Also: congrats to Courtland on building an awesome site! I've been enjoying the interviews on it since it launched. It's very refreshing to hear from so many people who are quietly building real businesses with real revenues.
Atlas sounded interesting to me (doing product dev atm), however it's based on incorporating in the US.
The US seems like it's gone in a seriously bad direction for non-US citizens (I'm Australian, living in the UK), with no positive end to that in sight. So incorporation in the US isn't really a goer (personally speaking).
Most western countries also have CFC laws you need to be aware of. CFC laws are essentially "see through" taxation laws to combat tax avoidance, looking through certain corporate structures you would use to avoid tax, e.g. by somehow siphoning off money (legally, through IP payments, interest payments, etc) to a zero or low tax entity somewhere.
I've had some tax disputes before and I can tell you: most of these civil servants are unaware of the international context they're operating in. They mainly audit local restaurants, bookstores, etc. Nothing "exotic". Talking to them, before you meet with some people higher up, can literally be a crapshoot. Some countries, for example, might try to tax your US LLC income as dividend income, before applying corporate (or personal income) tax to it again.
This is obviously often incorrect, but given most people set up US entities because they're cheap / etc (or at least some of the people using Atlas do), you should be aware that a dispute with your local tax authority can follow. Because they are the ones losing current and future revenue. Those can have nasty consequences if you don't have the funds available to hire, say, a good tax lawyer.
That said, totally agree Atlas (or setting up a US LLC) can be super valuable. Just make sure your tax situation is looked at, at home.
Cheap compared to where? EU or UK?
A lawyer can easily take care of that for you for a reasonable fee, but most bootstrappers won't consider it, given the price.
However, the UK is moving in a strange direction as well. For a decent EU option, look at Estonia. Get a digital ID card from one of their embassies and you can use that with your computer to open a company and manage everything digitally.
Yep, https://www.tide.co (even MetroBank which I used was all online and only took a few days.
My co-conspirator :) is based in Germany, so setting something up there might be the better idea.
Haven't researched that at all (yet), as we're still focused on getting the foundational tech working decently first (progressing fairly well, it's mostly grunt work).
But, keeping an eye open meanwhile... :)
Source: a prospective customer. :)
Can you say a little more about how you hope to ensure it becomes successful? I mean, what can Stripe do to help the site?
You might spend some money on it, but that might have been done more cheaply without acquiring it. Do you plan to add some sort of features? advertise it broadly?
Longer term, there's a lot that we're interested in adding. (The site isn't even a year old yet -- check out https://indiehackers.com/timeline. There was no forum or podcast in the beginning.) But we're flexible on the details there and we'll experiment and adapt based on what we learn along the way.
For example, Centurylink lets you pay online via debit card with just the card # alone. No CVV, address, expiration date, etc. For low fraud industries, this is a way to leverage very cheap debit card rates (eg $0.65 flat for small bank/credit union debit & 0.05% + $0.21 for large banks that are regulated debit), while making it simple to use debit cards compared to a credit card. If Stripe were to offer something like this, it would be a harder sale to make when I come in and review their phone/payment processing/ISP bills and pitch them $XXX savings.
Another thing is on credit, not offering over interchange pricing essentially limits you to only working with very small businesses. A supermarket I work with (4 employees including the owner) does $100k volume a month average, and is paying only 0.83% to 0.85% ($830 to $850 a month in total fees on 100k volume) a month, how can Stripe get anywhere close to that?
These types of issues could limit Stripe to a small & shrinking niche long term, especially with Mercury offering similar APIs with more features (though less accessible) at rock bottom pricing, and Heartland, Gravity and others piling on in a race to the bottom. IMO the reasonably easy to access & inexpensive API is the differentiator keeping Mercury viable.
Not everyone can afford an iPhone, but Apple still is filthy rich from the people who can.
No one looks at their SMB customers and says "To hell with that market, they'll just leave once they're big enough!" The market for people building from scratch is enormous.
We use PIN, a Stripe clone, for some currencies where they could offer us a better rate/ settlement. For our primary AUD transactions we are just using a bank on a much better rate.
That being said, $15 is a low chargeback fee (damn close to cost the issuing bank & platform charge), generally you'll see a $25 to $30 chargeback fee with a $20 to $75 retrieval fee.
WTF? It is amazing that card industry still works with such horrible security.
Centurylink has your name/address/SSN and can cut your services off at a whim if anything happens, so fraud would be inadvisable.
So if you want to process USD to US clients in HK with stripe the fees are 5.9% which is fairly laughable.
With 4+ million USD yearly volume, the only discount I could get would be 1% off the conversion fee to start.
> I'm surprised this article is still up when it seems pretty clear it's a scam and all the comments on Hacker News agree.
Honestly, given IndieHackers promotes obvious bullshit that could make 4-5 figures of cash for a few minutes effort I have to seriously question the wisdom of associating it with Stripe.
Too bad they are only US-based.
I love that notion. To come out of nowhere with super high quality everything.
Who could I talk to about this?
A serious question...
This acquisition sends a disappointing message that growth hacking works.
I've made a ton of submissions in the past 8 months and experimented with various combinations of stories/titles that the HN audience might like, without always being successful. (Probably one out of every 4-5 submissions turned into an angry mob haha)
To speak specifically to your point about the titles, an essential element of Indie Hackers is that I require companies to share revenue numbers, because it really adds context to their stories (although it is certainly clickbaity, too). The mods actually okay'd me adding revenue numbers to submission titles, but I've mostly avoided it with recent submissions.
Source: First hand experience going down in flames for issues like being a woman on a predominantly male forum. I did not choose to be a woman for the purpose of pissing off men. I did not join HN for the purpose of pissing off men. There was a learning curve involved in figuring out how to write in a way that was not hollow and was also not just a magnet for drama. I seem to be the highest ranked woman here. My ability to tolerate some heat is probably a factor.
I am never sure whether to be amused or disgusted that a culture that so values market disruption has such a cow about socially "disruptive" behavior. The two things are pretty strongly related and neither one is inherently rooted in a desire to piss people off. They both typically grow out of someone thinking they have a better idea.
It does make me suspicious as to if HN admins treat YC alumni more equal than others.
This sounds like an admission of guilt to me.
If the voting data were available, one of us could prove the other wrong. As they are not, it is my opinion vs yours.
Stripe is but as far as I know HN admins can't see the future.
"...and YC alum (W2011)"
1) its not disappointing that growth hacking works. Growth hacking is supposed to work. Growth hacking is just marketing 2.0.
2) it is disappointing that spam tactics get rewarded. But that has nothing to do with Stripe... mostly.
I also think IndieHackers is lite on legitimate content, but its a great content marketing play by Stripe. Anything to suggest otherwise is just jealousy induced bitterness.
Well done Stripe, congrats Courtland and Courtland's brother.
there was another, machine learning for company logos, the title was something like "50k monthly run rate after 3 months" but it was based off of sales after running a promotion which amounted to a couple grand in a few days.
the shitty part is that all the stories are great, they don't need to be sensationalized, but he over sells them and then your left feeling let down.
I find myself actually _liking_ the IndieHackers posts, because they are inspiring.
I know; there's no way I could be a real individual because all of the IndieHackers popularity is falsified. /s
Same here. Good stories with specific details that might give me ideas. I originally saw it on Barnacl.es: a site for bootstrappers regularly posting stuff like marketing strategies with low noise in comments. Then I saw it on HN.
The disappointing part was that Allen chose to be defensive instead of admitting a mistake on his submission vetting process.
I don't know enough about the voting manipulation detection implementation on HN, but I'd imagine a bunch of accounts hitting a direct link to an article and upvoting it could potentially be more suspicious than having them all click the article from /newest or just upvote from there.
FWIW as an anecdote, I've seen HN voting manipulation kick in quite hard when people link directly to submissions.
I don't have a reference for that, however, and I don't know if it is true or not.
Don't hate the player, hate game, though. welcome to the jungle.
You are putting words into my mouth.
He clearly wrote:
> I've made a ton of submissions in the past 8 months and experimented with various combinations of stories/titles that the HN audience might like, without always being successful. (Probably one out of every 4-5 submissions turned into an angry mob haha)
20%-25% of his submissions made readers angry.
Nevertheless he kept going and tried, by his own admission, to micro-optimise his submissions to get visibility.
Maybe my sense of ethics is different than yours, but please don't put words in my mouth.
You said he's willing to do anything when what you meant was he is willing to work on optimising his work to better appeal to a specific target community. How does that negatively impact there community exactly?
My sense of ethics precludes me from creating a temp account to mask my own identity while attacking someone else online so I guess you're right that our ethics differ.
That seems counter-intuitive since really all HN cares about in the end is quality content.
Ideally without breaking the HN rules.
EDIT: Apparently an exception was made in this case.
I constantly see submissions here that do not use the original title. In fact, I have noticed that some/most of the time (I regularly save links from here in a personal db) the altered titles do a better job of summarizing the article than the original title. It happens to me all the time that I choose to save the link using HN's title instead of the original (better results when using it as tags).
If there is such a rule, it might merit more/finer discussion.
> If the original title begins with a number or number + gratuitous adjective, we'd appreciate it if you'd crop it. E.g. translate "10 Ways To Do X" to "How To Do X," and "14 Amazing Ys" to "Ys." Exception: when the number is meaningful, e.g. "The 5 Platonic Solids."
> Otherwise please use the original title, unless it is misleading or linkbait.
The mods have been pretty good about making edits when appropriate.
(If anything, vote manipulation / growth hacking is perfectly within the HN mindset: there's this entrenched organization that controls access for no other reason than that they got entrenched, and people are finding innovative technical means to get past the policies.)
I hope it's not taboo to speculate on the acquisition price, so here's my take :
* extrapolating a $5k/month revenue to a year = $60k/year
* acquisition price is roughly 2-4x yearly revenue so $120k to $240k
* Plus a full time salary at roughly $120k/year
Really cool stuff man, congrats again!
One of the things I dislike about advertising on IH was that it was distracting. I see multiple adverts while reading an interview along with links to tweet pull quotes, not a fan of both those aspects. Glad to know that the advertisements will be removed.
Can't wait to see how IndieHackers grows, especially the community.
I see pure talent acquisitions (no tech, no site, no brand) once a month for >$500k/head. Here the founder is a course 6 (CS) MIT grad, obviously smart and talented, able to act as an evangelist to broader communities, with a pre-built launchpad in place. There's real value to that.
If the stock component vests over some period of years, it could easily run into the millions, and still be a steal by Stripe. I'll echo another comment downstream: it's interesting to think about whether, in the spirit of the site, they will (or should) reveal the economics of the deal.
I'm going to guess they got it for a song with a job for the owner and his brother attached and the promise that they could focus on content and not selling ads.
Also the lawn care point wasn't an anecdote it was an example of a generally predictable and steady income stream business vs a blog like this which is neither.
They might have paid some premium but they aren't paying 150x when the going rate is <2x AND throw in a job for the brother.
You need to look at it as the total value this will provide Stripe. It's a community of people who will buy their service. It's good will too.
Community outreach is a good thing (tm) but I see now way any sane/experienced business person would pay a million dollars for this.
IndieHackers' revenue is ads and the amount they make ($6k / month) is nothing for company like Stripe.
The article says that csallen will no longer spend his time looking for advertisers. That means that either someone at Stripe will take over that role (doubtful) or that they'll remove the ads when the current contracts expire and loose the revenue stream for the site.
My best guess is that Stripe is profitable enough that they can run the site at a loss and they hope for the best case (but hard to quantify) scenario where the site serves as an (subtle) advertisement for Stripe services (and it has to be noted that the site already was a subtle advertisement for Stripe given that many of the interviewed companies already use Stripe, so the site would promote Stripe even if Stripe didn't pay a cent for it).
And how much would it benefit from belonging to a company that have already found their cash cow. There is not a perfect formula to make money on news and interviews, or you place ads everyerve or charge people direct. With Stripe taking care of most costs, IH can focus on what it really does best, produce content.
There's absolutely no way that's correct. It'd basically be pushing csallen to leave (he's an experienced YC founder, MIT grad, and full-stack developer). His market salary is way more than $120k/yr.
From Indie Hackers site:
"Anyone with a business or side project that's generating at least $300/mo in revenue. There's no upper limit. Of course, you have to be willing to share your revenue — the point of this site is transparency!"
I think we have the "right" to know what the transaction entailed; how much the owner was exactly paid, that is.
Additionally consider these facts: the site is quite popular and has gained some traction but is still primarily interesting for a specific niche (startup founders). I would say the price for acquisition is at least $500000 and may very well be around or above 1 million which is even more likely because the owner has agreed to continue work on the site and growing it even more.
Congrats though. That's huge. Any idea what will change yet as a result of the acquisition?
IH is/was, unfortunately, full of unsubstantiated stories and made up numbers, presented by owners trying to upsell their business, without any verification or "hard questions" by the site owner.
As we see, this worked.
I'm not sure what's the lesson here. Fact-checking is for losers maybe?
Possibly, but how would you know?
And what would some good hard questions be?
Edit: Okay maybe because of this one https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13591182
1) Great design. Really professional feel (even though it just a wordpress blog)
2) Regular updated content to keep visitors coming back.
3) Highly targeted to hacker community / product creators - no wonder it was featured over and over again on the front page
4) In built SEO and traffic. People who are featured on it link back to it. People link to it for inspiration (great social signals).
What else? Anyone else wanna chime in?
> Indie Hackers is an Ember.js app on the front-end. On the back-end, I'm using Ember FastBoot for server-side rendering. The app runs on a Node.js server managed by AWS Elastic Beanstalk. Most pages are cached via CloudFront.
I did all the design myself. I built the blog from scratch. I built the forum from scratch, too, and I use Firebase to store the data and accounts. All of the blog and interview content is stored in JSON and Markdown files that I host on S3.
And they're getting all the goodwill & talent alongside of it as the cherry on top.
Brilliant move @stripe and congrats to the founders.
the best deals are where both sides benefit, this sounds like one
I guess nice to know Stripe's doing so well they can fund random stuff… ?
I'm wondering how this works out for you as an entrepreneur. Obviously now you're working for a larger corporation, but does your long-term vision align? For example, is your deal structured in a way that growing indie hackers also personally grows your income? Or is it now just a strict employee-employer relationship with a bonus (acquisition offer) upfront?
just a thought on the power of Hacker News to get noticed by 'players'. surely Patrick Collison heard of Courtland/Indiehackers and Patrick McKenzie through browsing Hacker News? so it's not all procrastination posting here
This makes me ... feel weird. Not sure what it is exactly. Let me explain.
I'm an aspiring indie hacker. Currently soaking in the relaxation of a much needed sabbatical following my previous 8 year long employment (what a ride that was). When I'm ready, I'm going switch gears and devote myself to starting a bunch of small "indie hacker" type projects. I've been on HN for quite awhile now and I always enjoy reading about startups and being engrossed in the YCombinator community. My previous job was a startup, but I was purely in technical roles. I think it's time to get my feet wet on the business side.
So I've followed IndieHackers.com intently. I went so far as to read almost all their interviews and breakdown my analysis in a blog post (https://hackernoon.com/indie-startups-the-ingredients-of-suc...).
After awhile I really started to dig the whole "indie hacker movement". The idea that SV type startups aren't the only game in town. You don't have to build a rocket ship. You can built a fighter jet. You may not make it into space, but fighter jets a cool too.
I didn't start digging it just because it sounded cool, though. The idea that these kinds of one or few developer teams could start consuming the lower hanging fruit that SV startups won't touch because they aren't explosive growth opportunities? It just makes sense. Yeah, in some way it's just small business reinvented. But Courtland said something that stuck in my mind. The vast explosion of developer tools, libraries, SaaS, cloud computer, APIS, etc over the past few years has laid the foundation for single person teams to tackle problems they never could have managed alone in the past. It reeks of opportunity.
So, with all that background, this acquisition makes me feel weird. On the one hand, I'm totally happy for csallen. What a great thing to happen. I don't mean to down play that at all. On the other ... it's sad to see his indie business die. Perhaps he doesn't see it that way; dying I mean. Obviously this is a great opportunity for him and his brother to focus on what's important for the site. That's a good thing. But it does mean IndieHackers.com is no longer an indie hacker business itself. That's why I feel weird about it.
I'm of course concerned about Stripe's intentions. IndieHackers is a great resource, and it'd be a shame to see it consumed by typical corporate greed and manipulations. I don't mean to imply that's Stripe's MO. But I think I'm not the only one afraid of that, founded or unfounded. Plenty of people here are already calling foul on IndieHackers for their past behavior.
At the end of the day I'll get over the fact that IndieHackers is no longer an indie hacker. But I really do truly hope that it stays true to its core mission: to provide a platform for us to share our stories, unfiltered and transparent.
Congrats, and thank you csallen.
It's just weird to have IndieHackers.com, which I sort of viewed as a bastion of the movement, suddenly no longer part of it.
At the end of the day ... I'd probably do the same thing as csallen, if I were in the same position. He talked several times about how time consuming it was to find sponsors for the site and podcast. As a consumer of the site, I started noticing more and more ads showing up and interrupting the content. Hopefully Stripe will help reduce that. It wasn't clear from the OP if they intend to do away with all sponsorship. That would be really nice!
Totally understand your view about the acquisition... but I wouldn't say Indie Hackers is no longer part of the movement. I'm not cashing out and doing something else. Rather, I'm going back to spending all of my time improving the site itself and trying to make it more useful to more people. Yes, Stripe is helping me do away with all sponsorships!
I get that the cash infusion from Stripe allows you to not have to worry about sponsorships but if you are not "cashing out" in some way, why go the acquisition route?
I think parent is right. Indie Hackers is now Stripe's baby and it is normal that after a few years, you'll get bored and move on to more exciting things.
Anyway, I hope the timely release of the weekly podcasts is now a forgone conclusion.
Congratulations on the acquisition Courtland!
Let me clarify what I mean by IndieHackers no longer being part of the movement. Obviously IndieHackers.com is still an invaluable resource for small businesses to share and learn. The difference now is that you, and IndieHackers.com, are no longer in the same position as those participating in the community. You won't feel the same pain.
That struggle to find sponsorships and keep the cash flowing is in many ways the beating heart of every small business. That's the major pain that everyone feels. You no longer experience that.
Obviously that's a great relief to yourself, and obviously that frees you to work more exclusively on the content, which is the soul of your business. So that's in many ways a great thing! But since you yourself won't be experiencing that pain anymore, you may, in time, end up introducing bias into the content. That's my fear and concern. That you'll forget how difficult it is for small businesses to keep the cash flowing, and so color your interviews, tending to focus on other aspects of business.
In particular your recent podcasts have enabled you to interject your own thoughts and struggles into the conversations (compared to the website interviews which are 100% focused on the interviewee's story). That's been great; you've always had something interesting to say. But that means that, going forward, since you won't be struggling with cash flow, what you interject won't be perfectly aligned with the kinds of things other entrepreneurs will be struggling with or need to hear.
I hope that makes more sense? Put another way ... it's like rap. Rap is most often about the struggles that young, improvised people face on a day to day basis. But ... most of the rap those people are going to hear is from successful rappers ... who have a ton of money and live lavish life styles. It's a bit ... weird. That's not _necessarily_ a bad thing. In many ways that gives people hope, that they too could crawl their way out of poverty and become successful doing something they love. But sometimes it can leave the rappers disconnected.
(I'm speaking more about rap from 10 or more years ago. Nowadays I feel like rappers just said "fuck it" and rap about their current lifestyles. Smokin' reefer, bangin' hookers, and hanging with Avicii ... stuff people can really relate to!)
Indiehackers has tons of great content that can seriously help companies using Stripe Atlas. Together, IH+Stripe could helps companies go all the way from incorporation to profitability ;)
Where are the ads btw? I don't see a single ad on your website :-) Or did you remove them post-acquisition?
Btw. the best growth hacking is building an amazing product which sells itself. Click-bait articles, well ok you need some eyeballs but interviewes always reflected my expectations unlike BuzzFeed stuff.
All the best at Stripe!
Happy to be one of your interviewees!
1. This seems like it would be damaging to IH's brand image (since it will now be perceived as a PR arm of Stripe, and it's all about independence)
2. Stripe's stated goal here is simply to ensure the success of IH in order to drive more people to start companies. That's not exactly compelling on it's own, and with (1), even less so.
3. IH was apparently very big on financial transparency, yet the principles are being decidedly opaque about financials in this thread.
Are these types of deals common? Does Stripe own any other media companies?
[note: these are just my thoughts. i don't think i'm entitled to any further explanation nor do i think anything nefarious is going on.]
Financial transparency about profit from a bootstrapped startup is a different from financial transparency about a contract between two parties. Secrecy around the latter is a little more understandable.
For consumers, it will be more like Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz rather than Ben Thompson of Stratechery.
However, for the founder it's great, because he may not have to worry much financially from now on.
Well done Courtland Allen! Without IH, this flip-side view of startups wouldn't have a platform.
But at HN, it seems we have short memories and money triumphs morality.
2017 Feb: "I'm never using IH again"
2017 April: "I love IH"
I am very happy for Courtland and hope IH keeps it up! Congratulations!
This word is not a good connotation, and a company that's an online/mobile payment gateway buying a company with "hacker" in its name that doesn't seem to understand the definition of the word "hacker" doesn't look good.
It wouldn't matter to me what IndieHackers did, I would have passed them up just because they use a nefarious word in their name without understanding how it's used.
Also just to be thorough there is the dictionary definition of hacker. Your definition came in at 4th place.