Indie Hacking on Steroids

This blog describes my indie hacking journey and how we conceptualised, built and sold what started as a small side project all in a cycle of 12 months. It definitely feels like more than that.

Serendipity

It’s a story of serendipity through and through. In September 2021 I was itching to build something. The only question was what?

Everything felt like chance (far from it when it was happening), from writing down 13 different ideas (an ominously high odd number) to deciding to do a 14th, talking to a colleague, and finding a motivated executor (and more on the way).

I started being a part of specific online communities on Discord and Slack, and eventually became a moderator of one. Everything felt very tough. There were a lot of moving parts, and it felt that there could be a better way to get through all the work without being so worked up.

I was also talking to some folks at NextLeap (who eventually became our first users and gave us detailed feedback), and it hit me. Why do community managers depend on the platform for their data and analytics? It is their effort, and they should own it. Hence the concept of FlyWheel was born. I will not bore you with details of what the product does but rather walk through the build process.

Validation

The most underrated part of building anything. With just a landing page (with a signup link) and a bunch of posts on Reddit and Facebook groups, it was evident that there was a need. We used webflow to create the page. It is vital to choose where you choose to publish your post, as it can either provide you with fake signals or bad signals.

Building

I don’t know how to code. Neither was there enough time for my tech partner to find out time. So I wrote a requirement spec and shared it with my BITS CS coders group.

A CS undergrad from Faridabad pinged that he was interested. To this day, I don’t know how that spec reached there. He is the best self-educator and executor I know to date.

With a very vague idea of how the thing would look that I prepped on an excel sheet we were off and running.

How the dashboard looked on day 0.

We started building furiously; the only problem was that we didn’t know how much to charge and will people be willing to pay for it.

Not all Rosey

We had good traction, and at the peak, we had ~18 active communities using our product (more than 20,000 users)

Everything was hunky dory, and then we ran out of GCP credits. We thought of raising funds, so I prepared a sweet deck which I thought would blow everyone’s mind and, given the investing scenario, load us up with cash enabling us to make things go big. Online communities were only expanding, and it looked like we would figure monetisation on our way.

It never happened. Lesson: You need to know how to charge and when to charge. Everything for free makes your product look cheap. And we never built a system that would make things chargeable on a part-by-part basis.

In hindsight, we could have persisted and developed a way to charge people better, but that’s just hindsight.

PS: One of our features is actually a base for an entire company that got YC funded. Marketing and in the right way is really important.

The Pitch deck I used. Pls give feedback in comments

Eventuality

With money flowing out of pocket, we started reaching out to potential buyers, which is when I discovered Microacquire.

It’s a platform that allows micro-medium SaaS companies to list and connects buyers and sellers. This is where we met our buyer.

Couldn’t have asked for a better buyer to sell it to. They agreed to timelines, has a very smooth transition plan in place and did a bunch of stuff to make it very comfortable.

It is never easy to let go of an idea specially when it has taken shape, but we learn and we grow. I wouldn’t say you win some and you lose some, because what even is losing? Every experience is a win in my books.

The “hounds have been released” is what I heard on the acquisition call and the eventuality became a reality.

Learnings

  • The Internet is beautiful. I haven’t met any of the people I have worked with to build this product in person. Only one person I knew, others were all new. I was 11,999 Km away from my buyer. Internet truly knows no bounds.
  • Be aggressive with selling and marketing. Building eventually gets done. It only needs focus. Selling needs persistence. Much more difficult than building. Getting comfortable to hear “No” for an answer is way more painful than writing, reading or anything else.
  • Trust by default. I think we have lost the ability to trust people, which doesn’t do good. Trust when someone says there is an emergency. Trust when someone says it will be done. If you start with distrust, you will go nowhere.
  • Business is hard. Respect anyone who has built anything. Big, small, medium, tiny. Creating value out of thin air is tough. Those who do command respect.
  • Building new stuff is addictive.
  • Seeing new sign ups is addictive.
  • Closing a deal is addictive.
  • Discipline is addictive.

Signing off. Happy to share things in detail and help out anyone who is trying to build on the side or full time and share learnings.

Thanks to UT (my bro), Kali (the bro), Parag (the hammer), Krutika (the reviewer), Prajwal, Mohit, Sudeep, Riya for joining the ride. It was fun. The itch to do something again has started and I will ping all of you in times of need 🙂

General

SST View All →

A graduate from BITS Pilani, class of 2019, I am currently working as a Product Manager at Flipkart. I like to write about things that get stuck in my head. By writing I make sure everyone knows what absurd thoughts I have :P Thanks for visiting.

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