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I quit my job, and am building Tindie fulltime (tindie.com)
208 points by emilepetrone on Sept 3, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 87 comments

Hi Emile! So I just poked around on your site and see that you started a 99designs campaign to get a "dog mascot" logo...

This is the one you should go with -- the ones designed by WorkHorse; I would totally put one of those on my Macbook! The others? Not so much.



You can thank me later :)

Thanks! I think you just tipped that one into the lead. You mean the more developed one, not the simple version right?

#32 is great. It would also be easy to remove details and still retain the feel.

Well, I think the one that's a little more detailed works better and is more "roboty" and has more charm/character etc.

The other minimal versions are nice too -- perhaps you could use a less detailed version for small 16px icon sizes etc. i.e no bolts.

But, hey as long as its one of them!

And congrats on your bold move & initial success :)

Some data:

-1 developer (me)

-$646 transacted in July

-Over $1800 transacted last month

-Shipped to 20 countries & every continent except Antartica

-Avg 30k visitors a month the last 2 months

If you're taking 5%, that means a gross revenue of $90 for the month of August? Seems a little early to be quitting your day job.

For many projects, if you wait until you're profitable before you jump in full time, you may never take that step. Some projects just need full-time attention to get them to the point where they pay your mortgage. Presumably (or rather, hopefully!) Emile has looked at the current revenue growth and (with the attention he can give it full-time) projected the revenue he thinks it will generate in X months, X months being the end of whatever runway bootstap/funding money he has, and has concluded that at that point he will be able to pay his wages.

Statistically speaking he will fail, and I'm sure he has already thought of that and has a plan B in mind incase that happens. (Thats my devils advocate speaking, its a good idea and I have no other information about Emile, so he may very well beat the odds and I hope he does).

Thanks Rob! I figured it is growing, and should grow quicker if I am working on it fulltime. If I kept at a job, that growth would be slower, a competitor might emerge- who knows. Only thing that is certain is the data- site is cranking so time to kick it into the next gear

Fortunately, that isn't the only revenue source. More information coming in the weeks/months ahead.

Great start! You are only going to gain some more traction from here. Please work on improving the "Terms" section of your site. If you want more buyers and sellers, you need to prepare a good Terms of Service.

On the todo! Thanks for the reminder!

That Twitter Bottstrap forum, is that custom built or a theme?

How do you handle shipping internationally while keeping costs down?

Good luck with the site, it has potential and gets a thumbs up from me.


The sellers handle shipping so that is something I do not need to worry about (fortunately because shipping is a massive headache)

Emile, first: this looks great, and congratulations!

As somebody working on an online marketplace-style project in my spare time, I'd be interested to know: do you feel as though two months of sales data is enough to work out whether your growth is sustainable? Was there a specific "Eureka!" moment at which you realised it would be worth taking this full-time? Do you have a good way to predict sales growth over the next few months?

Sure it isn't much data, but to fully pursue it, I knew I needed more time than a few hours outside of work. So either I'd not perform at work or on tindie. I don't think that is fair to the people I worked with, and I couldn't just leave the site to chance. I do not have a good way to predict sales - just hard work and bust my butt to make it happen. I dont think theres any real secret to that, but I am working building this into a company and not a 'startup'

Congratulations. That sounds like a solid start. What were your first steps in getting your marketplace flow going?

Initially just threw it up on /r/Arduino as a question. http://www.reddit.com/r/arduino/comments/rxyjb/would_you_sup...

Awesome start for a soloprenuer! A quick question if I may. What was your strategy in generating this much traffic?

Seed everything. Initially posted the question of the site on Reddit, then landing page for people to signup, then seed the store with gadgets - before the site was finished. On day 1 I had products for sale. Each step, just seed it and then open it up.

That's a pretty good visit/buy ratio. What are your future plans?

It is definitely moving in the right direction. Guess you'll have to wait and see!

Do keep us posted. Your startup is one I actively track, due to its origins and niche.

This is really cool. I have a project I'm working on now which I'll be listing on there for sure. Shameless plug—it's a small IR receiver board which provides input switching and volume control to a stereo amplifier. I'm using it to upgrade a 1970s solid-state amp, but the intended user would be a chipamp builder. The MCU is an atmega168/328, so it's completely hackable.

The site is down right now, but would there be a way in tindie to get a volume commitment, a la Kickstarter? It would be great to be able to have a chunk of cash upfront, to pay things like setup fees for PCB fab and assembly.

