Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
One founder, zero staff, making $1.2M in monthly recurring revenue (startupdaily.net)
279 points by nreece on Oct 2, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 144 comments

I get so much spam from this site.

Nearly every day, I get 4 copies of a bunch of spam trying to sell me Shopify inventory management, Shopify store marketing, Shopify product feed management, Shopify shipping services, etc.

Why Shopify? Because there's a script tag on my sites with the word "shopify" in it. I don't run any Shopify stores.

Why 4 copies of every mail? Because I have 4 sites with that tag.

BuiltWith sells my contact info in their list of "Shopify websites", which these people toss into MailChimp and spam away, despite the fact that unsolicited mailings are a ToS violation there and everywhere else. I know BuiltWith is the source since one of them named their MailChimp list "BuiltWith Shopify US".

It's a brilliantly simple and profitable site that I wish I had come up with, but the fact that the business model they ended up at is basically "harvested e-mail vendor for spam" kinda sucks.

Apologies Dan I've totally removed your website from the system - anyone can do this via http://builtwith.com/removals

Off topic: Kudos on a successful one man show! ...quite in the league of duckduckgo & SublimeText...

PS: I am also trying to do that at a smaller scale/success position as of now... :-)

"BuiltWith sells my contact info in their list of "Shopify websites", which these people toss into MailChimp and spam away, despite the fact that unsolicited mailings are a ToS violation there and everywhere else."

I was modded down a few months back for calling MailChimp a spamming service. Well, now we know they are. "Transactional e-mail delivery". Yeah, right.

I don't think even MailChimp claims to be for transactional emails as they specifically have a separate product for that called Mandrill.

MailChimp is 100% intended for marketing emails. Though I'm sure they at least try to have their customers not be spammers.

Mailchimp allows direct import of email addresses, rather than requiring a new opt-in through their platform as some similar services do. Direct list import = spam = more revenue for MailChimp.

While this may be abused by spammers, it's also a tool for legitimate users who want to transition to MailChimp with their existing subscribers.

I used to work for a company that had built up it's subscriber list over 10 years, we tried moving to a few other services but didn't get very far because they required actual physical proof that the user had opted-in to our mailing list, which we couldn't do (because nothing other than the email was ever logged). The only way to do it would have been to "resubscribe" all of the users to the new provider and hope they chose to opt in again. This likely would have lost us a significant percentage of our mailing list. There was no such requirement from Mailchimp, so you can guess who got our business.

How would you prove an opt-in, even if you had more info than just the email address? I mean, would a timestamp column suffice? What did they expect to see exactly?

In my experience they probably handle it based on the spam reports they get. They get feedback from all the major providers so if someone clicks the spam button they know.

If you import a huge list for spamming they will find out the first time you send out email and block your account.

1) Transactional email is Mandrill, not MailChimp. Different brands from the same company.

2) The only way to spam with MailChimp is to lie to MailChimp as you have to use the bulk/direct import. [e.g. There is a checkbox saying it was an opt-in only list, or at least there used to be]

How is MC a spamming service? How could they resolve this issue?

> How could they resolve this issue?

They can't. By definition they are email marketing aka spamming.

Email marketing and spamming are not the same thing. The difference is, if I signed up for it, it's not spam. If I didn't sign up for it, it is spam.

Unless you're trying to claim that the very concept of sending solicited marketing messages via email is inherently bad (which seems a ludicrous position to take), then calling MailChimp a spamming service seems like libel.

The problem is that 99.9% of people DIDN'T sign up even remotely voluntarily.

Most people provide an email address only because they get extorted if they don't, and the company they are providing it to makes it egregiously hard to find the "No, don't spam me you assholes" choice.

I know since I run my own email server. I can give out a unique address to every single company that demands it, and I am actively aggressive about the "No don't bug me" button.

