#58: Courtland Allen [Optimism]

Courtland Allen of Indie Hackers

Building (and selling!) a business creating community for Indie Hackers

Courtland Allen is the creator of Indie Hackers, the largest online community of startup founders. He created the site in August 2016 and it was acquired by Stripe in April 2017.

He is an MIT graduate, Y Combinator alum, full-stack web developer, and professional designer.

In this episode we talk about how Courtland learned web design, why he doesn’t recommend quitting your job, selling Indie Hackers to Stripe, trends he’s seeing in indie hacking, and why he’s Optimistic about the future of online business.

David Perell of Write of Passage

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Show Notes

Show Notes

Courtland Allen is the creator of Indie Hackers, the largest online community of startup founders. He created the site in August 2016 and it was acquired by Stripe in April 2017.

He is an MIT graduate, Y Combinator alum, full-stack web developer, and professional designer.

Today, Courtland continues to run the Indie Hackers team at Stripe and hosts the Indie Hackers podcast.

Visit Indie Hackers

Follow Courtland Allen on Twitter

Subscribe to the Indie Hackers podcast

Creative Elements is brought to you by The Podglomerate.

Transcript

Transcript

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Courtland Allen 0:00
Don't take the risk. Don't leave your job. Just see like, okay, I only have nights and weekends. Can I, you know, modify the scope and the ambition of what I'm trying to work in, work on to fit into that time period. And if you struggle with that, then you're also going to struggle to do the same thing when you have 40 hours a week.

Jay Clouse 0:17
Welcome to Creative Elements, a show where we talk to your favorite creators and learn what it takes to make a living from your art and creativity. I'm your host, Jay Clouse. Let's start the show.

Hello, my friend. Welcome back to another episode of Creative Elements. I have to say this week was a really great week for the show. I share it on my Instagram I request for folks to leave a rating and review on Apple podcasts and you delivered. The show picked up a couple dozen ratings and reviews were nearly at 200 total, which would mean a whole lot if we could hit that milestone before June. I wanted to share one of those reviews that I really really appreciated. It's from Kayleale and they wrote quote, Jay is an amazing creative mind and has poured his heart and energy into a platform for education and engagement where curiosity shines and concepts are broken down into the building blocks of career and personal success. I'm so excited to see the future of this channel and Jay highly recommend to anyone looking to expand their knowledge and with a playful dose of entertainment and quote, thank you Kayleale. Thank you. Thank you if you have left a rating review, the support of this community means a whole lot to me and those ratings and reviews on Apple podcast go a whole lot further than you would probably expect. But how are you doing? I'd love to hear how life is treating you as spring is springing. If you haven't already joined the Creative Elements listeners community on Facebook. Join us let us know how you're doing. The link is in the show notes. Speaking of community, back in March, I had a week sharing two episodes related to the Indie Hackers community. First I chatted with Rosie Sherry who was the leader of the Indie Hackers community at the time. And then I shared a bonus episode with Courtland Allen, the founder of indie hackers, talking about community and the acquisition of my business on his podcast, the Indie Hackers podcast.

Courtland Allen 2:19
Today I'm talking to Jay Clouse, Jay first popped on my radar when he posted on indie hackers, that he sold his community to Pat Flynn from Smart Passive income. And you typically don't see communities get acquired. And that's because acquirers are really investors. They want to buy your thing, and then they want to see it get much, much bigger in the future.

Jay Clouse 2:40
I told you in that episode, that I wouldn't be chatting with Courtland here soon on this show. And well, my friend, the time has come. But I think it's important to first understand what we mean when we use the term Indie Hacker.

Courtland Allen 2:54
I would find an Indie Hackers is basically anybody who wants to go off the beaten path who's not satisfied with being on the railroad tracks of society. Let's say you have to graduate from college with a degree and then get a nine to five job and work your way up the ladder. And Indie Hacker or someone says, No, I'm gonna figure out like, from first principles, how I want to structure my financial realities. And he's driven more than anything by freedom, the idea that they can be free from restrictions and carve their own path, right? You're independent from these restrictions. And most often that, you know, looks like a software engineer who's building a scalable online business, but increasingly, it's looking like a bunch of other people. And as the world changes, I think the prototypical profile of an Indie Hacker will also update and change.

Jay Clouse 3:35
Courtland has been building this community for the last handful of years, long before the idea of online communities were nearly as popular as they are today. Courtland himself is a developer in web designer by trade, and he started with a strong interest in startups.

Courtland Allen 3:50
So I went through YCombinator in 2011. And then I had just like a dark period of soul searching for like five years and started Indie Hackers in 2016. What sort of spurred that was this? I don't know just like this juxtaposition of going from one culture to another. You know, I grew up in like the suburbs of Georgia. You were balling. If you had $100,000 a year job, you know, like that was like that you could move into the best neighborhood with the biggest houses and you could have a cool yard and like, eat whatever you wanted. Like that was my goal. As a kid. It's like I want to make $100,000 a year.

Jay Clouse 4:20
Y Combinator, which is often just referred to as YC, is a startup accelerator in Silicon Valley. In fact, it's one of the first accelerators ever having been started in 2005. yc invests in high growth startups, companies like DoorDash, Twitch, Reddit, Airbnb, and so on. They've had a ton of success, and their most successful companies alone are worth more than $300 billion combined. Those are big numbers. And Courtland says that, frankly, they were bigger numbers than he cared about.

Courtland Allen 4:52
I remember going there and like hearing people talk, like someone started a company and then six months later, they sold it for like $3 million. And then everybody was talking crap on them. They're like, Oh, What a sellout they sold for so little. I was like, they sold their company for $3 million in six months. What are you talking about? And it just felt like I like had moved to Mars and I was talking to a bunch of Martians who weren't speaking my language.

Jay Clouse 5:12
So Courtland stopped chasing venture capital and began building indiehackers.com to support other people like him who were interested in building profitable online businesses without the pressure of becoming billion dollar unicorn companies. And in the process, Indie Hackers was actually acquired by Stripe, one of YCs billion dollar companies, which gives Courtland the ability to grow the company full time. So in this episode, we talk about how Courtland learned web design, why he doesn't recommend quitting your job. Selling Indie Hackers to Stripe. Trends you seeing in Indie Hacking, and why he's optimistic about the future of online business. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram @JayClouse. But now, let's talk to Courtland.

