Have you ever considered building a project in public?
In this week’s episode of the Niche Pursuits podcast, Noah Bragg shares his journey of launching, growing, and eventually selling Potion. It’s a website builder built on top of Notion that lets users create optimized sites in minutes.
Noah started by using the “build in public” approach, sharing his progress and journey on Twitter. And with the support of an open-source community, his own software development experience, and a strategic marketing strategy grew the success story he shares today.
Here’s a quick rundown of Potion (although you’ll want to jump down the page to watch the full interview):
Noah initially priced the product at just $6 per site and gained his first 75 customers through Twitter.
Of course, he wanted to further expand his customer base and continue building awareness. So, he strategically launched on Product Hunt once he already had a bit of a community to help him promote and upvote it.
As Potion continued to grow, Noah focused on compounding growth and reducing churn.
There were lots of ups and downs throughout this process though and Noah does a great job of highlighting what seemed to work best for him.
In the end, he managed to reach $6k MRR (monthly recurring revenue) and sell it for $300k after just 2 and a half years of work.
Noah is now working on a new project in the crypto space called TrustScore which aims to provide data and content to help users evaluate and trust different crypto projects. He plans to share his progress on Twitter and YouTube, and may even continue the build-in-public approach that worked so well for him with Potion.
Noah’s story is a great example of strategic planning and execution. And the way he thinks about things and solves problems will certainly help get the gears moving for your own projects.
Hope you enjoy!
Watch The Interview
Topics Noah Bragg Covers
- Noah’s history of side hustles
- Deciding between VC vs bootstrapping
- The challenges of raising money
- How much time he worked on Potion
- Benefits of building in public
- Understanding your target market
- How his experience helped
- Gaining traction
- Pigbacking on the growth of bigger platforms
- Effective marketing strategies
- Product Hunt launch
- Tips for an effective Product Hunt launch
- Combatting churn
- Simplifying the onboarding process
- Affiliates for promotion
- Keys to SaaS SEO
- Choosing to sell
- Tips for bootstrapping a business
- His current project
- And a whole lot more…
Links & Resources
Jared: And welcome back to the Niche Pursuits podcast. My name is Jared Bauman and today we are joined by Noah Bragg. Noah, welcome on board.
Noah: Hey, thanks for having me, Jared.
Jared: It’s going to be great to have you. You know, you you’re, you’re a built in public kind of guy, which means that you’re going to be an instant an instant fan of the Niche Pursuits audience here.
And today we’re going to really dive deep into this story you have of how you basically built a business. In public online and went on to sell it. We’ll get to hear all the details, but before we get into that, can maybe give us some backstory and who you are, kind of some of the things you’ve been involved in over the years, kind of catch us up to where you started this project we’re going to talk about today.
Noah: Yeah. Well, in the beginning. Where I really got into like building things, making things was actually probably like in high school, I started like basically it started with a YouTube channel. I, I don’t advise people to go back and watch that, that YouTube channel. It’s probably be pretty pretty embarrassing, but.
Yeah, I made like let’s play and game stuff. And for whatever reason, creating videos got me just into like, I enjoyed creating. I kind of found that that was something I was into. And that kind of got me into the computer world, programming world, computer science. And so then I decided to go to college for computer science and I kind of just always had some kind of.
I was working on some kind of side business. So kind of ever since then I was always building things, making things worked at a couple of different tech companies after college, but still had like different side businesses. And so, yeah, I’ve probably been doing the entrepreneur thing for about five years ish or more a little bit more now.
Had had one of my first startups where I quit my job to kind of do it with a buddy for a year. That one didn’t work out that well. In that case, it was, it was called coffee pass. We were trying to like kind of do more of the VC thing, like raise money, build like a huge business and you know, it didn’t work out.
But through that I learned a lot and kind of. I, I kind of want to do more of this like indie hacker bootstrapper kind of way of doing things. And, you know, I kind of found a community online of people doing that. And I was like, okay, I think that might be a better route for me where it’s not as stressful.
You kind of get to just. Build what you want to build. It doesn’t have to be a huge business. Maybe build it, you know, solo, like I’ve done so far, or maybe small team or something like that. And so that’s what I’ve done with the last couple of businesses. Support man was a micro SAS I did. And then potion is the more, the most recent one that’s done pretty well.
So yeah, I’ve, I’ve had fun with that. Just like creating things and making stuff online.
Jared: I mean, you kind of maybe before we drill into the details, but one high level question, you kind of stratify both sides of building a business, which is this. Super, kind of, you called it indie, kind of, indie hack, sort of, building a business.
Very lean, very, very simple. And then you also have this, go out and get investment, raise VC, you know, all that stuff. Like, having seen both sides, I know, obviously, it seems you land on the side of being lean. But maybe why are the reasons that you would land it there? And what are the reasons somebody would consider VC?
Or what, what situation would make it good to go down that road?
Noah: Yeah, I mean for me like it just seemed like doing the bootstrapper route like it just gave a lot more Optionality to make a business that could actually like succeed because the the targets that you have to hit just aren’t near as high We’re kind of with that first business.
There was more of a startup kind of strategy it was kind of like if we didn’t raise a lot of money and like Go through like, like we were going to like the business model wasn’t even there until you get to scale basically. And so it was just way riskier of just like, you know, you even hear of like.
Uber and some of these other big startups where it’s like, they, they’re kind of like just losing money for years before they can maybe even get to a place where they’re profitable. It’s that kind of business model that you know, it can definitely work, but I just think it’s a lot more risky and a lot more stressful.
And so that’s kind of why I’ve decided to go. Kind of more of the bootstrap route, not to say like, even I’ve been thinking for the future, like, I think I’d be okay raising some money. It’s just, I want to kind of do it in a way that’s hopefully on my terms, like maybe do it later after I’ve kind of gotten things working and kind of can see a path that makes sense where I’m using the money for a specific purpose where it’s not, I’m just going to have to keep raising and raising and raising like some startups kind of do.
So that’s how I think about it. Obviously you can do either way. And I haven’t had a ton of experience with the VC route. Like that first, that first time was we were kind of just in the early stages of just trying to raise money and stuff. We didn’t even raise that much before we kind of started to see things weren’t working out very well.
So I haven’t gone down that path super far to really have a ton of experience with it. But this is kind of the path I’ve chosen kind of going forward.