I have 432 pieces of junk scattered across 22 unique email addresses that have been sold. THAT'S JUST TODAY

If Mailchimp wants to convince people that it's not just enabling a bunch of spammers, it's really easy--simply put an X-Mailchimp: line in every email. If that doesn't turn into an anti-spam keyword, they're not spammers.

Oh, whoops, we already did this experiment. They actually had to remove MailChimp identification from email blasts for exactly that reason.

You seem to be deliberately blaming MailChimp for something that is completely not their fault. I can't imagine how any marketing email vendor would possibly be able to distinguish between a legitimate email list (of people who signed up for it) and a list of people who didn't, given that the list is (presumably) provided by the company that wants to send the marketing email.

If you get spam that's sent via MailChimp, that's not MailChimp's fault, that's the spammer's fault. If a spammer sent you unsolicited email using their computer's built-in mail client, would you blame that mail client for the spam? No, you'd blame the spammer. So I don't get why you're trying to pin the blame here on MailChimp.

As for the X-Mailchimp suggestion, your assertion here is laughable. Of course they don't want to identify messages sent by them! Even though spamming is not their fault, they still recognize that a certain percentage of emails they sent are actually spam (they just have no way to identify that percentage ahead of time). And if they are sending enough spam, then any common identification for their emails is going to end up getting flagged as a spam indicator, which will cause all of their email to get filtered as spam (even though a lot of it isn't spam). And since their business is sending email, having all their email filtered as spam is obviously not compatible with their business.

Given all that, not identifying their emails as being sent by them is not some sign that they're doing something nefarious, it's simply common sense.

> And if they are sending enough spam, then any common identification for their emails is going to end up getting flagged as a spam indicator, which will cause all of their email to get filtered as spam (even though a lot of it isn't spam).

Postfix clearly identifies itself in email headers. Thunderbird clearly identifies itself in email headers. The ratio of non-spam to spam is high enough that the Bayesian filters don't train to recognize those as a spam keyword.

If MailChimp were a legitimate tool, it would fare the same. The fact that MailChimp doesn't meet that ratio means that too many people mark what is sent using it as spam.

Postfix isn't a marketing email tool. It's a general-purpose MTA. Thunderbird isn't a marketing email tool. It's a desktop email client. These are not at all analogous.

And you're continuing to ignore the distinction between a tool that is commonly used to send spam even though that's not its purpose, and a tool whose purpose is to send spam. MailChimp is the former, but you're treating it like the latter.

> As for the X-Mailchimp suggestion, your assertion here is laughable. Of course they don't want to identify messages sent by them! ... obviously not compatible with their business.

MailChimp does identify every message sent by them, and they do it with X-MailChimp type headers. http://i.imgur.com/a9bzEtG.png

Try to be more civil when disagreeing with someone. What's worse than being wrong? Being super arrogant and insulting while wrong. That was unnecessary.

I was going to make an excuse, but, you know what, I'm just wrong.

I checked my own Bayesian and MailChimp does keyword as a medium spam indicator, but not enough for an immediate dump.

Okay, I was wrong again.

When I went to look for MailChimp emails, I found that I didn't have any. Apparently, MailChimp's servers are actually blacklisted on my server. And apparently it was done by hand by me about 4 years ago (yay for revision control on config files--boo for terse log comments).

Something major happened about 4 years ago with MailChimp for me to actually construct a permanent blacklist entry by hand rather than let the keywords filter, but I guess I don't remember properly what the issue was anymore.

I trusted bsder's claim that they aren't identifying themselves, and made assumptions that it was because it was too high of a spam indicator. If they are identifying themselves, then apparently it's not high enough of a spam indicator, which just means that MailChimp doesn't send as much spam as people are assuming.

> What's worse than being wrong? Being super arrogant and insulting while wrong. That was unnecessary

No, what's unnecessary was that. You're being deliberately offensive here. I took bsder's claim in good faith, and you're calling me "super arrogant and insulting" for doing that. That was completely uncalled-for.

