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BuiltWith: $14M ARR, no employees (beehiiv.com)
360 points by forte124 56 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 175 comments



$14M ARR appears to be urban legend.

If anyone has a source that’s the founder saying this, please reply with a link.

___________

This tweet appears to be the source of the legend:

>> “BuiltWith is an amazing site that I use regularly. But it's also an amazing business. 1 fulltime employee. $14m a year in revenue. [...] Disclaimer: I do not know 100% if this is true.”

Source:

- https://twitter.com/thesamparr/status/1257819248484745216


https://www.startupdaily.net/advice/builtwith-is-perhaps-one...

He was supposedly making $14M/yr seven years ago too.

and dangrossman was complaining about the spam back then too: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10316060


Thanks, here’s the specific text that is the basis for $14M ARR, which includes a “[founder] says” in the text:

>> There are three levels of pricing for the paid service, The Basic at $299 per month for customers that want lists of sites mainly for the purpose of lead generation; Pro at $495 per month, suited more for users that work in an industry using a lot of A/B testing and comparison-type data; and Enterprise at $995 per month, which covers all bases and allows sales teams with multiple people to all use the platform at once. Brewer says that in terms of paying users on the platform there is a ‘few thousand’ and the split is about 40 percent Basic, 40 percent Pro and 20 percent Enterprise.

_______

And here’s link to the current pricing:

https://builtwith.com/plans

________

And link to the founder’s comments on HN:

https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=garazy


Based on the price card posted on the website, assuming there’s 4000 active paying customers each paying $300/month, that gets you to $14M/year


Off by an order of magnitude - 1.2M


$300 * 12 months * 4,000 customers = $14M

I'm not saying it's true or not, but the math works. You're (roughly) calculating MRR, not ARR.


My bad


Don't forget to multiply by 12 for yearly revenue.


I agree this sounds suspect.

A lot of people don’t realize what “$14mm ARR” means. The contract, accounting and legal work alone would require a couple of people.

Not to mention Infrastructure, monitoring, QA, etc - all that good stuff.

It costs money to generate revenue.


I mean, I run a startup not doing that much worse.

I have 0 accountants (pay CPA yearly for tax work). 0 lawyers. 0 devops. 0 QA. 0 monitoring . 0 HR.

I do have : 3 devs (if I include myself) 3 support (tickets) 2 other supporting roles

If I coded 100% myself (which I have in the past and could in the future, it would just mean less new features) and had a way to not answer tickets (like the OP story it sounds like due to product complexity), I could totally do this alone…

It’s amazing how lean you can be in SaaS if you must. Us bootstrappers know this.

So much if a modern enterprise is bloat.

You have how many DBAs? How many QA? Lol.


That might be SAAS. The other side of the coin is not the same. You do a multi year multi million dollar deal with a fortune 100, don’t expect 0 lawyers, 0 CPA’s.


You hire a lawyer for that specific work. At $14M ARR, you can afford to hire one when needed. They don't have to be a full-time employee. Same goes for accounting or any other operational staffing. Part-time or project-based contracting works great for such things.


Right, it would be insane to have a full time lawyer (or HR or Monitoring or DevOps) at that size.

At $600 an hour you can likely do all your legal work in 0-10 hours a year.


So you are 8 people. Quite a lot different than a single person.

If you had a way to not answer tickets, that means you would not offer support to customers, so likely a lot less customers would be interested to pay you. You don’t get to 14 millions by cheaping out that way.


I run a SaaS, quite similar numbers to the parent. Depending on the complexity of your support tickets, it's pretty easy to outsource to part-time freelancers. I just pick up the tickets that they flag as too difficult for them. (Edit: we're still quite some ways off $14M, but I could see it scale there without changing the structure much)


Right, its a different product though.

He has a low support required product. But I can 100% imagine making a product without much support required, and running it. Tis not hard.


More like you end up with minimal staffing a la floqast for example.


Dev and devops shouldn't be separate people anyway. If your devops person isn't also working on the product you're doing it wrong (in my only slightly educated opinion).


There is a literal order of magnitude difference between a SaaS product generating $14MM AAR/employee and your situation.


No lawyer or bookkeeper is a terrible idea. But they don't need to be FTEs.


My bet is employees here refers to full-time salaried employees.