Jared: Yeah. Makes sense. Yep. Yeah. You highlighted a lot of the things that. Our, our healthy considerations when it comes to raising money and, and, and like building a big business, it can, it’s a much different proposition.
So, well, let’s let’s talk about potion because that’s what we’re here to talk about today. And you know, I, maybe I always like to ask at the outset just to give people a little bit of an insight, like maybe tell us a little bit about what it is and, and maybe walk us through just where it ended for you, where it ended up for you, where it’s at today.
And then we can kind of unwind the story of how you created it.
Noah: Yeah, so Potion is a website builder built on top of Notion. So it’s very much built for notion users, people that love using notion. It allows you to just kind of do all your content through Notion and then Potion does the hosting of the website and kind of updates to whatever you kind of change your notion pages to potion will, will reflect that so that you kind of have a very easy setup for your website where you’re gonna have to.
You know, go into like a WordPress and change things and, and do that kind of thing. And it was very much so kind of targeted at like pro consumers, you know, other people that are creating a business maybe, or trying to sell something online. And so kind of build it started at around two and a half years ago build it up to over 6, 000 MRR and then about two months ago now sold it for 300 K.
Congratulations. That’s thanks. Yeah. Yeah. It was fun. That’s
Jared: super cool. And I think you were saying at one point I read that it really, Once you built it, it wasn’t taking very much of your time and I think that’s probably the most interesting piece. Like, it’s one thing to build a business that is making six grand a month.
It’s another thing to sell it. It’s another thing when you share how many hours, I think you said you were spending only a couple hours a week on it once you got it off the ground.
Noah: Yeah, yeah, that’s true. And I guess to add a little more color to that, I feel like with any, any business, it’s like you can do that where it’s like I got to a point, yeah, where I was spending a couple hours a week on it.
But there is like, there are points where it’s like, all right, you know, maybe something breaks now you’ve got to spend more time or, or almost felt like you can use up kind of like say like for six months, maybe I spend less time on it and some ways the business is maybe falling behind a little bit, maybe against competitors or just on the marketing side.
And then. To kind of keep it going, you might have to go back and spend more time on it. I think that’s how our, that’s kind of where I was at with it, where I wasn’t spending a ton of time on it, but at the same time, maybe I felt a little bit like maybe I’m not getting as much out of this because I’m not doing it.
And so it’s all kind of a little bit of a trade off there, but yeah, I kind of got it to, yeah, where I wasn’t spending all my time on it, which was nice. That’s great. That’s
Jared: great. Yeah. Well, why don’t you let’s, let’s let’s unpack this story. I mean, I think like, like I mentioned at the outset, you, you, you went with a build in public model, maybe let’s go back to the early days of potion and what gave you the idea for it.
And then if I could ask a second question, like. Why the build in public and, and, you know, because you shared a lot along the way. So I’m just curious where the idea was and then why do it in front, in front
Noah: of everyone. Yeah, so the idea kind of came around this assumption I had that for an indie hacker, for a sole entrepreneur, it was a great kind of strategy to build on top of another platform just because, you know, you kind of, your, your users are already there.
Like you kind of know who they are. They’re, they’re people that are using that platform. And. It’s kind of find heart easier to do marketing because of that. A lot of times these platforms have like a marketplace you can put on your, your product on and you get customers that way. So yeah, I thought it made a lot of sense for an indie hacker kind of business.
And so I was looking for different platforms to build on top of. I had been using notion for about a year by that time. And the other trend I was kind of seeing is, you know, these other platforms like intercom or slack, like I had talked to a couple of the entrepreneurs of, you know, people that built on top of those platforms.
Oh, you know, bootstrappers building little tools and things. And the ones that seem to do well are ones that were early to those platforms. Like I kind of see that pattern, like they had gotten there before. Maybe the business grew a ton, you know, intercom grew a lot more, things like that. And so then that made like notion kind of pop up in my mind because notion was.
You know, fairly new. It was kind of, people were starting to talk about it a lot, but it, you know, they didn’t have like a API. They didn’t have like a marketplace yet. So it seemed like, okay, maybe this is early days to kind of jump on that notion wave. And so that’s kind of where I started looking for ideas on top of notion.
And I saw this other tool that someone had randomly put together called fruition, which was kind of this. Really hacky put together kind of thing where it wasn’t a paid tool or anything. It was just a, they kind of showed you this little guide of how you could hack some code together on cloudflare to point your custom domain to your public notion pages.
So it wasn’t like a real website or anything, but. And it was, you know, you had to kind of know how to, how to set that up, but I saw hundreds of people had, had used that. And so that kind of made me think like, Oh, maybe there’s like actually something here like that to kind of show there’s demand for people are like wanting to have like a website kind of attached to Notion.
And so that’s kind of where the idea for Potion came. I came up with that. And. You know, kind of talked around asking people what they thought and started to see like, okay, I think there’s, there’s something here and that’s kind of when I started on it. And then with the building public kind of with my earlier Microsoft support, man, I’d started to kind of share more.
that on Twitter and other places. And I just, I just saw that I really enjoyed that. It was, it was something that actually kind of was very motivating to me to like put, put out there what I’m trying to do. And now it’s like people are out there kind of keeping me accountable and that just seemed to work really well for how I work and, and motivating me.
So I really enjoyed that part of it. I, you know, I enjoyed trying to help other people with what I’m sharing. So it, it just made a lot of sense to me that. Potion is, you know, it’s, it’s the, the target customers are other entrepreneurs, other creators. And that’s usually the kind of people that like falling, building, building public kind of stuff.
And so it just seemed like a really good fit for the business and what I like to do where it made sense to just kind of share it all and do the building public kind of thing. It’s really
Jared: strategic on your part. I mean, they talk when you’re starting a business, you know, understand your target market and clearly.
A lot of people will say build in public, the accountability portion, you know, and the ability to, to, to, to force you to kind of hit goals or milestones or not leave the project behind. But a lot, a lot of people, when they talk about, but in public, talk about the fact that, well, Hey, I identified my target market is X and X loves to watch people build stuff.
Cause that’s what they do. And they hang out on Twitter. So I’ll build in public on Twitter. That’s really
Noah: strategic on your part. Thanks. Yeah. I mean, that’s what I, I try to do. And, and so in a lot of ways, I didn’t see it as marketing, but it kind of was marketing in a way. But I mean, I guess that’s, that’s what makes good marketing is when it doesn’t feel like marketing.