The issue with your comment isn't the subject matter of the discussion, or the correctness of your statements, it's the way you spoke to bsder. I respectfully disagree that my comment was uncalled for.

> your assertion here is laughable

This is an insult. That's what laughable means: his claim is so ludicrous that you could laugh about it. If you don't intend to insult someone who's not on stage delivering a comedy routine, then you shouldn't call their ideas laughable.

> Of course they don't

You purposely emphasized words in a way that, if emphasized by tone in speech, would come across as very condescending.

> obviously not compatible

Telling someone that it's "obvious" what they claimed is incorrect is arrogant. If it was obvious to them, they wouldn't have said it.

I really don't get what you're trying to accomplish here, besides being repeatedly insulting. This is not productive, this is not appropriate, and nobody asked you to do it. You know what's arrogant and condescending? You, right now, with your comments. Please stop.

You can black-list their IP's! Just make sure you do it via your smtp so that false-positive's at least know that their e-mails are not getting trhough.

Oh, I already did some of that. I've already killed about a dozen email addresses permanently, and anything sent to those triggers a black-list of the IP for an exponentially increasing amount of time.

I worked on a large UK domain sellers mail platform for a couple of years and I'd definitely consider pretty much all marketing mail as spam. The landscape has been so destroyed by tricks that it's near impossible to tell if anyone actually wanted your mail.


a) Opt-in unchecked. These guys are "doing it right" except they usually have this box right next to a probably completely unnecessary TOS box that's also unchecked. Anyone who isn't paying attention will just check all the boxes to get to the next stage.

b) Opt-in checked by default. Fuckers.

c) Opt-out checked by default. Praying on folks that uncheck anything with "opt" into it.

d) Opt-out unchecked by default. Praying on folks not paying attention.

Basically the only way you're not a spammer is probably if signing up for mail is seperate from the sign up process. The problem is, I think this is a proven way to generate more revenue so companies are not going to stop fiddling with it.

If companies are going to spam me I'd rather they did use MailChimp. At least they handle unsubscribes properly and seem to actually honour them.

Not necessarily...

Here are the CAN SPAM rules... . But following the law isn’t complicated. Here’s a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:

Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message. Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement. Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

Then any delivery service (online or real world) would be a spamming service.

Infrastructure is just the pipes, not the intent.

Report them to mailchimp here: http://mailchimp.com/contact/abuse/

I can't speak for them, but I've reported spam senders using other commercial senders and generally get an acknowledgement that it's looked into and they don't tolerate abuse.

You should paste the mails into the spamcop web interface. Hopefully it'll get mailchimp to shape up; that's what I do every time (in addition to clicking the mailchimp unsubscribe form and choosing "i never signed up for this list")

Even better, there an option "this email is spam and should be reported".

> You should paste the mails into the spamcop web interface. Hopefully it'll get mailchimp to shape up;

And it's this kind of reason which is why we can't use the Spamcop blocklists: They block way too much legitimate e-mail because they regularly end up blocking service providers due to actions of a few of their customers.

> In addition to the free version of the site, BuiltWith now has a SaaS-based membership model for users that want to take advantage of a number of services that the platform now provides around lead generation, sales intelligence, and market analysis. The most popular user case is a customer that uses curated data from BuiltWith as a lead list. For example, a business that has created a platform that allows businesses to send newsletters to customers may build a list of all companies in Australia using Campaign Monitor or Mailchimp to target for marketing activities.

Yeah, I really wish people would stop calling "lead generation" anything other than what it is. Spam.

> BuiltWith sells my contact info in their list of "Shopify websites"

This right here is why you should always get domain privacy.

+1 I wonder how many people just harvest whois info for email addresses

"domain privacy" is just another extortion scheme.

Providing a filtered email address without domain privacy is another option.

However, a domain needs to have a point of contact, in case of abuse or illegal activity. Domain privacy is a valid service, where the registrar serves as a proxy for you and hides your personal information from public view.

