I had been building Magic Sales Bot for close to two years. I went through 3-4 major iterations. I spoke with customers, helped people get value out of the tool, took risks, and focused. Not on the wrong things, but not on the right things either.
I had a certain amount of money in the bank. I used that money to pay myself $2,000/month before taxes. I needed to get revenue above that number so I could become default alive.
Problem was, no matter what I did, I couldn't seem to break the $1,500 MRR barrier. Most of the time, I was nowhere near that.
So here I was - slowly draining away my money while facing bigger financial burdens down the pike. I resorted to a backup plan.
For the years I was building MSB, I was also talking to salespeople and about sales. A common statement I heard: "I wish we could just hire you!"
But I didn't want to figure that out. I talked myself out of it, told myself it would suck and I would hate it the whole time it was sucking. Fellow builder and now partner Jakob Greenfeld pushed me to talk through specifics, and we decided to give it a go together. I admired him for his clear thinking, evident in his writing, and we had attempted to co-build tools in the past.
At first, I posted messages in slack groups I was in, tweeted, and sent emails to my lists. Could we do this for anyone for free? We wanted to get a feel for what we could offer and what we could deliver.
3 companies took us up on the free offer. We originally pitched a week and ended up doing 2 weeks.
We got results for 2 of the companies pretty quickly (Jakob is proven in scraping, I'm proven in sales) and we found a flow of working together. We'd ideate unique ways to sell for each client based on scraping who might already be in the market, instead of just cold pitching. He'd handle infra, I'd handle customers and copy.
Those 3 companies decided to start paying us $500/m, and we were very happy with ourselves. 2 weeks to $1500 MRR?
We then started doing daily standups focused on two things: Acquisition (new customers, dogfooding our new ideas to get them) and Retention (driving results, being communicative about expectations and results).
We tweeted and emailed about what we were doing. We would cold email businesses with custom videos with exactly how we'd pitch their potential customers.
We started pitching $1k/m and people signed up. We started pitching $2k/m and people signed up. We did some commission deals but liked the accessibility of $2k, and stuck there. It's a hell of a cost savings when you think about a typical SDR costing $100k+.
Fast forward through about 2.5 months of running our own cold email campaigns, tweeting, emailing, acquiring, and we decide to take the money in the bank to meet in Barcelona. Since we've coded a lot of the infra and not hired, our margins are great.
We thought about where to take this. Do we start coming up with small products to dogfood and then spin out, like a product studio? We decided: This is working. Let's exploit what's working.
We honed our offer and positioning to the point where we can call it a productized service. Every week or two we'd add another customer. We had added 13, and churned 3.
Then, we added two new customers, bringing us past $100k ARR. Holy shit. That fast? I thought the stories online were bullshit.
This is a backup plan that actually turned into a pretty cool reality. I thought I'd hate the work. In reality, I love the challenge, the fear, the opportunity. It's nice to wake up today and know that people need my expertise and my effort, that day.
In retrospect I bought too much into the indiehacker ideal: create a product in a space you know well, bring it to your network, iterate, improve.
I can now see that that's hard mode. Easy mode is creating something people are using to paying for (like a leadgen service) and putting your spin on it. Get free of the corporate yoke, provide for yourself, then start taking shots on goal with new ideas.
But, the options I have to choose from for new ideas has now expanded. For any given MVP, I have a dozen internal customers to use it on. That's a dozen customer case studies I can make. I'm also on the edge of what's possible in cold email, a further tool I can use in launching anything new. Lastly, we have the revenue and breathing room to go out make acquisitions on the one thing you can't build yourself: Product Market Fit.