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My Show HN Project got acquired after 6 months (medium.com)
414 points by jhow15 3 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 97 comments

Not speaking negatively of Trennd or Josh - this illustrates the point that marketing skills are critical to success in these kinds of ventures, much moreso than development skills.

Tenacity and willingness to expose oneself (at obvious risk of being told negative things) is requisite to achieving success like this so quickly (and probably also when done slowly).

To your defense, you're sharing a truth that is often difficult for many technical founders to hear/read. Many either over-estimate their non-technical skills or don't care to think about them at all, as "the better product always wins" myth remains present to this day. I am not personally exempt from this thinking, especially at the start of my entrepreneurial journey, where I wasted many months bringing products to market, to no avail. I am also certainly not the first person to make this observation.

If you aren't willing to hop on a demo of your product via video chat with a potential customer, per their request, you're directly lessening the chances of that product's success. With that said, once you realize that without marketing or sales, nobody will see your beautiful creation(s), you quickly realize the need for such. Personally, this lead to a desire to learn, practice, and master these skills. However, you can easily find others with a seemingly natural affinity for these skills and delegate these efforts to these individuals (whether partners or employees), enticing them with stock and/or salary should you have sufficient revenue and/or funding.

EDIT: I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting solo ventures succeed less often than those with more than one founder. There is research (see that from NYU and Wharton) pointing to exactly the opposite.

> once you realize that without marketing or sales, nobody will see your beautiful creation(s), you quickly realize the need for such

Compare https://dilbert.com/strip/1998-02-14 :

> I realized that what's inside a person doesn't count because no one can see it.

> I didn't realize you were such a philosopher.

> That's my point!

Do you know any good ways to improve your non-technical skills as a founder? I am at the point where I've built the mvp, but growth is very slow. I use the mvp personally so I know its useful, but I really think Im not good at getting it out there to get enough feedback to iterate.

Any suggestions on getting better at this side of entrepreneurship?

Confidence is key. It is a magical trait that energizes you, enhances your executive presence, and supercharges sales. I have no idea what your product does. However, if you truly believe that it could provide value, then that should give you the confidence you need to sell it. There is no better way to sell than with the sincere belief that a potential customer will be better off if they buy your product. It seems like you have that part down, since you personally use your product and it solves at least one person's problems.

Practice pitching your product concisely in front of the mirror. Refine your pitch until you don't bore yourself anymore, then go talk to prospective customers knowing that a majority of the time you will fall flat on your face. Use those interactions to refine your pitch, tweak or pivot your product, and find out what really resonates with people.

This 100%. Think of all the "bad" or "clunky" products out there (not to say that this is a bad product, it's a great idea) that we use every day at work - this is why there's the saying "Sales cures all."

I think a large part of it has to do with design... I have a similar product offering: https://hnprofile.com/compare?search=AWS,GCP%20|%20Google%20...

We offer to businesses, have a few pilots, but the slickness of Trennd is probably something we'll copy. It was clearly easy to see how the UI helped here - congratz on the sale too (if you're reading this).

It would be nice to let me leave the website using the back button (chrome android)

Also on FF Win10. Can people stop doing this please? Tank you :)

Apologies, will work to fix :)

I don’t know why his site is not more successful. Once a user visits the site they can never leave.

Thanks for flagging this up!

Thanks for providing a link. Just comparing the two.. the backend might be the same but the slowness and non-obvious graphs makes you feel awful but the card based layout was fresh.

Both could be more engaging.

curious, have you tried product hunt or similar? it is looking to me that playing the online popularity game has become a key factor for succeeding. if something is popular on product hunt, it is more likely to succeed.

We haven't done that directly, we did push out our chat bot:


Hi everyone, Josh here the writer.

I’d like to give thanks to all the people here on Hacker News who supported the project during that launch and any questions or comments just let me know!

The short version (summarized from the article): I spent 2 months building an app to detect trends. Launched as a Show HN and reached #1 on Hacker News (briefly!). Another 4 months growing and improving it but failed to monetize. But I got enough traction to get acquired by Brian Dean founder of Backlinko.

For the sake of all the other HN founders here building our own apps and trying to sell/monetize, how much did you get acquired for? I think it’d be super insightful to get a data point here.

recurring revenue is king. Typical valuations are 7-10X revenue (crazy right?) for a strategic acquisition. For example a friend of mine was doing about 3m in revenue (about break even) and I believe sold for about 15-20M (I forget the exact number). I think it took him about 8 years to get there. Another friend got a similar multiple on 7M in revenue.

