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Ask HN: Successful one-person online businesses?
800 points by mdoliwa on Jan 5, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 630 comments
This question was asked 3 years ago (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7367243) by kweball, and I'm curious what it looks nowadays.

> How many people on hacker news are running successful online businesses on their own? What is your business and how did you get started?

> Defining successful as a profitable business which provides the majority of the owners income.

Back in August I launched https://IndieHackers.com, a site where the founders of profitable online businesses share their stories and revenue transparently. I actually got the idea after reading lots of threads like this one on HN :D

Indie Hackers is my full-time job now. Is it "successful"? I think so! I've done over 90 interviews, and they've been read over one million times in the past 5 months, largely by you guys! I also made $2239 in December and hope to grow revenue another 50% in January. (As I do every month, I just blogged about that here: https://IndieHackers.com/blog)

I'm working on a podcast as well that I'm really excited about, as I've found it's a bit easier to get famous founders to agree to that format and to speak transparently about behind the scenes details.

Indie Hackers is great. Two comments/requests. It would be great to have some business and entrepreneurship books reviewed by the community. Some are worth reading, but many are not and Amazon type reviews are not reliable indicator or hype vs. value. Another great feature would be to have a small follow up with some of the showcased businesses. Especially the ones that just got started.

Great work and good luck!

1. Been thinking about doing book reviews on the blog actually. Any tips/ideas for crowdsourcing it and getting the community involved? Maybe I'll try using the forum for that.

2. Will try to do updates every few months or so in the future, don't want the interviews to get stale!

hey courtland, another big fan of indiehackers here. keep up the good work! Consider this suggestion as my form of paying it forward. ;)

Don't do book reviews and the value of your site is in the data. What you should do is, for every interview, add a question in the form of "what books do you read" or "what do you recommend people should read?". Then for every book listed, add an amazon affiliate link (don't forget to be transparent about this - honesty is the best policy!) so that it provides some revenue and diversifies your income.

Now here is the kicker -> Add every suggested book as a data point and collate it all into a table(s) as a separate page on indiehackers! You can use all sort of filters such as number of times suggested, genre based on founder types, etc. For the sort of audience you have, there will be very interested in the number of times a book has been suggested rather than the book review itself.

Hope that helps. If you need a sounding board and perhaps a hand, my email is in my profile.

Agreed. This is a good outline for integrating books smoothly into the site. Moreover, this could be expanded to other types of products like useful (actually used) tools/resources: hosting companies, billing automation systems, analytics software, etc. Many of these will also have affiliate link programs and/or can be approached for paid sponsorship deals. Considering the site's growing traffic it could bring significant money while serving relevant ads.

This is what I have seen on a lot of sites that have a podcast. Specifically the Tim Ferris podcast page.

I did it where I correlated the recommendations across all of the entrepreneurial podcasts I listen to:


this might be relevant here - https://www.highlyreco.com/

Have you seen this? - https://www.highlyreco.com/

You may want to disclose that this is your site before you post it in multiple places on the thread.

sorry.. thanks for the tip.. Will definitely do that next time..

disclosure - one of the makers here..

IndieHackers is a brilliant idea. Being able to learn from other people's successes and failures and seeing that most startups are not unicorns is a great help.

Hey Derrick! Glad to have Pageproofer on the site :D

thanks, it was great to take the time to work through the interview process. Great to review where PageProofer has come from and think about where it's going.

Really excited about an Indie Hackers podcast. Started listening to Side Hustle School the other day.

I love what you have done ! It's a great resource for inspiration and to see how people are creating awesome things..Keep it up :)

I can also recommend http://www.productpeople.tv/ and the related community as a good place where product builders hang out and share experiences.

I enjoy reading articles on your website. Just curious, how do you know whether the numbers of your guests are correct or faked?

Love IH, only a few newsletters that get kept and read as reference in my inbox (the others being SaaS Weekly by Hiten Shah, OfficeSnapshots and The Hustle), and it's only been a few months but already one of my most anticipated emails each week.

Hope the hockey stick goes up, and like a lot of people here, hope to be on those pages soon :)

Awesome! Love The Hustle and Office Snapshots, will check out SaaS Weekly. Been meaning to interview Stephen from OS since back in August, we were on Product Hunt on the same day :D

Great work man with IT! I'm on your email list and watching what you're up to regularly :)

What I would like to see in your future written interviews or podcast (a podcast would be great; I'll subscribe immediately!), is more emphasis on how they got the right customers and how they grew their customer base.

I look forward to a podcast like this to fill the void that the old "startup" episodes filled.

Heya -- I just tried Subscribing but I haven't gotten the confirmation e-mail. Been about 10 minutes. Looks like it's handled by mailchimp so probably their issue but wanted to let you know.

Love Indie Hackers! I've learned a ton from the founders that you've interviewed.

Definitely encourage you to build out the podcast since it will provide even more value to your audience.

Best of luck!

I always found indieHackers interesting, but I had not realized you had a blog. Kudos to you for the transparency, honesty, and opportunity for all of us to learn!

How can you afford to be full-time on $2239/month? O.o

I saved up money contracting before I took the plunge. This definitely wouldn't have been possible otherwise! But also, if you don't have a family, serious debt, or health issues, it's pretty easy to be resourceful and live cheaply, even in an expensive city like San Francisco.

Ah that makes sense! You sound better at living affordably than I am ... doing very similarly with the sidehustle and still pretty far from going full time.

Sounds like your good with money. Wealth has offense and defense, earning a lot is helpful, but spending less than you earn is key.

A lot of people are full time on $0 a month

One year I decided I wanted to save as much as I could. I went for the greater part of the year on under 2k per month. Saved a ton load of money, like 80% of my take home earnings.

Live like that for 10 years and you can retire like that for the rest of your life.

When I try to be even remotely frugal my girlfriend calls me cheap and annoying. It's quite annoying.

Loving your drive for this site Courtland. Very inspiring.

Man I love your website - so inspiring !

I love IndieHackers!

IndieHackers is one of my favorite platforms! I've read most stories and do business with some of the founders there successfully after reading about them on your platform.

THANK YOU! You are not making only yourself wealthy, but many more so. I really appreciate your site.

Thank you! I love having incentives aligned where me doing my job better helps everyone both myself and everyone else :D

My grandfather has Parkinson's disease and the hand tremors that go with. This makes using a mouse nearly impossible because the cursor flies all over the place.

I created free software called SteadyMouse[1] back in 2005 to remove this tremor while letting normal mouse motion through. It eventually moved up near the top of Google's search results. At the same time, the free version began to show its age with compatibility issues. I spent the last two years on a massive rewrite for a commercial version and formed a single member LLC to carry it back in July 2016.

Revenue is not enough to quit my day job writing automotive firmware, however it's still a nice bit of allowance on the side. I enjoy the stories from users mostly as well as trying to automate the repetitive tasks so I can focus on coding.

[1] https://www.steadymouse.com

Congratulations for the project! It looks great (from the GIF demo) and it is certainly a project that adds value to the world!

Do you need any help on the marketing side?

I am no biz genius, but I have good experience as a generalist digital marketer and also with customer development. I think I can help you with the content side of SEO and contact with niche media to spread the word about the profile.

The 90s look and feel of the site is on purpose? If not, I can help with that too. I can do all of that respecting your goals and principles.

Email me (on profile) if you are interested.

The design is ok. Its legible and well structured. The only thing I would add is a "buy now" button. It currently lacks that (important) call to action.

Do you think it's possible to combine with this prototype that was recently produced as part of a BBC TV programme?


A tremor disruptor! Very cool idea. It might work well together with SteadyMouse with the bracelet disrupting the tremor from "getting going" and SteadyMouse taking out the remainder.

Now this is amazing. These are the startups we should be making.

Having family members going through problems like this, I think this is awesome. I hope you can generate enough revenue to be able to focus on this and improve the life of our parents.

What a truly helpful tool! I hope it generates good revenue. It is definitely well deserved!

Damn, hope you filed a patent!

That sounds smart regarding the software approach vs. mechanical/hardware where you'd have to build a physical decide versus code.

do you do an fft and remove higher frequencies?

I run https://PhantomJsCloud.com

I started it as a free MVP about 2 years ago while in Thailand, and given that I was attracting a slow but steady stream of users I decided to build out a commercial v1 from it.

The freemium SaaS went live in March and it's growing monthly. If I still lived in Thailand I would consider it very successful, but I am in the Seattle area now so it's ramen profitable.

The biggest surprise I got was how slow organic growth takes. Every month I gain more users + MRR but discovery seems to be the biggest problem. I tried Google Adwords in June but Google decided to cost me upwards of $5/click for basic keyword targeting so gave that up. I tried Adwords again in November and now google thinks I'm more relevant, so I pay starting at $0.20/click for the same keywords that cost $5/click 6 months previous. I am currently doing experiments to see if the acquisition cost justifies that spend.

From a effort perspective, the SaaS api+backend itself was about 50% of the effort. The subscription service + user dashboard was another 50%.

From a skills perspective, I think doing a SaaS as a solo founder is only practical if you have extremely broad skillsets: Business management, UX, full-stack webdev, devops, sales, marketing, support. Thankfully I have some experience in all those (except sales) so I was able to either do or fake everything required. If you don't have all those skills, you are going to be increasingly reliant on luck, which isn't a winning strategy.

"From a skills perspective, I think doing a SaaS as a solo founder is only practical if you have extremely broad skillsets: Business management, UX, full-stack webdev, devops, sales, marketing."

Thanks, that is a very important insight.

fyi, I did a small edit: I forgot to mention "support" which is arguably the most important role once you have an actual product.

I solicit users to email whenever they have a question/comment/issue and reply to everything. Overall I think I have provided email support to aprox 50% of my paying customers, and maybe half of the support was provided before they decided to pay, so it is very important :)

Yes! Support is also the part most potentially terrifying to me, considering starting something while still employed at a full time job. Seems like it could quickly become a massive time sink and source of stress.

I love doing support actually. I love talking to users, understand how they use my app. I have 600 Slack threads open with them. Any confusion, bug fix, etc... is an occasion to improve the app and learn from them.

What I hate is writing content :-)

it's actually a really great way to understand your customer's needs, and your products actual (in the eyes of the user) deficiencies. I also use uservoice to help the highly-desired features/requests to "bubble up" but if a customer asks for something and it's an easy enhancement I go ahead and implement it. Likewise if the same problem is annoying a bunch of people, I need to either document a workaround or make it easier.

That is a neat idea, and a neat site. Can I offer just a tiny bit of design advice though? You really ought to have more vertical whitespace going on there. It feels very, very crowded, especially with your h1 rubbing up against your logo at the top there. Basically, anywhere there's a large block of stuff, you should double or more the whitespace around it.

Though it may not be a winning strategy, good luck anyway! It never hurts to have it.

In addition to the vertical whitespace, also (I feel) there's too much text there. I would just put

"Headless Browser Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) that's free for light use, and cheap for heavy use."

in as big a font as I can without it being annoying and move everything else lower, visible when the page is scrolled. Add a diagram if you could that supports the core product offering. Don't add carousels (please.)

Little bits help in ways we could never measure.

Thanks for the feedback guys, the marketing+ux roles are definitely in my "fake it" category :) I will try improving this.

Some more design advice if you're interested:

In between the big 3 sections, I would do at least 40px.

In terms of spacing between the heading and the content below, I generally use a variation of the rule of thirds. It's not a steadfast rule, but generally if you have 60px above a heading, something like 20px between the heading and the content it belongs to would work.

Also make your primary CTA bigger and keep it to one line. Put that 500 pages free text outside of the button:

Sign up now and get 500 pages free


I agree with the too much text comment as well, especially above the fold. Keep it simple and then provide a section where the users can go for more info if they need it.

Your headings and boxes are not aligned on the left side.

Change those example buttons into regular links.

40px+ between navbar and the h1, also make the h1 medium/bold weight. It looks weird when you have headings of the same font family alternate between bold/light.

This is a cool project. I'm mostly a designer, but am familiar with PhantomJS.

I don't see a blog on your site. Have you considered writing about the technology? I'd think search would be a great growth mechanism for something like this. Certainly there are a ton of people searching for questions related to Phantom. I'd look around Stack Overflow and possibly Quora for topic ideas and then write posts answering those questions.

Yes, "inbound marketing" (a blog) is probably the biggest accelerator to growth I can (and should) do. I'm holding off for now though, as I need to make the product more friendly to business users first. Right now PhantomJsCloud is focused on developers, so I need to make some non-dev friendly tooling first. That's my excuse at least.

Regarding StackOverflow, yes, that's actually how I validated the free MVP (answering SO questions and if my product might be beneficial, providing a link to my product) but generally those traffic sources don't seem to scale very well past MVP validation. I haven't tried Quora though, I will add that to my todo list :)

I don't want to second guess your strategy—but here I go. If your tool is appealing to developers _and_ you have identified a way to reach developers, then I think you should seriously consider focusing on that.

Consider for a moment Dropbox: For a very long time they and their competitors catered to the needs of designers and other freelancers who had to share large files with clients. Was Dropbox anathema to IT departments? Yes, totally. But building a product that appeals to corporate IT departments has been a huge undertaking.

If your goal is to build a successful business, the easiest way to do that may be reaching critical mass with developers and then maybe finding ways to offer more value to your exiting (developer) customers and charging accordingly.

As I love self-deprecation, I also love it when people second-guess me :) Thanks for the feedback, yes you are right actually. I want to provide better tooling so that it requires less development effort (and make it easier for less sophisticated devs to use) but I am wrong to lump in "business users" as you are absolutely right that it would be a distraction to entertain that demographic.

Just to provide a single data point, I run JavaScript Weekly and Node Weekly (which have 140K subscribers altogether) and if you had the right content that would interest my readers, even if ultimately it promotes your service, I'd link to it :-)

thanks, I will ping you when I write something up (and I need to figure out a bug with my cross-domain referral attributions :( )

Side note: try Bing ads as an alternative to Adwords for cheaper clicks. Might be the wrong audience given that you're advertising a dev tool but I found it pretty useful.

If you search around, Bing has a $100 coupon right now that you can use to play with the service.

Thank you for the suggestion, I think I will give it a try :)

I really, really like the "what can you do with it" section on the front page. I'm only vaguely familiar with PhantomJS, so I was getting ready to close the tab, but after reading that section I realized this is something I can actually use.

This looks cool, how do you handle ip rotation? I'm scraping around 1TB a month and currently manage my own proxies. If you could offer something to replace that it would certainly be something I'd be interested in.

I've used crawlera for a few years, but not at the same scale. Might be worth checking out, anyway: https://scrapinghub.com/crawlera/

Right now I do limited IP rotation (once per day) so if you need proxies you'd need to use an external proxy provider (you can specify the procxy to use via the PhantomJsCloud api)

I'm toying with some built-in proxy options, but nothing public at the moment. As mentioned, Crawlera is pretty nifty, but unfortunately it doesn't work with PhantomJs on HTTPS sites.

very interesting, I will defiantly will be a customer, I have a question, how fast is requestSingle page? is there any guaranteed response time? Edit: adding a suggestion, if in your pricing you include a dedicated worker it would be very cool. you could price it hourly (8 hours a day, or monthly) this way I don't worry about number of request that I am sending, you don't worry about page size and amount of JS in the page! and I can keep sending requests in the rate I am getting responses.

The request time is pretty much what you would expect running PhantomJs on a Amazon/Google/Msft VM, which is roughly 2x longer than running the same request in your desktop browser.

Regarding your suggestion on dedicated workers, the main benefit (USP) of PhantomJsCloud is the scaleability to hundreds/thousands of requests, so I think dedicated workers is a bit counter to that. However if I can figure out a nice way to securely let people run PhantomJs directly (remote code execution), dedicated workers would undoubtedly open up a lot more interesting use cases.

I don't need the scaleability feature of PhantomJsCloud, for me the benefit is not dealing with setting up a PhantomJs and configuration and using your nice API instead, I will gladly pay a premium for a dedicated VM so you configure it for me. this way you open up the gate to lots of people that are frustrated configuring PhantomJs ;) either way I will be a customer. thank you for creating this. it will save me couple of days of frustration.

ok thanks for the feedback, you are right, and a lot of people want more control of the phantomjs process (or a long-lived process) so it is something I should consider more highly.

I'll add it to my feature todo list. if you sign up, i'll send an email when various new features are ready.

Your Pages/Day should probably be Pages/Month. You are solving a very very time consuming problem to fix.

> I think doing a SaaS as a solo founder is only practical if you have extremely broad skillsets: Business management, UX, full-stack webdev, devops, sales, marketing, support.

This is so true. But look at it from a personal growth perspective. You get to learn so much! Crash course in server-down-at-2am, in contradictory-marketing-advices, and in my-pricing-is-really-screwed :-)

> From a skills perspective, I think doing a SaaS as a solo founder is only practical if you have extremely broad skillsets

I think this is what's changed from a few years ago. Expectations of usability, design, support, number of platforms, etc. have all gone up even from casual users.

37signals, probably the most-celebrated bootstrapper shop, grew up in the 90s. Imagine getting started today. You need a responsive, high-design website. You need to navigate an incredibly complex web of user acquisition channels spanning web search, paid and earned social, community, etc. You need some kind of mobile support (even if just an optimized website), real-time synchronization features, etc. It just doesn't end.

I'm not sure it's possible at all to build something yourself these days. You pretty much have to have a team, and pay them in stock/revenue share, or cash upfront, to get a real revenue-producing company going.

I think the one-man software shop is really on the decline.

I'm not sure. It's pretty easy to build a Wordpress site, use various plugins, and outsource stuff you can't or don't want to do to upwork. Expectations are higher but buildout is much easier IMO.

I think for a SaaS, the most important aspect of validating demand is if anyone is willing to pay for your product. I didn't use Mashape (I tried, but they kept churning their product which turned me off), but that might be a good way to validate.

I ended up giving the service away for free, but officially stated that the $10/mo tier was free during beta, and if you wanted more to subscribe at $50/mo. I got enough actual revenue out of that to justify continuing.

Congratulations on building something and launching as a single founder! Very nice! I'm in seattle and a founder as well - ping me if you'd like to connect and chat. I'm happy to help in any way that I can - details in profile.

I've often though the real hard core startup community should be in Chiang Mai living in 250$ per month condos. Pretty easy to get to Ramen profitable..

I suppose I wasn't very hardcore. I ran (and failed) a game studio in Bangkok, and was experimenting with other business ideas when I finally decided to move back to the USA for family reasons.

I don't know about Chiang Mai, but for a single expat I think anything less than $800/mo in bkk would be very enjoyable. I have a family though :P

Lol, I wouldn't get any work done in bkk...

waives hello from CM

sweet. Are you in startup mode?

