Do you know any one man SaaS app that are profitable?
I'm asking this because I'm considering starting a SaaS app as a side project, and I'm looking for some inspiration.
Note: this is was previously on HN here, but it's been few years, and I'm sure a lot of one person startups are thriving than before.
I would never have started Key Values w/o Indie Hackers, so I highly recommend you spend some time there. It's a bottomless treasure chest of inspiration.
How do you enforce that the companies are being honest?
Also the filters seems to OR each other so the more I pick the more results I get. I think most people expect filters to be AND.
2. A lot of people don't trust employers, but in reality, hiring managers aren't trying to mislead people. Especially at small startups. It's extremely expensive (and heart-breaking!) to interview, hire, and onboard devs only to have them leave soon after. It's a competitive market and software engineers have their pick of the litter, so companies want to attract the right candidates, the ones who are truly aligned w/ their values and will stick around for the long haul.
3. Trust me, I don't want to use OR logic either! Once there are enough companies on Key Values for AND logic to provide a good user experience, I'll switch. For now, the results are sorted by number of matches and how highly companies rank those matches.
And maybe the match number could be instead of just a single number, a text like "X exact matches, 7 partial matches"?
Persnoally, getting both an AND count, and an OR count, and this combined AND + OR match list, seems nice. I'd probably be interested in an OR match company, if it matched say 5 out of 7 criteria.
Is that not a chicken and egg thing tho? With your visibility, encouraging the values you want to see can be a good thing?
I run an event listing site, and years ago I added a totally optional "Code of Conduct" field. I know that prompted at least one local group to officially add one!
Also, if you do, make it so companies can select both full time and part time. We just closed an job advert where we would accept both, and the number of places that only let me pick one was frustrating.
That’s sad to hear. I’m currently working part time (I value my free time much more than the money I would make) and it took quite a bit of effort to find a place.
I will be looking to go from full time to part time in s couple of years.
Perhaps use a soft floor? I.e. a little header "matched one value" at the right point in results. If people want to scroll past that they can, if not they'll know where to stop. You could also exclude them from the result count. In which case it would say "We also found these companies which matched one of your values".
just because a test is giving you a result of doubling down on a particular feature, it doesn't mean you should.
now of course, if you just need the clicks so that you sell to the greater fool, by all means boost that engagement sister!
Awesome job. I am really surprised with that kind of revenue you don't spring for an office or dedicated office space at WeWork. You might as well spend money on your business, either that or you paying taxes to uncle sam (assuming you based out of the US). I try and buy a new MacBook Pro each year, might as well get a high end asset I use daily and the deduction.
So if your tax rate is 30% and you spent $1,000 on a camera, you will save $300 on taxes. So the camera is not free. But you do get it for effectively $700.
Additionally, you can't deduct the value of a purchase AND depreciate it every year. You do one or the other. And which one you do is dictated by tax law.
Double dipping is tax fraud.
In Austria we have an "investment bonus" that allows you to do exactly that (with a limit). If you are in the highest tax bracket (50%), this means you can get around 5000€ of equipment effectively for free every year.
You aren't getting the laptop for free.
on edit: unless of course this is different in the country under discussion but in the countries I'm familiar with it works that way, also note I have not discussed depreciation which would definitely apply to a laptop.
Having a contingency model is definitely the more lucrative path, but I'm against it for two reasons: (1) I'm a dev, not a recruiter, and (2) I think placements fees are part of what's broken in recruiting. The incentives are misaligned among recruiters, candidates, and employers when recruiters only want to place someone just long enough to hit the 90-day mark.
Precisely! That's why I think Triplebyte.com is such an overrated company. Behind all their new-age silicon valley spin, they are nothing but an old-school scheming recruiter, charging $10K++ per hire.
Think of about it - it's the ultimate rent-seeking industry out there. I feel that the $10K should go to the candidate who is actually going to do all the work and/or be re-invested into R&D (actually adding value to the world rather than paying fat recruiters).
So clearly, Triplebyte’s success is at least to an extent the result of their delivering value to their clients.
I really like what key values does - I think it's a very sustainable way of doing it (both the incentive structure and the philosophy itself) and wish the very best.
I don't wish triplebyte, recruiters, and other rent-seeking middlemen well.
They both founders got money very fast
If I had to guess, this is due to a combination of two factors. First, some kind of "visibility bias," where we all tend to overvalue things that are highly visible. And second, "man with a hammer" syndrome. We're programmers, so we tend to overvalue the importance of code.
