The reason it's making $115k/month is because most other ESPs (Mailchimp, etc) don't allow spamming, so spammers flock to (and pay for!) products that look the other way.
To the creator: Good on you for creating a successful business. I hope you take these resources and do something positive for the world.
Not good on him. It's an immoral business. I don't see why the hn community would endorse this just because it makes money.
If the emails were also a tool for privacy, decentralisation or some good objective behind it, i could see the pros and cons. But here it's all pros for him, and all cons for the rest of the world.
I always check comments before reading unless it's a topic or site I generally trust. I end up reading things I wouldn't have from title alone, and not bothering with a lot of others.
e.g. In arriving in this topic I clearly see I dislike the spam business model, the method, and have no reason at all to read the article.
Yet I just commented and upvoted you, and flagged the submission. :p
MySpace <-- LA
All about email lists and spam.
ALL of them.
All of them did shady things, founded by spammers, etc...
The US readily gave the equally brutal Japanese Unit 731 physicians immunity in exchange for their human experiment data on bioweapons.
Some people here make money through cool silicon valley startups that make for great success porn but don't forget that some people here also make money doing shady or even downright illegal things.
What we have in common in this community is our technology interests, not our morals or values. If you accept this fact, you can open your mind up to some great content and conversations.
That's not something I see celebrated on hn not sure what you mean
Hackers are people who create things.
So yeah, in certain contexts hacker means someone who breaks into computers. In the context of this site (and MIT culture where the term came from) it means someone who draws on their creativity to make something cool.
Hackers do create things. Sometimes malicious things and sometimes things that offer no real benefit to society, but things all the same. In this definition you have to take the good with the bad.
1.a person who uses computers to gain unauthorized access to data.
an enthusiastic and skillful computer programmer or user.
There was a time many ages ago when the word "hacker" was reserved only for the most dangerous and reckless breed of computer programmers.
Afaik: From the 1960s to early-80s, it meant someone who creates. From the mid-80s to mid-00s, it meant someone who breaks into systems (driven by media reporting on FBI prosecution of the first network-enabled cyber crimes). From the mid-00s to now, it seems to be turning the corner again (co-mingled with the rise of maker culture).
Once this app becomes large enough to get on Google's radar it'll likely be shut down.
The makers of spam tools often make lots of money in the beginning (e.g., XRumer blog spam), but once they get big, adjustments are made (e.g., CAPTCHA for blog spam) and the tools become ineffective/useless.
That doesn't make it not spam. Spam provides an overall negative value to my life, even if an individual message could conceivably be useful.
Which make it even more ironical.
Let's put that good ol' spam filter to the test! I even operate under Inbox Zero, so rest assured I'll deal with every email the supposed mob is going to send me.
If it's an HOA or small mailing list (obviously without DOI), then what is your click tracking functionality for? (I mean, the question answers itself...)
I have no doubt Google will discover this and block the service, and we'll all be better off for it.
Yes, and your product helps spammers bypass those detection systems. You even explain it in the post I linked:
> GMass will automatically send 500 emails/day or 2,000 emails/day if your email campaign has more than 500 or 2,000 recipients, respectively. You can also control, however, how many go out per day with the new Spread out setting under the GMass Settings arrow. If left blank, GMass will use 500 (regular Gmail) or 2,000 (G Suite) automatically, but you can override this by setting your own value.
> It's not that we're looking the other way... we don't have to look at all.
That is what the phrase means.
Supporting a system where people can mass-send emails = enabling spam.
How absurd will you extend this argument? "Oh, yeah, 99% of my customers are spammers, but I'm not the one making them click send! They could've just paid, twiddled their thumbs and not do anything with my product!"
Maybe that's a convenient reason not to check.
In what instances is high volume not spam when using this service? Given one legitimate use case where a customer isn't better off using a cheap MailChimp account.
We never had to bother avoiding any of the measures you deliberately subvert, because our mail was all legitimate.
Granted, doing a 'mail run' with that volume took about a week, but whatever.
If your (client's) recipients aren't all double-opt in, then what you're running could very easily be seen as irresponsible (and that's me being polite), no matter how much money it's making.
And the phrase "It's not that we're looking the other way... we don't have to look at all" simply means he's delegating spam detection to the Gmail/SendGrid platforms instead.
