From 0 → $4,000 ARR in 4 days, then to $7,000 in 7 days

From 0 → $4,000 ARR in 4 days, then to $7,000 in 7 days
Published on
September 26, 2021

This is the graph of our revenue 4 days after launch:

This is the graph of our revenue 7 days after launch:

What are we doing with that money? Taking it and pouring it into our Notion website builder, a completely different business. Why...? Stick with me.

Since these milestones did well on Twitter, we wanted to go a bit deeper into why/how/etc. Let me explain what I want to do in this article (and also give you a table of contents):

  • Explain how we got there
  • Why it's not that easy... but also not that hard either
  • Lessons - what I'd do differently, looking back
  • How you can do it
  • Conclusion

How we got here

I cheekily made this first post, announcing a 'thread':

Tweet #2, as you might or might not have seen, just says "Build distribution, before you build product".

And frankly, that's pretty much it. I don't have any magic secret to share. I wish I would have a golden nugget, and I know there is a lot of marketing/business potential in claiming you've got one.

But ultimately that's what we've done: we've built an audience for a long time, before we launched this product.

And by a long time I mean something like 4 years, although it's been 2 years since we've started a business. In the first 2, we didn't set out to build a business, quite frankly (full story in the link).

The product (and it probably is a bad idea to disclose this so much later in the post, but hey, here we are learning as we go) is authenticate.legitcheck.app.

Here's the irony: given what it does, it's... probably not for you 😶

What does it do? We authenticate luxury items: sneakers, clothing, bags, watches, collectibles, etc. People put in an order and upload pictures upon checking out — we put out a verdict ('fake' or 'real')

But here's what you'd find out if you go on to that: there's 2 ways you can pay.

See that?

A one-off charge, or a subscription offering. So in all honesty: the MRR/ARR we've shared above is just what people pay for the right-hand-side option: the Legit Check Club (more in a sec).

I've just checked the numbers and about 25% of people go for the subscription. I honestly expected more to go for that, but hey — the market is right, not me.

With the Legit Check Club, I've scratched my head for more than 6 months to come up with this:

So it's a subscription offering (not a fantastically simple one, but one that is as simplified as I could've made it) where I've drawn inspiration from all the subscriptions out there that I could've seen successful:

  • Obviosuly, Amazon Prime
  • Anything that Prof G (Scott Galloway) mentions: Panera Coffee, Restoration Hardware, Disney+, Apple One — please tag Prof G, I would die to have him on my podcast or for an AmA on my community
  • Peloton
  • Pret Coffee Subscription
  • YouTube Premium
  • Even stuff like Xbox Live/PSN

Why it's not that easy... but also not that hard either

2 main things here. Thing #1

For whatever reason (what we read, what we think, etc), we sometimes have different notions for:

  • What building a business will feel like, in the future
  • What building a business really is

We imagine it's this streak of events that can happen, and then X event multiplies it, but we work really hard to do Y, blah blah blah.

It's not really like that.

As much as movies are entertaining, I think it's one of the most counterproductive things to think as if you're in a movie. And be honest with yourself: very few people do that consciously. Are you doing it in any way unconsciously?

Are you in any way looking at the film reel of your life? Sure, that's a useful thing to consider when building your image, but that's the few minutes you spend writing a tweet — do it too much, and it's insidious.

My case: we've built our user base: day in, day out. Day in, day out.

It wasn't glamorous, but it wasn't as hard as I might've have imagined either (I tried my best to not imagine it in any way. In my good days, I succeeded, in my worse days, I failed). It just was. Day in, day out.

Thing #2: a neighbouring thought — you don't need to have it figured out.

And you've heard that before, I'm sure, but hearing is not internalizing it.

Most of the time (once again, be honest with yourself: look deeply inside), the need of knowing how this will play out is slowing us down.

My case: we built our user base first because of the flexibility we knew we'd have from that moment onward. Have I figured out authenticate.legitcheck.app then? Not at all.

Have I figured out that offering people a subscription with more for less might be something that offers us more financial comfort, because recurring revenue is easier to predict? Not at all.

See where I'm going?

Lessons, what I'd do differently

  • I'd have launched even earlier. Day 7 could've been a month ago. But with more bugs. However, 95% of people are going through the main 'user flow' and will never get to that corner of your app where there are bugs
  • Build distribution before your build product. Or at least start both on day 1. Future you will thank you.
  • Done is better than perfect
  • If you're building distribution before product, you can also start collecting revenue before the product is done. For instance, we're building Simple.ink now, and we've collected 9 pre-orders at the time of writing this article
  • Mistakes are just receipts: what you have to pay (be it money, time, etc) in order to learn
  • Recurring revenue does feel better than one-off payments, even if it's less revenue. It feels more secure.
  • Build in public, if you've got at least the slightest predisposition to do to that. But do it properly: building in public should be coming as a side-effect of what you do. The posts I'm sharing on my profile come easy — I don't need to think too too much about them. Overall, the benefits of BiP are greater than the costs.
  • Understand that it can all go away at any moment
  • I'd have also documented the story earlier, with more content: video especially. People love the beginning of the story, maybe less so the middle section. From a certain moment onwards, it's mostly about the bigger and bigger milestones

How you can do it

There's an unwritten rule/agreement on the internet. Actually, scratch that. Not just on the internet. In LIFE.

