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75+ Insights from successful bootstrapped startup stories

75+ Insights from successful bootstrapped startup stories
Photo by Campaign Creators / Unsplash

Hey👋

I have profiled more than 30 indie hacker stories for this newsletter over the last 10 months or so.

Over time I have collected the best lessons we all can learn from these founders, and how can we apply these lessons to our own businesses.

No matter where you are in your startup journey these insights will help you. You can get new ideas to build, or insights to grow existing startups that you are working on.

This page is an ever-growing collection of insights from each of the stories I have profiled. I am gradually adding more every week.

You can sign up to stay updated as I add new insights every week.

If you subscribe today, you can get all these ideas in a simple PDF that you can read through at your own convenience.

Sign up👇

The insights on this page are grouped according to each profile on this site, so you can get some context around which founder story they are derived from.

You can also click through and read the whole story.

The broad topics that these insights fall under include -  No-Code, Creator Economy, SaaS, Build In Public, Community, and Content businesses.

Hope they help you.

Now let's go👇


From Nathan Barry of ConvertKit -

  • You can Build in Public when starting up for the marketing, social proof, accountability, and community support.
  • Continue to BIP only if you’re doing it as a mission to help other founders.  Know that it can be detrimental to your business at that stage.
  • If you’re product is easily replicable, it’s better to position it as an aspirational product and charge a premium.
  • The perfect SaaS tool is the guide in their user’s journey not the hero itself. Be Yoda not Luke.

From David Perell of Write of Passage -

  • Cohort based learning is the future of education.
  • Community adds value to Cohort Based Courses.
  • Writing online has infinite upside, and minimal downside. Everyone realizes this, so many more people are going to write online in the future.
  • There can be many ways to look at writing courses, another writing course that’s doing well is Ship30for30, which is very different from Write of Passage.

From Jon Yongfook of BannerBear -

  • API products are well suited for Indie Hackers
  • The 12 startups challenge is not just about finding that one big hit, it’s about knowing yourself.
  • Passion is a crucial success metric in a solo business
  • Scratching your own itch works, but the product should solve a real pain point that people would pay money for.

From Pieter Levels of NomadList

  • You don’t need a fancy tech stack for a profitable business.
  • There is value in curating niche information.
  • FB and Google serve the masses, Indie Hackers can serve the niches.
  • As communities become large, spam becomes an issue, Pieter tackles it by charging money, Courtland tackles it by going invite-only. Spam management can be a good problem to solve in the “community economy”

From Rosie Sherry of Ministry of Testing-

  • Building a thriving community is as tough as building a business
  • It requires selflessness and putting others before yourself.
  • Communities are a great place to find your first users and business ideas.
  • But strong communities are good at sniffing out “sales” focused members.
  • Adding more “color” and “fun” to dry industries can be a good community model.

From Sabba of Veed -

  • Tools can be profitable, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  • A chip on your shoulder can be a good thing if used well.
  • SEO is the best organic growth channel.
  • YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world.
  • Free tools can help fuel the top of the funnel.
  • Value can be created by replicating desktop software for the web.

From Andrey Azimov of Sheet2Site -

  • 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.

From Kyle Gawley of Gravity -

  • You don't need to sacrifice your well-being to build a profitable business - VC funding is not for everyone
  • Boilerplates are to developers what No-Code tools are to non-developers - valuable
  • Saving time, or money, or both are the classic value props of all successful businesses.
  • Be a painkiller, not a vitamin - build products that help people deal with boring chores and you will always have buyers.

From Samy Dindane of Hypefury -

  • Your MVP doesn't have to be very polished, and it doesn't need to take long to build. It just needs users.
  • Product Development and Marketing are equally important.
  • There's no substitute to user interviews.
  • There is no better validation than paying users.
  • There's no such thing as a crowded market, it's about finding niches within niches.
  • Increasing prices can help reduce churn in the long term. They increased prices and the MRR went from $13K to $19K.