While you could argue that it should be included as a default service, the pricing of domains is almost entirely arbitrary anyway.

Seems I need to get into the spam business if it earns me this much dough.

Why not obfuscate your email?

I don't condone spamming, but anyone that has their email in plaintext knows what to expect.

I value being easy to contact more than having a spam-free inbox. Customer service is perhaps the top reason people give for using my products against alternatives, and is heavily correlated with someone becoming a long-term customer. I think you overestimate the amount of spam having an e-mail address on a webpage generates, too. These mails are about all I get.

You can easily obfuscate your email to web crawlers by generating the email text and link through javascript.

This is what many people like Cloudflare do.

My email is in plain text all over the internet and I get next to no spam. The worst spam I've ever dealt with was from the Princeton Review–a supposedly legitimate business–after taking an LSAT sample quiz online. They wouldn't leave me alone for years despite my best efforts.

Have you reported them to MC?

From the article: "The most popular user case is a customer that uses curated data from BuiltWith as a lead list."

How would I generously try and interpret this as NOT providing a list of email addresses to spam? I have lost track of the number of emails we've received via my businesses 'sales@xxx' address stating "this is not spam, because we've targeted you for a particular reason". Rubbish!

"this is not spam, because we've targeted you for a particular reason"

Indeed. Not sure about your country, but in mine, any non solicited commercial offer via email is spam and is illegal.

In Australia, I once tried to oppose from receiving mail (traditional mail) from charities at my workplace. It started when I donated to one of them, but I don't want my employer to be aware of my political opinions and I had mentionned it in the "comments" box. Turns out charities are allowed to send unsollicited mail repeatedly even after my opposition.

I can corroborate that: there's one high profile charity in Australia that refuses to remove me from their mailing lists (both email & postal), despite numerous unsubscribe requests (both through their software & direct requests). It's incredibly short-sighted. I have donated literally 100x as much to other charities that respect my requests, and I will never support that one charity again.

Man, why would they do that? Sure-fire way to not get a recurring donation.


There is definitely a legal way to send these emails in the USA.

I'm in Australia, and this is exactly the case. Unfortunately 99% of the emails are from off-shore providers that don't give a damn about these rules. I've setup Thunderbird rules that manage to filter out most of them without me seeing them.

This is the kind of story I love - it goes to show that you do not need massive capital, teams, and infrastructure to succeed. You just need a good idea, some luck, and the willingness to follow it down a path. Nicely done.

I agree. I think one's circumstances and mindset also plays a huge role. Most people have come to believe they need a lot of money to get going and to be successful and this guy is proof of it that it does not have to be that way..

Agreed. But in the other hand, this also gives a false image of the startup world, to the people unfamiliar with it, where the vast majority of this kind of startup fail.

Stil a great piece to read, though. It reminds me of the Plenty Of Fish story: 1/2 guys team and a 7 figures revenue

The $1.2M revenue number looks completely made up by the article submitter. The article makes no mention of this or any other specific monthly revenue number.

I would expect a service like this to have very high churn as people export a list and leave, so the actual recurring revenue is likely much, much lower.

The article says the platform has a ‘few thousand’ users. Let's be conservative and say 2000.

40% of basic at $295 = $236k 40% of pro at $295 = $396k 20% of basic at $295 = $398k

Equals $1.03M. PER MONTH! With one staff (I think the zero staff is a stretch)

Overheads would be significant, but still, let's say they are 90%.

He is still earning $100k per month profit. Not a bad business...

Why do you figure overhead would be anywhere near 90%? It sounds like he's basically automatically scraping this info, and it doesn't need to be done at any particularly fast rate. He's probably leasing a single dedicated server for a few hundred dollars a month and working from home. I expect his overhead is near zero.

I think he was just being conservative to make a point, that EVEN at 90% he'd be making a LOT of money.

True. I just figured it was unnecessarily conservative. He said, "Overheads would be significant," which I don't think is actually true. I agree with the general principle that it's a lot of money.

