You gave us RSS feeds and then we would index them and send you the output without having to deal with the insanity of RSS feeds.
This was a decade ago though.
I've been running it since and now it's more of a massive search engine of content - nearly a petabyte at this point.
We have an Elasticsearch API which our customers query. We also have a streaming API if you just want to listen to the crawl data directly.
It's been a wild ride but here's my big takeaway - if your company is profitable it actually might be because you're sitting on something MASSIVE and don't realize it.
Datastreamer was the first company in the content indexing space and we were WAY ahead of everyone else.
I was more focused on enjoying life, traveling, backpacking, etc.
In retrospect when you're sitting on a rocket it might make sense to buy more gas and light up that bad boy.
I'm actually in the middle of a (mild) pivot of Datastreamer right now. We think it might have significant value for the coming 'code war' we're in right now with Russia.
With companies continually looking at social media as a way to manipulate democratic societies these governments need tools (and data) to figure out where they're being attacked and how their citizens are being manipulated.
> In retrospect when you're sitting on a rocket it might make sense to buy more gas and light up that bad boy.
I can identify with this. I started a Facebook game in early 2008 that picked up a million users in its first year.
Back then all the stars were aligned and if I would have had a bigger vision for it there’s no reason it couldn’t have turned into a massive company.
I remember reading the TechCrunch article about Zynga raising 100 million in VC and laughing because “why would a Facebook game company need that much money? I’m really profitable being completely bootstrapped!”
Don’t get me wrong, the lifestyle it has allowed me has been amazing. And it’s still going strong 10 years later (we have users who have been paying $10/mo for their premium subscription for that whole 10 years). But the opening to grow it into something huge was only available for a short period of time. Now users are too expensive, organic traffic is minimal, and most users on the platform are locked into their existing games and resistant to trying new ones.
Zynga rode that into becoming a multi-billion dollar publicly traded company. “Think bigger” is a take-away I’ll definitely bring with me to my next venture someday.
So, were I presented with your prior circumstances and had I capitalized on them, would my convictions have caused the company to fail, or steered it a less profitable path, or possible have been compromised through a slow erosion, greed, or a combination thereof?
For another take, if the Zuckerberg of 2004/2005 was presented with what Facebook would be in 2019, extreme success, billions of dollars, social problems, and increasing questions about what role it does and has played in Democracy and an informed populace, how do we think he might have thought of all that?
If Zuckerberg knew in advance how successful Facebook was going to be and how the product would look today, that could reduce focus and derail everything. The product evolved through multiple stages with different goals in mind. The path would definitely be different.
And for good reasons; on the one side he's the CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world, and any slip-up he makes will cost the company billions in lost stockmarket value. On the other side he has a family who are at constant risk of abduction and / or murder by people that want ransom or who he or his company have pissed off.
Take a minute to skim through the history of a bunch of "successful" companies on that rocket trajectory. Does it sound like it made the founders happier? Or do they seem like they were actually doing better at some sweet spot earlier on in the story?
That's what it always seems like to me. So when I built my business, I set out with the goal of finding that sweet spot of good profits, minimum workload, no staffing or investor headaches, and most importantly, maximum Jason freedom.
Reading your comment, it sounds like you did the same. Don't worry for a second about what might have happened. What did happen sounds pretty cool.
Founders can look back and say "I could have had more" or "I could have been like X multi-million dollar company", but then the company is no longer a side project. Then the company is your life, which seems contrary to the initial motivation if the point of a side project is to not work 24/7 in a CEO lifestyle filled with meetings and managing.
Meltwater.com is in the same space but is much older — it was founded in 2001.
Their engineering team recently blogged  about their petabyte-size Elasticsearch cluster which still uses a much older version of ES (1.7.x).
0: Optimal Shard Placement in a Petabyte Scale Elasticsearch Cluster
We powered their blog data back in the day. They acquired a smaller company in the space and incorporated their stack and used us for about 5 years.
With respect to the acquisition, is the smaller company Wrapidity?
A play on words with "cold war" to highlight the similarities with what went on in that period.
>> By May of 2015 I had sent over 30,000 sales and marketing emails
.96 × 30,000 = You just annoyed ~28,800 people. It's only because this immense amount of time lost is borne by strangers that it's a viable business.
Let's not glorify spammers.
"Email spam, also known as junk email, is unsolicited messages sent in bulk by email"
If you've never spoken to this person before, you have no business relationship with them, and they have not opted in to receive mail from you, you are an email spammer. You can mince words if you have to to sleep easy at night, but this behavior is wrong.
The author of the article did something shady and you are defending him.
Then only options I see is to a) hope google finds you interesting enough, b) paid advertising, or c) word of mouth.
What are the other methods ? I am asking because I can't think of anything else.
1) If the mail you receive actually interests you, you wouldn't classify it as "spamming" ("Did I really sign up for that? Anyway it sounds good"). If not you may avoid them in the future, but you would not have bought their product anyhow.
2) Scale: If a (real) spammer sends out 20 million emails and 0,0001% buy viagra. Thats fine for him. The other Emails cost him close to zero, so every sale it profit.
Of the two above, the latter is probably the spammiest, and might technically count as "spam" since they're unsolicited, but they're generally (in my opinion) targeted sufficiently well enough to be acceptable/tolerable. In excess, though, they can quickly cross that line into being unquestionably spam.
You're spamming 25 people to get one sign up? That sounds terrible.
SPAM is defined by the recipient, not the sender. Thus, if you're trying to justify something as "not spam" by saying it meets or doesn't meet some criteria, then it's probably SPAM.
If an email is an email about a thing or service which is related to my interests, but I don't recognize the company, I suppose that falls under spam, but that's better than random emails for prescriptions or scams.
This guy built a side hustle nefariously.
Maybe someone can be so good, majority of leads end up buying the motor IC. But 4% of response is quite high in my experience.
It's clear that the author meant he had experience with sending mail, not that he sent 30k mails about THIS product.
I imagine he made a quick set of tutorials for his outsourced contractors and had his virtual assistant he found on oDesk do the hiring and setting up of those contractors.
