Indie Hackers: Startup Stories

First, our design focuses on the end user of our product (sales reps, support reps, etc.) rather than managers/executives. We focus on making a product people will want to use even if it comes at the expense of automation and reporting which is what the higher-ups normally want. Generally, if a company is big enough that the person in charge of purchasing CRM software isn’t going to actually use it themselves, we’ll lose the sale.

Second, we invest heavily in customer support. That means customers who are older, less tech savvy, or who just don’t want to figure things out for themselves prefer working with us.

.. Throughout the entire history of the company, we’ve never had a single individual thing that resulted in a meaningful surge of new customers all at once. (And we’ve been at the top of HN a couple of times, it just didn’t actually do anything for us.)

.. . We were at 6 paying users after 6 months, 47 after a year, and 200 after a year and a half.

.. The dream is to find some marketing channel where you can buy a user at some acceptable amount. (For us, that’s $100-$150 per paying user we get.)

.. But forget everything I said above. By far the most important factors in our growth are low churn and high word-of-mouth. I really don’t know how to market and no one should take marketing advice from me, but once we get a customer, we’ve had great success in keeping them and getting them to tell their friends. Almost all of our growth is organic. There are downsides to this: it takes a long time, there’s no way to step on the gas, etc. But it’s way less fragile and more sustainable than any marketing channel I’ve ever tried

.. I’d even go so far as to say that the most important thing I do right now as CEO to help grow the business is recruit the best support people possible.

.. Thinking about money and profitability and your business model is super important if you aren’t profitable. But as soon as your business becomes profitable, then you have the freedom to decide for yourself what you care about. If “maximizing shareholder value” is your idea of an inspiring mission, then go for it. But that’s not something I care much about.

.. To me, this is one of the biggest benefits of bootstrapping. There’s nothing stopping bootstrappers from trying to make as much money as possible, but they also have the freedom to optimize for other goals instead. The second you raise money from investors, you really don’t have a choice.

.. one nice thing about slow, steady growth is that I’ve normally been able to identify and correct my mistakes before they became huge issues.

.. Unless your customers are programmers, getting a post on Hacker News won’t matter. Being known by everyone at your local startup networking events won’t matter. Winning a bunch of startup competitions won’t matter. The way I see it, only two audiences matter: your customers and (if you have them) your employees. If you spend time trying to impress anyone other than those two groups, you’re wasting time.

Study: Immigrants Founded 51% of U.S. Billion-Dollar Startups

The study from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank based in Arlington, Va., shows that immigrants started more than half of the current crop of U.S.-based startups valued at $1 billion or more.

These 44 companies, the study says, are collectively valued at $168 billion and create an average of roughly 760 jobs per company in the U.S. The study also estimates that immigrants make up over 70% of key management or product development positions at these companies.

 .. The three highest valued U.S. companies with immigrant founders include car-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc., data-software company Palantir Technologies Inc. and rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Inc.

Have Americans Given Up?

A new book by Tyler Cowen argues that when it comes to innovation and dynamism, the country is all talk.

.. Caught in the hypnotic undertow of TV and video games, they are less likely to go outside.

.. the federal government itself has transformed from an investment vehicle, which once spent a large share of its money on infrastructure and research, to an insurance conglomerate, which spends more than half its money on health care and Social Security. A nation of risk-takers has become a nation of risk-mitigation experts.

.. Cowen’s thought-provoking book emphasizes several causes, including

  • geographic immobility,
  • housing prices, and
  • monopolization.
.. Americans used to move toward productivity and jobs ..
.. today, the most popular destinations for movers aren’t productive cities, but rather cheap sunny suburbs.
.. High housing costs in the most productive metro areas have turned places like Silicon Valley and Manhattan into playgrounds for plutocrats. Tighter land-use regulations in rich metros pushed up housing values
.. lower-income families, who would benefit from living near these bustling job centers, can’t afford to move there. As a result, rich young college graduates have clustered in a handful of cities while the rest of American movers are going to sunbelt suburbs with cheap housing.
.. the decline in entrepreneurship has coincided with the rise of new monopolies—across retail, healthcare, and tech—that make it harder to start a new successful firm in these industries. Starting in the late 1970s, antitrust regulators stopped cracking down on large companies as long as they provided cheap products for consumers. Since 1978, the share of U.S. firms that are startups has fallen by 50 percent.
.. I asked Cowen whether he regarded Trump as the outcome of American complacency or as a kind of vaccine that would cure Americans of their indolence. He sided with the former, explaining that he had long thought that a constitutional crisis or a figure like Trump becoming president might happen in the distant future. He also said that in many ways, Trump is the perfect manifestation of a country that has lost interest in new ideas. “Make America Great Again” is an appeal to nostalgia, a promise to bring back the economics and culture of the 1950s, not to do anything new.
.. Today’s algorithmic media, like Facebook, Pandora, and dating apps, specializes in offering users content that is “optimally new”—familiar, yet surprising. Cowen argues that these technologies wall off anything that is too novel, which feeds complacency
.. Cowen is right that American elites have clearly sorted themselves into like-minded, high-income communities that pass rules against new housing construction, which isolates them from the rest of the country. But they are also restless strivers. Americans work longer hours than almost any similarly rich country in the world, and rich Americans work more than they did 30 years ago. As their leisure time has declined, affluent couples spend significantly more money on their children than they used to, providing for an expensive portfolio of tutoring, music lessons, and summer camps.
.. You might say that this obsession with status—not only obtaining it in one generation, but also devoting one’s life to protect it for the next generation—is the perfect example of Cowen’s thesis that American parents are obsessed with mitigating risk and avoiding change. But children of the elite are more likely to move multiple times between cities, live in multicultural metros, start companies, and experiment with different jobs. How complacent can a class be if it’s producing tens of thousands of anxious, restless maximizers?
.. In other words, America didn’t completely lose the dream. Rather, the only dreamers left are immigrants.
.. several studies have shown that many U.S. workers don’t start new companies because they’re afraid of losing their employer-sponsored health insurance. A single-payer system might increase overall entrepreneurial activity.