Yes, but, the evil genius of the idea is that the email will be from a gmail domain. Emails from gmail to gmail with your own 5 year old account will have a ridiculous conversion rate. In my tests with email, if the email is from the actual gmail domain other carriers TRUST it more. Spam systems rely heavily on DNS/IPaddresses -- and this bypasses all that.
I feel for the smaller email providers. Gmail wont be able to patch this anytime soon, thus, the smaller ESPs without resources will have to change their rules to make the gmail domain less trusted.
There's literally _Zero_ value in DNSBL/DKIM/SPF because of this. Email sent from reputable sources is actually _more_ likely to be spam than small mail servers.
Content-based filters are the only thing that work against this sort of spam.
Maybe reducing the max number of recipients to the hundreds would help reduce the chance for abuse while still keeping your core customer base happy? It might also reduce the risk of getting booted off the Chrome Store.
True spammers are sending spam to many orders of magnitude more recipients. They are not going to use this tool.
>We recommend that an unsubscribe link be added to all mass emails containing promotional or marketing content, but the decision is up to you.
An unsubscribe link is a requirement of the CAN-SPAM Act and the GDPR. Your own docs effectively say "We advise you not to use our product to break federal and EU law, but the decision is up to you". I can't speak for anyone else, but that doesn't really accord with my sense of ethics.
Which is fine, but admit you have an immoral business, and are just doing this for lots of money. Don't justify anything.
To answer your analogy with another analogy: If you're gonna get in a shootout under questionable circumstances you'd be well advised not to pick the hundred dollar hi-point as your weapon of choice.
Turns out it was counterfeit watches. Ugh.
Probably not the best customer response I've seen from someone doing customer service.
As a learning lesson for others out there with a SaaS service. If you cannot have a phone number for support, absolutely provide a clear and easy to find email address for support. The people who tend to be the most likely to not understand the cancellation process, or have other similar issues, have a large intersection with the people who will have difficulty contacting you via something other than phone or email.
Customer service is always full of challenges and I'd be curious to hear your thoughts about things you've learned and changed since then to make support more streamlined. It tends to be one of the earliest scaling challenges new companies face.
> Probably not the best customer response I've seen from someone doing customer service.
Right. It may be perfectly accurate, but it doesn't come across as at all sympathetic or helpful -- especially to an already-frustrated user. I also suspect a good number of those users are not native English speakers, making the (lengthy) instructions even more likely to be a source of confusion.
You may be right. A better solution might be to build an external UI for account management, but I've shied away from that, wanting to keep everything inside Gmail. Maybe in the future though.
From your comment on the blog:
> Like I’ve explained above, firstname.lastname@example.org is not an email address.
To the average user, it certainly looks like an email address. Maybe just have it act like a normal email and list it under the support section of your website: https://www.gmass.co/#contact
Also I find it helpful when dealing with users to mentally replace users with people or humans, users sounds like someone with a drug addiction, they are people each of which is different and has their own priorities - genuine empathy goes a long way with people, treating them as interchangeable blobs not so much.
And if my business was turning over $115k/Month I'm not sure I would let that keep me awake at night.
This is a really great paragraph. I think the part that I get hung up on is right at the end - how does one actually go about finding an unfulfilled niche? It seems like they are kind of difficult to find almost by virtue of them being unfulfilled.
The niches I have found always come by accident: "hey, we notice you have this product that's close to what we need. Can you build us a version that does xxx" where xxx is some trivial change that results in a product I can sell to others in that niche. Or "we know this has to be possible and it shouldn't be difficult, but we don't have the skills do it. We'll buy xx units if you can build it for us."
The second-order problem is that often even if you know the need exists and you have a customer, without good knowledge of the domain, it can be hard to figure out how to reach other customers (they may not be online much) and make more sales.
I had a site that would consistently rank in the top 5-10 for google queries, yet I had fewer than 10 hits/day for those queries.
Another issue I've come across is that when you're approached by someone with a specific need, it can be hard to decide if you've found a new niche or just a custom design for one customer.
None of this is to suggest that you shouldn't try, but that it can be harder than it seems at first glance.
Still much much easier than finding a 1 in million unicorn idea and getting VC and getting users.
Judging from number of successful companies in both categories, it's several orders of magnitude easier (which is obvious).
