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Reaching $10k monthly revenue with WakaTime, my SaaS side project (indiehackers.com)
399 points by welder on Oct 31, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 163 comments

I must voice concerns regarding this product. Just took a look at the Notepad++ plugin (https://github.com/wakatime/notepadpp-wakatime), because this is something I know a lot about. To begin with, it sends filenames to the mother ship instead of just the programming language. I would consider filenames to be sensitive information giving a very good idea of the project you are working on...

Also problematic is the fact that plugin is doing almost nothing; instead it downloads Python from the official place, downloads a whole Python project (called CLI) and executes it. Also, there's an automatic update mechanism in place which updates the CLI every now and then. It sounds as a recipe for a disaster waiting to happen.


I guess what I've said applies to every software with an auto-update function and that's of course quite the norm today. As ztratar pointed out, the usage of SSL provides a decent level of security. I still would wish for the user to be notified in some fashion. Also, from what I understand, the WakaTime CLI seems to have an option to hide filenames, it's just not changeable from the Notepad++ plugin.

Disagree. As a user, I want file-level or directory-level analytics. I want to know how much time I'm coding in the backend services vs the front-end react client.

If you have concerns about this, do you also have problems with Github literally having access to all of your code? Or Google having access to your search history?

I'd be more concerned if it wasn't using SSL. That would make sense, but it seems secure on that front.

> I'd be more concerned if it wasn't using SSL. That would make sense, but it seems secure on that front.

Yes, I agree with you, using SSL is definitely better than without.

Github and Google have security teams and aren't side projects.

So did Equifax. All this outrage is completely unfounded.

> outrage

Someone kindly shared an opinion and gave their reason for having that opinion. Outrage is a different thing.

This was requested a lot before, so you can now hide file names. This means only project names and timestamps are sent to our servers:


Perhaps you could encrypt the filenames with a user-supplied password hash. Upload and store just the encrypted filenames, and when the user is viewing the data on the web can decrypt the filenames by asking them for the filename password. You could run analytics on the encrypted data still, and not expose filenames to even wakatime.

Or you could divide the files in classes like that

<pattern> -> "backend code"

<pattern> -> "frontend code"

and upload only the class a file belongs to.

What if you opened John_Doe_health_information.txt - would something like this be a HIPPA violation?

Healthcare startup here: Yes, because first/last name are PHI identifiers, and it's possible that even using the product itself could be considered a breach because you don't have control over the data. If the filenames some non-phi unique identifier, you're fine.

What's the difference between sending data within in a file, and having the file named something that is an important data point? None. So naming the file with a PHI field (even MRN!) is a bad idea to begin with.

A good answer would be to not let true patient data leave the hardened production server and be opened in any kind of development environment, ever.

Having somewhat recently started a job developing frontends in health informatics, I'm noticing that programmers need to consider HIPAA far more than I think many realize. Even when working outside the healthcare industry, as may be the case here.

With that filename in majority of cases you're violating HIPAA even within your internal network. The thought processes usually goes, does every person that potentially sees that file name require to know the patients first and last name? Also, even those that do require it should only be accessing it on an as-needed basis (eg. at the time of claim submission, etc) which means it shouldn't be floating around on your filesystem.

Why do you think the second part specifically is "a recipe for a disaster waiting to happen"?

Well, because it's a mechanism the user is not controlling and is potentially problematic if someone makes the plugin download an update package from another source. I'm a bit paranoid, but I would prefer all functionality to be within the plugin itself. There's a plugin manager for Notepad++ which notifies the user of plugin updates.

I suggest you suggest this to the author.

Congrats on this, loved the quote.

>> The best startup book is one you never open because you're too busy marketing and building your product

While that makes for a great anecdote, there are action-oriented people should not be heeding that advice. An appropriate balance between rational ignorance and analysis paralysis must be struck. Otherwise, it's left to others to deal with your predisposition towards an extreme.

Well yes, no quote applies perfectly for all situations, but IMHO there so much time being wasted on getting to know all the theoretical intricacies of startups without getting anything out there that this quote is great advice for many.