Kinda.. it didn't turn out so well. Leaving soon :/

I'm not sure if this qualifies as an "online business", but I started an ISP in November '15. It's also not entirely "one-person". I am the sole founder, but I do hire part-time help on occasion if I'm swamped. It started off as a WISP and has finally grown to the point where we are beginning to deploy fiber.

The site is https://nepafiber.com

I still work full-time as a systems engineer, but the business started bringing in more money than my job does around 3 months ago. I'm only still at my job so that I can expand more rapidly; running fiber isn't cheap.

Hey! I run a new ISP in Montana. We're actually about to head to China to source more affordable fiber and OSP materials. If you want to chat we have a slack channel called #ispschool that has a bunch of ISP owners in it. http://slack.tsi.io

Your link returns a 502 and ispschool.slack.com doesn't exist.

It's fixed now. The little slack invite app is temperamental.

I never would've imagined an ISP being run almost entirely by one person. This is super dope - best of luck in the continual expansion of your business! :)

I am currently starting a small ISP to bring internet to our lake community. Fiber from Level3 and Ubiquiti wireless gear (and other hardware, routing, packet shaping, firewalling, AV, e-mail, voucher system, etc). About 110 houses around the lake spanning about 1.5 miles long and .40 miles wide.

e-mail in profile if you want to chat.

It depends on your country I guess, it's very common here where most ISPs by capacity on other networks. But also in the rural / wireless broadband space where you actually have to manage infrastructure there are a few examples.

Can you expand on this?

How do you compete with AT&T/Google? Are you pretty much on business because AT&T/Goog/TWC are not serving in your area?

Can you do summary of how you grow the business if it's not too much? Really curious about all the logistics. Best of luck!!

> Are you pretty much on business because AT&T/Goog/TWC are not serving in your area?

That's it exactly. Prior to me, the only service available in the area was Verizon DSL or Cable (40 Down/2 Up).

I'm curious about what your network connects to in order to access the broader internet.

Do you call up an existing ISP, like Verizon and say you want to set up a peering arrangement, or do you have to purchase a business account with an existing provider and increase the bandwidth you pay for as your own network expands?

i run a small tech company, though not an ISP.

i hear this question a lot. "how do you compete with xyz megacorp?"

delivering a better/faster product for less money, is the easy part. nearly everything is overpriced from megacorps. believe me, it's easy. even the accounting is harder.

the hard part is selling it. people will complain all day about megacorp sucking, but when it comes right down to it, they won't go with the little guy 99% of the time even when the benefits are staring them right in the face.

unless of course, you happen to offer a service in an area the big guys simply don't exist in, which is awesome and good for OP for spotting the opportunity.

This is true outside of tech as well. Work at a midcorp with about 50-100 offices worldwide, we have 21 year old juniors who don't know shit (like me) follow templates and flowcharts to do bulk legal or accounting work, slightly more complex than data-entry, we charge clients $250 an hour. Most of the kids do have plenty of critical thinking competencies, but knowledge wise it's a few days of on the job training, it virtually doesn't matter if you majored in erotic dance or tax law, pretty much anyone can do the work... each of these kids generates close to half a million in revenue per year. And the costs are essentially salaries (averaging $25 including benefits and all) and an office (a fraction of that), profit margins are about 75%.

Those rates are utterly ridiculous because the work can be done from any location, a lot of these companies are in 2nd tier cities where the cost of living is very reasonable.

I won't even go into the opportunities of automating this stuff, but it's ridiculous...

But the hard part is selling it. I could easily run a team of 10 of these juniors who produce the same work (volume and quality) that generates $5m in revenue a year at the bigcorp, on a budget of 0.5m. Business wise it's almost free money, but without the big corp brand name, it's really hard to sell, even prices were cut by 50% or more and you put sales agents are ridiculous commissions. It's just crazy how important it is to clients to interface with a big brand name corp, despite the fact the actual people doing much of the work are on the level of interns. This is true for lots of finance/legal/consulting companies I find.

The reason is "exposure". Big companies want someone whom they believe has experience, and whom they can hold liable if there are problems. It's not the company spending the money - it is a collection of corporate people spending a budget allotted to them, who want a promotion.

"No one gets fired for buying an IBM"

What sort of bulk work is this? If margins are this good, it sounds like a real market opportunity!

I'm working on a deal with a local private school and that was the first question I got. "How can you offer faster speeds and better pricing than Frontier, Verizon, etc?".

They were previously paying $2,000/m for 100 Mbps. It's not that hard to compete with that. haha

i've considered the psychology of our position.

the difficult part is getting someone to understand that they have been vastly overpaying -- that means they must call into question their own (past) judgment, which for some people is easy, but for most people, is extremely hard (mild cognitive dissonance).

i find it especially interesting that the question is coming from a small private school, who's business model is basically the same thing. i.e. offering a superior alternative to larger, better funded incumbent institutions.

> offering a superior alternative to larger, better funded incumbent institutions.

I don't know that that is necessarily an accurate way of describing the role of a private school.

so how would you describe it?

Well, considering that the biggest period of growth private schools experienced was during desegregation, I would wager that most private schools exist as an escape hatch for parents who find their school district undesirable for one reason or another. Also, most private school students in the US go to a religiously-affiliated institution so there is a strong element of religious indoctrination there.

Stereotypically, charter schools are the ones that are supposed to be better than public schools at a cheaper cost to the government (charter schools can be private or quasi-public).

> Stereotypically, charter schools are the ones that are supposed to be better than public schools at a cheaper cost to the government (charter schools can be private or quasi-public).

I'd also question the extent to which reality bears this one out, but yes, that is the view.

I'd bet that private schools, on average, have more money per pupil than public ones.

I mean surely the biggest thing is that if my ATT service goes out I can probably get someone on the phone (especially if I'm a business customer).

But that person on the phone is almost certainly reading from a scripted prompter and could care less about your issue. It would probably take 2-3 days to get someone on-site if there was a physical issue with your connection. I've gotten calls before at 2am and was on-premise by 2:30am, does ATT do that?

it's easier to get the small provider on the phone.

but i mean, this is simply what you believe to be true. in reality, it doesn't matter if it's true or not, because you believe it. that's what small companies fight against every day of their life.

I'm sure he runs a great business, but unless the man never sleeps or goes on vacation he can't always be available in minutes.

you don't actually understand what it takes to run a small technology business, because you're a guy who just has a normal job. you don't make a lot of money because there aren't a lot of expectations and obligations in your line of work.

1. yup. he doesn't take vacations.

2. if he's sleeping, he gets woken up, or he loses the business.

when you run a business there's nobody to pass the buck to. it's your problem, end of story. you're a big boy now, pull up those pants.

ask a line cook or sous chef how many vacations and how much sleep they get.

there are people who get blown up by bombs in the middle east, today. right now. those are real people. do you think not taking a vacation is some kind of huge sacrifice in the grand scheme of things, especially if you're trying to make a large amount of money?

these are the hard facts that people don't write fun blog posts about and that normal people with jobs find impossible to believe because they are not business owners and never will be.

> there are people who get blown up by bombs in the middle east, today. right now. those are real people. do you think not taking a vacation is some kind of huge sacrifice in the grand scheme of things, especially if you're trying to make a large amount of money?

Give me a break; what the hell does that have to do with the discussion?

Forget about the vacation then. Suppose he gets hit by a car.

> Suppose he gets hit by a car.

let's suppose he does. let's also suppose a probate lawyer will notify you that the principal of the firm you are working with has been killed, the company will go into receivership and run by an organization that specializes in that sort of thing until all the customers have been notified of the need to switch providers. then the assets will be liquidated, either by the estate or the government in lieu of an estate if there is no next of kin or trust / family / whatever.

suppose your large provider goes bankrupt and is bought out, and accidentally shuts off your fiber as part of the takeover process? what then? do you think anyone gives a shit about you then?

this has happened to me, personally. i have 3 internet connections at home for this reason (2 LTE lines and a cable line). in addition, i know _ALL_ the spots around my house where i can get a wifi signal. this is because i take my business seriously, like most people do. i don't expect some magic person to drop out of the sky during an emergency and fix everything for me.

my primary cable ISP is one of the largest in the nation, i'm not going to be fooled into thinking they're somehow reliable. they're never on time, and their service sucks. yet my plumbing company, owned/run by a single guy, always shows up on time and fixes my problem (i live in an old building with plumbing problems).

you live in a world of constant "what if" fear because you lack the experience to know how to handle bad business situations. a small business has more to fear from their customers simply not paying than from inability to deliver good service.

If you interact with people this way normally I think I'd rather take my chances with the script-readers, but I'm glad things are working out for you.

Do you think starting an ISP is still a possible venture? I've been looking into it for the last few months but everyone around me tells me it isn't possible/worth while. How much capital did you have up front?

It's going to be extremely location-dependent. Your best bet is to fill a niche that nobody else has gone after because it doesn't fit their national standards.

Remote location, or otherwise protected against a national moving in?

No current competitors, or only low-quality competition?

But with enough latent demand?

If all three of those are yes, you might be able to make it work.

You'll need to think about fiber or wireless, and if you're doing wireless, how to get fiber to your distribution points. Licenses: right-of-way for fiber, radio operation for wireless.

IPv4 space? Good luck.

IPv6 space? Much easier, but people still won't find it compelling all by itself. (On the other hand, starting an ISP today means you can probably do all your internal work on IPv6. Do so!

Can you get two independent high-bandwidth connections? If not, can your customers stand the inevitable downtime?

What level of reliability are you aiming for, anyway?

What services are you going to provide besides bandwidth, IP addressing, routing, NTP and DNS?

Are you prepared for customer service? Business or residential? Either way, you will eventually have to listen to someone on the phone telling you that they deleted the internet.

I have a friend that runs as a WISP on the side in Michigan as there are no other options. He only has a /26 given to him by a single provider, so the 5-10 customers he has are behind a NAT.

This is a naive question, how can you provide Internet services? Do you use the line of other providers? And how profitable is?

> Do you use the line of other providers? And how profitable is?

Yes, we're peering with Zayo and will also have Level 3 (waiting on build) in April.

Don't really want to toss out numbers but the bandwidth itself is extremely profitable. The equipment and fiber needed to connect to end-users are 95% of the costs.

Have you considered getting into colo or other services that might reduce the capital expenses per dollar of revenue? Seems like there may be an opportunity there. I once had a 2U FreeBSD box at a local dial-up ISP, and it was basically found money for them.

How much power do the cabinets get allocated?

When (ages ago) talking to places about colo, it turns out places like HE would only allocate 7 amps for a full rack. Completely useless. ;)

Generally 30A for a full, 15A for a half, etc. Then $12/Amp for extra power.

That's much more reasonable. :)

Oh man. I hope this works out and it expands. My old company (now defunct) tried to do FTTX back in the early 2000s transitioning from dial-up. Got 15M from investors to run fiber in Hazelton, then Service Electric sued and funding dried out and everything when to crap.


I didn't work with any koreans at nni... and I literally helped roll the gear into the markle building and setup ;p

What sort of investment did it take to get started? Have you written anything about starting off, and your transition from a WISP to fiber?

I started with around $15k, but that's nothing compared to what I've dumped into the business since then. If I knew then what I know now, I'm not sure I would have started this.

I have not written about it, yet.

> If I knew then what I know now, I'm not sure I would have started this.

You said you are making more money from this than from your full-time job. So I'm assuming the business is profitable and has a ton of potential. Are you saying that it requires too much work, and that it wasn't worth it?

Everything is all swell now, but there have been days, weeks, months, where everything was one payment, one customer, one ..., from imploding. I got lucky.

Don't give up. It sounds like you've passed some important milestones and are in a good place business wise. (unsure about mental stress level/burn-out wise tho ;>)

Add my email to list of people you send that write-up to. Im collecting all the examples and experiences I can on this topic.

Hey Chris, Hello Neighbor! Thought about this idea in the Lewisburg (Central Susquehanna Valley) region and was wondering how the pole access stuff works? Also, what kind of densities do you need to get the WISP profitable to be able to make a move to fiber? Would love to email with you - its in my bio.

I don't see an email in your bio. Mine's chris at nepafiber

That's fantastic! I'm not too far from you (Lake Wallenpaupack region) and I've always wanted to start a WISP, but the lack of housing density out here makes it less than economical =(

As someone who grew up in NEPA, thank you for bringing more ISP options there!

That's really cool! Good for you!

Very inspiring.

I started Hobo Hammocks a year and a half ago (www.hobohammocks.com)

I got the idea when a buddy of mine and myself decided to live out of our cars and sleep in hammocks on the backstop of an abandoned softball field. Doing so made me more aware of the homeless and what they are going through, and I wanted to do something to help them.

I started the company and donate a meal to the homeless with every hammock I sell. Profits have been amazing, and I've been able to donate over 5500 meals to the homeless.

I'm actually working on a new project now. It's part of the same company, but it's a kickstarter campaign launched yesterday for a sleeping bag called the Yak Sak. It's got a couple cool design tweaks which you can read about here:


With every sleeping bag I sell, I donate one to the homeless as well so I can keep giving back.

It's kind of like the TOMS business model. I'm still out to make a profit, but I want to do some good along the way. I hope this answers your question without being too spammy of a post!

Some friends of mine are actually starting a business building hammock structures! They've built one that can hold eight hammocks together. They bring it to festivals and are setting up deals with colleges/state parks. They might be looking for a hammock company to partner with.

If you're interested, I can put you in touch with them!

Hi, I could use more technical information about these. The description area on product pages has a lot of info about feeding homeless people, not so much about the total weight of the package (hammock+biners+pouch_strap), how much space it takes up when packed, what kind of fabric you used (parachute nylon isn't specific enough for me), and what the deal is with this sleeping pad pouch (it's implied that there is one, but it's not listed in the technical description). Cheers, hope this is useful feedback!

Not sure whether or not you are aware of this, but there are already companies that make sleeping bags with integrated sleeping pad sleeves. I think Big Agnes was the first and they've been doing it for over a decade:


I'd love to hear your story from how you figured out how to produce all the way to bringing it to market.

It's amazing when people have a mission, they truly can do anything.

I looked at your kickstarter and you rate your sleeping bag at 20 degrees. 20 degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit? If Celsius I am interested.

Do you mean Fahrenheit? 20 degrees Celsius (68F) wouldn't even qualify as insulation in a sleeping bag, may as well use a garbage bag and newspapers. 20 degrees Fahrenheit would make for a good 3 season bag though.

I bet you could get 4 seasons out of it in the south, don't you think? I don't know much about sleeping bags, though.

It's a good idea to think of the temperature rating of sleeping bags as "survivable" rather than "comfortable."

I camp year round in CA. I use a 20 degree bag for late spring/summer/early fall and a 0 degree bag for the rest.

In the south maybe, but if the temp gets anywhere near 30F then no.

I do a fair bit of camping and I use a 0 degree down quilt from September through May where I live, rest of the year a 20 degree down quilt or bag.

lol, this comment.

I run https://www.soundslice.com/ with one other full-time person. We're self-funded and make a profit at this point.

Soundslice is interactive sheet music synced with audio/video recordings — the Internet's best software for learning pieces of music.

We make money by licensing the technology, taking a cut of lessons in a video-lesson marketplace, plus charging $20/month for a "pro" version (Soundslice For Teachers).

We're happily bootstrapped and located comfortably far from the La La Land of Silicon Valley. (I moved from Chicago to Amsterdam a year ago, and my partner is in Chicago.)

In fact, being able to tell potential customers/partners that we're not a "conventional" startup (one that just wants to sell out to give its investors a return) has been an unexpected benefit. The story resonates with people, and it's good for building trust.

That and you're a Django/Python legend! I love that your combined passions in life have brought such an incredible tool to the world while also bringing you a profit.

I saw soundslice a few years ago and I thought "My gosh this is a cool awesome application" - great to see that it's going well!

I was just looking for something modern to keep my sight reading practice interesting... oh, the serendipity; this looks really nice!

soundslice is awesome!

I've been running https://www.candyjapan.com for about five years. It has (just barely) made enough to support my life in Japan. I'm currently writing a "year in review", will probably post it next week.

I bought my girlfriend a subscription to Candy Japan about a year ago as a gift. It's been about a year now and I must say, it's really been a joy. We intend to keep our subscription going. My girlfriend and I are always so psyched when a new box comes in.

Thanks for the great work you do!

I have just discovered the previous write-ups about your business numbers [0] and it is awesome! So much valuable information. Thanks for taking the time to share!

[0] https://www.candyjapan.com/behind-the-scenes

I saw your site in the old thread, how would you compare it 3 years ago to now?

Do you think you've saturated your market? I.e., are you looking to put it on the back burner and build something else or are you still focused on scaling candyjapan?

I feel like I probably should be focusing on something else, but some nice discounts would kick in if I can reach 1000 subscribers. That's still a bit far, but seems possible, so I'm obsessing about reaching that level.

I bought your book on Leanpub. Great read, as I recall.

I like the - "Try unique sweets even if you are in <country>." headline. Did you test the website with and without it?

Haven't tested it, as with my level of sales it takes about 6 months to run a proper test.

I will say that it looks a bit awkward if your country would normally be prefaced with "The".

>Try unique sweets even if you are in United Kingdom

I also don't like the golden text-shadow, but that's just personal taste.

I just signed up for myself in the US, thank you for posting it here :) Quick note, how does this work for someone that changes countries every 6 months -- e.g. In Vietnam today, in Thailand in 6 months, etc.?

I'd love to subscribe to something like that to get exposure to different, interesting foods. But I'd prefer something healthy — I wonder if there's something like that.

What do you do about visas? Do you have a day job?

I love your "behind the scenes" section, and I actually meant to contact you about the optimal filling of the boxes.

Ha! I ran into you online before : )

I'm running two of the same ones from that list 3 years ago (http://www.twiddla.com/ and https://www.s3stat.com/), and have just launched another one (https://unwaffle.com/).

Every year that passes makes it easier to get something like this off the ground, as the infrastructure becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, and the knowledge you need for the business side get better packaged into step-by-step guides.

It's definitely work, but once you're up and running, it's a lot nicer than having a day job.

Which one is your most profitable? On average how long did it take to become profitable? Were you able to live off the first sites profits or did it take all 3 to do it? Do you have a family? I ask this because I do and if you do whats your method for time management and is it enough to support one. Great businesses by the way!!

S3stat is the one that let me pack in the day job. Twiddla kicks in enough to bring the total up to "Senior Dev Salary, anywhere but the Bay Area".

