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IndieHackers.com acquired by Stripe (indiehackers.com)
1000 points by ploggingdev on Apr 11, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 235 comments

Patrick from Stripe here. I wanted to quickly chime in to emphasize that our goal in acquiring Indie Hackers is to simply ensure that the site becomes as successful as possible. The Stripe upside we're hoping for is that more companies get started and that they're more successful. We already see a very large fraction of new internet companies choose Stripe; we're mainly hoping that Indie Hackers can help us grow the overall number rather than to grow our fraction. (Our product has to do the latter part.)

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.

You can help us help you by a) becoming available in more countries b) Atlas LLC

With that LLC thought, does that still mean US based?

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).

Unless you understand the tax consequences, incorporating in the US should be avoided at all costs.

Why? LLCs are pass-through entities. US residents will get taxed as income, and non-US residents will not have to pay any tax if their income is not effectively connected with a US trade or business (which basically means that employees do not do any of the work within the US).

Different countries have different laws. What might be seen as "pass through" under US law can sometimes be seen as opaque in an EU country, for example. Sometimes the situation or the double taxation treaty (if there is one) offers no clear solution.

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.

>This is obviously often incorrect, but given most people set up US entities because they're cheap

Cheap compared to where? EU or UK?

Most EU jurisdictions have required minimum capital contributions from the founding shareholder(s), e.g. 10-20.000 euro per entity. Then there's a ton of stuff to file (some countries are more bureaucratic than others), in some jurisdictions you need to visit a civil law notary to incorporate, etc.

A lawyer can easily take care of that for you for a reasonable fee, but most bootstrappers won't consider it, given the price.

Interesting, thanks.

You may be interested in https://www.leapin.eu/ then. I'm not affiliated and can't give a personal recommendation yet as I've just been doing research. But it's basically Atlas, in the EU and with lower taxes. The big, major catch right now is that they only accept single-owner companies last time I looked, which will probably be an issue if you're partnered up with anyone.

Thanks, I'll look into them when we're closer to setting up the business side of things. :)

Isn't UK incorporating a breeze? I'm sure I heard it can be all done online.

From my experience you can do everything online + post, except for the bank account. However the reality might have changed in the 3 years which have elapsed. There might be some new bank that lets you get away with it online.

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.

>There might be some new bank that lets you get away with it online.

Yep, https://www.tide.co (even MetroBank which I used was all online and only took a few days.

Yeah, that was an option until Brexit happened.

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... :)

Hi, we have setup our company (UG) https://cloudron.io a bit over a year ago in Germany and used https://www.firma.de which was a breeze. They do all the heavy lifting preparing documents. Then you just have to show up physically at the bank and notary office to sign on the dates firma.de is telling you.

Thanks, I'll check them out when we're at the stage of investigating the right place to setup. :)

Yep. For the most basic setup, it takes 5-10 mins and costs around £5

Agree about Atlas LLC: the best way to help "more companies get started and that they're more successful" is to help the companies at the margin -- the companies that won't actually get around to being formed if the prospective founder has to take 2 weeks out of his schedule just to figure out the legal and financial aspects of operating a side business. And for that type of company, an LLC is the no-brainer correct choice for the corporate structure.

Source: a prospective customer. :)

There is a lot of echo for your sentiment, and no reason for Atlas to not create an LLC package for customers (at some point), but are You (and so many others) really putting off a. Starting a business, or b. Creation of a business entity (LLC) for an on going business until Stripe can form it for you as a service? If so, what is it they provide that isn't available - and cheaper - elsewhere?

+1 Atlas LLC. Safe to say many of those featured on IndieHackers are also LLC.

This was brought up in the Stripe thread the other day. I'm sure both are on their radar.

+1 for Atlas LLC

Thanks for commenting and responding.

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?

The main thing we can do is free up Courtland to spend more time on it rather than having him sell ads. We're also going to invest in it so that his brother, Channing, can join him. On top of that, we expect that there'll be some Stripe users who'd benefit from discovering it earlier in their lifecycle and getting advice and feedback from other community members. Most people building a business on Stripe are doing it for the first time.

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.

Quick question about Stripe, how do you plan to retain customers long term? I ask this as a person who has moved a couple businesses off Stripe, pricing & corner cases like easy debit support are the main two motivational factors.

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.

Stripe markets to tech companies. Tech companies typically have very strong margins, and are therefore less price sensitive. Ergo, Stripe survives on businesses that print money.

Not everyone can afford an iPhone, but Apple still is filthy rich from the people who can.

You'd think, but 2.9% off the bottom line in the form of a large fee every month is something most companies will look to reduce or curtail after a few months or years. If your only processing a few grand a month, Stripe makes sense vs a traditional processor.

Once you hit $20 million in sales ($300-400k), the difference gets very noticeable vs. paying one internal IT and a couple security consultants to audit the work.

I don't disagree; its no different than AWS: once you get big enough, its time to roll your own or bring it in house. Until then, lots of money to be made selling shovels.

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.

The thing is, you can't roll your own in house, but you can replace Stripe at a much lower cost with a different vendor. They all process cards after all!

I think Stripe would be offering much better deals for high volume. With Stripe you are also paying for what they have built on top of just accepting the payment. If you are high volume and willing to use a no frills provider it doesn't surprise me that you would get a better deal.

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.

I moved out of Stripe because stripe charges $15 for charge backs for my product worth $10. The dispute resolution mechanism sucks and it almost all the time favors the customer and stripe is US only. My product is worldwide.

Yeah, Stripe only gets so much say over chargebacks with their platform provider and the cardholder's bank, the only platform that I've seen chargebacks successfully fought & won on is Tsys, its always a loser on First Data.

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.

I had two chargebacks on my service using Stripe (https://breaker101.com/ </shameless-plug>), and successfully fought both of them. Just throwing that out there.

how does paypal handle these ? When there is a dispute, I refund the amount and thats it. Paypal bears the chargeback and Stripe passes it to the merchants ?

Software Engineering Daily had an episode[0] on fraud detection at stripe using machine learning. If you're interested it provides quite a bit of background information.

[0]: https://softwareengineeringdaily.com/2017/03/17/stripe-machi...

Paypal charges a $20 chargeback fee on disputes with a credit card company.

I use Stripe from Japan and it really sucks when it comes to chargebacks. I have won like 2 of 30 cases. I provide customer's ID, shipping labels, tracking info and still lose. I had one friendly fraud case, when a customer was using both Stripe and PayPal. Later the customer opened disputes for every payment made within 3 months. It was like dozens of disputes on both PayPal and Stripe. I have won all on PayPal and lost all on Stripe. Those two cases I won on Stripe was like the acquiring bank started the chargeback without notifying the client. The client worked with us, the acquiring bank admitted the mistake and still we had to fight to convince Stripe that we won the dispute. I strongly believe that they just automatically process the chargeback forms and don't give a thing about winning it. Not to mention that they charge you even if you win a dispute.

>For example, Centurylink lets you pay online via debit card with just the card # alone. No CVV, address, expiration date, etc.

WTF? It is amazing that card industry still works with such horrible security.

Debit networks are wholly separate from Visa/Mastercard, different ballgame entirely. You get to deal with a few hundred tiny debit networks that replace Visa/Mastercard/Amex/Discover for processing the payment.

Centurylink has your name/address/SSN and can cut your services off at a whim if anything happens, so fraud would be inadvisable.

US debut networks. UK debit is via Visa, MasterCard etc typically.

Europe is a whole different ballgame, Visa itself runs multiple networks, and you've got heavy regulation kneecaping debit at 0.2% for interchange, and 0.3% for credit card interchange. Competition takes different forms, but it is a pretty fragmented market in the EU.

The rates in Hong Kong with Stripe for non-hong Kong issued cards is 3.9% + 2% conversion fee if you don't charge in HKD. Additionally they're unable to deposit into a US denominated bank account.

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.

+1 Atlas LLC


> 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.

You don't throw out the basket for one bad egg.

The fact its still there implies its the basket that is bad.

You guys are my favorite startup and it's great to see that you're not just focused on the bottom line, but also doing good for the world. Very few do. Keep on rocking, pc!

> ...doing good for the world.

Too bad they are only US-based.

Thanks for chiming in. One of the joys of HN is seeing people Doing The Real Thing show up and be candid.

What do see on your acquisition list in 2017/2018?

It's very hard to know upfront -- what made us interested in Indie Hackers wasn't just the idea per se (we'd thought about it before and looked at other sites in the past), but rather the fact that it was executed so well. There are tons of things that we'd in principle be open to acquiring if the right company existed. In general, we look for small, highly-effective technical teams with a very high bar for execution quality. (Indie Hackers, which was pretty much just Courtland operating solo, cleared this threshold by a significant margin: https://twitter.com/Shpigford/status/851851923502268416) To the extent that the team really understands either developer tools or startups, that's a bonus.

> Indie Hackers is one of those things that came out of nowhere with super high quality everything.

I love that notion. To come out of nowhere with super high quality everything.

Our peer education marketplace www.helpwith.co is powered by Stripe. Want to help us get a 50k investment from Stripe? It'll allow us to ad a lot of users to for you guys.

Who could I talk to about this?

Hi Patrick - would you be able to acquire my website as well to "ensure that the site becomes as successful as possible" ?

A serious question...

You sorta have to have a useful website for that. Probably need to start with having some way to find your website to figure out whether it's useful!

While going from a blog-to-acquisition in less than a year is an impressive feat, there have been suspicious circumstances around IndieHackers submissions to Hacker News including clickbait titles that are frequently fixed by HN mods, and in one case, explicit voting manipulation with an attempt to bypass the voting ring detector via linking to /newest: http://i.imgur.com/08pAFOw.jpg

This acquisition sends a disappointing message that growth hacking works.

The HN community has been a big part of Indie Hackers, even helping me come up with the idea for the site in the first place.

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[1], but I've mostly avoided it with recent submissions.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13074125

One has to wonder if 20-25% of your submissions make people angry if you're doing the right thing. But hey you're the one with the acquisition, not me. So great job!

So, basically, you expect people to be psychic and know in advance what will tick people off. Since you expect that, they are obviously and intentionally up to no good if other people get mad. Because: Logic.

I don't expect that at all. But I'm willing to bet there were common threads in those 20-25% of posts.

And you discover those common threads by seeing those reactions.

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.

When the win column is bigger than the loss column, you're a winning team.

Getting shutout 25% doesn't mean you're winning 75%.

The thing about Arsenal is, they always try and walk it in!

Hey! I saw that ludicrous display last night too!


Nice work!

I am glad to see that I wasn't the only one who felt that IH were gaming the system and was treating their stories as spam.

It does make me suspicious as to if HN admins treat YC alumni more equal than others.

We try hard not to do that. But it's tricky because many YC alumni do interesting work and/or are valued HN contributors and we certainly don't want to penalize them either.

> We try hard not to do that. But it's tricky because many YC alumni do interesting work and/or are valued HN contributors and we certainly don't want to penalize them either.

This sounds like an admission of guilt to me.

Of course not, and I trust most HN readers not to take it that way. We like to be open about how we approach these questions.


Wondered why this got downvoted, then noticed that the throwaway I was replying to edited his comment. The original comment was basically "I'm done with HN! Goodbye!"

Moderation on HN is very strict. If Indie Hackers were 'gaming' the system, they'd be banned. That hasn't happened. The posts consistently end up on the front page because people like the site...

Banning on HN doesn't quite work in so off-with-their-heads a way. There are many forms of gaming HN; the spectrum runs from outright evil all the way to accidental. We try to make the punishment fit the crime, so in general a site not being banned doesn't mean they didn't try to game the system.

> Moderation on HN is very strict. If Indie Hackers were 'gaming' the system, they'd be banned.

If the voting data were available, one of us could prove the other wrong. As they are not, it is my opinion vs yours.

It's HN's opinion vs yours.

As far as I know IndieHackers is not YC alumni.

Stripe is but as far as I know HN admins can't see the future.

> As far as I know IndieHackers is not YC alumni.


"...and YC alum (W2011)"

> disappointing message that growth hacking works.

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.

Would you define legitimate content? Super interested.

non-sensationalized, technical accurate accounts of entrepreneurship. not, "it was built it in 3 months." while conveniently leaving off that it was springboarded from a previous veture that took 3 years to develop a base for.

That last part seems very specific. Any particular example you are thinking about?

there were a few, i think park.io and then another having do with music, submithub i think? those are the two that came to mind.

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.

Hi, I founded park.io and built it from scratch by myself - not sure why you listed my site here.

Great, thx. Will look into those to learn. :)

Check Ministry of Testing story on IH.

Thx :)

or, you know, the HN submissions from IndieHackers are actually popular. God forbid.

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

"I find myself actually _liking_ the IndieHackers posts, because they are inspiring."

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.

I do recall this submission and commenting on the ridiculous nature of it. But I wouldn't say it was voting manipulation so much as people who may not be familiar with markets voting up something they saw that used neural nets.

The disappointing part was that Allen chose to be defensive instead of admitting a mistake on his submission vetting process.

What's the problem with linking to /newest? I'm new to spam and abuse on HN

There isn't a legitimate reason to link to /newest unless it's to promote your submission, which in itself is against the HN rules. (there is the belief that people who vote in a submission via /newest do not trip voting ring detectors like that of direct links, but that is false)

Is a voting ring defined by people being friends, in a similar geolocation, voting at a similar time, voting together consistently historically, or what? In other words, what distinguishes a voting ring from simply a group of users with similar interests or a small niche community?

Linking to /newest appears to many HN users to just be a way around directly linking to their article.

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 think I recall reading somewhere that the upvotes a story gets on the /newest page weigh more heavily in promoting the story to the top main pages, than the upvotes a story will invariably get when its on one of the first few main pages.

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 make it sound like he's murdering people to get ahead not that he is targeting a social network with content that is generally relevant and popular. The anything in this case is focused promotion.

> You make it sound like he's murdering people

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.

Given the number of posts on HN these days that seem to spur a mob of angry people I'm not even sure 20-25% is a bad figure.

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.

so by your logic he should not do whatever he can to create the most effective submission possible?

That seems counter-intuitive since really all HN cares about in the end is quality content.

> so by your logic he should not do whatever he can to create the most effective submission possible?

Ideally without breaking the HN rules.

Are you saying IndieHackers is "hacking" the HackerNews forums?

Looks like the end justifies the means.

Anyone else suspect "clickbait" is now the #1 most-used word in HN comments?

This is one of the rare instances where it is correctly used. (In IH's case, submission titles with explicit dollar amounts, which also breaks the HN rule about using original titles)

EDIT: Apparently an exception was made in this case.

Is that rule really enforced though? Should it?

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.

From the guidelines:

> 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.

I'd like to contact you, but don't see any contact details on your profile. Can i?

Speaking as a random HN user (but I suspect I am not alone in this opinion), I rather dislike HN's approach to anti-vote-manipulation, and so I don't see the message as disappointing.

(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.)

What? No, the "entrenched organization" that regulates voting rings exists to keep HN from turning into a morass of marketing puff. The quality of the submissions and comments are literally the only thing of value here.

You can do that by restricting voting to established users with nonzero karma, which HN already does. If a bunch of people who are providing the high-quality submissions and comments say a particular submission is high-quality, what are the grounds for doubting them?

It is not difficult to farm accounts for voting rings, and there is a significant financial incentive to do so. It's true that there may be some false positives, but without these protections the floodgates would be opened to startup marketing goons.

First of all, congrats to csallen, I have been following your journey from the day you launched on HN and it was fascinating to follow along. If you haven't read his month in review posts, highly recommended.

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.

Your numbers are low. They didn't buy a suburban lawn care business. I'd ballpark >$1m up front and >$250k annual comp with upside going forward, in some mix of cash and stock. Great move by Stripe. Congrats to Courtland for the exit and what seems like a win-win for both parties.

I'm not so sure. I haven't seen the higher big ticket multiples scale down to smaller businesses very well (only in the small biz media negotiations I've been involved in or tipped off about - so I am no expert!). I'd certainly take a 16x revenue multiple any day of the week though :-D

16x mature revenue, sure. But if revenue is growing 20% month over month, then what?

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.

They didn't buy the site really for the revenue so it's hard to go off of that when estimating acquisition price

No way it was >$1m. It's specifically because it's not a steady business like suburban lawn care that there is no way it is going for a 2-4x annual rev. It's definitely not going to go for more than that.

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.

Would be great to see some facts and numbers not more suburban lawn care anecdotes.

Go on any website selling site like flippa or Latonas and you can see sales prices for lots of similar businesses with similar or higher revenue.

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.

Those sites don't include employees who will stay on the to run the company. You also don't think Stripe paid a premium over what the site would have fetched in a flippa sale?

Right they had one employee who now has a regular salary working on something he enjoys as well as getting a job for his brother(who wasn't employed before by the site) means it's even less likely stripe is going to pay a huge multiple.

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're ballparking 1 million upfront and >250K for a site that made barely 60K a year? That seems extremely optimistic and emblematic of dot.bomb numbers.

By that logic YC and other VCs are continuously and systematically making bad investments every year.

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.

But what's the upside? Will this website EVER net Stripe a (figurative) DIME after paying 2 salaries? I think not. Maybe it will entice a few dozen new account signups per month. Who knows.

Community outreach is a good thing (tm) but I see now way any sane/experienced business person would pay a million dollars for this.

No way. A blog like IH is an internet business but it's still a small business and much closer to the suburban lawn car business you mention than something like Stripe. There is no big scale for something like IH in the future without it being reinvented. It would not command a multiple of 15x+. Stripe would need to justify the purchase price to their board. If you were running a company bringing in $72k a year and it was a total schlep dealing with the day to day and then also selling ads being able to sell to a great company for 1-4x + a good salary for you + 1 is an awesome outcome.

I'm not speculating about purchase price because it's more about what was the best alternative for IndieHackers founder but it's doubtful Stripe cares about the site's revenue, today or in the future.

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).

When the PH was aquired for 20 million, I thought about how much a smaller company like IH would cost.

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.

I don't think you can use PH to compare to any other deal, that was monkey business. No way in any world a message board that couldn't get beyond a niche audience, that (I think most would agree) was past it's prime, and had no obvious path to revenue is/was worth $20M+. It was only able to get that because of the people that had invested. The right people can make anything happen, it was not an ordinary deal under ordinary circumstances.

What is PH?

product hunt

> * Plus a full time salary at roughly $120k/year

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.

Isn't it ironic the details of the acquisition isn't being transparently shared?

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!" Source: https://www.indiehackers.com/submit

I think we have the "right" to know what the transaction entailed; how much the owner was exactly paid, that is.

Why do you think you have that right? Honestly curious.

The product took off thanks to the HN community. Hence the "right". He is simply a hypocrite if he doesn't share that.

The selling price seems very different from 'revenue per month' though.

Revenue is about $6000 per month and the costs for running the site are probaly quite low, minus the costs for the owner himself, so maybe monthly profit is around $4000? So given the formula for non-internet companies which are valued around 2-3 times the annual profit, the company would be worth around $120000.

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.

So in the spirit of what IH actually is, will the financial details be shared?

As much as I would personally love to share, there are of course other employees working at Stripe and other acquisitions that Stripe will make in the future, which complicates things. What I will do is try to be as transparent as I possibly can about what's going on behind-the-scenes, traffic numbers, product and growth strategy, etc. I've always thought it was cool that I got to talk about growing Indie Hackers itself at the same time that I've been talking to other entrepreneurs.

Why do those factors prevent you from sharing? Transparency is difficult, but isn't that the whole point of Indie Hackers?

The logical assumption would be that they gave IH a very sweet deal, much sweeter than they'd generally offer an acquisition target with similar financials. So if they release the details, future acquisition targets will expect similarly sweet deals, which Stripe has no interest in seeing.

Or made OP feel that way...

"No" would have been sufficient :)

Congrats though. That's huge. Any idea what will change yet as a result of the acquisition?

Somehow I had a feeling that we wouldn't get the juicy trivia :x Congrats!

Congratulations, Courtland! Your work has challenged silicon valley attitudes that success is measured by funding. It's refreshing to read about how achievable a profitable, lifestyle-supporting business can be. Good luck at Stripe!

Does this mean IndieHackers become the propaganda arm for Stripe's customers? Or is this a goodwill purchase? Maybe it's cheaper than a national ad buy targeted directly at potential new customers?

There's a lot of alignment between what I want to see (personally) and encourage (via Indie Hackers) and what Stripe's mission is: more people starting companies and finding success. It goes much further than simply advertising. If Indie Hackers and other efforts to inspire + educate + empower entrepreneurs can grow to have sufficient impact, then it will materially improve Stripe's bottom line. And of course, Indie Hackers stands to have a much higher chance of accomplishing this with some actual support from Stripe.

Congrats on building something real and I hope the acquisition works out well for you and the company in the long run. I've enjoyed, and been inspired by, a number of IH articles.

IndieHackers' founder got really good at getting startups to provide detailed information, and then also on publicizing the crap out of IH itself. If I had to guess, Stripe wants that skillset in marketing (or "growth hacking" or whatever else the cool kids call it now). All of that can feed Stripe's customer pipeline.

Congrats to the involved parties, great job, etc.

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?

> full of unsubstantiated stories and made up numbers

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

One of my favorite sites that provided real value. I guess IndieHackers did a lot of things right which created such fast growth with a quick exit.

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?

It's a custom built app. The about section has the details: https://www.indiehackers.com/about

> 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.

I'm not sure it's wordpress, from the source code it looks like a custom Ember app but I might be wrong.

You are right. I checked the source code and found "Wordpress" a bunch of times but it looks like it's because "Kanban for WordPress" featured on the homepage. Regardless their design is really slick (especially the sorting and filtering on top) which definitely helps increase the site interaction and usability.

He mentioned he actually uses Ember and built it in a week - really impressive: https://www.indiehackers.com/blog/launching-to-300000-pagevi...

I bet the total acquisition price is less than Stripe would wind up paying a content agency for fees, placement, etc. over a couple of fiscal years for similar exposure.

And they're getting all the goodwill & talent alongside of it as the cherry on top.

Brilliant move @stripe and congrats to the founders.

Wouldnt that imply not so brilliant move for the founders? The way you've worded it, it sounds like the founders could have got a lot more?

Could the site have continued to grow massively month over month for the next few years? If so, the founder probably would have earned more money independently. The HN audience is large, but it's not infinite, so growth could have stalled at some point. That's risk and reward; who knows? And who knows if maximizing profit was even his sole goal. Perhaps it was exposure, or building a real community to help folks start new businesses. Wherever the site was headed independently, I'm willing to bet Stripe can accelerate the process significantly, and that counts for a lot.

but the founder's alternative was hustling every month to get more advertisers, for probably less money than the Stripe deal.

the best deals are where both sides benefit, this sounds like one

No, he's just implying that it's a smart move for Stripe. He doesn't even know the cost of the transaction.

Maybe I'm too cynical. This just seems like corporate largesse on Stripe's part, which is kind of neat, except for what happens to things like IndieHackers when that largesse runs out.

I guess nice to know Stripe's doing so well they can fund random stuff… ?

Now indie hackers should be interviewed on indie hackers :O

Check out the timeline! I've written quite a lot about Indie Hackers from the beginning: https://www.indiehackers.com/timeline. The meat of the content is in the monthly review posts.

Courtland, this is absolutely fantastic. Congrats man!

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?

Correct me if I'm wrong, I think the deal benefits stripe as it acquires a good (and growing) user base.

Awesome, Looking forward to seeing what the deal was worth! Would be a real shame if this was hidden behind an NDA or what not.

I hope it is hidden. The site owner shouldn't have his/her finances broadcast on the internet. Friends come from the woodwork when they find out you just made $x million (not speaking from experience unfortunately).

Transparency is what makes IH great. I don't see this sell as a good move, if Stripe cannot appreciate that, and allow you to disclose how much you get from the deal.

didn't see this one coming! major congrats to Courtland.

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

It's definitely not procrastination posting. I've formed valuable relationships from people who have reached out after a comment I wrote. Aside from that, commenting on HN is a great way to practice my writing skills, which I rarely get to use since my day-to-day work consists largely of programming. The community here is invaluable in that it provides an audience for your writing, so long as you are willing to fit your arguments into an intellectually rigorous framework and provide sources when necessary. It's much easier to hone your writing ability when you have an audience, and I am very grateful to HN for providing one. I hope the community can avoid a "eternal September" problem and continue providing a valuable service.

Yeah, i hope it doesn't turn out like wickedfire!

i just wanted to say that this was so well written it hurts

Congrats to csallen.

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.

the word is "betrayed". And you are not alone in feeling in such way. IH outright lost its essence and what gave sense to it.

I don't feel betrayed, no. There are plenty of companies interviewed on IndieHackers.com that started as small shops and eventually got acquired. I've got nothing against that, obviously. It's a great opportunity to cash out and do something else fun.

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!

Thanks fpgaminer for following along and being one of the few crazy people (including myself) to have read so many interviews!

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'm not cashing out and doing something else.

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!

Thanks for the reply, csallen. I hope my comments don't detract in any way from how awesome this is for IndieHackers.com and yourself, and the potential good it could do.

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!)

w00t w00t, congrats Courtland, this is awesome!

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 ;)

Wow, 6k in ad revenue per month sounds a lot. How many page hits are required to get this kind of ad revenue?

Not as many as you might think. It's more about having a specific and valuable audience and doing sales. I've written about it a bit in some of my monthly review posts: https://www.indiehackers.com/timeline

Oh, thanks for the link. This is quite incredible.

Where are the ads btw? I don't see a single ad on your website :-) Or did you remove them post-acquisition?

And yet here is what is wrong with the tech world, people start speculating on acquisition price and how much other people made even though news are about an awesome product and community joining another awesome product to make even more amazing stuff.

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.

Big congrats!

Wow! Congratulations Courtland! I've followed IH from day zero and it's been such a great learning experience. Really happy for you man!

All the best at Stripe!

Will you change the name to mainstreamhackers.com?

This is dope. Salute to Courtland and Stripe.

I know it is a useless comment for HN, just wanted to say congrats because I think it is really well-deserved.

Just wanted to say congratulations to Courtland! I've seen you share the progress of your business since it was introduced, and to see it grow and become so successful is very inspiring. You earned this! Hopefully it motivates others as well. I think it might have motivated me.

IndieHackers is an awesome sight, and with Stripe Atlas, I see a good vertical developing. IndieHacker is an inspiring high quality source. Definitely, agree with Patrick of Stripe, the execution was stellar.

That was fast

Indeed, more like an acquihire at this stage.

Didn't see this one coming! Congrats @csallen on the acquisition and congrats to Stripe for recognizing the great value IH has been providing since launch!

This is really amazing! Very helpful site and a wonderful thing that makes me confident in the reasons why I use Stripe for my payment processing needs! :)

That's a really unexpected announcement, but congratulations! Hope this changes the site for the better, not the worse.

Take heart: it means we'll spend less time managing ads and experimenting with business models, and more time cultivating the community and improving the interviews and podcast!

Wow, congrats!

Congrats to getting acquired for such a simple site and idea that provides great value. Inspiring

Nice to see your hard work paid off!

Congratulations, Courtland! Really happy to hear this! Keep up the awesome work!

Congrats! I have always loved and been inspired by the stories at IndieHackers.

What a brilliant site, definitely an inspiration! Congrats!

Awesome! See, sometimes good things happen to good people.

Congrats to Courtland!

Happy to be one of your interviewees!

That's incredible. Congratulations!

Guess we need one post about IH on IH.

Congrats to csallen – I have recommended IndieHackers to many a fellow developer, it's a great project!

Congrats, Courtland! If I were to be acquired by any company, I'd want it to be Stripe!

Congratulations on a wonderful and inspirational site!


Super cool & congratulations.

congratulations, that is a great new.

I've been reading HN for 5 or 6 years and this feels very strange to me. From the comments in here by the principles it kind of seems like Stripe is doing IH a favor. A few things that stick in my craw:

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.]

>IH was apparently very big on financial transparency, yet the principles are being decidedly opaque about financials in this thread.

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.


Well, it was Courtland's right to publish his financials when he was the sole proprietor of IH. Now he's a Stripe employee and therefore is governed by their policy on the matter, I assume.

It takes two to tango in the latter

Re: point 2; I can see why Stripe would believe this. I personally have read/been inspired by IndieHackers, and I'm looking at starting a SaaS and Stripe is definitely my billing software of choice.

2) IH has been a source of inspiration and motivation for me. Atlas and Stripe are on my list services that I look forward to use in the near future.

It seems like Indie Hackers is not Indie anymore.

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.

IH is a refreshing flip side to the VC/YC narrative that's become canonical in the startup world! As againsit VC valuations, and pressure of growth at all costs (mostly profitability), IH companies prioritize organic, sustainable growth without loss of founder control. Many of them end up financially successful, which is inspiring to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Well done Courtland Allen! Without IH, this flip-side view of startups wouldn't have a platform.

2 months ago, HN was ripping apart IH:


But at HN, it seems we have short memories and money triumphs morality.

The thread you link to is about a story which was published on IH. Sure, publishing this story wasn't a highlight for IH, but starting two swing the morality hammer is a bit much.

read it again, they were ripping IH for letting dubious submissions through without proper vetting.

2017 Feb: "I'm never using IH again"

2017 April: "I love IH"

It's almost as if HN is made of a community of different people with different personalities and motivations.

I was one of those who was ripping into the specific IH submission. I did so because the quality of IH is usually so high and I wanted to see that continue. This one example fell short.

I am very happy for Courtland and hope IH keeps it up! Congratulations!

Hacker: "a person who uses computers to gain unauthorized access to data."

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.

You do realize you are posting this comment on a site called Hacker News?


Also just to be thorough there is the dictionary definition of hacker. Your definition came in at 4th place.

I don't know where did you get that quote from but it describes "crackers". This is what hackers are all about: http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html

Whom are you quoting? It's really confusing as I thought you must be quoting the article. Surely if you are commenting on a site called Hacker News you know there is more than one definition of "Hacker".

Technically such a person should be called a cracker, no? A hacker is just someone who hacks on things. Where is this pop definition from?

troll level extreme is all I can think about.. If thats not the case then clueless is the only other way to describe this.

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