patio11's 2014 year in review

Lots of interesting stuff there, especially about the personal side of running a bootstrapped business.

It was interesting to see @patio11’s numbers. I kind of figured he was making more, but as I mentioned on HN, to me, this sounds like a fantastic success:

I work mostly on what I want to work on, take a day off whenever I feel like it, and optimize the business for quality of life rather than for any particular growth or financial targets.

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at
night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” ― Bob Dylan


I too assumed he was pulling in a lot more from AR - long slow SaaS ramp of death again!

Can’t help but feel that some of that open sharing on his first half of the year and personal issues will bite him in the ass re: larger sales of AR. Brave decision to be so open or foolish one?

I doubt his customers read his blog. I think he’s also quite honest about the size of his company, from everything I’ve ever read. I don’t see it hurting him at all.

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Howdy guys. I’m sort of sorry with regards to “Looking bigger than we were” for the last couple of years, but you know how it goes. We closed a major hospital chain (small account but huge name brand) when the business had lemonade stand level revenues, and they wouldn’t have done that if they had known about it.

I don’t particularly think that this is going to give us problems with any sales we’re reasonably equipped to win in the near future, as the level of due diligence they do does not extend to Googling me or being very familiar with my work. I’m also not too worried about eventually hitting our goals for AR. I just hope to continue doing what I like to do while still hitting them.

Getting things systemized on the sales front was the big, big improvement this year – only built for the last 3 months and live for the last two weeks, but hoping for great things next year, for modestly successful values of “great.”


The only thing that sort of concerns me about your numbers is a purely selfish one: you’re really good at what you do, so is the fate of someone more mediocre at this whole business thing like myself that of making some - possibly small - fraction of that? There seem to be others who are doing ok bootstrapping though, so I guess we all just have to try, and see where life takes us.

Peldi told me I should do a business which excites me. I told him that Appointment Reminder was a boring problem space but a great business, and that I’d find some challenge in it which was different than what I’d done with BCC. As it turns out, AR didn’t offer a lot of fun new challenges…

This. A hundred times this. I went through the same thing (started a healthcare scheduling SaaS back in 07) and found challenges in it, but in the end it feels like I’m constantly talking to customers about their absurdly prickly and boring scheduling problems. It really wears you down after a while.

If you’re thinking of starting something I recommend that you really think about whether market/product is something that you are genuinely excited about or it’s just because there is a hole in a market. At first it won’t make a difference – you’ll be thrilled by the act of running your biz. But after a few years that decision might weigh on you.

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I don’t think there is anything to be sorry about! Its not like you were misleading anyone, just my own presumptions based on some of the great points you make and that your ‘Internet Famous’ I guess.

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This is an interesting point, I wonder what other people think. A lot of the advice I’ve read points towards finding pain points then meeting those, and seems to be less inclined to following passion projects. I totally get the wisdom in only making something that you know people will use, but you can validate passion projects (most of the time) and ‘the scientific method’ does seem to take an element of passion out of the equation. Just my thoughts at the moment.

I think you need a mix. Passion projects are good, but there is a reason there is a saturated market of developer tools, developers passion is developing. My target market is fairly similar patio11 and I am not bored of it after 4 years, I like talking to the people. I am trying to hire someone to do support at the moment and finding someone interested in the market and likes talking to people difficult.

At the end of the day though, most software is pretty boring, it is the technical challenges behind it that motivate developers.

For sure, that makes sense. I agree I think it takes a balance. (I wrote a brief post on this the other day)

I think one of the many things that helped @patio11 get noticed was the “absurdity” of Bingo Card Creator. It’s so clearly not a “wow, cool tech” project that many of us kind of aspire to as developers. It’s not one of those “change the world things” either. It’s so very much not these things that it kind of hits you on the head and makes you realize that “ok, maybe I could do something that’s not ‘cool’ that does, however make for a decent business - I mean… if bingo cards work…”. I know it had that effect on me, and made me start paying attention to what he was doing.


He said he was ill for a while and didn’t give AR the attention it deserved during the year because of that and life changes going on, so my takeaway on the revenue was much more positive than yours.

His discussion of the product/domain name was good reinforcement of a lesson I’ve heard a few times before. If people mostly find your product through search (internet/app store/etc), naming your product/domain to match a common search word/phrase is very important. Even if he had to purchase the dot com for $30K he would have come out ahead. YMMV, of course.

My take on his business is extremely positive:

I work mostly on what I want to work on, take a day off whenever I feel like it, and optimize the business for quality of life rather than for any particular growth or financial targets.

It doesn’t get better than that. It’s what I aspire to. He’s also around for his family, rather than flying around consulting, even if that would make him more money.

But there is a shadow of a doubt that my own prospects are significantly worse and perhaps not even in the realm of “I could live off that and take care of my family”. But like you said, yes, he had other stuff going on, and who knows…

I think the only things under your control are how hard you work on your businesses and how you cope with (possibly repeated) failures/disappointing results until something takes off. If one has the motivation to make a SaaS app, there seems to be enough good free advice on marketing, etc. to give one the tools to make a go of it. But there’s no guarantee a competitor won’t launch right before you which is even better.

This is why I say I hate the SaaS :smile:

@patio11 has many advantages others don’t. Not so much about ‘really good’ vs ‘mediocre’, but things like a consulting gig that was doing $20K/week, being ‘internet famous’ which while not a sure thing for success does help with things like SEO as he can post articles like this one and get tons of great links back. He’s also has the tech chops and a strong interest in marketing, testing, etc.

Even with a solid business idea and all he’s got going for him he’s still only a bit above (or maybe below after expenses and not counting the few outlier contracts) a high level job he could get as CTO at a startup or what not.

More troubling than all that is it took 4 years to get here. That’s the killer of the SaaS. With HelpSpot, I knew within about 12 months, 18 max if it was going to work. If in the end it hadn’t I could have got a job, moved on to another product, etc. With the SaaS you have so much more work (servers, etc) and in almost all cases you’ll have no real idea if it’s going to truly work for years.

I used to think people going crazy about getting funding were nuts, but in SaaS it does increase your chances for success as moving faster, growing faster, and being able to wait years are all pretty critical vs a traditional software company where you make your money up front.

To be fair, a great portion of it was the fact that I was very, very not “into” Appointment Reminder. I’m pretty sure I could have closed $2k ~ 5k MRR given two weeks on the phone or at a physician’s conference. I just hated, hated the idea of doing that.

You can see AR’s growth rate when I’m “plugged in” in early this year, BTW. The month where it goes up by $1k MRR is when I just got decent at actually calling folks back when they left messages.

I think it is much more reflective of my distraction, optimization for things other in life than the business, and frank unwillingness to do the daily grind required to increase MRR for AR.


[quote=“patio11, post:17, topic:2443”]
I think it is much more reflective of my distraction, optimization for things other in life than the business, and frank unwillingness to do the daily grind required to increase MRR for AR.
[/quote]The business you built supported you when you needed it to, which IMO is a wonderful thing to have built.

It would be great to hear you and Ian debate SaaS on a podcast, either yours or his.


Keep in mind that wouldn’t give him near the freedom or time with his family that AR does. That’s one of the great things about a SaaS (although it’s of course not exclusive to SaaS); it can still support you when you need or want to step away temporarily.

I don’t see how SaaS is any different than any other software co in this regard. We sell HelpSpot licenses while I do nothing all the time. The difference is that with SaaS you’re on call. Yes, you’re ‘away’ except until you get staff you can never truly be away as it’s not just support or sales calls being missed but always potentially every one of your customers being offline.