Courtland Allen 6:04
My mom was an entrepreneur. So it was my dad, my dad was part of this sort of elite team of people building furnitures, like him and nine other guys. And they bought all sorts of cool furniture for celebrities. And my mom had a computer store where she would basically buy and then resell computer parts. And so my brother and I spend a lot of time in my mom's office is playing video games and stuff on our computers and figuring out all sorts of stuff that even the adults didn't understand. Because they weren't, you know, they weren't messing around on the computers, they were just trying to make money. Whereas we were doing it for the pure enjoyment of it. And I started to get a lot of compliments from adults who said, Wow, you're really good at this, or, hey, I've got a problem on my computer, can you come by and fix it. And this was in the mid 90s, where unbeknownst to me, the entire tech boom was underway. Microsoft was humongous. Everybody knew Bill Gates. And so people were like, you know, they're just very optimistic about my life trajectory. This is just so good with computers. You know, you can be the next Bill Gates, keep it up kid. And I think when you get that kind of encouragement, as a as an eight year old, or a nine year old, you're like, well, I like doing this thing. And everyone else says, I like it's a good thing for me to do. Like, why don't I go deeper. So by the time I was in fourth grade, I was pretty sure like, I wanted to go to MIT. And I wanted to start a company. And that was the path that I wanted to follow.

Jay Clouse 7:16
Holy cow. Okay, so one thing I can't wrap my mind around here, I remember when I got a GameCube. I was like, this is the coolest thing ever. And I was playing around with computers a little bit too. But like the GameCube really did it for me. And I thought, I'm going to make video games for EA games. That is, that is my future. But I had no idea what the bridge was to actually do that. Like I had no idea how those things were coded. I had no idea what types of universities made sense of that. So how did you actually find your way into learning to code,

Courtland Allen 7:42
Right.

Jay Clouse 7:42
First, and then I want to hear about how you even became aware of MIT also,

Courtland Allen 7:45
I had the same exact thoughts that you had a little bit earlier, my dad got my brother and I a Super Nintendo for Christmas. So my brother's my twin were the same age, which means if you get any video game system, you get all the two player games, you get two controllers, and it just had to had duking it out. So I was in love with video games at an early age. And I thought, you know, not only do I love computers, but I love video games, like I should be a video game creator. And thank God every single textbook, and borders or Barnes and Nobles about how to code video games was like way over my head, I bought a bunch of them. Whenever I got any money, I would just like pour through it visual c++ video game development, like just gigantic tomes that I couldn't make heads or tails of. But what I could understand was how to open up my web browser. And look at the code for a website, you know how to start my own website, it was incredibly simple to do HTML and CSS, even today, I've taught people how to code. And you can teach somebody that basics of HTML and CSS, so they can make a website and under an hour, and they can make a pretty crappy looking website. And under a few days, they can make a pretty decent looking website. And so that was pretty easy for me to figure out as a kid. And I ended up just naturally gravitating toward the path of becoming a web developer, just because that's what I was able to do. And very luckily, for me, that's also the technology that took off, you know, video games are in much the same place as they were 20 years ago, still making a boatload of cash, but not really evolving. Whereas the web was this very small thing that hadn't really been adopted. And it's grown into this huge behemoth. And so I cast the winning lottery ticket, so to speak. And that's where MIT Honestly, I could not tell you where I heard of it. I think I just read a lot online. It's funny, like you put you put your kid down in front of a computer, and you have no idea what they're looking at all day. And like this is like 1997. Like, there were no parent builders to control what I looked at. So I just like would be on the computer all day, apparently like, Okay, if he's happy, we're happy. And I will just consume as much information as I could find. So I'm sure at some point in time, I learned that like, hey, if you want to be a computer programmer, the most prestigious best place you can go is to MIT.

Jay Clouse 9:43
Do you remember a particular project or challenge you had yourself when you're starting to learn HTML and CSS? Like what was the first thing that you can recall saying I want to make this not just I want to play around with this, but this is the actual project or outcome I'm trying to build.

Courtland Allen 9:58
First one. I made like a lot of websites for video games. So this is certainly not the first one that I made. But I do remember there was this game coming out, I must have been in like middle school or high school called Star Wars galaxies. And it was gonna be this huge star wars base game and everybody could like, you know, be your own character and have your own spaceship and fly around the world is going to be the coolest thing ever. And this was like years before the game even came out, I was reading about it and fantasizing exactly what I was going to do. And so I was like, I need to make a guild of people to play this game with, we need to have all sorts of plans so that we can hit the ground running on day one. And like, you know, we need a website. And so I would make basically gilde websites and forums and plans and all sorts of stuff. And then I would just obsessively try to make it look better. And so I spent a ton of time doing that. Even before that actually, one of the things that I did was just copy websites, I remember being in third grade, actually, maybe that's the very first thing I did, I would find a website. And I'd say I want to make a website that looks that good, which is like 1996, 1997. All the websites look like trash, but I thought they were amazing. And I would make a website that look like it and it would look way worse. And I would go to the website I was copying and be like, why does mine not look as good. And then I would like tweak it, go back, tweak it go back. And I must have spent hundreds of hours doing that until the point where I was like a pretty good web designer. And to me like that's all that mattered. Like, my websites look good, that's fine websites back then didn't have a ton of functionality. Like it wasn't about the code, it was about the design. And so that's another thing I spent a ton of time on, when I was a kid just for fun.

Jay Clouse 11:25
You know, I've heard a similar story that so many times of like, I got good at this by looking at things I liked and copying it. And even I tweeted recently because design, specifically that graphic design and web design is something that I feel like, is the next skill that if I could pull that into my repertoire, I could be really, really dangerous. But I've no idea how to start. And the most common advice I got was like, look at a website you like go into Photoshop, try to make it. I love that advice. But you just spurred another thought that I had, which is I remember playing multiplayer Medal of Honor allied assault online and joining a clan and that clan had a forum. And that was my first like community forum experience. You're talking about guilds and things. Were you playing multiplayer and joining these like guilds or clans too?

Courtland Allen 12:08
Yeah, I spent a lot of time playing multiplayer games, I remember just playing with the kids around the neighborhood, they would come over and we would play like Mario Kart. We play uhh, and if you ever played GoldenEye for Nintendo 64 back in the day, but we used to always play that. And I was just so competitive. Like I had a phaser it's like I should be a professional video game player. And so I only wanted to play multiplayer video games. And then when you know, the Xbox came out, and suddenly you could connect your home video game console to the internet and play against strangers. And they had all these rankings like I was obsessed. And so I played every single game, I tried to be as good as I possibly could. And every single game had like a ranking system where they would tell you like you're the 35,000th best person in the world at this. And there's one called unreal championship I just played day after day. And I noticed like, Oh, I'm like top 100 or Halo 2, I think I was number 42. One on One Halo 2 player on Earth, I just played a ton of Halo 2. And so then like the next phase was kind of like, I want to join a guild because I want to be part of a group of other people who are good. And so my brother and I got really addicted to World of Warcraft, or sort of last year in high school, we had a guild, we had 200 people in it at some point we were going on like these raids to kill dragons 40 hours a week, and we hired programmers were part of our guild who made you know, different add ons and websites and stuff. And we had all sorts of recruitment systems and promotion system was very complex, until I quit because I was in college, and I was like, I'm gonna drop what I want to drop out of college to play this game, I should probably focus on my schoolwork. But I went pretty deep.

