Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: Successful one-person online businesses?
800 points by mdoliwa on Jan 5, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 629 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 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?

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