Neither one grew particularly fast (aided by my only charging $2/month for S3stat when it launched). It was probably 4 years before it was enough to scrape by on, then 2 more after that before it looked like I'd be able to live off it for real while raising kids.

The big upside is in free time. I can ramp the two established products down to close to zero hours/week for months on end to focus on building the next thing (and playing with the aforementioned kids). Every time I tried that with a normal Software Engineering day job, they stopped sending me money. SaaS just keeps ticking away in the background, and is happy to pay me whether I'm in the office or not.

How are you promoting your products? I am part marketer and part developer, but I am finding it difficult to market to developers :)

I recently launched http://www.smsinbox.net for Twilio devs, and am slowly gaining some users, but finding it very difficult to reach the target audience, and/or get visitor/user feedback.

The landing page looks a bit too sparse (and unprofessional), which would turn me away. [1] Consider filling it out a bit more with: screenshots, pricing, a privacy policy, etc.

Take a look at s3stat.com above for a good example, it's much more polished without much more content.

[1] I send a few thousand SMS a month via Twilio for thesimplepostcard.com

Agreed, screenshots are the first thing I looked for and should definitely be there.

Awesome feedback!! Thank you.

I suggest integrating this with every single help desk software you can. They all provide integrations. We were looking for something like this earlier in the year as it pertains to customer support and using SMS as a channel.

If help desk isn't the answer, then maybe another type of platform. Generally, I think you need to ride the coat tails of larger platforms.

(Note: I do realize this is developer focused today, but it didn't necessarily need to be.)

This. I've been building useful things too. But reaching out to and promoting them has been the challenge. Most of my ideas are in the consumer space though.

Hey s3stat looks AWESOME! I'm working on a product that's built on the back of S3 as well (https://shubox.io) so this might come in super handy for me and my customers. Do you have an affiliate program my any chance?

This is really cool. I don't have use for it at this very second, but may in a few months to offload some uploads out of my infrastructure.

Thank you for the compliment :). If you have any questions or want any sort of demo feel free to drop me an email - joel @ my domain above. Would love to hear how I might be able to fulfill your needs!

Unwaffle looks really promising (I came on it while brainstorming/researching for a potential side project). Let us know how it grows !

How do you handle terms of use and privacy policies? Is it something that you need to hire a lawyer for?

Here are some open source ones that you can start with:


Of course I'm not a lawyer and it's probably a good idea to get a lawyer to review yours, blah blah blah.

I signed up to Unwaffle a few days ago and hadn't had the time to figure it out, yet.

Looks great, though!

I've used Twiddla countless times throughout undergrad. Thanks! :)

Unwaffle looks interesting. Is it ML? Good luck with it!

I launched http://ipinfo.io a few years ago. The API gets over 250 million requests a day, and is profitable. I left my job at CTO of calm.com at the end of last year to focus on it fulltime. There's more of the backstory here: https://getputpost.co/from-side-project-to-250-million-daily...

Funny, I signed up for your $10/month plan just yesterday. I found out about you from a StackOverflow answer you posted and thought to tell you that you should answer other questions like "get location from IP address {{ language }}". In particular there was one for Python I didn't see your service listed for, and it took me quite a while to find your service which I'm very pleased with so far.

Thanks - great to have you as a customer!

Ahhhh... Geo IP stuff. That's the reason that I can't get a lot of the local channels on streaming apps. :-P

I'm actually n hour north of Dallas, but pretty much all of the Geo IP products show me as being out in east Texas, usually Mount Pleasant or Longview. That's 150 miles from where I am.

As a result, I get streams coming from Shreveport, LA instead of Dallas, TX.

Not sure if there's a way to fix this.

This sounds like the same issue addressed in the Reply all podcast about mislocated stolen phones (https://gimletmedia.com/episode/53-in-the-desert/), they do a small update in the recent Past, Present, Future 2 episode (https://soundcloud.com/replyall/84-past-present-future-2#t=2...).

Interesting. Can you contact me with your IP address at ben@ipinfo.io and I can look into what might be going on here?

Congrats! One thing the post didn't answer is where you got the data (IMO, the most difficult part for this project). Are you using MaxMind or something else behind the scenes?

Congrats. I'm a bit confused as to why you got a warning email from Linode. I'm a customer, and as far as I know you can use 100% of the CPU that's assigned to your virtual machine without a problem. Were they informing you that you need to use less CPU or were they just suggesting that you might want to upgrade?

Also, why didn't you just expand to a more capable Linode or add another Linode? I've found their transfer to cost a small fraction of what AWS charges. I would think your operating costs would be less with Linode.

You can use as much CPU as you like - it was just a configured alert. I thought they were enabled by default, but perhaps not (you can turn them on at https://manager.linode.com/linodes/settings/).

I did initially add additional capacity at Linode, but eventually outgrew that. It'd been a long journey from the original Linode VPS to the current setup :)

That's relevant to my interests!

How does your geolocation accuracy compare to MaxMind?

If it's more accurate I might be able to send some business in your direction...

I'll send you an email!

if I understand this correctly, ipinfo is basically a lookup in a db?

What is the advantage of this over a local lookup, say with maxmind or similar?

edit: also, when I press the back button from this page: http://ipinfo.io/AS6830 all I get is a json

Thanks for reporting the back button issue. I've also seen this occasionally, but haven't seriously looked into it. Is this Chrome, or another browser?

> if I understand this correctly, ipinfo is basically a lookup in a db? What is the advantage of this over a local lookup, say with maxmind or similar?

There are 2 parts to that.

1) What's the advantage of using an geolocation API over a local database?

It's simpler. There's no need to download a database, or to remember to update it. You can call it from anywhere.

2) Why use ipinfo.io over other geolocation APIs?

The main 2 reasons are speed and reliability.

i) Reliability - we have multiple servers in auto-scaling groups all around the globe with auto-fail-over, and an excellent uptime record

ii) Speed - our API is designed to be extremely fast. We have servers on both US coasts, Germany and Singapore with geoDNS to route your request to the closest servers to reduce latency even further

yeah its chrome Version 54.0.2840.98 (64-bit) on osx

Im sorry but setting up a cronjob to download maxmind + include jars into project seems easier and faster than incorporating a third party web service.

edit: about speed, since you call such a database yourself most likely, you are not gonna be faster than local lookup

This comment reminds me of the response Dropbox received when being introduced to ycombinator.

    "...you can already build such a system yourself quite trivially by getting an FTP account, mounting it locally with curlftpfs, and then using SVN or CVS on the mounted filesystem."

Reading that thread was great. Thanks for the link.

Cool thanks - I'll look into what might be causing the back button behavior.

> Im sorry but setting up a cronjob to download maxmind + include jars into project seems easier and faster than incorporating a third party web service.

Sure, if you've got the required sysadmin and dev skills, and a server to host the file. Not everyone does.

We also return additional data beyond geolocation, such as the ASN and hostname, and have additional optional fields such as company name and domain, and carrier details. You could download multiple databases and do it locally, but it's even more effort.

> about speed, since you call such a database yourself most likely, you are not gonna be faster than local lookup

Oh sure - it's not quicker than a local lookup - it's quicker than _other_ IP geolocation APIs.

JSON on back button issue fixed

>edit: also, when I press the back button from this page: http://ipinfo.io/AS6830 all I get is a json

Funny you mention that, because I've had the same issue with regular IPs. I use ipinfo.io a lot for my job and have noticed this intermittently.

Just deployed a fix for this.

Excellent, a great site, and quick responses. Thanks for the hard work!

I created an online game called Mossms (http://mossms.com). It's a game where you breed critters, you raise the babies, and put them to work building little towns where they learn and work and play. Think The Sims plus Tamagachi. Their AI is fun and mesmerizing to watch, and our secret sauce is in reminding people about things they've forgotten about how wonderful it is to be a kid. It's something pretty much everyone can connect with, even if they have trouble identifying exactly why they're entranced. Our biggest customers are actually micro business owners that run their own farms and auction off their wares. I built tools for creating new content and handed this business off to my partner who still grows and maintains the business today. She doesn't know how to code, but she knows how to build and maintain communities.

How I got started: when I started my first game I thought the hardest part was coming up with a good idea. Then I built and launched something amazing, I realized that the real hard part is figuring out how to reach the people that would want to buy it. So when I started the next venture, I started with identifying how I was going to market it, and building relationships with the right communities even as I was starting the code. That product launched successfully, then I learned that I can't wait till the end to figure out a business model that works for myself and the customers both. It took me several different products over several years to get a mix of product, marketing, and business model that worked well.

The hardest part is knowing when you're building something that just isn't right yet, vs when you're fooling yourself and failing and just not admitting it yet. I still don't know how to tell the difference.

Hi, here's mine: http://mee6bot.com :) . You can read a short article I wrote recently about it: https://medium.com/@anis.blk/the-mvp-that-got-to-480k-unique... .


Last March, in my little darky flat somewhere in the middle of France, I had this idea to launch a little chat bot in a platform called Discord. I was coding all day long to deliver a functional and satisfying version of what I had in mind. These were the most profitable 3 days of my life…

Discord is a slack-like application. The main difference between slack and discord is that discord is made for gamers. It’s free, easy to use and has gamers oriented features like a great and reliable voice communication feature. The platform was crowed with a lot of chat bots. But those were very rigide, and kind of complex to setup. They were generally made from a programmer perspective. The user experience was meh…

My goal was to make the ultimate bot. I wanted to bundle all the popular functionalities that people use. Instead of using 10 bots in your team, you’ll just have to use mine. But for that to work, I also had to make the bot fully customizable. So that you could enable/disable any feature easily.

And the coding started… After 3 days of hard work, It was time for me to find users. The first thing I did to gain some traction was to go to some big Teams and convince the owners to use the bot. I spammed a dozen of big team owners. The kick worked, the engine started and never stopped since.

Does your income come from donations or is there another revenue source? I ask because OP said that successful meant "provides the majority of the person's income" in this context. I'm curious if donations were enough to provide that or if I'm missing something.

yep :)

I love your site design. Extremely clean and it very clearly shows what the bot is for.

Man, that is so cool and the name is specially awesome!

I've been thinking of launching a bot service too, but focused on order deliveries through FB messenger.

Do you still think the chat bots market is a good niche to explore?

Yeah I think its worth to explore. For Mee6 it was easier 'cause gamers are used to bots though.

Have you thought about launching on other chat platforms?

Discord is great and provides a lot of features. So it didn't appeared as a necesity :)

I built a network of agricultural communities. Making a decent living from Adsense revenue. There's a substantial secondary revenue stream in the form of paid classified ads in niche marketplaces. I could make more money by going after advertisers myself, but I don't like the sales aspect. I am currently developing a turnkey website platform for companies in my niches, fully integrated with my other platforms, Twitter and Facebook. I will hire a sales person when that's finished. Right now I work from home so that I can take care of the kids when my wife is at her job.

Because the revenue stream is mostly passive I still take some consultancy projects, but that's not quite necessary.

This sounds really interesting, care to share a link?

Please, share a link.

There are 45 in total, my biggest communities are Dutch. Hope it's not against HN guidelines to post these links:

https://www.tractorfan.nl/ (mechanisation)

https://www.prikkebord.nl/ (dairy farming)

https://www.truckfan.nl/ (transportation)

https://www.vastgereden.nl/ (bloopers! good for the views)

https://www.boeren.nu (combination of the above)

http://quotum.nu/fosfaatrechten/ (niche market, covers the trade in phosphor quota licenses)

With so many websites, would it be better combining them all into one parent website, like Reddit and their sub-reddits?

I see you have links to your other sites, but maybe Google rank for a parent site would be more prominent since the one parent address would have a lot of traffic.

Maybe have a parent site that lists/links out your 45 (or just the a group of related sites) and maintain the individual addresses. Then have a link back to your parent.

I guess this is more of a branding idea. Google Parent Alphabet, with Google Mail, Google Drive. Also, honda.com

(You obviously know what you are doing, so take this is just a question, not a suggestion)

I kinda have that in boeren.nu. But my reasoning was that you can't be everything to everybody. A farmer might enjoy reading about tractors and cows, whereas a mechanic couldn't care less about the cows. I could make it easy to add interest to your profile, but only 20% of my visitors are logged in.

Also, while I certainly think of Google when I build things, I think of my visitors quite a bit longer. I always look at Google as the company that tried to replace me with their silly Google+ communities, as well as the company that sends me 40% of my traffic.

I come from a rural community and live in a large city now (in Canada). The rural/agricultural regions here are so vast and spread out between each other.

This is an absolutely fantastic idea! (Now that _some_ form of internet has made it most places.)

How did you go about growing the communities?

I listened to what they wanted to do with it and I am in the lucky position that I can develop whatever they want. But that was a slow, 10 yr long process.

I'm running https://SignalBox.ai alone, I wrote all of the software and am working on partnering and sales right now.

Previously I have 2 other startups, one was media monitoring and one was forex.

The media monitoring is B2B only. The forex trading is automated and run from my home research cluster.

Both are generating enough revenue to live off (media monitoring 120k forex, 60-80k)

I guess they fit the definition of solo founder and online, but they have no public facing websites (except SignalBox)

EDIT: I also run a slack group for Solo Founders, If you would like an invite, please email me

whats your email?

Can you elaborate on the forex gig? I've always wanted to do it. Are you doing only TA? it seems you scrap media sites for sentiment analysis too?

Where do you get your forex data tick feed? do you pay for that? What timeline you trade? Hourly/4H? Which broker you use? Metatrader to make your trades or using FIX protocol? EUR/USD only for low spreads?

not asking for your algorithm, just wanna get a background what someone successful is doing.

Add me to slack please! moura (at oko.ai).

invite sent!

Add me to slack please! confiscate (at gmail). P.S. I upvoted your comment :)

Sales are a big struggle to me. Where did you find this partnerships?

Network. Go to the meetups.

Don't rely on serendipity, we can do better than that. Use your programming skills.

Pull the meetup list, get all of their twitter profiles, search everyones last 1000 tweets for topics you are interested in. Pull all of their code on github. Push it through the profiler and find the talent.

Mirror github if you have to. Pull the whole darn thing, it's only a couple of hundred gigs (if you dont pull the code) Profile everyone based on their stars, contributions, watchers and pull requests.

How many other meetups do they go to? What's their history like on other forums?

Put the pics of these people on your phone, and then go and find them at the meetup. Pull their customer lists / testimonials and any other publicly available data.

Look at their company DNS records. Pull their company filings if they're available. Know their revenue, know their customers. Who's making the decisions at this company? Who is signing the cheques?

Scientia potentia est

This seems to be a fun project (enticing really), but I think I should use my programming skills to improve my startup's product. There is so much to do. I'd like something like Uber. Push a button and a salesman with a black suitcase pops in front of me. ;)

Please add me! heber[dot]fernando[at]gmail[dot]com

Please add me to the slack - andreasmanitara[at]gmail.com

+1 for the slack add - christopher [at] tunecrew [dot] com

Please add me to the slack :) alex at alexpineda dot ca

Add me please - carlmungazi[at]gmail.com

email me : charles.quenum(at gmail.com)

please send me an invite mihirptl89 (at) gmail

please send me an invite

Velkur (at) gmail

add me? robinson.colan (at) gmail

I, alone, publish an add-on on the Atlassian Marketplace. I have several add-ons for diversification, but 1-2 of them is 99% of my income. Server sales are one-off (but 80% of my income) and Cloud sales are recurrent (better if you hope to hire).

Define successful: I 100% live off it ($50k/yr before taxes). Biggest new add-ons are often agencies who can afford to sponsor their development because it's a customer funnel for them; I'm one of the rare new who built a business from scratch and lives off it.

The Atlassian APIs could be difficult[1], but the reward is great: Being a vendor introduces you to the biggest corporates without having to be referenced or pass the Purchase Order process, so you can very easily sell to companies similar to Samsung, HSBC, Defense actors or Ubisoft.

My advice: Build a real product with your add-on, not just a tweak to Atlassian's products. Tweaks = SQL reader, theme, formatting of mathematical expressions, ... Products = Balsamiq, Gliffy, time management solutions, architecture/CAD solutions, requirement management, accounting, aeronautical check-lists, etc. Be a bit ambitious and you'll be the reason why people switch to Atlassian and money will pour onto you.

[1] Difficult = They're scattered between Server and Cloud apis, and architecture is widely different bw JIRA and BitBucket, but it's still possible to start quite fast with https://connect.atlassian.com .

Hi Tajen! Thanks so much for your input. The Atlassian Ecosystem was built by developers like you who saw the power of extending our platform and have built profitable businesses by selling add-ons on our Marketplace. We now have over 10,000 developers in our community and have paid out over $150M to developers selling on our Marketplace. In fact, 15+ developers have generated more than $1 million in direct sales each!

We recently revamped our developer site (developer.atlassian.com) to help folks find the right resources and start building with ease and scale. We're always open to feedback on how we can improve the development process and ways to help developers like you grow their business. Give us a shout on our new service desk and let us know what we can do better (https://ecosystem.atlassian.net/servicedesk/customer/portal/...)

Keep up the great work and a big thanks from our team!

> 15+ developers who generated $1m each

Ahem. Are they one-man companies? Are they newcomers? Or is it a very misleading number in that context?

Hi Tajen, most of these developers started off as one-person-shops then hired more folks as their sales scaled. TechCrunch did an overview of our success stories a while back. Check it out: https://techcrunch.com/2015/12/15/atlassians-marketplace-for...

Just yesterday I looked at Atlassian Marketplace and had similar thoughts (was looking to solve our reporting needs at work). Nice to hear about your success story!

I run a non-tech based business www.texadmissions.com while traveling the world full-time. I help students apply to college specializing in admission to UT-Austin. I am a former admissions counselor for UT. I founded my business in April 2015 and it is my only revenue stream. I work 99% by e-mail, though occasionally I skype or receive calls via international sim card.

I am a lead moderator on www.reddit.com/r/applyingtocollege and I produce content through a blog and a popular Youtube channel. My traffic is completely organic - I don't pay for advertising. My only competitor is the university itself. They are notoriously bad about getting information out to the public. I supply that demand and live off consulting fees. In a way, I can reach many hundreds and thousands more people outside of an institution than I could physically visiting high schools in my previous role.

My revenues more than allow me to explore the world. In the early days, I could adjust my runway by simply traveling slow and staying longer in less costly places. I don't make enough money right now to live a conventional life in an American city, but I can live comfortably elsewhere. I charge a lot less than my competitors while, I believe, providing a higher quality service. I am currently transitioning into products.

I fly to Barbados next week to begin my fourth year abroad.

Why do you only focus on UT-Austin? Could you expand to different universities or colleges?

I run an ecommerce store from Shopify which fulfills the orders by drop-shipping through AliExpress.

This is definitely doable for one person, and it isn't technically challenging for a software developer--but the hardest part (at least for me) is marketing, creating content, advertising, and so on.

Actually running a Shopify store and fulfilling by drop-shipping is simple. I would definitely recommend that as a good place to start, one person can do it.

How do you deal with the insane delivery times? Do you tell customers up front that it might be weeks until they receive the product?

Most sellers I've seen on AliExpress estimate 15-30+ days for delivery. In the age of ubiquitous 1 and 2-day shipping, I just can't see customers going for that.

Seems like there'd be tons of people who change their mind after a week or two and then start demanding a refund or pestering you about their items.

Yes, this is one of the bigger problems, and there's no good fix for it.

You just need to clearly state all over the site that your delivery times are 3-4 weeks.

It's unfortunate, but part of the business.

The only way around it is to have products that aren't easily sourceable via Amazon. They're out there, but mostly in very targeted niches.

You also might find that you're really scraping the bottom of the barrel for profits, but the money is still there to be had. I guess nothing ever comes easy, in any business--but there's still money to be made.

Wow, I made it up to the payment portion of your checkout process. Not a single mention of the shipping time. The button says "Complete Order" so I assume this is the last chance to notify people before they pay.

That's shady as hell, dude.

> You just need to clearly state all over the site that your delivery times are 3-4 weeks.

You definitely don't do this... at all. It's clear that you've intentionally buried that information in a separate "How we ship" page. Nobody thinks to look for that, they'll all assume shipping is the standard 5-10 days unless otherwise indicated.

If this is actually working and not causing tons of angry emails/refund requests, congrats. But I'd feel like a jerk doing that to people.

Thanks for that -- I actually think that's good feedback, and something I hadn't thought of.

We do have the shipping times listed on 3 different pages accessible from the top nav (and bottom nav), one of which is labeled 'How We Ship'.. so I dunno. It's not really something I'd considered before this, or had offered as feedback (everyone so far has advised me that outlining your details on the Shipping page is the industry standard.) And I can definitely say that I have many more visits to the FAQ and Shipping pages than I have orders, so I'm guessing people actually do read them. But again, I can't say for sure, and I haven't seen complaints about it.

It also might have to do with the products themselves. These are unattached pieces of metal/wood for the most part, at lower prices than you'd see in a guitar shop.

Beyond that, Oberlo and Shopify are setup for these kinds of businesses, so users get a stream of emails confirming each order and tracking the package throughout the journey. That seems to be enough, so far, at least. But like I said, I think that's fair criticism and something I'm actually looking to change on the checkout. It would be great to load in a shipping time on checkout pages (this information is available from the vendors), but that's not supported yet, it doesn't look like.

Assuming a specific shipping time would be ultra-weird to me - why is 5-10 days "standard". There's no default shipping time anywhere, unless you count the specific next day ones. Certainly wouldn't claim it as "shady as hell".

"Standard" shipping in the U.S. is considered 5-7 days, especially for small items. 10 days is generous.

20 days is certainly pushing the limits of what customers will tolerate without advanced notice. Many people would probably be calling for refunds after 2 weeks if they weren't told "This will take 2-4 weeks to ship" (which his site does NOT do).

30 days would be absolutely unacceptable to most people.

But unless there's some kind of information to mislead you into thinking that it should be 5-7 days, it's not the fault of (or even a dark pattern) by the company. I could understand calling it out if it were a bait and switch, but think it's an entitlement issue to assume any kind of shipping time.

Don't be ridiculous. It's misleading to not warn people that you have exceptionally long shipping times, far beyond any standard and several times longer than what 96% of customers expect (5-7 days).

If you ordered a cheeseburger at a takeout place and they said "Thanks for your order!" then took 3 hours to make it, would you say "Oops, it was my fault for assuming it would be ready in a reasonable amount of time!"

No, you'd be frustrated and asking where your food was, especially since you'd paid for it 2 hours ago and they never warned you about how long it would take.

How many sellers have delivery times like that? Do any have 1-3 day shipping?

Is it because all products are coming from the far east?

I'm looking into making a dropshipping app, but for my niche anything more than 1-3 days would be a non-starter.

You can get AliExpress suppliers to ship DHL or UPS Express, which takes 3-5 days. It varies a bit due to customs. The problem is that it's massively expensive, and doesn't make sense for a single small item.

We have established suppliers now, many of which we originally found through Alibaba/Aliexpress, and we order hundreds or thousands of items at a time (I run a small chain of cell phone repair shops), but even then shipping on a couple medium-sized boxes can run $80 and up.

I don't think I've seen anything less than 7-12 days, and that's only if the seller has a U.S. warehouse. AliExpress is definitely not the place for fast shipping.

Most sellers on there only have China warehouses, and the free shipping option is 2-4 weeks+.

You can check whatever you're interested in on AliExpress though. It's the consumer version of AliBaba, which means the price and shipping info are always included in the listing. AliBaba is the one where you need to negotiate all the terms: Price, shipping, minimum order quantity, etc.

I've never seen 1-3 days on AliExpress.

The absolute best (when the vendor has ePacket, which is like the FedEx of China) is 7-12 days.

But even then, you need to expect 2-5 days for the vendor to actually package and ship the item.

So you're much better off quoting customers 3-4 weeks. If 1-3 days is all that works for your niche, you probably need a new product, unfortunately.

How do you pick the products to sell? Can you share the store you're working on?

There are a few good ways, but it really helps if you know the products well. For me, my site sells guitar parts and DIY kits. And I've been playing guitar since I was about 10 years old, so that helps a ton.

I had a few other stores before this that didn't sell well at all, and I have to say that's because I just didn't know the products, or what the end users really wanted/needed/cared about.

Great ways to pick products: - Terapeak (http://www.terapeak.com/), but this is paid - eBay completed listings - Or most simple (and what I use) -- once you know your products, search AliExpress and sort by "best-selling". That's my go-to.

Feel free to check my store for ideas (or if you want to buy something!). URL is: http://modshop.guitars/

I see. Simple but efficient.

Last question, you send directly from aliexpress to your clients right? Does it not bother you, your clients receiving packages coming from a different store than expected and with a Chinese address?

Yes, that's right. I was also initially concerned about that, but I have not had complaints about it.

Oberlo (the drop shipping service) does have an email system that lets you track the package on its journey and see where it is shipping from, after an order is placed. So it's not unexpected that the address is Chinese.

Most of the vendors actually do a good job on the packaging/presentation, but it's advisable to try each vendor's products (even something cheap), so you know what kind of standards they have. Some are very good, others are poor. You can also leave the vendor an automated message when you order about how to package.

Have you tried going to these vendors directly to dropship? I assume you would get big savings cutting out 2 middlemen. Most suppliers aren't properly setup to dropship but would probably be pretty easy to get an account with a bigger discount without white labeling, at the cost of having to do custom integrations.

There are certainly faster shipping options from HK and China that aren't overly more expensive that you could get them to use or provide your own account given enough volume.

I've been reading about drop-shipping for quite time and it seems definitely achievable. One thing I'm not sure is how do you handle returns? What is someone wants to return the product back to you? Do you send it back to China or just take the lost? How do you handle the costs for shipping etc?

Returns are a pain, yes. It'll be different for every vendor though, so you need to take it on a case-by-case basis.

Honestly, my advice is to not worry about it up front, and dive in.

You need to worry about making your first sale (which is seriously, very hard), long before you worry about returns. =)

You'll figure out it when you need to.

In some cases where the product was received damaged can't be resold a good dropshipping company should just take the hit without a return.

Depending on the shipping company in use, there may be local returns addresses in some countries that will get on forwarded, or it may be worth it for you to set something up.

Assuming you are upfront about the product coming from China I don't think it is too bad to get them to send back there, obviously in some cases a customer won't be happy and you would offer to cover the return on a case by case basis.

I don't know anything about drop-shipping - do you have any good resources that serve as a guide?

In particular, I'm wondering about how to handle problems - when orders don't arrive, when customers want to return defective items etc.

I used Shopify's drop shipping guide to get started--it really is very helpful. They're invested in making you profitable (it's in their best interest as well, since they make $$ from you), and consequently their guides are very good.


Fair warning though: you'll still have a ton of problems and spend time dealing with customers.

For example, the first time I got a $100+ sale on an item, I went to ship it and found that the vendor took the product down from AliExpress... but my Shopfiy account didn't update to reflect that.

So there are tons of pitfalls and things to be careful of, but like any field, you need to experience them firsthand, it's just part of the process. You can make money at drop-shipping, but it really is not easy, and there's still risk involved, like any business.

When you use AliExpress for drop shipping, are you making money as an affiliate or is it something different?

No, basically there are software add-ons to Shopify that let you import an AliExpress seller's product into your store.

Your customer never sees the original seller's listing, and therefore you can charge any price you want.

So, as long as you charge a price that is higher than the raw cost + S&H, you can then collect money from your sale, and use that to purchase the item from the AliExpress vendor (this is automated). Part of the automation process fills in your customer's mailing address, and the vendor fulfills their order directly. (So you don't have to hold any inventory, you're just the go-between.)

Your AliExpress vendors will know what's going on, but they expect and anticipate that people do this. It's how they make money.

Essentially, the service you provide is marketing, design, and salesmanship. They provide the product.

Thanks for the info Question:

how do you find the vendor in AliExpress ? do you need to talk with him before ?

You can--but AliExpress has a good reputation system. I mostly use that.

And if a vendor burns me, I remove their products and look elsewhere.

Thanks for answering , is it your full time ? or just pocket money?

Can you share the store URL? Please check my profile.

I wonder, how do you deal with customs issues? I've had issues in the past while shipping outside EU and customers always expected me to solve the issues for them

Yes, here's my URL, feel free to share =) http://modshop.guitars/

For customer issues, you just need to be responsive and as helpful as you can be.

I've also had issues shipping outside the US, but Shopify (the platform that I use) lets you disable shipping outside of certain countries.

I've had some issues shipping to Canada, (never had an EU customer), so I only ship within the USA now. And changing that was only a few clicks.

Are you guys actually getting enough sales to live off that business? Your site is on the 2nd page of Google results even when I type the exact address in, your Instagram was last active 13 weeks ago, and your Facebook page only has 50 likes.

Something just seems... off.

Depending on your niche and the margins often it can be possible to be profitable simply paying for traffic via Google Shopping and converting off that.

So your website could have little social and organic search presence but still do decent sales just off Google Shopping. Certainly if I was starting a new solo dropshipping site I would be looking to optimise my Google Shopping traffic over building a following in social media or creating content to attempt to boost my organic search rankings.

Thanks for sharing, looks awesome :)

Do you use Shopify for any specific reason? Or it simply satisfies your needs?

Last question (I promise!): Do you place the orders manually or do you have any sort of automated system integrated with your supplier?

No worries =), I'm happy to help if I can.

So yes -- I use Shopify primarily because it's a relatively simple way to get up-and-running.

You'll make less money on Shopify, overall, because they take part of the profits you make (~2% to 5%). And that turns some people off, but the payoff is this: You can make secure, good-looking and effective site in just a few days. With no coding or server management involved.

Now, I'm a software developer, and I'm capable of building an ecommerce site from scratch (as I'm sure you are, as well) -- but why? It's not worth that kind of time investment until you know that you're going to make $$$ from the project.

Shopify is almost like rapid-prototyping. It lets you get started quickly with a working version. So, even if the first business fails (mine did), you're not out 6-months of time and effort from site-building, design etc. Customers don't really know (or care) for the most part that the site is built on Shopify. Overall, it just works.

But yes -- I use an automated drop-shipping system called Oberlo: https://www.oberlo.com/

This only works for connecting AliExpress-->Shopify, so it's constraining in that way. But mostly anything you'll want to sell can be found on AliExpress.

Try it. =)

Thanks for taking the time to reply, really interesting system you have there.

I wonder, how do you deal if a customer orders multiple items and you have to get them from different sources? Does your customer get multiple packages? I've heard about third-party logistics in China that sort this issue for you and send just a single package to the customer.

I will definitely try this out, just need to figure out which products to sell :)

Wow, ok. So you can just set up a Shopify store, set up an oberlo account, find some products on AliExpress... and that's it?

Do you use any other services? And how often do you need to reply to customer emails?

From an inventory perspective, yes. =)

But -- you still need to get people coming to your site somehow, which is actually the harder part.

You can buy ads, do social media marketing, blog posts--lots of techniques. And there are a ton of services for that. I've experimented with many, and continually try to refine that aspect of the business, but I can't claim to be an expert yet.

I reply to emails every day. Once you get orders, you do need to check and make sure everything is going smoothly, and ensure that your customers' needs are met.

I also get a lot of emails asking for advice about various upgrades, fixes, product recommendations. And these often lead to sales, as long as I have something that works. Depending on your store, there can be a consultative aspect to it.

Would you mind sharing what has been your most effective method of generating inbound interest to your site?

This was actually fascinating to me and I've spent the last 3 hours reading stuff from your links. Just trying to wrap my head around how you built enough inbounds to make that sort of revenue...

This is defiantly an area I'm interested in. However, I find that the barrier for entry is pretty challenging. IE, finding the right product. The other aspects are well within my skill set.

Do you have any longtime hobbies? I've played guitar my whole life, so I sell guitar parts.

It's easiest if you can leverage knowledge you already have. I also tried stores selling items I knew very little about, and it was much harder. =)

There are many tools for finding what's selling though. The best ones are paid, like Terapeak (http://www.terapeak.com/), but you can also search eBay completed listings and get a sense for what's selling.

Finding the right product(s) is definitely the hardest part, though -- you're absolutely correct. Not only is it hard to find products, you also have to find products with margins that enable you to make money. For some of my sales, I only make about $1-2 dollars. Which is something I need to improve, for my own business.

https://www.junglescout.com/ is a good example for Amazon too. But, I think you nailed it, enthusiasm for a niche is key

Is it feasible to get your own warehouse storage, go direct with manufacturers and buy wholesale instead of just reselling Aliexpress items?

I can't definitively speak to that, because I've never tried -- but if you have the capital, then it should be doable.

AliBaba (as opposed to the "express" version) is generally used for buying direct from manufacturers, and there are other sources, as well.

If you order from AliBaba, many manufacturers will put your branding on items, and you can do custom orders as well--if you have a design for a new item. However, they usually have minimum order quantities (MOQ's) of 500+. So you'll be out a few thousand dollars to get started, even for a cheap item.

I haven't done it, simply because it's very expensive to get started, but I've read some blog posts from people who've done what you're saying.

The biggest selling point of AliExpress and drop-shipping is that it's low-cost to get started. You can build a business with only about $250 of capital. (Or less.)

Depends what you see as your competitive advantage. Of course it is easy to be seduced by the possibility of big margins in scaling up like that. If you are a software developer looking to run a solo or small business though you are suddenly spending most of your time doing deals and managing warehousing and inventory.

Im exploring similar options. Mind if we email? Please check my profile. :)

Emailed =)

Replied. Thank you.

Whats your store link?

what's the revenue or profit for 2016?

I started work on https://getcorrello.com (a dashboard for Scrum and Kanban teams using Trello) 2 years ago. It has covered household costs since the middle of last year. I am still a solo founder, looking to grow the business to do more than just cover costs and probably make a hire or two this year.

I've read these posts for a while on HN, it's nice to be able to reply to one finally :)

congrats in your success! The project management space is incredibly crowded. I'm curious to hear how you marketed and differentiated yourself?

Thanks :)

Luckily when I started out the plugins-for-trello space was very uncluttered. It was mostly abandonware and github projects created by developers over a weekend. So since Corrello is exclusively aimed at Trello teams and was one of the only tools being built fulltime just for that I have been able to piggy back on their success without a lot of serious competition. There is some competition and I expect more will come as others realise the Trello platform is a viable place to build a business but I think that can only be a good thing really.

I've been running Bowtiful Ties (http://www.bowtifulties.com) as a side project for the last 4 or so years.

Everything is vertically integrated and hand made by myself, from the bow ties, to the packaging, to the website and all processes. Bootstrapped from the start, it's pretty low volume, but nicely profitable.

That looks great! Have you ran any influencer marketing campaigns as a way to increase sales volume? I run a service that helps brands find influencers to work with called MightyScout[0]. My founder and I are working on different initiatives all the time in this space, and we'd love to partner with like-minded folks on something we're planning for the new year. If you're interested, send me an email (in my profile) - no catch (not trying to make a sale or anything), cheers!

[0] https://mightyscout.com

Can you please offer Jackson style bowties? These look beautiful in so many settings, but are very hard to find.

Diamond are quite nice too.

Lastly, consider doing double-sided bowties, with different fabrics on each sides.

But, Jackson bowties would be something I'd order in a heartbeat.


(My email is in my profile, reach out if you do start offering these.)

Absolutely - some of the earlier ties are more Jackson style rather than Windsor, but as most ties are made to order, I can made up any tie in a Jackson style should you wish :)

Most of the ties available at the moment are double sided, with completely different patterns either side (e.g. https://www.instagram.com/p/72rT_CmzYZ/)

On http://bowtifulties.com/behind-the-bow/ a picture is not showing.

Fixed - thanks!

Those look really sharp! I still tried wearing a bow tie. I've always been a necktie kind of guy. Maybe it's time?

I personally like them, but every time the subject comes up I am reminded of the surreal line from the original _Dress for Success_ "In general, I have found that people believe a man in a bow tie will steal."[1]

1: badly OCRed here https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/131743317/

Wow, interesting article. Thanks!

Tarsnap, online backups for the truly paranoid (mentioned on HN quite often): https://www.tarsnap.com/


Here is a good list of 1 or 2 people software SaaS/websites along with interviews

Why people share their revenues? Every product can be copied. If you know revenue, you know what product you should copy.

Because transparency is good.

Also competition is good, stop being afraid of competition or people "stealing" ideas.

Exactly. An idea is just that, an idea. It takes months and years of hard work to turn an idea into an income stream.

Most of the businesses in the list are very easy to copy. There are neither rocket science, neither patents to protect them, neither big money to pay lawyers to protect their work.

Knowing how well the product sells, you can copy it piece-by-piece by saving a lot of time trying different approaches. Author of original product already did all the hard work guessing what will work the best. You just come, copy and profit from his work.

This is not true. People who copy will mostly do it for money. Finally the passion for the idea trumps the desire to chase money and your product will eventually suck. On the other hand if you think you can make a better product from existing solution, then there is a good chance of you succeeding.

You can try copying any one of those of ideas for money and see for yourself.

>Finally the passion for the idea trumps the desire to chase money and your product will eventually suck.

I think his point is that the ideas being shared are simple enough not to require that much passion to implement, and the goal being not doing something better, but something economically viable (good enough to generate income).