What it does is add a common feature found in marketing automation/CRM systems to Gmail, a massively used platform.
It essentially unbundled a feature from a specialized product and made it available as on add-on on a prosumer product.
If you look at large platforms like Gmail, you can probably find isomorphic ideas.
After sorting through a bunch of junk about making an Excel wish list, here are some pages about suggested Excel improvements:
A previous company I worked at made YouTube videos for content marketing purposes. For some reason that no one could explain by the time I started there, the first couple videos in the account were random, basic Excel tutorials. Nothing fancy. Just things like using the Cell Formatting dropdown or doing a VLOOKUP.
Those videos were 5+ years old by the time I left. And in their worst week, a single one of those Excel videos got more views than the entire view count of every non-Excel video combined. It was crazy.
Edit: I should've read giarc's comment below! We're essentially saying the same thing.
I think that they are incredibly difficult to find and most people (me included) can't identify "problems" in their day to day that could be improved by something - in hindsight - relatively simple.
I'm constantly asking myself: where are the pain-points in my daily interactions with computers/software etc.
So far there's nothing and I know that can't be true.
Otherwise the best advice I'd give for finding problems is to start making a log of every time you get annoyed or frustrated at something. Your package didn't get delivered on time, you realize you have no milk when you're in the middle of cooking a meal, a driver on the highway is endangering people, your phone is too big for your pocket, radio stations all seem to play commercials at the exact same time, your home ran out of heating oil and no one will deliver until Monday, your hard drive failed and you realized your backup program wasn't including a new folder of vacation photos, even though you make an appointment at the barber/doctor every time you show up on time you show up you still wait 15-20 minutes, there's no Mexican restaurants that deliver to your house, you never know how your child is doing in school until they get their report card at the end of the semester.
There are dozens of tiny annoyances that we run into every day. Some have easy solutions, some less so, but they're there if you know what to look for.
Try to think of it in terms of outcomes.
What are you trying to do with computers/software, and how could the outcome be massively improved/democratized?
Can you do basic scripting? Can you do advanced scripting, with such revolutionary capabilities as calling out to external APIs for stuff like OCR?
Then rejoice! As you have the potential to make your very own billion dollar business! Just leverage those skills for process automation, market it as "software robots", leverage the existing perception of "robot replaces human" to make the recurring $10k/year cost for your automation script seem like a steal compared to the labor costs of a human, and through in some AI references for a bonus multiplier on your valuation potential.
Process improvement and automation has been a thing for ages. Marketing it as "software robots" is much newer. Turns out that particular phrase resonates really well with the target market.
I'm kind of talking out of my ass because I've never built a business but I've seen some terrible software that people are forced to use and been in many company-specific or industry-specific situations so I have buttloads of ideas. Most of my ideas come from hearing those pain-points or having my own pain points and searching for the right software and not being able to find it (or not finding what I need because I don't know the right way to look for it, which is another thing that should be a thing which is like, how do you figure out what kind of product you actually need?)
Start with things you already have some domain knowledge of (better even, try to find unrelated things you know about that overlap in interesting ways and where few people have domain knowledge of both) ;
find what problems/frustrations practitioners in that field have and do your best to solve one of them in a very immediate, low cost of adoption way;
fail fast .
It seems that the best way to make money for yourself these days is by destroying value; by obfuscating facts, masquerading, deceiving, pretending, laundering, coercing, manipulating, diverting attention, saturating the media, manufacturing hype...
Adding value to a business process is much easier to define.
But the effects of a business process on society are really important.
Money is a social contract which is universal and fungible. It was designed to be a measure of the value that an individual brings to society and which that individual can redeem from society.
If we lose sight of that fact and focus only on thinking about individual business processes in isolation, then the economy will lose its substance; it will be all smokes and mirrors; and everyone on the planet will end up wasting their lives working on one silly trend after another instead of helping to make actual, lasting progress.
> They don't add any actual value to society, so it doesn't make sense that they should be profitable at all... Why is it that so many profitable businesses these days add 0 or negative value to society?
This is a contradiction. If it is profitable, then it is creating value. Society (or anyone) is allowed to value things you think are bad.
> People are consumers, whether we like it or not, and they enjoy consuming things.
Making people want to consume things is the point of advertising. Looks like it works.
