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.”
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
>> 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:
And link to the founder’s comments on HN:
I'm not saying it's true or not, but the math works. You're (roughly) calculating MRR, not ARR.
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 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.
At $600 an hour you can likely do all your legal work in 0-10 hours a year.
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.
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.
No doubt they work with contractors and freelancers. The article even says they have "a few people to write content for the blog".
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.
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.
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.
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.
Start a SAAS in a new market, not an established one. Back then every market was wide open.
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 :)
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.
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.
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 take away is that any companies that survive for 15 years or more make money or go bust.
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.
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.
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 though would have been the best time to start an internet startup though (ie TripAdvisor, MyFitnessPal) given the low competition in search.
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.
Also, saying it will be even harder in the future isnt exactly actionable or substantial advice either.
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.
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.
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
Source: this was posted on HN years ago and the cofounder refuted the revenue claims.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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!
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.
Bragging rights are for chumps without millions in cash.
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.
The good thing is you don't need it normally, so I am still a paying customer
You’re welcome to help out. :)
Add here useless staff, inefficient processes that come with it.
> 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?
Wow, just learned that BuiltWith is 16 years old. Always just assumed it must have been built in the last 5 years or so.
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.
Then you just have to find your slice
How does it deduce the technologies used or is it bug?
I hate this paragraph. It doesn’t mention any domain names but also makes the assumption that com is the only one?
But thanks for the feedback, I'll make sure I clarify in future posts
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.
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.
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 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.
It’s pretty clear there are other people doing something, whether they are called “employees” or not.
Gary Brewer probably just maintains the system by himself these days.
Sure they may just be contractors, but at that point it seems not impressive to have "0 employees".
That’s definitely info I’d like to know if I was a sales rep for AWS, Microsoft Office or Caddy Pro.
Think of hiring only if there is absolutely no other ways. And then do not hire.
there you go.
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.