Jay Clouse 13:32
So interesting, but like low key that is a community experience rooted in like online gaming. And I'm projecting on to you now this is this is making me remember like, Oh, actually, there are ways there were ways that online community came into my world a lot earlier than then today. Now, you said a little bit ago that you you knew you always want to start a business. Where did that come from? And when did it start to enter your actual reality?

Courtland Allen 13:58
I think part of it was just inspiration for my parents, I was actually talking to my mom about this the other day. And she was telling me like, yeah, both me and your father decided that we wanted to be entrepreneurs, because we wanted to set our own schedules, because we loved you and your brother, we wanted to be able to spend as much time with you as possible and one have the flexibility to have one of us always at home, at least, that was really cool. You know, I wasn't like consciously aware of that as a kid. But I was I think unconsciously aware of the fact that my parents didn't have normal nine to five jobs. And that's not a thing that you had to do. And so I think that kind of unlocked me in to, I guess, be able to dream that I could do whatever I want and make my own business because I saw my parents doing it. And I think the other half of it was just the encouragement that I got literally my entire life, very much lucked out. That's the things that I was naturally interested in doing. Creating things building websites, constructing like all sorts of complex projects and stuff. The adults around me all said like, that's really good. You should do that. Here's how you can make money doing that or you should go to you want to go to MIT, you should go to MIT. Here's how you could change your life for the better. I talk to my brother about this sometimes or a lot of the things that he's naturally interested in. are just not as like You know, maybe not as valued by society or not as lucrative or harder to succeed in, you know, he was very athletic, like he could dunk a basketball. And I could barely get off the ground, even though we're twins. You know, it turns out that like, trying to be a professional basketball basketball player when you're five foot nine isn't a very promising career path, right. And like, I'm lucky that I wasn't super interested in that, and I was more interested in something that like, could turn out to be achievable.

Jay Clouse 15:23
After a quick break, Courtland and I talked about the lessons learned from his first six failures that led to the success of Indie Hackers. And later, we take a look at the trends he's seeing in online business today. So stick around, and we'll be right back. Welcome back to my conversation with Indie Hackers, founder Courtland Allen. One of my favorite things about Indie Hackers is the sheer volume of new projects people are starting all the time. A lot of Indie Hacker projects are started flame out quickly and the builder goes on to the next idea. Indie Hackers itself is the seventh company that Courtland tried to build and Courtland says that it's both the lessons learned from those six failures, and his own optimism that led to Indie Hacker's success.

Courtland Allen 16:07
It's kind of embarrassing, because they're all lessons that now they'd be super obvious, right? You could just type up like how to start a startup, things not to do. And they'll be like 1000 bullet point lists for the first 10 pages of Google, but at the time, like, there just wasn't that much advice. For example, in 2011, or 2009. Even when I started, my very first startup was right out of college, there was no internet culture of like, yeah, build a business and charge money for it like Stripe didn't exist, it was incredibly difficult just to accept a customer's credit card. And so what we did was we essentially built this business that was free, and it had a lot of server costs. And it was extremely expensive, because we were taking people's emails, and filtering them and sorting them. And like, even if you have 100 customers, like you might be going through 10s of 1000s, hundreds of 1000s of emails a month. And so it turned out like we had a ton of server costs, and we couldn't support it. And we needed to raise money, and we couldn't so our business just died, which is embarrassing, because like this is predictable. Why didn't you charge customers to pay for their costs, they probably would have happily paid. But at the time, it wasn't obvious. And nobody was doing that. Other things that I've done, probably the most perennial problem that I faced as a software engineer starting businesses is that I just did too much of what I felt like doing at the time rather than doing what the business and what customers needed. And so if you think about the fact that like, you know, millions, billions of people wake up every day and go to a nine to five job. That's kind of a miraculous feat. And the reason they're doing it isn't because they're like, super motivated to go do whatever work, they're doing nine to five, half the time, it's because they've got a boss, they have accountability, they need a paycheck, they have all these systems around them to keep them honest, and make them do the thing that needs to get done, whether they want to do it or not. That's incredibly productive. But once you like, quit your job, and you're on your own, and it's just you, you're your own boss, you sort of realize you don't have any structures, and you can spend your entire day, I don't know, like browsing the internet and looking on Twitter, right, you can spend your entire day if you're me, right, and really fun code and like creating features that you think are super cool. But like, no one's gonna tell you not to do that, like there will be nobody cracking lepen saying like, you need to be at work at night, and you need to stop at five and you need to, you know, get this TPS report done on time. And so it's really easy to just end up doing what you want. And so I spent a lot of time just building product after product, I wrote so much code and I'd things would look super sleek, I put so much effort into the design and all the features. But I wouldn't talk to any customers, I wouldn't try to sell it to anybody, like I wouldn't do any marketing. Because I was scared of that stuff. I was scared of rejection. And I was just so confident that if I made just one more feature, things would work. And so when I started Indie Hackers, project number seven, I had been bitten by this bad habit, way too many times to allow it to happen again. And I literally had a checklist for myself, like, here are the things, here's the mistakes that you're not going to make with this project. And they're all the mistakes that I'd made earlier. And right at the top was like, not only you're not going to spend a lot of time coding, but you're not even going to be allowed to pick an idea that would allow you to spend a lot of time coding, like I don't want to fight against my willpower and like try to see if I can well myself to overcome this habit I want to I want it to be impossible. And so Indie Hackers in its first incarnation was literally just an interview website, right? talk to people about what they were working on. And there's like, basically no code required for that, right. Like, I literally have to talk to people, I don't have to write code. And I think that's a big part of the reason why, instead of you know, me spending years hammering out some app that nobody used, then Indie Hackers, I spent three weeks collecting 10 or 11 interviews that everybody read and launched immediately. And it was way more successful than anything I'd done in the past and way less time.

Jay Clouse 19:23
Man, you hit so many important things that I want to call out here. First, being back in the day when Stripe didn't exist. It's it's so easy to forget how hard it was to accept payments just generally because it wasn't even just Stripe not existing. It's it's any of the competitors too, right? It was like, you could ask for a PayPal link, maybe put that on your website. But people forget how close in proximity we actually are to that moment. And you mentioned server costs to even Amazon Web Services didn't really exist then. And buying physical servers I would imagine was really expensive and operating them yourself. And that's something that we probably take for granted in small ways because we don't even realize that we would have had to do that with the projects that we're starting now. But I want to zoom in on this point of when you don't have a boss, you don't have these systems around you to keep you productive. I think that's really underestimated. Because how do you know what to do when you quit your job for the first time, it's hard for me to separate myself from my brain now to remember the first time that I did that. But I do remember having a conversation with myself, which is basically if you do not make any revenue by this month, that is okay. But if you don't make it by the next month, that's a problem. And I remember that being a really important conversation I had with myself because I inevitably spun out in the first like, month or two, like, what am I doing? But because I had that conversation with myself, I could kind of talk myself off the ledge. So how do you how do you recommend someone who's just getting started today? Maybe they're leaving their job. They want to hold themselves accountable to actually being productive? What type of systems would you recommend they put in place for themselves.