This quote from the article is wild: "Customers have to train their team and the billing is variable so your cost per lead ranges from $.50 to $5" You can beat that number paying people $20/hr to do this stuff, let alone exploiting people out in the Philippines on I'm sure the not livable wages he's paying them(Aka the fallacy of low rent/cost of living in developing economies).
Sigh... you know we're at the end of the cycle when it's just a bunch of outsourcers with marketing backgrounds.
Let's say a knowledge worker in a developing country could survive on $1 USD a day, adjusting food and rent to local cost.
If a local white collar job paid them $5 a day, and a remote "exploiting" job paid them $15 a day, but an American could earn $50 a day for the same task, is this really a moral hazard?
If that sounds like a fever dream, you aren't alone, but it's my best guess at understanding what's happening. Obviously, my complete lack of employing people in central Africa is why they are all middle class Americans now, so I'm doing my part.
If you start paying people to compile lists for you at a higher rate than they are paid performing important local services, then they will stop performing important local services and start compiling lists for you.
What needs to happen is slower growth.
So foreign businesses outsource to the Philippines, paying them low wages. Then other businesses see this as a good way to save and do the same, and then more businesses and so on. Soon the people in the Philippines have options, and their market starts to become competitive, and they start demanding more pay (which is good). During this whole process they are spending that foreign money into their local economy, allowing it to grow and keep up.
China is a good example.
Note that I use the term lower starting costs of living. There's a reason a lot of people migrate if they can. It's because these countries (like Sri Lanka which is where I live) have costs that suddenly spike the moment you aspire to a better quality of life and the salaries don't keep up.
But I digress. The evidence of the local economies not necessarily improving is there in many outsourced service economy based countries. India is a prime example. And when outsourced jobs started moving away, there were articles describing India's IT industry as a bloodbath (or something similar).
So no. Paying people better actually improves the economy of the country. Especially if it's non local currency. Most countries benefit from inflows of strong foreign currency. People start having less incentive to leave the country so brain drain is less. People can reach higher quality life goals, so purchasing and usage of local services increase (think food and beverage, local tourism, clothing, and even other simple services like laundry).
The idea that US companies paying higher rates is going to wreck an economy of a lower performing country is very unlikely. The reality is that if it somehow became a norm, (unlikely since if rates are high globally, you'd keep the jobs local as much as possible), people would just form new companies to service that market.
Which is technically what is already happening in countries like India and Sri Lanka.
So no. Please pay people better. It'll most likely help that country's economy.
Its literally how the business makes money. Paying them less than their output.
This business cannot exist and at the same time not have more money to pay the people doing the work.
Of any businesses, its necessary to also maintain the capital that gives them the productivity to generate all that value. Even under a marxist theory you cant pay someone what they produce exactly, cuz then they wouldnt be your employee.
Pay people a reasonable wage to live their lives and provide for their families. Just because someone lives in another country does not give a person the moral authority to pay them an amount that does not allow them to properly feed and care for themselves and their family.
This is a false comparison because there's a third option, which is doing nothing. Doing nothing is worse than causing any size of improvement, and almost all of us are doing nothing. If we are to accept that paying Filipino workers slightly more than the local economy is offering is wrong, then we must also accept that not paying them anything is wrong, in which case we should be going after the hordes of people who aren't doing anything instead of the people who are only doing a tiny little bit.
Nothing could really be more damaging to the development of poorer countries than condemning them to subsistence incomes because we've decided it's only ethical for businesses to employ their workers if they're productive enough after all other hurdles are considered to earn Western wages.
It's pretty common to see articles about people moving from SF to the Mid-West, taking a pay cut but being happy because they improve their standard of living.
We also see articles about people moving from the mid-Est to Thailand, taking a pay cut but being happy because they improve their standard of living.
Going by the BigMac index for example, it is perfectly reasonable to think that developers in the Philippines, Vietnam or India would be happy on roughly 50% of a US salary (presumably a non-SF salary too). Obviously this is very much a rough guide, but it's something to start from.
Mike - it looks like you got shadow banned, but it’s not clear why?
Maybe dang can help.
Great story, but may be one reason.
The story might need to have a missing date on it (4 years old?), but the two comments that the author of the post made don’t seem to violate the terms or spirit of HN rules.
If someone can show me how the rules were broken in his comments, I will gladly unvouch.
Thanks for linking to it!
That made me laugh! As someone much older I can honestly say that there are few things that rank as desirable as finding a recurring source of income that doesn’t take much work for me too.
Its wholly contemporary to invent bullshit jobs and imagine complexity to keep people at desks en masse, leaving them with such a feeling of their lives being pointless.
IMO it is kind of a problem with software in general. It is getting me down honestly; I could use some advice.
The modern software engineer is a glorified factory worker, except instead of making cars and computer parts we're making apps that help rich people get a little richer or get people to buy sh*t they don't need.
I envy people with actually meaningful jobs - doctors who save lives, journalists exposing the world's atrocities, politicians, anyone working on the cutting edge of anything, etc.
That is, why is there no way to innovate a new structure, given the degree of intrinsic support that would seem to exist?
And, software engineers in particular would seem well-suited to this task. If software is eating the world and we write software, then...
What is X?
(It’s tough, I’m 44 and I only figured it out last year, but I didn’t do it this way)
Now, how can you do X?
Is it a side hustle? Is it a spare time thing? Does it need millions of dollars? Does it need you to quit your job and change direction completely?
Can you get to X in five years?
If so, what is the single most important thing you need to have completed in 3 years?
To do that one thing, what’s the most important thing you need to have completed by January next year?
And to do that, what’s the single most important thing you need to have completed by March this year.
Now you have a goal - something to achieve by March. Write out 12 tasks to get you there and do one each week between now and then.
If you can’t come up with 12 tasks you can be more ambitious in your March goal. If you can’t fit it all in you need to scale back your March goal.
And then when you hit March, look at your one year target and figure out the next 12 weeks.
Hence the five/three/one year ambitions followed by a twelve week plan.