Hey Mike, sound great! I'm actually working on that right now. So it should be out in the next few weeks. - emile

Very thrilled about this! As a Tindie seller [1], I've had an excellent experience so far. Congrats, emile!

I put this in an email to Emile earlier, but would like to say it here, too... I think Tindie is perfect for people like me. I don't have the time (yet!) to dedicate a huge effort putting my projects up on Kickstarter. But by putting the project up on Tindie, and having a cap on my inventory, I can organically improve the project within my personal time constraints. I fully expect to ramp up inventory over time, but it's nice I can start at one or two items... and grow at a pace I'm comfortable with. Thank you so much for creating the site!

[1]: https://tindie.com/hugs/robot-that-plays-angry-birds/

Thanks Jason!

That's awesome. Tindie was one of those things that I found so cool that I was actually a bit perturbed to find out that it was just someone's side project. Some ideas just deserve more. Best of luck.


You should now update your HN profile with pride, to read "Founder @ Tindie" rather than "Engineer @ UrbanAirship" :)

Oops fixed!

Every time I see someone announce a new startup on HN, and they can't keep a blog online through a little spurt of traffic, it makes me think very poorly of their business. That if they can't configure a web server to not fall over, they can't program a stable, secure app either.

My own experience is that even the smallest Linode VPS, with an out-of-the-box WordPress install, serving a blog live from the database without a cache plugin, can handle all the traffic HN throws at even a #1 story on a work day afternoon. All it takes is setting the Apache config such that it won't spawn more processes than there's memory available, or using something lighter weight than Apache in the first place.

I know this is a foolish connection to make, that their ability to keep a blog online isn't connected to the things that will actually determine whether the business succeeds or fails, but I can't avoid thinking it nonetheless.

To turn this rant into something possibly useful, maybe some advice: it's important to figure out the basics of setting up a web server, not because it's a terrible thing for your blog to go down, but because you're losing out on all the prospective users/customers that come with being linked to and discussed on HN or other sites. Even if they can read a cached blog post, you're probably less likely to get them to go visit the startup you're blogging about during this short moment you have their attention.

Keeping WordPress up was a black hole of my time and talent, despite having shipped applications with substantially higher performance requirements than "Serve 20,000 visitors mostly static content over an eight hour period." This is totally orthogonal to programming skill or creating things that solve problems for customers.

The optimizations you need to make are fiddly black magic ("Your blog goes down too often? #1 culprit: a performance optimization called KeepAlive", "How many worker processes fit in 1 GB of RAM if each take ~20 MB on average? Did you answer 48? Crashes a day later. Did you answer 36? Crashes a week later. Did you answer 24? Crashes sporadically. Did you answer 20? Hasn't crashed... yet." "Blog still going down? OK, let's break with every quickstart guide on the Internet, throw out all the work you did for Apache, and switch you to Nginx. Now we'll have new failure modes!", "You incompetent nincompoop! You just need to add caching. Oh, you already cache everything? The KeepAlive issue can kill a blog hosting a simple static .txt file? Hmm, good point... put Varnish in front of it! A nice, simple solution! And if that doesn't work add cache to your caching so you've got caches for your caches!").

There's no point at which WordPress announces "OK, I'm ready!" -- you just pick your optimizations in advance then discover new requests-per-minute numbers or access patterns or what have you which cause it to degrade or bloom into a timed-out fireball of death.

Now I write a check every month for $200 to my hosting provider. Best money I ever spent, because this has lead to a 100% decrease in me having to wake up at 3 AM in the morning because Jimmy Wales decided to tweet a link to my blog.

    Keeping WordPress up was a black hole of my time and talent, despite having shipped applications with substantially higher performance requirements than "Serve 20,000 visitors mostly static content over an eight hour period." This is totally orthogonal to programming skill or creating things that solve problems for customers.
Good point but if you go from being an employee to an entrepreneur you'll need to pick up a lot orthoganal skillsets beyond programming: sys admin'ing, basic accounting, copywriting, etc...

I recall you tweeted a few weeks back, the gist of it being "if all you want to do is program you're better off being an employee".

That being said, congrats to the OP on taking the plunge, when I checked the site was back up and and it looks like you've got a solid concept. Best of luck to you.

Yes on learning new skills, but the nuance is that you quickly identify which of those are not core to your business and offload/delegate them as soon as possible.

