In the last months, we have been working hard to get ready for the future. At the same time, we hit our $100k ARR milestone! We are very happy with the features that are only possible because of all the groundwork we did. In this post, we share some extra numbers around our milestone and dig into our newly developed features of the last months.
We also hit a new milestone: $6000 MRR. But you have lots of milestones if you switch between the number of paying customers, monthly recurring revenue, and annual recurring revenue. To me, the MRR is the most important metric of these three because I can see every moment if I'm still adding value compared to last month.
Another month another update! It's April, and we have another "almost" milestone. We talk about referrer spam, abroad payments, Mindwave, badges, and password login.
At the first of May we had 399 (almost 400!!) customers with an MRR of $5451 and an ARR of $65k. 3 days later we got 400! We see a bigger growth than normal. It's likely due to our product being free for corona products. In exchange, we ask for a link back to the public stats of the project.
Especially corona-data.ch (data) gave us a lot of traffic with 6.6M visitors in the last month. We also helped build a COVID-19 app: coronastatus.nl which was started by BustByte. It's now translated in many languages and available in many countries.
This corona status project we paid quite some domains. That's why our hosting bill this month is higher than normal.
We also ordered a new bare metal server for Elasticsearch which James almost has completed. With a lot of test data, the Elasticsearch is super fast. We can't wait to show you what we have done with it. Expect new features to roll out in the next couple of months. In the image you see Kibana, a great tool for Elasticsearch.
When installing our new server we didn't find a great guide on how to encrypt a server. We had some specific requirements. We decided to write a guide on how to encrypt your disks on your server (it's very technical and long).
To remove spam in your analytics data we added a feature where you can just do that in a few clicks. Sometimes silly referrals pup up in your dashboard from unethical companies trying to sell their products. We created a simple way where you can delete those. See our docs.
We would love to explain a bit about how we deal with payments for our freelancers. It was a bit of work to figure out what was the best solution. PayPal is super expensive and others were as well. The cheapest and fastest option we found was Transferwise. We can transfer $1000 for about $10 and it arrives within minutes on their account. It might be different from your country.
Last month we also paid for a yearly subscription of Mindwave. It's an all-in-one journal for work and life. It's made by Marcel Hagedoorn and it's a great way of logging how your days go. It has a Telegram integration which I love and asks me a question every day. You can also keep your notes in there, and that's the place where these monthly updates originate from.
We are very proud to have almost 400 customers. It's something we could only dream of when we started. We hope this will continue for the next coming years so we can even build better and smarter features for your data.
We also launched our badges. We took some extra time to make the badges privacy friendly. For example we added referrerpolicies to the HTML elements, preventing data from the page to end up on our servers. Scroll down to privacy on the badges page to read more.
A lot of customers asked us about password login. It's something we wanted to offer for a long time but never go to it. So we challenged ourselves. We promised 5 starter plans to give away when we would not finish this feature in 2 months. It was done just within that deadline, thanks for pushing us @nathfrederand and @JustinNoelDev!
We might have missed some numbers in this thread. We updated our open page again with all new data for this month. It also says we have more than 400 customers now!
That's it for this month! Thanks for reading and please ask any questions if you have some. We love to make this interesting for everybody. Have a good one!
From this month on I will start a monthly update on the progress of Simple Analytics. It will include profit, revenue, costs as well as updates on product level.
January. In this month we hit $3999 in monthly recurring revenue. Almost 4k. We also started to put other metrics on our open page. Since then we did hit the $4k.
We are very happy to have Dave on board. He is helping out with our never ending roadmap. In the graph you'll see a big chunk of red in our last month. Most of it is directly going to Dave a.k.a. to new features!
In the month of December we also had quite some freelance expenses, this is because we paid our candidates for their projects they needed to do as part of our hiring process.
Last months we moved our servers from Iceland to Amsterdam. We paid $382 for hosting last month. This is because we have bare metal servers now and we still have some servers running in Iceland. We are moving them away (most of them are already), but we didn't turn them off yet.
We added reminder emails for expiring subscriptions and when trials are ending. We expect a higher subscriber churn rate. At the moment it's 4.9%. We do think it's fair as an ethical business to inform your customers upon renewals and ending trials.
Since mid January we opened our doors for students. We welcomed 302 students in those days alone. We didn't expect much extra work because our tool it self-explanatory and we have our documentation, but you never know. For now it seems very doable.
Our newest feature with live page views in your dashboard has to wait a little bit. We saw a drop in page views with the that script. We were forced to rollback.
We are writing heavy browser tests to find the problems in that version plus all future versions. It feels way more mature how we work with our critical code now. With more and more customers, those parts get more critical every month.
Speaking of customers, we now have 322 paying customers. We connected quite some cool ones in the last few months including banks and governments and some extra customers from the UK because of PECR.
Take a look yourself on our new /open page and let us know what we should add for next monthly update.
Have a good one!
Simple Analytics just passed the $30k in ARR (annual recurring revenue). It’s a little more than one year old and I would like to take you along the important points of that journey together with where I want to take it next.
From park bench to Hacker News
In September 2018 it saw the light with its launch on Product Hunt. It ended up #3 of the day and later won the #3 of the Privacy Golden Kitten Award. I worked on plenty startups before but this was my first public launch. This first day already felt like a success!