No doubt they work with contractors and freelancers. The article even says they have "a few people to write content for the blog".


Those need to be managed, I would definitely hire someone to manage and to load off stress yourself.


Get one of those people to manage the group. You call it the lead role, and pay them sightly more. You don't need a dedicated manager.


Yeah, but if those things were outsourced that would support the “1 full time employee“ claim.


Can someone tldr on how the site makes money? I read the linked article quickly and still confused what the revenue model is. Thanks!



Right. But how does the advertising part work and why is it so effective?


They don't sell advertising, they sell data. Primarily, leads for sales teams. If you want to start a new payment processing service, you subscribe to BuiltWith and they'll give you the contact info of the decision makers at the top 10,000 websites that use Stripe or whatever competitor you choose.


Got it, my follow-up question is, how is it acceptable for customers to have their data to be freely sold as "leads" to random 3rd party companies? Is it in the BuiltWith terms or something?


They're crawling and packaging already public information. If you don't want anyone to know you're the CEO of StartupCorp and your email is ceo@startupcorp.co, don't put that on your LinkedIn and the footer of your website. The business value is in the convenience of the packaging, not in revealing secrets or something.


The key takeaway for me was that the mid-2000s were the perfect time to be a founder of a software tool. I can’t help but feel that there are so many tens of thousands of similar stories without such a successful conclusion.

In previous roles I’ve used BuiltWith before and it’s an invaluable tool. There’s a few companies with similar approaches except focusing on social media profiles (HypeAuditor comes to mind) that spawned in (iirc) 2017 after Instagram made significant changes to what data were available through their API.

It seems similar that Etherscan had this type of first mover advantage with automated data indexing and basic discovery tools for the Ethereum blockchain.

I wonder what the next wave of straightforward software utilities will be like.


I'm having trouble replicating my own success from that era. Everything is more complicated today: the development stacks, the competitive landscape, the vast increase in regulations and liability around handling data, the move from an open web to social media silos and mobile apps, scammers and bots winning the spam wars and destroying most online advertising. I still have businesses I started in the 2000s and early 2010s that are very successful, and not so much that's newer and doing as well.

My non-tech ventures are doing well which is nice for a change of pace after decades of coding, though. I bought a bunch of relatively cheap (3-4 figure cost) manufacturing equipment and turned a spare bedroom into a workshop for designing and creating physical goods. I have a line of home decor that sells well enough that I'm dropping a stack of packages off at the post office 5 nights a week.


> the vast increase in regulations and liability around handling data,

Can you elaborate on this or give examples where these bigger hurdles than they used to be? I'm curious to know in what domains this is the case. I've no doubt that it is true, but my sense was that there are still large swaths of "internety" products that are entirely or mostly unregulated and where there isn't much to be said about how you handle data, but I could be wrong. I'd be very interested in any concrete examples you may have had in mind.


Much of the clear low-hanging fruit are in automating or aggregating fragmented data in tech-neglected industries, and that often involves handling PII or payments data - which quickly exposes you to GDPR and equivalents in every country, for which there isn’t a obvious path to compliance (especially when considering that web tech trends go the opposite direction, like the trend toward edge computing = how do you satisfy data residency requirements? It gets complex fast).


GDPR-like regulations certainly come to mind. Which is a good thing - too much unprotected data in one place is a disaster for all involved.


And that's one of the areas where there's a lot of innovation happening right now... for example, the push to decentralize identity ensures that businesses don't need to keep any data that is considered personal data under GDPR while still having provable "credentials" (things like proof of age, degree, medical records etc) needed to be provided with certain services. I won't link any particular businesses in this area, but a quick search should show there's a lot... and the European Commission is one of the leaders in pushing this: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-building-blocks/wikis/display/E...


This is actually really interesting to hear.

I always hear the argument "you don't need a fancy website or UI, when I started my site/app looked like ___"

These people created MVPs in 2010. You're now competing with MVPs that can be built with way more features, the latest tech stacks, and more in the same period of time.


This can proably be attributed to the barrier for entry for competition being so much lower , so the definition of an MVP has changed. And equally, expectations from end users have risen. Recent anecdotal example of this is the frenetic pace of development in the ML/AI space with opensource tools like Stable Diffusion practically almost rendering moot the business model of OpenAI’s DALLE-2.


