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How I took my SaaS from idea to sold in 14 months (masilotti.com)
322 points by joemasilotti 21 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 153 comments

Frankly, I always find these stories miraculous. Even though I'm a full-time web developer, I find it daunting merely to design a landing page with user sign-up, let alone a feature worth paying for and an account subscription flow. There's just so much to do. It seems like years of work.

I know there's things like SaaS pegasus, but that forces Django. SaaS Pegasus and Bullet Train are also very expensive with no real options for trial. I wish tools like that - automating the basics of an ecommerce business - were more developed and available, preferably open source in the long run. I feel like it's the future we're slowly moving towards but we aren't there yet. We have widely-used open source frameworks for technical foundations - rails, django, etc - but no higher-abstraction equivalent that handles "features" like subscriptions and accounts.

It is infinitely easier to build and deploy things in 2020 than it was in 2010, and I'm hoping the time between now and 2030 represents a similar jump.

edit: found this list though https://github.com/smirnov-am/awesome-saas-boilerplates

This is exactly why I built Molecule.dev. It's brand new, using all the latest and greatest battle-tested tools.

I started it because I recognized that it took entirely too long to implement some of the most basic core functionality for cross-platform apps in a way that is up to my standards (i.e., minimal with no real vendor lock-in). It actually boggles my mind that nothing of the same quality as Molecule.dev exists yet. It's obviously a problem that developers everywhere run into when building custom apps. I've seen a few solutions, but (again) they're all either not up to my standards or they try to lock you in.

I think most developers prefer to implement things themselves, as they have their own preferences and may (like me) not trust that the code quality is up to their standards, so the difficult part here may actually be to convince developers that the code is high quality and something they themselves would write.

How can something be both state-of-the-art and battle tested? I thought battle tested meant something more like "tried and true" (AKA not new).

Cool product though!

Most of the tools have been around for quite some time (on the web tech timescale, at least), and they've each evolved and improved as they've been battle-tested. For example, React is pretty state-of-the-art as it has changed (improved) significantly over the years, while still being used in production everywhere.

What you've built here is GORGEOUS and is exactly what I'm imagining the future of development will look like. It's a dream.

Until you get to the end and it says "$400" -- then I remember it's still 2022 and we're not there yet. You deserve to be compensated for this work, absolutely. I just look forward to a future where tools like this are no longer privately held.

Thanks! And yeah, I wish I could release this for free but it requires so much time and effort to do it right that I would end up homeless.

I haven't tried it yet, but if it does what you say it does, I honestly think you underpriced this.

You could be right, but at the same time, many people seem to expect this for free. Perhaps they underestimate the amount of work required to implement quality core functionality, or maybe they feel that all core software should be free and open source.

I recently lowered the price in hopes that more people would be willing to follow through on buying. There have been many submissions but no one seems willing to pay. I may increase the prices again later on, but it really depends on how things go.

Ultimately, I want this to be accessible to the average developer so more people have the opportunity to quickly build awesome things and bring their ideas to life. It may prove difficult to find the optimal price point.

There's still a lot of work to done, especially on the marketing/convincing side of things. Maybe I'll look for funding, but I would prefer to bootstrap it. I'll probably need to find contract work soon if no buyers follow through, however. Ideally, clients would submit via assemble.molecule.dev and we move forward from there.

>There have been many submissions but no one seems willing to pay.

Tailwind is a masterclass with regard to how to market this kind of thing.

1. Release the core of your product for free (basicially give 95% away for nothing)

2. Sell premium features/components (the last 5% of your product for serious people with a budget)

Tailwind is selling their CSS framework UI component kit for $400!!!

It's a freaking simple little design system which is nothing in comparison to what you've built here and they are *rolling* in money.

Good luck.

Second this. This product sounds amazing. But hard to believe it without seeing it. What can you charge for that enterprises/funded entities would pay for, but side projects wouldn’t need until they start making money. Like: Electron, Oracle/SQL Server support, Exchange integration, etc. Good luck! As someone who has been “working” on a SaaS project for a year, would love to try this. But can’t shell out $400 out of pocket for something I can’t touch.