At least it didn’t to me, but yeah, it kind of was. Yeah. I mean,
Jared: it’s authentic too. That’s the, that’s a third benefit of it. Yes. It’s going to hold you accountable to some degree. And yes, you’re really talking to your target market, but you’re also kind of showing yourself as an authentic. Creator, which, which, you know, people love, people tend to like that and tend to kind of gravitate towards brands that are more authentic.
So I think it’s really smart. Kind of got my wheels spinning already. So like, let’s talk about those early days. A big problem a lot of people have when they come up with an idea is like getting the product out the door. Sometimes, you know, costs can overrun and I won’t go through all the things that can go wrong.
How were the early days of getting the product out the door? How did you build it in a way that you kept costs down? And, you know, I’m just curious about that
Noah: process. Yeah. One of the good things early on, like in the early days is there were starting to be a little open source community around this project called react notion X, where different developers were kind of building kind of like a, an HTML kind of build or around notion where it would bring notion data and then turn that into HTML that kind of.
Looks and is designed to look kind of like notion. And so basically I, I jumped into that open source community and started like helping with that and, and using it for potion. And it was kind of nice cause there’s, you know, it’s, it’s not just me working on this one project that then helps, you know, my business, but it’s, it’s helping other people.
And so then I’m not having to do it completely alone. So that was, that was one thing that definitely helped. Cause you know, it’s a, it’s a pretty big lift to kind of in some ways replicate notion and what it looks like. And so that open source project really helped with that side of things and helped kind of make that go faster with the building side.
You know, I’ve been doing the software development stuff for a while. And so obviously like that helps having just that experience. I think it took. Around two months to get to like my MVP, like first version of potion. Before I kind of did like an early access kind of launch with it. So it took a little bit of time, but not too long.
Like I, you know, I didn’t want it to take forever before I could start to get feedback, have people trying out the product and see how it works and get some feedback if I should keep doing what I was doing. But yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s kind of, I guess that’s kind of what the early days kind of shaped up to be.
And like, I was, you know, doing the build in public again was very motivating. Like I was, I was making like a two minute video almost every day, especially in those early days, just kind of sharing the progress, sharing what I was doing. And so that definitely made me feel like, all right, I need to like keep working on this, keep making things happen.
And at that time, like it was, I had a full time job, so it was just like a part time thing. Like I would come back on in the evenings actually, no, it was a lot of the times I’d do like an hour and a half or so before work and then maybe another hour in the evening to build out that first version.
And then, you know, work a little bit more on the weekend. So I was just so. I think what it was is I was just so confident that I thought it was a good idea that that was really motivating to like, okay, I think this is going to work. I just need to like put in the time to do it. And so that’s what gave me kind of the fire to like make it happen in those first couple of months and try to like build something out and, and get something out the door.
Jared: much experience did you bring? You mentioned you had some experience, so I’m referencing that, but how much experience did you bring with building? Call it software. How much of this did you do yourself versus working with a developer? And again, just thinking about the person who’s listening who ranges, you know, spreads the range of not having any, you know, dev experience all the way up of experience and maybe taking an idea and going forward with it.
Noah: Yeah, so I’m, I mean, by that point I was definitely blessed to have some experience in, in, in doing software development. So by that time I’d probably been in like tech companies for five years, like, you know, doing web development, mobile development for different tech companies. But then on top of that.
It was probably, I mean, it’s hard to count businesses from some of the early ons where it’s like, you know, it was a some side project for a couple months, but probably like my fifth kind of business that I’ve done, you know, building on the side. So yeah, I, I did, I built everything myself and didn’t really need any help on the software development side just cause I’ve had that experience which definitely helps kind of get the ball running quicker, I think.
Yeah. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible if you haven’t had that experience or if you know, you maybe need to get someone to help you do some of the building part. But that’s, that’s how it kind of worked for me. Yeah,
Jared: that’s great. So let’s talk about the early days of, of, of launching the product, making money, getting customers, maybe walk us through that first process that you went through.
And again, you outlined this by the way, for everybody listening, I’ll include a link. In the show notes to this kind of summary Twitter thread you did on the process and where I learned a lot about it, but talk through those first customers and kind of what you went through and what you shared about how you got those first few customers
Noah: in the door.
Yeah. So I, I got the first customers from Twitter from doing the building public. I’d say like my first 75 customers were from Twitter. And so that was where it was. Yeah. The building public was definitely beneficial for me where I didn’t feel like I had to go out like for a lot of my other businesses.
Like it was, you know, Really hard to like get those first couple of customers and it just kind of felt like, you know, I had to go and like message people and talk to people and it was just a really hard thing Where if this like it was just like I was just like kind of sharing what I was doing and actually my my first tweet about potion like building in public was actually a tweet where I said like i’m going to start building in public I’m going to start building a sass in public tomorrow or something like that.
It was like this really short thing. And then like a couple of like bigger, like tech Twitter accounts saw that and like retweeted it. And that tweet got me like a thousand followers within 24 hours. And I, I didn’t have that many followers back like in that, that when I started. And so that was kind of the start of it.
That was definitely like a nice little push of like, Oh wow. Like there’s. Already from the beginning, people were interested in what I was doing. I think another thing to kind of help with that is that, I don’t know, like two and a half years ago, I don’t think the building, the building public wasn’t as like everyone was doing it.
I feel like nowadays it feels like kind of everyone’s doing the building public on Twitter. And so it’s just, it’s really crowded, which, you know, it makes it harder to like, you know, have people kind of be interested or see what you’re doing, because just a lot of people are doing it. And so I think that was another timing thing that helped where.
I was kind of starting to do the building in public earlier when it wasn’t as a crowded thing. So that’s, that’s where some of those early tweets maybe did well and, and people started following along. But yeah, that’s, that’s where kind of the first customers came from. I the, the pricing of the product was super, like I, I just, you know, I was very kind of almost self conscious of like, Oh man, I don’t know about this.
Like I, so I priced it really cheaply early on. I think it was like 6 a site. Was like my first pricing where now it’s up to like 12 a site, which is probably still cheap. But. Yeah. So I, I kind of started it out cheaply, which kind of just got people in the door and kind of just started, started learning from those early users.
I started, I did like an early access for the first two months. And I think on like day two is when I got my first customer. So things just kind of went fairly quickly from then on. Just, I think again, because of kind of the things that were happening on Twitter and people were seeing what I was doing and I think the, the problem kind of fitted.