My plan is to save as much as my income as possible and retire early, possibly getting a part time job in a coffee shop to supplement my savings and maintain some interaction with people. Take a look into /r/FIRE if that sounds appealing to you.
Longer term, seek a similarly comfortable position that you find more meaningful.
I’d seriously consider agricultural jobs (farming, ag engineering, agricultural science) in another lifetime if I hadn’t invested so much time in my tech career and weren’t so allergies to grass/pollen outdoor allergens.
I don't believe that's remotely true. That bullshit jobs exist is certainly true, but it's due to inefficiencies in communication and incentives at larger companies. Bullshit jobs eat into profit, companies don't do it on purpose, it's just harder and harder to weed those people out the bigger you get; the more people you have the easier it is for non-productive people to hide and not have it known.
In other words, I'd like someone else to pay for taking care of me, my shelter, my food.
> so that I can find a recurring source of meaningful work.
So that I can follow my desires rather than being forced to pay my own way.
As a gen-x'er I just have say, you are not entitled to other people's labor, certainly not so you can avoid labor you don't like. The world just doesn't work that way, taking care of your own needs is necessary work, whether you you find it meaningful or not.
Virtually everyone would prefer not "needing income", that's just another way of saying "be rich". Meaningful work is a luxury.
If you envision other means of distributing the planet's vast resources, then you'll realize that there are alternatives beyond a) working unfulfilling jobs that produce wealth for others in order to subsist; and b) someone else "paying" for our subsistence.
Whether you pay for yourself, or others pay for you, is a binary choice. There are no other options that don't fall into those two categories.
> is predicated on the belief that the current structure is the result of some static law of nature
Nope, just on the nature of boolean logic.
You're still speaking in terms of our current system being the product of some immutable natural law of the universe.
What I am talking about is more fundamental. The very idea of someone "paying for you" is built on the premise that some group of people is entitled to own and control such vast quantities of the planet's resources that they enjoy access to many orders of magnitude beyond what they need to subsist; while, that same ownership leaves precious little resources for some other groups, such that they cannot even subsist. Now, we have this manufactured "dilemma" and only here enters the construct of the first group "paying" for the second.
The entire premise is asinine when you really think about it. And, it's even more so when you add the fact that the "accepted solution" to avoiding the dilemma is for vast numbers of the second group to dedicate a majority of their waking hours in the prime of their lives engaging in frequently unfulfilling activities merely to survive. It's yet further asinine when you also add that the product of that labor further concentrates resources in the hands of the first group.
If you're still not seeing it, then consider the simple phrase that is applied literally: "earn a living". I mean, really think about what that means. Start with the fact that to earn something implies that one is not otherwise entitled to it; thus owes something in order to receive it. To whom do they owe this and why?
That's because it is. Perhaps the prevailing mechanism of transfer (money) artificial, but what it represents is a fundamental law of nature.
Money is simply a representation of time and/or energy and/or physical resources: all fundamentals of nature.
> ...it's even more so [asinine] when you add the fact that the "accepted solution" to avoiding the dilemma is for vast numbers of the second group to dedicate a majority of their waking hours in the prime of their lives engaging in frequently unfulfilling activities merely to survive.
As opposed to... what? Hauling water back from a water source every day? Hunting? Tending to goats? Farming?
These are the fundamental obligations of all intelligent life on this planet in order to sustain their own life. However, we opt to trade time/energy/resources in exchange for someone else to engage in these activities at scale, and on our behalf. In order to do that, we need to be provided with a representation of these fundamental traceable values by someone else; in modern times such as the form of money.
> Start with the fact that to earn something implies that one is not otherwise entitled to it; thus owes something in order to receive it.
You're not entitled to it. Nobody is. Absent the structure we've formed in the identity of "capitalism", you are responsible for finding water, finding food, and finding shelter. You are not entitled to it; you are responsible to expend time and energy for yourself.
Nobody is entitled to "live" with no exchange of time/energy/resources. We only do so under certain circumstances because humans are, fortunately, somewhat altruistic. To care for the elderly, the sick, etc. is something we are often inclined to do, though there is nothing fundamental in nature that necessitates an obligation to do so.
If you'd prefer to not be responsible to some middle manager in an office while you send out TPS reports all day, you are (in most places in the world) entitled to change your hierarchy of responsibility. You may go out into the wilderness and hunt and fish and build a shelter (as long as it's not on land that someone else rightfully traded time/energy/resources to obtain). But you are solely responsible for your well-being. Do not expect that you are entitled to someone else's time/energy/resources to sustain you.
I understand that looking at someone who has more "stuff" or a more free life to do what they want would suck for someone that does not have the same number of time/energy/resources. But surely there is no fundamental of nature that entitles you to that sum of that person's ownership, right?
Unless it's just a "oh that's not fair!" thing (my kids say that a lot!), at which point a simple math problem would show that redistributing that wealth fairly (read: to everyone, equally in the entire world) would leave the poorest slightly better for a short time, and leave the more privileged significantly worse off, most likely forever.
That doesn't seem really fair to me, especially because it undermines (well, ultimately destroys) the elaborate structure that we have formed to create pretty remarkable stability in this world in just a few hundred years.
So, we'll all start from scratch, again... That doesn't seem fair to anybody....
This puts us all between a rock and a hard place - most of us will be out of a job, and at the same time the factories are in the hands of the folks who built them. So lots of goods available, and no market (few people have any money).
Clearly this is a different world than the 1800's free market system anticipated. So we'll have to change.
That's not going away, automation doesn't mean people aren't producing wealth, it just means said wealth is produced by fewer people but those robots belong to someone and its output is rightfully theirs. Just because a robot produced something doesn't mean everyone is entitled to it.
> This puts us all between a rock and a hard place - most of us will be out of a job, and at the same time the factories are in the hands of the folks who built them. So lots of goods available, and no market (few people have any money).
This is true.
> Clearly this is a different world than the 1800's free market system anticipated. So we'll have to change.
This is true as well, but that change isn't going to be moving away from capitalism and seizing the labor of the productive to give to the non productive for nothing. The productive will not stand for that and will simply stop producing for others which means no robots and no automation and everyone fending for themselves again. Automation drives down the cost of goods, less work will be require from people to obtain those goods, but those who produce must necessarily have incentive to do so or they won't, and that incentive is wealth and always will be.
Incentive to live is different from incentive to work. Look at open source; look at researchers in universities. Wealth is not the motivator there, yet there's tremendous productivity coming from that.
The meaning of wealth is going to have to change.
Incentive to live is the primary but not only incentive to work. Wealth is what you need when you're trying to survive, only after that's achieved do other incentives matters.
> The meaning of wealth is going to have to change.
No, wealth is wealth, it's just stuff, that's not going to change. You need stuff to survive, food, shelter, etc, that's not ever going to change.
What's going to change is how wealth is distributed, that's where the conversation is.
What fundamental law is that? The one that governs kill-or-be-killed among animals on the African plains? I'm pretty sure we've evolved beyond that in other ways. And, most find this evolution generally desirable.
>Hauling water back from a water source every day? Hunting? Tending to goats? Farming?
Do you seriously believe these are our only options: laissez-faire (worse, captured) capitalism or goat-tending?
>Nobody is entitled to "live" with no exchange of time/energy/resources. We only do so under certain circumstances because humans are, fortunately, somewhat altruistic.
? It's fortunate that we're altruistic. It's a good thing, really, to help people--as long as those rotten, dirty, free-loading, good-for-nothings don't expect it.
>You're not entitled to it. Nobody is.
Not entitled to life? We owe someone else and the only form of payment for most is to produce wealth for others? There's no other way to organize an over-abundance of basic, life-sustaining resources for the common good?
>Nobody is entitled to "live" with no exchange of time/energy/resources.
This is just begging the question. You believe that statement only because of the current order.
Likewise all of your comments about "ownership" and "someone else's resources". You start with the current order, then defend it, essentially with "because it is". Beyond that, you present all choices as binary. It's either we do exactly what we're doing now or tend goats.
>at which point a simple math problem would show that redistributing that wealth fairly (read: to everyone, equally in the entire world)
Who suggested this? What "wealth" are you even talking about? The idea of wealth you're referencing is also rooted in the current system. People can't break their minds out of this box. I've only mentioned basic resources for subsistence.
>we'll all start from scratch, again... That doesn't seem fair to anybody....
No one's advocating that. I don't understand these false choices. You lay out all of this rationale for the status quo, then pin its justification on wholly ridiculous alternatives.
You have a right to life, you are not entitled to be taken care of, these are entirely different things. He's not saying you owe anyone anything. Basic life sustaining resources require labor to be made useful, shelter doesn't just appear out of nowhere, someone has to labor to make it: you do not have a right to someone else's labor, you must do your own labor to take care of yourself, it is not owed to you. Being required to labor for yourself does not imply you owe anyone anything.
> The idea of wealth you're referencing is also rooted in the current system.
It really isn't, wealth just means stuff. All systems will have it, it has nothing remotely to do with just the current system. Stuff doesn't just exist, someone has to create it, that someone by natural right owns what they create; no one is entitled to another mans efforts.
Because it is. Your entire response is so strikingly naive one has to wonder how old you are.
> The very idea of someone "paying for you" is built on the premise that some group of people is entitled to own and control such vast quantities of the planet's resources that they enjoy access to many orders of magnitude beyond what they need to subsist
No it isn't.
> The entire premise is asinine when you really think about it.
You haven't thought about, clearly, your entire argument fails to understand basic reality.
> And, it's even more so when you add the fact that the "accepted solution" to avoiding the dilemma
The "delima" is called survival, and it's not remotely something you're entitled to.
> If you're still not seeing it, then consider the simple phrase that is applied literally: "earn a living". I mean, really think about what that means.
I know exactly what it means, you apparently don't, you seem to think you're "entitled" to food, water, and shelter on someone else's back. You are not.
> Start with the fact that to earn something implies that one is not otherwise entitled to it
Because you're NOT. To be entitled to something means someone owes it to you, please do tell me who "owes" you food, want, and shelter?
> thus owes something in order to receive it. To whom do they owe this and why?
Not owes... since you're not entitled, then you must offer something in order to receive it, that's called trade. If you're not willing to trade for the things you need, then you will die. No one owes you the things you need.
Your entitlement is that of a child who still doesn't understand how basic reality works.
You can't seem to get past your programming. Carry on.
No, it's a continuum where those are the two polar extremes.
> There are no other options that don't fall into those two categories
That's true in the sense that all options aside from those two extremes are a mix of them.
The horror of society deciding who gets "genetically engineered" (ugh) to like shitty jobs is actively making my skin crawl.
All models are wrong, some are useful, boolean logic built the modern world. It's a damn useful model most of the time.
> There are other options that are currently not feasible
Which means they are not actually options.
> For example robots could provide everybody's needs
Someone still owns those robots so you're still living off someone else's property/labor.
There are no options where you can avoid paying your own way AND avoid living off someone else's labor. Nothing is free, it came from somewhere and someone who made it happen.
> Or we could genetically engineer people so that everybody finds their particular job meaningful and fulfilling.
People would object to that for a multitude of other reasons, however, as long as your providing for yourself, I don't really care in terms of this argument.
If you honestly believe this you need to broaden your outlook. There are interesting people all over the world experimenting with different systems of living and working without a traditional means of income. It's not about wanting to "be rich".
Thomas deserves all the credit for building and selling his business, but the value of this point here is critical, in my mind. IMO key takeaways are (1) knowing lots of people helps a lot, and (2) asking for help/daring to talk about your project helps a lot.
If anything, I’d say that most people in the tech industry in Silicon Valley are brainwashed into thinking that entrepreneurship is the One True Path to salvation.
Much like whoever wrote this article. Who else would recommend that someone follow the path that “led to depression, social isolation, and the hardest time of my life” just because they got lucky in the end?
One of my favorite Ewan McGregor quotes from watching Long Way Round recently was when he would say ”This is the part that really sucks right now and is just so hard it makes you wanna cry, but it’s the part we remember most fondly later”
He said that on multiple occasions. It maps well to stuff I recently learned in Thinking Fast and Slow about our experiencing self versus our remembering self.
It turns out we cherish sucky experiences tht end well more dearly than we do experiences that are great (or bad) throughout.
One that crops up in my memory with some frequency is lying face-down in three inches of snow. My feet are going numb. My SAW is freezing my fingers. My helmet keeps sliding down over my eyes. We've been out here on the perimeter for almost two hours, just waiting for the word to move.
They told us to embrace the suck. It was fun. I've never felt so alive.
From past experience, part of the "brainwashing" is because the major VC firms have way less interest in pursuing ventures that net them less potential money. The VCs are out to make the best return possible for the members of their fund, and 5% of $1B is way more savory than 5% of $100M. Trying to get past a Seed or Series A with a market cap <$1B sucks when trying to get funding from VC firms.
He's probably worth $50m as one of the top 250 sellers. Probably ~20 SKUs. Tons of competitors trying to bring him down but his product has so many reviews that it is just a money printer.
He was smart to be at the right place at the right time. He undercut the bigdogs back in the day (~10 years ago maybe?) and gained momentum.
He refused to admit to me that he was lucky. He refused to admit that he had the right idea at the right time. Was his execution great? You bet. Good marketing/product advertising/images/pivoting/getting through hardships/blah blah blah.
But like... he couldn't do again if he had to start from scratch in 2019. Things are different. And he refused to acknowledge that. He wanted to believe everything he did was perfect and he got his wealth purely from skill.
I think that's a bad trait :(
>But like... he couldn't do again if he had to start from scratch in 2019. Things are different.
This is a losing attitude, a quick search of almost any category on Amazon will show more recent products that are China rebrands with thousands of reviews.
Here is one: https://www.amazon.com/JavaPresse-Grinder-Conical-Brushed-St...
You can find exact copies on Aliexpress for $10.
You can't prove it's impossible to do what he did today. Others are actively doing it.
>I think that's a bad trait :(
Being proud of your accomplishments is not a bad trait. Thousands of people had the same opportunities as him, yet he came out on top (or top 250, in your example).
A need to balance out the notion that "anyone can do it".
There is a whole genre of get-rich-quick scammers claiming that exact thing:
Just because something is possible does not mean it is common. Why didn't all the hard-working software entrepreneurs from the 1980s end up like Bill Gates? Discounting luck and good timing leads to the Horatio Alger fallacy.
If you study hard and get good grades, you might find yourself in a position where someone needs to hire for a role that you're already prepared for. Sure, there's luck in bumping into that person, but you worked hard to be able to take advantage of opportunities, so I'd say luck had very little to do with your success. If it wasn't this lucky break, there would be another one.
If you brush off school and happen to get hired by a boss that could care less if you do work of any quality, that's mostly luck and probably not repeatable.
Sure, Gates and Bezos experienced luck during their careers, but I'd be willing to bet that the dominant trait in their growth was hard work and intelligent decision making. Some people like to think of them as happening to be in the right place at the right time, but I think they worked hard to prepare themselves with the skills necessary to see those massive opportunities and were obsessed with moving as fast as possible towards their goals.
It's not as if the qualifications are simply to be smart and hard-working, and then a random drawing is held to determine the winner.
Instead, there are countless micro-decisions and actions that go into execution. The likelihood that any two people are executing an idea in exactly the same way is vanishingly small, even if they are both smart and hard-working.
I don't think OP meant as black and white as you see it. There is some luck factor involved in many of the successful projects. What people should be wary of is thinking of it as a formula for success - add x and then y and voila you win. It is not that simple.
Many accomplishments are mostly luck? Japan Rugby beat South Africa in a 7s match a while ago. Are the players now entitled to call themselves better than those on the South African team? I mean, sure they could, but it would be obviously false, and nothing of value is gained. This reduces all the way down to “accomplishing” choosing lottery numbers.
This got me wondering how we might prove which accomplishments are luck vs skill.
Michael Mauboussin's 2012 book dives pretty far into separating luck from skill, worth checking out, or at least the more interesting online reviews / interviews. It covers sports, investing, etc.
You can control the random seed in some games (duplicate bridge), but more often, you just want an enormous number of samples.
Even with large sample sizes there are still debates (poker [2, 3], investing [4, 5]).
So if we come back and want to assess one individual life? No idea how confidently we can sort out how much was luck and how much was skill for anyone at n = 1.
It's like watching one poker hand. We can point to the cards. We can point out that they didn't make incredibly rookie mistakes. Beyond that? Who knows.
But then... I guess you could say... The guy who has played a million hands of poker is more skilled than the guy who played one.
By analogy, how good at this can any of us really be?
We'd all definitely be better at life if we had a few more tries.
Late comment, just had been mulling it, wanted to park it somewhere.
 True score theory: http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/truescor.php
 Investors might have incredible careers only to face allegations of survivorship bias. I had some anecdotal
source here but lost it over the last day of sleeping on this. Sorry. Here's a wikipedia page? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias
Then these people say they were much better than the others, while objectively they were executing at about the same level.
If everyone does everything right, there will still be winners and losers.
The reality is that probability * (work + cleverness) = success.
The size of the probability makes a big difference. If it's too low you're likely wasting your time.
You can improve it with good business/sales techniques, but if it's tilted the wrong way you're always going to be fighting against it.
Objectively, you'd need to know the hit rate for specific business ideas/approaches/fields.
Realistically, some fields are more likely to be successful than others. Analytics, sales aids, and off-shore arbitrage are far more likely to make money than - say - software support for the disabled, or starting a band.
Yeah, maybe he couldn't do that on Amazon in 2019, but he might just as well not try, in favor of something more doable today. That is, part of what the OP calls luck is essentially the recognition of the opportunity, which in itself should be added to the list of skills.
This misses the point by a country mile. The skill is knowing and predicting the when and where in addition to executing on the what.
I'm sure sociologists have a name for this, but to me it represents people who have a big hole to fill regarding self-worth. By believing they accomplished something because they are extra-uniquely special is a way to try to fill that hole.
If you take a formerly successful person and have them start over, their stature (titles, money, contacts) can often give them starting benefits that can indeed make their following ventures successful - or at least more likely successful than if they had started with little more than their skills.
There are old, wealthy people who have made a life out of repeating "successes". Some find their way into positions of great global power, and they unfortunately believe they know more than anyone else (and will state such without any shyness).
Fundamental attribution bias? "Everything bad that happens to me is because of external factors beyond my control. Everything bad that happens to you is your fault." And the opposite: "I'm skilled, you're just lucky."
Nothing teaches this better than a game of Dota2.
The hard truth is that everyone comes by opportunities in life (call it luck) but very few people have the knowledge and experience to achieve something meaningful out of those opportunities.
And source the most popular kids items from Alibaba and use language to market it to whomever your locale is.
He did, his skill was to get on it at a right time in a right place. His skill was to keep working on it and believing in himself. Saying it was due to luck is just pure disrespect.
Are you lucky or unlucky? Are your circumstances lucky or unlucky? Your answer to that question doesn’t impact your circumstances — what happens to you — but it does significantly impact your mindset and behavior — what you make happen. A person who believes in bad luck is disempowering themselves. A person who believes in good luck does the opposite: priming themselves to see patterns of opportunity where the unlucky brain sees patterns of obstacles.
Do these beliefs change anything about the real opportunities or obstacles that come our way? Not one bit. But beliefs dramatically affect what we see and what we do.
Having said that, in my case I am special. I actually am objectively the luckiest person I’ve ever met.
But I have a good example and anecdote here. I used to work at a startup that went from 60 million views a month to a few billion (Facebook videos). Some people would say, “you were just at the right place at the right time, when Facebook decided to promote video.” That’s true, for sure. However, the right way to describe it is, “I am a really lucky guy. If it hadn’t been Facebook promoting video, it would have been some other lucky break.”
Another anecdote: divorce. Whenever I encounter a thought that starts to resemble self-pity, I remember how lucky I am, and that for the next three days, instead of sulking to myself about not seeing my kids, I actually have something most parents never get: three days of distraction-free time to work on a product that I believe will change the world.
Perhaps I’m deluding myself? There’s no perhaps. I am most definitely deluding myself. But some delusions can help. Being lucky is definitely one of them, with perhaps one additional caveat: that being lucky doesn’t mean I win lottery tickets. It means if I never give up, and I work as insanely hard as possible, and have the humility to change as circumstances dictate, that my good luck ensures I can’t lose. Oddly enough, it is my belief in luck that encourages me to never stop looking for it to be realized. Pretty silly, but it works for me!
Wouldn't it be better to believe the truth that beliefs don't change the circumstances that come our way instead of believing in good or bad luck? The downside of thinking you're lucky is a tendency to overlook problems. I've noticed that when people (including myself) are being overly optimistic, potential challenges and pitfalls are minimized.
One could argue that it is that exact overlooking of the problems that enables many to embark in entrepreneurial pursuits to begin with.
The key to good luck is an open mind - [http://nautil.us/blog/-the-key-to-good-luck-is-an-open-mind]
So luck can be a factor, but may be that also could be a trait?
In practice that particular thread likely required all kinds of environmental details to occur - details the entrepreneur might not have noticed at the time, might have forgotten about later, or might be discounting as unimportant.
However, at the end of the day, you are taking a risk, it's a gamble. What stops most people is the fear of failure. This fear isn't necessarily unwarranted. As the author points out, he has a previous failed startup. Most people don't have the drive to work hundreds of hours after work and possibly invest their own hard earned cash in a project they suspect deep down might not actually pan out. I know I find it difficult.
Still, I don't dislike these stories. It's good if it inspires people to take (calculated) risks, and it is possible to learn from failures. Though I would also say that yeah, there's probably some self-selection going on. The people out there with 2 or 3 failed attempts at monetizing side-projects probably don't feel super eager to write a blog post and tell us all how we can improve our lives by following in their footsteps.
But there are many, many people who do have the circumstances to make it happen, and who would benefit from it, but who make wrong choices and waste their time elsewhere. Those are the people who the article is intended for.
Speaking more broadly - The fact that this business strategy isn't immediately available to every person on Earth doesn't seem that fruitful of a point to make. Why does this come up every time someone posts about anyone doing anything entrepreneurial and succeeding? What is the message for disadvantaged people in our society? "You have no chance of succeeding because of your circumstances; give up now"? Somehow, this external-locus-of-control  viewpoint seems very attractive to people to the point that they actually want to spread it memetically. And yet it's been pretty well demonstrated that this style of thinking is actually harmful to people to who engage in it.
Even for many of the people who can't immediately carry out a strategy like that in the blog post - many of them could, with some time and preparatory action, get themselves into a position where it's possible. Consider someone who lacks skills, connections, and experience. They cannot reasonably expected to start a company right there and then. They can be expected to get a job, spend a few years getting experience and connections, move up a rung or two, then perhaps quit and go entrepreneurial. If that's out of the cards, they can likely study to move towards the point where getting a job in the target field is feasible.
Yes, there are people who are so downtrodden that they can't even take steps towards getting into a position where they can do better. And some people won't get all the rewards they deserve, in some moral sense. But the great majority of people can do something to improve their lot, even if it isn't exactly like what goes on in this blog post.
Even consider the author of the post - he didn't just start this business from college; his success here depended on the years of work he did before and the connections and experience he built from that.
There were multiple other factors behind why we ultimately didn't succeed and ended up all going our separate ways (and I know I wasn't blameless there), but in hindsight I think this was the central factor. We barely had the resources - sapient or monetary - to sell our own product; trying to sell other people's products upon which ours depended was doomed to fail.
I still think we had an excellent and valuable product, and I stand by the code we wrote and the platform we built; we were just too far ahead of our time :) One of these days, when things like Khan Academy are a bit more mainstream in classrooms, I'd love to (with my old boss' permission, of course) try restarting that particular project and giving it another go.
Just to know, this isn't a particularly uncommon problem. I spent quite a few years working in the B2B lead generation space, and there are countless companies built around the value proposition of being a complementary product to another software platforms.
There are quite a few techniques you can use to suss out what software and platforms companies are using internally, in order to better target your prospecting. Or you can skip that step and go straight to purchasing a list of companies that are known users of that platform. There are companies that curate that type of information - similar to BuiltWith or Wappalyzer, but include internal-only technology and not just what's visible by crawling their website. Or you can take it even further, and commission a custom program from a B2B lead generation firm which includes a requirement that any leads have self-reported that they use a specific platform and that they have decision making authority over it. There are also a ton of options in between; feel free to reach out if you'd like to chat more (email in profile).
 These are a patently different class of lead generation program than what the article references - both in quality and cost. You're looking at $20-$50 per lead vs. $1 per lead. But with a guarantee that they match your targeting and pre-qualification criteria, even if that pre-qualification criteria was as random as "she has confirmed they use Khan Academy internally, and that she's in charge of it, and that <insert your complementary product's niche> is a pain point for them".
If you want other people to buy, rent, invest, etc., you have to be able to find the right people and communicate with them in a way that will lead them to become your customers/partners. Unfortunately, I doubt many of us with CompSci degrees and years/decades of experience have those sales and marketing skills.
So I guess there's a business just waiting (for someone who knows sales + tech)! Teach nerds how to market. I might be a customer.
The history of enterprise tech is strewn with stories about that first big deal happening before the tech was even ready. Bill Gates and Paul Allen's meeting with IBM is probably the best known one. Hell, even Steve Jobs, with all of Apple's power, publicly pitched a ghetto-rigged iPhone because a fully working version wasn't ready at the time.
The 'best' sales people I've met always, always exaggerate the benefits of something. In tech, the "Comp Sci" people are the ones building the product, so they are especially mindful about not overstating what their product can do. Psychologically, they are forever in a problem-solving mode, meaning that when they talk about the product, they are primed to talk about current bugs, or how far away it is from being 'feature complete'. Not the people you want extolling your virtues in a sales meeting.
Salespeople aren't as closely embedded within the product development process, which gives them the mental bandwidth to straight up lie about what the product can do. I've seen it numerous times; sales exec closes a big deal, then goes to the dev team and says "I need X, Y and Z to be added to this sprint because customer H wants to launch in a month."
Fortunately, some of the side projects I've seen that have become successful don't appear to be overselling themselves based on their websites. So there must be room for success just by learning a process of how to get noticed by the right potential customers, and then plainly speaking what the product is.
I refuse to believe that people with CompSci degrees can't quickly pick up the more basic (and even many intermediate and advanced) marketing skills, particularly in the digital realm.
Yes, knowing how to apply them, and learning about audiences messaging, etc. are going to be challenging, but you'd be shocked how far you can get for many products and services just by semi-intelligent testing and implementation of best practices with things like paid search, SEO, email marketing automation, analyzing web analytics, etc.
In fact, I'm often shocked at how many marketers are not technical enough to do those things at even a basic level.
There's a LOT of good information out there, and sometimes it really is just a matter of honing your bullshit detector to weed out the guru spam. Heck, spending a week reading through the Google Ads and Facebook help docs would set you ahead of quite a few of your peers, AND you'd have a leg up on implementing the more advanced approaches that require technical integration.
That said, finding an experienced marketing mentor or consultant can help you short circuit the learning curve and guide you away from wasted time and money.
Spending $5k with a consultant to help you create your initial plan might be wiser than say, randomly spending $5k on FB ads without having known you should setup conversion tracking, how to properly structure your account and audiences, how to build great creative, etc. and then not even having any clue what the spend did for you because you don't understand what the data is actually saying.
I'll take your advice about reading the Google Ads and FB ads docs! Thanks.
I know this, because I've built two side income businesses, sat back and collected money only to find competitors had taken me over. They weren't big by any means but the $3,000 a month I made off one and the $1,000 a month off another was quite nice. I could've quit my job and traveled, but instead I paid down my mortgage and banked/invested the rest. This left me with a lot of money (for me). I eventually sold both businesses when I saw the writing on the wall with various competitors and industry changes.
I did end up traveling for a while though. I did that with a remote job. Sure I had to work during the day, but that left plenty of time to explore whatever city I was in at night and do bigger adventures on the weekend.
TLDR; 5-10 hour work week doesn't last.
I find it hilarious that he calls Abercrombie & Fitch the “high end clothing brand for middle schoolers”. A&F used to target “elite outdoorsmen” (not a joke — think a high end LL Bean), and they made some really good stuff. Some of that quality lasted until the 90s and early 00s after changing hands and shifting towards targeting youth casual wear, but their clothing line is almost all overpriced junk now. Such a sad loss.
Something happened in the late aughts. The fit is not as consistently good (my body changed very little over that time), and the quality of the material and stitching is much lower.
Problem is I work full time, as a Linux systems engineer (30 years of Unix experience), with a side passion for C programming, web technologies, and have built a hand full of web apps that are getting a lot of use at work (btw I'm not under any contract prohibiting side projects, and have cleared it with my management).
Next problem: The project itself is relatively simple, has client-side pieces that will be open source, and over all I prototyped it in about a weekend's worth of work, but need probably a month or so to get it more polished and robust. The upshot is that it can be easily replicated by anyone in a similar space. There are similar products that try to solve the same problem, but in a rather backwards and less secure method, but I'm really not sure why other vendors haven't thought of this project first.
Third problem: I'm relatively new at modern advanced web apps, so things like taking payments, handling customers, integrating to a customer's on-premise or cloud based authentication (O365, Active Directory, etc) is something I'm not too familiar with (for my projects I just used ldap bind for authentication against a local AD server).
So for my next step, should I put a prototype / demo site online, and let people create demo accounts that last for a couple weeks? Then if there is sufficient interest, set up something like a Stripe account? Start off with local user account authentication, then later on add the ability for customers to set up users authenticating against their own AD domain or O365 account?
Or would I be better off finding a business partner that has been through all this already?
Here is the thing I learned in 2018, in which I also generated >$700K of side income working 10-12 hours a week (mornings, evenings, and weekends): If you know how to learn new tech skills at a reasonable rate, you can learn anything you need to do in a few hours. Obviously this doesn't apply to sophisticated things, but how many of the things you need to do in tech are really that hard? For example, my client needed to update a static website with data stored in Airtable - I spent 2 hours finding some python code that was open source on GitHub that scrapes Airtable every few minutes and puts the data in a JSON file that his static website can now read. 2 hours of effort and I have a client that I billed almost $1000 and he's completely happy with the outcome. His static website is now dynamically updated from Airtable. Not only that, I learned a new skill and I can repeat this for other clients without the effort of learning. Multiply this over several hundred days over several years and you have an amazingly strong side hustle.
Just do it, you can figure out the details as you go...
I think many problems are like this. We engineers to think that we have to build something "rocket science", but actually many businesses don't require "rocket science" software to take off. It's more about the execution.
>I'm relatively new at modern advanced web apps, so things like taking payments, handling customers, integrating to a customer's on-premise or cloud based authentication
These days, there are almost already SaaS for everything. A little googling here and there will find you what you need :) Also sites like indiehackers.com is really awesome. People share what indie projects they had built, there's also a comment section where people can ask.
>Or would I be better off finding a business partner that has been through all this already?
I think you should try to do this in parallel with trying to learn it yourself. Finding a good, competent, and suitable business partner isn't exactly the easiest thing to do.
I would even go further than that, that's exactly the reason why Wordpress and basic CMS are very popular, most companies have some very basic and similar IT needs.
Happy to partner up, or just mentor. Just went through a third-party AD integration, for example.
(Throwaway as I don't want too many people knowing I'm looking at side projects right now...)
Feel free to email email@example.com if you're interested.
I had a system I built for a clients lead generation business. I asked if I could re-purpose the software and in exchange I'd provide the enhancements free as well as discounted development. He agreed. It was a basic system where a lead would come in for a geographical area, that area would have a vendor assigned, and an email would be dispatched. If you do the SEO and marketing right, the leads become pretty passive.
I improved the system in two ways:
1. My client generated monthly invoices. This was a problem since he had to chase people down for money. I setup a credit system where you purchased credits (leads) in advanced. I gave a 20% discount for purchasing 100 credits at a time. I also gave new customers their first 10 credits free. No obligation, no contract, not joking.
2. Email sucks. I integrated twilio and did direct call dispatching with numbers I controlled. I spammed the internet with these numbers. If a customer ever dropped off, I'd just find someone else. Rarely did I need to do that since the leads were so good.
This required a lot of work up front, but in areas where my marketing was dialed in already it just always generated income. This is the kind of stuff fluff articles like this never tell you, the actual specifics.
You could now take this basic model and apply to any industry that requires leads. Bonus if the industry is underserved, not huge, and filled with techno-peasants.
2. Pay a VA to use the keyword list to locate businesses and/or people in search engines, FB, and LinkedIn, and record their contact info.
3. Sell this info.
The steps are easy. The execution is decidedly less so.
- Email (spam) blast > Landing page data entry form
- Game or content paywall > submit personal info to bypass.
Is it possible for anyone to share how they found people to hire/outsource building sales lists to?
That the article uses the old name of oDesk from 4 years ago points to the need to add “(2015)” to the thread title.
Maybe I am too pessimistic and jaded from studying statistics...
Am I correct in thinking this "virtual" assistant is not a bot, but just a human hired remotely?
> As I mentioned, my first lead/opportunity came from an introduction. That was made possible when I took a couple friends (who are salespeople) out for drinks to tell them what I was working on. Afterwards they both said they would try to think of people to refer me to.
> My next two customers came from a less obvious channel. A friend told me about a service called Growth Geeks and suggested I create a profile for my service. I was hesitant at first because it seemed like a distraction, but I signed up nonetheless.
So basically he sent an email to the founder of that website like this https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5706d181b09f95e331b21... saying that the author (a bit confusing to figure out as both are called Mike/Michael) can grow your sales with no marketing.
Then this happened:
> He responded that day and asked if I had time to speak on the phone.
> On the call I learned that he had a customer who needed 2,000 leads a month and they needed 2,000 leads a month for themselves. I used the same sales process as my first call and closed two deals in 30 minutes worth $3,000 / mo (25% of the $4,000 in revenue went to Growth Geeks). Suddenly I went from $1,000/mo to $4,000 / mo.
My question is now, how he manages to make 4k leads?!
> Later that week I decided it was time to double down on this side project. I spent a couple nights writing email templates and planning outbound email campaigns. By May of 2015 I had sent over 30,000 sales and marketing emails so I knew how to get high response rates (see play #1).
So now he says he sent over 30000 emails (I assume he has a mailing list of 30000 and sent an email, but that doesn't match what he says, he seems to have sent multiple emails). So let's say he has 30000 email list and a click-through rate of 13.3% (which I think is very very high, maximum I got was around 3-4% and was only once) then he would make 4000 leads.
First thing I think is strange, is how he got 30000 emails? That's kind of the most important part of the guide, without this he couldn't make any lead.
Then he says this:
> I sent emails to about 500 people over the course of a month which resulted in ~20 free trial sign-ups. Two of those free trials converted within the month and by the end of June, I had $5,000 in booked MRR.
Note that this is another customer acquisition source. So he has an additional 500 emails.
I mean how can a person reproduce this guide without these mailing lists?
So even if he says how he did it, you can't really do the same unless you have:
- Friends that can sign up for your product or refer other people
- Big email lists
- Create leads from ???
I feel like all these missing points leads directly to his startup https://getsimpledata.com/ - So I guess is more about marketing.
Anyway, I think the post was interesting, but not too much I can do about it because I probably know about:
- Focus on a problem that already exists
- Work on your pain point
- Outsource to a cheap country
- Positioning in the market
Some types for the author: Philipinnes