On the other hand I was talking to a founder last week about acquiring his company. he is doing about 1M in revenue and was asking about 600K. I dont think we can close before the end of the year so passed, but would definitely consider it if he is still available next year.

Strategic is the key word here, though, and this is only for tech. 80%+ of acquisitions will not be strategic in this context so even in tech it's very unlikely to get 7x top-line revenue. In many sectors, especially with brick-and-mortar businesses, 3-5x gross profit is more likely. In low- or mid-margin businesses this can easily be less than 1x gross profit for the last 12 months, let alone the tricks places like FE Int'l play like just multiplying the last quarter's revenue by 4 and calling that yearly revenue.

Thanks for the info! I understand fairly well how software companies are valued. I, and probably many others, am just interested in a number/ballpark.

My guess is a few hundred thousand, like 3 or 4. It sounds like an acquihire with a decent signing bonus more than an acquisition.

Regarding the data granularity, I'm curious if you ever managed to figure out how to get high granularity (daily) data over a large timeframe. For those who don't know, google "helpfully" changes the granularity for you when you request longer ranges, and normalizes the response so that the largest datapoint in any given range is 100, so you can't just concatenate consecutive requests.

My very hacky attempt at solving this involves overlapping short range requests, and finding the scaling factor of best fit between them: https://github.com/bspammer/rebuild_trends

I'd be really interested in hearing if there are better approaches out there to squeeze this data out of Google.

Yeah you're spot on with those data limitations. I think the easiest solution would be to just store the more recent, granular data and accumulate that over time. But now way to get granular historical as far as I'm aware.

Is your newsletter going to continue? If so, where is the signup?

Also, I had never heard of unreadit.com before reading your article and it looks exactly like something I've wanted. Thanks for that!

Congratulations and thanks for writing it up. It was a great read.

Thank you - glad you enjoyed it!

Yeah you can subscribe to stay updated here: https://explodingtopics.com/subscribe

We're going to make that much more prominent in the future, currently it's in the footer :)

And yeah, unreadit.com is awesome and Fab the guy who made it's a really nice guy!

Nice work and congrats.

Do you mind sharing the "x" multiple in the acquisition? I think in tech the norm is a 10-14x multiple for acquisitions...but this case seems different in a few way (6 months, no investors, etc...).

Congrats. You didn't fail to monetize, you just pivoted to a different monetization method.

Ahah - I like that. That's what I'm going to say from now on :)

Why professional bloggers as your target audience? There are several institutions I can think of that would pay a lot of money for near exclusive access to a more specialized version of what you've built

That was a good read, now I want to try doing something myself. Thanks!

I'm glad I could help :) You should go for it!

Congratulations, Josh! This is a huge success for a six month project. Based on my experience with acquisitions, that was a very fair offer that you got.


Thank you!!

> As for the acquisition number… that’s why you’ve read this far, right?!


> We settled on an amount equivalent to how much I’d earn as a US-based engineer working 6 months, but then multiplied by X for the traction/success factor already achieved. And I also still have a stake in the project going forward.

Working where in the US? Software engineers can make wildly different amounts of money depending on where in the US they work. Even within SFBA and NYC, a subset of companies pay significantly more than others as well.

So why not just say the actual acquisition number?

Let's say SF.. I'll say half a year's wage im SF is 100 - 125K. What's X? 4 to 10? So I'm guessing he got $500K to a million.

While we're guessing, I'll throw my hat in the ring at 250k. Given that it failed to monetize, I'd be surprised if it's significantly higher.

I know of a project that did have decent monetization and was impressive technically that only went for mid 6 figures. However the owner wanted to sell quickly so that might have depressed the price a little bit.

They worked out a deal in a little less time than it takes me to be disappointed with a movie choice. It was more that the seller wanted the hire part of the acquihire. Looks like it was a good deal for both.

I'm pretty skeptical the numbers are anywhere in that neighborhood. But if they are, that's a stunning success.

> What's X? 4 to 10?

And this is exactly why he didn't come out and say a number. X could be anything. Someone else in the comments was speculating 10 to 14. But it could just as easily be like 1.2 or something.

>Someone else in the comments was speculating 10 to 14

Probably my comment, but I wasn't speculating... my understanding of a normal tech acquisition formula, but I specifically acknowledge this one was likely different because it was < 6 months old and no prior funding/investments.

This is how myths are built. Less than 100,000 for 3000 emails.