To win out MVPs have to either be a value proposition currently not available that people need, or to win a popularity contest based on UX, design and branding. That there are still project management tools being developed and succeeding in a saturated market tells me that the popularity contest never really stops.


I also had a successful SAAS around that period while my later ones failed.

Start a SAAS in a new market, not an established one. Back then every market was wide open.


>I have a line of home decor that sells well enough

Seeing a pattern here, feels like an oversaturation of software and not enough physical assets to connect it to. Mostly people also get tired of shipping code all of the time. Thats why the naughty secret dream of a lot of devs is just to do a coffee shop or a non-automated bakery when retired :)


Do you have any suggestions for Etsy seller communties? I have a friend who has a bunch of professional printing and cutting equipment, but the niche he sells in is very small - most of his business coming from word of mouth - and very seasonal. I feel he could be more successful expanding into slightly more main stream areas.


It seems like "mid 2000's was the perfect time" because these fortunes take 10-15 years to get to any meaningful number.

These opportunities exist today, it just starts out with really low numbers in a niche that everybody thinks is super boring and takes forever to build up organically.


> The key takeaway for me was that the mid-2000s were the perfect time to be a founder of a software tool. I can’t help but feel that there are so many tens of thousands of similar stories without such a successful conclusion.

I think the takeaway should be that the mid-2000s to now was the perfect timing to succeed as a bootstrap if you were going to. In 2040, with the same survivor bias, people will probably say that 2022 was the perfect time to be the founder of a software tool.


+ hindsight bias :) but you are totally right. Also it was harder to start a tech business and thats why many people didn't do it. Folks at Hot'or'Not had to literally borrow money to finance the servers which they had to go and provision physically.

There are apps that look like its 1999 and make 30k a month. Sure its not $15m and not the next google but opportunities are there. We are just pretty bad at recognising and solving problems that are outside of our bubble and that is where the saturation is. Your local plumber on the other hand...


> The key takeaway for me was that the mid-2000s were the perfect time to be a founder of a software tool. I can’t help but feel that there are so many tens of thousands of similar stories without such a successful conclusion.

The key take away is that any companies that survive for 15 years or more make money or go bust.


So true. By the time I graduated in 2012, it was already too late. My first commercial side project failed. There was just too much competition and they got too much funding (I had 0 funding). I already felt that most opportunities for bootstrapping had dried up at that point and so, as a last resort, I decided to try the open source model and had some success in the sense that my open source project got a lot of traction initially.

Unfortunately growth slowed (Google traffic ground to a halt) and there just weren't enough users to monetize. Felt like the door got slammed shut right in my face.

Timing and luck is everything.


I don't think that there's a perfect time for anything. I am of the opinion that there will always be room to create stuff, it's just that for certain categories the preparation time will be longer.

Building an MVP will just take longer. So rather than measure the time to a workable MVP in weeks or months, for a product to stand out as being valuable it would probably take a year or more for users to want to consider making a switch.

In fact, I'm working on something vaguely similar to BW on the side. I don't know if I'll succeed or not but I'm loving the research I've been doing so far.


I understand it as the effect of new technology. The internet was still very new in 2000 and we've all witnessed its potential expand into what it is today.

New technology creates new and ripe frontiers. What new technology exists today that unlocked something for the human race? You'll find the opportunities there.


Mid 2000s might have been harder. I think more people are willing to pay a subscription for a thing than back then.


I think 2008-2012 was the sweet spot. Building your product in 2008 for 2 years would have taken you to 2010 when SaaS was more mainstream., but still relatively low competition.

Mid 2000s though would have been the best time to start an internet startup though (ie TripAdvisor, MyFitnessPal) given the low competition in search.


There's still no competition now compared to any time in the future for an internet business.


What do you mean? Give me some examples. There are plenty of saturated niches.


They will always be niches that certain people deem to be saturated, but that won't stop a determined entrepreneur from starting up a new venture.

If you went back to January 2007, the iPhone didn't have competition from Samsung's flagship touch-based phones or Google Pixel (because they didn't exist yet). This was a time when Nokia, Blackberry, Sony Ericsson etc were the dominant phone makers and Steve Jobs' original goal was to capture 10 million sales/year with the iPhone, out of the massive mobile phone market.

