I'm Courtland Allen, creator of Indie Hackers. Ask me anything! (Thu Apr 18 @ Noon PST)

#1

Greetings people of Hacker Noon! :alien:

I’m Courtland, the creator of Indie Hackers. In 2016 I was bored of working my job as a developer and itching to do something on my own. But I couldn’t find much online about building a profitable business as a developer, aside from raising money from VCs and doing the whole startup thing.

So I built Indie Hackers, a community of developers and founders swapping stories and advice to help each other make money from our apps and side projects. (It’s also a podcast!)

Nine months later, it was acquired by Stripe, where I’ve continued to work on it happily for the past 2 years, interviewing over 400 founders and learning a lot in the process.

Feel free to add this to your calendar and/or ask a question below. I’ll be answering any questions you have live on at 2019-04-18T19:00:00Z

Ask me anything!

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pinned globally #4
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#5

Some guidelines:

  • Please only ask one question by replying to this thread, using the green Reply button at the bottom. It’s also can be helpful to scroll to the bottom while :open_book: reading the topic to make sure nobody else has asked the same question already.

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  • Please don’t ask more than one question, so everyone can get a chance :wink:

Posts not following these guidelines may be removed to keep the Q&A flowing.

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#6

how much time do you spend coding these days? what are you hacking on for fun?

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#7

How did you come to this idea out of the myriad places you could have gone? Also did you start alone and build everything from scratch?

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#8

Thanks for taking the time to do an AMA with Hacker Noon!

While interviewing founders, what has been the most surprising answer to one of your questions so far?

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#9

Hey Courtland,

How has working with Stripe changed Indie Hackers? Are they involved in your decision making process - such as which guests are invited, or how to position Stripe when the brand does come up?

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#10

Hi Courtland

You have quite a diverse range of people/companies that you interview.

How do you find the people to interview or/and how do they find you (especially in the earlier days)?

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#11

Hi Courtland! Thank you so much for doing this AMA!

What’s the best non-intuitive advice you’ve seen on Indie Hackers?

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#12

Hello Courtland!!

Love the concept behind Indie Hackers, I wasn’t aware about it before this post. And it’s an amazing idea, I often feel the need to talk to someone with more experience about creating a product or business. I’d definitely check it out!

Here’s my question:
Did you think about similar platforms like Reddit as competitors?
Curious to know what was your analysis in comparison with Reddit while creating something different, aimed at a specific group of people.

Thanks

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#13

What tips do you have for startups who want to raise money?

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#14

Hi Courtland! Hey, given everything you know now, how do you think you’d be monetizing Indie Hackers at this point if you hadn’t joined Stripe?

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#15

Hey @csallen, thanks for taking your time to answer a couple questions today. Indie Hackers has become a more robust destination than it was when I last interviewed you about a year ago. A lot more community discussion. Enjoyed leveling up my own profile this week (still more to do there).

Over the last 6 months, I’ve expanded my job from growing the site into designing the new site. When you think about the software and design choices you make, how do they tie into your KPIs? And have your KPIs (or OKRs, whatever ppl are calling their core numbers these days) changed any of your preconceived notions of what functionality your site needs or does not need to provide?

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#16

Hey Courtland!Such a fascinating story! Did you use any marketing strategy to get people to know about your community?

Also, how did Stripe discover you ?

Thanks!

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#17

What sorts of promising projects are you seeing in the blockchain space?

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#18

What sort of exposure to Blockchain do you see an ordinary non-technical user having when interacting with a Blockchain application?

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#19

It varies from day to day, but here’s a screenshot of the last week or so:

There have been 6,615 commits to the Indie Hackers codebase since July 2016, and I’ve made 6,426 of them.

I’d say I spend around half my time writing code nowadays, even taking into account that I block off one week per month for the podcast.

I don’t do much hacking on the side, but I’m rarely tempted to. Indie Hackers has a large enough surface area that I have a bunch of “side projects” that are actually just working on various parts of the site.

Plus I find it really fun! It’s pretty cool getting instant feedback from users on the code you write. It’ll be hard to one day go back to building something that nobody is using. If I’m ever in that position again, I’ll get users as soon as humanly possible. That feedback look of building, shipping, and hearing what people think is addictive… in a healthy way.

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#20

I had a very long idea notebook that I had passively added to for many years. When my last web dev contract gig ended and I found myself with a year of runway in the bank, I decided I wouldn’t find another job, and instead I’d build something on my own from that list.

I wasted about 6 months doing that. It turned out that all of my ideas were :put_litter_in_its_place:. Mostly, I was making the stereotypical mistake of starting with a “product idea” instead of a “business idea”. A business is more than a product. You also have to know who you’re building for, what problems they have, where to find them, how much they’ll pay, etc., but I was neglecting all of that.

Luckily, the pressure of seeing the money in my bank account dwindle forced me to get serious. I made a checklist for evaluating my ideas more fully, eliminated all 100+ ideas on my list, and was forced to come up with new ideas. I had a few that were okay, but Indie Hackers was the best idea I came up with. Probably the best part of it was that I could build it and launch in an extremely short time frame. There was very little risk of me wasting months without showing it to anyone, because it was such a simple product.

It was exactly 3 weeks from idea to launch and 100,000 visitors. It could’ve been faster, but I decided to build everything from scratch. Which made it fun, but has also bitten me in the ass. And yep, I started alone, no co-founder. My brother joined me about 8 months later.

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#21

damnnnnnn!!!

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#22

Thanks for taking the time to ask me a question!

It’s a tough one. The database of thoughts that is my brain is definitely not indexed by the “surprising” column, so nothing is coming to mind, really. Maybe that fact in and of itself is surprising? I’ve interviewed many hundreds of people, many of whom are very successful, and few of them have really shocked me.

There are some great stories for sure. I think it’s crazy that Christy Laurence got an app built in 8 months without knowing how to code herself, and made $10k in week #1, $1M in year #1. That blows my mind. I think it’s crazy that Shola Akinlade (who’s building Stripe for Africa) had to buy a generator and turn a crank so he could power his laptop to write code. People push through all kinds of crazy barriers.

But it’s also inspiring that there are very rarely any shocking answers. The “how-to” for doing this stuff is out there! We’re all so connected to the Internet that the best advice and secrets don’t stay secret for long. If you decide to read how others have done it, you’ll be mostly caught up on the high-level basics in a couple weeks, and ready to dive into doing it yourself and learning the small details via trial-and-error.

A corollary to this is something I tweeted earlier this year:

The dopamine hit from encountering novel advice fools us into thinking it’s better than it really is.

Most of what we should be doing are things we’ve heard a million times already.

Sometimes the boring answers are the ones we need to hear, even though we tend to ignore them because we think we get it already.

Or maybe I’m just not asking people the right questions. :innocent:

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