It kind of fit a narrative of, of notion that was going on. Well, like 2022, I think I saw something that showed that notion was the fastest growing startup in 2022. So, you know, timing is, is really, you know, there’s some things that I don’t have control of that were definitely like a blessing where it’s like, you know, putting myself on top of notion where notion was doing really well.
And some of those things definitely helped the business do well because of that. Yeah. We interviewed
Jared: somebody. A while back now, I don’t even know, a year or two ago that kind of was on the early days of the Airbnb launch and were able to kind of ride that wave and they had a website that was really I don’t remember the details, but they were kind of piggybacking off Airbnb and, you know, Airbnb obviously this, you know, meteoric rise at one point and, you know, so it sounds like you’re able to kind of piggyback off what Notion is doing, which they’ve been killing it.
So you were on the early days of that, the early days of building public. Perfect
Noah: storm. Yeah, for sure. Perfect. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I feel blessed that that, you know, that it worked out that way.
Jared: Yeah. But you also had insights. I mean, the flip side of that, it’s, it’s easy to look back, you know, hindsight’s 20, 20, as they say, it’s easy to look back and say, Oh, look at, you know, perfect timing with notion.
But the thing about it is also like, you know, you don’t know that notion is actually going to go on to explode like they did. Like it’s a bit of a risk, right? What if you decided to build this product for notion and, you know, it goes the opposite way and no one’s really interested in notion a year or two later.
So it’s also got some risk to it, but you took that. That you took that chance and it worked out so it’s also fairly strategic, but you know, it doesn’t always go that way. So
Noah: true. That’s true.
Jared: I mean, I’m just doing some math here. I have down that, you know, you got at some point in some number of months, about 75 initial customers from, from Twitter and at 6 a month, I mean, that’s 450 a month in, in MRR monthly recurring revenue.
That’s some. I don’t know how you feel. That seems like a pretty good launch for not having
Noah: any marketing and spend on that. Yeah, for sure. Like, yeah, like it was all organic and I think that, you know, those first 75 customers was in like two months time I think. So yeah, it was like, it was pretty good to like start out and get it kind of rolling that quickly.
Definitely kind of showed me like, okay, I think there’s something here. Like I can keep building on this, making it better, keep growing it. Definitely was a positive response. Did you ever
Jared: sit, like did you ever sit down at any point and just kind of come up with like a marketing plan or I’m going to start here and I’m going to try to get, You know, my first 75 customers this way, and then I’m going to need my next.
50 customers this way or was it just a really organic process of launching and growing the,
Noah: the, the brand? I mean I definitely kind of worked through different like marketing things like what could I do to, to make the business grow and make it better. I think earlier on kind of a plan was, you know, just kind of do the launch on Twitter, kind of share on Twitter.
And then once I kind of got things going to do a product hunt launch just because I’ve heard like, you know, different kind of indie businesses have done pretty well from doing a good product hunt launch and getting that to kind of, if you get, you know, one of, number one of the day or number one of the week, like you can get a decent influx of people.
And so that was kind of the strategy then. Other than that, like, I didn’t have a ton of strategy other than just like continuing to kind of build in public, make the product better. Later on though, I kind of, you know, had to kind of dig down and feel and kind of figure out some more marketing strategies that would kind of get me to the next level.
And basically there was two of those. One was really trying to get the SEO for the site to kind of build up, just get a lot more. Organic traffic coming to the potion website to get new users. And then the second was kind of building out an affiliate program where I could have some different affiliates, you know, notion creators, people that maybe have a following on Twitter or YouTube or other places, just talking about potion, more sharing about potion and, and getting, you know, sharing a cut with them, but getting more customers coming in that way.
So those were kind of my main marketing strategies, but those came a little bit later, maybe after the. The first year of running the business, you mentioned product hunt. Let’s talk about that.
Jared: I’m curious your experience with it and how it did for you. And you know, it seems like the perfect type of product to go on somewhere like product hunt.
Noah: Yeah, for sure. I mean, like, I think again, like it seems like product hunts target kind of users are other entrepreneurs, other creators. And so, yeah, potion, I feel like the customer base fits that like perfectly. You know, I’ve even seen over the last couple of years, like it seemed like. Almost anything notion related would do a pretty good, like have a pretty good launch.
There’s just a ton of different notion kind of add ons and products and templates and things that seem to do well on product hunt. And so, yeah, I think those, those, it was just the, it was a really good market or community for me to kind of launch to And so yeah, the, the launch on product hunt went pretty well.
I was first of the day, first of the week, I think I’m trying to remember the numbers. I think it was around somewhere around 1500 upvotes on the product, on potion for that first product hunt launch. And so that was definitely kind of the second kind of influx of growth for the business. Yeah, I mean like, I probably got like my next hundred customers from product hunt more or less within like the next two months of, of doing that launch.
But I was a little bit strategic with, with it. Like I wanted to make sure. The product was good. Like the product was ready before I did a launch. Like, like some people will launch on product on like day one or week one of their product being built and launched. And I was kind of, you know, took a kind of more conservative approach of just like waiting.
I think I waited around five months or so before doing the launch just to make sure like, you know, did I have a product that people actually liked that was good that I wanted to keep doing and building. And then also it really helped to have like an email list. Like I’d already kind of grown up an email list around 2000 people just by building potion you know, other customers, like customers and things like that to where I could kind of get their support for the product on launch as well.
So I think some of those things. Helped, helped it to do better for that product hunt launch which then kind of made it grow more there. So that was definitely yeah, it worked out well for potion with the product hunt stuff.
Jared: And you can stay generic in your answer, but just generally speaking, like what are the details behind a product hunt launch?
Is it just really discount driven or do you have to kind of package your product in a way that makes it.
And how do all the, you know, cuts and things work just again, so people can kind of think through if that might be a good approach for something they’re thinking through.
Noah: Yeah. I mean, I think you definitely want to do, you know, put your best foot forward and kind of getting some good like images. I think like even a video that those are some of those things that go up on the product hunt page.
Like if you have Yeah, good images and video that kind of get people to want to click into your page and check it out more. Those are definitely some important things to a product hunt launch. But I mean, What definitely worked for me is just having like support of like your community. I think in some ways that is almost more important to have, you know, people from Twitter or your customers that really want to just like kind of get behind you and support what you’re doing and help kind of push your launch forward by supporting it with upvoting and commenting and things like that.
Like product hunt seems to kind of put. Products up higher if they’re getting a lot of comments, a lot of replies and then of course, like upvotes. So those, those are some of the things that definitely helped. And so you know, that can, that can be hard to pull off. And so anything you can do to kind of build kind of some trust and loyalty with a group of people that can then kind of help to build to, to help your product launch go well is, is I think.
And that’s where, again, like going back to the build in public I think was really helpful for this because with building public, I go, you know, I was trying to be helpful to other people, share what I was doing, hopefully teaching them some things. And if, you know, if you’re valuable to other people, you give to them there, you know, once you ask every once in a while, like, Hey, can you support me on product on it?
They’re hopefully more and more than likely to kind of come back and support you in that. So I think that’s kind of what happened in my case that was that worked out really well with that. So yeah.
Jared: Are you able to share any details about how many people you ended up getting on board from, from the product hunt
Yeah. I mean, so it was kind of estimates, like I think around a hundred new customers from within like the next two months after I did that product launch. And so it was, you know, it’s hard to say if they all came from product time, but you know, it’s, it’s, it’s pretty clear that like that, at least that boost.
Kind of gave even an awareness, even like on Twitter and stuff where eventually those people then kind of came around and tried out the product. And some of those ended up going to paid. I do have the numbers of like, even like that day, like number of page views, number of customers that signed up and then those that went to paid, but I don’t remember the specifics of, of like the day of numbers, but they’re, they’re probably somewhere on my.
Twitter feed somewhere along. Oh, wow. I was back. We’ll give people a little,
Jared: a little, they really want to know they can go, they can go digging. People are good at digging. So that’s
Noah: fine. They can go. Yeah.
Jared: So I mean, we, we, we’re not the point where you, you’ve launched the product. You got those initial, I think you said 75 customers or so you, you did a product hunt.
Launch another 100 or so like where, where do we go from here? Because we still got probably what, a year and a half of you continuing to build this product and get it to the point where it was making, you know, I think I have down over 6, 000 a month in MRR.
Noah: Yeah, so I mean, kind of there going on, like those were kind of the two inflection points that were kind of like quicker, like quick wins kind of things.
But kind of going on from there, it was kind of just like a slow, like, like a lot of SAS businesses. I think it’s just, it’s kind of just compounding growth. Like if you just get a couple of new customers every month, your, your old customers stay around you know, it’s just going to slowly grow over time.
And so a lot of, a lot of potions life I was growing at around. 6% a month. And a lot of potions life. I had a churn of around, well, in the early, like the first year it was actually kind of high. It was more around like 10 to 12% churn, which is a little bit high. But then later in the life of the business, I was able to get that down to like 5%.
So a lot of, yeah, a lot of like, a lot of, Potions life of the business. It was kind of adding to the product, adding different features, trying to like add different features to help people kind of push people to upgrade to a higher price plan to kind of get make some more money those ways. But then a lot of it was like fighting churn and just like trying to.
To get my product to a place where people would stay around a little bit more and get those churn numbers down. I, I got to a point this was summer of last year where my churn basically got to the point where it was, it was even with my growth. And so that was kind of a rough. I was in that kind of plateau for around six months where the business wasn’t growing because the churn was just too high.
And so, yeah, that was, I was trying to figure out what to do about that. Trying to like make the product better, but I kind of lost some motivation in that period as well just because like I think when you, you know, I think burnout is kind of when you, you, you work on something, you’re putting all this effort into something and the results aren’t what you’re hoping for expecting.
And so that’s kind of what happened with me. And so then I, I kind of lost motivation. So there was about six, six just months there where I wasn’t. I know I just wasn’t working as much on the business because I didn’t have that motivation like I had in the past. And so that was, that was one of the hard hard portions of the business.
And kind of what got me out of that was actually, I was thinking to maybe sell the business at that point to be like, well, I don’t know, like maybe not sure what’s not working, why, why things aren’t going well, maybe now’s the time just to sell to kind of go onto something else. And so I attempted to sell the business.
A year ago, and almost, it almost happened almost, almost sold to somebody. And then their partner decided to drop out like at the last minute. And thankfully that was actually a good thing because kind of from that, I was like, after that I was like, well what am I going to do do now? Like I need to.
I guess I just like need to make this grow again. Like I don’t really have another option, like I’m not going to sell it. And so I took like two months and like really just went hard for two months, made like a version two of the product, fix some issues that I think were causing people to turn with, with the product not working well.
And then also I got some new affiliates to come on board at that time. And so, yeah, from doing that kind of got the business to growing again. And yeah, so that, that was kind of what got it growing to basically when I then did actually sell. And so I was able to sell for like double the price that I was going to sell for just like nine minutes, nine months earlier.
So that, that whole thing was definitely worth it, but you know, I had to kind of go through some, some bumpy road to kind of get through that. I have
Jared: some questions for you on how you decided. Initially, to try to sell it, and then not sell it, and then, yeah, down the road. Let me ask a question that’s a little bit more time sensitive as it relates to the story you just told first, and then we’ll come back to that.
Like, what was it about version 2. 0 that was so influential in making the business get out of that stuck period, that plateau? And, like, how did you analyze that? How did you figure out that, hey, this is probably what it needs to get out of this situation that
Noah: it’s in? Yeah, I mean… In some ways, I still don’t completely know, so kind of the idea was like, kind of give the whole product a new skin, kind of redesign it just make, give it like an easier to use kind of interface, and so that was kind of, it was kind of like starting from square one a little bit, and I think in that process, hopefully fixing some issues of just like getting people onboarded like that was always something I was trying to push for that was, I think in the first version of the product wasn’t great, was kind of interesting.
People dropping off from, you know, signing up, creating the first website to then actually like adding their custom domain. That was the adding a custom domain was always like the hardest step in the onboarding process. And so just making that stuff easier, I think was part of the big part of it. But you know.
a nice design to the product and stuff I think helps. But yeah, I think it was more so some of those onboarding flows that just kind of get people to actually get into the product quicker. I also added a free plan, which I had only had like a seven day free trial. And so I think that free plan helped a lot to just like getting people to try it out, getting more people to use it.
So those were some of the things that definitely helped a lot with that, that version two of the product. And then even just like some little things like just different bugs. Like one of the things I’ve noticed with the product potion is that people really expect whatever they have a notion. They want it to look just like that in potion.