If you went back to January 2004, the Tesla didn't have competition from Ford, Porsche and any of the other ICE car makers that have now announced EV models in their line up. In fact, investors would consider you stupid for asking them to invest in a car company or even one that planned to use batteries because of how messed up the economics of EV production was at the time.


All certainly true. My point isnt that its inpossible and that you shouldnt try, its just that it is much harder than it was in the past.


And my point is that, that is a weird way of looking at it, because _now_ it's also the easiest it'll ever be, what does it matter if it was easier in the past? The past is gone.


Grandfather was talking about how hard it was in the past, and i just commented on my experiences in the past. Of course looking at the past is not actionable, but I never intended to give actionable advice - just provide a comment

Also, saying it will be even harder in the future isnt exactly actionable or substantial advice either.


He means "if you think things are crowded now, they'll only be more crowded in the future"


I mean thats obviously true?


On the other hand already successful corps were acquihiring like crazy at that time. You didn't even need paying users. A big "BETA" next to your web 2.0 shiny logo was still required, though.


Don't hire until you need to.

And then don't hire until you want to.

I'm doubtful every business can make it to $14M ARR, but I bet many companies could generate $1M ARR without needing employees. And that amount of money would be life-changing for many people (with, of course, the potential to sell what you've created to exit).

I've spent much of my life chasing the "make it big" startup dream. I'll be pretty content if I can generate meaningful recurring revenue by building things I love. Still trying to decouple hours worked from the paycheck.


It's been a few years now, but a co-founder and I took the 'solo' (almost) route, refused to take money we didn't really need yet, refused to hire employees we didn't really need yet. We spent 8 months building our product, and when we finally did decide we were at a point we need to raise money and hire to scale, we had both had significant life changes that meant we didn't really have the heart to see the idea through. We had the self-awareness to realize that. So we sold out completely, and because it was just us, and for a pretty short amount of time, we made out pretty well. All of this was totally off the usual SV radar, and definitely not considered a startup success story. But who cares, it worked out great for me personally and allowed me flexibility to do the things I do with my time now. So many people quit the rigid, corporate culture only to join another rigid, corporate culture that just goes by a different name, "startup." Doing it on your own with no outside resources for as long as you can is totally valid, and only the VCs will try to tell you otherwise.


I've been making a little progress on the "building things I love that generate revenue" piece (in part thanks to the HN crowd!), but oh boy, do the goalposts always keep shifting.

I remember the first dollar I ever made on the internet felt so amazing and validating... but several adjustments later, the mentality is more like "okay, but I still can't do this full-time."

Goalposts aside though, I'd agree that if there's a scenario where you have the autonomy and freedom to work on just the things you love, that's a game-winning scenario.


Care to share what kinds of things you've built or are currently building?


For the past year and a half, I've been focused on just one side project: a privacy-friendly personal finance simulator that doesn't ask to link your accounts (projectionlab.com), can run Monte Carlo simulations in your browser, and keeps your data client-side unless you choose otherwise.


Randomly came across your comment on this thread and took a few minutes to check out your sandbox env. Could totally see something like this taking off or getting bought out by a bank/Intuit/etc.

I may be a bit biased since I'm huge into personal finance, but hopefully you can target that segment and carve out a solid set of paying customers


Thanks. Lifestyle business would be the dream I think, but for now there's still some daylight between here and there.


Oh awesome, thanks for sharing. This looks great. I love the "choose an example persona" flow in the beginning.


This is really cool, dude. Keep at it!


Hey don't give up. You're gonna make it, just keep pushing irons into the fire, it's inevitable. I believe in you.


You can hire without hiring! Use other SaaS or even human services for every spot you would normally hire someone.


Interesting, you mean something like mTurk but for what would ordinarily be a full time spot, and break down the task into small tasks?


You could do that for low skill tasks. Fiverr might take the skill level up a notch while still being self-serve pay as you go. Also use Heroku over AWS and so on, footing a bigger bill to have ops taken care of.


I realized recently there’s tax pressure to make money from equity and exits over income and revenue, since the cap gains rates are so much lower than income tax rates. Depends on your jurisdiction but alas.


That is my perfect scenario as well. I don't want the startup investment hustle, I just want to run a comfortable software business for people in my community.


