October 21, 2019

WASTED! Closed after 10 weeks and $1900

Arsen Ibragimov @iamarsenibragimov

Hey, indie hackers!

My name’s Arsen. I am here to tell you a story about my failure. I’ll try to do it in the least boring way, but if you are still bored - then go to the last paragraph right away. While reading this, some questions may arise - feel free to ask them in the comments.

THE BEGINNING
Everything began from the moment a severe Reddit addiction started to develop, it went so far that I fully stopped visiting Instagram and Facebook. I liked that everything there is anonymous, there are no friends and the communication is built around the interest but not the people. There are websites like Reddit in Russia (where I was born and grew up), but they are 99% about memes, thus there’s no place to discuss music, life or business problems in the way it happens on Reddit. A scary thought crossed my mind - to build my own Reddit with blackjack and hookers. Left my job, got down to business.

THE NAME OF THE BOAT AFFECTS HOW IT FLOATS (Russian proverb)
I decided that without a name - there wouldn’t be a line of code. It took some time and MEERKAD eventually emerged. It was formed from the English "meerkat”. I like it when a product is associated with some character or an animal and these cool guys are excellent examples of those who dwell in packs or small groups, thus forming communities.

THE FIRST ATTEMPT AND THE FIRST FAILURE
It is impossible to launch hundreds of communities all at once, that is why I started to choose the idea of the first community. Sergey - a school friend of my spouse helped me with that. Together, we decided to start from a community of students. We all know that you bump into lots of questions while studying: how to prepare for a subject, why are there cockroaches in the dormitory, why does the local cook pour so much oil into french fries. I developed the website with simple functionality: auth, write and read. Sergey took over the contents and the process of creating activities. The first traffic came from the search engines and targeted advertising on VK (the biggest social network in Russia). Well, it led to nothing. At all. Traffic was too little, the engagement rate was low, expectations were overestimated.

THE SECOND COMMUNITY
Cancer - another topic that became our second attempt to launch the community. People, who were diagnosed with cancer, turned out to be very communicative, they support each other and are able to empathize. Their relatives too. Built the second version of the website with calls-to-action and email notifications to boost the rate of return, launched an advertising campaign in social nets & search engines, got the first traffic, the first users, posts and comments. https://yadi.sk/i/Gl8QCiLtIv3WAA Sergey did a lot of work, attracting people from different forums, where people, diagnosed with cancer, wrote their thoughts, shared experience and supported each other. Unfortunately, the growth of free traffic went really slow, paid promotion cost a lot and the way of generating return-on-investment wasn’t clear.

RUSSIAN REDDIT
During all this time we’ve been trying to gather people into the community built around one certain topic - students & people diagnosed with cancer. We liked the content in askReddit - millions of users are subscribed to this sub, discussions get thousands of upvotes and hundreds of comments. What if we start to translate the top posts from this sub to attract the first users? We acquired users from Telegram right into a Telegram bot, because marketing inside the platform is cheaper than into your app or the website. I designed and developed the Telegram bot, Sergey bought advertising in entertainment communities and catalogs of bots. The result: 697 installations of the bot, about 50 users active daily. We planned that interesting content would be shared among friends, but that never happened - viral growth didn’t happen at all. https://yadi.sk/i/9gLIf5rDGmL1Og

I'm DONE
Let me draw the bottom line. 10 weeks are spent to create and test 3 different hypotheses. Money expenses were mostly focused around marketing and totaled $1900. Too many failures and destructive thoughts. This - is my post to say farewell to the start-up community. I wish good luck and commitment to those who are still trying. I am jealous of those who succeed. That’s it. I am looking for a job.

BTW Anyone hiring remote developers and marketers?

  1. 14

    Thank you for sharing this, Arsen.

    So what took you 10 weeks to realize took me a year. I've spent an enormous amount of money and energy into building a community (social network-type) startup and got pretty much nowhere.

    A lot of the similar problems you've faced - hard to grow organically, hard to acquire users and have them stick around when the community is still small.

    I've burned out and have been completely turned off building communities for now. B2C is hard and it's even harder to get new communities going. I think this type of startup benefits from VC more than any other - you need that marketing capital infusion in order to get people on board and seed the community.