The agreement is: whatever advice somebody tells you, even if it's imperative, just make sure you understand that before/after there's a 'this is what I believe to the best of my knowledge, and if I'm in my best shape, I will not be attached to my opinion'.

Or so I like to think.

That'll be the case here as well.

  1. Create... ugh... ugly word coming: CONTENT. I'm not a fan of the word either, but it does what a word should do: point to a concept you and I both know.

The thing is, I can't see any way you can create your product's distribution without creating some form of content sooner or later. Even if it's a partnership — you have to announce it, right?

Find your strengths, test everything, see what works, double down on that

  1. Create ties

With every group of people that join your party, it's easier to make the next 'party' (i.e. release, launch, announcement, update, etc) better. Create ties with these people. You don't need to overdo it, they don't need to love you as if you're a rockstar.

The whole point is just this: if you already have 100 people on your list, it's nicer to release something to 100 people, rather than to 0.

  1. Create processes

If you have co-founders, or even employees, scale that process to them. Work on the business, not only in the business.

  1. Just do try it

It's not like every move you make has to be perfect, or guaranteed. Just try it out, see what happens, and you'll be surprised more often than not. Case in point: I never thought I'd try building in public, but it turns out that it works, if I do it within my boundaries (see what I wrote above about a 2-in-1)

  1. Echo your success

I used to wince at people who do that, but then I understood the tactical advantage of doing it. It's a weird analogy, but let me put it this way. Let's say your success is a 100% — 1 out of 1, right?

If you leave it like that and do nothing, it's still 100%

If, however, you try to echo it, you make it a 140%, a 180% or maybe even more. You make more out of the same thing. Obviously, don't overdo it.

A few examples of what I mean by echo:

  • Write about the aftermath of your success
  • Draw some conclusions from it
  • Create some teachings out of it
  • Show how some metrics, transparently: it could be revenue, it could be # of users, or it could simply be how many views you've got on something
  • Show how it propagated: maybe a new connection/partnership happened out of what you've done (or maybe out of an echo of your success 😜)

The most beautiful part? If one of your echoes becomes strong enough to gain success on its own, you can... you get it now — echo it further.

Example: let's say you've reached a milestone of 10 users. That's great, that's 100%

But then you write an article about how to get 10 users, with an audience of 0, in 2021, as a technical person. That becomes top 10 on HackerNews. Possible echoes:

  • Video: how I got to top 10 on HN
  • Article: How to get 20k visitors in one day
  • Tweet: How to prepare your website for a 20k spike in one day, without breaking the bank
  • Video/audio: How my 10 users got my next 100 users
  • Tweet: celebrating any of the above

See where I'm going?

Try to stack one success on top of the other one. See how far you can go with the chain. But make sure you don't overdo it.

What's next for us

What's next for us is pretty simple: we'll reinvest the money we have. I'm 23 and my brother is 17 — our aim is to create a platform of wealth for our family.

We might turn our MRR into ARR with the PLETHORA of new tools out there, such as FounderPath, Pipe, Capchase etc. Given the nature of our project, we're hardcore bootstrappers here — we believe we can do it ourselves, and these new funding methods seem attractive, given that we wouldn't give away equity.

At the same time, I think this project has a floor — I don't see it making more than a few million a year, at best. So what are we doing about it?

We're building a separate product in parallel: a Notion website builder called Simple.ink. I guess I can talk more some other time about my plan and what 'platform of wealth' means, but I've got a few thing I like about this business, if it works, like:

  • Low churn
  • Long customer lifetime → long LTV
  • The complexity is not in the product, but rather in the... you've guessed it: distribution. Actually, let me be even harsher: the product is already built, ready for anyone to take it. You don't have to — and actually, you CAN'T be a genius here, on the product. I'll say more in a following piece, as I'm starting to digress here
  • Easy upstart
  • Can do enough to sustain us, at the same time it can't reach enough revenue to make the industry VC-able (e.g. nuked with too much capital) — I think it's a good industry for bootstrapping

Anyway, that's the other project. Back to this one: we'll keep on doing our best with extending what we've got, but at the same time we'll be focusing on solving our BIGGEST challenge. What is that, you might say? Let me put it this way:

  • 7,000,000 all time users, 300 to 400k unique users a month — sounds ok
  • $200,000 in revenue, out of all that user base.... sounds like a huge hole in the ship

If you know how to make more out of this potential user base, hit me up. Until then, I'll look to divest from this project.

P.S: Bonus content — if you made it all the way 'til down here, you'll love this: