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Pinegrow Year in Review 2014 – From 0 to $100K (medium.com)
114 points by mattront on Jan 13, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 42 comments

Fantastic write-up and application.

I gave y'all my money a two or three months ago, and I've been very happy with your product. I had been flirting with a few other mostly-online solution for over a year (looking through book-marks they were layoutit.com and jetstrap), but always felt the features offered were half-hearted and clunky in a browser.

"You can’t come out to a saturated market with just a couple of useful features. Pinegrow had to have all the main features from the start: ability to open any HTML file, full range of configurable Bootstrap components, CSS editor with integrated LESS parser and the ability to edit multiple pages at the same time. After all, that is what distinguished Pinegrow from the rest."

You had me pretty well sold with stand-alone software, lifetime usage w/ 3 installations for commercial purposes, and element drag-and-drop combined with side-by-side page + code view. Access to edit CSS was a feature I didn't know I needed, but I definitely did. I was very impressed with the "Open From URL" feature when I found it, but it certainly wasn't a purchase point for me.

If the market was providing these things elsewhere, props for capturing my queries first.

Kudos for an impressive product that does the thing it's supposed to well.

Thanks! Glad to hear that PG was a good investment for you :)

The dealing with piracy part is brilliant: "when I come across a forum post where somebody is asking for a cracked version of Pinegrow, I reply that whoever needs a license but can’t afford it should contact us and we’ll help them out."

That's turning a negative situation into a positive, which is what a good entrepreneur does.

Agree - that's amazing. Never thought of it.

But back in high school when I was copying software a lot, I actually did not have any money. I'd have jumped on the opportunity to get a legal copy free, and I'd have promoted the shit out of it.

This is the way to do it, for sure.

Very cool! I particularly love your attitude to piracy. Do you have any data suggesting that's resulting in positive effects for Pinegrow? It's good to do either way, but data there would be particularly interesting.

I've been meaning to do a review of Pinegrow for one website I write for - will definitely get on that now.

Incidentally, if you come up with a simple Wordpress theme solution, as you're suggesting, then you move Pinegrow from "Hmm, interesting" to "OH MY GOD TAKE MY MONEY" in my book :)

I don't have any hard data about the effect on piracy. But a couple of users wrote to us that Pinegrow was the first software they actually bought. It is hard to steal from people you know, especially if you think they are nice.

Thanks for the review!

WordPress support will be ready soon. In the first step we'll have a solution for converting statis HTML page to a WP theme. A bit later we'll add support for visually editing WP theme PHP files.

Congratulations, the product looks very polished and powerful.

I just wanted to point out about the mythical "5000 dollars is a rounding error" companies:

I work for one, but they won't buy your product at U$ 75 because you're not selling it to the people with purchasing power, you're getting sales from internal champions.

I think you should read Jason Cohen's articles on his A Smart Bear blog, your company sounds a lot like his - I'm trying to find a particularly relevant post where he talks about an internal champion for your product, but I can't find it, I did find


Also, Joel Spolsky's famous article on pricing:


Thanks, great articles!

$49 is a very interesting price point.

It is easily worth more than $49 to use this software. But $49 is the kind of price where a professional may just buy it from themselves without bothering to hassle their boss to buy it through the company.

This means less of a hard sell and more copies will be sold to people like you or me who discover it through HN or a tweet or something.

I do think they should increase the company price though, because once a company has decided they want to buy it, the sale is done. The difference between $79 and $199 isn't such a big deal, and something like $999 for 10 licenses could be done too.

My sweet spot too. $49 for a pro product is a price where I don't think about it, just get it. If it helps, it's incredible value.

AppCode is like that - there's Xcode and it's free, but AppCode is just way better, and since it's only $50, I bought it.

Turns out a license is only for a major release, so if I buy 1.0 and they come out with 2.0, I have to pay to upgrade. But all upgrades in 1.x are free. So it's a fair deal. They seem to come out with new big releases every year so I end up paying them $50 every year.

I think it's a great model for selling software, and for continuing to make money off of it. It works for them, and for me as a customer, too. I get added value, and I don't mind spending extra on it.

Whereas, I avoid anything subscription like the plague. I want to buy, and own, not rent. Even though I now know that AppCode will always have a new major release every year, I don't mind paying the upgrade. First of all, I don't have to, I could just keep using the old version. And secondly each version packs tons of new features so I feel like I am getting something for my money.

Thanks for your input on this!

Hi Matt,

Great job you're doing. Would be really interested in seeing the Wordpress product when it's out. Haven't found anything for perfect conversions as of yet.

You're currently using Paddle that takes 5%, in my opinion this is far too much, you could save 2.5% a year by going to Stripe or even more by going to GoCardless. Besides the clump sum you get at the end of each month, what is your motivation behind using Paddle compared to other, cheaper services?


As John said, having Paddle deal with VAT saves us lots of time and boring administrative work.

In EU accounting rules are quite strict, so you have to enter every single transaction into your accounting books. A lot of this work is still done manually. Having one lump sum frees us from that as well.

The last time I checked Stripe is not available to merchants in Slovenia.

And Paddle works with PayPal also. Many people prefer to use PayPal instead of credit cards.

He referred to #VATMESS - the new VAT rules across the EU that place a large administrative burden on smaller businesses like his (and mine) - more info here: http://rachelandrew.co.uk/archives/2014/11/25/how-small-comp... . Paddle seem to take care of this burden for him. I've looked into it and Stripe does not do this.