    My hat goes off to places like Reddit and IndieHackers that managed to bootstrap their way into the healthy and thriving social platforms that they are currently. It takes a lot of time, incredible patience and dealing with long periods of self doubt.

    Arsen, do not feel discouraged by this - you tried a few things and they didn't work but the fact you took the step and tried it out is an incredible achievement. Take a break, maybe save a bit of money with a new job and try again.

    1. 6

      Hey Valentin! Thanks for the support and kind words. I really appreciate. 👏🏼

      Actually I'm already in "take a break" mode and trying to figure out what my next thing to do.

  2. 4

    The best advice i can give is not that you failed because you weren't driven or had the right tools to make a start up but that your direction was completely off. The world does not need blackjack and hookers. These are pleasure domes. There is enough of that in the world. If your goal was just to make money then go sell lemonade or buy lottery tickets. They woudl be equally as lucrative as starting this venture of yours. Figure out your first my friend. What drives you and what is important to you, NOT MONEY or CAPITALIST SUCCESS! Find what makes you tick and how to make your life or the lives of your community better through inspiration or automation. This is where you will find meaning. Build others around you and don't think of the money, do it just for the sake of doing it. Then you will find what you are good at, what interests you and then the money will follow. Good Luck! and don't give up!

    1. 1

      blackjack and hookers
      Have you seen Futurama? 😃

      Thanks for respond!

      1. 1

        I have seen it yup but im guessing you are making a reference to an episode i havent seen lol

  3. 3

    @iamarsenibragimov I thought a Russian clone of Reddit already exists. Isn't it d3.ru?

    1. 4

      @gvidon u r totally right about D3. There is actually one more - Pikabu but if u take a look deeper into them u will find out that 99% of their content are memes and 9gag/ifunny videos 😩

      1. 1

        I haven't read d3.ru for a long time. But when I was reading it it definitely was not a meme's collector, there were a lot of interesting "subreddits".

        And I wouldn't compare d3.ru to Pikabu 😀

  4. 2

    If you think about it, $1900 isn't really a lot of money to start a business. Compare yourself to starting a mechanic's business.

    You spend less than 3 months on an unknown business, and decided they weren't working. Great news.

    I spent 8 years working on software before I finally found a viable market that I enjoyed working in, now I've spent another 8 years of my life developing this product.

    Find a problem to solve that someone will pay you money for. That's how you do it... and read the Lean Startup by Eric Ries :)

    1. 1

      I love this comment so much! had a long discussion with my friend the other day about this very thing. We often think so much about cool features (especially in software) but the key is finding a problem that affects a market so strongly that they will pay to have it solve.

      I ask myself a lot is the product a feature/novelty or will this make somebody's life better

  5. 2

    @Hake beat me to it, re: addressing a real problem. The problem of a lack of specific forums collated into one easy-to-navigate platform has been solved (see *chan, reddit, etc.)

    I'm curious if, during your 10 week adventure, you got any feedback from users about what issues they were encountering that no one else in your market was addressing or if you're product "just did abc that site xyz doesn't" ?

    Those questions are usually the first step to building a product with traction potential.

    Anyways, thanks for sharing - big ups for jumping in the deep end, for better or worse.

    1. 1

      Thanks for support and feedback!

  6. 2

    Don't lose heart my friend. I have 3 startup failures and years wasted. I live in the US which also means the years I took off costed me close to $1M and possibly more because for the last 15 years I had a flat line career because of my misadventures. Every failure brings an opportunity to learn. For you, one is were you solving a problem or did you have a solution that was looking for a problem. Second, $1900 advertising is quite a bit. Did you really need this much advertising? Ideally unless you have a consistent revenue flowing in you should only do free marketing.

    1. 1

      Don't say them that u r startupper and try to find a remote job maybe?)

      Second, $1900 advertising is quite a bit
      It depends on how much left in your pockets

      Ideally unless you have a consistent revenue flowing in you should only do free marketing.

      This is what I will do next time if it's gonna be the next time

      👏🏼

  7. 2

    Good research, but what problem were you trying to solve? Although these are great learning experiences, none of them actually solves a problem, and therefore what is the addressable market? If someone needs tires, you can sell them tires, if someone needs tactics, you can sell tactics, but if someone needs a place to community, there are already so many alternatives. Still, really good. These all become page 2 of your resume, the portfolio!