Even more interesting, however, was the day after. When launching on Hacker News (from a bench in Amsterdam with Joshua Voydik) it really hit a nerve. It reached the #1 spot within the first 5 minutes for at least 9 hours. Let the wild ride begin!
Okay, and now what?
The traction was huge. Although initially, not in the ideal way. I offered a paid version from the start, but Pieter Levels suggested via WIP to make it free for a while to get more users. I tried it, but chickened out because I got lots of signups for the free version and none for the paid version.
The Hacker News launch got me my first 30 paying customers and around 800 Twitter followers (before the launch I had around 60). I knew I would be able to get more customers if I knew how to do marketing.
Marketing… what’s that?
For me it’s easy to program and focus on that. But I also knew that my previous startups didn’t make enough money and that wasn’t because of the programming but more the lack of marketing effort.
This time, I set my goal of programming vs marketing to 50/50. In reality it turned out to be more like 75/25, but it’s already way better than 100/0.
Another good thing to realize is that you can build tools to help you with your marketing. That way I built a dashboard with all Twitter mentions of “privacy analytics” “google analytics alternative”, ….
I respond manually to tweets it shows and it helps me in getting my name out there.
An example to gain more customers is through our docs. I put a lot of time and effort in writing our documentation (thanks Minal C for being my grammar nazi) and I see a lot of referrers from our docs when people sign up.
Public dashboards also turned out to be a great marketing feature. Customers can decide to put their stats public and share them publicly. That a first in analytics land and great for exposure of my brand. There are plenty tweets out there sharing their dashboard and at the same time they are sharing Simple Analytics.
Get the basics right
I’m glad I also made some marketing effort at the beginning, even though I didn’t even realize I was doing it at the time. Before launching, I worked on the project for 2 months. This was from first idea to MVP (see this page and scroll down to see the first screenshots). The MVP was quite simple: Show a graph of page views and a list of top pages, referrals, and screen sizes. I got most of my pre-launch feedback from people in WIP.
By sharing my process I realized there was some traction: the first samples of Simple Analytics were introduced to the world. I’m not the best with design, so at that moment I also hired a designer to create some pages for the app. That’s not very MVP like, but I didn’t depend on the money I would lose. The same goes for the promotional video on the homepage (although that was through friends) which was a lot of work – but also a lot of fun. These small steps – sharing the process, having a simple MVP, good video, gather feedback early – very likely played a part in the success of Simple Analytics’ initial launch.
The angles: privacy and simplicity
But hold up. A funny video won’t earn you a place on the market, right? The analytics space is dominated by huge players. So the fact that Simple Analytics became a hit was not expected. I stepped into a niche by picking two angles that mean a lot to me: privacy and simplicity. The first has intrigued me since I started programming at the age of 15, and the latter is something that I got from my dad. They are rooted deeply in me and I think that’s one of the reasons I will always be passionate about my startup.
The fact that those angles would help me this much in comparison with my competitors was something I didn’t expect. For example, Google who started getting a name for being to greedy for data they don’t need was a blessing in disguise. Analytics companies have an urge to collect as much data they can, which usually comes with a horrible interface.
Simple Analytics doesn’t have that problem because it’s only collecting the needed information so we are still able to show it in a nice clean dashboard.
Some people asked about the churn rate. Here are some numbers to give a little more info than the simpleanalytics.com/open page.
To put this success story in perspective: it wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows in the last year. Points of improvement and feedback pop up everywhere. I set up lots of ways to gather feedback:
Added a link in top navigation, manually tweet a welcome tweet, redirect to feedback page on many pages, a live chat – all thanks to Şamil Karahisar, being active on Twitter, a Telegram group with power users, a slack for big features, …
But with all this feedback and feature requests it feels like I’m never done with my startup. There are lots of people building a SaaS startup to find their passive income, but it’s hard work (and probably never ends). For me there is this pressure from my customers to build all those nice things they want, which keeps me focused but also overwhelmed. I didn’t expect this and I’m not sure if I found a way. For now it seems to work to have focus weeks, just focus on one feature/theme and get that done in a week.
This all wasn’t possible without the feedback and motivation I got from the community and my first customers!
It's not the magical MRR. It's different than we report ourselves on https://simpleanalytics.com/open but we still want to show it. Why? It's because Simple Analytics is build on trust and being open. The stats we show on our page could be made up (it obviously isn't), but with Indie Hackers we have a third party that has (only read-only) access to our revenue. We can't modify those numbers, so that's why we added live Stripe revenue to our profile.
Hurray for transparency!
In this description I will keep it short, because I will write soon more about this. I was sitting on a bench at a square in Amsterdam when I posted Simple Analytics to Show Hacker News. Two minutes later I was #1 on the homepage.
If you want to know how I did it, follow me and I will write about it.
I posted on Product Hunt half an hour after 12:00 San Fransisco time, as we all know, this is the best time to post. I directly saw some great other products, so there was enough competition.
But halfway the day the ranking didn't change that much anymore and Simple Analytics ended as #3. I'm super happy with this, thanks everybody for the support and faith in my mission!
As we all know, big corporations unnecessarily track users without their consent. I want to change that. So I built Simple Analytics. Simple, clean, and friendly analytics for developers and businesses.