It's not $14M.

Source: this was posted on HN years ago and the cofounder refuted the revenue claims.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10322265


People have no shame creating a copycat article with zero references or original sources.


Who are their major competitors?

At that revenue number and with no innovation and no R&D (zero employees), seems like a no brainer for some smart hacker to replicate and provide the same service for less.


BuiltWith is 16 years old. Their business has been fully commoditized and ripped off so many hundreds of times that most of these "competitors" don't even have names. They're just email addresses in your spam folder. I have literally hundreds of mails that look like this -- "hey, wanna buy a list of every site using your competitors' services, enriched with business info and key employee contacts?".

For example: https://i.imgur.com/V9raPcV.png

The "$14M ARR" appears to be a journalist's guess/estimate of the company's revenue in 2015, which Gary said was an exaggeration, per https://www.ipobase.com/builtwith/

I would bet that BW is long past peak revenue now.


It sorta seems like they won the 'right place at the right time' lotto in getting the links on about us. A competitor might have a huge battle to win that market share.



Datanyze raised a round of two of VC 6-7 years ago but I'm not sure what they're up to recently.


I agree, It seems risky to not invest in R&D in any company.


At 14m ARR, the founder is well past fatFIRE. If someone wants to disrupt him, I doubt he cares.


you can't replicate the historical datasets


> you can't replicate the historical datasets

If you start today, tomorrow you'll have history. If you never start, there will be no competition and no historical datasets.

Edit: finished thought


Why is the historical dataset needed?


To analyse what product someone tested and concluded as unacceptable.


From the pic in the post, that’s a lot of desks, monitors, and office space for a single person company


He lost his mind because of the isolation and now pretends to be different people throughout the day.


As someone who works from home, I do something similar to that as well. Morning meetings at the kitchen table, midday at my desk, and late afternoon work is done from my sofa. The cats and I stay busy.


Genuine question, outside of bragging rights, what advantage does this kind of PR have ?

If you found a niche that no one else has turned into a race to the bottom yet, why would you want the world to know about it ? It's like Warren Buffet telling everyone what stocks he will be picking.

Maybe if the startup was yet to gain traction, this would help get the word out. But from the sounds of it, it is already generating a ton of revenue.


This doesn’t seem like a paid promotion piece, although it could be. I don’t see any direct connection between the author and the company/founder.

It’s an interesting read, and likely brings some marginally additional traffic to the site, so I don’t see any negative exposure here. Perhaps the founder is considering an exit?


Hi, I'm the OP. I have no connection with the founder actually. I just like to research success stories like this to help inform and inspire people

I also don't mean to bring harm to the founder. I'm sure he's created scrapers, historical data, and built loyalty that's difficult to replicate

If there's something about this story that I got wrong or if it wasn't as helpful as I intended, do please let me know though!


Because it's one thing to find a niche and another thing is to make money in it.

For instance, I make software that help Private Equity firms find deals. I can't use it myself, because it requires a completely different set of skills.


I think the only person who can answer that question is the founder. I would posit: if you had that much money what else can you buy besides bragging rights? This coverage wasn’t even bought as far as I can tell.


I would expect that if you had $14M revenue a year with no employees and no investors you would never hear a peep unless he wanted to hype for a sale.

Bragging rights are for chumps without millions in cash.


Early startup founders with products like Sentry looking to market to companies based on their tech stack would probably be their target customers.


Why does he have a bunch of computers and desks if he has no other employees? Does he move from one seat to another?


Even if the ARR is half of that, how do you keep your level of service as a single employee? Don't you take a break, go to a vacation? What happens if you're sick? At the level that starts with $295 and goes up to $495 and $995, I guess that the customers expect the service to work all the time and have fast support. Can't understand how it's done without employees at all.


I don't have any inside information on this, but at the end of the day, the level of service or availability you offer is up to you. There's no legally mandated support response time or SLA, so unless you're promising something else in your Terms of Service, there's nothing stopping you from offering no support.

How customers respond to this is another question, and most of the time companies strive to have good service because they value growth higher than 'lack of employees'. But everyone is entitled to their own approach.


From my experience, their service is plainly terrible/inexistent.