I will probably do something like this. I really appreciate your suggestion(s) and feedback.

Better business model might be make some api, or layer that you control in all this...basically it becomes like a headless cms...could be as simple as centralized auth/data-hosting, then the other version for $400+ could be on-prem/self-hosted...

Then people might get 1 month trial, and then $19/month/app.

This way you start building up a lot of MRR, and can maybe add price points for # of average monthly users or something like Auth0 has.

This is a really solid idea. I'll have to think about this. It could pair well with ux-app's (sibling's) suggestion.

A suggestion: maybe you should do a document/video explaining what your app does for people like me, because while I was reading I got curious, but I don't really know what it does. After spending 18 months developing my SaaS science algo in Python (self-taught) I was like: ok, now it shouldn't be too hard to make this available in a website. I only knew very basic css,js(jq) and html, so I started to learn VueJS: it was so freaking hard I realized I wouldn't be able to do it in the timeframe I had so we have decided to launch our product with an animated wireframe instead. At that point I also knew there would be challenges in 2 other areas in which I wouldn't have the necessary time/expertise: cloud/server and security.

Oh man, I hate to hear that you are struggling to find traction since I think you're building the future here. I really hope you find a way to make this work so that you can be a trailblazer on this front. The sooner these types of things become popular, the sooner there will be competition and more contributions to this space, and it will become more accessible.

It's the right choice! When an open version comes, it will most likely be a community effort. I would do the same thing in your shoes.

Just some feedback! Because of your message here I read through, but just the intro and headline would have been too abstract for me and didn't solve anythings specific for me:

"Assemble a simple but powerful, fully functional codebase consisting of only what you need."

Maybe add a small list of features you supply out of the box? Auth, Subscription management, billing, etc...?

This has to be the coolest experience I've ever had with a landing page

That is very kind of you to say. I worked hard on it, but I think it can be better. Marketing and succinctly communicating the value of a solution to a problem has never been my strong suit.

I'd AB test a different color scheme. I don't mind but I know some managerial types that would.

Like others, this sounds amazing and I'd totally pay $400 for it if I could try it out somehow first. Some kind of freememium model makes more sense to me. I'm an experienced dev with plenty of my own ideas, but I'm not experienced in everything and I always balk at how much drudge work I'd need to do to really get something going. This sounds awesome and super valuable.

This is amazing.

Could you elaborate on the "No vendor lock-in" part? When we select cloud services like Heroku or AWS, aren't we technically locked-in? For example, AWS Amplify will create DNS entries and its own SSL certificate for the domain. If we wanted to switch, we'll have to set these up again in the new provider.

How does Molecule not make you locked-in to the providers you select?

Great question. As it is now, Molecules are designed to be as independent (platform/vendor agnostic) and flexible as possible. For example, when I was trying out all the different cloud services myself, I was able to connect each of them to my git repository, and they would each build and deploy the same exact codebase with no extra setup beyond defining a few environment variables. It took zero effort to switch from one service to another. I take no credit for this though, as it's the result of these services being designed so well, competing with each other. I only ensure that it works perfectly for your selection and provide instructions to help you get started as quickly as possible.

As for other types of services, like cross-platform payment processing, push notifications, certain libraries/frameworks, etc., some of these try to lock you in, which are all avoided. Your Molecule's code covers all of this on its own so you don't have to rely on a third party. But at the same time, sometimes it can be cost effective to use a third party service, and in which case, the code is written so that adding and removing features and integrations of your own is super easy. I try to make no assumptions about what you will eventually need to add (or remove), while providing the most solid foundation possible for you.

i take it to mean you're not locked in to molecule directly.

Yes, this is also the case. (Referencing my sibling reply.)

Interesting. If I did my math right, you have 917,294,284,800 combinations of configuration available, not counting the "other" option in each category.

That's a lot! Most are coming from things like the deployment OS (720 options since you aren't limited to only one choice).

I've never considered all the different combinations, but it is definitely quite a lot of work, and I'm planning on adding more.

My goal with this is to help developers and teams of any level, from beginners to experts, quickly get started building the highest quality product(s) they possibly can. I want to raise the bar and eventually set a new standard of DX and UX for both developers and end users.

I honestly feel like you have way too many options. I went to select for some imaginary app.

I do appreciate your work, don't get me wrong, but maybe iteration couldn't be bad to happen. Talk to few people, see what they say.

I agree! There is a lot involved in building full-stack apps, especially with all the different tools available, and Molecule.dev barely scratches the surface.

I'll soon be adding presets and templates, which should reduce the complexity of selection. People often have requirements which I have not considered though, so the ability to customize everything will likely remain for them.

Counterpoint, I didn't think there were too many options. It took me <1m to scroll through the whole list and select what I wanted, ignoring the ones I wasn't interested in. I thought it was perfect. If it was 5m, on the other hand, or had page after page of options with no end in sight, that would become tedious I think. But this was very brief and straightforward.

You've done a great job here. I've been a PM in this space for 10+ years at major cloud providers. DM me if you want to brainstorm on GTM / monetization levers.

When I click the “get started” link and go to https://assemble.molecule.dev I get a blank page on iOS safari.

Looks like Safari was being extra strict about the CSP (content security policy). It should load on Safari now. Thank you!

how can you be 'latest' and 'battle-tested' at the same time?

A good example is probably React. I would consider it to be battle-tested, but it's evolved significantly over the years. "Latest and greatest" would refer to e.g. hooks in the particular case of React.

> It is infinitely easier to build and deploy things in 2020 than it was in 2010, and I'm hoping the time between now and 2030 represents a similar jump.

I'm not convinced that is true. At least if you compare 2012 with 2022, it was very easy to get a Rails app working, with user authentication/signup/password reset/etc (Devise), integrate Stripe for payments, deploy the whole thing on Heroku. It wasn't an overnight project, but one person could get that done in a few weeks of full time work. There was a lot of energy and excitement around this stack and the community often created "one good way" of doing things.

In 2022, all those technologies are still available, but they are uncool and most of the internet will dissuade you from using them. Instead, unopinionated micro-frameworks are in vogue, and you you're down a rabbit hole creating the same product by gluing together dozens of libraries, writing a jamstack SPA, deploying the whole thing on kubernetes. You could easily spend several weeks just building out user signup flows, password reset, email templates, etc.

I'm not saying it's all bad today: you can do much more with a SPA than you ever could with server side HTML + jquery, and back in the day when you hit a wall with Rails it was often extremely difficult to work around, whereas today's libraries are much more flexible. But for the happy path of "scaffold a functioning SaaS app", I definitely feel like it's harder to get started today than 10 years ago.

> At least if you compare 2012 with 2022, it was very easy to get a Rails app working, with user authentication/signup/password reset/etc (Devise), integrate Stripe for payments, deploy the whole thing on Heroku. It wasn't an overnight project, but one person could get that done in a few weeks of full time work.

If you use Phoenix in 2022, you can generate authentication/signup/pasword reset/etc with a single command and the generator was written by the same person who created Devise back in 2010. You also get LiveView (and generators for it) that let you make apps with all the interactivity of a SPA.

Oh, and there's a single line mix command to deploy a release of your app to fly.io!

In short, things have become far easier for small teams and solo devs as long as they chose appropriate tools. Obviously it's going to be painful if you try to go it alone with the exact same tools a team of 30 or more would use. The same was just as true a decade ago.

I haven’t tried Phoenix, but I believe you. I guess my point is more that the “general internet consensus” in 2022 doesn’t make life easy for you. It might be possible to do all this easily in Phoenix, but most people starting out are going to get directed down the npm/js/nextjs/express/etc DIY route, which is probably not the easiest path to market.

The issue with LiveView and similar solutions like HotWire is latency.

That's why Hey is impossible to use from places like NZ.

I mean, it is years of work, speaking from experience. I make a similar tool (but for Node.js/Vue, if you're not a fan of Django), and it took around two years to get it to where it is, with user account creation/management, subscriptions, teams, admin dashboard, scripting, etc. I'm definitely not charging as much as Bullet Train, but also I feel fully justified in charging instead of open sourcing it. It's been my sole serious side-project for years now after all.

The problem for trials of stuff like this, is that you have no real way of enforcing it. You just have to hope that trialers feel like doing the right thing and paying if they continue to use it, because trying to recover a few hundred dollars through legal means is just not worth the time and money you'd have to spend.

In the end, I settled on a 60-day money-back guarantee, and I've already issued a few already, to folks who thought it had a feature it didn't yet, or ended up not pursuing their idea, etc, so it seems to work pretty well.

You missed a great opportunity to plug your product on HN, give us a name and a link :)


I didn't build this app on it, but if I did it again I would probably use Jumpstart. https://jumpstartrails.com

There's also an open source version that handles a good chunk of the stuff needed to get a Rails saas up and running.

yeah I was going to plug that too...

the open source one handles a basic devise, admin backend and some other things. the pay one adds stripe and payments and stuff like that. but the open source one is really nice for hitting the ground running

It does take a lot of time and experience to create these types of solutions.

For example I put together https://buildasaasappwithflask.com/. It's a video course and SAAS example app that ties together a bunch of features. I've easily put in over 1,000 hours to create and update it over time. It's also been extracted from building multiple SAAS apps for clients (I do contract work).

The way I look at it, it's paying $59 once to get a well tested code base that's going to save you 100+ hours of research and development. I also give lifetime updates and support along with refunds for up to 1 year. For context since I created it in 2015 I've re-recorded the course twice and continuously add a bunch of incremental updates. Every few months I go in and update things to their latest versions. Answered a countless number of questions too.

I think the key is having at least something done. Nowadays, most of my new projects are done by copy pasting things I've done in previous ones. This reduces the time spent setting things up considerably.

Laravel is great in this regard. They have a number of first party packages like Laravel Spark that handle the heavy lifting of subscriptions, Laravel Nova that lets you spin up admin panels real fast, Forge for hosting... Highly recommend checking it out if you don’t mind PHP.

how do it compare to django? my experience with php was limited to some wordpress hacking.

Laravel is pretty good. Spark definitely reminds me a lot of Django. https://spark.laravel.com/

I think nowadays you can use whatever frontend you want with it, where prior versions you had to use Vue (I think)

I haven't used Django so I can't comment about that. However, the latest Laravel Spark is now a totally separate part of your app that you don't control. It's super easy to implement, include the package, configure your packages and be done with that part of it. Then within your application you have a bunch of methods available on your billable object.

I'm really not doing it much justice, but the docs are pretty short and easy to read through: https://spark.laravel.com/docs/1.x/spark-stripe/plans.html

What's even harder is product-market fit.

I can blitz through building a basic SaaS product, but will it be worthwhile to:

1. Make enough money to replace $dayjob.

2. Make enough money to even cover the headache of supporting customers.

3. Make enough money to even cover the hosting cost.

As someone who has built and shipped lots of projects, both for work/startups as well as personal/side ones, I would say that most of the time with building/shipping products quickly, tons of corners are cut. It may not be obvious at first sight but you could see if you look for it. That's typically how one person can build and ship something in very short time. As a simple example, in HN, tech circles and the software engineering industry we talk about node, react, microservices, architecture design, etc. but when you're one person trying to ship a product, there's a high chance you're writing some basic HTML, jquery and some php backend, rather than a react SPA with SSR/SSG. (Not saying this is how OP did it, just in my experience how I and a lot of others did it)

You're also right that it's infinitely easier to build and deploy things in 2020 than it was in 2010!

> I find it daunting merely to design a landing page with user sign-up, let alone a feature worth paying for and an account subscription flow. There's just so much to do. It seems like years of work.

All of those things are built into Jumpstart Rails, which the author now uses. To be 100% honest, just using a highly productive framework like Rails, Laravel or, my personal favorite, Phoenix, goes a long ways towards making it quick to build all of those features. If you're experienced with a Rails-inspired fullstack framework, I'd say the work involved is closer to a week or two at most.

Jumpstart gives you a sane default for that week or two of work.