Because they’re, you know, they’re adding their content and notion. And so that was one of the things I think with the earlier version where like. You know, there might be little things that just weren’t quite right. And so that would maybe upset people or confuse people when they’re expecting, like, their call out blocks to look exactly like what they are in Notion.
And so fixing some of those kind of bugs definitely helped as well.
Jared: Man, that’s interesting too. Yeah. That free trial. I wonder how much that impacted along with the product update. You mentioned it, but. It, it’s, you know, when you sell to early adopters, especially with the way you built, like I can imagine a lot of these people watched you build this thing so they know whether or not what they’re signing up for is what they need, you know, but then a year later or whatever it was, you’re probably marketing now at this point to people who maybe didn’t watch you build this and didn’t see the inner workings of it.
And so I wonder if that trial gave them the opportunity to go, well, alright, the idea makes sense, let me see if it actually is what I thought it was. So that’s that’s,
Noah: that’s smart. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, and that could be even what it is. I haven’t thought about that, that you’re saying that like, it could be just like, I was starting to get to a user base that didn’t necessarily know who I was.
So it’s kind of like maybe some of my early like people coming back was kind of cause they had seen what I was doing on Twitter and kind of you know, that maybe that made the retention higher for some of those people where then, you know, later on it was like finding random people from Google search and things like that, that had no idea who I was or kind of what potion was about.
Jared: I I, I, I, I’m I’m building an email list basically from my Twitter audience. Like, it’s not very focused. But I’ve realized that I grew it fairly quickly, I’ll use air quotes, and then all of a sudden it hit a plateau. And that’s because I think, like, at that point, like, most of the people who knew me, And wanted to be on the email list had joined.
And so now it’s going to have to come from other sources. So that’s got me thinking about it. Not that you can really do a free trial on an email list. But I feel like probably hit some saturation on that initial launch. And I wonder how much that free trial helped push people over the top. But anyways.
Okay, cool. That’s that’s great. So you got back off to the races. You mentioned a while back, I have in my notes, that you did start working with affiliates. And I’m curious how that helped impact sales at all. If. If that was a big deal, a big driver, or not a big driver I, I know I’ve long thought about if I were to bring a product to market, how important is having affiliates to the overall success of, of that growing?
Noah: Yeah, I mean, I think it can be definitely a big driver for a lot of SaaS. You know, cause if you think about it, like if you’re trying to build like SEO, build content that people are searching to kind of find your business. If you say, just had 10 more people that were making just as good content and they’re, they’re in the search results and people are following their content.
You know, you’re, you’re going to get more people finding your product. Plus I think just the aspect of the content not coming from you, like obviously you’re going to say your products create and that people should use it. But having just some, you know, just some person that creates content online, say good things about your product, I think definitely, you know, can be even more valuable to people that are coming and trying to see like if they think your product is going to be good.
So yeah, it was definitely a big kind of lever for potion. And I think the, the true thing with affiliates that I’ve heard a lot is that it’s kind of the, the really just the, the top couple people, top couple affiliates that really bring in kind of everything. Cause I, I probably had around a hundred people signed up for the affiliate program, but really the top three people were really the only ones bringing in a good amount of, of people.
You know, a lot of those hundred weren’t bringing any, you know, it was probably just like someone that signed up to maybe get their friend to join or something. But yeah, like my top affiliate was constantly doing around 300 a month of revenue for themselves. Which is pretty cool that like, you know, they were making some good revenue off of the business too.
So yeah, finding a couple of those, I guess like affiliate whales, I guess you could call them like that, that can bring in people is, is really, you know, key I think. And so I, I even what I did was like, I even like, like went through a H ref. You know, and like was searching to see who, who’s ranking for these different key terms that I care about, you know, notion website builders and things like that, and just reaching out to those people and be like, Hey, like you’re already creating content for similar stuff.
Like, could you, you know, could we partner together? Could you be an affiliate for potion? And so that’s where I got a couple people. And so yeah, kind of finding those people that are already in motion, I think to do what you’re kind of wanting already, I think is, is, is, it’s just kind of the easier step there instead of.
Just getting a random creator or something like that. Also kind of what helped with me with potion is like, there’s, there’s kind of like these.
So you know, probably have some like templates or info products that they sell. And so there’s kind of already this like community of creators within, within my niche that I was able to kind of reach out to which is definitely helpful. So, you know, with most. I’m guessing there’s something like that.
Like there’s probably some creator, someone out there that’s like creating tutorials, how to’s about products that are similar to yours or something like that. So I think, yeah, finding those people people that already have audiences, usually that’s, that’s where you’ll find your valuable affiliates.
And with my plan, I would split 30% of the revenue with them. And so, and that’s for life. So hopefully it’s like a deal that like is enticing enough to get people to want to. Sign up for that. But yeah, so that’s, that’s kind of what worked out for me and that was. That was another part that just helped the business to grow later on in, in like the later, you know, last year of the business where kind of getting through that plateau that we were talking about.
I think that’s what really helped.
Jared: That’s great. That’s great. Great feedback too for people who are wanting to think through and also kind of just shared it quickly and moved on, but that’s a great way to find affiliates and to find ways to work with people. You know, I hadn’t thought about that. So you also mentioned SEO.
And at one point trying to, to, to get this to get potion to show up in, in search results, what, what kind of things did you do there? Was it, was it successful? Did you have a lot of success with the SEO push?
Noah: I don’t know, it, it didn’t seem like it was that successful. I mean, to some degree with SEO, it’s all, it’s all kind of a time game too.
It was just like waiting for things to kind of the changes to kind of get updated in Google search indexing and stuff like that. So kind of what I did was I would create, I probably got to where I had around 15 blog posts just around like how to’s for notion, things that would rank decently high in searches for Google.
And I had, I, I, I paid a, a consultant or a contract company to like make a couple articles basically. So I was, I was having some people make the articles for me. Those. Most of those never really got many hits. So that didn’t seem to do too much. Another thing I tried was I built kind of like this free, like marketplace of widgets.
So another thing that people like to do in Notion is embed little widgets that do things into their Notion workspace or embed those widgets onto their website. And so I created kind of these free widgets that people could just use. And it was, it was kind of connected to the potion website. And so that was a way that I could just kind of make a free tool for people to give to people, but then hopefully in the process, they like learn about potion that way.