But the reality is just as you guessed — marketing, sales, partnerships, content, customer service, etc all play a huge role in a business' success. They require a lot of time, too.
Not understanding this is one of the reasons many developer-founders make the mistake of taking on overly ambitious product ideas and not allocating enough time to the rest of their business.
Key Values is not valuable because of its code. In fact, it's a simple static site that I could rebuild in a couple of days if I wanted to.
I meet a lot of technical founders who love coding and avoid doing everything else. They run the risk of building a lot of fancy features that no one wants or needs.
the truth is that these tech co-founders are really looking for a playground to have fun with code/tech, the same way a kid wants to play lego.
Building a business is not fun at all. There are tonnes of mundane stuff, and these are fairly important. A technical co-founder is quite likely to have quit their previou job because they want to create an environment where they aren't restricted by the "business people" for doing technical exploration and play.
This is why i think finding a business partner who isn't technical is quite important. They can reign you back in.
As you said, these require a lot more on the marketing/partnerships side, rather than the technical side (in fact, one of the great things is that MVPs can be built in a couple of days on something like Wordpress).
Nailed it! What others have you noticed?
Now that I think about it, that actually describes a lot of blogs/vlogs/podcasts too (create an audience with great content, monetize via advertising). Not quite SaaS, though, so slightly different from OPs original question.
Places like https://designacademy.io/ sit in the middle - content-first to create the audience, then use that audience to sell online courses in your given niche.
The takeaway - which applies to any business really - is that you need an audience and you need to be selling something that someone desperately needs (rather than something that someone "wants").
Recruiters need candidates. Advertisers need eyeballs. Companies need investor networks. Find the need, build the audience.
People sometimes ask me how I scrape content for each profile, but it's obvious to anyone who actually reads them that they're thoughtfully curated. A lot of time, care, and attention goes into each profile, which is what makes Key Values valuable.
Have you considered hiring an employee or two to help with some of the basic responsibilities? Or do you feel that there may be some nuance to the work that you're hesitant to trust to someone else? Or, do you simply enjoy it too much to want to do something else?
I've had two people/friends do a bit of contract work for me (a few hours a week), but I'm not sure if hiring someone full-time is the right move. Not only do I genuinely love what I do every day, but I also really want to soak up the freedom I currently have while I still can. Real talk, I'll probably enter mommyhood in 1-2 years, so not being beholden to employers, investors, or employees is something I want to cherish for a bit longer. But who knows! Only time will tell... :P
I also wrote about this exact topic last year: https://www.keyvalues.com/blog/engineering-whiteboard-interv...
Oh yea from the github link
> "Whiteboards" is used as a metaphor, and is a symbol for the kinds of CS trivia questions that are associated with bad interview practices.
Sorry should've been clear in my first comment.
We started with a simple IP geolocation API, which now handles over 20 billion API requests per month. We've added new data to that service, such as IP type classification (hosting, isp, or business, and soon education too), IP to company, and carrier detection. And we've also launched some other products, like hosted domain API (all domains hosted on an IP, sometimes called reverse IP), IP ranges belonging to an organization, and an ASN API. We've got a lot in the pipeline too, including some domain related offerings (see https://host.io for an early preview).
So it's definitely possible :) What sort of SaaS product are you thinking of launching? Would be happy to chat! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I mean, it's impressive from a technical standpoint; but still, worrying.
I find these IP lookup tools vary greatly - some will match certain IP blocks better than others.
I'm working on NanaGram (https://nanagram.co) solo and bootstrapped. Although I'm not making a full-time income yet, it's generating a profit. It's mostly automated.
NanaGram is the 3rd greatest generator of happiness and fulfillment in my life (after my wife and my dog). I get a constant stream of good vibes from customers, most recently voicemails from grandmothers! (https://nanagram.co/blog/feedback-by-vm)
Good luck :)
I hope this spreads and more people use it :) Products / activity like this really motivate me to promote them or recommend them when you're doing things this wholesome :)
I recently visited my grandma and found a drawer full of envelopes with every photo we've ever texted.
Wtf am I talking about?! I’m basically showing people the power of not needing to code to build something. I built an Airbnb “clone” by linking webflo, Airtable and zapier. Basically trying to show people they can build their first version without the classic “needing a technical cofounder” or “learning to code”. Tools out there right now are insane and can help you get to a place you couldn’t previously.
Okay Lynne is a recent friend and been huge in helping me the last couple weeks.
I did the normal shit of b2c (and still do) but the power of b2b is huge. I flipped my strategy and went from ~10k one month to now 30k (yes got 3.5k more since my initial comment).
* Do not expect any kind of explosive growth, especially in B2B. Expect linear growth. Search for "slow SaaS ramp of death" for a pretty good description of what to expect.
* Marketing is a huge problem. If you look around, you will see lots of marketers talking about marketing. In. Short. Sentences. With. Deep. Meaning. But then you'll notice that they mostly talk about marketing marketing apps for marketers. Unless you are building apps that help marketers market, much of this advice will be useless. And the short sentences are annoying.
* Paid ads are a waste of money, though I heard that with 4-5 digit budgets you can make them work. I never could.
* It is extremely difficult to get a working SaaS business at price points below $20/month. If you look around, businesses with these price points are VC-sponsored and are burning through investor money. I would not start a sustainable SaaS with price points below $40/month.
* When thinking about pricing, remember about support. There is no such thing as "no support", every product needs it, and it costs time and money.
* It's hard. Everything is hard. And there is always too much to do.
* Anxiety eats at you. No matter how good you are at keeping it at bay (I was pretty good), it will eventually catch up with you. I still don't have a good solution to that.
* If you pick a good niche, you can live in a world with nice and smart customers. It's a good world!
* When planning, be careful to set goals based on realistic financial assumptions. If this is to be your full-time job, it needs to support your business (including all hardware and office costs), you (your salary, insurance, retirement savings) and your family. People tend to vastly underestimate how much revenue is needed, especially if their past experience is mostly living with parents or surviving on ramen as a college student.
* I would not trade this for a "normal" job, ever :-)
Same feeling here.
Something that works pretty well for me is having a mentor a generation older than me, who has been running a business for decades. I tell them about my anxiety, ask them if they had it, and listen to how they dealt with it.
Strangely, every time I have that conversation the anxiety drops significantly for a while.
Anyone have other techniques for dealing with the startup anxiety they can share?
I loved this point! It’s so true. They go on about how such and such strategy worked so well for HubSpot. Of course it did, HubSpot has an easy audience: marketers! Turns out those strategies work a lot less well for technical or more discerning audiences.
Why is it expensive? On-premises deployment means maintaining a separate version of the software, a complex arrangement to make upgrades, inability to fix potential upgrade problems by modifying the database, having to maintain deployment documentation, having to always have code that creates a database from scratch (rather than migrating an existing one), extending legal arrangements for third-party services, additional configurations that need to be tested and much more. It constrains development in many ways.
Mind you, it isn't a side project -- this has been my full time job for a dozen years. Starting a successful SaaS company as a side project is much harder.
I imagine that TarSnap must have done very well since many tiny HN startups used it 10 years ago, and some of them are now huge. When those companies are growing like crazy I'm sure they just pay the bills and don't think about switching!
Still doing full-time consulting but hopefully in the next year or two I will transition full-time to it (if it's ever needed).
I do plan to hire someone for marketing or sales, maybe on contracting terms and not full-time.
Your headline text is "Webhook Relay lets anyone to..." You should probably make that "Webhook Relay allows anyone to..."
Also, I read your name as Web-hooker Lay, which is less feedback, and more just something I thought was funny.
I run a one-person (me!), bootstrapped business called browserless (https://browserless.io). I started it after trying to wrangle headless Chrome for a wishlist app, and desperately needing something like it. Obviously it wasn't around, so I pivoted and built it from the ground up.
I'd be super happy to answer questions. You can also email me at joel at browserless dot io. Anything and everything is game!
EDIT: Forgot to post how it's doing, which you can see on IH here: https://indiehackers.com/product/browserless
I built it up as my full-time gig and ran it initially for about six years. At that point: A) I had hired someone part-time to do customer support; B) the feature set was stable enough that it didn't need constant attention; C) I was missing working with people. So I moved out to SF and started working with a startup as an engineer. Enjoyed that for two years, then moved on to another startup where I was for three years (first as an engineer, then had a chance to move into management [which I also enjoyed, but where I missed making things]).
This past October I left that startup to go back to working on my own thing. Revenue coming in to the app dropped significantly while I was doing other things, but since coming back to it I've rebuilt it (well … 90% of it) and am soon going to be shifting focus to improving business operations (in addition to building out some new features). My hope is that within a year or so it'll be back up to its earlier customer levels, but I haven't spent a lot of time forecasting that, and growth could be slow. It'll be a while before it'll support us living in SF, but that's somewhere on the horizon.