What @personjerry said. His accountant must loose his mind.

In my experience, hosting is a lot more expensive than everyone thinks. That being said, choose a number - 40%, 60%, 90%.

I've never seen a business that generates THAT much revenue with such low overheads. Awesome business!

My experience has been different I guess. I run a small web-based business serving around 50,000 visitors a day. We don't do anything particularly bandwidth-intensive, but we spend less than $500/month on our server and bandwidth.

This guy's traffic would be considerably lower than ours I would think. Most of his resources are going to be going to the scanning effort. But that can run at a continuous rate around the clock, which is the most efficient way to utilize resources. And it doesn't need to be done completely quickly: it looks like he'd be fine completing a full scan in under a month. That shouldn't require particularly high-powered hardware.

So, I can't imagine this guy could possibly be spending more then $100k/month on hosting. Honestly I would be surprised if it was more than $10k. I was just trying to clear up what I saw as a misconception.

The number comes from the article author: https://twitter.com/StartupDailyANZ/status/64975823165332275...

The article mentions enough figures that you can derive the figure yourself. 2-3k paying customers, plans are $300-1k/mo and the plan breakdown is hinted at.

How do you get from "unexplained" to "made up"?

My life long dream. Running an one-man SaaS business. ='(

We've all been there. And we're still all grinding.

That we are, that we are.

The dream depends on your pager schedule ;)

This is the most common "made up fear" that people use to convince themselves not to build a business.

It is not real.

I run two separate profitable SaaS business. Between them, I average about one crisis per year that has me VPN'ing into the box the moment I hear about it. Other, more routine, non-site-has-been-down-a all-night events can wait until after coffee, until tomorrow, or until Monday, depending on what I'm up to at the moment.

It's one of the upsides of running your own show, getting to decide what to make a priority rather than having somebody else on the other end of your pager with a vastly different view of the value of your time

Site reliability basically boils down to two things: Whether you build it right, and whether you actually spend enough on hosting (and on the right things). I have a client I've billed well into the 5 digits in pounds over the last year due to incidents that would never have occurred if they'd been willing to invest half of that in hardware upgrades, for example.

So I agree: It's so much down to priorities, and basically if your pager goes off all the time, you've likely prioritised wrong - it's false economy. Adding an extra server to get the capacity needed to prevent a total meltdown is likely going to be worth far less to you than the time and lost business those meltdowns are. And thankfully when you do things for yourself you get to make those choices.

I wasn't saying don't build a business. Rather, I'm saying to choose the business you get into wisely. I'm betting neither of your businesses are anything like infrastructure, hosting, etc.

I'm a co-founder of BuiltWith. It's doing well but not $1.2M revenue per month. Full details here: https://medium.com/@andrewjrogers/the-story-of-builtwith-e3b...

I started doing some research, found my way to BuiltWith and have wound up using it pretty regularly now. It's one of those tools I'd never have thought I needed until I became dependent on it. I had no idea how much time I was wasting poking around various websites' html source looking for the tech being used.

Very cool to see that its an automated single founder saas success story. Always inspiring to hear stuff like this

Why do you regularly need to know what technology various websites are built with?

Very mundane reasons, I assure you

Not sure why you were downvoted for this. I mainly use it out of curiosity as well. It's very occasionally useful as a sales tool ("Hey, look, your competitors are all using Magento so you should too!") but I'd be lying if I said I used it that way on anything like a regular basis.

HN has become a tough crowd to please these days...

If folks demand a complete answer from me, then here is the super dull list of reasons I use BuiltWith:

1. I have clients that ask me to check out XY thing on a competitor site. A lot. 2. I'm curious about tools other people use so I can learn the tech and recommend for clients 3. When bidding on a project I need to check what platform it's on 4. Doing market research for a side project (assessing e-commerce sites in a particular niche)

That's it. Mundane, non-nefarious reasons.

