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Starting The Web App Challenge: From Zero to $5,000/month In 6 Months (nathanbarry.com)
108 points by stickhandle 1573 days ago | hide | past | web | 26 comments | favorite



My suggestion for ideas - make simple tools for team/organizing for normal people. Not yet another collaboration/project management suite but apps to help teachers, baseball coaches, and scout leaders. My free tool http://chir.ag/projects/team-maker/ gets over 10k hits per month, mostly via Google search and a single MakeUseOf post. I did no advertising and yet I get emails every other day from someone trying to do more with the tool and offering me money to build a pro version.

Another free app of mine that does great is https://zetabee.com/icaljs/ - it's a simple calendar that takes an iCal feed and inserts it into your website via JS and lets you style it with CSS. People have written me many times to make that into a more feature-rich app and charge $x/mo for it. I'm still busy with my KType project (that we emailed each other about a while ago) so I'm not in a good place to build these apps but you might be in a much better position, especially with your awesome marketing skills. Patio11's found success with apps for normal users too. So definitely consider "simple tools to make someone's life super-easy" as a viable candidate.


Nice suggestions. What was the main reason for you to keep those projects/apps free for all? Just curious, thanks


Just my way of giving something back.


Getting a successful web app is tough, why add unnecessary constraints to make it harder?

One example is "I can only spend $5,000 of my own money in this entire process". If you could get an awesome programmer for $6,000 to build the whole thing, would you really say no just to stick to the arbitrary rules?

I think you need to go into a startup with the idea that you need to overcome all the obstacles that get in your way, not start with some arbitrary obstacles to make a game of it.

Good luck, but I think you are making a tough task even tougher, and unnecessarily.


I think that defining your constraints ahead of time is the only way to go. If $6,000, why not $10,000, then $20,000, then you're suddenly at $50,000 because you "had to".

Designing within constraints is really what the essence of design is all about. If you set limits, you must work hard to stay within those limits. The idea that "given unlimited time/money/people I could design the ultimate whatever" is a myth anyhow.


What, no way to sign up for an email list? Patio11 will not be pleased...


He doesn't even have an idea! People that sign up for any/everything aren't too valuable as potential customers.


I think he's implying having an email list for people who want to follow along, not necessarily actual customers for the ultimate product.

I agree. I love the idea of a mailing list where progress updates are routinely sent (even if just links to new blog posts.)


Just added it.


Good luck Nathan.

I'm aiming for the same goal for my existing startup. Except in 3 months and the app (https://carelogger.com) has been running for a few years (almost entirely part time or while I was employed).

My app had been free for the majority and an earlier attempt to make it profitable was half-hearted, before we made it free again.

Now, we have a B2B version, a large email marketing list, and multiple native mobile apps coming out next month. We hope these will push it to profitably ($4-5k/month) by then.


Nice! That's a super-pretty (web) app.

Of course you are up against a lot of people in the iOS space, I hope you have some unique angles to compete.


When I entered the web app space, there were quite a few existing diabetes trackers.

It's been 3 years now, I've watched 75% of competitors fold while we kept at it, kept improving our product, growing our SEO rankings and figuring out ways to monetize it.

I hope to do the same for our mobile app :).


This looks great! Random question: have you considered doing any integrations with EHR/HIE/patient portal vendors, or with IDNs/payers?


I started writing a RoR application at the beginning of December, my first application at that. I'm a PHP developer by trade however for the type of app I'm developing Ruby and the Rails framework is better for me.

I too am Bootstrapping my project but with only a little, not $5000 but it can be done. Costs are: domain, Heroku/AWS hosting and advertising.

SaaS seems to be the route everyone is taking with these kind of things. Bring in the UK makes this harder though, no decent payment providers such as Stripe, so I'm going with Paymill.

Best of luck Nathan!


Did you look at Braintree?


Yeah but it didn't look or make me feel as comfortable as Paymill did.


One of the lessons that I learned recently from my own web app project is that, a successful project requires a lot more than just having the right idea and execution; marketing is equally important as well. I learned this the hard way when I finished my project and realized I didn't know how to reach out to my target audiences. Oh well, I guess this will be my goal for 2013, to learn how to better understand and communicate with the market.

And good luck to everyone who will be taking on new challenges in 2013!


Same - for most of us, the technical execution is the easy part. Whenever I have an idea nowadays, I try to figure out a couple distribution points and also get some early market validation before getting started. Read more about the Lean Methodology :)


I took on a very similar challenge in 2012 although I gave myself a year to do it mostly because I didn't have the benefit of market penetration to validate my idea before starting. Because I'm a developer I started with my idea, then went after the market which I think may have cost me a few months in the beginning. I also very much under estimated how slow the real estate market is to adapt to new technology so I didn't fully reach my goal but I'm 2/3 of the way there and think I'll get the rest of the way plus some in Q1. I really wish I had of documented the journey the way you are. It would be a super valuable retrospective. Maybe I'll do one of those fancy year in review blog posts that all the cool kids seem to be doing.

I think it'll be important for you to learn as much as you can about RoR so that you can accelerate to launch as quickly as possible and start getting those clients in the door. Anyway, good luck with reaching your goal!


I like this idea a lot, I think I'll try it myself. You already have some well dug marketing channels though, as made evident by your book sales - any advice for the rest of us? Better yet, any interest in making this a community challenge?


Good luck Nathan.

If you need any help feel free to email me james@gathercontent.com.


After the results of the last few months, I wouldn't bet against ya Nathan. Give 'em hell!


Good luck Nathan! Keep us posted on what you decide to do, I'd like to see it progress :)


Very cool. I just might be inspired enough to give this a shot as well.


Why not an open challenge? I would be interested!


Tempting. Very, very tempting.

And good luck!




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