What's New: TikTok hits a billy

(from the latest issue of the Indie Hackers newsletter)

TikTok hit a billion users four years faster than Instagram:

  • Content creators lauded TikTok as their favorite platform, and the one where they make the most money. If you're looking to try influencer marketing, or debut new content, TikTok is where it's at.
  • Searches for "DIY near me" are hitting all-time highs. Consumers and investors alike are diving into DIY, and a new focus on digital platforms creates new opportunities for founders.
  • Founder Joel Gratz' background as a meteorologist inspired him to launch a weather forecasting app. Here's how he hit 500,000 users by helping skiers chase snow powder days.

Want to share something with nearly 85,000 indie hackers? Submit a section for us to include in a future newsletter. —Channing

📱 TikTok Hit 1B Users


from the Indie Economy newsletter by Bobby Burch

TikTok topped 1B monthly active users, solidifying the app as a serious contender against the top social networks.

A billy

The news: ByteDance-owned TikTok hit the 1B mark for monthly users in only four years. That’s about four years faster than the pace of Facebook-owned Instagram, which hit 1B monthly users in about eight years.

On the rise: The pandemic has supercharged TikTok’s growth, as users issued challenges, learned dances, and watched oddly satisfying videos during periods of lockdown. TikTok’s user base has grown 45% since July 2020, and now it’s the fourth most popular app in the world, behind only Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.

No sweat: TikTok continues to grow quickly despite its ban in India, the world’s second-most populous country. India banned TikTok and 58 other apps hailing from China, citing compliance, censorship, and privacy concerns.

Creators clamoring: A recent survey found that creators prefer using TikTok over any other social platform. Content creators’ favorite platform is TikTok (30%), with Instagram (22%) and YouTube (22%) in a tie for second favorite. TikTok is also where creators make the most money: 24% are making money on TikTok, vs. 22% on Instagram and 20% on YouTube.

Why it matters: TikTok is the largest, most viable threat to the established social media giants. Founders interested in capitalizing on the hottest distribution channels should be aware that more people are taking to TikTok. For creators, TikTok is steadily becoming one of the more lucrative platforms to monetize fans.

Users rule

TikTokers: TikTok’s user demographics have changed a lot in the past 18 months, but it still skews young. Nearly 48% of users are between the ages of 10-29, while about 30% are between 30-49 years old. In its lawsuit against the US government, TikTok shared that it has about 100M total users in the US, with 50M daily active users.

Feeling the squeeze: In response to TikTok’s rise, YouTube launched Youtube Shorts, a short-form video-sharing feature. In May, YouTube kicked off its Shorts Fund, vowing to dish out $100M to creators by 2022.

Comparisons: TikTok's user base has grown almost 20x in three years, but it still lags behind some social network giants. Facebook reported 1.9B daily active users in Q2 2021. YouTube says that it has about 2B monthly active users. Still, TikTok has surpassed Twitter (300M monthly active users), and Snapchat (500M).

Courting creators: The $50B creator economy, comprised of over 50M creators, is central to TikTok's strategy. The company will pay US creators $1B over the next three years, and more than double that investment globally. In 2020, TikTok kicked off its Creator Makerplace, offering marketers a chance to partner with popular TikTok personalities. For users that hit 1K followers, TikTok’s “Gifts” feature allows receipt of virtual gifts that can be turned into cash.

Marketers want influencers: Advertisers will spend a projected $3.7B this year on influencer marketing, an increase of 34% from 2020. The firm anticipates that advertisers will dish out $4.6B to influencers on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.

Have you used TikTok to grow your business? Share your experience!

Discuss this story, or subscribe to Indie Economy for more.

📰 In the News

Photo: In the News

from the Volv newsletter by Priyanka Vazirani

🏦 The US wants crypto companies that issue stablecoins to register as banks.

🛩 Airlines are removing business seats to accommodate a new middle class.

💲 Venezuela has debuted its new currency and dropped six zeros, amid historic inflation.

💰 This program is testing giving cash to people coming out of prison.

🧠 Samsung seeks to copy-paste the human brain onto a 3D chip.

Check out Volv for more 9-second news digests.

🔨 The $760B DIY Market Goes Digital


from the Hustle Newsletter by Shân Osborn

TikTok's #DIY hashtag has 116B+ views. The r/DIY subreddit is closing in on 20M members. Searches for "DIY near me" are enjoying all-time highs.

