Listen Up! IH - Episode 25
"Just start a simple one-button app, whatever your idea is."
👆 That's Andrey Azimov's advice to aspiring Indie Hackers.
In 2018, Andrey was selected as Product Hunt's Maker of the Year.
The last company he sold - Sheet2Site, was doing $10K+/MRR before he sold it.
Andrey is a digital nomad, prolific maker, and hardcore Indie Hacker.
Back in July 2021, he came on the Indie Hackers Podcast to talk about his hardcore year, his various projects, and his advice to other Indie Hackers.
The Hardcore Year💪
In March 2018, Andrey Azimov quit his job as a Product Manager and went on an adventure to be a startup founder.
His goal - make $1000 monthly recurring revenue (MRR).
Originally from Ukraine, Audrey was living in Bali at the time fulfilling his dreams as a digital nomad.
The cost of living in Bali is extremely low compared to the western world.
With $18,000 a year you can hire a live-in maid or butler for $500.
He could easily live off of $400 a month there - that's why he set his target revenue at $1K MRR.
He gave himself a year to achieve this goal, modeled it on Pieter Levels 12 startups challenge. So he wanted to build multiple projects over the year and see which one stood out from the rest.
This is how he described his attitude -
"I didn't know what will work out so I just throw spaghetti on a wall and see what will stick."
He called this the Hard Core Year.
Before going all-in Andrey was working as a product manager at a product studio in Bali called Railsware.
He didn't know how to code at the time, so he built web apps on the side to teach himself coding.
His friend, the well-known Pieter Levels, had told him to work on projects that solve his own problems and learn to code in the process.
He built some interesting projects -
- When to Surf - An app that tells you the best time to surf. He had just learned to Surf, so this was an important problem for him.
2. Push to Deploy - A physical red button that you press to deploy your code. Yes, this was a problem that annoyed him with his previous project. And yes it was literally a physical red button:
He didn't get enough presales to get the button manufactured in China. So he had to end the project. But it did make for an interesting Product Hunt launch.
3. DarkModeList - A list of apps that support Dark Mode. It's a simple website with a grid view of apps, and when you click on an item in the grid you get some more details about that app.
DarkmodeList was the first app that made him $100 in sponsorship revenue.
That's when Andrey knew he could build something of his own and achieve that $1K MRR target.
That's when he decided to go for the Hard Core Year.
The first project in the Hard Core Year was a website builder called Sheet2Site.com.
Sheet2Site - There and Back again📊
Sheet to Site is exactly what it sounds like.
You enter data in a Google Sheet and turn it into a simple website.
He got the idea for it when he was working on DarkModeList. Where he had a lot of data in a sheet but wasn't sure how to turn it into a website.
He thought this could be a problem many other people might also be facing, so he wanted to build an app for that.
And he did.
This is what the first version looked like -
And you couldn't even connect a custom domain.
But he did make revenue.
He got generic feedback and didn't get a lot of paid users.
For the first month, he made just $300.
So Andrey decided to move on to his next project.
It was a Mac App called Progress Bar OS X.
Andrey is a big fan of the Twitter account Year in progress. It tweets out the percentage of the year gone by every day.
He built a Mac App that shows the year, month, week, and even your life in progress!
And it sold like hotcakes.
He made 300 sales of the app for $5 a pop.
The Next Challenge - Creating Variations
Andrey didn't know how to get the progress bar animation working in Swift UI.
So he made 50 different progress bar images and looped through them to update at every interval.
It's the worst code someone can write, and yet, the app is still making sales. This is how Andrey describes it -
"Just imagine, after three years, people still buying it, even in the Apple Store. I thought, wow, people even don't care if my code even not entirely optimized, it's like the worst code in the world"
After this Andrey made another Mac App called Make OS X great again, and several other projects.
Overall he made 7 apps in his Hardcore Year and reached his goal of $1K MRR.
But in order to do it, he had to revisit his original idea - Sheet2Site.
3 reasons for returning to Sheet2Site -
- It was a proper finished product.
- It was the only app with recurring revenue
- People were still using it (and were asking for features)
So Andrey decided to double down on Sheet2Site and work on all the feature requests that had piled up.
It took him 3-4 months to build out all the features and launch Sheet2Site V2 on Product Hunt.
It had features such as filters, search, templates.
And yes, you could connect a custom domain to the site now!
During the pandemic, more and more people are starting online businesses and website builders have benefitted the most during this time.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, Sheet2Site has grown exponentially and crossed $10K MRR according to its open page.
Eventually, after working on it for 3 years, Andrey Azimov sold Sheet2Site in June 2021.
He wanted to work on fresh ideas and projects.
This Tweet captures the essence of why he decided to sell -
For almost all his products, Andrey went through the 4 step path of a startup founder -
4 Step Path of a Founder🚶♂️
- Build something. Anything really - it can even be a silly idea in your head.
- You encounter a problem to build the idea.
- You solve the problem.
- You realize many other people might have the same problem, and eventually make that your main idea!
Question to all Indie Hackers - What step are you on right now?
Advice for Indie Hackers🤗
Andrey's advice to Indie Hackers is to surround yourself with like-minded people, but also to not get caught up in other people's stories.
Don't get caught up in "content" and start working on your own app, even if it's just a simple one-button app😅
Try to surround yourself with friends doing the same as you but already succeed in any way. It would probably help a lot because personally, I don’t have super crazy motivation where I can work alone for 20 years in a basement. I need some friends around me that will support and say, you're going to do it, man. That's one thing that I would advise.
Another thing that there is a big problem now is there is too much different content. There is Indie Hackers, Hacker News, Product Hunt, TechCrunch, Fast Company, and everyone's succeeding. You see these Instagram stories of success every 10 seconds. It's very hard to decide what to do. The best approach is just don’t focus too much on reading and learning, just start a simple one-button app, whatever your idea is. It will be much better than watching some other peoples’ successes and try to build your own
Let's look at some Insights, Ideas, and Inspiration from Andrey Azimov's story -
- Extreme challenges like the hardcore year and the 12 startups challenge work very well in testing out many ideas.
- If you write good blogs posts, build in public and launch on PH often, you can build a sizeable audience.
- You don't need to be an expert coder to build a profitable internet business.
- Website builders are a growing niche, as more people plan to build online businesses, this niche will only grow.
- A simple website that curates all the 12 startups challenges and hardcore years people are doing these days. Marc Köhlbrugge is curating the #buildinpublic hashtag on Twitter on buildinpublic.com
- Build a NoCode Website builder. Notion to Website tool examples - MDX.ONE, potion.so, super.so. Airtable to site example - Softr.io. Don't worry, competition in this space is a good thing.
- Is anyone building a Twitter profile to website tool? Or a Twitter thread as a Blog post tool?
- Solve your own problems (this newsletter was started when I wanted to digest the learnings from IH podcasts)
- If you don't have much money, find ways to cut down on expenses - Andrey lived for under $400 a month.
- He walked 2KM every night fighting dog gangs because he couldn't afford a scooter.
- He worked from outside of Startbucks even after it closed for the night so that he could have free Wi-Fi.
- Best advice Pieter Levels gave Andrey Azimov - "It is better to be a 26 year old man who hates his job and quit than to be a 36 year old man who hates his job."
- If you're stuck in a meaningless job, take the plunge, it will be worth it. I did it recently.
- The "Hardcore Year" Approach to $10k/Month in Revenue - The podcast that inspired this post
- Andrey's Hardcore year
- Andrey Quitting his Job
Thank you for reading🙏
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Thanks to Seth King for editing this post