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Ask HN: One Person, $1M Company
54 points by p0d on Aug 28, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 46 comments
My friend and I were debating the other evening if one person can create/run a $1 million company. Is anyone here doing this?

There are several solo indie game devs who passed that threshold. Jonathan blow (braid), Daisuke Amaya (cave story), Dean Dodrill (dust), Markus Persson (mine craft), Lucas Pope (papers please), etc

The average outcome for a serious indie game release is about 16k though https://drive.google.com/file/d/1W6lZir97bUU0KdvIGNIVWG0O-_A...

Wish me luck with my own when it finally releases (pre alpha atm) https://barbariangrunge.com

Your game looks pretty impressive for just one person. Good luck

Thanks! It will eventually need to compete with games made by full teams, so there are still a lot of features and refinements planned

I think that's absolutely doable. Not easy but doable.

And for anyone thinking along those lines, I'd argue that the goal isn't to get to $1M/yr but rather to a place of financial freedom. I think more people would hit that mark, if in addition to plowing money into growing their businesses, they also diversified and invested their cashflows effectively.

Below is a story of an Optometrist who became a billionaire over time. His fortune came from two things: 1) He started a successful business that did about $10 million/yr in profit. 2) Over his lifetime, he continuously redirected his business profits into stocks.


update: for some reason the link above goes to the beginning of the thread instead of the tweet about said Optometrist. You can scroll to Tweet #27 in the thread.

enjoy the thread...and don't forget to compound :)

Obviously achievable and I think you’d be surprised what some people can generate on their own even outside dev world:

- ads / digital marketing type individual

- high paid consultants

- small SaaS (know guy who did this)

- big hit wonders on App Store

- real estate

- small business brokers

- lawyers

- authors

The question really is how soon until someone does $1B on their own.

I believe Plenty of Fish was a one man show and was sold for over half a billion. We're getting there.

I’ve ran one - now there is a team, so that project no longer qualifies. At that scale, most of your time goes to customer service, marketing, bug fixing, and admin. Not value creation. So you start hiring to delegate low-impact work, and congratulations now you have a small business. The day-to-day is far less glamorous than it sounds.

You mean $1M in value or in revenue over some period?

Worth $1M - I think so. It's not too unrealistic to hit that with moderate annual income and some assets.

Making $1M per year - I think this is technically possible but not very common.

I don’t see why not. Some here on HN are probably getting that much as a salary :-). patio11 has some blog posts on getting up to a $50k a week consulting rate that would see you hit the target in the first 20 weeks of the year. If it has to be ARR I can imagine courses can make this much (like the top React courses) which require little maintenance I.e. can be managed by one person maybe outsourcing some graphic design and video work but not taking on employees.

My highest charged rate was $30k, though I did have $50k accepted on a proposal once (engagement didn't happen). Presumably rates have moved up in last several years as everything else in tech is moving up (irrespective of whether my value in particular has gone up; would hope it has but highly unlikely anyone is going to be able to hire me as a consultant again).

Anyhow: boutique consultancies can absolutely bill a million and change in a year.

Separately: there are many one person SaaS and infoproduct businesses which cross the $1M mark. Most would probably prefer me avoid mentioning them by name, and I will make the obligatory disclaimer "I did not need privileged position in the marketplace to come by this information." But to the extent that folks trust me, know that this is both doable and getting more common in the community over time, as entrepreneurs attack better markets, as the Internet touches more people, and as the community gets better about teaching repeatably successful tactics/strategy versus having everyone invent their own businesses from scratch.

(I interpreted this question as being about revenue rather than valuation but if it were about valuation the answer is, even more obviously, yes; a typical B2B SaaS company doing ~$300k in revenue will easily clear $1M in valuation. Many SaaS entrepreneurs will get there in about 2-2.5 years from founding.)

Can confirm this is achievable with consulting, though of course not easy. I left my job in 2013 to do consulting, after being inspired by Patio11 (hi Patrick!). It took just one year to hit the six-figure mark, and another few to be in the half-million range.

There was a clear path to $1M — I peaked in the upper six-figures — but I chose instead to travel more and then start a family. Amazingly my income remained steady even in those "relaxed" years and also through the pandemic. Eventually consulting stopped being fun and felt more like chasing a high score year after year, so I joined a startup to try something new.

So I never did reach $1M. Though if we count equity compensation then I was a stone's throw away, if not over.

Out of curiosity, what was the subjects/languages/frameworks that you consulted on?

This guy did it: https://www.indiehackers.com/interview/creating-a-hit-mobile...

Though it depends on your definition of One Person. He ported another game but the money went into his business account and it was more like a licensing deal. The game design was done by someone else, though.

His net income was $150k after taxes. Gross revenue was $800k in 16 months. Wouldn’t count it as a $1M company, especially as mobile games are entirely seasonal / one-time events, not recurring revenue.

I didn’t mean to diminish it at all, but that’s $600K/year from a two-man team, which is relatively far from what the OP is asking for.

Not sure what you mean with a "$1 millon company", but there are lots of single founders creating very profitable companies, check out indiehackers.com.

Sextoy.com was a 1-person company for many years. They probably broke ten million in annual revenues before hiring their first employee.

So was plentyoffish.

I think photopea.com is 1 person doing at least $1m in annual revenue.

Not me, but one of my friends. He ran an ecommerce shop, selling items manufactured in China, and easily cleared over 1M in revenue (think it was something like 3 to 4!). Eventually, since it was consuming his whole life, he brought on a team to help him handle other aspects especially since he just had a kid.

Of course! Happens all the time. Go look for 1 person startups on microaquire or flippa. I bet there are dozens of 1 man operations for sale right now for over $1M. A million is actually not as hard to get to as you might think for an exit. (Still very hard I'm sure, I don't mean to downplay it)

You’ve got to really find your niche. I make around $1.5M profit per year from an independent website that takes an hour of two of work per week, me only. It’s been running for 15 years. The whole thing was a freaky case of perfect product and timing and there was definitely luck involved.

Can you give a bit more details, if possible? Do you sell a product? Is it a content site?

Wasn’t plenty of fish famously one person for a long time?

Does the one million dollar homepage count? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Million_Dollar_Homepage

MinistryOfFlat claiming to be doing $1M as a single founder - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21909725

If you have a good understanding of how to hack YouTube (or other social sites) that seems plausible. Some list video channels appear to have crossed that mark (I bet a well trained GAN or GPT-3 could easily reproduce content of that quality—it’s not about talent of any sort). Though actually doing that could be considered unethical, as it would be contributing to the wire heading of children (who else watches list videos?) to an algorithm obsessed with watch time optimization.

If you are okay with working yourself to death and are in a nitch and in-demand market you could make that consulting.

You might like this one https://www.amazon.com/Million-Dollar-One-Person-Business-Gr...

I listened to the audio version, it is interesting

@levelsio for one. there's a bunch aggregated on indiehackers.com

Came here to say this too. Pieter Levels, (@levelsio) from NomadList / RemoteOk, he's over $1m now i think and pushing towards $3m. In all his interviews, he points out that although this is revenue, he saves/profits 90%+ of this figure because his costs are extremely low, just hosting and some APIs i think.

Valuation I assume? Probably most companies "worth" $1 million haven't been formally valued, so you'd have to go off ARR and assume a theoretical acquisition multiple.


Previous discussion about BuiltWith: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10316060

Some YouTube content people are turning over big bucks. Supercar channels like Shmee150 might fall in this category. His personal collection is full of top end machines

But isn't part of the condition of those folks to already have money?

I thought one of the main requirements to be a quick hit on Youtube (and other social media) is to have already access to money.

Shmee started out chasing and filming supercars around London as did a few other car channels. He did a great interview about his current operation and amazingly has averaged more than 1 video production per day since he started (10+ years ago maybe).

He's got a media team now but its certainly possible he exceeded 1M by himself.

I mean, it seems trivial to say, but a lot of people who inherit a lot of money start a company. They may even put $1 million in cash into it. At that point they are the sole employee of a million dollar company.

At a more serious implementation of the same idea, I'm willing to bet a lot of solo entrepreneurs with wealthy families are getting a million dollar valuation in the friends and family round

There's one way of finding out that might end-up making you and your friend a little bit of cash...

Do you mean revenue or value? Both are achievable one more so than the other!

See remoteok.io/open

If you have a limited company in the UK you must use a suitably qualified accountant. Not sure if that counts as a "no".

Up to a certain level you don't need to have an accounting qualification.

Even then, if you outsource statutory accounts, I wouldn't have thought that counts.

Oh wow! Yes you are right. Now let me see what I could have saved ...

Seriously I think he was good value when needed just to have one less thing to think about.

No, I get it. But I guess does an outsourced service count towards your company? I'd say not.

You don't count the people that made your pc.

You mean, without hiring employees?

Sounds like a good challenge!

already doing it in my sleep.. next question?

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