Most people's consumption is not limited by how many things they are "connected" to, but by money. Exposing someone to stuff they can't afford won't make them happier.
> If people didn't click ads, then it would eventually not be a thing.
If people didn't use heroin, then it would eventually not be a thing.
Yes, they click them.
> In reality, they block them.
Some do. Others click them.
> Making people want to consume things is the point of advertising. Looks like it works.
Yes! It does work, but don't forget everyone has their own agency. No one is forcing you to click ads. But people still do -- it's almost as if they get value out of it. Otherwise, why would they click them?
> Yes, they click them.
Those are completely different things. Ads do their harm by being displayed.
> No one is forcing you to click ads.
People are forcing me (or try to force me) to look and and listen to ads. That's the problem.
Do you have any research to back this up? If someone owns real estate, they can put whatever they want on it. If it's a billboard with an ad, and you don't like ads, then that's a personal problem. I too had this problem, and I used an ad-blocker. Some people don't have this problem, and they don't use ad-blockers.
Now I know you are not arguing in good faith. Asking for citations about things that are obvious is a classic shill tactic. I will not let you waste my time.
> If someone owns real estate, they can put whatever they want on it.
And that's derailing. Whether someone is legally allowed to show ads is not even the topic.
If people click ads, then people get value out of them, otherwise those ad-clicking people wouldn't be clicking ads. When people do literally anything voluntarily, it's presumably because they get value out of it. The fact that <div>s are rendered with ads in them is a problem between you and the website you are voluntarily going to. You may use an ad-blocker if you don't like some of those website's <div>s. Not everyone uses an ad-blocker. If you think everyone uses an ad-blocker, you are mistaken, but you can continue believing that and you can continue being confused as to why advertising creates value.
Instead, websites try to force people to look at ads by embedding them with useful content, by blocking or bypassing ad blockers. They charge people for avoiding ads.
I'm sure there are instances where people voluntarily and intentionally expose themselves to ads. But those are rare, the vast majority of ads are forced upon people because they provide negative value. (Not blocking ads is not necessarily a choice, but the absence of a choice)
Do you know how the web works? When you go to a website, you are making a request to someone else's servers. If you don't like what they are serving, then stop going there. Vote with your attention. I have stopped visiting places like BusinessInsider due to their adblock-block and free-quota walls. They no longer get traffic from me.
> If someone voluntarily exposes themselves to ads, then yes, those ads are probably valuable. But that does not happen.
It does happen, it's called "coupons". There are plenty of coupon aggregators that people use all the time: RetailMeNot, Groupon, Ebates, Slickdeals.
Trying != succeeding. If someone applies force, it rarely means you cannot choose not to comply. But you'll suffer from the consequences.
> It does happen, it's called "coupons".
Not really. The value of coupons is that you get discounts, not that they advertise something. Classifieds are a better example.
(Arguably we would better off if coupons did not exist and companies just set proper prices to begin with, but that's beside the point)
Either way, even if valuable ads exist, advertising as a whole still destroys value because the vast majority of ads are destructive.
With Microsoft I try to get them to stop sending emails but it seems to not even be possible without some sort of advanced MSDN certification.
With Facebook they seem to come up with some new opt-out classification every time they get some bad press and start filling up my inbox with stuff I couldn't care less about.
In other words, you might say OP is disrupting the disruption industry.
Yes, these companies do make useful products. But they have real negative effects on the world, which would have been better off if all those engineers had made these products for companies other than these lobbyist, competition-stifling, aggressive monopolies.
There's no real moral difference between selling your talents to the highest bidder and this specific case of running a spam service to make money.
^Which isn't to say that it's perfect, of course. Or even necessarily a net good, although my personal belief in the case of Google is that it still is.
So... Facilitating spam is worse than facilitating censorship in China?
China is always going to censor. Google facilitating it or not make no difference. Might as well make the money, and also hope to influence the system from a position of power rather than a position of weakness (i.e, not involved at all)
> All of this happened while I was living out of a hotel room in Oahu, Hawaii. My then-girlfriend was getting her yoga certification there, and the program lasted a month.
Ah, if only we all used our hotel room in Oahu for a month, and $5k to drop on some developer to help! We could be building status quo improvements.