The obvious counter-question would be: why would people use the worse copy instead of just using the superior original? The answer is that it could be the case for a variety of reasons, one of which is cultural relevance, the original filters geographically, is not internationalized well, people do it differently in different regions, etc. After all, you find companies doing similar things in the same market, it only makes sense there's chance of finding other companies doing the same in different markets (given the conditions to implement the idea are already in place: not that easy pulling an Uber/Lyft in a country where mobile broadband and payment haven't matured).

Will do:)

You're not entirely wrong, but building most products is easier than finding the right audience and being able to sell it to them. That's the business.

But by the time finishing the copy, the owner had improved their product and advanced the roadmap. The key here is constant move, IMO.

From my experience copying a feature is about twice cheaper than trying different approaches. You may not figure out a good way to implement it until you build first version and let people try it. You may need re-iterate to find perfect implementation. The copy-cat will come later to see what you've done and will implement the good solution without iterations.

The copy-cat may have more developers too.

Just curious. Why aren't you copying these and ranking in all that money then?

I don't think this is so simple with one person shops, as knowing one's value propositions, revenue/profit numbers & acquisition channels etc goes vastly beyond the concept of the presumably worthless 'idea' that people usually refer to in this context.

Good for customers but not for business. Competition tends to minimize margins and profits. While main business goal is to make money, competition is against business goals.

Ideas are cheap, execution is everything.

Competition can also grow a sector, bringing in many new customers that may have otherwise dismissed an idea or might not have even heard of the idea without the exposure driven by the competition.

If a big chunk of the public moves from "should I buy an electric car?" to "which electric car should I buy?", then all electric car producers win.

This is kind of why I think Tesla wants someone like FF to survive.

Many one-person businesses focus on niches and do one thing great. Often they also offer great (aka personal) support. Also, quite often, they are great in building a community around their service. Additionally, many of the solo entrepreneurs are good teachers and share what they know. All these factors together make their services (and themselves) so valuable that a competitor with a slightly better price will not take away all customers.

You're talking about acquisition channels. Community, blog or webinars are great channels, but there are also organic search, paid search, traditional advertising, native advertising, bundling, paid promotions, upselling. If the copy-cat is better at these, their product will out-sell yours.

Very few of the one-person businesses go for mass markets where you need the paid (ad) channels that you mention. Also, the "channels" I mentioned are not just for acquisition but for enduring relationships. You cannot simply buy trust, an ad will not deliver as much value as a connected and caring business owner.

Here in Sweden, and I suspect in many many countries, revenues and profits and pretty much all numbers in a limited liability stock (the most common kind) company are public information. Here is Spotify for example https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=sv&tl=en&u=http%3A... (allabolag.se is a third party site aggregating these numbers.)

Also, income statements are public information, yet making both of these public information has not imploded the economy. Rather the opposite it seems. It is for example a huge benefit when you are looking for a job to be able to go to the interview and ask why the company never has made any profit the last five years, just as a simple example. Also very good for anyone in the B2B segment.

Thanks for sharing that, that's really neat

Having an idea for a business, and successfully executing on a business, are two very, very, very different things.

to be exact -> very * 1000

Because there is a massive difference between sharing revenues / idea and making a business profitable off a clone.

You could copy a lot of ideas out there right now, but that is the smallest part (in my mind) in making a business out of it. The coding and 'making' of the product, is actually the smallest part.

Getting any consistent revenue, marketing, growing your user base, reducing churn - those are all much harder than actually building or copying something.

There are _many_ ideas on github right now with real working code & permissible licenses you could just grab and try to make a business with. So why aren't there profitable, sustainable businesses popping up all over because of this? (Hint: coding is not the hard part, idea is not the hard part)

There are companies who build commercial products from that open source projects. The most obvious example is format converters. There are tens of products build around free ImageMagick and ffmpeg.

Man, you're gonna flip when you see https://buffer.baremetrics.com/.

China ( add third world country) can / has copied / cloned apps for their local market , happens all the time. ;-)anyone can copy / clone your app at any time that does not mean the same as copying your business. I'm just sayin.

Patio11 was blogging about his old Bingo Card software for many, many years and became one of the most high-profile members of Hacker News because of it. I don't think a flood of competing Bingo Card software came in.

A lot of the time, finding a good enough niche, a small enough niche, and understanding customer acquisition for that niche is all the "moat" you really need. Remember, your competitors likely don't know your market as well as you do and are probably fighting a harder battle than you initially fought since they have to compete against you.

The BCC was never profitable enough with constantly declining revenues. Patrick ended 2016 with $120,000 in debt and working in Stripe to pay it down.

Probably, revenues started to decline after bragging about them.

I swear sometimes recently I feel like I'm reading comments from a weird alternate universe HN where I simultaneously claimed to be Elon Musk and also fabricated everything.

Hello, Earth 2 HNer. Back here on Earth 1 I ran a succession of small software businesses. They're anomalously well-documented; BCC more than any other. If you have access to the Earth 1 Internet you can read the first month'a report where I "bragged" about $24.95 and follow the curve from there. Please give my regards to fellow Earth 2 denizens who told me in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 that publishing numbers would bring a horde of competitors to kill me.

The amount of dis/misinformation in your short comment is astounding. Normally I would ignore posts like this, but I have seen a lot of incorrect (or at best creatively interpreted) patio11 information floating around, so I would like to clarify some issues to the best of my understanding.

- BCC was profitable enough for Patrick to quit his job as a salaryman and maintain a similar lifestyle. Most folks would be shocked at how little money he had to make to do that. The revenues and profits went up quite consistently for the first few years -- that is, until he had bigger fish to fry.

- BCC was profitable enough for Patrick to do lucrative consulting as well as build a second business (I can't recall the order of those at the moment).

- Patrick acknowledges that he spent very little time on BCC after he got the processes down. While he was "making money while he slept", he did quite a bit of stuff in that free time that he needed/wanted to do (e.g., iirc, health, dating/marriage, etc.).

- BCC had declining revenues due to neglect that Patrick acknowledges himself (e.g., not updating marketing). As with many folks who scale businesses, it was not a valuable use of his time (e.g., working on AR had higher expected value).

- AR scaled to a higher level than BCC, and it supported an even better lifestyle while still giving him free time for family and building other things like Starfighter. Sadly, Patrick found AR to be not a terribly interesting problem space and did not build it out aggressively. This is not a problem unique to Patrick (i.e., more interested in working on interesting problems than optimizing income with boring/repetitive work).

- Starfigher turned out to be a bust. Patrick incurred some debt while taking a bigger shot. This is remarkably common, and the number is not a terribly big one for a bust. My understanding is that the debt was paid off (or could have been paid off) when he sold AR.

- I don't want to speak for Patrick, but I imagine that there are a number of reasons he went to work for Stripe -- interesting problem space was probably one of them. Debt issue may have been another, but that was effectively solved with the sale of AR.

I'm not sure why so many HNers denigrate Patrick's achievements. He certainly hasn't optimized for maximum income, but I think that the amount of lifestyle freedom that his businesses gave him is somehow grossly underrated and underappreciated. I can only think that there are a fair number of HNers who are envious.

Don't get me wrong, there are many things that I think that I or others would do differently if we were in Patrick's shoes, but we aren't, and we don't know everything that is going on in his life.

That said, if folks are going to criticize him, at least get the facts right. Patrick is fairly open about his business experiences, and the annual reviews on his blog at kalmuzeus.com are a good start.

Edit: oops, Patrick replied while I was typing.

you are twisting the truth, 120000K is debt from bootstrapping a different startup

There were some, I know of one personally but there were others as well. Not sure what the impact of that was as Patio11 seemed to be squeezing all the blood out of that stone.

For years I thought "bingo card" meant something else that I just wasn't familiar with. Until I actually read about it and it was as simple as cards to play bingo. I believe he sold that business now.

There a few rational reasons.

* Building a personal brand - everyone loves to read about business adventures, and the more details the better. Financial details are great for drawing audiences. If you feel your brand could be worth more than the project you're discussing, it's worth it to share

* If your market is developers or software managers or small lifestyle businesses, they'll learn about you through your posts. They're not looking to copy you. You'll be more easily discoverable than those who copy you, so it might be worth encouraging imitators in exchange for increased exposure to your market.

* If your finances are solid (the only reason somebody would copy you) it might give customers who are worried about choosing a small, fragile business enough confidence to use your solution.

I run two SaaS analytics services on my own, https://www.improvely.com and https://www.w3counter.com. Improvely is 4 years old, W3Counter is 12 years old, and together they earn $45-50K/month.

That's awesome. How much do you make out of affiliates? Was it worth the effort to set it up?

I'm thinking about it for my own business, but I'm on the fence.

Please tell me you have a write up of your history/journey somewhere?. You get a +1 from me!

Check his comments history, the story was already told multiple times

I launched JobTrack (https://jobtrack.io), a CRM for job seekers, about three months ago and have been seeing decent growth since then. I've predominantly relied on word of mouth and organic social media marketing but also launched a paid marketing campaign on Facebook a few days ago.

The overall premise for the product is that when searching for a job, the job seeker will likely make a spreadsheet or notebook of the jobs they're interested in and applying to, along with some notes and key dates. JobTrack replaces spreadsheets with a straightforward app to track that information, and more, in a structured manner that is also available from mobile (and Chrome extension coming soon). JobTrack also has analytics to show how the job search is progressing.

I'm hoping to go full time in 2017 and raise investment. At that point I'll likely try to bring on a co-founder and perhaps an employee or two.

Awesome! I'm glad someone went and made something for this, since it's harder to do properly than it may seem (jobhunting, I mean).

Back in the day I wrote a blogpost on how to use Redmine to do keep formal track of the process, but I suspect the effort/reward ratio for that may be more than most people are willing to put in.

Next time I'm hunting, I'll come knocking :)

Nice idea, and congrats.

I think this can be a category of apps - automating the tracking of info of various kinds that people want to track.

Had thought of another one but in a different domain. Not done yet. But when I mentioned it to a friend they said it could be useful.

Thank you. I agree. JobTrack serves as a CRM for the job search but I think there is definitely space for CRM-like functionality for a lot of aspects of everyday life.

Cool. I signed up for JobTrack. Don't have a need for it right now, but wanted to try it out. Will give you any feedback I may have. So far I've signed up and created two dummy jobs. Looked at the analytics page briefly too.

I run Pinboard, $257K in gross revenue for 2016. A ton of money for one person, not quite enough for two people.

Hi, I'm guesstimating 25'000 paying users? - Do you have a writeup on your marketing?

My marketing is, I spend all my time talking smack on Twitter.

Maciej blogs extensively... This is a good starting point: https://blog.pinboard.in/2016/07/pinboard_turns_seven/

I made an almost-full-time income off programming content in 2016 (through my Rails performance course at https://www.railsspeed.com).

I'm writing up a big blog about how I did it right now, but the gist is:

1. Treat blog posts like miniature products - opportunities to test, measure, learn.

2. Have a unique voice and viewpoint.

3. Write about a growing or mature field. (early to late majority)

4. Main distribution channels are email newsletter and social media.

5. Create an information product (book, course, videos, whatever) and convert newsletter signups into sales.

This is great site! i want to do the same concept but with

java + spring mvc and angular Question how did you market your site ?

Interested in that blog post, but you don't have your blog linked in your profile or anywhere.

GREAT product from a great guy!

Where will you publish it?

I run BugMuncher (https://www.bugmuncher.com), it started as a side-project 5 years ago, then in September 2015 I packed in freelancing to focus on BugMuncher full time.

As of November 2016 BugMuncher reached profitability - ie: it's my sole source of income, and covers all of my living expenses.

Congrats for the profit and great MoM!

Your blog is awesome!

Thanks! Writing it has been really beneficial, helps me keep on top of the figures.

My first thought when I read the name was that it only needs the 1st letter changed to take on a whole new meaning as a heterosexist slur. Then I saw you were in the UK too, and wondered if you've also noticed this or it's just me?!

You're not the first to notice that, and it's one of many reasons I'm planning to change the name.

It's a tricky one that - you don't want to lose the identity you've built up, but recognise the name may have issues.

I'm actually in a similar situation; I chose a company name 15 years ago that I now regret because it's difficult to spell and pronounce (and I couldn't get the '.com', which I mistakenly thought wouldn't matter at the time). I've always been too scared to change it!

It might be just you... :-/

I have been running https://pageproofer.com for 3 years. It allows web designers and developers to easily leave feedback and track issues directly on websites (like digital sticky notes). It has been profitable from year 1 and continues to grow month over month.

The growth is slow and steady but not at a point where I'm doing it full time. I don't think 'successful' needs to be determined as 'majority of owners income'. For me it's a lucrative side project that requires little attention day to day. It doesn't need to provide the majority of my income since it doesn't take the majority of my time.

I've always wondered - what kind of tech stack is required to run a service like this? Would you classify it as a webapp?

I would classify it more as a widget or add-on in that it's use lies in being added to an existing website (much like Google Analytics). The entire admin/dashboard area for managing sites, adding users, integrations etc is like a typical webapp though. The stack is a pretty vanilla LEMP stack on the backend, with some extra bits for handling queues. The trickiest piece is the widget that gets embedded on sites, it needs to be bullet proof across browsers and devices since it's used for feedback and testing. It needs to work on pretty much everything that people visit websites with.

In 2016 I took content creation somewhat seriously and the end result was enough income to sustain living in NY.

Not sure if it's worth blogging about yet. Are other developers interested to see how to potentially make software engineer-tier salaries without having to work for another company?

(Note: I also started with nothing. No mentors, no following, no existing profile, no paid advertising, etc.).

Edit: If you're interested, my site is https://nickjanetakis.com.

If you sign up anywhere on the site, you'll get notified when I release content related to starting your own business / building up your brand as a software developer.

I recommend filling out the form at https://nickjanetakis.com/learn-in/2017, because you can include what you want to learn most about which helps me figure out what I should start writing about first.

Of course other developers are interested in that. That's such a leading question that you risk tripping some people's BS meter.

But still ... yes, definitely interested.

Yeah my BS meter has tripped. Most of his submissions are links to his own site and his comments here are "would anyone be interested in ____" and "let me tell you a secret" self promotional spam.

I only post comments like that when it makes sense.

If you asked me, "hey I just downloaded Sublime Text, what are some good packages for a Rails developer?". Why wouldn't I link you to a blog post that lays it all out so you can consume it quickly?

"Let me tell you a secret" is a line I used twice. As a software developer I like testing things and analyzing the results. So when I reply to people, I tend to make note of the wording and phrases I use, and then see how it does.

Nothing wrong with that IMO.

You could choose to ignore the link too, but I'll leave you with this. None of my paid training material has anything to do with "selling the dream". It's all tech courses related to web frameworks and how to deploy them to production. In other words, concrete knowledge that has guaranteed results.

After inspecting your website, I realized that I had purchased your Build a SaaS App course once, on Udemy. I ended up asking for my money back after discovering that you don't actually build anything, the code is already written and the video lectures quickly breeze through explaining it.

A few people mentioned this in the Udemy comments on your course, and you retorted with snarky replies.

Not a fan of your marketing or your attitude towards customers who were offering legitimate criticism.


Sorry you didn't like the course. I don't recall any snarky replies, but you're right. There were a few people who would have preferred a "code everything from a blank page" approach.

The problem is, how do you code up a 4,000+ line Python application with dozens of files and thousands of lines of HTML/CSS/JS together 1 character at a time?

It would take 100+ hours of video and you would want to punch me in the face after hearing me say "ok now type D I V close bracket" for the 400th time in a row.

A vast majority of people (as seen by the reviews) really enjoy the way it's presented and like seeing it get built up in 12+ stages. It's impossible to make everyone on the internet happy. The best I can do is listen to the feedback of everyone and continue tinkering with future content.

FYI - this is a snarky reply

You're being highly disingenuous with your reply, to the point that I agree with the other comment that it is snarky. Assuming your audience already knows HTML and Python is perfectly acceptable if the focus is on building the application, not on teaching how to type HTML and Python from scratch one character at a time. A video could then say "Now we enter in this page of HTML [cut from blank editor to already typed in text]. Note the following sections: [brief explanation of important parts with highlights]" etc. which the audience can follow along via section-by-section downloads. This is a very standard style, and that you seem unaware makes you appear ill-suited for teaching anybody.


The course does mention you should have a basic understanding of HTML and Python before starting it. It's meant to teach you about Flask.

There's about 60 HTML templates in total. Rather than put the burden of copy/pasting each one onto the student, I decided to break the entire project up into 20 stages (separated by folders and git commits).

You get to see the application at 20 stages of development (to see how it gets built up). It starts with a single app.py file and finishes with the end result.

Basically I go over each line of code, and explain why it's written and what it does.

This style of teaching was a choice I made based on the direct feedback of hundreds of students in previous courses.

Most of them like the fast paced style where I talk over the code. There's also many hours of code challenges built into the course to get your hands dirty. The refund rate is currently less than 1%.

The point is, change your pitch. Your wording leads to thoughts like the two commenters had above. Shouldn't be too hard if you have real substance to sell.

I can only guess that he's not incredibly familiar with this community and its aversion to BS/fluff... I'm sure he finds great success in his verbiage "testing" on other less savvy forums.

Yeah. Agree with you. Sounds like "Do you know how to make money on my online blog? Use blue host <referral link here>"

Hmm... most (or at least many) people here are building businesses now and have little interest in being on yet another marketing-heavy email list. A forum like this is a great place to connect and share stories! In the long run that will pay off far more than just strafing by and telling people to sign up for your email.

How did you build your following? How did you monetize? Are you an ad publisher or are you selling something? What kind of content did you create?

I'm in the process of building a business right now too, which for me encompasses "how to be a self reliant software developer who can choose to work whenever and wherever".

I'll tell you a secret, I haven't even e-mailed my list once. Why? Because I'm still figuring this stuff out as I go. I don't have years of content to create marketing auto-responders and dozens of products to push to people.

Just yesterday I was thinking about the problem of "you have all these people on your list, if you don't message them, they are going to forget about you", so I thought maybe I should be spinning off newsletters based on the weekly blog posts I create -- and at worst send maybe something out every 2 weeks.

That's why when I stumbled on this ASK HN thread I thought I'd ask if people wanted to hear this stuff, and then figured by publicly posting something like this, I'll have accountability to actually start messaging my list.


I'm just a dude who cannot accept wasting his life away to make another company rich so I can "retire" when I'm nearly dead. I want to live life right now on my own terms and have the self reliance and freedom to work anywhere in the world, and never have to worry about money again.

My income comes from a few streams. Course sales (related to tech), affiliate sales, book sales and consulting. I don't have ads on my blog and never will.

All of the content can be found on my site at https://nickjanetakis.com/. I recommend reading the home page because it better describes what I just wrote here.

You blog posts seem pretty interesting. How did you choose the titles?

I agree 100% with your statement about living live on one's own terms.

Thanks. I spend a considerable amount of time on the titles.

Usually I write out a bunch of headlines, and then eliminate the ones that are horrible.

My goal is to condense the essence of the entire post in as little characters as possible. I often ignore any type of SEO tactics, and optimize it for humans.

There's definitely way more I could write on this (there's a whole process, tons of things to research, etc.), I'll add it to a Google Keep note for a future post (if you read some posts you know what I mean!).

Alexa 500k in just a year in is pretty good. What was your general audience building strategy?

Thanks. Honestly, I don't even think I'm a blip on the radar.

For most of 2016 I didn't really try to build an audience. I just posted on topics that interested me while not paying attention to anything.

Then I stopped blogging for a few months and really started to think about what I want to do (this happened about mid-year).

During that time I re-did my site and completely changed my mindset from "I want to make money" to "I want to create the best content I can on a specific subject".

I don't really use twitter or other platforms. I just post content on my site, and try to reply to comments on relevant sites (like HN and other tech sites) when it makes sense.

I can't take any of this "how to work for yourself and make money" seriously, if the main way that you make money is by charging for these lessons. It's like a pyramid scheme where the real money is in getting people to learn from you and pay for the privilege. It would be a lot more credible if you made the ideas freely available, but, alas, that will not pay for your rent in NYC.

I don't charge any money to read the blog.

While I do have a few paid courses, they are all based around learning specific programming / developer related technologies, not marketing or pyramid scheme tactics.

Checkout simpleprogrammer.com Similar to what you are doing. Reverse engineer his marketing approach. Its pretty good.

PS. Asking for signups on HN is bad mojo. Inbound content marketing works best here, but will take multiple front page submissions for any considerable amount of subscribers. :)

NY really? Do you live on Long Island? Manhattan is so expensive. I'd be interested. I'm in LI.

Long Island (you're right, Manhattan is way too expensive to live in).

There are four other boroughs ;-)

Staten Island, Jersey City, North Bergen & Westchester? lol

this was cool until it got a little clickbait-y plug

The style of having checkboxes next to very obviously positive statements feels really disingenuous. "Urge for the freedom to travel and work anywhere" - of course that would be nice. Maybe I'm too cynical.

Active statements like that work really well. I agree with you, but as people building companies it is a choice to do what works or do what feels best to us.

write an article definitely interested

I run https://www.fortsu.es (also https://www.fortsu.co.uk, https://www.fortsu.de and https://www.fortsu.com) a price comparison website for running shoes. Original one is focused on spanish market while expanding into interesting ones.

It started as side project some years ago when I wanted to buy running shoes online and it has been improved over the time. To-Do list never ends ;)

Very nice! Couple of questions if you could answer please. How do you host your site? How do you compare the similar products and aggregate them within your database? Unique identifies etc.


> How do you host your site?

TL;DR: entry level Virtual Private Server (VPS) per country.

Based on some SEO articles, I decided to go for Top Level Domains depending on target market (.es for Spain, .de for Germany, etc.) so I needed properly geolocated IP addresses for each country. Each server is around 10 USD/month making this approach affordable. I do all operations.

> How do you compare the similar products and aggregate them within your database? Unique identifies etc.

Each product is manually added (using self made web based template) into database basically because of custom description, picture and specifications. Similar products are linked based first on category and then using properties like weight and drop.

This is good advice. I'm going to be building a site and replicating across TLD and IPs like this across countries. My only question is, if you are using the same content (ie, you write content on the blog for SEO) across each site do you run into trouble with Google for copying existing content?

I am sorry I can't provide a reliable answer to this because my english based sites need more traction, but Google (GWT) does not complain as long as hreflang attributes are properly set.

I'm interested in this kind of projects I have a lot of experience working with scrapers. How do you earn money from them? via affiliate sales?

Yes, affiliate marketing is the main source of income.

I am slightly introducing kind of business inteligence in order to sell reporting to merchants willing to know more.

I am interested in building something like this for Android phone comparison.

Can you give some indication of stats: visitors, income etc?

Regarding Android mobile phones, check https://www.kimovil.com

Numbers change much from country to country but average conversion rate is around 2,3%

How do you market this? Is it mostly SEO or ads as well? Must be expensive if you want to compete with Nike and Adidas for clicks...

At the beginning it was basically word of mouth and niche related forums on the internet.

Then I started reading about SEO and advertising. Organic search more or less work but I got almost no traffic from a couple of banners on related pages during few months. I didn't try advertising networks like AdWords.

I don't see big brands as my competition. I have partnered with some but I don't think they sell much on the internet (typically higher price tags) compared to full equipped city centre stores.

Very cool, I've been thinking of doing an affiliate website for a while. But it seems like it could take a lot of time and patience to get it profitable. Thanks for sharing!

The sooner you start it, the quicker you see some results ;)

To get the prices, do you go and copy them manually or have you written some crawlers?

Price data is retrieved from datafeeds parsing, triggering requests against APIs like Amazon [1] and using custom crawling.

[1] https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/advertising/api/deta...

i'd recommend adding sitewide hreflang across all your ccTLDs to the list ;)

hreflang attributes are in place, aren't they?

It took some time to get them properly in Google Webmaster Tools 0:)

At a glance, I can only see them in place on your respective homepages, where it only has limited value.

It should ideally be across all pages of all sites, so as to declare all 'sibling' pages, e.g.




you can also use XML sitemaps to implement it, which tends to be preferable, especially if you don't want the extra bloat in the HTML of your pages.

I will double check category pages (those you point out) but I am sure hreflang attributes are in place for product pages ;)

I will check the XML sitemap stuff, thanks for the tip.

This barely counts, but I started a small premium handmade custom leather goods brand about 6 months ago: http://vulcancrafting.com. cash/card wallets, notebook/journal wallets, belts, etc... I didn't want to spend all my time after work sitting at a computer.

I'm not in the positive yet; there's an equipment investment cost, I intentionally don't keep a huge order backlog, and I don't charge as much as I could for some stuff. But, it more than pays for the hobby at this point, and I should recoup costs and start turning a profit in a couple months.

A friend of mine has been doing this for many years. I have bought a lot from him, and he's not cheap. I know he could make a lot more if he worked on his marketing a little bit, but I'm not sure he wants to.


Anyway, I love that there are more people doing this kind of stuff. Good luck!

he's got some good looking bags! Still strategizing on if I want to move in to any larger stuff like that.

Have you ever considered using Etsy or similar sites to sell your products?

I had thought of doing something similar (some handmade product, I mean, not leather) as a side biz, but then thought it would not scale as a solo person, so have put it at least on hold, if not dropped.

I have an Etsy store, but I don't push it and really need to just close it. Etsy had massive screwups with the first and only order I got from there (I immediately stopped trying to use it). It took like 6 days for customer's payment to validate, they never responded to my support tickets, and there was no way to confirm order cancellation while it was in that state.

I've got a Shopify site I keep meaning to launch, but I've stayed busy-ish with bespoke orders lately and haven't had the time/need for it.

Great work. Followed your Instagram.

Really beautiful work


I'll refer to my recent comment at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13267536

It's not quite single person, I have two remote virtual assistants handling various tasks like ordering, sourcing, etc, but you only really need that above a certain scale.

Most of the business currently is drop shipping from US retailers to Amazon and eBay. I got started reselling a year ago with a specific stacking deal (discover had 10% cashback on Apple pay purchases for a few months, staples had ipads on sale, I bought around 25k worth, broke even on the ipads, made money on the cashback). Then I started reading everything I could about reselling, followed lots of blogs, tried different things, eventually found some great items and models that worked.

I read your post so you basically arbitrage from US retailers to amazon/ebay? It seems you are doing retail arbitrage? Like when there is a sale on Toy R Us, you list that same item on Amazon/Ebay. But don't you need to keep the stock you buy at some place first? How do you deal when AMZ just price matches it?

I am currently reselling alibaba stuff but after amazon PPC and shipping, it seems it's just break even, not including my effort. It's mostly PL so I can control my price but there is a lot of competition because I don't have patent on my product. It's a white label basically.

In your post history, you said 300K sales. That's all from drop shipping?

> you basically arbitrage from US retailers to amazon/ebay?


>It seems you are doing retail arbitrage?

Retail arbitrage has a technical meaning in the industry, it refers to physically going into stores to buy inventory. What I'm doing is referred to as drop shipping or "online arbitrage" (where you buy inventory online then take possession and sell it).

>Like when there is a sale on Toy R Us, you list that same item on Amazon/Ebay. But don't you need to keep the stock you buy at some place first? How do you deal when AMZ just price matches it?

First of all, it's not all sales. Many of the items I sell are a regular price at the source, amazon just doesn't have stock or charges more. Items where Amazon isn't on the listing are much better.

For drop shipping, the point is that you have the retailer ship directly to the customer, so I don't need to keep the stock. There are some things I do buy, have it sent to amazon warehouses for fulfilment.

>In your post history, you said 300K sales. That's all from drop shipping?

Around half drop shipping, around half either FBA or MF but with shipping it myself (or a warehouse). Did over 100k in November, and 50k in December. I'm hoping to build up to 250k a month or so over the next year.

I've never done PL so I can't help too much there.

Can i get your email so I can ask you some stuff if that's fine..

In my profile.

If you're drop shipping from US-based retailers, how are you able to make margins on Amazon & eBay? Aren't those retailers also listing on Amazon - with better branding than you - and getting all the sales?

(Just spent a few hours reading on this based on another comment in this thread so trying to learn how the "sourcing things below Amazon price" piece works...)

No, most retailers aren't selling on Amazon. Some are.

And yes, most products won't have any profit to be made. The trick is to find the ones that sell well but are more expensive on Amazon, there are thousands of such products, probably even more.

If you're interested in actually doing this, feel free to email me and we can chat.

Who do you use for virtual assistants?

Onlinejobs.ph. Costs $50 a month to contact workers.

I started selling macOS (and now iOS) software on my own website back in 2007. https://clickontyler.com My original goal was to earn enough money to refinish the hardwood floors in my house. Since then, however, it's taken on a life of its own and become a suite of three main products. It enables me to live comfortably in the Nashville suburbs.

All that said, I've been doing this for ten years now and am burnt out. If anyone would like to buy me out and take over the business, I'm open to offers.

Nice job. You've been an inspiration. Best luck looking for someone to take over.

We've tried to do a similar thing, I was burnt out and we found another dev to take over: https://blog.binaryage.com/meet-steve-the-new-lead

It didn't work out in the end. But at least I got 10 months of "recovery time" out of it. And that seems helped a lot. Maybe you just need a break for 6+ months and then you could return with recharged batteries. The challenge is how to "park" your business in capable hands. Product maintenance/support is a serious burden.

I thought I recognized that link...I've been a user of TotalSpaces for years. Great products.

I'd recommend, you consider FEInternational to help you broker a buyout.

I'm not familiar with them. What would they help me with?

HostBuddy is the perfect example of an app I didn't realise I needed until I tried it. My hat goes off to you sir.

Which are some of your iOS apps?

I've been doing Hog Bay Software mostly as (just me) since 2004. Tried expanding with 3 others around 2010-2013, but I'm a developer, not manager. Also the whole app marking seemed to be having troubles. Back to just me again last few years. Main focus and income right now is:

- https://www.taskpaper.com

The business is building Mac productivity apps for individual users... i.e. not focused on selling to businesses. I started because this is the kind of software that's always interested me. Tools to help you think and work better. I started part time for a few years while I had another job, then moved to Maine (where living is cheep) in 2004.

I do my best writing in WriteRoom – thanks for making it.

I started https://netin.co about 9 months ago and now we have several customers including a government client. I live in SF so that's to say I need additional sources of income. I have another website which is pretty much an archive of a radio program that has been going for 10 years and that is a pretty good compliment to my income.

The growth curve for NetIn is rather smooth, I did the usual marketing for it, including creating a Chrome Ext, posting to LinkedIn, FB, Twitter, etc. I'd say the biggest difference came when I manually submitted a sitemap to Google with near 30 million URLs. Also after getting a lot of angry emails from people decided to remove all public info until a time when I can address the privacy concerns in a better way.

It's Stripe with monthly subscriptions, I tried calling prospects but soon realized I'm not a sales person, so now it's fully automated, it's free trial and then you pay if still interested in using it, no sales calls, no sales emails.

How do you collect information?

Selling macOS apps at https://www.binaryage.com.

TotalFinder.app sales is what allowed me to work on my own projects full time. This is what I personally define as a success. I own 100% of my time and stuff I create.

Since introduction of macOS system integrity protection sales have been poor. But luckily I made enough in previous years so I have pretty long runway to build something new.

If you are interested how it got started you might want to read my blog posts from 2009 - 2011: https://blog.binaryage.com

Have been investing heavily into Clojure(Script) tools and libraries over last 2 years:


totalspaces2 is terrific! thank you for that.

I'll toss this out there. I am a software guy who manufactures a simple electronic device on the side

The product cost around $30k to develop plus around eight months of full-time development effort. We currently make about $15k-20k a year in profits. I've been doing this for six years now, and we make small incremental improvements every release that don't cost a lot to do. I mostly focus on overseeing manufacturing, QA and maintaining a dealer network who will sell the product.

I am embarrassed to say I haven't spent a lot of time on growing the operation, but on the flipside the return is pretty good for the amount of work that I put in to it.

I've been interested in making a hardware device too, is it a custom PCB? - Did you prototype with Arduino?

Yes, it's a custom PCB with a machined enclosure. We didn't prototype with Arduino, but we used other development boards. I set a target unit cost, then we selected parts based on cost, performance and availability.

Once we had a MCU in mind, we ordered a development kits and built an initial prototype using the dev board. After that, we did all future prototypes using custom PCBs from a contract manufacturer.

One of my best friends helped me found and run the company (support-intelligence.com) for the first couple of years. I've run it for the last eight years on my organic farm in the East Bay (of the san francisco bay area)

I split my time between farming and writing code. Support Intelligence is a boutique cyber security company. We have F100 customers and I really enjoy living in two worlds.

The choice for me was simple, I greatly dislike what silicon valley does to entrepreneurs. I don't think many folks understand how VCs destroy lives.

So I'm happy with not being rich and having two jobs that keep me engaged in life, technology and politics.

This is fantastic. I admire this lifestyle. I want to be doing something similar in ten years. Living off the land and building digital products.

I am running a niche SaaS for franchisees of several buy/sell/trade retail stores. Http://ResaleAI.com

I built the entire thing myself, handled partnerships, support, sales, etc. All while still running three of these stores.

While I did all of the development, I do have a full-time executive assistant who helps me with a ton of things (email, scheduling, errands, etc).

Now I am building a team because there is no way I would be able to maximize this opportunity by myself.

I run a network of online vinyl lettering design sites I have written over a period of 5 years. I started with the custom cart platform on asp.net MVC and just one website. It is a multi tenant platform with end to end web to print capability. The designers are built in Knockout in a modular way so bits and pieces can be tweaked depending on the use. The Racing site is written in Durandal so not all of the code has been rewritten. I now have 4 websites on the platform. I also wrote a stand alone cloud based service to handle the image generation (http://ionapi.com) and outputting vector files for production. It was originally intended to be open but I have gotten so swamped handling production it hasn't materialized. Most of the nuts and bolts of it are there, but no documentation. I do have it setup behind HAproxy and load balanced on several servers.

I farm out most of the production process but handle customer service. I originally got into all of this to be a side income to supplement web consulting. I have since concluded I hate all of the baggage that comes along with dealing with small town local businesses. I have been fortunate enough to be able to move into a bigger facility for production now and intend to do some work in house now along with hiring an employee or two rather than farm out.

A few of my sites:

Image Generation API - https://ionapi.com Boat Decals - https://boatdecals.biz Race Graphics - https://racegraphics.com

I founded Smooz (https://www.smooz.io), a Slack app to connect teams through shared channels. It was initially a small hack "for fun", but when Slack opened their Directory end of 2015 it was an opportunity to turn it into a "real app".

After launching in January last year, I saw a relatively significant level of interest from early users (relatively significant = much more than I had in all my previous side projects). 10-20 active early users are very good for the ego when you are usually met with polite indifference. I can't thank them enough.

After a bit from traction fro Product Hunt, I started monetize in May. After a few months, I have about 20 customers, for about 300€ /month revenue. I changed pricing in November (cheaper, but without free plan), and I start to see some promising growth.

Smooz being a side project, and the first one I take from idea to shipping to scaling issues, and from early users to actual customers, is an incredible success for me in itself, if only for the learning. Success on the financial side will be when I reach 1000€ / month (recurring, passive) with it.

I started Cold Turkey about 5 years ago and it's just recently started to generate enough income that I can work on it full time.

Cold Turkey temporarily blocks websites and applications to help you focus on your work: https://getcoldturkey.com

How do you make money? I didn't find any pricing page or premium plan.

There's a link at the top: https://getcoldturkey.com/pricing/

This is what I see on mobile (Android): https://postimg.org/image/hmixjrbop/

Last year I went full time on my side project https://dropevent.com, a group photo sharing site. I've doubled revenue but it is still far from matching my previous software developer salary.

Growth has all been pretty organic with just a few forays into adwords and facebook marketing. Growth is really the keyword for 2017 and what I will be focusing on.

That's a very cool product!

My first thought on the pricing - if I am planning a one-off event like a wedding (which I assume would be a major niche for y'all), I would be scared off by the monthly pricing scheme. I would be more interested in paying $X for a single event to be ad-free for the duration of the event and for a short-time afterward. (I know that's technically how it would work if they signed up for a month and then cancelled, but there's a big difference in upfront perception).

It's also a little confusing what 'Upgrade a single event' means on the pricing page. Makes it sound like that plan is only for existing events.

I run https://mapchart.net .

It is a simple tool that lets you create custom maps of the World, USA, Europe, UK, France and more. I treat is as a side-project, but I am constantly adding new maps or expanding some features.

The biggest advantage is that it costs almost nothing to maintain it, as it is completely client-side, so the only cost is the basic hosting plan. I launched it almost 2 years ago and right now it is the no.1 search result for queries related to creating maps and gets an occasional boost from Reddit posts or other blogs.

I saw your work on Reddit earlier today[1], nice.

I was thinking of building a mobile app to track movement and show this same data. Can't decide if its a passing fancy or not, so, maybe just a free idea for you. :)

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful/comments/5m5tj9/cou...

I don't have any experience with mobile app development, so feel free to try something similar there!

I'd love to have a global map with more granularity than just country level. Is that in the works?

Yes, the extremely detailed world map is coming this month! I have spent many hours on it and it depicts all first-level administrative divisions of countries. It needs some more polishing though, so please stay tuned!

Is this profitable? What's the business model, I can only see a donation button.

This is a side-project, so no business model so far. There have been some small amount donations over the years and I have 1-2 Google Ads on the front page that generate a small passive income. In that way, yes, it is profitable, as the only cost is $15/mo, which is the hosting provider's plan.

I'm the solo founder of http://taveo.net/ (Click Tracking and URL management / analytics). Been running it for the past 2 years now. Recently got more serious about the marketing side of things and it's shown.

At the current trajectory I will be able to quit my day job at some point in 2017 here.

Curious why with bitly and others as main competitors. I looked at your project and doesn't seem to pack anything more than bitly for example and their free plan is somewhat ridiculous.

Sure , 2 main differences.

1. Bit.ly (and goo.gl) make their statistics public by default. Some people want private statistics. Our stats are always private.

2. We allow you to use your domain with our platform. You don't need an exclusive domain, you can use any domain you control. We just require a directory prefix (ex: youdomain.com/x can be a base for all Taveo links).

We have other features: conversion tracking, link routing (A/B testing, geoloc, etc.) a good API, ability to download raw data, etc) but 1. and 2. are big selling points. Bit.ly's free plan also only offers basic analytics, we have the full package.

Oh...never knew they are making the stats public. That's a good point yes.

I started the website http://www.wrestlestat.com 3 years ago. It is a college wrestling website where the main feature of the website was to be able to view common opponents between 2 wrestlers. There's no other product out there for this, so it's 100% unique. In addition to that, it provides, rosters, schedules, results, statistics, rankings, as well as 2 different fantasy platforms.

Now, is this successful? To me, yes. When I started it originally, it was just a "fun" side project, the first website that I developed once I got into web programming (10 years on client server architecture prior to). It's a 100% free site, but I monetize through AdSense. Taking out my hosting costs, it doesn't make very much money, but it IS profitable. No way I'd be able to make a living off of it though.

So in my eyes, yes it's successful, in terms of HN folks, probably not so much. But I'm having fun with it!

I run https://geopeeker.com

It's a free/subscription-based tool that views sites from a number of locations from around the world, sending back a screenshot and DNS information. Originally launched in 2013, it's been profitable since 2014 and requires very little care-and-feeding while it serves up around 225,000 queries a month.

I'm currently working on an overhaul which will dramatically improve its feature set and will, with any luck, engender even more interest among enterprise-level users.

This is a cool product. The screenshots w/ uptime monitoring is useful on its own, but I esp. like that you provide a way to specify resolutions and locations.

After looking at the features and pricing, what's still not clear to me is if this is intended to be used for monitoring only one destination URL, or if it's possible to add multiple ones.

I got started writing video games at University in England, when there was a thriving marketplace for games written in Flash, and websites would buy licenses (sometimes exclusive ones) to have your game on their site, this is back in '09. From a student's perspective some would pay really well, a few thousand dollars for a project that would take a few months.

Seven years later I find myself running a business making video games in the more traditional pay-to-download format, like this one, called The Cat Machine - http://store.steampowered.com/app/386900. I'm sure compared to other online businesses, or even other indie game developers, comprised of one person it's not mind-blowingly successful, but my games have paid my modest (single guy) living costs while I work on my next project.

My games are multi-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) and I sell on my website, Steam, Humble Bundle, the Apple Mac Store and a few other places, and they write me cheques every month. Every project has a long tail with regards to revenue, and occasionally there are spikes, like the Steam Holiday sale a few days ago, and just this morning I woke up to The Cat Machine being on the main page of Apple's Mac Store in a 'Popular Puzzlers' section. Each of these bump my budget for my next projects up another month or so. The initial sales spike when a game is released is bit crazy, suddenly having your salary for the next one and a half years dropped into your bank account all in one go.

The reason I can do this as a one-man band is that I can program, but I also have some artistic skill, so I can draw and digital paint and animate. To speed up development as much as I can, I write within the Unity engine with C#, which has a great pipeline for art assets, which I create in Photoshop and Spine for 2D characters and textures, and The Foundry's excellent Modo software for 3D assets. The only things I don't do for my games are the music, I have an excellent composer friend who works for TV and Film, and I'd be silly not to contract him to do that. But apart from that, I do all the design, writing, programming, marketing, etc, which is part of the fun, wearing lots of different hats.

If you're _really_ interested in how I work, I actually do a series of high-level development videos on my current project: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsg018B0PK60ZoaNqw_in...

Also happy to answer any questions, within reason, about making a living making games about cats riding around on trains.

Thanks for sharing so much information about your business, your work is very cool and this is a fabulous post. I'm just getting into game development as a hobby. I'm really interested in indie stuff, simpler games that can be made by one person.

Thanks! Yeah, it's easier than ever to get started, and easier than ever to sell your work online, so now's a great time to get involved.

Thanks for the encouragement. Money isn't the end-goal, I'm genuinely interested in the work, but it's at the back of my mind - I know there are a lot of opportunities out there. My problem is that I'm er, multi-talented and easily distracted...

Sure, I totally understand that! My advice is just to work on a really, really small project. Something that you could finish in a couple weeks, then you can bounce to the next thing with no guilt.

Great advice, thanks!

I started working on http://pcappstore.net, http://techbeasts.com, http://techhammer.net, http://apkdna.com. http://phoneappsforpc.net, http://onlineappsofrpc.com, http://appspcfree.com and we are focusing on spanish market while expanding into interesting ones.

Similar question was asked last year (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12065355). Here was my answer then, which is about the same now, but the business has continued to grow:

I started https://www.pubexchange.com in 2013 and have been running it solo ever since. PubExchange is a platform that helps publishers establish traffic exchanges with other sites (similar to a social network) so that they can promote one another via widgets, social, and in-article links. It's been profitable since 2014 and I work with over 600 sites, including HuffPo, Refinery29, and POPSUGAR.

It can be done. Probably the most interesting story I know of is that of a friend of mine that now makes ~$200k/mo from viral content websites in specific verticals. Back in 2007, before I knew him, he was desperate for money and became a minor cog in what turned out to be a large real estate straw buyer conspiracy. He claims to not have not known it was illegal. Regardless, in 2013, as the statute of limitations on the case began running out and most of the people that actually ran and profited from the scheme were serving federal prison sentences, his name came up, and one of the states involved decided to press charges. He was arrested and posted bail.

He was eventually offered a plea agreement for a prison sentence of three years and more than $600,000 in restitution that he had no way of paying. Facing financial and personal ruin, he ran while on bail, hoping to buy some time to make enough money to offer restitution in leiu of prison time. This article [1] about the success of viral content websites inspired him to give the concept a shot himself, figuring he had nothing to lose. He launched a series of websites with viral content for highly specific verticals.

He now has a handful of virtual assistants in low-wage countries that rewrite/locate content and post it, but was making more than $100k/mo before he brought in a single other person. The business has generated a Facebook fan page network with more than 10 million likes, monthly income exceeding $200k, and he has turned down multi-million dollar offers to buy his company. He was also able to able to resolve his criminal case by simply handing the court a $700k cashier's check for restitution/fines and a accepting few years of informal probation without spending a day in jail - even though he ran while on bail, which courts frown upon. As Eric Schmidt likes to say, "revenue solves all known problems" [2].

So yes, it is certainly possible to run a highly successful online business by yourself, and you don't even have to be all that technically proficient. I can program circles around my friend, but he makes more than most of the brightest engineers at world class companies do - where he could never get an interview, much less a job. He did all of this starting with nothing more than PHP for Dummies, the inspration from the ViperChill article, and a serious disincentive for failure (prison, in this case).

[1] http://www.viperchill.com/100k-one-week/

[2] https://mobile.twitter.com/ericschmidt/status/50721935824690...

I have been running https://www.awesomify.co.uk by myself for nearly two years, and have only recently taken on a business partner. We are still in early growth, but have been quite successful so far.

What we do is aim to provide small local business with enterprise grade software and tools in order to leverage this power to grow their businesses.


Local small advert pages for parking spots and garages in the cities of Austria. More or less a online portal for parking, similar to traditional online rental websites.

Nice! Had the same idea for the german market some years ago. Can you lie from this or create any revenue at all?

Good to see something from the D/A/CH region. Motivates me to keep going. Best wishes from Augsburg!

Developer of Mac apps, selling via the Mac App Store. Started several years ago as a "let's see if I can make this work" project.

I am always curious about people having succesful businesses with desktop apps. There is even a thread that I started some months ago asking if there's anyone making a living out of desktop apps [0].

Can I ask you what kind of apps are you doing, and what are your prospects about the future of Mac development? I'm asking this mostly because I would really like to get back to desktop application development, but now I'm not really sure that I should target Mac natively, mostly because of all the buzz with Apple's bad decisions, etc..

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11658873

I have apps in the Productivity and Utilities categories, all with retail prices of $15 or less.

I've no idea about the prospects for the future, but I'm not seeing any significant changes in the market at the moment. However, I am concerned with Apple's current actions (or lack of) regarding the Mac.

Thanks for your reply! Just another question, hope you can reply: are you targeting a specific subset of users (like developers, for instance), or you are implementing productivity and utility apps for the "generic" user?

For the generic user. I think "specialist" apps have to be much more expensive because of the much smaller market.

There's a lot to be said for being an early entry to an app store that you expect to stick around even if early adoption is slow. I'd throw the Windows Store into that category, and while I've never used it I think the Mac store may be similar.

Even if your initial product isn't great, if store adoption is slow then your good-enough MVP has a chance to gain traction just by being better than limited alternatives. That gives you time to improve it if viable, and by the time better competition shows up you're well ranked because the early competition was bad.

As a possible example of this, was Instapaper so highly ranked and successful because it was quantifiably better than the alternatives (once they arrived)? How much of an advantage was its status as one of the first available apps?

For a different example that perhaps shows the advantage better, consider the Android "Exchange by TouchDown" which was one of the early way for Android users to connect to Exchange accounts, still available for the low low price of $19.99. Last time I looked a year or two back, it really hadn't kept up with the competition and in fact is often not needed at all on more modern phones, but it's still there with between 1 and 5 million downloads and a cumulative rating of 4+ on the older app. On the newer version that runs Android 3+ the same app has effectively cratered, but they've still probably sold a few million dollars worth of it because of its history.

I'm currently working on a desktop app that I plan to sell (for Windows though, not Mac) and I've gotten some interest (no sales yet but a lot of trials). I think you can definitely be successful doing desktop apps but you need to know the target market. Mine is Windows application developers so they tend to use desktop tools to get their job done, especially when it comes to building their product.

Have you also tried selling outside the Mac App Store? (The old Fastspring / Paddle / Stripe route?)

Yes, that's how I got started. But I prefer the convenience of selling on MAS.

Do they sell well?

Would you say it's harder or easier to sell on the Mac app store than on the iOs/Android app stores?

Enough to sustain my modest lifestyle and put some aside for the future. But people with Silicon Valley salaries would probably laugh at my income. I have no boss, no investors, no employees to worry about. Just me and my ideas, on my own schedule.

I don't develop for iOS/Android, but from reading about others' experiences with phone apps, I think it's easier to find a small but steady market on the Mac. People will pay for useful Mac apps. And the Mac user market is more passionate and engaged with 3rd party software than phone users are.

But conversely, you are never going to strike it rich on the Mac with an "Angry Birds" type megasuccess. Mac app aren't sexy like that. (It's good, because the more developers are attracted to the glitz of iOS, the more they leave the Mac market for people like me...)

Numbers-wise, consider that there are are 1.9million apps in the iPhone App Store and 31,000 on the Mac App Store.

I built https://resend.io/ over the past 9 months. Launched paid version a couple of weeks ago and it's looking good so far

That's nice, care to share some stats?

Really nice design!

Gabe Weinberg started DuckDuckGo solo, as well as his previous businesses... I think it was several years before he brought on anyone else, and while other early stage investors talked about preferring to fund a small team of at least two, he talked about how he was willing to fund individual founders :-)

Technically, I think he goes by Gabriel Weinberg. http://ye.gg/

Not to be confused with: http://gabeweinberg.com/

Not exactly online only but I run a small ATM Business out of Seattle http://effortlessatms.com It pays all my bills

Indie Hackers has some great solo-founder stories: https://www.indiehackers.com/businesses?numFounders=Solo%20F...

I'm running my invoice reception service (https://www.boxfactura.com/) officially since July 2015. One year after that it became ramen sustainable and since it has grown at an acceptable pace for the last few months.

I don't think I'll ever quit my day job as it is my own marketing agency in CDMX, but I'm quite pleased with it.

I don't understand what an 'invoice reception service' is - could you explain a bit please?

Sure thing!

Here in Mexico, the tax law requires you to receive and store your digital invoices. These are in XML format. Theoretically you would receive them in your email and you're good to go, right? I thought so to, I was wrong.

The XML has information, which as you understand, it can be (and will be) tampered, so you have to go to one government site and literally type the IDs you got from the invoice (I found one video, it's not as clear, but it gives the idea: https://youtu.be/pmafqaTcE5w?t=36) to check if it is genuine. If you receive 10 or so each month, you can do it no problem (although it's a repetitive chore), but if you receive 100+ you waste a lot of time.

That's where Box Factura shines, it is an email service that validates your invoices automatically, and not only that, stores the information in a database so you can search and filter (something that you can't do with the XML file from an email), and download it in a zip file including an Excel sheet (the accountants love that) so you can file your taxes easily.

It's not easy to explain for an outsider—even being from Mexico, it's confusing. And that's a big opportunity for business of all sizes.

I run a site that teaches organic chemistry online. Started in 2010. 7 million visits last year. Most content is free, but has some "cheat sheets" and other study guides that are for sale. I have some contractors for various tasks but am the only employee. http://www.masterorganicchemistry.com/blog

Hi, I am really curious about doing this for a separate space? Like computer science? How did you get your initial customers? Just hanging out in forums? I guess I want to know how you determined that there is a market for it? What's the business model? I see you are basically doing freemium model of free-content then selling study guides for 18$ each. Is that it? Are you worried about piracy?

Congrats on the 7Million visits. Also, I see your tech stack as WP? Really really cool.

7 million

Wow. Very well done.

Learnpython.org and other interactive tutorials - passive income that gets me a full high tech salary.

Got started when I realized there was a need for an interactive tutorial (before CodeAcademy went live). Wrote it, and that's about it :)

Cool. What is the monitization strategy? Affiliate from Datacamp?

Yes, although this is very new. I always had ad revenue from the websites.

I must admit that it is hard to build a "side project" that aims for organic traffic. I think I got very lucky there.

I have built an online whiteboard for software development teams, https://sketchboard.io. It has passed break-even and working only with it.

That's awesome! It looks quite complicated to have made. I really like the colors you chose for the marketing site

https://nomadlist.com/ is doing very well and is built by Pieter Levels

He is also mentioned on IndieHackers: https://www.indiehackers.com/businesses/nomad-list

https://forcerank.it has been going for about two years now and is a steady producer of beer-money. (Well wine actually, but I digress)

It's been a great project and was unbelievably useful to go through the challenge of really getting how marketing works. It's astonishing how you can build software for companies for years, but making that first $5/month subscription revenue feels so awesome.

Almost all my traffic is organic, then viral from the initial person that signs up. SEO is amazing. A slow slow trickle but over time it really works. I would reiterate what everybody else says. I've spent 70% of time on marketing. 30 on coding. The nice thing about organic is that you can ignore it for months though and jump back in anytime with a good blog post.

Forgot to add that I am super pumped about my next project here. Feature flags and rate limits. Would love to hear from anybody interested in spending less money on something like MixPanel by clever rate limiting.

I run https://gimmeproxy.com/

It's rotating proxy api. I built it from scratch to learn something new and was surprised when people started using it.

So far it gets me some beer money. All the traffic is organic.

I launched https://bitmsg.me/ back in 2013, a web application where users can send messages across the Bitmessage network from a browser. Other than a couple of Reddit and forum posts, I've put basically zero marketing into it. I haven't monetized it yet, but that's my next step. At it stands now, I have around 10k active users who've sent tens of thousands of messages. To me, that's successful.

I hope to add some premium features soon along with an API. Finding time is tough, but if I can successfully monetize it I'll find the time and make it work.

Just started http://libretaxi.org - uber alternative for communities and remote regions.

Not earning anything at the moment, but got 400+ users.

I built and run SugarWOD (https://www.sugarwod.com). SugarWOD is a workout solution for CrossFit gyms including apps (iOS/Android), website, plug-ins, and TV support. Was a solo, free service for the first 3 years. Converted to a paid model 1.5 yrs ago, and as of a few months ago have part-time contractors helping with tech/ops, mktg, and support.

I agree with novaleaf that a very broad skill set is needed, though I'd add that it might be enough to at least be interested in all the areas mentioned. You can learn a lot along the way, which is a big part of the fun. If you're focussed on making a great Product (capitalized product = the entire customer experience including everything from web copy, onboarding, support, performance, features, etc.) all of it is important.

As an aside, I think it is this breadth that allows someone to be a "10x problem solver", which to me is 10x more interesting than being a "10x developer". Code is a means to an end.

"Success" is a malleable and personal term, but by typical SaaS metrics SugarWOD is a success. Millions of workouts logged, paying customers, profitable, growing quickly.

More importantly, I get huge satisfaction working on something I feel passionate about, and I really love running the entire business from a laptop anywhere in the world (though I'm usually not far from Colorado :)

I use SugarWOD every day, it powers the crossfit gym I go to. Gotta say you did a great job, I can't imagine such a community built around the gym without it.The fistbumps are a really great feature!

IIRC pinboard.in is an example.

I run https://www.instapainting.com by myself amd it started as a single page with a stripe checkout form.

Your IndieHackers article was ace! Thanks

I have a small Node.js hosting platform that gives you an SQLite DB for free (enough to run a ghost blog on). It's currently in private beta but a company is already paying me for the service and it gets me some beer money.

I'm working on polishing it up and eventually releasing it. Built on AWS and autoscales as demand requires, free tier and some paid upsells - Basically, all the standard PaaS stuff.

We've bootstrapped https://www.klimmzugstangen.de/xt/ years ago.

It's a one person business, but we actually split it among three people, cause no one of us had all the needed abilities to run it alone.

Since the very start, it serves a niche market for fitness products and pays an average annual income.