I use this as a competitive research tool for digital advertising. Being able to tell which ad tags are running on a competitors site always impresses clients and prospects.

I never used it for prospecting, but companies like leadfuze use it to build targeted outreach campaigns that work pretty well.

All in all, i love builtwith and use their chrome extension daily.

As someone who knows very little about the internet ad business in general this sounds interesting. Would you mind sharing how you do this in abstract terms? Do you just enter the site and check the "Advertising" section or is there more to it?

I use the chrome extension and when im on the site i can open a drop down menu with everything running on the site. I look for tag managers, ad exchanges, retargeting tags, data reseller tags, ad tech tags, etc... With one glance i can usually tell how sophisticated of a media buyer they are and if they seem eager to experiment with new ad offerings. (i.e. lots of small and obscure ad services or expensive data+programmatic exchanges like chango, etc...)

Unsure whether you're saying that you're a paying customer or not, but if so do you see a value above what something like Ghostery or Wappalyzer can tell you for free?

not a paying customer. Haven't tried those other tools.

So let me get this straight. I can put together a list of footprints for various pieces of server software. Then I can send a web crawler out and record which sites have which footprints, and sprinkle in some whois data so that people can spam them. This generates $1.2M/mo?

Something is wrong with this picture.

It's a hard lesson for engineers to learn: Business viability and profitability is based on demand, not technical challenge.

I'm taking a class on Business - being a programmer and it was a hard one to wrap my head around. Another common fallacy is 'Build and they will come'.

> I can put together a list of footprints for various pieces of server software.

Yes, you can do it. But it doesn't mean that someone will pay for that. People don't pay money just because your technical solution is challenging, they don't care about it. The only thing the users care is whether it gives something (e.g. saves time, provides entertainment, etc).

> Yes, you can do it. But it doesn't mean that someone will pay for that

Apparently people are paying $1.2M/mo for that, so actually it kind of does mean that people will pay for it.

A recent episode of "Startups for the Rest of Us" mentioned BuiltWith and its new competitor DataNyze:

Rob [11:30]: There are two services I know that actually crawl websites and they can actually figure out what stuff is Built With. The first one is called builtwith.com and these are both SAS subscriptions and they’re not cheap but builtwith.com is the service that I know that several of the kind of outbound legion guys use and they’ll say, “Well, my competitor is X, Y, and Z and it’ll give you a list.” Now, Built With crawls certain amount of websites every so often. The second competitor is more expensive but they crawl daily. So they cannot only tell you who’s using what, they can tell you someone started a trial of this yesterday, like they just installed the code. So it’s much more powerful but they are more expensive. That service is called Data Nyze, it’s data, N-Y-Z-E.com, both of those if you’re willing to put down the money are going to be good services to find out who’s using your competitors and for full disclosure, I am a small angel investor in Data Nyze but I have seen and used the interfaces for both of those tools. So thanks for the question Ryan. - See more at: http://www.startupsfortherestofus.com/episodes/episode-249-f...

[1] http://www.startupsfortherestofus.com/episodes/episode-249-f...

If he gets paid mostly in USD and he's Australian, he's laughing his way to the islands at the moment... 0.70 AUDUSD.

That just means the AUD is no longer so crazy overvalued. Just look at the BigMac index.

As of July, the big mac index had the AUD at 20% undervalued


Interesting development. Thanks for pointing out.

20mm AUD / year gross.

This gives me a new bucket list item: be the first (or at least a) Solo Founder Unicorn(TM)

It's getting more and more possible. Instagram, 10-13 employees at time of acquisition. Were 5 for most of the growth. WhatsApp 30 people 19bn.

Markus Frind

Hah, I am beating you to it...:)

Good for him. He should probably raise prices. Imagine how this type of information could increase conversion rates of certain types of sales. Instead of "Webinar - Learn about how AwesomeThirdPartySoftware" try "Webinar - Deploying AwesomeThirdPartySoftware in a Rails environment"

He seems to be very down-to-earth: http://garybrewer.com/

How do his clients manage to spam the sites they find? Are they breaking spam laws or finding a way around them?

It's common to send spam from countries without anti-spam laws but surely a lot of companies using this service will be in the US, etc.

Its not legally spam to send one on one b2b emails to prospects. The people using this successfully are writing custom emails using templates...a combo of buzzstream and builtwith with a thoughtful email sequence is not only legal, but surprisingly effective.

So what happens if the sole author / maintainer gets hit by a bus? I don't see the fact that there are no employees as a bragging point, I see a major business liability.

Other than that, good for him. :-)

His business stops and someone else fills the void left by the company.

It's hardly a mission critical service though.

This. Also, in the age of webapps, I'm starting to find pieces of it becoming more unreliable. I tried to search what tech a company I'm thinking of applying for is using, and because the app itself is behind a login page it had no idea what JS framework was being used.

Impressive, how does he collect all those information, must be a combination of active detection tools(nmap,etc) and http header analysis etc, and the fingerprint for all popular website software.

I tried google.com and google is using dotcms and webbaker for its own CMSes, interesting!

Inspiring, yet makes me cry at the same time.

Ask HN: Can anyone explain how does the underlying technology of a service like BuiltWith is working? I know reading source code and looking for JavaScript libraries is easy, but is that all there is to it?

There's a similar chrome extension that's pretty accurate called Wappalyzer: https://wappalyzer.com/

Where does the $1.2M figure comes from?

"A few thousand" customers paying on average 0.4 * 300 + 0.4 * 500 + 0.2 * 1000 = $520 / month. If there are 2,000, then that's $1.04M. $1.2M doesn't sound unreasonable assuming slightly more than 2,000 paying customers.

2-3k paying customers, minimum plan is $300/mo, 60% of customers are on higher plans.

Yeah that feels clickbait-y and misleading

I never used the site before. Tried it (checked for Zotonic) and I have to say the default color choice for the two lines on the chart is not very color blind friendly. It's not impossible but very hard for me to tell apart (black and some medium darkish blue). [in case the owner of the site reads HN which he very likely does]

My opinion,FTW https://wappalyzer.com - same from AU

Didn't know BuiltWith was Aussie.

Does it matter? When an Aussie says "this was built by an Australian", they're really saying "Australia, the underdog nation, produced something that would normally be associated with 'them out there' and we should be 'proud' of it" .. in order for that congratulation to work, Australia has to be an underdog nation, and by association, Australians too.

It reeks of jingoism every time we see an article in an Australian media organization about Australians 'making it on the world stage', and just induces cringe, imho. (Disclaimer: Australian living in Europe) I've never seen any positive response to this kind of pitch: its always "oh, those Australians think they're so poor, and congratulate themselves at the drop of a hat" .. I think its one of those activities that doesn't have the desired effect, at all ..

I'm American but have Aussie PR and very familiar w/ the culture ... I agree, the cultural cringe in Australia is still really bad. I spend a lot of time online and in-person convincing Australians that whatever they happen to be whinging about Australia is actually far better than most anywhere else in the world.

Americans are the complete opposite, we refuse to accept that we aren't the greatest country in the world, an exceptional people guided by God himself to greatness (imagine that).

Two extremes. Both have their downsides and upsides, though.

But what about the bus factor?

This is really impressive.

More and more examples of how the money is going to fewer and fewer hands and workers are less and less needed. This is why we need Socialism and a basic income. Kodak's 140k employees vs. Instagram's 30 odd. Snapchat $15B valuation for 330 employees. Now this guy has made (and runs) a $100 million business singlehandedly... What used to take 100s of employees to accomplish can be done with a handful, and it's only going to get worse as tools get more sophisticated and automation more widespread.

It's great for GDP overall, we just need the government to enforce that society's success can be shared among all people and not just a handful of lucky ones.