Seriously though, that just comes off as completely out of touch with reality to me, or some weird "humble brag". Most of us probably have day jobs. Not all of us are probably lucky enough to be in a regulatory environment where moonlighting is protected. But by the time I get home, more software is almost always the last thing I want to do. Mostly, I want to sleep, or eat. Or recover.
By the time my mind recovers enough to think about coding something that appeals to me, it's Monday again.
But perhaps I'm just not the type of person that'll ever get $115k/mo.
Plenty of IndieHackers get their product out as a side hustle after work; it just takes luck and patience since progress will be slower.
Sure, a small portion of the time, you guessed right and your suspicions were correct. But the upside of being right isn't worth the downside of being wrong. Statistically speaking, it poisons the commons, even though your intention was to protect it.
You are exceedingly good at your job :)!
How about "Try us unlimited for $10" for X days.
For example - I have a campaign I would like to send out. to >2,000 addresses... I'd like to try that for $10 and not have a subscription...
Some companies like Adobe were extremely successful in changing their business model to that end, so investors expect all other companies to follow suit and severely punish those who don't
But what you're missing from my comment is that companies all think to themselves "Well cmon - $X/month isnt that much money"
But also forget about subscription fatigue, as well as the fact that a company/individual might want/need >a dozen "subscription" services to accomplish what they want. So if you're paying ~$10 to $20 per month for every thing you need....
Thats a lot.
What we should have is a subscription hub - where all these startups can place their services and with a single account - I can click the services I want access to.
Eliminate payments across thousands of little subscription startups, allow me one account, one dashboard, one resource to find all the various tools... let me see results and reviews from users etc...
All in one place.
So - who is going to apply to YC with this for 2019?
With that said, the fact that you were not aware means they are all failing at reaching their target market.
> But also forget about subscription fatigue, as well as the fact that a company/individual might want/need >a dozen "subscription" services to accomplish what they want. So if you're paying ~$10 to $20 per month for every thing you need....
I would imagine these companies run the numbers on how many people think "$x/month isn't that much money", how long people stick around on average and then optimize for maximum average revenue per user (ARPU).
Though your perspective is entirely valid – and I am not disputing any of your arguments – from the company's perspective, there are probably enough people that don't feel like you on the margin so they can optimize for them instead at the expense of potentially alienating you.
I don't disagree that a centralized hub for handling subscriptions should exist. I'll go even further and wager that your bank will ultimately provide some variation of this service so that you can easily tell apart recurring subscriptions from one-off purchases. At least that's what I would do if I were appointed CEO of Wells Fargo tomorrow
$25 prepaid credit cards are pretty hard to keep billing after the first monthly bill and you spend the rest at McDonalds (which is awesome for that but they look at you kind of funny if there's only 35 cents left on the card).
This is my first time hearing about CPAP. Has anyone else tried this?
I have _mild_ sleep apnea (you go through tests for diagnosis). With a CPAP machine, I've been able to add a solid hour per night of sleep, from about 6.5 hours to 7 .5-8, with it being continuous. Ergo, I don't make the "midnight trip to pee" with it on. With it off, I snore loudly, and wake up at least 1-2 times during the night.
It's possible that Ajay here actually has worse apnea, and the "9-10" hours from before was actually spent waking up, then trying to get back to sleep. Thus, the "6 hours" is just purely continuous sleep, instead of hours of tossing and turning.
Sleep apnea tests are comfortable take home tests. You basically just wear a couple of sensors for a night. If you're not prone to apnea, don't bother with a CPAP. It's not cheap, and some people can't get used to putting the mask on.
What gets covered by insurance and what doesn't is specific to your situation (what state/country you live in, etc). I just requested it with my primary care physician, who set up the consultation with a sleep center. Because my case isn't considered "problematic", it really helped to have a specialist request the CPAP, because otherwise, I'm pretty sure insurance wouldn't foot the bill. (I might add this is insane, because I'm sure I've added years to my life with the improved sleep. That's healthcare in the US for you.)
My impression is that the kind of tests is up to the sleep specialist to kind of figure out. The take home thing is much cheaper so I think they'll probably go that route first. I do note that they deal with a wide array of problems, like narcolepsy, sleep walking, night terrors, etc., and that's where I think you'll end up in a monitored hotel room.