My previous SaaS product, Navilytics, I built from scratch and ran completely on my own (minus a couple of blog posts from a friend). It very well could have been successful, but I made the mistake of thinking the product would sell itself and never did any real promotion leading up to launch. I paid for this as another competitor, who had the same idea I had at the same time and built their own version of the product, starting marketing it before it was even in beta. They're doing > $1 mil per year now in revenue.

Previous one before that was an affiliate network I ran with a buddy of mine, so just two people. We did very well with this one (but only mildly when compared to other large affiliate networks at the time).

My new project, I'm working with a buddy of mine who's good at the things I'm not so good at. While I think it's 100% possible to be a sole founder and do very well, having a solid team makes the entire process a lot easier. Plus, having people to bounce ideas off of usually leads to making better decisions.

Stratechery is an example of this. If you get the FEI newsletters, many of the businesses they are brokering for sale are one person efforts.

I have not heard of the FEI newsletters yet and cannot find them via Google. Would you mind sharing the link?

http://feinternational.com/ is a brokerage of Internet-based businesses; presumably the newsletter is something that goes out to folks who've expressed some level of interest in attempting to buy one via the website. (I've sold two businesses through FEI.)

Thanks! What was your experience with selling over FEI? Both selling and buying seems to be professional. I wonder how many interested people it brought you and how smoothly the whole deal went and how much effort you had to put into it.

Covered here: https://training.kalzumeus.com/newsletters/archive/selling_s... in a bit of detail and here: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2016/12/30/kalzumeus-software-year-... in briefer detail under the Appointment Reminder part. Short version: would absolutely use them again; they richly earned their fee both times by de-risking the process and getting me probably a better valuation than I would have gotten if I had just tried to ad hoc find a buyer through my own devices.

I am running https://fandemic.co for a couple months now. We essentially create beauty kits for social media influencers. It was spawned by the Kylie Jenner Lip Kit popularity and we decided to make a builder for influencers to create their own.

Hi, Have you got any public stats? - Thanks!

A bank in Germany has just one employee http://www.rediff.com/business/slide-show/slide-show-1-a-ban...

I started http://somatic.io by myself, it has been growing steadily and now have a small team. I think of it as an image processing research company and it is my passion so I plan to work on it as long as a I can.

Well, it's not successful right now but it could be in some months:

Two years ago i've started working on an algorithm to find the perfect time for social media posts on facebook & twitter to improve user interactions & engangement. Right now it works so good for me that i've decided to extend the project by building an (invitation-only) SaaS Startup to get a proof of concept: https://realtarget.com

Because it's just a project beside my main job my girlfriend (project manager) and best friend (senior full stack developer) support me to lighten the workload.

If you like, i'll post a note on HN when the alpha version is ready.

Does a consulting business count?


I launched http://gardenate.com back in 2007 initially just for Australia/New Zealand and mainly for my own use (Perl with Amazon SES for sending out about 70,000 subscriber emails/month). Since then I've grown it to include UK/USA/CAN/ZA, and I wrote some related mobile apps for iOS (Objective-C) and Android. Brings in several hundred $$ per month in adwords and app sales. It used to bring in a lot more app revenue until a couple of years ago our national broadcaster (ABC) released a competing free app and ate our niche!

This is awesome! Would love it if I could punch in my address/zip and get an idea of what to plant (I don't know what my climate qualifies as).

How did you get the data for your plants, just manually looked it up?

Lots of research and some algothmic stuff for cross-season planting.

Buildwith.com was a 1 person businesses I guess.

i think that's https://builtwith.com/

HN discussion from October 2015: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10316060

We're a two person startup that is doing/growing very well. This was no overnight success... we've been at it for years now.


I run an online education website called MASSOLIT (www.massolit.io) by myself. We make short educational videos!

Unlike lots of other ed-tech companies (e.g. Khan Academy, edX, etc.) the main focus is on the liberal arts, so there's lots of stuff on literature, history, philosophy, etc.

We mainly sell to high schools, who pay a (small) annual fee to access the vids, with teachers using the vids in class as basis for class discussion or setting them as homework as part of a 'flipped classroom' model.

Not making a huge amount of money at the moment, but growth is pretty good...

I started Gaggle Mail (https://gaggle.email) just over a year ago, it's making around $400 per month and growing nicely.

I've really enjoyed the experience watching something I have sole responsibility over grow and be appreciated by the people who use it.

I set out to build something I could be proud of and other people would find useful - in those terms it has been successful. And with another year or so of growth it could provide the majority of my income.

You have some dupe text on your about page....

"When starting a new group with a diverse membership you don’t ask for everyones Twitter handle or Snapchat name, you ask for their email addresses. Done.. When starting a new group with a diverse membership you don’t ask for everyones Twitter handle or Snapchat name, you ask for their email addresses. Done."

Running http://www.clickrouter.com - worked out well because I needed it for my other projects and it was an instant revenue win for those use cases alone.

Spruced it up (could use more I know) and opened it to others thereafter. Free money for users.

(It's a service that captures outbound clicks from your site - apart from giving fancy graphs about those, it then affiliatizes the links across all your affiliate accounts - skimlinks, viglinks, cj, etc)

Two years ago I learnt new language (Scala) and wanted to find real problems to work on. So I built DocsApp[1] as real-world project as well as trying build profitable SaaS.

Few months ago I plan to sell off DocsApp, but I got low ball offer because low revenue. Then I decided to refocus DocsApp and continue to build it.

I wouldn't say DocsApp very successful, but it is getting successful now.

[1]: https://www.docsapp.io/

Thanks for sharing! Your product looks quite useful, but it looks like perhaps English isn't your first language? The grammar is a bit awkward in several places, and some things are pluralized when they shouldn't be. It doesn't bother me, but it might turn some potential customers away.

If it would help, I'd be happy to go through the site and provide some suggestions about slight changes you could make. I'd do it for free, of course - it wouldn't take much of my time, and I'd love to help a fellow HN member be successful.

Thanks for the feedback! English is not my first language and I definitely need improve my English!

You can give suggestions and I will update accordingly. You can email hi at docsapp.io to request life time free plan from me :)

Your English is very understandable! I only mentioned it because potential users will often just assume that a few small errors on your marketing site mean that your app isn't worth trying.

I'm busy with work at the moment, but later today or possibly tomorrow, I'll send an e-mail with a few suggestions.

I recently built a Yoga Subscription Box service with my girlfriend called https://www.namaslaybox.com/

We are both programmers and she always wanted to do something like this so gave it a shot..It's been successful so far and we are starting to see a rise in orders.

Like a lot of people here, we started from scratch. No mentors, no prior experience. Worked on it weeknights and weekends.

Hi, do you have any public stats?

What kind of stats are you looking for ?

Hi, Things like, traffic to your site, conversion rate? Thanks!

It's been only 1 month so I don't have much numbers but here goes..

1. Traffic for the most part is from USA. 2. I am seeing about 200 unique visitors per day.

I've turned an OS development tool project into a business. It all happened by accident.


I'm currently running https://pyup.io

I wouldn't call it a success yet, but it is growing :)

I've been running https://OptKit.com for about 3 years.

Launched it to almost immediate ramen profitability, but haven't focused full time on it yet. Bills get paid through consulting. On schedule to re-launch within 1-2 months with a stricter focus, better defined use-cases, and stronger differentiation from competition.

I had to close a fake chat interface and a bottom overlay (with a semi-insulting "no I don't want my website to be amazing" style message) before I could see enough of your site to make sense of it and begin to read it. Then a full-page popover obscured literally the entire site.

Not to sound too mean, but you lost me. I can't honestly be bothered to read sites that employ these tricks, and you flooded me with them. I had to fight my way past them just to read your core value proposition. And on reading further, it looks like all those popups... are your core value proposition?

Your tech may be wonderful, but I feel like you don't understand its influence on people's browsing behaviour - these tricks drive people away, not towards.

(Also, you have a spelling error in your hero section: "Call-To-Action's" does not require the apostrophe, as it is not possessive.)

Thanks for checking it out -- and more importantly the great feedback :)

The page is definitely geared towards people who are already interested in this type of tool, so showcasing some of the functionality that they came for has improved conversions for me. It's also not a tool for every business to use.

A nearly cold-click (like yours was - you're in a thread about solo founders - not on the hunt for tools to help you improve website conversions) experience is something that can be drastically improved - it's just a matter of matching the expectations to the experience.

I've taken off the Drift automated message, which was overlaying and adding to confusion - sorry about that. I'm not sure what call-to-action close button got your goat, but I don't particularly like the snarky tones in popups myself, and they've never tested to improve conversions for me or clients. I'd be glad to work on the messaging if I knew which CTA you were talking about.

Seriously, thanks for taking your time to check it out and reply. Means a lot :)

I built a plugin to connect WordPress with MailChimp (https://mc4wp.com) while hospitalised in Vietnam a few years ago and it has been selling well enough to support me in my travels & now back home in The Netherlands from day 1 (right after I started offering a paid version, that is).

I'm also thinking about developing my first product and wanted to start with wordpress, I think a Saas would be too ambitious, how did you start promoting it?

Starting out with WordPress has made a lot of things, especially when it comes to marketing, very easy for me. There's a free version that is used on over 700.000 sites right now and it got there mostly organically.

That said, if your plugin does anything visual, be ready for a lot of beginner questions. Some of your non-paying users will be the hardest to please, especially in WordPress land where you as a (real) developer will be severely underappreciated.

As stated, make sure you create a free version first and put it in the WordPress plugin directory. Most of your traffic will come from there. Make frequent updates, include good keywords, and if there's a need for it, people will find it. It's also a great way to start testing for premium features.

What was the initial marketing for the free app, just posting it there and waiting?

Talking about it in as many places as possible - AWP on Facebook, Post Status, etc. But past that, a little optimization and if people are looking for it in the repo, they'll find it.

My business still growing and in the beta phase, it's a one-person businesses but haven't launched. Hope it becomes a succesful one-person business anytime soon. Here it is how it looks right now: https://talkbot.io Let's see how it looks in a fee months.

Craiglist and plenty of fish stayed a long time a one person online business while being incredibly successfull

How do you quantify "success"?

This is a much better question then it seems on the surface :D

Success is defined uniquely for every individual. For some success is finding a way to "earn enough", others success is defined by "having some noticeable change in the world", and then some it is "making a million dollars".

Success is accomplishing a long term goal you've defined for yourself.

I am a solo founder for www.halfchess.com - I launched it in 2017, so its not successful as of now. However, I did appreciate if I get a few users and upvotes in the 'show HN! new' post of halfchess. It has Android, iOS and web versions.

I think theres a bunch that start as one person type businesses and then grow from there

Examples: ConvertKit.Com with Nathan Barry, PaperlessPipeline.Com Dane Maxwell, MailParser.Com is only 2 people i believe

Running a gift ideas site monetized through Amazon affiliate program. http://www.giftideasunder50.com

Great idea! What kind of traffic does this type of idea create?

I like it. Simple and to the point!

Just launched http://ineedicons.com –– custom made outline icons. Will see soon if it has legs.

I run a small dev shop (python backends and mobile apps), not sure if this counts as an online business though

Got started by a post on linkedin

I run a Canadian price comparison site: http://pricefu.com

As a Canadian that hates that all my all my online shopping is dominated by US ads, reviews and prices I really want to like this. It has some great features, especially the price history tracker, but lacks usability.

I have no idea what the fu number is. Your FAQ says "which indicates how good is a particular price offer" but what is good, how is it measured?

A much harder problem is the issue of the same device given different names at different resellers to avoid price matching. For the few laptops and TVs I tested there were multiple listings on your site for the same model and for all but one the manufacture website had a lower price than the lowest you listed.

Thank you for the feedback.

Think of the "fu number" as a "DealRank"-type metric. Its full definition is rather complex and unpalatable for the average user, and I doubt that it would add much intuition besides the fact that greater value is better, which is very similar to how users think of PageRank.

I agree that the questions of whether the "price-fu" metric is the most relevant possible, or uses the most relevant inputs, or weights them appropriately, etc. are still open, and the current answer is "probably no", but is work in progress.

Regarding resellers trying to avoid price matching by using alternative product names/models, I must say that I haven't seen evidence of that yet. I might be naive, but I am more inclined to attribute this to the general low quality of the product data out there.

Nevertheless, you are right that the problem of determining whether product A and product B are comparable is hard, especially considering the great diversity in how manufacturers label their products. An additional problem is that many China-made gadgets don't even have a consistent naming scheme, or even a model number, making comparisons even harder.

Regarding finding lower prices on manufacturer's site, are you sure you did not compare USD and CAD prices? Many users seem to be confused by this.

I'm launching mine next week. Hope to be a success story on a thread like this a year or two from now!

+1 Please add me to the slack group too jonathan [AT] saharacluster [DOT] com

I think that Ryan McGeary fits this description:

> Ryan owns McGeary Consulting Group and is the founder of BusyConf and ChargeStack.


Performance Marketing


I run three businesses - minerals acquisitions, physical network installation, and lighting design.

I got started because I got tired of everyone else I worked with not having a clue. So I picked businesses which I could run single-handedly.

Almost all of my work/income comes from Craigslist posting, saving me the need to run any sort of online site, all I need is e-mail and phone. Loads of people need experienced network installers, lighting installers/designers, and in SoCal, loads of people like pretty pretty rocks wrapped up in nice copper, silver, or gold wire.

Unlike the majority here I have zero coding skills.

Currently monetizing www.hashtaginvesting.com, a Slack chat for stock traders and investors to discuss in real-time.

Do you consider learning how to code?

I think it's getting harder, now the world is getting more developers and more fully funded startups.

A developer isn't a software company in the same sense that a kid good with numbers isn't a bookkeeping firm. Software companies don't compete with developers; they hire their services.

Small software shops don't meaningfully compete with funded startups, because funded startups have to have some plausible path to growing massive, and the types of things small software shops ship just have to have a plausible path to generating $1k to $25k MRR. "A spreadsheet software better than MS Excel" is a fundable startup; a single program better than a single Excel spreadsheet is, very plausibly, a piece of software that can be sold in a manner successful for a small shop.

I'm personally and professionally involved in the small-software-shop community, and my anecdotal impression is that it's the best time ever. The same sources of leverage which make starting a startup attractive help out small shops, too. You can achieve global distribution on the App Store, Google, Facebook, etc. You can charge businesses tens of thousands of dollars on the SaaS model for software which is plausibly within the reach of a single developer. You can take advantage of infrastructure like AWS, Heroku, etc to get your product to market at a fraction of the complexity and expense of doing a print run of 1,000 CDs. You can take advantage of frameworks which make producing business value far, far easier than it was with more archaic tools. Your customers are disproportionately likely to consume software already (a plus!), including software which you can integrate with or expand, giving you a built-in market with levered upside to your own coding efforts.

small software shop too. Damn straight. I have a TINY software shop in NYC. It pays the bills and food for me and my nuclear family. I can't complain. I have friends who make 2X as me , who work in a box within a bigger box on a grid. They have NO time todo JACK and SHIT. Wealth is discretionary time. You can ALWAYS make anotha dolla, but you'll NEVA make anotha min.

Curious, how do you acquire customers? I've been thinking about doing something similar.

referral. I did rinky-Dink websites back in the day then gradually those rink-dink customers become bigger. I think about the 4th sale first. Business is about building relationships. Also i got very lucky. I hit up everyone i know and their motha / fatha's brotha etc.. then i ask for the roladex of my current customers and see if they can use some work. If they don't have the money for a MVP / Wep app / prototype i pivot to a discovery gig. Then i also work on my own IP building stuff. Also always networking at meetups in NYC there is always somebody who knows somebody and a bunch of ad companies who now get software work , need to sub-contract it out. They were sub-contracting to third world BUT that shit is drying up so i got lucky with a few who wanted the work be done here. I hired this girl todo content marketing too. Then im always on to the next sale.

More developers = more people looking small mISV opportunities. Starting a mISV is a dream for most developers.

I used remember a large community that has now disappeared. There used to be a lot of mISV conferences, I only know a few now. I know people who used to be mISVs, and they aren't anymore.

Even hacker news's favourite patio11 isn't anymore.

Hey patio11, do you have any advice for someone who wants to join the small-software-shop community you mentioned? Would be happy to volunteer or help out with this community as well

Would you mind posting some links to find people in this community please? Forums etc?


Over the past year I've grown my own software company from 0 - $1250/mo in revenue in a highly competitive space (lots of VC-funded startups).

It's not enough to do full-time yet, but there are distinct advantages I have that VC-funded startups don't. For example, I can serve SMBs/smaller companies, but for a VC-backed company these organizations aren't worth their time.

Clearly they have advantages I don't have either (time, headcount, etc), but the presence of a market is a great thing, because I don't have to guess if companies are willing to pay for it.

Do you have a link for your product/service/offering? I'm very keen to learn more about the sorts of products that work out and also how you happened to work on that idea.

Why do you think it's getting harder? I think it's always been hard and will continue to be hard. There are a few opportunities and it takes lots of time to exploit them if you get to them at the right time.

Simply because all the niche's for software are getting filled. Leaving only opportunities with huge hurdles to get over, which is hard for one man companies.

In the early days micro isv's were fairly common, and well known. I don't hear much about them anymore.

>Simply because all the niche's for software are getting filled

There's also a ton of new niches opening up, but you need to be aware of them and they don't happen in a vacuum. You can't just sit in your home office that imagine a new niche, you need to surround yourself with people doing other stuff.

Even if you surround yourself don't expect to actually understand. Lots of niches, probably most of them, require expert knowledge of the domain that's not easily acquired unless you are actually working in the niche and dealing with that stuff hands-on. The alternative is if someone with expert tells you their problems and then actually help you understand their domain, because they are willing to do that for you. But it's often not easy finding people that will actually help you acquire enough domain knowledge to be able to implement the solution to a problem.

I earn 1200-1700$ monthly without doing anything with a site i made in 48 hours. I agree its not easy. But with some luck its not impossible

Can you share more details about your site ?

I recently quit my (great) job to work on my online business which was once my side project. I'm not solo - I have a partner (@dmtintner). > Our business is a newsletter, blog & podcast called Hacking UI - http://HackingUI.com (for designers, developers and creative entrepreneurs like ourselves)

> I wrote ALL about how we started, and also how we scaled it to the point where we could leave our jobs http://hackingui.com/product-hacking/side-projects/

> We were so overwhelmed that we pulled this off that we actually also opened an online course to teach others EVERYTHING we know and all our workflows: https://sideprojectaccelerator.com/

Actually - my partner David is going to talk about that live in an hour here: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/talks-david-tintner :)

So... not a successful one-person online business?

Wow! Thank you for sharing all this information. I love it how people here are so transparent about their process and revenue.

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