Courtland Allen 20:50
I think the first thing I would recommend is don't leave your job. There's this kind of mythical belief that like, the one thing holding us back from doing the things we want to do is we just need more free time. And if only we had more time, then we would basically get everything done that we want to get done. And the reality is that I forget what it's called, it's a Parkinson's Law that basically work expands to fill the time allotted. Yeah. And so if you have 40 hours a week to work on a startup, like, suddenly, you're going to find that your startup requires 50 hours a week of work, right. And if you've only got nights and weekends to work on your startup, so you're gonna find that that's not enough. But I've talked to so many founders who've been able to build something substantial in nights and weekends. And so I think that's like, kind of like your practice element, don't take the risk, don't leave your job. Just see, like, okay, I only have nights and weekends, can I, you know, modify the scope and the ambition of what I'm trying to work in, work on to fit into that time period. And if you struggle with that, then you're also going to struggle to do the same thing, when you have 40 hours a week, you just gonna have an even bigger ambitions and even bigger scope, and you can find it really hard. So that's my first piece of advice, don't quit your job, and just work on not creating more time for yourself, but by shrinking the scope of what you're trying to build. And there's a lot of really cool stuff out there that you can build, that you can teach people and you can help people with, that doesn't require a ton of time, you just have to be sort of ruthless in eliminating extra craft and very time consuming things like your communities, like if you wanted to get people in a community and have them meet once a week, for an hour, how much time does that take, you know, an hour meeting, maybe an hour prep, that doesn't take a ton of time, that's a lot of value, people might pay a lot of money for something like that. So there's just a wealth of cool business ideas that can fit in any scope. I think if you do quit your job, there are lots of, there's a lot to be said, for building replicas of the systems that keep you honest at work for your, your actual startup and your actual company. So I would divide it into sort of two buckets. Number one, like motivation, how do you make sure you're working? And then number two decision making? Like how do you make sure you're making the right decisions for decision making that mostly comes from other people? Do you have mentors? Do you have other founders Do you? Are you reading books, etc, it's very easy to get kind of sucked into heads down work all the time. But if you sort of shrink the scope of what you're working on, and create some free time and free space for you to breathe, you can carve out some space and time to just educate yourself and keep yourself educated and keep yourself honest, because the vast majority of what's going to bring you success is making the right decision. navall talks about this a lot that we're all extremely highly leveraged technology means one line of code you write can reach millions of billions of people. And so it's less about like, hard work, right? The technology is going to do the hard work for you and scale to reach tons of people like it's more about making the right decisions, and you really want to have enough time in your schedule to allow that to happen. The second half of that is keeping yourself motivated. I'm a huge fan of accountability. Like for example, my brother and I will work on any hackers. After this call, we're gonna hop on our daily noon meeting. And we're gonna say what have you done today? Here's what I've done today. Let's work on this thing together. And there is like not a day that goes by or am I like, I got to get this shit done. So like, I can report that I did this thing. And even the beginning of any hackers, when I wasn't accountable to any sort of co founder, I would send weekly emails to my user base and say, here's what I'm doing right now. And here's what I'm gonna have done by next week. And those are go out on Thursday mornings. And every Wednesday night was a long night because I had to actually do this. I'm accountable to people. And like, this stuff doesn't always feel good. Like it doesn't feel good to be accountable. It doesn't feel good to have deadlines, right? It feels like, Ah, I'm forced to do a thing. But like that forcing function is what enables you to be productive over the long run. And like just because you quit your job and you got rid of it doesn't mean it's time for you to sort of take a break and rest on the beach with a pina colada. Like you've all your work ahead of you and you haven't gotten your company to the point yet where you can really do that.

Jay Clouse 24:18
I love that perspective of don't quit your job yet. Because until you generate feedback from the market, or or some other part of your life that's saying, hey, there's a very strong reason to quit your job. Because until you do, you can't x that is such a powerful constraint to get you to a point where it's like actually supporting you. The other thing you mentioned about decision making, it strikes me that you can't make the right decisions or make good decisions unless you have goals you're working towards. So how do you think about even goal setting and choosing? Here's what I'm actually going to try to accomplish with this project or with this business.

Courtland Allen 24:55
To me, when I think about goals, I think of sort of Goldilocks principle. Not too hot, not too cold were you know, when it goes to be too big, you don't want your goals to be too small. And I think traditionally, people probably err the most on having goals that are too big. A lot of people, for example, won't get started on something. Because instead of looking at, like the first steps they have to take, they look at, you know, all the work and the toil and the luck that's involved in making some sort of massive success. And they say, Well, that seems scary, I'm never gonna get there and they don't start. Whereas it's much better to start with like a very small, achievable goal, like start with a goal that you can accomplish next week, and not kind of like, Oh, this is the first step to some bigger process, but kind of like a self, a totally complete step where if you accomplish that, you will have done something cool, and you could quit there and it'd be great. You know, for example, like if your goal is to interview one person who you think is really cool, and then just publish that interview on the web and see if people share it, that's a cool goal doesn't take a lot, you're probably not going to fail at that goal. And it makes a lot of sense. And it could be the spark for something bigger. So I'm a huge fan of starting with really small goals, but then ramping up. And this is another problem that I think a lot of people have is that they start with small goals, they never increase the size of their goals. For example, I see a lot of Indie Hackers working in businesses, and they're like, it's my goal to get to $500 a month in revenue, and they get there after like, six months, they're like, Alright, now next six months, I'm gonna get to $1,000 a month in revenue. And it's like, well, that's fine. But if you set like maybe a three or four times bigger goal, you would probably do different things that aren't even any harder than what you're doing right now. But that would result in like a much bigger and better outcome for yourself. So you don't want to limit yourself by your goals and end up doing working on really trivial things, because your goals are high enough. But you also don't want to like discourage yourself from getting started because your goals are small. And the cool thing is, if you have small goals, they kind of stack up. Like with Indie Hackers, it was like, I don't want to interview 10 people, that took a few weeks, it didn't take that long, right. And then when I attend people, I'm like, I want to get to the front page of Hacker News. Because I have these 10 people I can, you know, recruit them to help me out, right. So this like, first goal that I accomplished, helped me accomplish the second even harder goal, right. And then I got to the top of Hacker News, I was like, I want a big mailing list. Well, because I'm on the top of Hacker News, I can like you know, put a mail in his capture form on my website and get a bunch of people who are subscribers. And so like a second goal helped me with my third goal, that would have been really hard to do if I started there. And then after that, I was like, I want to build an online community and a thriving forum. Well, like that's really hard to do from scratch, because how am I getting convince people to join? Well, now that I have this mailing list, I can just email, email them every week and say, Hey, join my community. And so like, every one of these goals sort of gets the ball rolling and is something bigger and better. Nobody, you know, just starts off, you know, jumping to the top of the staircase, you take it one step at a time, and you accrue these very small wins. And you figure out how to parlay each one into a slightly bigger when the next time around.