I think you can DIY with a cheap pulse oximeter, but I'm certainly not qualified to say how to interpret the results.
The one you typically hear about that presents with extreme snoring is obstructive sleep apnea. It's pretty much as the name implies: sleep apnea caused by an obstruction. Your body tries to breath, but for a variety of potential reasons, your airway is obstructed. The snoring is your body's attempt at overcoming the obstruction.
Then there's central sleep apnea. With central sleep apnea, there's no obstruction blocking airflow. Your central nervous system just periodically... decides not to breath. Doesn't even attempt to contract the muscles necessary to intake or expel air. Then at some point, it... decides to start back up. There's no snoring or other loud noises involved like there is with obstructive sleep apnea.
They're both sleep apnea, and both have the same impact on the body if left untreated, but they present in almost complete opposite manners. Obstructive sleep apnea is loud because your body is trying real hard to do it's job. Central sleep apnea is generally pretty quiet, because its the absence of your body doing it's job. It just decided to take a little breather from it's typical life-sustaining duties, then (hopefully) after a ~10-30 second break it gets back to doing what it's supposed to do. The loudest you might hear is a bit of deep, heavy, or irregular breathing as it handles the backlog of oxygen needs that built up while it was on break.
I spent years being misdiagnosed with stuff like depression and hypertension, because I'm pretty much the exact opposite of someone at risk of obstructive sleep apnea (don't snore, not overweight, not old). It took paying for a home sleep test out of pocket and giving my physician the results before I finally got any traction from a doctor to explore that route. Turns out I have central sleep apnea, and treating that has been revolutionary on my life. I don't sleep through alarms anymore, I'm learning to love waking up early, I'm not mentally and physically drained at the end of the work day, and all kinds of little things.
You can order a home sleep test online for $150. And if you have an FSA, you can use your FSA dollars on it without even having to go through a doctor. If you're constantly dragging ass during the day, have a wonky sleep cycle, wake up randomly at night, or just happen to be curious. At that price, it's well worth taking a sleep test just to rule it out as a cause.
EDIT: Now if you could find a drug that promoted the ability to more rapidly clear waste using cerebrospinal fluid while you sleep, that'd be a possible route to still maintaining high levels of wakeful productivity with limited sleep (without causing harm later in life).
Most of the compute cost ($2400) goes to an m4.xlarge and an m5.2xlarge. That could be reduced by using reserved instances - but there's other gotchas there if you're likely to change that anytime soon. Google cloud is much nicer in this regard with the auto discounts for continuous usage.
The provisioned IO for EBS $2500 makes me sick, but may be necessary to get adequate performance.
Honestly you could move everything onto two dedicated servers (one as a hot backup) and cut this down to $1000/month and get better performance. But that's the AWS tax.
I use AWS all the time for work, but I would never build my own business on it.
1) Switch to the newest instance families
2) Save up the cash then reserve your instances.
3) Don't bother with the provisioned iops volume type, just use GP2 volumes large enough to give you the baseline IOPS you need
4) In general you have more block storage and snapshots than I'd expect, maybe that can be cut back?
7k$/month is cheaper than hiring an additional head.
Basically, with his skillset, maybe it makes sense. With my skillset I'd rather have the hassles with the dedicated setup.
Obviously there's other overhead/costs involved, but surely he could find somebody for 60k+ a year (I make less then that at my current development job but I'm from Michigan)?
I agree though with one of the parents, AWS costs here can likely be significantly reduced. I cut costs in half by (a) reserving instances and (b) thinking about EBS and downgrading / downsizing where possible rather than using the defaults.
I am assuming you mean you send from the client UI but the extension talks to your server for scheduling the future sends etc. in which case you shouldn't have that much network bandwidth.
My naive thought is that some frontend JS (without the help of a backend server) would be able to accomplish some of the features.
Markets are unimaginably large and complex, and they're always changing. Sometimes even the most basic feature can divide huge portions of markets.
There are so many good X (where X can be anything from a potato peeler that doesn't clog to a fantastic musician that you've never heard of or even a software service you need).
I'm definitely in the camp that sees needs and pain points and solves them, but doesn't know how to market...
One question though. If he is enabling his users to send mass emails using Google's infrastructure. Doesn't this violates Google TOC?
Users risk having their account locked if they send too many emails (mine was for 1 day)