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How I launched a profitable minimally viable product in 3 hours (amirkhella.com)
197 points by amirkhella on Sept 21, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments

I was really looking forward to learning how the product was built, how the payment processor was set up so quickly, the tools used, and how he was able to build the product so fast.

Most of the post was actually about dealing with the uncertainties of launching a product before you're comfortable with it and being pleasantly surprised by the results.

There's very little information on the process of how Amir launched it in three hours except using paypal and buying a $35 theme from themeforest - I'd like to hear more about this in a feature post.

Sure. If enough folks want to dig into this much detail, I'd be happy to put together an in-depth write-up.

You'd be surprised how often nuts&bolts issues stop people from starting. I was mildly mystified by "Set up website, collect money, deliver software" prior to starting, too. Turns out it is trivial, but that was not obvious prior to doing it. (Relatedly: taxes, bookkeeping, accounting, and government regulation were all walks in the park. Marketing is hard. Who knew?)

Yeah, the nuts and bolts of selling the product is the easy part. There are loads of services out there to sell digital goods including the one that the submitter used and my own service (shameless plug: link in my profile anyone is interested).

PayPal is still the cheapest and easiest way to collect the money, even considering fraud. (PayPal almost always sides with the buyer and with digital goods you have little recourse.)

It's the marketing that makes all the difference. We have customers that have made $50-60k in less than a week due to awesome marketing. And we have customers that pull in well over $100k/yr due to good marketing and good affiliates. We also have many that will never sell anywhere near that much in the product's lifetime, also due to marketing.

This has always been my impression. But when I've actually looked for resources on how to get those nuts & bolts set up, for someone who knows nothing about them, it's been non-obvious.

You wouldn't by any chance know of some resources related to getting over the initial hump of getting paid for software/services, would you?

Actually, I've been trying to write a little bit about this here: http://www.resultsjunkies.com/blog/category/back-office-expo...


Thanks! That is indeed useful...

I am more surprised by how much people are trying to reinvent the wheel every day. I think there are enough tools and APIs out there to build small useful products in less than a week.

Agreed, 100% There are tons of APIs now available for email delivery, billing, etc.

Great job with this!


Ditto. Please, if you're exposing this much about the process and not trying to keep it a secret or anything, give us the play by play.

:) No secrets here. I've been keeping a journal of the whole experiment, and can compile it into a couple of posts this weekend.

definitely would like to read, getting traction is the hardest part of any startup

Excited to read that!

Great way to generate interest. :) Good job, looking forward to reading your posts.

Please do a step-by-step write up, it would mean a lot to me to help me get started.

Yes, please

My guess is that the nuts and bolts problems aren't actually that big. Most people Just Don't Start™.

That's exactly right. I really don't think I did anything new or special here. My biggest challenge was to stop thinking about it and do it.

The problem, for me at least, was that I didn't know what was the simplest way. I spent a long time learning some design skills, learning html/css, etc. Then I realized (not long ago) that I could effectively buy a 20$ site template, and it would take a hundredth of the time and look 100 times better. Then, even more recently, I learned that you can set up a WordPress site, with a great design, and pretty much any goodie you need (contact forms, email lists, etc.).

Now, none of these things are particularly hard. But for me, coming from a non-Web background, each of these steps took some learning. And you never know when you should be learning more.

So in that sense, every article I read that says exactly how to set up an MVP, including all the nuts & bolts of the various plugins / etc, is incredibly valuable.

Right on it. I spent literally weeks building barely average-looking purely W3C-compliant webpages in pure HTML+CSS... And it's a huge pain right now to change the site because there is no way to iterate rapidly.

That's because I've learnt HTML at the time when even HTML 3.2 was hot :)

Sounds more like "How I built, refined, and publicized a free trial of my product for months, then released the paid version in 3 hours."

Which is also a pretty effective business model!

Looks pretty similar to the Four Hour Work Week muse model touted by Tim Ferris and co. Attractive product page (Wordpress theme), informational product (software templates), outsourced commerce pipeline (e-junkie). Only thing is that he didn't need to use paid ads to drive traffic, since he led with a blog post that led to subscriptions, which meant he already had a customer base. Cool stuff.

You seem to be referring to the web site as the "minimally viable product" not including the actual product that you're selling on the site.

You don't mention how long it took to actually build the templates that you're selling.

Three hours is still impressive and inspiring, but I imagine there was a lot more work leading up to that point.

Correct- The product itself has been created over time, as a byproduct of my day job. But it wasn't a product until I put together that MVP website.

but did it only last for 30 minutes? Error 500 - Internal server error

An internal server error has occured! Please try again later.

Sorry about that - 1and1 is totally unreliable as a host, and is collapsing under the HN effect.

Reload it a couple of times and it should work.

If a server cannot handle the "HN effect", you should probably host nothing there. Unless of course it's not only the server's fault ;)

I'm thinking Apache with KeepAlive turned on: it kills more blogs than cancer!

That's probably another lesson I should add to the post: Never use 1and1 as your host.

Ouch.. it was looking good and I was considering it for my own startup thingie :)

Any good and cheap Microsoft hosting you can recommend? (as in the 5 to 10 dollar a month range)?

WP SuperCache?

I just got it installed and activated, and deactivated most plug-ins on the blog and website. Hopefully that will solve it.

The blog post says nothing about how you launched your product in 3 hours.

Slightly misleading, perhaps?

How much time was spent working on the project afterwards though? I built an app "in a week" (http://oneweekapp.com/) which went on to generate a decent passive income for me, but since then I've spent far far more than a week on it.

I'd be really curious to know more details, specifically on the payment end (doesn't that take more than 3 hours by itself to set up?).

OneWeekApp looks pretty cool! I spent a couple of hours a day afterward to do testing, upgrade the templates, and improve copy.

The app looks cool. Looks like you deserve more than 3 stars (as of 2010-09-21)

Thanks, it's mainly cause it crashes a lot. The update I just submitted should fix a lot of it.

Can someone post a text summary or the post in its entirety? I found the site url on google, but couldn't cache it from before the site went down.

Working on creating a static HTML file for the post


You have an error on your link building website:

We never buy links or use links farms. We find relevant, diverse links and build them nauturally.

nauturally -> naturally

Can you comment on the impact the affiliate program has had on your sales?

Help me put together a useful in-depth follow-up post by leaving a reply to this comment with a couple of questions that you'd like me to answer.

I'd love to write a blog post about this, but you don't have any contact info on your profile or site. You can contact via me email (it's on my profile) if you're interested.

I would like to know what a blog post like this does for sales.

have you tried pricing variations ? You might be leaving money on the table if there's such an incredible demand.

That's a very good point. I had some pricing variations in the beginning and the one I have now is at the sweet spot.

One of the most interesting moves was to add a company license (a friend suggested it and it took less than 10 minutes to add it. It sold several copies to date.

I am planning an update that should position the product at the right value/price point.

That's a nice looking site for a $35 template. Any chance you're willing to share where it's from?

The theme is called inFocus. I purchased it from ThemeForest.net

what plugin are you using to handle ejunkie requests inside of wordpress? does ejunkie manage sales through paypal and google checkout? do they provide good tracking?

I am curious how viable ejunkie + wordpress are as a basic and simple ecommerce platform

No plugin. Just their HTML script for each shopping cart item that I embed in product pages.

They manage sales through PP and GC, and they even hold delivery on eCheck payments until they are cleared.

I think eJunkie + Wordpress make a great duo for eCommerce platforms.

Are you still growing the product and company, and yes, as shazow says, sounds like you put a lot more than 3 hours into it... Don't take this the wrong way but are you baiting us because your traffic to Keynotopia is falling?

Any quick SEO tips?

Thanks man, I know what this is like

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