From Nadav Keyson of Riverside -

  • If a product isn't getting traction, reposition the value prop.
  • Early user feedback is crucial for figuring out the right product to build. (Exactly what we saw with Hypefury)
  • A Tech advantage can work, if you figure out the right problem to solve early enough.
  • Word of Mouth is the strongest form of marketing.
  • Indie Hackers riding the creator economy wave will flourish. (like we saw with Hypefury, Veed, Closet Tools, and Gumroad)

From Ben Tossell of Makerpad -

  • You are the product of your environment, Ben was surrounded by new tech products all day, eventually became a builder because of that.
  • High quality content sites and communities have great value. (learn to build a community from Rosie Sherry)
  • The No code movement is in its early years of the hype cycle, it will stabilize with time and become an essential part of how startups are built.
  • Early adopters in the No-Code space are people who do know how to code, and are aware of the pain of building development teams early on.
  • Broadly 3 applications of No-Code tools - Websites, mobile apps, SaaS Apps.
  • Often just repositioning an existing product can work well. Like Ben did with Makerpad and Nadav Keyson did with Riverside.

From Molly Wolchansky of The Agent Nest -

  • Freelancer to Agency to SaaS is a legit approach to building wealth. Nathan Barry speaks about a similar path in his phenomenal blog post - Ladders of wealth creation.
  • Paid ads can work well if your users hang out on FB, IG or Pinterest.
  • It helps if you know your target user persona from up close. For Molly, her mom is a real estate agent. (for Arvid Kahl, his partner was an English teacher to Chinese students)
  • Serving the target users as a freelancer first, gives you unique insights into their problems.
  • An ever increasing mailing list is invaluable, Molly kept collecting emails through her agency days. (Andrey Azimov kept doing it through all his projects in the hard core year)

From Nathan Baschez and Dan Shipper of Every -

  • You don't need a company to build a successful product. Make something useful, incorporate later.
  • The best business models are the ones that make everyone win - the founders, collaborators and the consumers.
  • Business newsletters can make good money, especially because they help the readers make money.
  • Starting small, validating one idea at a time is a legit model to build a profitable business.
  • A newsletter is good foundation for a startup. (Ryan Hoover started Product Hunt as a newsletter)

From Ben Orenstein of Tuple -

  • You can have revenue without a product! Or with a barely functional product. (Like Andrey Azimov had with Sheet2Site)
  • As a bootstrapped founder, your best bet is to target a very narrow niche.
  • There's no substitute to 1:1 user conversations. Ben used them to optimize pricing for Tuple. (Samy used them to optimize the product for Hypefury)
  • "Building an audience" is the best investment you can make in your startup, and all your future startups!
  • Solving hard technical problems will always be valuable.

From AJ of Carrd -

  • Constraints are superpowers, they make you creative, and help you carve out a niche for your product.
  • Keep a low barrier to entry for new users. You can build a Carrd website without even sharing your email. And the pricing plans are very inexpensive as well. Using Carrd is a no-brainer.
  • Build products incrementally. Learn more about the domain, and get better with every iteration. (Like Andrey Azimov of sheet2site, and Pieter Levels of Nomadlist)
  • Have word-of-mouth built into the product. People share projects built on Carrd which helps with the virality. That's product let marketing. (Like Riverside and Tuple).

From Marie Martens of Tally -

  • Keep your onboarding experience seamless, users should be able to use the product with as little friction as possible. No signup, No CC required. ( like Carrd)
  • Product Hunt launch matters a lot if your ideal customers are other makers. (Check out Tally’s PH launch checklist.)
  • Early user feedback is priceless. Speak to them as much as possible, create a private group with them. (like Hypefury.)
  • Tally got traction from the NoCode France community. If you can, then pivot your positioning to ride the NoCode movement (Like Bannerbear.)
  • Leverage Product Led Growth - Hallmark card effect. The act of using the product should promote the product. ( Like Riverside)
  • Figure out a way to divide Marketing and Product responsibilities between co-founders. (Like Veed)
  • When a big player changes strategy, there’s a void in the market that indie hackers can pounce on. Tally benefited from Typeform’s price change. (Tuple benefited from Slack acquiring screenhero)

Hope you found these insights valuable.

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Cheers,

Ayush