Wonderful story Matt, thanks for sharing it!

@askinakhan: While Stripe's base fees may be lower, Paddle is more of an all-in-one platform that simplifies the process of selling digital products.

As well as handling all of the VAT admin work for Pinegrow (which is a huge burden for sellers), Paddle also manages customer support and allows customers to pay via PayPal with a seamless checkout experience. We also offer analytics and developer tools that make it easy for devs to offer trial versions of their apps/games, in-app purchases and more.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions! -- Fabio from Paddle.com

Congratulations Matjaz!

You're living the dream :) I've got my own product launch coming soon, and I hope things go even half as well for me as they have gone for you.

I'm interested to hear about your marketing efforts. You mentioned that you have 16000 mailing list subscribers and that this has been effective in terms of growing sales. How did you find these subscribers?

Are there any other marketing hints you might be able to give to a soon to be launching app?

Cheers, Eli

Thanks :)

Most of 16000 emails on the list are trial version signups. To activate the trial user needs to enter the email address and a simple activation code that we send to that address.

A lot of times trial users like your app but will forget to buy it because they don't need it immediately. About once or two times per month we send out news about product updates and occassional special offers ($10 off for Christmas, for example). That brings a lot of users back to the product.

Another thing that drowe early sales was giving lifetime free updates to early adpoters. So people bought PG even though they didn't need it yet or important features were missing. We did this for the first three months.

Wish you lots of success with your launch!

as a pinegrow user and supporter, I'm a big fan and really loved this write up. I think pinegrow is positioned to kill it in the WordPress space soon. I've been using it as part of my workflow. It doesn't carry me start to finish but it makes some parts of design and makes them sort of fun again. I realize that people on here accept abstraction as a given in technology. the more better code is the way. But just like the promoters of vim / emacs tout the benefits of staying within the environment, enhancing focus, that's the same thing with visual builds. to go back and forth from code to design and to abstract it all together cause focus problems that are hard to quantify but are definitely prevalent. Pinegrow is one of a few tools that can help as they improve. Pinegrow in partiular because of it's fantastic browser render preview, multiple editing modes and as you've read, backend flexibility and intelligence due to the way it was constructed.

"I don’t obsess over competitors. In practice that means that I don’t do any in-depth testing of their apps or services. I feel that would just obscure my vision for the product. Comparing yourself to others too much leads to losing the confidence and appreciation of your own unique identity."

100% agree. Measuring one thing has little to do with building it. Under building mode, there is only one path you could go. Under measuring mode, we only want to know the distance from the target to the place reached. In other words, building is a somewhat one-dimension activity while measuring is more often a multi-dimension activity.

Excellent story. The best of luck for 2015.

One idea: Why not provide the option to buy 2 years of updates at a higher price? It would give you some more cash up front which could be used for ads etc.

Thanks Phillip. Good idea, we'll think about it.

That looks awesome and as a backend developer it's something I'd love to use. But I'm not sure how to use it in my environment. We use compass/SASS to build our CSS files as we change them.

So my process is tweaking html, updating the SASS file, waiting for it to build CSS, then reloading the page.. tweaking... it's really, really slow. Can we use this app somehow in our environment?

Supporting SASS (via libSASS) is high on the to-do list.

Until then you can use PG to work with HTML and edit SASS in an external code editor. PG will auto-refresh styles when it detects that CSS file was modified.

I'd be very interested in a writeup on how you got to grips with node-webkit, if you were so inclined?

This looks like a very polished application - well done!

Originally I planned to publish PG packaged as a Chrome app. I spent a lot of time working around Chrome App API security limitations and complicated way of accessing the file system.

Then I found node-webkit. I had PG working in a couple of hours. Using Node.js fs module for file access is almost trivial. In general I try to keep core JS code not tied to Node.js or anything else. PG uses Node.js part of node-webkit only for file access, menus and clipboard. Everything else happens in a browser (embedded Chromium in this case). It would be easy to port PG to another JS-based platform, like atom shell.

Hope this helps.

That certainly does. I've been toying with the idea of creating a node-webkit app, but have been having serious problems on deciding what should be in node, and what should be in browser-js, from an architectural point of view.

From the sounds of things, you've worked around this by making it a web app that just so happens to be in a node-webkit container.

Cheers for the insight!

> From the sounds of things, you've worked around this by making it a web app that just so happens to be in a node-webkit container.

Yes, that's it. Evertyhing is in browser JS.

Congratulations! You story is an inspiration.

Awesome! Love your take on piracy. Maybe put off potential pirates by stating that customers that have purchased get put on a mailing list with regular software updates and pinegrow ready templates. A user submitted portfolio of templates for sale/free could be a nice addition as well.

Even if it where open source, I'd still pay the yearly renewal - It's worth every penny!

The link to your website 404s: http://pinegrow.com/index.new.html

Fixed, thanks!

You gave two spelling errors.

Disuing -> discussing Loosing -> losing


Another one - "prefect" should be "perfect".


Fantastic writeup, it's inspiring. Thank you.

Can I buy it once and receive updates forever?

You get 1 year of updates with the purchase. Each additional year of updates will be about 50% of the purchase price.

That's a great model

Nice one.want to try it.

Looks amazing!

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