The most interesting part of this post is the guy who wanted to build a service that reviews you online dating profile. That seems like something that has real potential.
In my experience, one of the most frustrating things about being on an online dating site is that it's really hard to get feedback from women about how your profile is perceived by them.
You send messages to a bunch of women and 90%+ never respond, but you have no idea why. I would pay $$$ to find out why they don't respond, and I'm sure that a lot of other people would as well (especially men).
Could this be built into a site like OKCupid? Perhaps some kind of revenue sharing arrangement (between reviewers and the dating site) where users pay to get feedback, and other users get paid to review the profiles of men or women who message them(or maybe even those who don't)...and it's anonymous feedback...or semi-anonymous.
But definitely it could work for someone with some marketing skills and/or cash to burn. It's something that can be built in a weekend as well. Feel free to reach out to me and I can try to help point you in the right direction if you're interested in pursuing it.
Can you elaborate a bit on how you drove customers to that site? I was looking at a similar idea just a few weeks ago but search engine competition on usability keywords is incredibly tough.
The only marketing I did was through my blog/Twitter. That spawned a fair amount of word of mouth and some other blog posts by people who had used the service. Beyond that I think it was just people talking to eachother because the product really does provide value if you're building a website.
I also have a hunch that the custom thank you videos played a part too but I can't prove it.
For the metrics did you ever set up Google Analytics? I typically tell everyone to just install that first thing, it can give you ballpark estimates for almost any basic metrics question with about 5 lines of JS on each page.
For EC2, I agree with PaulHoule that it's possible to save money if tuned properly, but the learning curve is steep. I know I've served 5 or 10 minor projects of a single mini reserve instance ($6 / mo) with no issues, but getting a sense for it requires a bit of work.
Yea I definitely could have done the EC2 experiment much more cheaply. But Heroku is free if you're small scale like DomainPolish :) Thanks again for commenting!
This was a great story to follow through Hacker News, and your candor, detail, and introspection are admirable and indicative of the success ahead.
Of course I'll be the first to admit that working on your own projects is much more fulfilling and interesting, but it does have opportunity costs just like everything else.
But I definitely agree that it's something to consider.
Did he really need 3 instances? Or even a separate staging environment?
$3,500 might not be a lot to you. And obviously it's not enough to go away on. But it does mean that I can work full-time on my startup this summer.
Congratulations on the sale and it sounds like it was a great learning experience.
edit: If you don't mind sharing, how did you end up finding the people who were developing their own sites? The post mentions customer engagement but not how you found them in the first place.
I basically ended up doing no marketing for DomainPolish whatsoever besides a few posts on my blog which were popular on HN. A few other people tried out the service and wrote popular blog posts as well. I think doing the thank you videos in the beginning was key because it gave people a huge incentive to tell their friends about the site.
I wish I had more to say on marketing but that's something that I'm working on a lot now for my new startup. Hopefully in 6 months I'll have some more lessons to share :)
It really is difficult to name a price, I would have ignored any offers below 10-15k but on the other hand you can now concentrate on a new project and for 6 months from 0 to sale is remarkable.
When you're starting out everybody knows that the first couple of years will likely (but not always!) be a time when money is tight if you want to maximize your growth and hence profits will likely be depressed. You can reduce your growth to increase your profits but most parties would rather aquire a much larger company with an amazing growth track-record than something that earns a few thousand $ / month on a much more flat growth curve.
What's the point of even being on an entrepreneurial site if you can't celebrate someone's first success?
For instance, Dan complains about screwing up the offer he accepted. If I was in his shoes, I'd be very happy to learn this lesson now rather than when looking at five or six-figure sums - let alone anything bigger! ;-)
An exit is an exit. He made something, and sold it FOR PROFIT in 6 months, while being in college. Pretty impressive.
Seriously, it's a lesson learned, experience gained. Not an exit.
Edit: to the downvoters, when you use the words "hate", "love", "epic" to validate some relatively-minor (to actual meaning) event or emotion, you're taking meaning out of that word ... in some cases just to feed that meaning to your ego.
So, review a web site; review a dating profile (buyer). Why not a 'review anything' service?
I think you could definitely white-label the DomainPolish idea and sell it to people hoping to build a Review X service. The problem is that if you just try to build a site yourself that lets you review anything it's very difficult to target your customers.
People search for "get feedback on my website" not "site to review anything". Picking a specific vertical makes marketing much easier. But it's a cool idea! I can put you in touch with the current owner of the DomainPolish source - he'd probably license it to you :)
And definitely on the same page in terms of code. I like it to be mine!
I'm terrible about that (the licensing idea), I'd be far more likely to just code it from the ground up, even if that's the stupid monkey approach. I like having a personal relationship with my code (lol), the structure of the site, and knowing how that correlates to projected scaling, and so on.
For something that required little work to maintain and produced consistent revenue, that should be 18 months earnings at an absolute minimum. 36+ months for this probably wouldn't have been difficult at all if you had put it on Flippa or similarly marketed the sale. Not trying to make you feel bad, just giving you some info for the future.