    1. 1

      If someone needs tires, you can sell them tires, if someone needs tactics, you can sell tactics, but if someone needs a place to community, there are already so many alternatives

      There are already so many places where you could buy tires 🤷🏻‍♂️

      1. 1

        So people will not pay you for tires... what will people pay for? I have been watching a bit of grant cardone and he mentions that people will pay for strategies, and tactics, they'll pay for expertise. Rather than try and create a product people want, become an expert in things people want to be experts in, then you can bridge that gap easily

  8. 2

    Not bad 10 weeks and 1900 .. i know people who lost way much. But the good news is next time you become better. Maybe better in choosing topics, people love to hear breakup stories, quitting jobs, cheating ... i noticed this from many youtube views for channels that i follow. Such topics have higher views than others. Best of luck.

    1. 1

      What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Weaker

      Agree? :)

  9. 2

    Hey Arsenal, sorry to hear about the shutdown. It's good to take a break, refresh and come back with a new perspective.

    Since you've created the tech, why not change the use case. So rather than creating a general reddit. Maybe focus on a new upcoming technology where the community is small. Fewer people with a common interest find it hard to find other people with the same interest so your platform could help with that.

    1. 1

      Thanks for this point of view.

      Maybe focus on a new upcoming technology where the community is small.
      Like VR, Facial Recognition?

      Don't you think it's better to focus on existing big ones because there is already a market that exist?

      1. 1

        Like VR, Facial Recognition? - Exactly!

        Going for a big market will stretch you far and wide. Also there already might be communities/platforms for it.

        You don't have to go for a very small community. A decent sized market maybe.

  10. 2

    With your skills? What would you need a job for? Just try a new partnership.
    Or you can start your social network first as a sub on Reddit or a group on Facebook and thereby validate your idea from the beginning.

    1. 2

      Andrew, thanks for the support.

      Actually, I thought about starting this product from a group on FB or sub on Reddit and decided not to do it because they already exist and I don't know how to make them organically growing. Maybe I should give it a try.

      1. 2

        Imagine if WhatsApp had said that about google talk, yahoo messenger, blackberry, etc.
        Don't let existing "competition" ever discourage you. Give it your best shot first, then speak from a position of authority afterwards.
        Such an effort could be your side gig until you gain some traction but by all means let the world know what you have to offer.

  11. 1

    Thanks for sharing, its good to see the failures and that its not all sunshine and roses. I think builidng a community site like this has got to be one of the more challenging. I think gaining traction with something like this would also take some time. Even with IH, I recall hearing @csallen talking about how quiet IH was in the early days and even something about having to build some fake profiles to generate some buzz.

    I gues my point is, maybe with something like this it takes a long time to get the ball rolling and its hard to fabricate, but once it gets going it soon snowball. Best of luck with your next venture!

    1. 1

      Yeah, Allen made a lot of work and still doing.
      Thank you Simon for your reply and support!

  12. 1

    That's sad man, i can understand you because i've been/ i am in your boots (pushing money instead gaining) but:

    • i am money-secured because i have a job (and this is a fun/side project)
    • from time to time i detach from the project, and just take care of occasional support and keep all up and running. The more time i invest i keep setting my expectations high.. thus the disappointment that comes after

    Just take a break, relax, then find a job and then continue with a side project.
    There is not the end of the world. Plus this journey was/is not a total failure, you've also gained experience in multiple fields..!

    Edit: checked the screenshots. the site is looking good. clean and simple.. did you made everything (backend / frontend)?

    1. 2

      checked the screenshots. the site is looking good. clean and simple

      Thanks!

      did you made everything (backend / frontend)?

      Yeah!

      1. 1

        That's cool man. Hopefully you can reuse codebase in future projects!
        Don't let go!

  13. 1

    Hey Arsen - kudos for sharing your story. Writing really helps me reflect on my thoughts and feelings, and move through them, so I hope this has helped you to do that a little.