The good thing is you don't need it normally, so I am still a paying customer


Out of curiosity, is there an open source version of BuiltWith? I'm not necessarily looking to use it, but it might actually be an interesting project to work on. I'm sure you learn a lot of interesting things trying to map everything out..and then there's the parsing/extracting and other aspects of this that could be fun if you're into that sort of thing.


https://github.com/wappalyzer/wappalyzer

You’re welcome to help out. :)


Oh cool, will take a look. Thanks!


Yes it is possible to build multimillion $ companies with a very small team. imagine all the time you save in meetings.


> imagine all the time you save in meetings.

Add here useless staff, inefficient processes that come with it.


Nirvana


> But the paid version is why companies find BuiltWith so valuable. BuiltWith has turned into a colossal database of everything on the internet. More specifically, a database of potential customers and leads.

> You can find every website using a specific keyword, and technology, and even break them down by location, spending, and social following. It's the perfect place to build your potential customers.

Doesn't this only work well if you can get an email address of a decision maker to contact? Otherwise, it seems like a lukewarm lead at best.

Also, it seems that the products and services a website uses tend to be sticky, at least far down the stack. So this lead-generation approach is really just about picking off technologies at the top of the stack, right?


I am an academic researcher, and we used BuiltWith.com for a project. Gary and Andrew added various technologies that I suggested to them (for a non-paying customer no less). So, great experience!


"In 2006, Gary Brewer attended a startup conference in Sydney..."

Wow, just learned that BuiltWith is 16 years old. Always just assumed it must have been built in the last 5 years or so.


New startup idea: Find out when a startup was launched - builtin.com


just a reminder, whether this is an urban legend or not:

1) the pie is big enough, you just have to convince pie holders to give their pieces to you

2) you only need one client to generate all revenue, but many small clients is more intuitive

3) there are many individuals and companies sitting on large revenue streams. headlines come from people that need to advertise, not the ones that don’t.


This is a great takeaway! In short, I think it just starts with making people money.

Then you just have to find your slice


It reports so many technology used for "x.com". If you look at the source of "x.com" its just one single letter.

How does it deduce the technologies used or is it bug?

https://builtwith.com/detailed/x.com


BuiltWith has gotten quite good. I tested it on my site and it even correctly detected I use Shutterstock for stock images. We don't credit Shutterstock anywhere (already pay them like $300/mo) so it must actually analyze the images themselves to make this determination


Filenames maybe


Nope my VA is trained to change all filenames to something description such as "dog-playing-with-leash.jpg"


Or perhaps it uses file hashes to determine if certain images are similar.


If they have no employees, why do they have 4 workstations and a conference room with a whiteboard?


The photo is from a different interview almost 10 years ago.


“No idea like this had existed, and the domain BuiltWith was somehow not taken already. Gary began building scrapers and his database of technologies.”

I hate this paragraph. It doesn’t mention any domain names but also makes the assumption that com is the only one?


Given that it was the mid-2000s, I think dot com was fairly positive to be the general assumption.

But thanks for the feedback, I'll make sure I clarify in future posts


I’d also avoid capitalizing any part of the domain name.


The vast majority of domain names are .com - it’s a fair assumption to make, isn’t it?


Not at all.


Most companies (and seo experts) vastly prefer .com domains though; wether for valid reasons or not, this still is the case. Squatters make loads of money from companies getting another tld and then later buying the .com.


I get all that. It’s also not a default by any means.

Lots of places around the world do not default to the com domain name and it doesn’t make sense to treat a word without a TLD as a domain name.


I tested some of my websites.

While I got accurate results for some projects, it showed completely wrong information about other projects...

E.g. it shows stuff with which I may experimented for one day but which isn't used on the project since multiple years anymore.


On the "Detailed Technology Profile" tab it shows first/last detected date and there's a tick box for "Hide Removed" on the right.


BuiltWith accuracy is pretty bad, however it's sufficient to understand what you need to


I remember stumbling across this site years ago, thought it was neat, and never thought about it again.

There's definitely a lot of untapped potential here. Could be so much bigger with marketing and R&D. A browser extension for example.


The ROI is already unbelievably high. Putting any more resources in will decrease that ROI


> A browser extension for example.

The BuiltWith browser extension was how I found out about them years ago.

I was under the impression that the extension is what enabled them to collect a big chunk of their data, at least initially.