Not with startups, but I'll admit to this fault for myself with technical content. I spent (I won't say wasted, I enjoyed it) a lot of time learning more theoretical areas of CS and software engineering without a need to apply it. The breadth of knowledge has proven useful in general, but often long after the reading and required some effort to relearn and apply properly. I would've been better off with more of a survey of the same topics (which could've meant surveying more topics in the same span) and then learning the details when I needed it.

It can also be taken as you will read what you need to when you need to be solving it - instead of reading in advance.

Lean learning. Just-in-time education.

Lazy learning. Information is getting as it needed

Agile learning.

Sharing progress with mentor(s) who can point to resources at the right time makes this easier.

Great idea.

This "I'm so busy hustling I don't have time to read no books" sort of machismo has become quite fashionable.

I believe it's a mistake because there's a balance.

No, you don't want to become the ineffectual intellectual, constantly learning but never doing. It definitely is easy to see books and learning as progress when you should to be out on the sharp end.

But there are techniques you might use and mistakes you might not make if you invest into learning about and from written material. It seems like a celebration of ignorance to act otherwise.

> you don't want to become the ineffectual intellectual, constantly learning but never doing

Yes I do. Can't afford it unfortunately, but an ineffectual gentleman scientist and man of letters sounds like the perfect life to me.

I think it's self-relevant advice. If your tendencies are to constantly read about launching your business - that may get in the way of actually going in and doing it.

This advice isn't relevant to those who have the opposite problem - but for those who use learning as a procrastination device, it can be just the right advice to put you into the happy medium

Quote along the same lines from _why that I really like: "When you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability."

Double True, execution and hustle is the key. Don't get caught up in all the entre-porn (Amy Hoy). Learn what you need from books, podcasts and mentors. Then go for it.

You'll know you're ready because when you read a book or listen to a podcast it will all be things you've heard before.

Granted every book/podcast usually has a unique gem but after a while, you're ready.

Plus, "It's NOT rocket surgery." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CDXJ6bMkMY (DHH Startup School, still my favorite talk)

Interesting, No mention about the cofounder, Pyanka Sen Sharma. I saw her at the YC female founder conference on 2015(?) She seemed to be doing business development of the company.

Because she wasn't really a co-founder and it only seemed like she was doing anything for WakaTime. She´s very good at making people believe that when she´s only really self-promoting herself. It does not surprise me at all that she was at the female founder conference. Read this: https://news.ycombinator.com/reply?id=15617309&goto=item%3Fi...

A user emailed to tell us that the ownership of this project and this story of its founding are disputed and there's a legal process going on. A quick check shows a bit of supporting evidence for this, so I think it's best if we bury this post for now. We have no way to tell who's right, and it doesn't seem fair for HN to implicitly take a side by featuring one side of the story.

Incidentally, we invited this submission as a repost of https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15546345. We do that when we run across a good submission that didn't get much attention the first time around, and we think the community might find it interesting. We wouldn't have done that if we'd known the story was disputed. The principle remains the same, though, so if any of you know of a good submission that fell through the cracks, please email us at hn@ycombinator.com and we'll consider putting it in the queue.

I've emailed about this, but can respond here too. I'm the sole-founder of WakaTime and there is no ongoing legal dispute.

Priyanka Sharma and I worked on a massage on-demand startup which didn't take off. We decided to see if investors would be interested in my WakaTime project, and Priyanka asked to be listed on the WakaTime "About" page to build her confidence when talking to potential investors. I also agreed to pitch WakaTime on TechCrunch with her, although they listed her incorrectly as CEO! She was CEO of the massage startup, Kneady, but never WakaTime!

It's unfortunate that Priyanka Sharma now uses the WakaTime TechCrunch article to charge early-stage startups for advice through Heavybit. It's also unfortunate if HN caves to her threats of ownership without asking for any proof. If she was a founder of WakaTime, she should be able to produce a stock purchase or other agreement, or even documentation about an "ongoing legal dispute". I've already reached out to HN via email offering proof of ownership, so hopefully HN unburies this post.

This response is fishy as hell. I don't know what Priyanka's title was at WakaTime but I viewed her as the public face of the company, as judged by the dozens of emails I have from WakaTime that all came from her, her activity in the Slack, her blog posts which were removed from the WakaTime blog, etc.