    Some comments from my side:

    • I can relate strongly; this whole indie/entrepreneur thing is hard, I am still working on it.
    • It is really important to build the sort and style of business that suits you; for me, I know that's a company of one focused around writing and building a small community
    • If you still decide you want to build a community, build one around people you like and care about; same as if if you go down the product/service route, do one that you care about. Some entrepreneurs seem to manage to successfully build things they don't care about, but that will never be me. I reckon it's a heck of a lot more fun, and sustainable, and helps you ride out those difficult, sh*tty, self-doubting times, if what you're working on excited you and is meaningful to you in the first place.
    • Community does NOT have to be huge -> see: https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/
    • I'm currently interviewing for jobs, too, to help support me and enable me to keep working on my writing (which I'll hopefully make enough of an income from to not have to take a job; but, I'm open to the journey, let's see)

    Good luck :)

    1. 2

      Community does NOT have to be huge -> see: https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/

      Treasure!

      I'm currently interviewing for jobs, too, to help support me and enable me to keep working on my writing (which I'll hopefully make enough of an income from to not have to take a job; but, I'm open to the journey, let's see)

      Good luck buddy!

  14. 1

    IMO, unbundling of reddit/instagram etc will happen sooner or later. That is -- apps that take a specific community from one of those apps and provide more functionality based around the job those people are trying to do.

    For example, indiehackers can be seen as an unbundling of r/entrepreneur or r/startups. It goes deeper by letting people share their startups, have better profiles, and to list milestones as they grow (and I'm sure much more in the future).

    So I would find a subreddit or instagram topic that is popular, and see how you can improve that experience for the mass of users (and ideally still giving them access to the huge audience of reddit/instagram to start with). Don't just re-make reddit. Make a better, more personalized version for those specific users to share more and to go deeper.

    ---

    What's your rate for development? I might be interested

    1. 1

      IMO, unbundling of reddit/instagram etc will happen sooner or later. That is -- apps that take a specific community from one of those apps and provide more functionality based around the job those people are trying to do.

      Totally agree with you. Can't wait for that moment

  15. 0

    Sorry for this! Have managed to grow a community to over 100k daily pageviews. The secret is in patience and start with sex & relationship stuff. Also work on organic

    1. 1

      Wow! Share more details about "start with sex & relationship" stuff, please.

      1. 0

        e.g where to get prostitutes in Russia by town, experiences with call girls, rating of beautiful girls, celebs gossips, daily breaking news, evening news. Marriage experiences, single life experiences and so on....

        1. 5

          This is kinda unhealthy stuff 😱

          1. 1

            just to get you started then you can change direction once u have over 50 active contributors

          2. 1

            sex sells, who knew 😂

      2. -3

        This comment has been voted down. Click to show.

  16. 2

    This comment was deleted a year ago.

    1. 1

      Don't be sorry! I'm fine and doing better and better now. Thanks for your offer - I'll write to you later.

  17. 1

    This comment was deleted 8 months ago.

    1. 1

      Thanks Shiva! You way too kind)

Today's Top Milestones
  • Just launched!
    I have finally launched Backlinking. co after 1 month of development. The problem this is solving is having easy access to monitoring your backlinks i
  • A new direction for my blog...and my life
    For nearly 8 years,I had bottled up my urge to launch new projects because they kept distracting me from my main business. Finally, this year, I have
  • A new direction for my blog...and my life
    For nearly 8 years,I had bottled up my urge to launch new projects because they kept distracting me from my main business. Finally, this year, I have
  • Launched a brand new design
    Check it out - https://learnetto.com I'm a developer and a terrible designer. Over the years, I'd cobbled together a decent looking design for my site
  • $500 in commissions from Swipe File
    I have added Appsumo to my swipe directory & I purposely added it to the 1st row. Yes, it's an affiliate link. I shared my swipe file on Twitter in on
  • Launched LunarSight on the App Store
    I started working on LunarSight on September 2020. Initially, I wanted to build the app as a cross-platform desktop one, but I decided against it and
  • Got the MVP out into the world.
    My Alpha customers started using my product out in the wild! It was a pretty cool experience seeing your software used around the world. After launch
  • 7 days, 2 great demos, 2 different user groups
    In the past week, I demoed DCDR to two groups, both of whom had been users of the original app. These were very different types of organization, which
  • First paying customer!
    3 days after launch we got our first paying customer! I read here before about how great that first "Payment of .. " email from stripe feels, but I wa
  • My Dad Subscribed!
    My dad is an 80-year-old indie hacker, entrepreneur, and retired software engineer. He wanted to know how his daughter's Scrappy MarTech newsletter pr