And. That, that started to get like 3000 hits a month so that, you know, it did something. And I, I did see a little bit of, of people trickle over from there, but it wasn’t like a huge conversion because, you know, some of those people weren’t necessarily looking for a website. And so, you know, trying to find the people that are actually looking for what you’re selling is, is definitely key, I think with SEO for your SaaS is like hitting those key terms where it’s like this person.
It’s in motion where they’re showing, like, they’re kind of expressing through their, their search terms that like, they’re trying to fix, solve a problem that maybe you actually solve. So those are definitely the, the key words, I think, for a SAS that are the most valuable for you to kind of hit. And so like the widgets one, it definitely got more people like seeing potion, but not a huge conversion from people that are actually working, looking, you know, for a website.
So, yeah, I think I got the potion website got around to 20, 000 views a month. And out of that, I’m trying to remember just to make sure my numbers are right. I, I would, I think I would just guess it was around maybe 5, 000 of those were from Google, something like that. So yeah, it was definitely starting to work to some degree, but it wasn’t like a huge marketing growth for me.
The affiliate stuff was definitely.
Jared: So back to the buy, or sorry, back to the sell or hold question that I teased earlier. You know, you went out to sell it when it was at a plateau that didn’t work out. You grew it more than you decided to sell it. I mean, this is a question like everybody goes through at some point when they have a little bit of success on a project.
Do I hold it? If I hold it, do I focus on growing it more or do I just kind of, you know, cash flow it as they were? Or should I sell it? Why should I sell it? Am I leaving too much on the table if I sell it or is it better to take them? Should I sell it only if I have a need for that money or a way to invest that?
Or is it good to sell it? Just because it’s the right time, even if I had so many questions around this. So maybe I just love to hear from you, you know, why you chose to try to sell it the first time, why you didn’t end up selling it and then why you went on to kind of sell it.
Noah: Yeah. So the, the first time it was definitely kind of coming out of like a, a worst place of just like, I don’t know how to make this business grow more.
And I’m not sure if like, I want to spend more time on it because of that. And so maybe I should just kind of sell it and move on. So definitely not like a. A place to come out of strength. I think to sell your business, like you’re probably gonna get a worst price for it for selling for that reason.
But you know, if that’s what you gotta do, like that’s, that’s still can be a decent outcome or a decent way to, to move on from your business. The second time it was more like. Especially with like indie hacking. So entrepreneurship bootstrapping, like it is more just like, okay, what do you kind of want to do with your time?
And so it is definitely more of a personal preference. And so for me, like I, you know, I was already starting to dabble with different projects over the year or so for fun or on the side and. I’d been working, you know, for on potion for two and a half years. So I was, I was kind of getting to the point where it’s kind of getting this edge of like, I want to like do something new, try a different challenge, maybe do something in a different market, a different niche.
And so, yeah, that was kind of the main driver from the start with you know, wanting to do something different. And so then kind of coming down to like, okay, do I just kind of sit on potion and just. like that minimum amount of time that we’re talking about, like two hours a week, just like just kind of upkeeping it while I start something else.
Or like, is it smarter just to sell it now? And so I, with that question, I kind of came to like, kind of knowing that like I’m it’s, you know, I might have weeks where it’s a little bit of time, but there’s always kind of that. Even just in the back of your mind, like, Oh, like if something breaks or something happens, like I have to jump on it really quick to kind of fix things, keep things going, just kind of always like that like, okay, what if things kind of degrade over time?
And then I need to come kind of come back to the business if it doesn’t keep growing like it, it was. So there’s, there’s never, it’s just never completely passive. And so kind of just knowing that, that like, I’m going to have to spend some time on this. Either way, like maybe just like if I can get a good price for it, maybe it makes more sense to kind of sell it and move and move on.
So I kind of just threw the business up on acquire. com with that in mind. Like, okay, if I get a good enough price, then like. I might as well sell it now and if not, like, I, I can keep just kind of doing what I’m doing. And so that was kind of the plan and and since I found someone that was, was, had a decent enough price, I just decided to sell it basically because I was ready to kind of move on to the next thing basically.
Jared: I mean, you got what looks like a great offer. People should realize like SaaS always commands a higher price than maybe selling a website that’s a content site or an affiliate site or. You know, some of these other types of sales we talk about, but it sounds like you’ve got a great price. It looks like what?
4X on your yearly earnings.
Noah: Yeah, so yeah. And
Jared: so, I mean, it sounds like, did you, did you have a number going into it? You said like, if I get a good offer, like, did you have a number like, Hey, if somebody makes somebody offers me this much I’ll totally sell it. Or was it more just like, ah, I’ll just kind of see what I get and kind of make decisions as the offers
Noah: come in.
Yeah, I actually had a minimum number that I wasn’t going to go below and that number actually was what I got. So 300 K was basically my number, which I think is, you know, that kind of just show just, I don’t know how negotiation works is like, if, if you are willing to go below to something like you might, that’s probably what you’ll go to in a lot of cases, maybe just depending on how the negotiation goes.
But like I put the business up on acquire. Listed for 400k kind of knowing that was a little bit high. That might be hard to get that. But also just knowing that you always kind of come, come into the middle a little bit when negotiating. And I think, you know, from feedback I got from different potential buyers and stuff like for 400k was definitely high on the high side.
And so I, even though 300k was my. I think it was a pretty good price for the business and what I’d built. And so yeah, I was definitely really happy with how it turned out.
Jared: You talked about notion a couple of years ago, you were kind of on the front end of it and developing. A product, a SaaS, a software that, that piggybacked off of some, some, something that was doing well and was growing off somebody else’s platform.
I can’t help as we kind of transition to the end here of thinking about a lot of what’s happening in the AI world and seeing people build little bolt ons, plug ins, SaaS products that incorporate AI. And I guess maybe to bring us full circle here and to kind of close out. From a high level, what tips would you have for people or maybe things to be wary of as they look at ideas in the markets, they look to build solutions, maybe to solve their own problem, but then also bring those to market.
Noah: Yeah. I mean, like first I think starting with like, what kind of business do you want to build? And you know, you know, are trying to build something really big or you’re trying to build something more Indies or more something on the side. And I think especially if you’re trying to build something more kind of bootstrapped on the side kind of like I’ve, I’ve done, like, I think, You, you want to find an idea, find a space that’s like, not too risky.