Here's one example of an email from Priyanka on behalf of WakaTime:


And the removal of her blog posts:



And an interesting Twitter thread:


This makes me want to stop paying for WakaTime.

> Here's one example of an email from Priyanka on behalf of WakaTime

At the time I was happy when she said she would send the newsletter emails for me, but now I see she just wanted people to think she was the public face for WakaTime to further a tech founder persona. Yea I made a mistake letting her send newsletters on behalf of WakaTime, but that doesn't mean she can claim to have built WakaTime.

> This response is fishy as hell.

I didn't raise a fuss when I should have because I didn't want to cause her trouble, but then she demanded a large sum of money from me in exchange for giving me WakaTime... when she never owned WakaTime. That's what I consider fishey.

Are you saying she didn't write the content of the newsletters, or moderate the Slack, or write those blog posts? I don't think anyone is contending that she wrote the code but I know my own interest in WakaTime would have waned without the community and the newsletters.

I am still unsatisfied with your version of events because it seems to discount that Priyanka did any work at all.

Her first blog post was on: 2014-12-16

Her last blog post was on: 2015-03-31

This doesn't look like an sophisticated engagement.

Here's a Google Trends chart for 'WakaTime':


That first spike is December 2014. Interesting timing!

The last Slack notification email I have from her is from 10/26/2015. Why is it so hard to believe that she did a year or so's worth of work for WakaTime? Why are her contributions to be valued less because they aren't code?

Then maybe you should investigate more, for example using the waybackmachine and finding out that Alan founded WakaTime almost 2 years before she ever appeared on the website. He didn't even know her when he started WakaTime.

Also read: https://news.ycombinator.com/reply?id=15617309&goto=item%3Fi...

She's very good at making people believe her lies.

Alan is the least fishy guy I know amd I don’t doubt his word for a second.

> I've already reached out to HN via email offering proof of ownership, so hopefully HN unburies this post.


would appreciate if you can at least acknowledge receipt of the proof that was offered by Alan. Of course you don't have to, but it would be a kindness to the community if you come back to tell us that you stand by your decision or have decided to walk it back.

Concur with this. Would really suck if @welder gets screwed because of an unhappy ex-cofounder. Allegations or not, the buck needs to stop somewhere.

I'm not sure what you're getting at. If there is an ongoing legal dispute, then whatever proof that was send remains under question until the dispute of ownership is settled.

I know the founder Alan and I know Priyanka and I can verify Alan's version. There is no dispute about the ownership. Priyanka bluntly lied to HN and I am shocked to read they would fall for it. I guess everyone is especially careful to not discredit a self-proclaimed "female founder".

I experienced Priyanka as a dishonest person, solely focused on personal gain, who had no issues with stealing credit from others (including from me). It's terrifying to see that she continues to leech off Alan's hard work and even damage his success. Alan only listed her temporarily as Co-Founder on the website (almost 2 years AFTER he founded WakaTime) to build up her confidence in talking to investors (an idea she had btw). She proceeded however to use that for self-promotion, giving interviews all over the place of how she was a "female founder", despite it being a fake title. She would tell Alan that it was all to help Wakatime. Alan was too patient and trusting, even though many people who met Priyanka and saw through her manipulation were warning him about her. Despite finally realizing what she was doing, he kept her listed on the website for many more months, because it was helping her get new job opportunities. He was THAT generous and just didn't think she would exploit him and his hard work. She has now woven such a big lie that all she can do is continue lying. I hope the truth will finally catch up to her.


The story is about building this product. About putting in the time(thousands of precious hours) and focus to build the extensive amount of software running Wakatime. He has listened to his users and built the integrations. There is no disputing that. This story deserves attention and is true. Let whoever else make claims about their alleged ownership on their own time. it wouldn’t change the story.

Is it me or is it nuts to be paying $1,600 a month on servers when you have just over 1000 users? Seems like something that could be run on a $50-$100 VPS.

That's the number of users who are paying. He mentions that he has over 100K total users.

That raises an issue with this sort of model that I've never really understood: if only ~1% of users are paying, it seems like very small changes in conversion rate could make or break the business. Suppose the conversion rate goes down by just 0.3%. That would be a 30% reduction in revenue while you still have to run the infrastructure to support all the free users who didn't convert. Would the business still be financially viable? What's the best way to manage that risk?

Very small absolute changes in that metric are very large relative changes. A conversion rate dropping from 1% to 0.7% is—as you point out—a 30% change in that metric. Or, put in different terms, a drop from 1,000 paying customers to 700 is material and more than a "very small change".

> only ~1% of users are paying, it seems like very small changes in conversion rate could make or break the business.

Agreed. 4% to 5% seems to be the minimum for this sort of model to sustain and not die.

> Chris Anderson in his book “Free” explains that Freemium works on the 5 Percent Rule - where 5% of premium customers support the remaining 95% of free users and also the cost of servicing the 95% is close to zero.

Source: https://www.chargebee.com/blog/freemium-business-model/

When Dropbox launched they were surviving on their 4% of users who had converted from free subscription. Now their conversion rate is around 25% which is very impressive for a fremium product / service.

That's not a real risk. That's an outcome. A risk is something that LED to that drop in conversion. It could be a competitor coming in with the same feature set, or something else. But a drop in conversion is not a risk, it's an outcome.

The risk part is the small margin that means you can't survive small bumps that lead to a drop in conversion.

as the person who responded above me noted, that's not a small margin at all. That's a huge relative change.

I'm not talking about the previous posters 30% drop being a small margin. I'm saying that 1% paying customers is a risk and it's likely to get lower than that, the more exposure it gets.

First, why is 1% paying customers a risk? That's actually a fairly average/normal conversion rate for a freemium product. Trello, I wager gets way less than that.

Second, why is it likely to get lower the more exposure it gets?

I'm not an expert. I've never ran a SaaS business with a freemium model (I have ran SaaS businesses with other pricing models).

But, everything I've ever read on the subject indicates 1% is either bare minimum or too low. [1,2]

>Second, why is it likely to get lower the more exposure it gets?

In my experience the more hype you get, the lower your conversion rate all other things being equal (in my case conversion rate after free trial, vs freemium) because people who had to search you out to find you are more likely to convert than people who are just checking out the hottest new thing they saw on HN.

That's obviously not always true, and it may not be true in their case, but if I were the CEO, I'd be very focused on increasing my conversion rate.

1. https://hbr.org/2014/05/making-freemium-work 2. https://techcrunch.com/2012/11/04/should-your-startup-go-fre...

We are paying $5000 per month to GCP and $1000 per month to Amazon, we've 300 users paying $300 a month each. Stack : Ruby, Go, PHP (for some integration), JavaScript (Stuck on Angular v1)

7% on hosting revenue sounds like a great accomplishment but what's relatively a good ratio to look at?

So what is normal in the SaaS world? I am at 5% today, and I try but not focus on costs. Around 5% it seems hard to care TOO much...

We're at ~10% and are just starting to care. We're looking at some infrastructure changes to bring us closer to 4%.

Well it makes sense to care more as you grow for sure.

Shaving 6% off a 10k a month company is $600 which is nice but not a game changer. Shaving 6% off a $1 mil a month company is $60k a month, which is a nice bonus for someone...

Adding a data point: we're at 1.5% for 6 figure monthly revenue.

That seems very good. Are you on a popular cloud (AWS/GCE/Azure), colocated, or running your own servers?


We're just over 2%, all in AWS costs.

What revenue range (5 fig, 6 fig?)

While, as others have pointed out, that with 100k non-paying users the $1,600 figure makes more sense. Your example still makes no sense to me, what are you _actually_ doing with all that server power?

Can't speak for xstartup, but if the dataset is 100+ GB then EBS, S3, etc start to cost real money. I host an application on AWS for a single customer with 10 active users which costs about $1500/month because there are several TBs of data and the nature of the application needs a lot of CPU and RAM. In other words, it depends on the use case and data size.

What? I have a 16TB raid that only costs 800$ a month. You should look into how you store that information.

Or stop making assumptions with very little information. That is really my point, but I didn't think it needed to be said explicitly.

I've seen burnt coffee that was roasted less than this.

Yep, that's right. We've not investigated cloud costs at all. If only, I get to have some calm days when my hair is not on fire. Maybe I just suck at development or need to hire really good dev ops team. For now, just single developer.

I've read a good book that taught me some good ways of managing time. 7 Habits of Highly Effective people

We just have really low latency requirements which matter to the customers we serve. And several TBs of clickstream data on which we perform real-time analytics. This is why we rewrote the main request server entirely in Go while we kept the frontend API in Ruby.

Yeah there's definitely some weird engineering decisions there. I think maybe we just don't have all the information. But I guess this is another example of why that stuff just doesn't matter when you're growing your business.

I don't think its a weird decision at all. They support almost 50 editors and are likely to add more.

If you were to port the entire application to each editor's idiosyncratic plugin API, it would be a huge scaling issue for them.

Instead, if you make your application standalone and multiplatform and then turn the plugins into thin controllers to connect the IDE and the application, you save yourself a whole lot of development time.

And note that's after cutting that bill in half by moving off AWS.

The $1,600/mo on servers is mainly because:

* high volume of incoming requests from plugins sending heartbeats (https://wakatime.com/blog/23-how-to-scale-ssl-with-haproxy-a...)

* keeping all the metrics cached in real-time, many background machines dedicated to only this

* data storage & reads - if you change your Timeout Preference need to re-cache your coding activity quickly (https://wakatime.com/blog/27-fill-the-gaps-in-your-coding-ac...)

We don't know the full stack powering this and there are 100K users/month.

There have been a lot of great points in reply to this and I would like to add that part of this cost may be to help perception. A service like this that feels/is slow can die pretty quickly if the perception of the service is that it doesn't work as well as it should.

100k is not a lot. at all.

The article mentions 100k users.

It's you. He has 100k users.

That jumped out at me too.

As a webdev, a significant portion of my time is spent in the browser's devtools - debugging or styling components. That would be a great addition to the product.

There are extensions for chrome and I'm pretty sure you can whitelist sites, is that sufficient enough?

Friendly suggestion: make the pricing easier to find.

Right now, the only link is in small print at the very bottom of the home page.

that is on purpose. first to hook you up = to sell you the product by letting it try it for free and to convince you that the product is worth to pay, then later ask you for money. nothing wrong with this, but personally i like to know the price upfront too. or at least a price range

I've always hated this design choice. I understand the purpose, but it's always seemed a bit underhanded to me.

A lot of products with a free tier do this. The pricing is often in the footer though, so it's pretty standard (albeit hidden).

Top comment is asking for an unhosted (local) version. I'd be interested in something like that as well since I work with sensitive HIPAA related stuff that I can't send off to someone else's server.

I love how so many of the top comments are people telling him to make changes and that this isn't what they want. 100k users later...

Oh Ycombinator, such a bastion of encouragement you can be. Check out the top comment dropbox received when it debut on 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."

It's nothing new, that's how we get cute quotes, such as:

* the one misattributed to Bill Gates, about 640k of RAM being enough for everyone

* the one by Thomas Watson about the worldwide computer market needing only 5 computers

* or more recently, the Commander Taco quote about the iPod: "No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame."

Hindsight is funny :)

Edit: Oh, and I have to tell BrandonM, if he's still around: in no way is your solution trivial for non-developers, even 10+ years after your comment :)

> * the one by Thomas Watson about the worldwide computer market needing only 5 computers

The interesting thing is, the context of that quote is building-sized computers being accessed by terminals over the phone network.

Fast forward to 2017 and we have terminals (smartphones) accessing building-sized computers (datacentres) over the (wireless) phone network.

We can be more charitable by treating all of a company's datacentres as one big, distributed computer. In which case, what's the world market? It's easy to pick 5 that cover a big chunk of it; e.g. Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon :)

Mark Twain's thoughts on the telephone when Alexander Graham Bell asked him for an investment to start AT&T. Twain thought he, his lawyer and couple of rich people would be the only ones to need such a device and he passed on being an early investor.

> Hindsight is funny :)

So is survivorship bias. There's countless other times where the naysayers were spot on and their comments are long forgotten because the predicted failure happened. It's more a commentary on the wisdom of being a detractor. Unless it's going to be a truly spectacular failure, you're better off not saying anything since you'll either be right or remembered but not both.

I think a big part of taking product criticism is understanding if the critic is commenting on the product for them, or for everyone. If the former, you can ask yourself if you're really building the product for that person, or if you can look elsewhere for more targeted feedback.

This should be pondered by the number of quotes of people believing their product is definitely the future. Well, if we ever find them, because nobody remember failed start up owners (until they become successful that is).

We should however easily find quotes from demo of failed products, such as the Zune being the greatest thing ever...

Don't forget the Slashdot response to the iPod - https://slashdot.org/story/01/10/23/1816257/apple-releases-i... :

    No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

So you love that people give feedback? Just because the application is now popular doesn't make that feedback invalid.

Be careful what you measure, because you will get more of it. I don't think # of seconds editing a file is a good proxy for measuring bug free and understandable code. But if you want more # of seconds with files open and being edit, this is your tool it seems.

Am I missing something about this product in that it measures anything related to code quality?

If a company relies heavily this tool to measure its devs productivity, that would be a red flag about what developer attributes the company rewards. I guess it could be combined with other measures, but the leaderboard and gamification will incentivize behavior not closely tied to getting things done, in my opinion.

And, yes, the success is inspiring and despite my negativity I'd be curious to hear how the tool has been used to improve a team's productivity. I spent some time on the product's web page, but it doesn't really address how time spent in a file relates to productivity.

My read is that this isn't a productivity tool at all. It's a way to capture who to bill for your work (Billable vs. overhead time).

"generate and send PDF invoices pre-filled with your coding activity." is in the future roadmap. And the pain of keeping track of billable hours is what drove him to write it to start with.

Keeping track by program used is a nice-to-have, because then someone on the team could notice "hey we spend a lot more time with tool X then makes sense, maybe there's a way to improve that?"

> "generate and send PDF invoices pre-filled with your coding activity." is in the future roadmap.

I love the guy's success but man do I hate this idea. I'm billing for more than time in vim. If you're my client and I'm answering an email from you, I'm billing you for that. If we're on the phone, the clock is running. If we're on a Hangout, you're paying.

Could you imagine if your employer only paid you for time spent in an editor?

This is solved with good UI, where you see the time you were coding as a starting point then add any non coding time before sending the invoice.

Feel kind of silly for missing that use case. Could be especially helpful on consulting based teams, for sure.

I'm rather consoled by these responses that the expectations for the tool are lower than what I expected. It does one simple thing very well it seems. Some need that data, some don't, but no one here is purporting it to equate with code quality or productivity.

I don't think it's about quality or productivity, I think it's about predictability. Most teams have an estimation process where features are sized so that they can arrive at a product plan. Most teams also don't have a good way to loop back and see whether their sizing was correct or not. I've seen a number of teams that have a field in Jira for the number of hours/days spent on an issue. It's mostly filled out by developers guestimating based on their unreliable memory how long they spent working on it and they frequently forgot to fill it in at all.

This product seems targeted at that. It's automatic feedback on sizing/estimates and it's how teams get more accurate in their future assessments and how businesses get more predictable product plans that they can rely on to make business decisions. Productivity of a development team is almost a secondary concern to predictability. Delivering on-time, whenever that time is predicted to be, might be more important than delivering quickly since the business doesn't have to wait until product is done to start selling, promoting, partnering, etc.

> Am I missing something about this product in that it measures anything related to code quality?

I think it is just a tool to be used as you desire. It can certainly be misused, like any tool or method, and promote bad results. If you have someone wanting to measure you by time alone you have bigger problems with that decision maker than just this specific tool being put in place.

I was in a fitbit group challenge where one guy found himself in the hospital after going to extreme measures to "win". Yet, I don't feel fitbit is a bad entity. Used correctly it promotes good habits.

Can you think of any way to use this tool correctly?

I use it to go back and see how long features took, and as a starting point when billing for contracting work.

Also the private leaderboards tell me when I had an in-the-zone week or a week with too many meetings.

I use it to test out other productivity habits - sleep, exercise, meditation, nootropics, etc.

Yes, it's possible to have some false flags, like working on an easy project will produce a lot more hours. But if you cater for such things it's a great tool.

Like LOC, it should not be your sole metric, just things that you track along with everything else.

unless you reward people for spending less time in your files?

Or time spent vs feature complexity?

Or maybe it just shows you what is actually done. "Oh, we spend all out time in the file on data import - let's revisit the architecture"

This seems like it would really help solve my time tracking needs at work, but having this sending that data to their servers makes it a non starter. Time tracking is my #1 pain point at work right now and would signup today and pay if an offline version was made available.

That's what people have said about passwords with password managers, private keys with keybase, their servers and legal documents with AWS and docusign, their banking with online banking, etc etc. The list goes on and on.

This kind of thing doesn't stop people. I think it just means you end up with fewer good products to use.

It literally just did stop me from using this product... Just because some people choose to trust some companies with some of their data, doesn't mean that it isn't a valid issue.

> This kind of thing doesn't stop people. I think it just means you end up with fewer good products to use.

To be more clear. This won't stop the vast majority of people. They want to use good products. If it's good, they will use it.

Have a look at Qbserve.

Try it with file names hidden:


There's also ManicTime, which has a Windows-based server component (optional) and tracking clients for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.

"Growing by word of mouth has worked great." <-- That's the dream right there.

Installed the plugin after I saw the Indie Hacker interview. Really like the product so far! It integrates very smoothly and I like the fact that you don't have to login to use the product. Recommended!

Congratulations. I'm not sure if the actual author is on this thread or this was posted by someone else but maybe someone can answer...

One problem I have bootstrapping my SaaS is that I have no money to market. I can tweet and do direct marketing but that is slow and time consuming. Any recommendations from the crew on HN with how I can market to a large audience without needing a huge budget to spend on Adwords and things like that?

Affiliate marketing might work, depending on your SaaS. e.g. this is what drove convertkit to 600k MRR

> Once we hit about $20,000 MRR (through direct sales and word-of-mouth) we added an affiliate program. That worked exceptionally well because bloggers — our target market — are used to using affiliate programs to generate revenue. Also, if a small business owner loves your product they might tell 2-3 friends. But if a blogger loves your product, they'll tell 20,000 readers! So we had a very natural distribution path built in.

> We decided to pay a 30% recurring commission each month, rather than a large upfront commission, mainly because we didn't have any cash and couldn't cashflow anything up front. That turned out to be a great decision since many bloggers want a predictable, recurring income source.

> Later on we started doing webinars with our affiliate partners as a way to help them drive more sales. This not only grew our email list significantly (up to 50,000 subscribers in a year), but also drove a ton of new revenue. Today we pay out just over 10% of our revenue each month to our affiliates."

Thank you for the suggestion.

> "Once we hit about $20,000 MRR"

Interesting. I wonder why the $20k MRR... I have $50 MRR (dollars... not thousands). But I don't see anything about affiliate marketing that would prohibit starting early.

This is going to be dependent on a few factors (market, product, etc.) but I'd rather be an affiliate for a product with a proven track record of conversions unless I really love a product and just want to promote it. If I know a product already has a high conversion rate and $20k+ MRR then I feel better about the prospects of sending 20k people there and getting a hefty percentage than I would about a new product bringing in $50. Maybe my thinking is wrong though.

I doubt it was specific to the exact MRR number. More likely their growth stalled using the methods that were taking up all of their time (direct sales, word of mouth).

For some $N MRR (magic point where you look for scalable channels), N should be large enough that you have a product that your market wants and will pay for, and the market is large enough that you were able to manually scale it to N.

The heuristic is something like "if you can get big enough doing low-efficiency/manual marketing, you've likely gotten close enough to the important things* and can move on to testing scalability".

* things like product/market fit, market size, clear communication, well defined value prop, etc.

If you are really small, your struggle with an affiliate program will be convincing affiliates you are worth promoting. They want to see a strong EPC number and ideally a recognized brand.

Not sure it's a case of waiting, but that they just didn't add the feature until then. If you're heads down on sales and development, guessing they just didn't have the scope/implementation to do it then.

I would postulate that it's just that they didn't think of the idea before. Affiliate marketing is nice because you are promising a share of revenue on conversion, so it just hits your margins a bit.

It's not so nice because it can screw consumers over a bit (e.g. try and find a non-biased review of an affiliate marketed product such as convertkit)

I don't know at what MRR you set the threshold, but you would want to have an understanding of actual costs, growth cost estimates, customer retention, etc. before you start promising commissions to affiliates.

Patrick McKenzie (@patio11) had a great post last week about getting your first 10 users, much of that post dealt with the importance of direct marketing / sales calls: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15534034

Audience size usually correlates pretty well with time + money invested; if there are any shortcuts there's not much incentive to share them here.

If you're looking for a free source of relatively fresh ideas, try https://www.julian.com/learn/growth

Do you do content marketing (blogging) to an email list?

The OP is the actual guy behind wakatime.

For my market it helps that programmers are reachable online. Are there any online communities where you could post your MVP to get initial users?

You could also start writing about your market, to gain a following who could become your initial users but that usually takes a long time to ramp up.

It isn't easy. Welcome to the grind! Figure out how to market without spending money. SEO, a few emails, word of mouth, social media sharing, etc. If you're product can't grow this way to the customers you serve, maybe find a new product or find new customers.

Huh. I remember a couple years ago I was at a hackathon when some guy just came up to me and some friends, handed us stickers with this logo while mumbling a few words, and walked away. I don't remember that person actually pitching anything and I'm not sure if it was Alan or someone he hired to give out stickers.

That was me o_O

It is funny to see this post. I started to use this product three days ago. A friend told me about it (word of mouth). It is great. I use RescueTime since 2013, but the WakaTime product has complementary features.

What a great success story. All the best. Motivational for me personally as well.

> I don't use paid advertising, because past Facebook ads resulted in mostly fake signups that never installed a plugin.

Is this still generally true in 2017?

Don't know for the market in general, but the efficiency of Facebook ads seems to be slowing a lot for us.

I thought Wakatime was originally a 2 person startup?

Infrastructure cost is quite high, almost on the same level as Pied-Piper wonder how much time before something better or even free appears.

Also if any dev is reading, a good addition will be able to run this on my own premises, this is some information valuable for project leads but its hard to justify monthly cost for something you usually take for granted.

> its hard to justify monthly cost for something you usually take for granted

That's the hardest part about products for devs, we understand how things work and therefore obviously we shouldn't pay for something we could build ourselves.

I love wakatime...

I'm currently writing an integration (beta) that will take your wakatime history (heartbeats), and convert it into billable hours (15 minute chunks)... it is available for free at: http://itimetrack.com

Congrats to Alan!!!

Problem with productivity is that at some moment it becomes a zero sum game. e.g: let us say you code 18 hours a day. you are eating into your sleep, your physical well being and eventually you will end up producing less... if not in the short term, in the long term.

One thing missing from the post was when the founder quit their job to work on this full-time (or if they've even done that yet?) Also they didn't mention if they were still a solo founder and developer.

Sorry, forgot to mention that. Im the sole founder and I didn't quit my job for it... So it's been a side project alongside my day job.

Whoa, that's surprising! Could I ask, what is your day job at the moment? There wasn't any current company listed in your LinkedIn profile.

Just asking because it must be an awesome place to work if you're still there!

I built WakaTime when working as a dev at WhiteHat Security, and through the years I've worked at Prezi, contracting independently.

I've heard of Wakatime but never signed up for it until now, after reading the post. Vim plugin installed, and trying things out, but so far it's great. I really like the dashboard and the metrics.

Does anybody has any experience with the mentioned nephoscale.com?

It's great if you want a lot of VMs or a lot of network io. It's basically a cheaper ec2.

Been using your tool almost since day one. It's lightweight and simple enough to provide me with exactly the metrics I need. Keep up the good job!

Does this tool upload my code to a server to analyze?

No it doesn't, and the tool integrations are open source.


Nope, here's the list of data collected: https://wakatime.com/faq#data-collected

Why this needs a lot of plugins, while RescueTime do that with a single app?

Congrats on the success Alan!

What would be your conversion (for the 100k users) at $1 a month ?

Probably the same conversation rate because I increased the price from $5 to $9 and there was no change in conversion rate. So just less revenue.

To waka or not to waka That is the question

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