December 18, 2019

Two years of indie hacking. Sharing my failures.

Alex West @alexwest

I know most people share their successes, but I believe we should share our failures as well.

If you want to read the whole blog post, you can find it here: www.alexwest.co/two_years

I would love your feedback.

TLDR;

This is not a success story. This is not a "humble brag".

In 2018 I start with a goal of reaching $500 MRR through my side projects.

Six months in, I am at $50 MRR, riding a huge wave of momentum.

Fourteen months in, I am at $200 MRR and have three profitable products.

Now I'm two years in, I have shut down two of those three profitable products and I'm at $100 MRR, wondering what to do next.

During these two years, I find myself having pimps, scammers, arms dealers and pornstars as customers, get offered an amazing medical technology job in Milan, have business meetings with CTOs of multi million dollar TV networks, and question my ethics and morals multiple times.

This is my story.

  1. 2

    Thank you! I read it all!

    Something that springs to mind from reading it is and something that I also identify with is looking within yourself to learn and discover the things you enjoy, then focus on that to find the ideas that you want/need to serve.

    I'm not sure how committed, or how you feel about the ideas you are coming up with. And perhaps they need to be more aligned with who you are.

    1. 2

      Well, it's been changing. At first, I didn't care at all about the idea, I just wanted to reach my goal. Then, I realized I did care about the nature of the business and spent nearly a year on an idea I fell in love with.

      Now, I want to stay somewhere in the middle.

      Ideas should be aligned with my values, but it's ok if it's they are not my ultimate passion. Being in a good, lucrative, B2B market serving people I respect is important as well.

      Those are things I've been thinking about a lot lately! What do you think?

  2. 1

    Nice post. Thanks for sharing!

    Your link here is invalid: https://www.indiehackers.com/product/github-gardener (.co instead of .com)

  3. 1

    I read your whole article, I have a similar but also different experience in the sense that I am not a technical person myself (can't build product as fast) but I have taken shotgun approach in the past 2 years including taking on multiple opportunities, building out ideas (with no-code tools) and approaching many local businesses for different potential partnership. The results are not pretty.

    Now I have decided to focus in coming months on 1 product (also stop giving myself excuses that I can't code and not executing - decided to hire someone to build out MVP). I think it's really important to pick a starting point that I am interested in and able to commit and iterate for the long haul (at least a good 6-12 months). That way, I won't be distracted so much by new ideas but can focus and think of ideas (features, marketing, content etc) built on top of this starting point instead.

    Cheers and all the best!

  4. 1

    There's a lot of points where you say things like "I couldn't imagine people paying for this so I didn't monetize it". Why didn't you consider alternate monetization like ads (google adsense) or affiliate programs?

    1. 1

      Good question. Answer? I don't know.

      Mostly because I started out with an idea of building a SaaS product and the thought never occured to me. Plus, I have never made something that got consistent revenue more than 500 visits/month.

  5. 1

    Great article.

    But what do both of your approaches, shotgun and sniper, have in common?

    They are both fire-and-forget: you pull the trigger, and then the projectiles fly in trajectory, hitting or missing the target. And when the target is a tank, they won't damage it even if you hit.

    Maybe try guided missile: large high explosive payload that does proper damage, carefully guided to target over extended period of time.

    1. 1

      Hmm, I think I understand what you are saying but we have fallen too deep into the metaphors.

      Can you explain again what you mean?

      1. 1

        Fire-and-forget: You've built 15 products in 2 years, and in most cases you give up and forget them very early. It's really rare that you can just fire like that and hit huge traction immediately. Success usually requires lot of iteration and time.

        No damage: You build small apps, but world is full of those, so it's hard to get noticed. And it's even harder to provide so much value for customers that they'd pay for it, when your product doesn't do much and is coded in one or two weeks.

  6. 1

    This journey is crazy I must say, first of all I don't know how did you manage to launch 7 products in such a short time and that to me tells something.

    1-2 products a year in my opinion with much more focus would be ideal.

    Sometimes I feel like is better to fail into a product that I have invested quite a lot of time but that I believed on the idea and now I have proof that it doesn't work rather than trying multiple products and failing on most of them where it could have failed because of proper committed and not the idea it self.

    Also I would stop and think on what do you consider a product and where you could combine resources in order to have cross-product platform where you promote multiple products at the same time.

    1. 3

      Yes, I agree. That period of building 7 products in three months is the epitome of "illusion of progress"

      On the other hand, focusing 6+ months on a single product that is hardly making any money is also dangerous.

      Something I am thinking about is: Be impatient with validating, but patient with growing a validated product.

      If you enter a validated market, that means your idea is already validated, so you can take your time.

      If you are building something that doesn't exist yet, be impatient with validating. You don't want to waste months for nothing.

      Just my thoughts after writting this article.

      Also, for the "cross-platform" thing. That's exactly what I'm thinking and planning on doing that in 2020.

  7. 1

    Hey Alex, I've bookmarked the post and will read it tonight. For now, welcome to Milan 😀

    1. 1

      Ha, thank you for having me!

      Are there any IndieHackers meetups in Milan by the way?

      1. 2

        I've never been to one yet but I think so!