Consumers and investors alike are rolling up their sleeves and diving into DIY, with a new focus on digital platforms.

Do it yourself

The big picture: Traditionally brick-and-mortar heavy, recent raises and sales data point to DIY's pivot to e-commerce.

The $760B+ DIY Market Goes Digital

Over the last year, digital DIY platforms have raised serious dough: UK startup Lick raised $28M, and France's ManoMano raised a cool $355M.

Stateside, Home Depot's e-commerce sales more than doubled over the last year, reaching ~$20B. Competitor Lowe's rose at a similar rate, hitting ~$9B. But there is still significant room for growth: These dollar amounts only represent ~14% and ~10% of revenue, respectively.

There is plenty of market white space, as well as valuable lessons from new players that can be applied to the ~$400B US industry.

The digital-only model: Newcomers ManoMano (EU) and Lick (UK) are solely e-commerce players, and both of these (very new) platforms are using models not yet fully leveraged in the US:

  1. ManoMano, the "Amazon of all things DIY," differentiates itself by:
  • Various retailers directly listing products, everything from screwdrivers to hot tubs (we recently wrote about the rise of these third-party marketplace models).
  • Recruiting retired hardware store employees or enthusiastic DIYers to assist customers ("Manodvisors" helped 2.3M buyers last year).
  • Having a B2B option, which leads to larger order sizes (responsible for ~10% of revenue <1 year after launch).

The platform grew sales by 100% last year, with 70% growth in unique site visitors reaching 50M per month.

A similar model could be applied to the US market. Founders could also leverage existing brick-and-mortar footprints by partnering with small-scale hardware and DIY stores, which can act as both showrooms and storage warehouses.

Timely delivery of awkwardly large DIY items is one of the ways that ManoMano has outshone other hardware store players. Providing appropriate delivery solutions to new DIY e-comm platforms is an opportunity.

  1. Lick, a trendy niche startup launched in 2020, offers:

Lick reported a $7M revenue run rate within its first eight months. Founders looking to niche down with luxury D2C options could focus on a variety of DIY markets. Some growing subreddit examples:

Source: Subreddit Stats

Used DIY tools: Tools can be expensive, so, understandably, demand for affordable, used options is rising.

Source: Google Trends

You could combine the thrifting and DIY trends to create an online marketplace, like a ThredUp for all things DIY.

Demand for used furniture is also growing. Your platform could have a section for used pieces, with the option to add on the tools, paints, etc. required for refurbishment.

DIY foods: There is an increasing interest in DIY food items like cheese, wine, and beer. Reddit's r/HomeBrewing has over 1M members, and TikTok's #CheeseMaking has 12M+ views.

Source: Subreddit Stats

All-you-need kits for DIY food items are an attractive opportunity, as are subscription services for seasonal options (i.e., a "make your own winter cheese" box).

Some Amazon examples already cashing in, per Jungle Scout:

Finish it yourself

FIY: The "finish it yourself" (FIY) is DIY with a safety net. This method preserves the consumer satisfaction of doing things, but with limited risk of failure.

FIY also taps into the personalization trend, and can be leveraged in a variety of ways:

  • Bouquet making: French Bergamotte allows you to become a florist in your own home with its self-assemble bouquets.
  • Indoor smart gardens: Foolproof indoor salad bars (i.e., AeroGarden) are in vogue. Amazon searches for "AeroGarden seed pods" are up 188% over the last 90 days, per Jungle Scout.
  • Paint your own crockery: Pottery painting is the perfect FIY darling.
  • Cake decorating: Deliver a freshly baked cake complete with all the goodies needed to ice it off. Cake decorating classes are trending, and Amazon searches for "cake decorating kits" are up 126%.
  • FIY Fashion: Nike already allows you to customize sneakers, and let's not forget the wildly popular Crocs Jibbitz.

Would you enter the DIY space? Please share in the comments!

Subscribe to the Hustle Newsletter for more.

🌐 Best Around the Web: Posts Submitted to Indie Hackers This Week

Cover image for Best Links of the Week

🥺 My first two SaaS companies failed miserably. Posted by Roberto Robles.

🏃‍♀️ I feel outmatched by my competitor. Posted by Dashiell Bark-Huss.

💸 User acquisition for broke founders? Posted by Linda Miles.