Like, especially if you’re, if you’re building solo, you’re building by yourself. Like there’s just a lot more risk if you’re building something that’s like completely new to the market. Like there’s never been an idea built like this that you’re building before. Like, a lot of times there’s a reason for that.
Like, you know, maybe there’s no need for it. Maybe there’s no demand for it. But then also it’s like, okay, you gotta have a lot of resources to build something completely new. And so I’d say like, if you’re trying to do the more indie hacker bootstrapper thing, I’d say like find an idea that’s like already out there.
Like there’s already someone like building something, a business that’s working. And then just like try to differentiate, like how can you do something similar, but then make it a little better in a certain way or, or maybe narrow it down to a more specific niche. So I think those are some of the ways I like to find ideas for like bootstrapper kind of businesses.
But then again, yeah, kind of like you’re saying like, Looking for what are the maybe new opportunities, maybe new technologies like a I that you’re, you’re mentioning that, like, maybe, maybe you could leverage those in some ways to kind of do something a little new. Maybe that’s how you differentiate with an idea or a problem that’s already kind of out there that people are trying to solve.
It’s just now you can solve it a little differently because of Some new technology or platform that’s out there that allows you to do it. Well, so those are yeah I definitely look for those kind of opportunities But then also just remembering like, you know, you got you got to build something that you can pull off If you do too risky, then you know You’re kind of going down a road that could be really hard to actually make come to fruition.
Jared: what’s next? What’s next for you? What are you working on now that you’ve not you said you saw a couple months ago so what, what, what’s going on, what are you doing going forward?
Noah: Yeah. So I, you know, back when you know, crypto kind of was ripping and everyone, you know, everyone was talking about web three and NFTs.
I actually went really deep down that rabbit hole and I, I didn’t come back. So I, I really enjoyed the crypto stuff. I really saw it and saw like, okay. Yeah, there’s, there’s definitely a lot of issues with it right now. You know, there’s a lot of hacks, there’s a lot of scams, there’s a lot of things that aren’t great about it.
But I, I saw the potential and, and saw the kind of the positive side of, of the whole crypto thing. And so I kind of dabbled with it even, you know, over a year ago with different NFT projects and things like that. But basically I decided like I want to build a project that one I think I can bootstrap that has optionality But then is a part of crypto where maybe it can be, you know Maybe that’s the next wave that I can kind of surf is is the next growth of the crypto wave and so I’m building basically a content content slash like data website around Crypto that’s called trust score.
So it’s at trust score. gg. And the idea is to basically create a website that indexes just a lot of different crypto projects and kind of tell, gives the data and kind of shows people like, how much can you trust this project? And so again, it’s like, it’s, it’s trying to do something that’s, it’s not a completely new thing.
Like there’s, there’s websites out there that share information on different projects. A lot of them are a little bit more on like the trading side of like. You know, how much this token is worth, how much, you know, what, what’s the history of, of that. And like, is this something you want to invest in for just making money reasons?
So this is a little bit more trying to like share some of that data, but then also add data and content around what are the aspects of this project that makes you want to trust it or not trust it, and, you know, maybe it’s a scam or maybe it’s. Something that could get hacked easily. And just like helping people make those decisions easier when they’re evaluating if they want to get involved in different projects.
And so I think it, it’s definitely something that comes from something I care about where it’s like, I think this is a big issue in the crypto space. There’s a lot of hacks, there’s a lot of scams. And so trying to help that problem in some way and then also kind of, Gets my itch on just like, I enjoy like checking out these different projects myself.
I enjoy being a part of learning crypto stuff. So yeah, that’s, that’s kind of why I decided to kind of go down this path and we’ll see how it goes. It’s, it’s a little bit different kind of business because it’s not, it’s not a SAS, at least from the start. It’s more of a. Build a website that gets a lot of traffic and try to make money maybe from ads or sponsors or something like that So we’ll see how it goes.
It feels a little bit more ambitious I think than then even potion and I think it might take a little bit more time to get off the ground So we’ll see if I can be patient enough to let that happen.
Jared: I Mean, it sounds like you’re kind of building in public again, too.
Noah: So I reckon I think I might Yeah, yeah, I think I might have been thinking about it like I think there has been some downsides of building public maybe even over the last year that have started to come out where it’s like, you know, like you start to get more copycats and things like that.
Like I even saw that with potion. And like just the idea that like building a public doesn’t really work as well, maybe on the marketing side, since it’s so crowded but yeah, I’m thinking maybe I should do to share more in public again, just because I think even for internally myself, like, I think it helps motivate me and just keeps me accountable to what I’m doing.
So yeah, I’m thinking about, Kind of sharing more in public and stuff the one thing I’m thinking about there’s like maybe people don’t care as much about the crypto Stuff as much which could be true, especially like my current audience and falling, you know A lot of bootstrappers and indie hackers probably don’t really care too much about the crypto stuff So I’ll have to think about that.
But yes, I’m definitely considering it good.
Jared: Very good Well, man, this has been really really inspiring these stories of like an idea all the way through to a success story Successful sale are so fun to go through and. I mean, it’s worth noting you did all this while working full time, you know,
Noah: like the true…
Well, well, so that’s partially true. So halfway through running Potion, I then quit my full time job to do Potion full time. So about the last year of Potion, I was actually full time on Potion. Oh, I didn’t know that. Okay, well, fair enough,
Jared: fair enough. Well, you started it while you were… In many ways, that makes the story even better because you actually got a product created.
As a side hustle that then allowed you to quit your full time job. So Right. Yep. Anyways, makes the story sound better. But, either way, really cool story of, of success. And I, I think it was really inspiring. It certainly got my wheels spinning. Before we, before we go, like, where can people follow along with what you’re doing?
We talked about your upcoming project, and maybe they’ll be able to see that kind of being, being built. But either way, where can people
Noah: follow along with you? Yeah, I’d say Twitter is probably the best place Noah W. Bragg and I do create some videos around what I’m building on YouTube as well, so I think if you just search Noah Bragg, you should find the YouTube channel but yeah, Trustscore is kind of the new thing, trustscore.
gg, and so yeah, I’ll probably, I’ll, we’ll see, I’ll probably be sharing a lot about that on, on Twitter and YouTube in public, so. Well Noah, thanks so
Jared: much for joining us today. I really appreciate it. Thanks for sharing so many great tips and and just your story along the way with Potion.
Congratulations again on the success.
Noah: Thanks and thank you Jared, it was fun. Talk soon.