My guess is somewhere between $112.5k - 150k. With remaining equity being relative to salary of position offered.

"Engineering Salary" $150k / 2 = $75k. "Multiplied by X" Let X be between 1.5 and 2. So $75k * (1.5-2) = $112.5k-$150k

No way a SEO-focused blog is paying $1M for a weekend project. That's enterprise acquisition multiplier territory

Is it really standard for SF engineers to get paid 200-250K?

Average SF non FAANG makes 250k/year?? Yes

> So why not just say the actual acquisition number?

Usually buyers don't want this information going public. Likely it was part of the deal terms. My guess is that what Josh said is as much as he's allowed to disclose per terms of the deal.

> Working where in the US?

Doesn't matter, because it's multiplied by X plus equity.

> So why not just say the actual acquisition number?

Because he didn't want to say the number, but he wanted to say that it was high enough to justify his effort.

So it's inconsequential that we don't know one of the variables, because the one it's multiplied by is likewise unknown?

It's materially different to have an X multiple of an NYC salary versus an X multiple of an average US salary, for all values of X.

> It's materially different to have an X multiple of an NYC salary versus an X multiple of an average US salary, for all values of X.

Let X = 0

> We settled on an amount equivalent to how much I’d earn as a US-based engineer working 6 months, but then multiplied by X for the traction/success factor already achieved. And I also still have a stake in the project going forward.

Why not just, simply, put the price? You know that most people are only, barely, interested in the "acquisition" price rather than the story of how you got there.

Not always true. If you are a first time seller and you are trying to put a dollar amount on your product, it can sometimes be tough to do. There is the tangible value your thing provides but also all of the intangible value, the FOMO factor, etc... that can infuence things as well. This equation is totally unique to SV but the fundamentals transcend geography and industry.

I certainly appreciate candor when it comes to these sorts of things.

How they got there is more interesting.

In the end he got paid 60k + the value of 3000 emails + brand.. 3 dollars an email? 10000+

My guess is 75,000 + 5%

It's not interesting to me if I don't know how much he got paid for it. There is a difference between $10k and $120k. The way he worded it (engineer salary) is not quite useful as the range in the USA is quite wide.

It was nice of him to tell us as much as he did and as far as I'm concerned he did tell us how much he got paid. The answer is he made more than he would have working as an engineer over the same amount of time ("more" is based on the value of the brand and the email list). For reasons that should be obvious it's not more by a lot.

> There is a difference between $10k and $120k

How do you get 10k based on what he told us?

I imagine they're contractually obligated not to disclose the figure.

Neat result. I've sold a few side projects over the years, it's always nice at first, though I've then ended up wondering "what if" as the years go by :-)

This jumped out to me:

We settled on an amount equivalent to how much I’d earn as a US-based engineer working 6 months, but then multiplied by X for the traction/success factor already achieved.

It sounds like you have a pretty significant win here, considering there was no real revenue. I'm guessing we're talking at least $50k multiplied by something.. so not exactly pocket change :-)

Thank you! And congrats on selling your side projects too :)

You're pretty close there yeah - so it was a huge win! Especially given it had no revenue like you say.

Thanks for writing up the experience. With screenshots and explaining how things panned-out. Very interesting read!

Curious about the secrecy about the price. I guess I'd feel awkward to boast about the specific price tag, but was there an NDA or something stopping you from naming the price? It's interesting how much you exposed and shared, but when it comes to $$s then it's usually a secret... :) not passing judgement at all, but just interesting to observe this (also on patio11's posts and I guess others).

This is a really cool project. To be honest, I think Brian got a steal on this. There's a ton of potential here, and I think if it was developed a bit more (developed from a business model point of view), there was potential to sell for a heck of a lot more.

I think it's possible to be a steal for both. Brian has the unique position of being able to leverage this business into something far more valuable than what he paid for it (a road that would have been much longer, difficult, and riskier for Josh), while Josh got a sum for the business that far exceeds typical super-early stage SAAS valuations. There are probably many owners of SAAS businesses generating up to, say $3k in MRR (obviously, exact numbers are impossible to pin down), that would be thrilled with such an exit.

It sounds like Josh also got to hold on to some of the upside while taking a bit of risk off the table. Seems like a win-win on the surface and with the experience Josh will get working with Brian, he may be able to grow his next venture to a later and more valuable stage. Kudos to both of them.

Actually, that's a pretty convincing argument.

