March 2, 2020

$10K MRR, and increased prices

Matt Basta @mattbasta

Five years on (and five months after crossing $8K MRR), Pinecast finally dipped into five digits of MRR. This actually happened a couple weeks ago (at least according to the Stripe Billing report), but I wanted to celebrate it now for another reason: Saturday, for the first time, I flipped the switch to increase the cost of a Pinecast subscription. There's an announcement on the blog:

In 2015, I was so dissatisfied with the options out there for podcast hosting that I started my own. I had two goals: 1.) make it cheap and 2.) make it good. I wanted something that I would like, and I'd like to think I have a fairly high quality bar. While Pinecast isn't perfect, the amazing feedback and continued patronage of our customers says that Pinecast has really nailed the "good" part. As for being cheap, it's probably the cheapest option out there (excluding free hosting, or options with extremely limited hosting plans). In fact, last year I deprecated the $50/mo Pro plan and instead split it into less expensive Add-on services so that you didn't need to pay for features you didn't plan to use [1].

Being cheap [0] has come from an obsession with engineering for scale from first principles. Before I first ran django-admin startproject, I crunched some numbers to make sure I wasn't going to bankrupt myself with AWS charges. Over the years as traffic grew from hundreds of megabytes per day to terabytes per day, careful monitoring and constant improvements allowed Pinecast to grow polynomially [2] while the growth of expenses actually slowed over time.

So if everything is going well, what's up?

Well frankly, being cheap has meant that there's less capital on the table for new projects. In 2019, I hired a third party to build a WordPress plugin, which took a hefty chunk of the Pinecast bank account balance (at the time) to build and polish enough to meet my quality bar. Doing that five more times would be a burden, and require spacing out projects over time. There are almost 20 tasks on my Notion "critical projects" board and seven items on my "Big project planning" board: shipping all of them over the next year or two (or five) is going to mean paying for outsourced labor, design costs, technical infrastructure, up-front development costs and software licenses, hardware to test on, and more.

Ultimately, the goal is to continue to add features and make major improvements to the site without needing to take VC money. I want to retain the ability to support independent content creators, support under-represented minorities in podcasting and technology, and make a truly kick-ass product without being tethered to growth metrics or the opinions of board members. Increasing the cost of a base subscription may put Pinecast out of reach for some content creators, but it ultimately unblocks a path forward to do all the awesome stuff that many more users will absolutely love.

[0] I know I should be saying "inexpensive", but we're all friends here.
[1] While this temporarily decreased MRR, it actually increased revenue overall, because it allowed customers to pay for services that they wouldn't have dropped $50/mo for. Add-on revenue is now double the revenue lost from Pro cancellations.
[2] There hasn't been exponential growth, but growing better than linearly is still awesome.

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