Does it matter? The founder is wealthy and can do whatever they want in life. Why would he spend a single second working?


Love the concept. I once owned SiteCrunch.com and had a similar idea as BuiltWith in 2013. It was one of many ideas I had, but didn't find validation. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


I am surprised Google is their customer. Why would google be a customer when it has all information about all the websites on internet?


What an awesome story. I’ve used builtwith plenty, but never knew it’s history nor realized how profitable it might have been..


With 0 employees who maintains the site/infra or adds features/datasets? Things aren't adding up in this article.


With 0 employees, why have the office with all the desks in the background in the picture at the top of the page.

It’s pretty clear there are other people doing something, whether they are called “employees” or not.


The photo at the top is almost 10 years old, and was from when BW still had a cofounder. It doesn't any more. He probably doesn't have that office any more.


A lot of the stuff is automated at this point. Datasets are pulled automatically and website scrapers have been built for 15+ years.

Gary Brewer probably just maintains the system by himself these days.


0 employees doesn’t mean 0 contractors or 0 agencies on contract.


it's actually very much feasible nowadays with all the cloud computing solutions. Cheap too. You don't need an army of developers for maintenance, a single system architect can manage huge projects if designed correctly.


The article also actually mentions that some people are hired to write content for the blog.

Sure they may just be contractors, but at that point it seems not impressive to have "0 employees".


Gary does that.


I reckon that it's all done with contractors and gig workers. Its the uber way of running their business.


Great to see a solo entrepreneur not being shy to take (upto) $1000/month. Too many founders are too cheap.


Independent software is the new gold rush. A few people getting rich and the rest getting nothing.


By few you mean those that deserve it and by rest you mean those that would have otherwise leeched off of their labor? Yes, that sounds right. And fair.


It's mostly about luck.


He has been profitible for years, and the business was started in 2006. I wish you were right, but the golden days of low hanging fruit for solo founders was years ago. It's much harder to carve a profitable niche and not have your business undermined these days.


My website was built with such brand-name technologies as "HSTS" and "Viewport Meta"[1]. Hmm. I guess it's meant more for web applications that leak their implementation details or reference vendor resources, somehow?

[1]: https://builtwith.com/yossarian.net


You run on DO, use Google Workplace and nginx web server per your link details.

That’s definitely info I’d like to know if I was a sales rep for AWS, Microsoft Office or Caddy Pro.


That's true, I could see how that would be useful!


I can see that you're using PHP, on nginx/Ubuntu, hosted by Digital Ocean, and likely purchased your hostname via Google Domains. Your email is via Google Workspaces. That's pretty useful information.


I gave it away by responding to the other comment, but at least one of those is incorrect. Caveat emptor.


Super impressive. Crazy this was able to scale so much without hiring.


Hiring is the worst thing anyone can do for a company.

Think of hiring only if there is absolutely no other ways. And then do not hire.


100% agree with you @jesterson.


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"no employees" but the founder is pictured in front of an office with four visible work stations. What's the source for this article?


Everything that's wrong with our society, congrats!


So building an actual business, by providing a service that other people see value in, and decide to pay money for, is "everything that's wrong with our society"?


You mean one person getting rich while they could’ve hired employees? Taxation is supposed to fix that, wether or not it does, considering their jurisdiction, is another point, but that’s not their fault.


"But the most important thing was his meeting with Raymond King, the founder of AboutUs. AboutUs was an internet domain directory containing information about millions of businesses. Gary showed Ray BuiltWith, and Ray immediately loved it. He added a BuiltWith.com link to every record in their index to provide BuiltWith information regarding each business."

there you go.


100% rent-based business. the computers do all the work, the owners just collect the money.

the societal mistake is to regard this as 'wealth production'; it's not. this is rent. this is where creative productivity (arguably real actual wealth) goes to die.


Who are they extracting rent from?


Other economic actors


Who programmed the computers?


No employees, except for some content writers. Soooooo.... They have employees?


Contractors aren't employees.


I suppose that is technically true but I didn't see it mentioned. Either way I feel its disingenuous. The article is another one of those hustle worship pieces. Trying to make you feel inadequate if you haven't single handedly started a multi million dollar startup alone by the time you are 30 you are a failure. Employees? Contractors? who cares don't need'em either way what kind of loser gets ....help.




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