Patrick is speaking of his client WPEngine. I've used them as well at work (likely the same $199/month Business plan for multiple site hosting) and they're pretty good, though according to our Nagios monitoring a site hosted there has had a total of 43 minutes of outages for August which is still 99.9% reliability. WPEngine hosts on Linode and in my experience their magic bullet is, well... no magic bullet. It's still way way better than doing it yourself though and the price you pay for peace of mind is worth it if your site is connected to a revenue-generating activity.

If you want really serious uptime, use something like Jekyll and generate a static site which you host on S3/CloudFront and regenrate only as content changes. You obviously lose some flexibility, but an S3-hosted site is relatively inexpensive for the bandwidth (and do your own math to see if it's worth it for you on the time/money scale) and will handle any load you can throw at it. You can even maintain a crappy unoptimized WordPress installation as the origin server and serve everything up statically from Amazon CloudFront with no load impact to your site.

Just throwing this out here for people who don't want to deal with the madness that is WordPress: there are two very nice, full-featured blogging apps for Django that I've been recommending to people left and right.

The first one is called Mezzanine and is available from http://mezzanine.jupo.org. There's a shopping cart called Cartridge (http://cartridge.jupo.org) that works very well with Mezzanine.

The second one is called Zinnia and is available from http://django-blog-zinnia.com. Unlike Mezzanine, which also has some CMS-related features, Zinnia is just a blog engine. However, Zinna works great with django-cms.

WordPress is a resource hog. I ditched it a long time ago and I couldn't be happier.

tindie is run on mezzanine & cartridge :)

The owner downthread mentioned that he's getting traffic from Reddit right now too.

While it might be good to have a conversation on HN about when it is and isn't smart to try to do it all yourself (versus spending a little bit on a knowledgeable server guy, if you aren't one), I really wish yours wasn't the top comment in this thread right now.

This guy built something really cool, that hopefully will be useful to the "hackers" here -- I know it'll be useful to me, at least. It would be nice if we didn't shit on him here for having the page go down for a bit.

Where's the "give this comment half my karma" button.

Here's a norm for HN that I suggest as a sensible default: If you're building stuff, we're on your side. We know building stuff is hard. We know early stuff is rough. Where others see flaws, we opportunities for having better stuff tomorrow.

This is the kind of toxic commenting that has lead to all the "are HN comments getting worse?" conversations.

This guy comes in here and says "Hey guys! I quit my job to pursue something I think will make my life better!" and you leave a comment deriding the guy for his _uptime_.

When I joined HN, it was a community of people all trying to lift each other up and push each other to do bigger, better things.

Please don't turn it into this.

Very fair comment. I actually agree- working on the backend is one of my priorities. It isn't my strong-suit but, it does need work (as today demonstrates). Thanks again and I hope you give the site/me another shot after this is fully fixed.- emile

every time i see a negative, holier-than-thou comment like this, it makes me think very poorly of the author.

i guess you've never had a site/app/product/lemonade-stand go down? you don't think the OP knows her blog is having problems? she needs you to call her out publicly? stop being such an ass.

First, I would like to applaud the founder of tindie. Takes guts to quit a comfy situation/paycheck to explore a startup idea.

However, I have to agree, keeping a blog up, which probably will only get a few thousands visits in a few hours, shouldn't be difficult. Switch from Apache, use Nginx. Then serve your static content from a CDN. NetDNA offers Bootstrap served for free at (http://www.bootstrapcdn.com/). Not sure which server side language you are using, but probably needs a bit of tweaking.

At any rate, these are just technical details. You can find other people to help you with these sort of problems.

Best of luck.

I would say that if you're running a startup as a solo founder, don't bother wasting time and mental capacity on hosting your own blog - just use Tumblr or Wordpress.com. Unless you're in the blog platform business, it's really a no brainer (at least until you grow and have too much money and/or turn into a control freak).

But bravo OP for having the courage to launch your own business! Good luck.

Or WP Engine, which I'm happily using. That being said, it's unfortunate this discussion has devolved into such irrelevance.

To the OP: Congrats on a great start and good luck with everything!

Or write it for jekyll and host it on github pages

I agree this is also one of the first things that I thought about as soon as I tried to visit the site. Handling reddit and hackernews front page traffic these days should not be that big for an issue for blogs. One reason this may occur would be that they are on a very cheap shared host? Which would be worrying from the eyes of a user where I can't really trust the longevity of the product where I would take my time to register an account and start up shop.

Not the OP: My personal and business blog is on a cheap host but my product is on linode.