Jay Clouse 27:27
So when you started Indie Hackers, and you're doing these interviews, was the goal literally that small? In the beginning, you just wanted to do these interviews? Or did you have the beginnings of a master plan,

Courtland Allen 27:38
I had a semi master plan, I knew that my ultimate goal was that I wanted to work for myself, I wanted to make, I think my goal was $10,000 a month in revenue. So I wouldn't have to go get a job, I wouldn't have to work for the man. And then I could then decide, okay, now what do I want to do with the rest of my life. So that was kind of my that was where my goals stopped. And then like I broke that goal down into basically the steps I just listed. So I was inspired by this other guy, Peter Levels was running this website Nomad List. And I saw that he had followed the exact same playbook, he created a resource that everybody liked, once they were reading it, he created a community to sort of like help them connect with each other off the back of that instead of charging for memberships. Like, that's how he got to where he wanted. So I'm like, okay, I can do the same thing. I'll create my resource with these interviews, I'll create a community. And then I'll eventually get to the same point that he's at. And then I can figure out what the next thing I want to do with my life is, which might be to keep working on this might be to start something new, maybe it's to go get a job, but know that I could quit that job at any point in time, because I'm not there out of obligation.

Jay Clouse 28:31
That feels like a very relatable, accessible goal for me, and probably a lot of people listening to this, you have just gone through Y Combinator. And it feels like not a Y Combinator goal. And I imagine that might be like at odds with a lot of people that were in your immediate community. So can you talk about that? Why why you went this route? And what the people around you were saying?

Courtland Allen 28:50
Yeah, you know, I think certain people are very ready and willing to acclimate to a totally new culture. And like, I think there's people like me who are like, a little bit contrarian by nature. And like, no, everyone's doing it this way. I want to do the opposite way. And so I became very fascinated during yc, with building a business that just generated a healthy stream of revenue, but had no goal of selling that had no goal of, you know, having a billion dollar valuation. And just being happy with that, which seems to me to be much easier and saner and faster than this other goal that everybody sort of praised, which was flashy and cool, to be honest, like, Who doesn't want to have a billion dollar company and be on the top of the world, but like, it's almost like the lottery. Everybody in YC was smart. Nobody in my batch ever accomplish that particular goal, you know, and it wasn't for lack of trying. And so I didn't want to really play that lottery. And I was very inspired by Kevin Hale of Wufoo was a previous YC grad who came in and told, told us all about how his company is like, packed up their bags left Silicon Valley moved to Florida, and they were making like $5 or $10 million a year in revenue. They were sharing their profits with their employees. They're turning down all these investor calls. And I don't know he's like wearing flip flops and just looked super chill. So I was like, that's what I want to do. Even if it's not this, like the stereotypical YC Silicon Valley culture.

Jay Clouse 29:58
Totally. I mean, this is, this is my language in that culture and in that world even in that program, this incentives are not aligned for the players in that ecosystem to encourage that and sometimes even allow that depending if you have actual investment. And if you don't realize the incentives at play it be really easy to just feel like you don't have a choice to even do that. When we come back Courtland and I talk about his time at Y Combinator in the future of Indie Hacking, right after this. Welcome back. We had just started to talk about Courtland's time at Y Combinator in 2011. Y Combinator is one of the most popular and successful startup accelerators in the world with early investments in Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe, Coinbase, and more. Those companies I just listed are all multi billion dollar companies. But Courtland says that during his time at YC, he wasn't trying to build a billion dollar company.

Courtland Allen 30:57
You know, a lot of it had to do with the guys at Basecamp. So even as I was going through Y Combinator, David Heinemeier Hansson, and Jason Fried were running, I was called 37signals at the time, which was their own sort of bootstrapped startup, they never raised any money. They eventually raised some from Jeff Bezos, but they didn't, apparently didn't use it. And they sort of regretted it. And they just like funded the growth of their business through their own customers and their sales. And they wrote about it vociferously. And they spoke about it. And they would come and talk about, like all the misaligned incentives of the VC world and how like, everybody's being driven to pursue these goals, because that's how the VC business model works, but it's not best for founders. And so I had them in the back of my mind, the whole time, I was going through Y Combinator, and to YCs credit, like they had the startup school event. And two years in a row, they invited DHH. And they invited Jason Fried to come talk, like they wanted everybody to get a holistic view of like, Hey, this is what exists, you could do this if you want to. And so their messages really spoke to me and taught me that that was possible. Also, Kevin Hale, who I mentioned earlier, was a YC founder who came and spoke. And I think, like, they're just examples, I think it was very important for me when I started Indie Hackers, because in a way, it taught me the power of inspiration, through example, a lot of figuring out what's possible in the world isn't just sitting down with a notepad, and, you know, from scratch, deriving all, you know, the first principles of how you can succeed, a lot of it is just seeing that somebody else did this thing and hearing their story, and seeing that the outcome that they got is similar to the kind of outcome that you want. And then you're like, Okay, well, how do they do it? You know, and Okay, and now I know, this is possible, maybe I should, maybe I should give it a try. And so that's why for Indie Hackers, the entire mechanism of the website is finding and sharing success stories as widely as possible.

Jay Clouse 32:29
So you did these first few interviews. And then it sounds like you had the goal of building a forum, because I'm assuming you thought that probably meant membership dues, this is getting you closer to the $10,000 per month.

Courtland Allen 32:40
I wasn't certain that I would be able to charge for membership to my forum. And it wasn't a thing that I ever started coding, I think, at the time, I was really focused on retention. So I told you, I like my checklist, here's my seven things, I'm never gonna seven mistakes I'm never gonna repeat from my earlier sort of failures. And one of them is like, I don't want to build something that's not retentive, I hate building apps, where people come and they use it for a few weeks, and then they just leave. And every single day, it's like trying to fill up a leaky bucket with more and more water, like it's super hard to grow. And I thought, Okay, well, if I have this content site, where I'm doing these interviews, people aren't going to like, stay in read interview after interview over and over and over again, like they're gonna read the interviews, they're gonna leave. So it needs to be some sort of mechanism on the site where people can come and they can engage in something valuable, that's going to be lasting, that's not just going to be really temporary. And so the community for me was that, you know, it was a way to keep people on the site, keep people happy, keep people that like, getting value from Indie Hackers. It was a way to, I guess, in a way put up a moat as well. Because almost like the day after I launched, there are other people who are like, I'm going to launch a similar website, etc. And as much as people talk about loving to see competitors, and loving to see that this proves their value proposition, then the market is there, like it sucks to see copycats, and competitors, like you don't want people catching up to you. And so I thought, you know, early on, like, there aren't that many moats, there aren't that many things that you can build that make it hard for someone else who's copying you to basically catch up. But one of the big ones is network effects. You know, an app that gets better the more people that use it. And I saw that Peter Levels had that for Nomad Lists, like there was no other Nomad List because no one had a community has begun says, and so I wanted that for Indie Hackers as well.