This is exactly it. Thanks for laying it out so clearly :)

Hahaha - maybe he did! Completely agree it has huge potential. But I think I came out of it well too and still have a revenue stake :)

I'd love to try out this product. So just curious, is this another meta post to drive traffic to the site? Hehe. Congrats on the sale btw! It's not easy pulling the whole thing off.

Hahaha - thank you! I did want to have the story on paper for myself to look back on, but some traffic is a nice bonus :)

Isn't it a clone of Glimpse (https://meetglimpse.com)? They seem to have monetized it pretty well.

looks like. anybody knows where do they get the raw data from ? I had a brief look at Google's public APIs and the closest I could find was trends. However, they do label some charts with searches per month....

Cool app! Curious about the data sources, or is that a secret sauce?

For example, you have "google cloud platform" trends going back 15 years - does that mean you have 15 years of data from all your data sources? How do you backfill that?

From the medium article:

"I needed something that could surface opportunities by automatically monitoring the web for new topics. So that I can then plug them into Google Trends.

Heck, it could even check Google Trends itself so I don’t have to."

Thank you! Yeah that's part of the secret sauce... but what I can say is that we monitor lots of different places: search, shopping, online communities looking for interesting topics and then we cross-check that against Google Trends data and curate topics ourselves.

I'd love to know how he literally shook hands over Skype video.

Ahaha... I didn't know how to explain that better...

We both waved our hands up and down in the air like a handshake but we only had video... is there a name for that?! :D

Demolition Man handshake

I'd say you "virtually shook hands over Skype!"

A couple suggestions: 1) it would be nice to have mouse hover-overs on the charts that show the exact date. 2) If something is highly cyclical (e.g., Ring doorbells seem to spike every holiday season), it's probably not right to say they have "peaked". I would suggest instead looking at the Year-over-year percentage change in the trailing 1- or 2-month period, and if that is also significantly lower, then you can more accurately say if something has peaked. 3) if the query in question is for a commercial product/company (e.g., Victure), then why not add a direct link to the company, which could be an affiliate marketing link? Seems like an obvious way to monetize this.

Gee I remember when this was first posted. I remember being jealous for not thinking of the idea myself. Can't believe it's been 6 months and that you've been acquired already. Really kind of inspirational and makes me realize what wonderful things I could have built in that span of time instead of, well, not shipping.

Awesome, congrats!

I've been subscribed to a similar service called Glimpse for some time. Who thought of it first? You seem to have very similar trends identified.

The most recent issue contained: Tiktok lights, Air Fryer Chicken, Chiropractic Y Strap, and Heated Razors.

Congrats on executing so well and the sale!

We often have so many "what if someone built xyz" thoughts and do nothing with them so I'm stoked you got off your bum and made this happen

PS: it'll be funny if you use this to find the idea for your next product

Thank you so much!

That's actually exactly why I built it in the first place, so definitely going to be "eating my own dog food" with this for the next project idea :)

It seems to be focused now on tech topics - is this going to remain the case?

Right now that's because of my founder bias, but we're looking to include more and more types of topics across health, business, marketing, fashion and so on.

Congrats on the sale! Came here with the same comment. My wife has an online store for clothing/fashion and does it now manually to detect trends, think: "megan markle jacket". This tool would be super useful and save a lot of time.

Btw. is the possibility of adding new topics currently down? Nothing seem to happen when clicking "Add a topic".

All I want to know is why reddit is showing you ads for hurdy-gurdys.

Where do you source the data? Looking at Google Trends, the graphs don't match up at all with your graphs, so I assume you have another data source that you prioritize.

Hi there, the graphs do actually match up - it's just the Google Trends default time period is usually different to ours. Plus the width and height of their charts make the chart gradients look flatter than ours :)

I really enjoyed reading about this. Its cool to see someone get their side project out and get a bit of money too.

Need to get out of my head and start working on my side project now....

I don't understand this site.

It only shows stuff from the past.

It would be incredible if it showed from the future.

Ya, if this site could accurately predict future trends, it would have been worth..... at least.... (counts using fingers).... 7 times as much!

*(Holds up 4 fingers)

Then I don't get it.

Nothing there is new information to me, so why would anyone pay for it?

Did you read the post? He literally highlights a use-case on the first half of his post?

I used the tool and found it pretty useless, but you're right. What I know is just an idea, this tool is basically a validation of the feeling I have.


Congrats with the acquisition. Love how you pivoted into specific niche to gain more traction!


What keywords did you track on Google trends?

Congrats, so what’s your next project? ;)

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