Pierre De Wulf (@Daolf) and his business partner quit their jobs with the goal of building a sustainable indie business in one year. Nine months later their first product had yet to hit $1,000 in monthly revenue and they realized they were running out of time.
With just three months left to go, they sold their previous product, built a web scraping api, and launched what would soon become ScrapingBee, which is now making them more than $10,000 every month.
We invited Pierre over to Indie Worldwide to talk about his journey founding ScrapingBee, and previous at-bats in the world of startups.
How did ScrapingBee get started?
Well, my co-founder Kevin and I had quit our jobs with the goal of launching a Saas product that had traction within 12 months. We spent the first 9 months working on a product called PricingBot, but it never got past around the $1,000/month mark.
We decided to use the last three months to start over with a new product, so we sold PricingBot and set up a landing page using Landen.
My co-founder had a lot of experience building web-scrapers, in fact he'd written a book about it. So we knew we could build a web-scraping api quickly.
We were able to build the api in just 3 weeks and sent out the landing page to our subscribers from PricingBot and to our personal email lists.
Then we ran a 3 week long free beta with those users who signed up to work out the bugs before doing a Product Hunt launch. I didn't think a web scraping api would do that well on PH, I thought we were too niche, but it ended up in the top 5 for the day and got us a few thousand visitors.
What has been driving growth since then?
Content, blogging, and Indie Hackers.
We follow the "Skyscraper" technique when thinking about SEO content. When you're in a city, you only notice the highest skyscraper. Your skyscraper is your content. Try to write the best possible post on a topic so that it sticks out above the rest.
What works well is a topic that helps people, especially beginners. In any area there will be a lot of beginners (and especially in tech).
So we decided, let's teach web scraping. We spent a lot of time writing our posts, carefully crafting them to be the best content available on the subject. We didn't even worry about optimizing for conversion, we optimized for teaching web scraping well.
If you post this kind of content, it will rank well organically because it's high quality.
It's also easy to syndicate high-quality content like that on places like Dev.to and Reddit.
Reddit can easily backfire, but ranking well there is great because you'll automatically get lots of backlinks when you do well.
For us, we posted to subreddits like /r/learnprogramming and /r/webscraping plus all of the programming-language specific subreddits.
How did the PrcingBot sale happen?
We were running out of money with PricingBot and didn't have many customers, but we were ranking well on some very competitive keywords and our traffic was quality.
I knew we had something valuable, so we sent out emails to all of our competitors and included a read-only invite to our Google Analytics dashboard, basically asking them to buy us.
Once we found a buyer the sale was fast. We didn't know each other at all before hand, but all the buyer wanted to do was confirm that our traffic was good (not won through shady techniques).
Our traffic was legitimate, so we quickly agreed on a price and I flew to Belgrade to close the deal. It was enough money to stay alive for a few months and build ScrapingBee.
You can watch the full interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipGJ8DHTDiE