Absurd cherry picking of random companies. Vast majority of big enterprises employee thousands of people. The fact that, thanks to technology, one person can single-handedly create enormous value is a huge boon for society. And anyway these kinds of ventures support the jobs and business models of their customers.

The fact that the cost of starting a business and reaching a huge audience is now a tiny fraction of what it used to be benefits us all - now we all have opportunities that were impossible before.

Far from creating inequality technology is actually proving a huge leveller: look at how much wealth has been created in the developing world over the last couple of decades.

It is ironic that capitalism is in fact driving what you claim to desire: a fairer redistribution of wealth. That it's happening at a global level however, rather than confined to nation states, means that you, as a (presumably) US citizen, are losing out to the competition overseas. But what's wrong with that? Isn't that the socialist ideal - everybody equal?

Or is wealth redistribution only fair when it's people richer than you that have to share?

> .. What used to take 100s of employees to accomplish can be done with a handful, and it's only going to get worse

IMHO this means we can do more now, so it's going to get _better_

Wait, were you comparing Kodak's product portfolio with Instagram's?

I'm assuming GP is talking about "pictures", and not any of the other things Kodak does. It makes for a very stimulating sentence, though!

So a "lucky" guy benefits from "society's success"?

Is it really how you see things?

That's the very definition of envy to me.

I'm more successful than 99.9% of people on the planet and 95% in the Bay Area by my current income and net worth, and yes 95% of that success is from pure luck (being born into a wealthy family, having my college paid for, being able to attend elite prep schools, starting life 500k in the black instead of 250k in the hole, and good life skills about how to save and invest instead of spend all my money...). I'm not selfish and I know I don't deserve this, it's just luck of the draw for the most part. I wish we didn't live in this pseudo-aristocratic society, and I want to do everything I can to give back and change so that future generations can be more equal.

There's a huge difference between acquired wealth and inherited wealth. Don't consider luck is the only way to success just because it was yours.

Socialism might give you good feelings, but might as well make it harder for those who were not lucky like you and count on hard work instead.

That's inequality, one I'm more concerned with.

>basic income




For anyone looking to diy something similar without bothering with the hassle of running a crawler, check out http://commoncrawl.org

damn...I am so awe-struck, I was going to apply to some jobs today but then I read this article and I'm so overwhelmed with inspiration that I'm just going to keep pushing. Keep pushing after years of mediocrity, I'm not going to give up.

Gary Brewer. His name is Gary. He showed me it is possible. Builtwith is a standing fact. Fight club exists irl.

@Curiousjorge.. Never, Never quit - Winston Churchill. And he also said when you are going through hell, you keep going.

Thank you for the kind and inspiring words!

You can get a job anytime if you're a good programmer. Give entrepreneurship a shot.

Hilarious. This was one of the first jobs I ran on the 200 machine hadoop cluster with the webmap on in 2006 when I joined Yahoo. It took an hour to run.

Yet he makes millions from it. So this proves that it isn't the idea that matters, but the execution?

Correct! I didn't imply otherwise. For some reason the comments and down voters thought the worst when really I was commending him and making fun of myself for not realizing what an interesting little business could be made. Cynics!

And yet he's making a ton of money providing a service that no one else has found a way to provide his customers with.

> "I started getting requests from users wanting niche data,” says Brewer. “For example, I was being asked if I could put together a list of sites in Australia using a CDN or that were using Magento for their ecommerce stores. Everyone asking was saying they would be willing to pay for it."

Sounds a little sketchy, like people looking for vulnerable software.

I would imagine more along the lines of targeting users of competing products to try to get them to switch to yours instead.

Yes, exactly. Or let's say I make middleware for a particular piece of software. I can use BuiltWith to find companies that might buy my middleware because they're using that software. Or when I'm choosing between adding support for Software X versus Software Y, I can ballpark the market size for each and factor that into my decision.

It's basically market research for me.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact