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Ask HN: What is an example of a super simple SaaS that is profitable?
548 points by justaguyhere on Jan 28, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 225 comments
Looking to make 500$ a month - any examples of super simple SaaS that make at least 500 USD per month? I don't know where to start, so looking for inspiration/examples etc

I run a number of tiny services in this category, such as an autoresponder for Google Hangouts: https://gchat.simon.codes/. I originally built it for myself - I forward many gmail addresses to one and was missing chat messages - but these days most of my customers are small business owners or employees of larger companies.

I recently summarized all my projects and my numbers here, if it's of interest: https://www.simonmweber.com/2019/01/07/side-project-income-2...

I maintain a very similar service to your autoplaylist at http://getsongbird.io

However I was not really able to monetize in any form (needs permission from Spotify, and Stripe shut down the account before it got to even do anything). Did you encounter similar issues and if so how did you circumvent them?

I'm at a loss now and on the verge of shutting it down, but I have a few hundred users that periodically email me to ask for fixes / new features, and it pains my heart to just give it up like that, but it's just not making any sense economically for me now.

At first glance, if you can scale your user base you COULD have artists/labels pay you to add songs to playlists (of course that fit) and charge flat fees for the promo playlistings.

Charge $1 / user and setup targeting at genre level for MVP and similar artist level at your later stage version.

So a label/artist says "we want people who like electronic", you have 150 people in the list. You charge the label/artist $150 to add their song to the playlists which you generate.

I'm not too familiar with Spotify integrations, but I'm surprised to hear you need their permission. Is that an api terms thing?

In my case it's been a better-to-ask-for-forgiveness-than-permission situation. I've had almost no official contact with Google and do my best to abide by their terms.

Feel free to reach out via email if you'd like to chat! There's a chance I'd be interested in buying it if you're planning to shut down.

Thanks for the offer! I'll definitely reach out if I'm planning on shutting down

I believe Spotify has some API terms that say that explicit permission must be granted for monetization. I initially also went for the 'ask-for-forgiveness' route but Stripe didn't allow my account to get started at all as it was considered high risk.

For now I'm going to fix some issues and try to do more reaching out / marketing, and then I'll try reaching out to Stripe again - hopefully this doesn't look that shady / high risk anymore.

Twitter link on your website is broken.

Whoops; thanks for the heads up! It's fixed now.

Now that Google is killing Hangouts, do you have something new planned?

I don't have anything planned yet, but I also haven't looked into their replacement service.

I realize that might not be what you want to hear, but my advice would be to target a different (larger) MRR. $500/month is not a sustainable or even reasonable business. It's fine to start something "on the side", but I believe you should immediately set your goals to something that in the long term will be sustainable, unless it's really supposed to be only a hobby/toy.

If you've never ran a business before, one important bit of advice is that you should assume revenue targets of 2-3x of what you'd like to actually earn in post-tax personal income. Most people underestimate the costs of running a business and forget that they will need to pay for a computer, software, accounting services, and lots of other things.

Depending on where you live, I'd say target $3k-$10k in MRR.

$500/month will go a long way in many countries out there or for many life styles. Since we don't know who this person is or how/where they live, I wouldn't automatically assume they need to target a higher MRR.

500$ (lets say after tax) is HUGE in many non-western countries. Depending on the city, it is possible to live very comfortably at this amount for a single person. And decently, for a family. And that includes medical insurance. We aren't talking NY or SF here, but there are lots of nice places in the world that aren't Silicon Valley :P

lol yep. my friends in Medellin make about 500$ a month and live great. They get to eat out occasionally, party, go on trips. Nothing lavish, but sustainable.

It's even possible in Europe. Lviv, Ukraine is almost Central Europe in both, its geographic location and the quality of life, with the rent prices 91.06% lower than in San Francisco[1].

[1] https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?cou...

I agree with this to this extent: if you have no dependents, no plans to save money for retirement, you own your house or have a free living arrangement, you don't need to travel between cities, you don't maintain a car, then this is absolutely possible in many countries.

I just wanted to point this out for any potential digital nomads out there - yes it's possible, but probably not in most people's cases, although I'd like to hear stories of people who've made it work. Personally I could never make it work with less than $1k/month - but much of that was due to housing costs.

Keep in mind though the costs of even bare bones laptop & internet connection business models start becoming significant as a percentage when you operate at revenues this low. Replacing one broken laptop is going to eat more than half your monthly revenue, for example - and laptops/desktops are generally even more expensive when you're not in the US or China.

Additionally, $500 suggests a certain amount of work required and level of skill.

Ok, reading the responses to my comment, it seems I should have been more explicit.

1. I do understand that cost of living varies. Still, I will insist that $500/month is too low. Even a single $2000 computer amortized over 24 months is going to eat nearly 1/5 of your revenue. Remember, your housing probably isn't free, you do have to plan for retirement, you do have to go to the dentist from time to time. Many people make unrealistic assumptions here.

2. If you start with $500 as your goal, you will end up reaching $500. You will have something that you have to support and maintain. If you designed it as a $500 dollar business, there is no good way forward, and you are stuck.

Getting a 2000 computer every 2 years is vast overkill. A 1000$ computer every 4+ years is fine for the vast majority of users and under that if you don’t need a laptop.

As to 500$ a month, many people live fairly comfortably on that in very low cost of living areas. Also, setting that money aside can add up quickly.

Can confirm, my $1,200 i7, 16 GB Ram, SSD is four years old now. I can easily get through the year with it as well.

Saving like that on computers is a difference of about $60/month. I think most developers reading Hacker News can add more value than that with the faster hardware.

Not if your only income is a ~500$ a month side business.

The effort of upgrading hardware take quite a bit of development time. Even if hardware was free I don’t think a 2 year upgrade cycle is worth it based on how slowly hardware is improving.

As to buying 1k vs 2k computers without a gaming graphics card or the need for massive storage you hit real diminishing returns at around 1k. 500gb SSD (90$) case (30$) PSU (40$) CPU (200$) MB (100$) RAM (200$) -= 660 for the guts, buy two 22 inch 1080P monitors for 100$ and you got 140$ for an OS keyboard and mouse. Sure you could spend 4x that but it’s not going to make that much difference.

I was assuming laptop for some reason. For desktops this makes sense.

My previous phone lasted me almost six years. It was still going strong, I only replaced it because I needed a bigger screen. My current laptop is 8 years old, it is still going strong even after very heavy use and abuse.

So no, we don't need to replace electronics every two years, we just want to :P

If you designed it as a $500 dollar business, there is no good way forward, and you are stuck.

Disagree. If my living expenses are taken care of (500$ post tax is enough for me), then I can always look at improving this, or making bigger products

Everyone else seems to disagree, but I will raise my hand and say I agree with you. It's good to keep ambition in check and expectations realistic, so you can get something off the ground, but part of your mind should always be thinking about how you might scale it up when the opportunity presents. That isn't something you want to try and retrofit.

There is a serious lack of theory of mind going on here.

Downvoted for what should be a very obvious observation.

Start with one $500 / month business. Next month do another $500 / month business.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

After 10 months, it's $5000 / month.

After 36 months it's over $15,000 / month.

While I agree with the spirit of this comment, I would suggest that it does not really work like that. There are some aspects of running a business (eg support, maintenance, etc) that do not scale linearly like you propose. Running 3 $500/month businesses is much harder than running a single $1,500/month business.

In all likelihood, your $500/month business will open a door to a $1,000/month business which will lead you to a $2,000/month business. You have to think of each part as a step on a path. You will never get to the last step if you never take the first small steps.

To be clear, I am totally in agreement that the important thing is to start wherever you can.

Now you are running n businesses — tuning just one is tough enough.

“Hey Bob, we have a customer support ticket for business 65”

“What does 65 do again?”

Name your businesses better.

Very few of these micro-saas businesses will even hit $500/month. You wind up with a lot of crap you have to maintain. It's death by 1000 cuts.

That depends on how you design it. OP said “super simple” so assuming a very basic feature set and maintainable code.

That seems oversimplified

Step 1: Start Business

Step 2: ???

Step 3: GoTo 1

Step 2 is make $500 / month, duh.

I guess not the simplist once you get under the hood, but I've started two nice profitable SaaS products and just launched a third:

https://www.simplecrew.com - street team reporting/tracking tool (2012 - present) https://www.crewfire.com - social media brand ambassador platform (2014 - present) https://www.chainfuel.com - telegram analytics/anti-spam/management dashboard (beta release last week)

Just a heads up, clicking the logo in top left corner brings you to a similarly designed page thats about crypto. And is the copy on the book supposed to mention crypto community management?

Doh! Thanks so much. We just switched over to the new design and the header logo must have switched URLs to the classic home page.

And yeah - the book's been effectively repurposed. We'll get around to changing that up and updating the copy.

Appreciate you pointing these out!

CrewFire might have a massive audience among political parties. Seriously. You should approach that market.

Thanks! A lot of political or social action groups have embraced us including Students For Liberty, PragerU, and Rescue Agency.

Hopefully more to come, but thanks for the tip!

Great design and copy on ChainFuel.com - congrats.

Thanks! We're proud of that one. Also shout out to Webflow for being an awesome tool.

SimpleCrew is ingenious. Congrats! Same for ChainFuel. I really like your creativity and how you connected offline and online.

Thanks for the kind words! They've all been great learning experiences (and all are constant works in progress!)

What's your stack for these?

SimpleCrew = NodeJS/React CrewFire & Chainfuel = Go

Only Go? Like, WebAssembly or something?

Just Go and plain old html Go templates/css/js.

ya but, does it scale?

can you talk a bit about crewfire? Fabcebook ToS specifically prohibitd rewarding any actions that are not organic and so does Instagram that belongs to Facebook.

For me, https://ipdata.co/ is a perfect example of a super simple SaaS application.

Jonathan, the founder, also wrote a great piece on how he built it https://hackernoon.com/how-to-build-a-saas-with-0-fed2341078...

If you're interested in learning more about micro saas checkout Tyler Tringas Micro SaaS series https://tylertringas.com/micro-saas-ebook/

I really like the smooth scroll on this site.

I essentially resell DNS hosting.

I allow users to store their DNS records in a git repository, then when they make commits & pushes I initiate an update to the live-zones on Amazon Route53.

It'll never make me rich. Low-end users use their domain-registrars. High-end users probably have lots of AWS-based infrastructure, so they can handle DNS themselves.

But there is a middle-ground, and I've been lucky enough to sell services to a couple of (European) universities. So different departments can handle different sub-domains.

Fun anyway, and although I do need to handle user-support the churn-rate is minimal:


How do you find users? Seems like the kind of thing people don't know they want until they see it i.e. they wouldn't be searching for it.

In the past I paid for adverts on /r/sysadmin, and similar sites. These days I mostly bring it up in discussions like this, and each time I do so I get a couple of new signups.

In short I don't do marketing, but if I started losing users that would probably kickstart me into doing so.

How did you learn how to create this app? I work best with tutorials or books or videos that go through how to build an entire app. Learning individual components is fine but learning how to integrate them is the tough part.

In my experience you need to have at least a foundational understanding across the entire stack. I'm guessing OP had some experience in the past with AWS, DNS, web development, etc. From there he might of needed to do a bit of research here and there, but he probably had some idea what was needed and where to go for that information.

It isn't an app, but a website. As for how I learned I guess years of practice ..

Did you consult books, or courses online, or videos? I'm just asking because there is so much info out there, what specific paths would be best? Thanks.

I've been pretty impressed with pullreminders.com - it is a Slack bot that alerts you for unreviewed pull requests. Seems to actually solve a real need and since the author, Abi Noda, has been pretty open about talking about it, seems it's been pretty profitable.

More info:


Friendly reminder that the important components of a successful SaaS is marketing, marketing, marketing, and code, so how to market the app should be considered just as important as how easy it is to code.

I'd probably recommend you take whatever your idea is and offer it as a consulting service that you do yourself manually. If people won't buy that, they won't buy your app, and you can prove the idea without doing any coding at all. Once you have an audience for the service, you can just sell the automated version.

Thanks for the shout-out David! If anyone's interested here's the link to the website: https://pullreminders.com

Hey Abi! It's been really cool to follow Pull Reminders. I've been bringing it up in conversations a lot lately as an example of a solid one-person founder technical SaaS. Hope it continues to succeed! Thanks for all of your in public work on it. Cheers!

Is it built with Rails? I'm curious what tech stacks are used in one-person SaaS.

Yep, Rails

I believe complice.co is also a profitable one/two person team productivity app that makes a few grand a month.


I'm the creator of Complice and it was indeed made largely by me (I have another collaborator but he joined after it was already making over $3k/mo) but I wouldn't call it simple! Both the software itself and in relation to your comment above that describes how it's not just "how easy is it to build?" but "how easy is it to market?"

In a world where most people are just looking for a better to-do list, Complice is offering an entirely different philosophy of productivity, so it can be hard to explain it, as opposed to something that just straightforwardly scratches somebody's itch.

I will say that the software plays to my strengths: I'm not a data structures & algorithms guy, or a machine learning guy, or a fanatic about the perfect REST API, and Complice is much more about the workflow and the interface, which is what I'm good at.

So "super simple" also depends on what you're good at!

Hey Malcolm, cool to have you chime in! I've appreciated reading your stuff around the internet and your IndieHackers interview was really cool.

I noticed you have a coaching offering as a higher tier on Complice - have you had much success with finding takers on that? I'm currently working on a coaching practice of my own and have wondered how effective "coaching as the top tier of a SaaS that helps you do the thing I'm coaching you about" works.

Also interested in this coaching and how it has gone

Great landing pages. What tools are you using?

I always thought Patrick McKenzie's Appointment Reminder was a perfect example of something really simple executed very well:


And he is an excellent communicator; in particular look up his older podcasts.

But I think today it is getting harder and harder; so simple projects won't cut it anymore and more effort needs to be put into both product development and marketing to get any sort of traction.

But I think today it is getting harder and harder; so simple projects won't cut it anymore and more effort needs to be put into both product development and marketing to get any sort of traction.

I'd be willing to bet people have been saying that for at least 5000 years.

I don't doubt it, but it comes to specific spaces a lot of them have been correct.

Appointment Reminder, for example, is now in competition with at least a half-dozen similar products, just from my personal experiences. And many of those integrate reminders with account creation, customer tracking, online bookings/cancellations, and even followup marketing.

That's just one example, and it's not a surprise that small services are followed by larger, integrated ones. There are still good, untapped ideas out there. But it's also true that new technologies create lots of first-mover opportunities and then slowly become less accessible to small providers as the simplest value propositions are consumed. Actually, video games seem like a particularly clear demonstration of the pattern. A solo developer can make a good and successful game, even today. But a successful solo game these days is usually either fun but very shallow (Flappy Bird) or a niche game that skips many elements (Dwarf Fortress). Twenty years ago, it was RollerCoaster Tycoon. On the other hand, solo VR projects are going strong because there are lots of unexplored ideas and a low bar for depth and polish.

I suppose there's a force in the other direction, too; improving tools and services mean that the same number of development hours provide more features to users, or open up new categories of problem. (RollerCoaster Tycoon was written in assembly, after all.) As PG puts it, the simple tasks no longer require a schlep. But that leverage is open to everyone, and it doesn't seem to break the broad pattern that newer technologies are more accommodating for small-scale projects.

It's only easier if you're entering a greenfield industry, with no saturation. IE. the internet in the late 90's, or the App Store in 2007.

In any new industry, there's always very low-hanging fruit ideas to pursue. Like restaurant reviews (Yelp) or an app to track your calories (MyFitnessPal). It was also easier to market it because more people had the need for those types of products back then, and thus willing to try it. Now? Nobody will listen to you unless you have a truly compelling, original product ("Oh, that's been done already. I don't want to hear about it")

And SEO and ranking in Google for competitive keywords was much easier in the 2000's, even as late as 2008. 2010-2011 was when things started to turn, and became insanely competitive.

And SEO and ranking in Google for competitive keywords was much easier in the 2000's, even as late as 2008. 2010-2011 was when things started to turn, and became insanely competitive.

If your approach to marketing is "Google will send me enough traffic to succeed" then you've already failed.

When did I say that? Search traffic is a major part of marketing (along with PR, word of mouth, ads) for lots of companies, including public ones (tripadvisor, yelp, zillow, demand media). And to dismiss it is simply delusional.

But if I have already heard of a business from their marketing, and I can't find them on the first 2 pages of Google, then that marketing spend was wasted. Yes, SEO can't be the entire marketing plan, but it is critically important.

Perhaps it has been true for the last 5000 years.

Presumably they haven't been talking about the same thing. You could sell software in catalogs for home computers, but that dried up. Then you could make web apps, and that dried up. Then you could make mobile apps and that has dried up.

(*Note: note completely, and I am sure many people know someone who still makes some surprising amount of money with this one weird trick/app)

When the next platform comes out (VR? Cars?) there will be a software shortage and you will have a few years to code up some stuff. Then the market will demand more elaborate and sophisticated software that will require a team, some investment and a lot of time.

Presumably they haven't been talking about the same thing. You could sell software in catalogs for home computers, but that dried up. Then you could make web apps, and that dried up. Then you could make mobile apps and that has dried up.

Exactly this. There's no industry that's always been easy to get in to, but there's always been something. It changes as society changes. You just have to work out what it is at the moment.

Heh, all the work in that comment is in the "just" in the last sentence. You can sort of see it as an extension of the efficient markets hypothesis: if there were money lying on the ground, someone would already have picked it up. Alternative formulation: any kind of arbitrage, whether in terms of the stock market or in terms of allocating labor to an underserved need, has to have some kind of search costs to it.

You are right.

And you can say that the tools and resources available to small time online entrepreneurs are better than ever.

> But I think today it is getting harder and harder; so simple projects won't cut it anymore and more effort needs to be put into both product development and marketing to get any sort of traction.

There's always going to be problem domains where you can code simple solutions and make money but it's identifying the problem domains that's the hard part.

By the time you hear multiple people telling you "you can make something simple here and make a ton of money!" about a certain problem domain, you've already missed the boat.

I run a saas that is profitable: https://PhantomJsCloud.com

It's a pretty simple concept: providing PhantomJs or Chrome Headless as a REST API.

The thing is, the SaaS itself is only about 1/3 the work. You need a website, account management, and billing too. Today, there are perhaps other services you could leverage that can help reduce this initial burden (Kong?) but a few years ago when I started my SaaS, nothing really met my needs. Hope it's easier for everyone now!

Woah, that's really cool. I've been meaning to run my own headless browser in the cloud for personal scraping tasks and such, and may now sign up for your free tier. :-)

I am using browserless for a niche project.. Seems this space is taking off slightly

Isn't PhantomJS basically unsupported at this point?

yeah, bad name choice. right now the default browser I use is Chrome, but people can still use PhantomJs if they want.

I'll make a more generic domain name sometime in the future (lots of stuff to do....)

How much are you earning on this?

sub 10k MRR. I need to expand the offering, and there's actually a lot of competitors in this space. My USP is low cost and high scaleability.

My biggest inspiration is https://www.placecard.me/ by Cory Zue (https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=czue).

He has been documenting the whole process very well both on Twitter (https://twitter.com/czue/status/958993008543830017) and his blog (http://www.coryzue.com/writing/).

Thanks for the shout out Vivan! I even got my very first grumpy hacker news blog comment out of this!

Great suggestions here so far and a common thread I noticed is leveraging platforms such as Slack/Gmail/Trello/Shopify etc. - essentially an B2B platforms. My friend and I currently run cardsync.xyz on Trello which allows Trello users to sync their cards and it generates under $1000/month. We spend about 2-10 hours a week on it.

You will be at the mercy of these platforms when (not if) they decide to change their rules but until then, it can be a good source of side income.

Did you mean to say "just under $1000/month"? It seems kind of strange to claim that you make under an amount, because technically $0/month is under $1000, and "actively losing money" also counts. Just curious.

Probably means "close to $1000/month" rather than any value under $1000

Correct, close to $1000/month.

Congrats! How long did it take you guys to reach that MRR?

Thanks. We had a free trial version for about three months and then started paid plans based on customer demographics around last summer. So it's been less than a year. Note that I'm based out of Toronto and my friend in South America.

Keep in mind that "super simple" usually also means "easily reproduced". The dream of cranking out a profitable SaaS offering in a weekend is possible, it's just not sustainable past a year or two unless you also incorporate some differentiation.

It's usually the differentiation that makes the SaaS more complex than an MVP.

Fomo.com is doing a few million and is owned/operated by 1 individual (although he has a small team). Believe he acquired it and grew it like crazy. I’d reckon (if he chose) the company could do a 100k a month in profit.

This is an example of a product that probably does something cool, but really doesn't do a good job of explaining what it does or why I would use it on the front page. But it looks pretty.

You know those annoying notifications that usually say something like "Dawn in Idaho bought a 3 pack or gorilla stickers just now" on e-commerce sites? That's what fomo does.

thanks for the feedback.

this homepage is actually our 3rd and probably most abstract implementation.

1st, 2016: https://web.archive.org/web/20161108025452/https://www.usefo...

2nd, 2017/2018: https://web.archive.org/web/20190107040431/https://fomo.com/

indeed, the numbers speak for themselves. over the last few weeks since deploying we saw lower signup conversion rates. but, we also have a few product launches forthcoming.

balancing between "be short and to the point" and sharing a vision is perhaps more art than science, and that's why we have so much art on our website.

Second one seems to come closest for me. I prefer something clear like "see that notification at the bottom left corner of the page? We do that". But I get it; you're selling why someone should use the product (a bit abstractly, perhaps). As a tech product though, don't forget to highlight the actual product(s) and to be specific.

The "Install Fomo in 29 Seconds" section from the first iteration makes me feel confident, as a developer, that there's a clear path to get your product working for me and it won't be a pita. A documentation link at the top, rather than hidden at the bottom, would be nice - see how Facebook presents their tech offerings (granted, open source) at https://reactjs.org/ etc.

I'm just one guy who makes decisions about what techs to use for myself and others though, so yada yada grain of salt. Maybe I'm not who you're targeting as much as salespeople themselves.

Yeah I clicked around and came back here, still not knowing exactly what your product is. IMO it should be made a bit more explicit on the landing page.

Look at the bottom left corner of the screen, then it becomes clear immediately. And yeah, it looks pretty.

I always thought that a lot of those "Fred just purchased T-Shirt X" pop-ups when you are on a site are all fake data anyway.

many of our competitors do allow customers to plug in fake data, it's sad + illegal + gives the space a bad rep. sigh.

this is why we aggressively build native integrations, sometimes 1 per week. deters bad actors.

changelog: https://new.fomo.com

Fair enough :-)

You should label/brand your pop-ups with a link to somewhere that explains this.

Maybe they are. I know of one site that had a premade array of "X bought Y" in the source HTML, which I imagine they repopulate after some amount of time.

I've been looking at their site for about 5 minutes and I still have no idea what fomo.com does...

Same here. What problem do they solve?

They "automate" social proof. That is, when someone buys something on your site, or performs a specific action (such as sign-up for a newsletter), FOMO will show a little pop-up in the left corner stating so ("XYZ from ABC just bought 2 widgets"). The idea is that knowing something is popular will make others more likely to buy it.

I reckon they could do a better job of conveying this, but I work in marketing and I understood it immediately. So I imagine their target audience understands it well enough.

That is so weird to me. Does that actually work on people? I see it now that you point it out, the popups in the lower left, but before I had been automatically mentally dismissing it as just annoying sales bullshit, like any other popup ad. There's statistical evidence that sales are actually influenced by that kind of nonsense? That amazes me.

It does. Probably not on the HN crowd. But on the usual e-commerce sites that use this app, it definitely works. The audience isn't quite as technically literate and doesn't have that banner blindness people here have developed.

Plus, the e-commerce sites that use it are usually small startups. They need to show that real people are buying from them to prove to shoppers that they're legitimate

It's not just banner blindness. Even as a less tech-savvy person I imagine I'd just assume those notifications to be fake, fictive customer stories that serve to illustrate a feature, similar to how "customers" used to rave about knife sets and fitness devices that changed their life on home shopping TV shows.

Yet people continue to buy knife sets and fitness devices from home shopping TV shows, proving that it does work.

You have to see it as a part of a broader persuasive effort. By itself, it doesn't work. But when it is paired with reviews, testimonials, ratings, high-quality pictures, etc., it adds to the impression that this is a legitimate product

There's sort of 2 types of social proof. Fear of missing out and testimonial. My favorite examples of social proof (not fomo.com) are hotels.com and opentable.com. When looking at a hotel: "15 people have booked this hotel today," or while making a dinner reservation: "23 people have reserved a table at this restaurant today."

In these cases, you're being pressured to act fast before the hotel/restaurant is fully booked. Further, this "proof" that people are making all these reservations right now also could make you believe your choice is a popular recommendation, persuaded your decision making.

yep, you can do this with Fomo(.com) as well.

FOMO means Fear of Missing Out.

So, say you're interested in a certain smaller brand that may not sell thousands or more copies of certain items, but something on the order of 50, or 100, etc.., then when you see that others have been purchasing said items you worry you'll miss out on your chance to buy one, and then you'll be one of the only people who like the brand who don't have said item.. thus, you wind up purchasing too.

Many hotel/flight booking sites – Expedia, Booking.com, etc. – have been using this pattern for a while. I assume it works, at least in that context, very well.

Twitch.tv uses it a ton (check out their chat feeds).

It says 'marketing' right on the front page, right next some unique drawings which indicate the kinds of things they can create. It took me less than 5 seconds.

Incredible. If the stats on the website are to be believed, they have 11k users, and the cheapest plan is $35 per month (with yearly disocunt applied) so that must mean several $100k per month (though older customers might have cheaper legacy plans)...

Edit: https://www.indiehackers.com/interview/growing-a-social-proo...

hey, the 11k figure is active websites. you can verify all this via our Open API: https://fomo.com/open

since a customer can have unlimited websites per plan, we actually have around 5,500-6,000 customers. many will add a personal site and a company site, or an ecommerce store and a blog.

yes, older customers have plans as low as $8-12 /month. good times.

How did you get started with this, i.e. how did you get your first customers? Looks like a really interesting business.

thank you. we actually acquired a Shopify app, which already had some customers via organic app store traffic.

more here: https://blog.fomo.com/how-we-bought-a-small-software-startup...

(note, 2.5 year old post)

Great read, thanks. Congrats on your success.

That website called me a loser because I write code.

Fomo is the same offering as Proof (https://useproof.com). Great case of the same idea in the market with difference customer segments able to produce paid users in a semi-automated-saas model

René Girard would approve

Fill a niche that is difficult to solve for, but easy to scale once you do. Fix a problem that you've had.

In the end, there are a lot of opportunities for SaaS, imho the DBaaS are the main reason to consider a cloud provider. Getting setup, failover, backups, hot recovery etc are middling to difficult even with dedicated resources, but tend to have solutions that scale well once you do.

Not suggesting that as something to do, the bigger cloud providers are likely to edge you out eventually.

It could be as simple as a better whois lookup service that is fast and deployed to multiple regions on the major cloud services. Whois in particular is difficult because the resolvers for some of the less big TLDs aren't as responsive, there's inconsistencies in standards and normalization takes work.

Again, it's a matter of figuring out a niche and filling it.

At the really low MMR end, you're not even looking for something that is difficult to solve for but something that has an attractive ratio of easy for technical person to solve / annoying but important for others.

It's easy to read about a lot of the things in this thread and think, "I could easily hack that together in a weekend learning a new technology, why would I pay for it?". There's plenty of people for whom automating a simple repetitive task is both valuable and basically magic and there are so many niches to be had.

quite a few SaaS products I've used -- they set out to make application A, ran into a problem building application A (like "wow looking at these logs is difficult, let's build a quick tool that solves this problem") and the solution they built became their real SaaS product.

Absolutely... which is usually my point when I say build something that solves a problem you have/had. It's often the best opportunities for either an open-source contribution or a SaaS product.

I'm doing well with Checkbot, a Chrome extension that tests websites for SEO, speed and security problems that has a subscription model:


It's simple in terms of day to day running now that it works well but getting to that stage and the implementation behind it was a ton of work.

I don't think you're going to easily find a project that's easy to implement, requires little maintenance, has low running costs, markets itself, scales etc. You'll have to put in effort somewhere.

I think if you look into the projects being posted in the thread, you'll realise few are simple if you want to make something people will pay for.

I came across this a few months ago - this is a perfect example of how to execute, great job. How's your revenue growth?

Thanks! Growing but slowly. I need to make more progress on the marketing side now as I don't think much on the coding side will change this.

I think the story is similar with simpler products too. Getting the word out and optimising your sales funnel takes much longer than you'd think.

I can’t speak for the simplicity, but by all accounts the backend of this system is (it was at some point) a single ec2 instance and is a single person project.

Granted that person is cpercival but whatever :)


A little bit of trivia for people who might not know: cpercival was an integral part of one of the favourite HN threads of all time: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=35079

That thread was a nice little rabbit hole in the morning, thanks. There's also an appearance by Drew Houston with early mention of dropbox in there.

It's definitely not a simple CRUD vanilla app, thought.

Is cpercival supposed to be a name people recognize? I just googled it and didn't find any substantial identifying information. Who is that?

Regular HN poster and Tarsnap proprietor: https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=cperciva

I've built a petition system that allow users to publish their own petitions and download signatures lists. Got a handful of loyal customers acquired threw relations. MRR is ~500€ since +10 years. Won't give the url here because it's running on a ultra cheap dedicated server at 5€/m, HN would blow it down in one minute :)

Ha, this is a good one.

"Publish their own petitions" - can you give an example? Share more details, without giving your URL or any other secret sauce away?

Sure, the typical customer is this semi-professional non-profit organization that need something more "result driven" than change.org when it comes to build its audience (nothing black hat, really).

I guess I am missing something. Why should I use your service than change.org?

I'm sure you know your audience very well - it is just that I am missing something.

Two things: build the form and collect the data. Now that I think about it, it's a "surveymonkey" disguised in "change.org", actually.

Wife runs a not-for-profit. This is brilliant. My perception is that petitions don't often accomplish their stated goals, but what if the side benefits of gauging interest, drawing light first-step commitments, and collecting contact information accrued to your org instead of an activism-feelings-aggregator like change.org?

That may come off as cynical to people, but as a petition-signer, I'd rather get followed up a couple times by an organization actually working on something I care about (and given a path to act a little more on my caring, even if it's 'come to this event' or 'give us money') than followed up indefinitely by change.org, who cannot seem to guess well at all what sort of petitions I'd like to support.

So your wife's use case would be : she would create a petition, her users would sign it, then she would download their contact details, correct? What happens to the petition itself? Is there any action on it?

Just as much happens to it as usually happens to a petition. If you get enough signatures, you present it to whomever you think should care: government body or local news or whatever. There’s even a chance that they actually care and it makes a modest difference in some legislator’s deliberation or generates some publicity about the issue.

Hey, I see what you're on, don't steal my prospect :D (joking ;))

Don't fear the reaper.

> ultra cheap dedicated server at 5€/m Dedicated? How? Where?

Probably from Kimsufi (OVH) https://www.kimsufi.com/us/en/servers.xml

Probably far from being "super simple", but I made a bot to automate different tasks in a online game.

Customers can either self-host the software them-self (min $5/month) or pay a higher price (min $10/month) and use my "cloud" service where I host and install the software for them.

I use Golang to build everything, caddy for https, Hetzner for hosting, and docker to deploy cloud instances.


Wait, hold up. Ogame is still popular enough that you have a good userbase for this?

Short answer: yes. It even surprised me :P

https://ngrok.com/product It's SSH forwarding as a service. Not super-simple, but not too hard either I think.

I'm not sure if I'd call it simple, but the product itself is fairly straightforward (at least to me :). I run a SaaS product called browserless (https://browserless.io). Goal here was to make it really simple to run headless browser work in a production environment, without worrying about all the provisioning and maintenance.

However, like anything simple on the exterior, there's still layers of complexity behind it. How do you charge users? Where do you host? How do you acquire users? How do you interact with customers?

Don't mean to be cynical, but even $500/mo is going to have some cost and time complexity. Best of luck!

I have a Shopify app that generates a little under $1K a month. I feel like if I put some dedicated effort into it, I could probably double that. Right now, I probably spend about 4 hours a week max on support.

I would discount all the people who say it cannot be done. There is a ton of opportunity out there if you are willing to do your research, take sensible risks and do the hard work to build and launch stuff. The trick (at least for me) is transitioning from the side-project to the fully self sustaining stage. There is a messy middle where the investment required (in terms of time and money) imposes a much higher risk.

how did you conduct your research phase?

I went through the Shopify app store to find app categories with lots of negative reviews. This suggested to me that there was unmet demand. I then reached out to some shop owners to ask what they needed and used the insights from those conversations to design a better solution than the competition.

It is a pretty simple straightforward approach but just takes time and discipline to grind through the process.


Pretty simple code poster creator.

For a list of projects + revenues, check out IndieHackers: https://www.indiehackers.com/interviews/page/1

It might provide some inspiration of related projects that are in your wheelhouse.

Depends of your definition of simple, but I really like https://cronhub.io/. Does 1 thing and does it well.

I've found https://healthchecks.io/ great for my use, and it has quite friendly pricing for non-profit hobby projects.

Just to chime in and also say that I'm a very happy healthchecks user.

I don't have anything to do with Toggl besides using it briefly years ago, but apparently it is (or was) profitable: http://purde.net/2012/09/keep-it-simple-talk-to-users-how-to...

There is no single "To Do" application that meets the needs of all of the users since everyone thinks differently. Find a niche that the others haven't really addressed yet and build your application in that space.

The same applies for email clients or calendar applications. Basically anything that orients around organizing information and priorities.

It's funny this thread exists.

I actually created a to-do/note app that works for loads of users, I called it Thought Train because I kept losing my train of thought as I tabbed through Slack/Skype/Email all day.

It's not "The answer" but it's helped me daily since I built it.

The trick to creating something like this in a crowded space is not to compete against the others, but compliment them.

I run https://awardfares.com with a friend, it's not making much money but it's certainly profitable.

Is there a consolidated list of alliances/carriers that you support? I couldn't see anything on the site

Only Star Alliance so far, however the availability might not necessarily match for your specific carrier, as they have different rules between each other. Both me and my friend use SAS Eurobonus and the availability lines up quite well.

We're working on adding other alliances too though!

EDIT: Actually I see now that my partner added the list if you scroll down on the first page (Only visible if you're not logged in though).

What about a simple wordpress plugin? I instantly thought of a grammar checker and ran into this:


Marketing wise, I would try initiating an affiliate program. If you tap into a power blogger network, you might be able to get hundreds of customers over an 18 month stretch.

Not a simple SaaS but my brother (personal finance blogger), best friend (journalist) and I (engineer - P.Eng Ontario, Canada) just started a copywriting subscription for fintechs in Canada.

Please note that we had worked with a few fintechs for about a year on a service basis and made a pivot to a subscription service just last week. This resulted in most of our existing fintech clients coming on board right away after we emailed them even though the website (https://moosecopy.com) is still under construction i.e. no writing samples on it yet. Our mixed background provides an excellent value for our clients and we have been fortunate to work with some great clients as well.

Lastly, as a few people have suggested wisely, it's a good idea to offer a service initially and then look towards building a product out of it (similar to Paul Graham's idea of doing things that don't scale during early development stage).

https://certsimple.com - faster, easier verification for websites, so they can prove they're run by a specific company (with an EV SSL cert). It's essentially a UI and a bunch of APIs that connect to different data sources to pre-check info, then pass that on to a CA.

Curious how this is so much cheaper than all the other EV cert companies that charge thousands!

Ha, thankyou, but we’re definitely in the middle of the market. If your main thing is price you can find cheaper companies, our main thing is reducing verication time and hassle.

One source of ideas is the Indiehackers products listing. They also include revenue figures. Here's a list of all products with >= $500 in MRR (some are Stripe-verified, rest are self-reported so take it with a pinch of salt).

LINK => https://www.indiehackers.com/products?minRevenue=500&sorting...

What gets me is the amount of people making money on low budget basic bootstrap themes here. I like it. I'm just surprised.

I made https://www.beadifier.com and the paid version https://www.beadifier.pro

It provides an optimized solution for a very niche type problem (making fuse bead patterns from images).

That's neat. Do you get a lot of people using it and signing up?

This is not simple at all! There are hundreds of corner cases to code for, you need a swarm of machines to crawl etc.

When he started more than a decade ago, there was zero competition and it was a novel idea. Now there is stiff competition.

This is far from simple - this is actually a very serious project, not an example of 500$ stuff!

The idea is quite simple - crawl websites and figure out what makes them tick. Of course you're not going to enter the exact same market. No one is obligated to find a competition-free, low-hanging niche for you to occupy.

A lot of billion dollar company ideas are simple too like Facebook, Salesforce and Yelp. But I doubt 1 person can build those.

Those BuiltWith folks probably have hundreds of regression tests running daily. Maybe a bunch of freelancers who check for newer versions of software too every month.

You are aware that BuiltWith itself was built by one person, right?

Not highly complex to set up, profitable without massive scale, not labor intensive. Pick two.

I run https://equinox.io, a service for distributing and updating Go applications. I’m not sure if it falls into the “simple” category, but the product targets a small market.

How did you learn to make all this? I haven't been taught anything like this in my CS program. What resources did you use? Books, videos etc. are very helpful. Thanks!

I co-run a SaaS company targeted towards funeral homes. We offer a CMS and white labeled obituaries that don't look like they were built in 1998. The subject matter might be a bit mundane but it's very profitable.

Aftership looks like a fairly straightforward SAAS offering that could use a competitor.

It does deliver value, and I'm sure there's more to it than you might see at first. But, it does seem a simpler space than many.

ahh.. supporting 400 different providers is a full-time and fairly painful job. Anyways their space is pretty crowded as well.

Supporting 3 would handle a pretty large market.

http://www.mlreader.com - MLReader - it extracts invoice information. It is as simple as there's only one API.

You could try buying an existing very small SAAS which you know you can grow and build into something bigger. Then either keep it running or sell it on again at a higher value.

Are there other websites like https://indiehackers.com that you would recommend?


park.io is making $120K per month using an automated set of scripts that catch up pendingDelete domains from various registries.

Honestly this kind of pisses me off. automated domain parking. this should be illegal.

I've used them more than once and am very happy with their service.

Squatters do this kind of thing already, but they demand an exorbitant price or have some kind of opaque bidding process. Park.io at least introduces some consistency and trust in this process.

I'd much rather pay a small premium ($99 for the domain vs however much a particular registrar charges) to avoid that hassle and still get a great name I would never have gotten otherwise by scanning for pendingDelete domains.

I think a great place to start is places where there's a marketplace, like Shopify, BigCommerce, Github, etc.

droplr & Cloudapp both come to mind ... essentially branded filesharing/url shorteners but I'd love to see either of them support adding custom favicons or otherwise completely removing their branding

Look into writing apps for Shopify, many are quite simple and charge a fee.

Check IndieHackers website!

Plenty of them out there that fit this criteria provided you work full time on it and don't count your hours.

Create a Shopify app.

www.doodle.com ...


A simple SaaS that gushes profits is so improbable that you might as well call it impossible.

If you want passive income, write code for pay and invest some of the surplus.

If you want to do a startup, find a cofounder and apply to YCombinator. Or find another path to working at a startup.

I disagree - I wrote a simple tool for my family a number of years back, left it on my personal website in a way that was usable by the general public, and ignored it. Came back a couple years later, saw it was getting tens of thousands of uses a month, added some relevant amazon affiliate links, and hit that $500 a month mark. I let it run for a couple years like that, then sold it.

So if I can hit the mark accidentally off a weekend project, it certainly is achievable if you put serious effort in.

Care to share what kind of tool it was? This story has quite piqued my curiosity.

It was an image conversion program that computed designs for various crafts from uploaded photos.

This is (extremely) untrue in my experience and those of countless other boostrapped SaaS founder friends in my circle.

I've started 2 simple SaaS products that are solidly profitable (simplecrew.com and crewfire.com), and a 3rd just shipped this week (chainfuel.com).

The internet is full of other counterpoints.

Here's an exercise that would be interesting. Look at all the 'Show HN' posts announcing new startups from a couple of years ago. Find how many are still operating. Then contact the creators to see if the revenues produced have paid for the hours invested.

Then we would have some real data instead of my anecdote. And yours.

I have a simple SaaS product that plans emergency shifts for dentists (evenings and weekends). The value is in 1) fair planning, 2) a single source of truth on who is on call, and 3) reminders. It makes $300 a month with minimal cost and almost no time spent. Since it is B2B I only have to send invoices once a year.

Anecdata of course, but it has been like this (and profitable) for the last 7 years. At least proofs it is not impossible (I also never really invested lots of time in it to get to this state)

I think i can bring it to 30k a year with sufficient effort, but then again, my salary is higher than that so it doesn’t make enough sense to switch my time to do so. (The growth problem of course is sales, not tech)

Where can I see your product?

And then find a way to monetize that data to $500 MRR :)

Who cares if 90% of startups fail? Your point was wrong

No, he's right. Most people are better off investing in the stock market than trying to build a successful small business, SaaS, startup, or otherwise.

Indiehackers would disagree (https://www.indiehackers.com/interviews/page/1)

Aside from the fact that there's a ton of evidence that proves you wrong (but there is truth that a lot of SaaS founders never make a penny), OP was asking about starting at $500/month, which is far from "gushing profits".

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