It isn't! I started without any development experience and built an MVP in 3 weeks with user sign up, pricing and subscription using some getting started guides and stakoverflow. Not best practise or anything, I'm sure you laugh if you saw some of the code. Taking card payments was something I was worried about but Stripe has pretty good documentation for a layperson.

$218 MRR and damn proud of it, too!

You deserve to be proud, well done Joe. Most side projects fail, yours didn't. Enjoy being a dad!

Agreed. Having bootstrapped a $10m+ ARR business, I always think it’s a HUGE accomplishment when somebody makes their first dollar from SaaS.

If you haven’t yet, follow Joe on Twitter (https://twitter.com/joemasilotti). He’s one of the most positive dudes building SaaS on the internet and it’s just so enjoyable to watch.

you bootstrapped one hell of a business. SaaS is hard, but y'all made it look easy

Thanks! It's def really hard. Nothing easy about it.

How much did you sell it for?

Maybe a 1000 or 2000. Not worth spending 14 months in my opinion.

the lessons learned are definitely worth if you apply it going forward. making successful products and wealth is a skill. that value snowballs into making one rich

I doubt it. I think it's actually opposite. You create something which the market pulls away from you.

Definitely more than that. I sold something doing $5MRR for $2000 on MicroAcquire.

Any idea how the buyer did after that?

I'm a big microacquire lurker.

Hard to say really. They revamped the webpage but left the product mostly the same (was a Google Sheet add-on). The only insight I have is the "# Users" that gets listed in the Google Workplace Marketplace. I think it's up to a few hundred, so likely they haven't made their money back yet.

$218 MRR = $2616 ARR

With a pretty standard 4x multiple, it's a $10k business. Though I imagine the slower growth etc resulted in an actual valuation ~$8k.

I just meant it was not printing millions after 14 months hah

well done Joe, I should start following your footsteps!

I would be really interested to see a rough $/hr estimate from OP. Like, if he really did get $200/mo for 1-2 hours of work a month - that's ~$100/hr! It's a good rate! But any increase in time demands is going to sink this as a productive side gig and obviously it's unfit to use as a main gig.

I wish I had that data... sadly I didn't time track for this in the beginning when I was working on it the most. But in the end I was definitely making less than $100/hour before the sale.

That makes sense - and congrats on getting any revenue out of a side project! It seems like a good experience even if it's hard to judge it on economic grounds alone.

But also nothing per hour for the busy setup time - surely a more realistic assessment would be the total number of hours on the project divided by the total income?

Personally, given the number of people who never even launch, I congratulate every dollar of MRR. Everyone has to start somewhere, and lessons are learned with every incremental win or loss.

lol my brain was automatically adding K each time MRR was mentioned. Completely missed that.

Nevertheless, nice work.

There are a couple negative comments here. Don't let that get you down. You've done more than most. You built a product, validated, and made real money on that product. Then you exited with a positive payout. Great job!

This... you pretty much did more than 99% of the people on the planet and produced something.

Appreciate it – thank you!

Negative comments aside, can you please tell us how much you sold it for? It is really pointless to discuss this achievement unless people understand the ROI of this. If you sold it for $500 it would be worthless, if you sold it for $50,000 then it is another subject. People also want to know how much is $200 MRR site should be sold for.

Multiple times asked in this thread, maybe you can give a range instead of an exact number, instead of ignoring the questions.

Or you could catch a hint and let go of the discussion of a product you deem potentially "worthless".

Is this what you get from what I typed?

This is actually an underserved niche, speaking from personal experience. Kudos to OP for acting on it! Family always comes first, I can’t help but think that OP could likely have 10-20x’d MRR with just a little more focus on marketing?

> This is actually an underserved niche

I find this comment very interesting.

The vast majority of SaaS businesses that are shown/sold/started here on HN are complete mysteries to me in terms of their domain and customer base. It's rare that I see a business about which I can say "OK, I can see a need for that product." This one is yet another example: I simply can't fathom ever finding a use for this feature.

