How I Bootstrapped Bootstrappers.io14 Sep 2014
A week ago, I launched Bootstrappers.io, a community for bootstrapping entrepreneurs and lifestyle designers. This was my most successful product launch ever, attracting over 15,000 persons, 700 subscribers to my newsletter and worldwide press. Here is how I did it.
Where the idea came from
I built Bootstrappers.io out of a personal need. Over the past few years, I’ve grown to be a big fan of online communities such as Hacker News and Growth Hackers. They are great content discovery platform. Above all, they are hosts of insightful conversations amongst like-minded people. Here and there I would see posts and discussions about entrepreneurs that bootstrapped their product or freelance business. These were some very inspiring and instructive readings. On the existing platforms, I found these posts to be too rare and often buried in the mass of content. I felt that bootstrappers needed their own platform. I wanted a place exclusively for them. This is why I built Bootstrappers.io.
How I built it
Once I set out to create the application, I immediately started looking for an open-source solution I could build on top of. My goal was to get out there as fast as possible and make sure I didn’t reinvent the wheel. After a few searches, I discovered Telescope, an open-source project by Sacha Greif for building online communities à la Reddit. This was exactly what I needed.
For Bootstrappers.io, I actually didn’t write a single line of code up until a few days ago. Let that sink in for a moment. I didn’t write a single character of code to get my project live. Do you think it was worth 5 minutes of my time to search for an existing solution?
Using Telescope was too easy. So easy that I didn’t think it was legitimate to launch the platform. I didn’t feel that I had the right to launch it. I almost gave up the project when I realized it was so easy to get it live. This is weird, I know. This was a great lesson for me because I came to realize that you don’t have to work like a madman for your product to be legitimate. If you build something people want, nobody cares if it took you 3 hours or 3 months to build.
Once the platform was up and running, I filled the frontpage with great articles. This was the easy part. For years, I’ve been bookmarking posts about bootstrapping and following the community on Twitter. I selected the most inspiring posts and there it was, the first frontpage of Bootstrappers.io. Total time required: 3 hours.
For the weeks prior to the launch, I had been forcing myself to get out of bed at 6AM. The goal of this regimen is to work on my business projects for 2 hours every week days. This schedule enabled me to allocate consistent and focused time to work on my projects. I used this time to launch a few websites and eventually built Bootstrappers.io.
On Thursday, September 4, my alarm rang at 6AM as usual. At that point, Bootstrappers.io was live but didn’t have any traffic. No one knew about that project. I was still not sure if it was a legitimate for me to launch it. That morning I decided to go forward and launch. There wasn’t much preparation for the launch. I wrote an email to the Starter League alumni mailing list to present my project. I posted the link on Hacker News and Reddit. I cold-emailed a few community members I looked up to. I didn’t expect much.
Here is what happened next:
Frontpage of Hacker News for 12 hours, reaching Top #2 Feature in Product Hunt Article on t3n.de, a german tech news site a few days later These sources generated a very high volume of traffic to the site. As you can see below, the volume of traffic was very high for the first few days and quickly dropped.
Sessions per hour since launch
During the day of the launch, I could have ~350 simultaneous users on the platform. At that time, I was hosted on Meteor.com. This type of hosting is not for production use. I learned that pretty quickly. The site crashed a few times during the day and was definitely slow.
The results so far
- 15,000 persons exposed to the product
- 700+ subscribers to the mailing list
- 400+ registered users
- 190 comments
- First newsletter: 68% open rate, 28% click-through-rate
The platform is currently serving a thousand daily unique visitors generating ~10k page views per day. It is far from the launch day, but I am still very happy to have retained so users who appreciate the product.
Challenges of building a community
There is a lot of work to be done in order for Bootstrappers.io to be successful. Ephemeral page views and visits don’t build a community. A feature on Hacker News or Product Hunt doesn’t build a community. A week into the project have already exposed some of the challenges ahead. Users who post articles are fairly rare. This is where the most value can be created. Also, the curation of the content is a heavy manual process. This process is necessary to keep the quality of the content very high. Getting the bootstrapping entrepreneur to use and engage on the platform is our biggest challenge in the short, this is where I will dedicate my focus on.
The future is bright
The response to Bootstrappers.io is extremely encouraging. I am not the only person that wants to see that platform exist. Many people emailed me and thanked for building it. Multiple business reached out to collaborate. We have great thing coming up next. The future of Bootstrappers.io is very bright.
You are interested in getting curating content Bootstrappers.io? Reach out to me