What worked for me might not work for you (it was a long time ago!), but in case it's helpful, I built a very basic MVP (literally a spreadsheet) to scratch my own itch and then shared it, for free, online. (At the time I wasn't thinking of it as a business, just as a way to help people.) It got a good amount of traction. I was able to build on the attention the free version got (and the feedback people shared) and to develop a web-based, subscription-based version that required less work and gave more value to customers than the free version.
I haven't ever taken funding, and am so, so glad I haven't.
We're closed to new signups now while we wrap up the last bit of feature parity from the old app (and make sure all is working smoothly for our current subscribers), but would love to have you check it out in a little bit: https://pearbudget.com
Have you ever considered creating a native mobile app? That’d probably tip me over the edge to become a paying customer.
Native mobile app! Absolutely have thought about it in the past, and will absolutely be thinking about it a little later on this year as we tune our roadmap.
If you shoot me a note (email@example.com), I'll let you know when we get a native app out the door. No pressure, though! Take care!
Cheers to all the amazing engineers here who run ethical, douche-free, sustainable businesses
 https://parachute.live/app (app), https://parachute.live/platform (B2B)
We provide business texting services to businesses of all sizes. Some of our customers include a city, vet clinic, glass shop, screen printing firm, boutique retailers, and on and on. Really any business can benefit from adding texting to their communications.
My advice: Pick something that will keep you interested and motivated to come back to when life gets busy.
I'm happy with where I'm at, but there's a lot I would've done differently. Holler if you'd like to chat about it at all: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markphillip/
I really enjoy the freedom and variety that comes with running a SaaS, and while the grass is always greener on the other side, I think I'm pretty much ruined for a regular job at this point. So beware!
One piece of unsolicited advice: if I were to start all over again as a solo bootstrapper, I would probably do something less technical. As others here have pointed out, there is a LOT more to running a SaaS than just building software, and it's often hard to find the time or brain space to give all the facets of your business the attention they deserve.
For all of them, I wish I had a "pay for credits" model, where I could just pay for each load test I ran, instead of a subscription.
Load tests for me were infrequent and feature/ad-hoc/test-case specific, so I wish I had a billing model that fit my use case.
Wish you the best!
Loadster's revenue split is something like 70/30 between MRR and Fuel. As the founder, of course, I love MRR, but many customers are like you and load testing is an occasional activity where it wouldn't make sense to have a recurring commitment.
I do always wonder how much friction it causes having two separate pricing models... pricing is hard.
If I could be so bold as to pass along advice, I would say:
- keep the app itself as simple as possible. “This is so simple, even Steve Jobs would say it’s too simple” simple. This makes creating, testing, describing, and supporting the app as easy as possible. And if people can use it and provide meaningful feedback on what else they need, you can always decide to add it later.
- don’t try to reinvent the wheel on marketing. See what has worked for similar products (indie hackers is awesome).
- make sure you talk to prospects, customers, friends, and family. Don’t just sit there writing code. Having lifestyle flexibility as a solo founder is awesome, but it’s important to make time to be social. As much as I don’t miss commutes, office politics, etc, we are social creatures, even us introverts, and if you’re just coding or emailing or whatever and not actually talking to people, it’s going to be hard.
- try to pick a market where you enjoy talking to your customers. I really like this part of my job. I know some other people who for whatever reason tend to have unpleasant interactions with their customers and it's not nearly as fun.
So I’m told. :)
I'm in this for the long run. Even if 90% of my customers left me tomorrow then I would keep this going as a side gig.
I'm also able to facilitate customers that want to move off the ToDesktop platform to their own (i.e. built in-house) desktop app. Just send me on your binaries and I'll push an auto-update to your customers that gets them onto your new desktop app and your new auto-update platform. I charge $200 once-off for this currently and this feature will never be priced to force people to stay on the platform. The only reason for the charge right now is that it's a manual process so I charge consultancy rates.
I. E. If. You are hit by a bus, what happens?
You can try sending me something at https://pipefile.com/steve
The project was originally started in 2013 as an open source side project, while I running a network of niche social networks full-time (also quite profitable for a while), after serving as CTO of a daily deal company, that stemmed from my need for reliable holiday information without the overhead of actually maintaining said data on a regular basis.
A shift to a premium model was made in 2016 and the first month into being a premium service, it was profitable (sans my time ;) and has grown to ~$1500 MRR.
Ironically I started the project as a way to NOT have to maintain said data and now part of my day to day involves maintaining data accuracy... and sales outreach... and DevOps to improve... my own development efforts... and... and...
Recently received my YC rejection email for the upcoming batch (actually interviewed with another project with a partner a while back), but still hustlin'. Flying solo is great, but definitely can't get caught up in the echo chamber. Would highly recommend building a peer group of founders / other hackers & hustlers to meet / chat with regularly.
Since there are questions about company formation in the comments, here's my notes on US taxes/legal from when I got started: https://www.simonmweber.com/2016/07/11/launching-a-chrome-ex...
I split my time about 50/50 between the the SaaS side of my business and consulting. The consulting revenue stream is much larger than the SaaS one but it's growing.
Takehome is in a pretty crowded market space. It has its own distinct niche but it can be quite difficult to communicate that difference to potential buyers.
Clubman, on the other hand, has few competitors. The clients are relatively homogeneous and their needs well articulated. They're a smaller total addressable market but with a higher percentage hit rate.
I'm also running https://monokai.pro — a professional color scheme for coders.
I've done both on the side of co-running a design agency. Last year I've spent quite some time on the logo design tool. It helps that I enjoy programming, learning and making stuff, but something's always got to give. I've sacrificed a lot of weekends, but luckily the foundation is there now.
Both projects are profitable and have quite different mechanics. I've done almost no marketing for the color scheme, whereas the logo machine needs a lot of marketing.
Though I very recently took on a partner to try and grow it because I believe it can be more than just “profitable” but perhaps actually a sole income source one day. It’s great to have a “one person” company but I feel it’s even better to have a partner to help inspire and motivate you, especially when it’s a side project and not a full time job.
With it you can create a secure public endpoints (HTTP/TCP) from any network. The client can host static sites, reverse-proxy to other hosts, terminate TLS. It manages Lets-Encrypt for you. The higher-end tiers provides access logs, metrics, firewall rules, and service-health checks.
With a public endpoint you can pretty much do anything. I initially built it to reduce my hosting costs to something minuscule (which it did). I found alternatives as I developed it, but I was so interested in the problem I continued and created some features that aren't available in others. I still have more ideas in the pipeline.
I've been putting together video tutorials to showcase what you can do with it and how to use it. I'm focusing on people that self-host since most developers/hackers understand the concept. A lot of my registrations and customers have discovered Packetriot through my YouTube channel.
I use DO, altogether hosting costs are $40/mo for now.
Today 3+ years later it's a three person team. Maybe in another year I can have reasonable work life balance again. Maybe.
The Saas i'm running is Gridoc (https://gridoc.com) - it pays for the car and a few bills. I'm pretty sure it could be doing better but it has been on auto-pilot for a couple years now (started a family).
I bootstrapped it myself, but there are now others that help remotely (consultants, contractors) on some features, fixes testing and marketing.
But for SFTP, and FTP (insecure, not that you'd want to) CNAME works fine.
We do do seperate SSL certs but it is only for bigger customers that we host dedicated instances on their behalf.
Also, you'd need to get an office in Delaware to not mandate a foreign registration in California which still involves the taxes. Getting an office in Delaware is pretty expensive but it's about $400 cheaper than California franchise tax. They assess their own but it still works out lower.
Edit: Nevermind, they still tax you on that. I don't condone tax evasion, but Wyoming doesn't track the owners of a corporation.
"Piercing the corporate veil" is different. Google will be helpful if you're interested, but basically if you run a company don't do shady shit -- don't commit fraud or gross negligence, and respect the separation between company and personal finances. Otherwise you may lose the protection of the corporation (the "limited liability" part of LLC) and become personally liable if things go bad.
The first with is on auto pilot and does $800MRR. My second is called TeamCal (https://www.teamcalapp.com) and I’m actively working on it. Usually 2-3 hours/week. Its doing $1700MRR and growing.
TeamCal provides a scheduling view for Google Calendar and is used by cleaning/call center/staffing companies.
If your interested about some of the work involved, I documented part of the journey on Indie Hackers: https://www.indiehackers.com/product/teamcal
He's ambitious to be a better alternative version of Charles Proxy. The best of Proxyman is that it's native app, lightweight and super easy to use for iOS dev newbie
Have about 100 paying customers.
Yeah everybody hates popups. But I saw a potential for a product and wanted to try doing the SaaS thing after a decade selling software and doing consultancy. It has been a lot of fun, it is thrilling and scary to have my JS loaded on some high traffic sites.