Please understand, I don't mean this in a negative sense. OP has definitely accomplished something to be proud of. It's just that my section of the industry (embedded systems) is so far removed from general web apps that I have no context for the use cases of a lot of what is introduced here.

Any site that gets traffic from social sharing on Twitter / Facebook.

The visits via those sources are competing with other tweets/posts in the feed. If there's a visually compelling social image, the likelihood of the URL being visited and/or shared increases.

Source: https://buzzsumo.com/blog/how-to-massively-boost-your-blog-t...

(Obviously this doesn't 'prove' that a more-visually-compelling image does better than a basic one, but it seems like it'd follow, given the inclusion of the image at all performs better than no image).

Yeah, it seems competitive with Bannerbear, which is an open startup and is at 150x OP's revenue: https://bannerbear.com/open

That’s why there was a buyer!

Maybe! I just didn't have the appetite. And I know that the folks who bought it do – so let them grow it to what it can be.

I see that the author is affiliated with https://jumpstartrails.com in some way (not sure whether they are a contractor or user or w/e). Does anyone have any direct successes with jumpstartrails or any other similar all in one frameworks?

I started a company a couple of years ago and sunk weeks/months into the boilerplate, eventually to abandon the project, package the core product as an CLI and open source it. Hoping to avoid that again in the future :p

Creator of Jumpstart Pro here!

There have been a couple huge successes with it. One of them is processing millions in revenue a month. A lot of others are doing well and chugging along. Can't share the exact ones without permission, but I've been blown away it.

At the end of the day, it's nice to help people focus on their unique business features and not payments, teams, etc.

Thanks for all you do for the Rails community with videos, etc. besides Jumpstart. It was actually a smart way to market Jumpstart (even though that wasn't the original intention).

Thanks Josh! I appreciate you!

Jumpstart is incredibly productive and well tested. You get full access to the codebase, so anything can be changed/customized.

The scaffolds are already updated to utilize the latest Rails 7/Hotwire patterns .

I'm currently developing with it on a personal project.

I'm in charge of Jumpstart iOS! It's a similar template but for Turbo Native-powered iOS apps.

Jumpstart takes care of a _lot_ of the boilerplate code in building a saas. I think it's worth the investment, but I'm involved in the project, so I'm pretty biased.

I used Jumpstart on a recent side project. It's pretty good but because it comes with so many things baked in, you have to agree with most of their stack/gem decisions and methodology (which I do for the most part) but you need to consider that going into it.

Does exactly that, it provides you with a stable and ready-to-build foundation with very little configuration

Good job and effort, but $100 MRR. I think there should be a threshold for claiming a 'acquired\sold' tag

I completely agree. The threshold should be $1 or the equivalent in local currency (adjusted for average hourly wage).

Sold is sold. Crossing that threshold is a huge step. Congrats to the author.

Yup. Same as the threshold for calling yourself a professional. If you get paid, you’re a professional.

At the time of sale it was doing $218 MRR. And why gatekeep? It sold, right?

This is garbage gatekeeping, and it misses the fact that entrepreneurship is usually a journey of learning as much as a financial journey. Look closely at bios of home-run entrepreneurs and you will frequently see a smaller win or loss before the exit for which they become known. What is the point of denigrating people for not having sold a SaaS as successfully as you have?

I wish them hearty congratulations on the sale and good luck with the next adventure.

Although I can sympathize with your view, aren't some startups actually in the negative side of that threshold?

He could clearify, that he sold a SaaS project, not a whole company. But he did sell the software.

I sold the domain, the IP, the design, and the marketing tactics along with the code. What more is there in a company?

From a tax perspective, there’s some big differences. This is not financial or tax advice, so talk to an accountant or tax professional about this if you need to get serious about it (too late for this company, but not the next)

The sale of your company was an asset sale, which means the amount you made from the sale will be taxed as income. That’s fine for the size of the deal and low complexity of the product. As you said, you sold some code, IP, and design.

If the transaction was much larger, say $1m+, you’d be pushed to the top federal and state income brackets and be paying a lot in taxes. Top federal income tax rate is 37%.