😩 I hate marketing. Posted by Meri.

🚫 Keyword research mistakes to avoid. Posted by Jaume Ros.

🗄 Object storage with no egress fees. Posted by Tyler Lacy.

Want a shout-out in next week's Best of Indie Hackers? Submit an article or link post on Indie Hackers whenever you come across something you think other indie hackers will enjoy.

⛷ Joel Gratz' Weather App Hit 500K Users


from the Deep Dive newsletter by Seth King

Joel Gratz, a meteorologist-turned-founder in Boulder, Colorado, launched the OpenSnow app with 100 users. It's now at 500K.

Indie Hackers sat down with Joel to chat about bootstrapping the business, and how finding a niche-within-a-niche helped him succeed. Read on for more!

Powder days

Most meteorologists know that they want to be a meteorologist very early in life due to some type of specific weather event, and I am no different. At four years old, I became interested in meteorology when I first went skiing in Pennsylvania.

Fast forward to grad school at the University of Colorado, where I realized that powder was my calling. A powder day is what you have right after a new snowfall. The snow is fresh, light, and powdery, all conditions that are perfect for skiing. I loved trying to forecast and pinpoint powder days. At the time, there weren't really many people laser-focused on powder days, so it took me some time to test my predictions.

I was wrong often, but eventually honed my skills and decided to try to make a business out of it. The analog business that had been around for a couple of decades was a company called Surfline. They do what we do for skiing, but they forecast waves for surfers. They'd been around well before the internet, so I figured that if they could produce a pretty good website and app, make money on advertising and subscriptions, and build a business for surfers, I could do something similar for skiers. I launched in 2011.

Building the MVP

I am not a good developer, but I knew enough to start a WordPress blog. It cost around $50 for hosting per year. I did that while I still had a job writing forecasts, so my blog was just getting out to people organically.

It was only after doing that for a couple of years that people started to email me asking how to place ads in the blog. I decided to quit my job, having saved some money from working (and I didn't have a family at the time). Financially, it was the best time for me to go out and start the business.

I brought on a cofounder who helped to build the first iteration of the site.


Growing OpenSnow

In the early years of the business, I consulted for ski publications that wanted me to write articles about different weather forecasts. This was a way to earn revenue while bootstrapping.

In 2013, I decided that I wanted more control over the business. We started a subscription product that was the next iteration of the financial side of the company. Within this past year, actually, the subscription product has brought in the majority of our revenue.


Our two revenue streams are subscriptions and advertising. The advertising supports the free version of the product, while the subscription provides access to a premium experience. If you focus too much on generating subscriptions, you lose the readership and page views on the ads. If you go really ad-heavy, you can make a few more bucks, but the revenue per user is much greater for subscription than it is for advertising. So there are tradeoffs.

We are now focused on growing our subscriber base, but advertising still plays a role.

Annual users

As a private company, we don't give out everything, but we've got about 3M people that come to the site or app annually. We have close to 500K registered users, with a small percentage paying us. Our users came mostly from word-of-mouth.

Admittedly, we could do a better job of communicating the benefits of paying for a subscription. The world was vastly different when we started this in 2011; paying for things was not the norm. Now, people are far more used to paying for something that they find valuable. As a business, we had this worldview that was rooted in ideas from 10 years ago, but the world is just different. We need to evolve to match that.


Advice for indie hackers

You need a good idea and strategy. But then, at some point, it becomes about finding great people and figuring out how to work together. Also, as a bootstrapper, you don't have a lot of leeway to recover from mistakes.

As a founder, your business is a massive part of your life. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I want out of this business. We've had acquisition offers, but I’ve always declined because we have a lot of fun trying to achieve our vision. There are plenty of nights I'm up until two in the morning working. I'm super excited to do it, but that's my choice. We like being in control of what we're doing.

Discuss this story, or subscribe to Deep Dive for more.

🐦 The Tweetmaster's Pick

Cover image for Tweetmaster's Pick

by Tweetmaster Flex

I post the tweets indie hackers share the most. Here's today's pick:

🏁 Enjoy This Newsletter?

Forward it to a friend, and let them know they can subscribe here.

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Special thanks to Jay Avery for editing this issue, to Nathalie Zwimpfer for the illustrations, and to Bobby Burch, Priyanka Vazirani, Shân Osborn, and Seth King for contributing posts. —Channing

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