Jay Clouse 34:12
So you started this in 2016. It was acquired by Stripe in 2017. What was built at the point of acquisition, and what type of signals did you and Stripe have to say, this seems like it's going to work.

Courtland Allen 34:26
At the time of acquisition. I was doing three or four interviews a week. So we had like kind of a blog, you could save just a bunch of interviews, we had the community forum, which wasn't on the homepage or sort of like on the it's kind of hidden and buried inside Indie Hackers, but that was built in working. We had I just started the podcast so some episodes recorded, but I don't think I had released any episodes but the time, Patrick from Stripe reached out interested in buying any hackers. And that was basically it. The sort of vision at the time was Hey, like Stripe has always been wanting to do this like Stripe has a lot of moonshot ideas that they would invest time into if it had the resources, but like when you're ready company, you're trying to focus on your mission, it's kind of hard to spin off, you know, an employee and go say, Hey, stop being an employee and put on your startup founder hat and start this totally new thing. And so I think when they saw what I was doing, they're like, hey, let's just like something that's been on our list of ideas for years and quarters executing it really well, as a solo founder, there's really not a lot of risk here. You know, it's not like Stripe paid a billion dollars to acquire Indie Hackers, as much as I would have loved for that to be the case. And so worst case scenario, Stripe is funding this thing that everybody loves. And that just gets to continue to exist in the world. Best case scenario. And Indie Hackers grows into something much bigger and more world changing. And not a whole lot of risk for Stripe, right? It's something that I'm working on, I have the budget to work on. And they trust me to do and to sort of preserve their good name and my own as well.

Jay Clouse 35:42
You had this mission of not having a boss earning $10,000 a month from your product. And then you had this great opportunity, what type of conversations you have to have with yourself to decide, well, this, this now is compromising on one of those things out of that look for you.

Courtland Allen 36:00
It's all a waste stories that you tell yourself like I've never in my life had a single full time job ever. Before I was acquired by by Stripe, this is my first ever full time job. And the way that it looks is unlike the vast majority of full time jobs, right? Like I technically report to the CEO, Patrick super busy sound like he's telling me what to do. He's, in fact, he's like, ideologically against trying to tell startup founders what to do. I'm in control of my budget and how to spend it, every feature that's gone into Indie Hackers, so join Stripe has been my idea. And I can quit at any point in time, you know, and I don't have to work here, I can do whatever I want. So in many ways, it feels like a startup. And it feels like stripe is like an investor. And that's kind of, you know, the most important thing to me. And I think, to be honest, I think almost all employees give you their jobs this way, like any sort of agreement between two people to exchange resources and returns for like, good or services. Whoever's getting the resource should think of themselves as a business. So if you're an employee, and my funding your business already, and you're just a business, who only has one customer. And you know, the marketing you did was an you created your resume and you shopped it around. And the sales you did is when you did your interview, and you try to prove to this customer that you know you're spending money on and the price that you set is whatever salary you negotiated for like is, in what way isn't any different than running a business. And you just have to understand that you have that flexibility, and that you can structure your business to be as independent, or as handholding as you want. And so in my particular case,im very independent. And I know people who are running independent businesses where like they're beholden to customers and beholden to certain hours, and the lives are more miserable than that of many employees, because they design their business in a way that wasn't super thoughtful about that, that kind of thing. So I think it's really depends on you. And I grappled with it when I was selling Indie Hackers, because it's very ironic to be called Indie Hackers and not be technically indie.

Jay Clouse 37:44
And out, imagine even if he said, like, hey, you're gonna report to me, I'm gonna be totally hands off and give you a budget, you can do whatever you want. There had to be a part of you that was like, but what if that's not true?

Courtland Allen 37:53
Right? It's a risk. And like, historically, probably most accurate most acquisitions are sort of famous for like, not going that way. And so like, you just got to do your due diligence, right? I did a lot of background research on Patrick, I talked to people who were up with him, like, what is what is this person's character, I express my concerns to him, I remember, we got brunch, and we're just asking each other all sorts of questions and was super friendly, but it was like direct, you know, here are my fears, here's how things might go wrong. And at the end of the day, like, you're never gonna get to 100% certainty, you could be at 85% or 90%, or 75% certainty, and you have to accept that you're okay with that risk. And I was right worst case scenario, what like they buy Indie Hackers from you steal all the code fire me. Like, that's the worst possible imaginary scenario. And it's like, well, and that situation, like, obviously, I'd be upset that I made that decision. But like, that's very unlikely. So okay, I'll take that risk. And if it happens, that happens, right? And I think just kind of go through every scenario that way. And to me, everything, all the equations balanced out, we're overall almost no matter what happens, I think this was the right decision. And I think I'm quite lucky to have been in the position to even make that decision because I didn't do anything to make the acquisition happened besides work on Indie Hackers and try to do a good job. It was all sort of driven from Stripe side Stripes interest and acquiring something like this.

Jay Clouse 39:02
And Stripe was nowhere near the behemoth they are today. At that time. Can you give some context as to where Stripe was in their own journey at the time?

Courtland Allen 39:08
It's funny because it's I don't I can't tell you exactly where on the curve they were. But in my mind, they were far and away like the best payment provider for startups on the internet, kind of like the only word and online payments for most people that I knew they had a sterling reputation. They were already a unicorn company. I think we were they valued at something like the single digit billions. And so they were already really big. And I wasn't like, you know, being an Indie Hacker, like I wasn't thinking about like valuations and stock and all that kind of stuff. I was just more thinking about like, Okay, well, is this company gonna last? You know, is this company gonna change what I do? Are they gonna try to shut me down? Like, what are their goals? And their goals are more so like, we want to increase the GDP of the internet. We want more people to make more money online. Because so much of our transactions still today. It's like a single digit percentage of it happens online. Most of it happens offline. So I'm like, Okay, well that aligns with Indie Hackers inspiring people to start businesses. Today Stripe is like what like most valuable private company on Earth, they just had a recent wild $95 billion valuation. And everyone I know is always hitting me up, say, hey, do you wanna sell somebody to Stripe stock, etc, etc. So it turned out to be, again, like a winning lottery ticket and that and that way, but I wasn't thinking of it that way, when I joined, you know, I was more thinking, I want to build Indie Hackers, and this is a safe place for me to do that.

Jay Clouse 40:19
Even your rationale kind of ties to something you said earlier about, don't leave your job, you know, the more that I've experienced different types of entrepreneurship, from startup entrepreneurship, to being an employee at a venture backed company to starting my own thing to being a freelancer, they're all kind of the same thing. Like, at the end of the day, the resource you have is like your time, so I work with a lot of freelancers. And I always recommend them when they're having some financial struggles or like, well, I just got a part time job offer. But I hate the idea of having a job. It's like just reframing your mind as a client that's taking 20 hours a week, it's not really any different if you think about it in those terms, and kind of do the math. And its job is the same. It's kind of like.