I do this for two reasons:

#1 - I don't want my blog to have anything to do with my service. I don't want it near my service. I don't want some WP-0-Day-Exploit to impact my application stack.

#2 - It is cheap and easy. At least it was when I started it five years go. If I could do it again I'd just use github for blogging/announcements like this. I could pay to manage this myself on another linode vps, but really, for 99.9% of the time it just doesn't matter.

With that said, if I was ever to post to HN about my business I'd probably cache the announcement on its own server (just raw html) and have all other links to my blog still remain at -big hosting provider- since 90% will just click on the link and 10% may dig deeper into the blog itself.

Personally I don't think it's a big deal that the blog is hosted on some big provider. I'd be more concerned if the service was there as well.

While it looks like Emile submitted this, so she may have been expecting it, stuff like this can catch you by surprise.

Earlier this month, when my Russell Kirsch story was #1 for most of the day, I didn't even know it did until someone emailed me. By then it had caught on beyond just HN and I had 60k-100k visitors come in overnight. I got my tech guy to transfer servers and speed things up, but you can't always plan for this type of thing.

OT: Emile is usually a male name of French origin (rhymes with "a meal").

I am very much a male. For the fact checkers out there..

Er, sorry about that :-/

Joel - try http://hnalerts.com/ to get SMS notifications when your domains are on HN or Reddit. Not my service, just a happy fan.

What is the exact setting you need to change? Since you say that an alternative is using something ligher weight, does this mean that nginx can handle this kind of load out of the box?

Another option: Use tumblr with a custom blog.yourdomain.com subdomain

My company does this currently. The upside is that the HTML is very configurable. (we have a rake task that generates a tumblr template from our rails app layout) The downside is that tumblr is down a lot more often that I'd like, and their API is down even more. Rather than using json-p to embed posts on our homepage we have an hourly job that tries to pull posts from the API; it only works about 90% of the time.

Also, when you set up your company blog, make sure you set it up as a secondary group blog so that you can have multiple authors. If you start it off as a primary blog you can't change to a multi-author blog later.

Great work and don't mind the uptime critique.

Anyone who have launched know that shit happens sometimes and that it has nothing to do with whether you have the ability or not.

Most people who know how to configure a server only do that (nothing wrong with that btw), you do much more so of course sometimes things fucks up.

Congratulations on the great start, will be sure to let my electronic geek friends know.

thanks much appreciated!

Looks like it might have legs. I want to be able to limit myself to vendors on my side of the Atlantic. Better filtering please.

Great comment. I'll add a filter by country.

Seeing that I'm much more of a "builder" then I'm a creator, I really have to admire someone who drops there job, to do something full time that hasn't proven a source of income yet.

Personally I love the idea of the site. I'm not sure it has anything that I would buy yet, but I'm still a huge fan of it. I keep looking for something I'd want off there.

That being said, I'm not sure what the market is, out there for these kinds of things.

Thanks- yeah that is part of the gamble. Timing is never something people know until you are in it.

Yep, on it. Getting slammed by Hacker News and Reddit..double wammy

Hi. This is a site I would use personally, if you could provide a meaningful view for a European, filtering out items that sellers aren't prepared to post to me. (Postage within Europe is quite cheap).

On the top of my todo.. should be out in the next 24 hours

This is awesome! I think I know where I can offload my assembled older projects when I'm done with them. =)

One note: When singing up you should redirect away from the registration page.

Sounds good! Will do!

Does the site have some kind of "request commission" feature? Ie I can send out a request for a specific gadget I need made and people can bid on the project.

On the way...

Please, oh please, list the price in the list pages.

I had it up there for a while, however it cuts down on pageviews. I think people will see the price and not try to click the link to learn more about it & the value/ why it is that price.

Fair enough.

Tindie is one of the few websites I've seen on HN that actually got me excited. Great idea, great execution. Best of luck!

I upvoted purely because of what a great website Tindie is. Congratulations on the decision and best of luck!


That's a million dollar domain you got there.

Tindie, really catchy. I wish you the best.

Thanks! Best $8 I've ever spent!

Btw, start expanding your business to everything home made, so you can compete with sites like etsy, in billion dollar markets.

Aim for the moon!

Very interesting site. Keep up the good work!

much appreciated!

how are you managing the titles for the requests? I think you are saving items in one table with unique id, but the url is with text/title. Are you looking over a full-text indexed column for every request for an individual item?

Congratulation, Emile!

Congratulations on the jump, Emile :)

Good luck!

Thank you!

congra, proudn00b !


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