dev is completed to have my app generate a full-time salary.

    1. 1

      Didn't get a chance to talk to you this time around, but hopefully I'll do another session in another couple of weeks! I'll be part of Lynne Tye's office hours this Sunday, too, if you want to join that one.

      (cc @lovedev @jacobk @jd007 @AndrewKamphey)

      1. 1

        Definitely, I loved Lynne's podcast episode! Just commented on that thread!

  7. 1

    I'm working on the 2019 version of Influence 100: The most influential people in influencer marketing. This year I'm doing the ranking based on data. Would love to get your perspective if I'm missing any key data points that would be interesting to compare in a small cohort of 300 to 600 companies.

    I'll be limiting it to influencer marketing CEO's and really ranking the health of their company. Currently looking at these data points over the past year: New Employees, Awards, VC Funding (if raised), Net Worth (individual), Valuation (company).

    Is there some extra data point I'm missing that you've seen across successful enterprises?

  8. 1

    Hey @csallen,

    I’ve wanted to reach out for sometime now but always felt you’d be too busy and I’d just be a bother so I’ve held off until now. This seemed like a great opportunity to meet you while you’re offering some of your time!

    What I’m working on:
    I’m working on a project that’s solving a particular need I’d felt time and time again. I’m a Software Engineer myself and I’ve always found that pushing new code to production was a bit nerve racking. Staging environments are always slightly different, rollbacks take time, and actually testing new site changes against the old version required a ton of leg work. I’m building a tool to help with this.

    TLDR; Implement feature toggles and A/B testing in 5 minutes (and a few lines of code). Have complete control of your feature releases from a dashboard.

    What I’d like to discuss:
    I’ve noticed several of your big site revamps and although I love them now, they were certainly a bit jarring when I initially saw them. I wondered to myself if you had the time to A/B test the new UI changes?

    I’ve also heard on your podcasts that deploying new code can be a bit nerve racking when your pushing the deploy button. I think my product can help with that.

    If selected, I’d love to take some time to talk about how you think about launching new site changes and practice a bit of product validation. Seeing as we’re both developers, it would be great to hear your perspective!

  9. 1

    Has anyone got this email ? I don't have access to my old email. @csallen in case I am selected could I please get the email at [email protected]

    1. 1

      Will email you soon!

  10. 1

    Hi Courtland,

    Thanks for offering this. I'm currently working on a marketing site:

    A gallery of the finest marketing techniques used by successful startups.

    Going to launch very soon. I suppose like a www.land-book.com but for marketing. Where you can filter by different types of marketing: "Instagram", "SEO", "Social Proof", "Viral" etc ... and the site shows of list of startups who have nailed each one, with short case studies.

    I hope it can solve the problem of founders / developers thinking that marketing isn't for them, or that it's too hard. Just by cutting all fat, and showing examples of how they can implement.

    I've got a pretty clear vision for it. Perhaps It's slightly similar in to Indie Hackers when it was just content focused (with no users). Perhaps some advice on what you think the pitfalls are with this idea, any growth ideas, and what challenges I should be prepared for.

  11. 1

    Hi @csallen -- hope I'm not too late with my comment.

    I'm working on Sunshower.io. We recently launched, and are giving the platform away for free till June. Our schtick is "beautifully simple cloud management and optimization", and we make the cloud computing optimization services that would normally cost oodles cost, well, nothing (though the current plan is $20 + $1/host per month).

    We're engineers by trade, so have a bit of the "if they build it they will come" mentality, but know we need to get the word out. We're interested in targeting startups and small businesses, since that's where we can do the most good (who doesn't want to be able to save a salary on cloud costs?).

    Anyways, it feels like we're struggling to get the ball rolling. There's lots of ideas, but only so much time to pursue them. I'd love feedback on which of our initial marketing/outreach tacks might be the most successful, and what we're not thinking of.

  12. 1

    Hi Courtland,

    While doing customer support at an e-commerce company, I made a Chrome Extension for myself that let me:

    _copy data to my clipboard (i.e. name, address, email, phone number, etc)
    in seconds
    _and paste the information directly into any form, text box, text area, dropdown, etc. instantly.

    Tedious & repetitive copying & pasting was annoying & there were no solutions readily available. This saves time & makes me less grumpy : )

    Demo of use case here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ybq8mc6f9801ms6/copypaste.club — clip.mov?dl=0

    I would like to validate this tool as a possible B2B sass company (so far, cold emails to e-comm companies is not super effective / tweaks to copy there could help).

    Any thoughts, strategic advice around how to move forward would be amazing — thanks!

  13. 1

    Hey @csallen.

    First of all, I'd like to say that I love your blog and I'm an avid listener since the day I found it :p

    Secondly, I guess you're more about helping people with the strictly business-related issue, yet I'd like to ask you something regarding the career path in general.

    I'm a 22 years old recent IT-studies dropout (past health issues), currently working as a Marketing Specialist. I'm really amazed by what you did and how you've been able to lead your career, as well as, your brother's career and was wondering if you could help me with making the next step.

    I'm passionate about the new project and even in work I always try to come up with new things and to hack the growth of the company. I'd love to create my own venture with the help of this community but I'm always doubting my own capabilities and I feel like there is no space for me in the entrepreneurship game.

    I hope that as a person much more experienced than me you could help me with this young-age steps.

    Thanks and have a nice day!
    And once again, thanks for the podcast!

  14. 1

    Thanks for offering this. I am working on Product Intuition. It is an online and 1:1 training for Product Managers. I have made about $50K over the last 2 years and would like to scale it non-linearly. Looking for more help.