Courtland Allen 40:59
It's like the terminology that we use, I think, you know, like when you give somebody a concrete name, when you say you're an employee, instead of saying your business, then like, we create these silos, in our mind, we're like, oh, these are two fundamentally different things. And it's like, well, if you can, like drop down one level, and look at the first principles, the sort of Lego building blocks of how these things work, it's just a slightly different configuration. Right? And a lot of this stuff is fungible, like, you can take this block over here and move it this way. Right? You can ask your I know a ton of people who have asked their boss, Hey, can I move down to working three days a week? Or hey, I really don't like this nine to five schedule, can I just like, live whatever hours I want? Or, hey, I want to take a second job like, Can I do that? And like, it turns out, like you can build whatever thing you want. And if people say no, they say no, right? And the same thing happens in a business, if you tell your customers like, Hey, you know, I want to give you less supporting give us other customer more support, they might quit, you know and use another product, or maybe maybe they won't. So it's it's I think what you're saying is spot on, you just have to sort of reframe things in your mind and be willing to sort of play with the underlying structure of what makes these things what they are.

Jay Clouse 41:52
I'd love to hear in your mind, as you look back at the history of Indie Hackers, what types of trends you've seen in the style of project people are doing. And I mean, that from his perspective, I would assume that in the early days, it was a lot of developers building web apps, mobile apps. Today, you probably see more people doing things like courses and things like that. So talk to me, what sticks out to you as the trend line that you're seeing for Indie Hackers.

Courtland Allen 42:17
So I could talk about it from a high level and a low level, the high level trend is that it's becoming easier and easier for people to start businesses. And so people are starting the kinds of businesses that are easier to start, if that makes sense. So yeah, you're totally right. Like, in the past, it was mostly software engineers sitting down for six months to a year, coding these complex software applications and then trying to sell them to customers for a monthly fee. And a lot of that happens, and a lot of appeal to that because it kind of feels like owning your own money tree, you know, you code this thing and works automatically, you sleep, it's still marketing itself and accepting payments and providing services customers, it's kind of like everybody's stream. Whereas recently, I think it's the number of people on the internet is grown number of tools and platforms have grown, people figured out that there's just they're just easier ways to make money on the internet. For example, you know, this this trend of the creator economy, there's just a lot of people were, you know, so called creators who create content, or the agreement that might create videos or courses, or there might create communities. And it turns out, people are willing to pay for these things. In fact, people are often willing to pay much more for, I don't know, a PDF, or a series of, you know, webinars on Zoom, than they're willing to pay for some software that took a year to build. And so I was going back through the list of Indie Hackers interviews, actually, last week, and out of the last 50 interviews I've done on the podcast, 25 25 people were what I would categorize as educators, their whole business is in some way, teaching people and sometimes it involves building some stuff, you know, one guy built a whole game that teaches you how to code, right, but at the point, you know, the point is, he's educating you, and you kind of price the game as a course. And so like, you know, you might have these triple A gaming studios that are selling their games for 50 bucks each, and this guy selling his game for 150 bucks, a pop, and he's a solo developer who built it in half a year. But he's an educator. And I've talked to people who are running YouTube channels, you know, talk to you running in community, you know, I've talked to people running podcasts, people running, like, literally like a newspaper, is teaching people what's going on in their community. And so I've seen a huge shift toward education as being one of the best ways to sell things to people that they find valuable, and that improves their lives. Also, you're not sort of locked out of the market, because there's so many competitors, because it kind of doesn't matter how many other teachers and educators around the world, there's always going to be room for more. And you can't say that with a lot of the SaaS apps and other things people are building or it's so hard to find an idea because it's kind of a winner take all market most of the time.

Jay Clouse 44:36
This trend is so interesting to me because a lot of the times I look at the the educators that I paid in different ways to teach me and it's very much tied to that person and their reputation and what is different about them, like a lot of people might be teaching the same things, but the approach is different. The reputation is different, even just like the culture of the community around that person is different and that kind of leads to differentiation in the marketplace. But when you look like historically, we've paid for education for forever. Public School is actually free, private school can be really expensive. Books are really cheap, even though they take forever to create and can be like the most impactful knowledge and get higher education is skyrocketing. So it's kind of like even hard to know where the price dynamics is going to play out in this space moving forward, because courses have just kind of landed around like, well, if you sell on a marketplace, it's like $10 to $40. If you sell independently, it's like $100 to $500. And it's so interesting that there's no standardization around expectations here because it's tied around like the person in the experience.

Courtland Allen 45:37
Totally, yeah, I look at pricing as almost like a two major variables, like the value that you get, and the competition. So like, if you're starving the Sahara Desert, or you're dying of thirst, and I come and I'm like, hey, Jay, I got a glass of water, how are you gonna pay for this, like, you would give me all the money in your bank account, because like, it's infinitely valuable, it's like, it's gonna save your life. But if someone else comes in, they're like, hey, I've got a glass of water, too. And I'll sell to you for half the money in your bank account, like you're gonna take that person. And so those are the two variables. And I think, you know, when you have people on these marketplaces, it's just super easy to compare, like, well, this guy's got an in machine learning course. But this other person's got one right here next to it for you know, half as much. And so I'm gonna pay for that one. Whereas I think people who tend to go out of their way to kind of get out, differentiate themselves in the competition. And you can really do a good job explaining, like, here's why this is valuable. It's valuable, because I am the only person who is this good at writing on the internet. And I'm the, you know, I can prove it with all these tweets that I've done this huge sort of long that I've grown to like, I'm an amazing writer on the internet. And you can listen to me on these podcasts like I'm the only source of this where you differentiate yourself on David Prowse on this really well with writing. Daniel Vassallo has done this really well, with growing on Twitter, lots of people are selling courses where they've like, done a good job differentiating themselves as a unique source of information. So now, you're gonna pay what the value is. And there is no competition, because nobody else can basically do what this person is offering. And then they try to ratchet up the value, right? Like, what's the value of taking a writing course it could be, you can get an A on that paper. Well, guess what, that's not that valuable. As soon as that I very much money, whatever. But it could also be, I'm going to help you build an incredible business, it's going to make you millions of dollars. And if that's the case, well, then maybe you'll pay 10s of 1000s of dollars for this writing course, etc. And so those are the two sort of variables that I would tweak as a course creator, if I really wanted to be able to charge a lot of money for my course. And I guess turn a profit.

Jay Clouse 47:19
Yeah, I think about value based pricing a lot because value is not objective. And you know, I have an online course for freelancers that sells for half as much as my online course for podcasting. Why is then Well, actually, I launched the freelancing course at the same price point, what I found was, they have less disposable income. And it's harder to justify the cost in these things. Whereas if you have something for a market that has more disposable income, it's a lot easier for them to just tell themselves the story that this is worth it, because they have to do less hard math. So like something I would tell folks out there thinking about developing products is really think critically about your market. Because even if you think this is really valuable, and the math is a no brainer, like I have a course on selling projects, as a freelancer, that should be the easiest investment in the world. But it's scary up front. Whereas if you go to somebody that just has all kinds of money to spare, like it's just a lot easier to charge higher prices. Sometimes it's easier to sell something higher price.

Courtland Allen 48:18
Selling people have money. And a lot of what we're saying is got like these assumptions built in that might not be obvious if you're like a first time founder, first time Indie Hacker, like it's not obvious to a lot of people that selling things at a higher price matters. Like Well, yeah, you sell at a higher price, but then fewer people buy. And it's like, well, that is true. But it turns out that like out of all the Indie Hackers I talked to who were like, I know, people who ramped up to 500 grand in revenue. Six months after starting their business, I know people who've been working on stuff for 10 years, and they're making 100 grand, right. And like the biggest differentiator is the average price per person. As it turns out that it's way easier to find like 100 people who are going to pay you $1,000 a month for something than it is to find, you know, whatever the equivalent is, in, you know, 2000 people paying, you know, it's just way harder, it'd be like a marketing genius to get 1000s of people to buy. And so there is like a good reason here that might not be obvious that you want to sell things for a higher price point per customer, because it just, it just makes a revenue increase significantly faster.

Jay Clouse 49:11
And ironically maybe people listening to this show have experienced with this, even with client services, like Ironically, the clients or the customers who pay more are often easier to deal with too. It's hard to believe. But it's so true. And you never want to be in the position where your customers are people who are in like a point of desperation and they think the thing they're buying from you is going to solve all their problems. That's such a difficult position to put yourself in even if you are good at selling the story and saying, Hey, I can do this. Like that's the model we saw with a lot of Facebook ads and a lot of shady characters doing online education for a long time. It's like this is the answer.

Courtland Allen 49:44
That's like these clubhouse rooms recently that are scammy people who are like I'm a whatever XYZ marketing guru and they have all this stuff in their profile reality they do nothing but make clubhouse rooms and scam people on the saying, I know how to get you a million dollars, you know, and they'll run these rooms for hours and hours, days on Then switching people out. And every hour, they'll get one person who pays them five grand or something. And so over the course of 24 hours, like, that's huge, and this one person is like, pretty desperate, and like, this is gonna make me millions of dollars, let me take the leap. Like that's, that's not what you want, right. But you also don't want people who are paying you $5 a month for your product, because to them, that means products not that valuable. So I can't be that big of a part of their life. They're only paying five bucks a month for it. And so it's easy for them to switch. And it's easy for them to complain. And it's hard for you to develop a relationship with them, because there's so much customer support, because you have so many customers. And so yeah, counter intuitively, if you do have these seemingly high hassle customers, you're going to pay you much more. And it seems like they need a lot more hand holding, it turns out, they usually are more savvy, they value your product more they're easy to deal with and less customer support. And you have like more lasting I think enjoyable relationships with customers like those.

Jay Clouse 50:47
If you were to take out your Indie Hackers crystal ball and look towards the future, what are the trends that you're seeing are trends that you expect in this world? Is there It seems like there's almost endless opportunity right now like where's the limit? Do things come back? Are we headed for a bust on this? Where's your head at?

Courtland Allen 51:03
I think the futures on imaginable and like a crazy way. Like, it seems like you know, things have things always seem like they have to revert to the norm. But if you look at like how we're living right now, like, imagine being like a 15th century peasant, you know, or like an imagining like the world today, you couldn't even imagine it like we're living like a sci fi fictional wonderland that like is beyond the scope of human imagination. And like things aren't stopping, like the way that AI is going right now. There's so many tasks right now that we can't imagine being automated, that are just going to be automated, like 5, 10 years from now, you're gonna have to write a ton of code, just by describing your thoughts to your computer, and it's gonna be ridiculous, we're gonna be so much more productive. The way that I see just like adoption of technology headed people, I think over focus on what technology exists. But just as important, if not more important, is how many people adopt that technology, right? If ever if, like online messaging existed in the 90s, you know, I was a nerd chatting online when I was in third grade, right? But no one was using it was today now like every influencer in LA has like an Instagram profile. And it's always in their DMs and like that changes the world creates a much larger consumer base. And so I think that, you know, 10, 15 years from now, almost everybody is going to have some kind of online business, people are going to be able to make a living from their phones. Like if you just think about the fact that so much of human knowledge is locked away in people's brains. And the web like, allows us to put that knowledge onto a page that can then be found on Google. But like, still, most of the knowledge is in our brains, you know, if my car breaks down, and I want to figure how to fix my car, there's no way for me to just like instantaneously get a person who's an expert at like fixing cars on the phone, right? It's like really hard to do. And I think the web 10 years from now will make that really easy that will make that lucrative, it'll make it easy for anybody who has any sort of idea that's valuable, or a knowledge that's valuable to share it with others and get paid for it extremely quickly, with almost no turnaround time. And that's going to create an insane number of jobs. And so, I don't think we're near the end of this, I think we're just getting started, I think that the people who are getting in now might feel like they're late to the party, and I'm gonna say, Oh, look at all these other companies that came before me and made so much money are so successful and so impactful. Like, how am I ever gonna get in? And 10 years from now everybody's gonna be looking at today with that exact same expression like, oh, okay, it was so easy back then there's so much opportunity, like, why don't I start back then. So I'm very optimistic about all the people who are getting started now. And all the niches that they're finding for themselves to get their voices heard. And the creator economy in particular, allowing people who don't even know how to code and have no interest in coding, but who have a voice and something to say, or maybe they want to learn and then learn in public so others can learn from them. super valuable. So it's a very long winded way of saying that, like, I don't know where things are going, but I think it's just gonna be an explosion of Indie Hackers and people building online businesses.

Jay Clouse 53:44
I love the ethos and energy of Indie Hacking. When you spend time on the forum, it is hard not to be inspired by all the progress and milestones being shared by Indie Hackers every single day. And they aren't usually huge unrelatable milestones, but things like getting a new customer, hitting $1,000 a month in recurring revenue and more. And I'm sure we'll continue to see more Indie Hackers getting into the education arena as time progresses to online courses, or coaching, social media, businesses and more. But regardless of trends, it's incredible to see all the ways people are making money online today, and I too am optimistic that we're still in the early stages. If you want to learn more about Indie Hackers go to indiehackers.com. You can also subscribe to the Indie Hackers podcast right here in the shownotes. Thanks to Courtland for being on the show. Thank you to Emily Clouse for making the artwork for this episode. Thanks to Nathan Todhunter for mixing the show into Brian Skeel for creating our music. If you like this episode, you can tweet @JayClouse, and let me know if you really want to say thank you, please leave a review on Apple podcasts. Thanks for listening. I'll talk to you next week.

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