Most larger companies are C-corps, which is a boring way of saying they issue stock, have shareholders, and a board of directors. It’s a more complicated structure, but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to bring in outside investors and/or know you’re going to build a high-growth company.

Under this arrangement, the thing that’s sold is stock. Just like you buy and sell MSFT or AAPL. Selling a C-corp means you sell over 50% of the company stock to a buyer and they control the company. No IP, design, code, or assets are sold—what’s sold is control to all of those things.

Back to taxes: the seller pays a capital gain tax rate, which depending on more factors worth enumerating here, come out to a little above 15%. There’s also this thing called qualified small business stock, which discounts that 15% rate on the first $10m of gains if you’ve held that stock for more than 5 years and sold it (it’s more complicated then that).

The shorter answer to your question, “what more is in a company?” — equity!

That might be true in the US, but in other jurisdictions a sole-trader or partnership can also attract lower tax rates on the disposal of assets or the whole business including 'good will'. In the UK this could probably get entrepreneurs relief as well, taking it down to 10%. Speak to a tax accountant of course.

At least in Western law, a company a legal entity, but that is just me being pendantic. More importantly, a company to me is something which has employees and is at least somewhat able to sustain them, even only by burning money. So I would not even count self-employment as having a company, only in the strictly legal sense. To me, you literally need company to have a company.

Edit: Still congratulations to you and thank you for sharing!

This is a nonsense definition. You are describing an incorporated company as if it is the only kind. There are unincorporated companies, sole traders and partnerships turning over millions. No a company does not need employees.

You do not give any new input. Everything you said has already been said. Except of course for calling my explanation nonsense, which unfortunately is not only rude, but also false.

Natural language is not boolean algebra or legal text. Most people think of employees when they talk about a company. Hence the word company as in "having company". What most people think is what defines a word. That's how language works.

Of course you can call selling a software (everything OP listed as sold can be classified as software) selling a company. I do not want to demean what OP did. If he were to insist on having sold a company and not a software project, it would just sound a bit like the guy on LinkedIn calling himself CEO of his company, while being self-employed working out of his basement. (Not that OP does any of that, again OP did great!)

Goodwill. It looks like you sold that too. I think you sold the company.

Technically the name.

Names are IP

I meant the name of the company.

That’s IP.

Do you think Supreme has anything valuable beyond its logo mark?

How much did your SaaS sold for in terms of multiple of annual revenue?

I'm pretty sure that's what everyone who clicked on the link was interested in LOL

Tapered growth so I'm guessing 2x-4x (high), at $218 MMR that's $5-10k after 14 months.

Person put in 1-2 hours of work after the first two months.

So basically it was not worth their time. Why is this framed as a success and not a failure?

Because to the author, it is a success. They got to build, learn, taste progress, have fun, and then hand it off for some $$$ when their priorities shifted.

Does everything need to be measured in millions here?

Launching a real product, earning a single dollar in revenue from customers and selling a business for >0 are feats most entrepreneurs here are never going to be able to achieve. Just because it wasn't a billion dollar exit doesn't make it a failure.

Exactly, and while it may not have been a massive success, there's a good chance he could parlay that success into something bigger in the future, since he now has a better understanding of how to achieve product-market fit, marketing, growing a business, etc.

Just because you earned a single dollar from a customer doesn't make it a success either.

Different people have different parameters for success. Clearly the author is happy with the outcome, why spend time arguing with them over it?

>>Different people have different parameters for success.

True, but I would say close to 100% of people who build and business and try to sell it have a pretty singular definition of what success really means - and it isn't 'I learned something doing it'

Because that is the whole idea of a discussion forum? This is not a "Validate me and cheer me up no matter what I did" kind of site, at least not in principle.

>Be respectful. Anyone sharing work is making a contribution, however modest.

>Ask questions out of curiosity. Don't cross-examine.

>Instead of "you're doing it wrong", suggest alternatives. When someone is learning, help them learn more.

>When something isn't good, you needn't pretend that it is, but don't be gratuitously negative.

From the Show HN guidelines (yes this is not technically a Show HN but it serves the same purpose)

Maybe I need to explain what I said, I realize I came across a bit rude. I called it a failure because the emphasis in the article was completely on the sales/“exit” process and not on the product. I wouldn’t have called it a failure if the article was about how they built a cool product, how they marketed it and how much they learned while doing all that.

I still dont understand how you could class it as a failure.

I believe they are saying that if “success” is measured by the sale, then logically, a successful sale would be one where the founder gets back everything they put in plus more. In this case, the founder didn’t - they sold at a loss.

Because the term “exit” has a different meaning to those that haven’t actually run / managed a startup. Same reason you see kudos to startups for their exit or acquisition, when the reality is they were going under and or where an acquihire. Not that it’s bad, but it’s not the crazy exit they project it to be.

You are going to work on a thousand side projects looking for a business over the next 10 years. To sell one for anything is an achievement.

Because he got to learn and to experience something he wanted. Why not?

Being a tiny side project to scratch an itch he had, I wouldn't say it was a failure even at 5k.

To be sure, you're assuming Rastonbury is correct.

On HN we're used to seeing Show HNs like Dropbox's which turn into billion-dollar companies. So, sure, it's easy to dismiss posts like this one.

But here's a 2022 challenge for everyone: Start something new and get your first paying customer. You have exactly 1 month from now. I look forward to your Show HN.

Anyone who has boiled water understands the difference between the working enough to make steam vs working enough to keep the water hot.

Regardless of how much this made, the OP sold a business and crossed a chasm many find very uncomfortable to cross. Congrats on breaking past the inertia to ship, and then sell; it is truly commendable regardless of the naysayers.

Cool story, although I can't help but notice that the product is a tool to automate twitter, and twitter turned out to be a critical piece in marketing the product, and later, marketing (and even selling) the business. That is, it all seems very self-referential, revolving around twitter, and this is why the turn-around was so fast. Also, it was all very low stakes.

This comment probably sounds a little like sour grapes. But let me clear: this was a remarkable and laudable accomplishment. The time and place were right for OP, and it's bad sportsmanship to take anything away from a pilot that tacks with the wind to win the race.

"Your company makes equipment used to build roads, yet at the same time you use roads built by other companies. Interesting."

> "That is, it all seems very self-referential, revolving around twitter, and this is why the turn-around was so fast. Also, it was all very low stakes."

Aren't those a couple of useful lessons to draw from the story?

Huh, that's a really good point. I never thought about it like that! To farther prove your point, my audience is also entirely on Twitter, so building in public worked really well _for me_.

Actually this is supported also on Telegram for example. I guess also other platforms?

It's supported on any platform that works with Open Graph tags, which is most social networks. Twitter was the primary target because I spend most of my time there and that's where my audience is.

My question is will this product be successful in the hands of the new owner? The signal of success is so low -- a few hundred dollars in revenue -- that it could well be random noise. I'd like to see any data showing the success rate or these projects post "micro acquire".

I'm confident that it will continue to be a successful product. Lot's of the paying customers have been around since the beginning and churn is pretty low, especially for a $9/mo service.

>>> But over the next six months MRR doubled and I didn’t put in more than an hour or two of work every month.

>>> My life goal quickly became: how can I spend as much time as possible with my family?

Wasn't Mugshot just like passive income at that point ?

How much did you sell it for?

How much did you sell it for?

I'm interested, since i'm running a product that does around 2k MRR, 10k MAU. However profit margin is only around 20% de to user acquisition costs/ operational costs.

First off, congrats on your success.

One question - I know you mention in the article that your project was becoming a bit of a burden, but do you think you could've taken it further with a bit more time?

Congrats! If someone told me that there are people willing to pay for images generated by crawling a website (not even rendered, just opengraph/metadata), I’d say they were pulling my leg.

Can't help but feel like you should have kept the SaaS and grew it more and sold it later, or at least keep it running and leverage it for an llc/business/tax deductions.

Not OP, but as someone with multiple projects on the go, I can attest to the feeling of release when you offload a project regardless of the size.

Congrats and well done. Not easy taking something to completion and get some customers.



Ha, I'm with you there. But everyone I spoke to said it resonated so I kept it.

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