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Courtland Allen is the founder of IndieHackers, a website and community focused on helping entrepreneurs become profitable while remaining independent. He founded the company in 2016. Stripe acquired them less than a year later in 2017. Courtland joins Pioneers for an AMA, answering questions on topics ranging from community-building, to motivation, to common first-time founder mistakes and more.

Read and hear more from Courtland via Twitter and the Indie Hackers podcast.

Pioneer Podcast - Episode #2


My name is Courtland, I created the Indie Hackers community, which is a large online community of mostly developers, but all sorts of folks who I would say, mostly just want some control and freedom in their life. Most Indie Hackers are like me, they don't like having a boss, they would much rather be the person who gets to decide what they work on, and they want to have an unlimited cap on how much money they can make if they bring a lot of value to the world, and they want to work on their own schedule, and so on and so forth. Indie Hackers is a community where these people can come together and exchange ideas and talk about their challenges and problems, and more than anything, just get inspired by each other's stories.

That's the whole idea behind the community, is that I try to find the best stories and surface them to everybody else. And I think when you hear stories of somebody else who's just doing something amazing and something that you want for yourself, it really lights a fire under your ass and helps you get out of bed in the morning and do what you've always dreamed of doing. I started that back in 2016, and it was acquired by Stripe where I continue to work on it, since 2017. And before Indie Hackers, my background was as a serial entrepreneur and a software engineer.

I have a degree in computer science from MIT, I was in the Y Combinator class of 2011, and I started four different SaaS companies with a middling amounts of success up until Indie Hackers.

Creating a positive online community

Mishka Orakzai: Hi, Courtland, it's nice to meet you. I'm a big fan of Indie Hackers. I am speaking from Pakistan and I'm working on a Pinterest of code. What I love about Indie Hackers is how welcoming it is versus Reddit or Twitter, where you're waiting for them to attack you. With Indie Hackers, you post, you know no one is going to dispute, just help, which is exactly what you want.

I'm wondering, did that happen organically or did you do something? How did you create such an incredible community?

CA: First of all, cool room. I like where you're at, it's like a fancy library-type vibe there. And also cool idea, the Pinterest for code ideas is interesting.

I was actually very worried about the community friendliness and camaraderie in the beginning because the Indie Hackers community was seeded by people from the Hacker News community. And the Hacker News community is ruthless. I can't imagine a place online where you're more likely to get criticized and shut down if you post your passion project or something you've been working on than Hacker News, because the culture there is one of contrarianism.

You get up-voted to the top not by agreeing and building on what people before you have said, but by finding the one flaw in their logic or the one flaw in their reasoning. It's a very easy way to be educated as a reader, but it's not good when people post their projects because you don't want people to crap all over your project and rain on your parade when you spend so time working on it, and when it is a minimum viable product and it's not supposed to be perfect.

And so I think in a way, the negative culture there and in other places influence people to make bad decisions as entrepreneurs and founders, because it makes them feel like they need to build something that's bulletproof and great, when really you should be sharing it in a safe space where people understand that your first draft is your first draft, and it's not supposed to be great. And it's actually strategically better to make it really simple and dirty and focus on the basics.

So what ended up happening, and I take no credit for this whatsoever, was that Indie Hackers had a much more empathetic and understanding community, simply because the only people interested in joining Indie Hackers were makers and builders themselves. Hacker News has so many people who just haven't created anything and who aren't creating anything, and the pin-up gallery is just less empathetic because they've never been in the trenches before, versus Indie Hackers, pretty much 100% of people who created an account and post on the site are actually doing something, and the people who aren't doing things yet or not doing it because they're a little bit scared too.

So they were perhaps the most empathetic people who are the least likely to criticize because they're afraid of being criticized. Usually, it's pretty supportive and there's lots of different little groups and communities within Indie Hackers that are designated places just for posting something, getting feedback, and then paying it forward and giving other people's feedback.

The Stripe Partnership

Nathan Ganser: Hey, it's incredible to see you live. I always hear the podcast and your voice. I'm curious about how your perspective on Indie Hackers changed after you got acquired by Stripe. You were telling the story that you wanted to build a business, be independent, be a founder, have no cap in salary, and now you're back to employee?

Are you still excited or do you want to move or run away at some point, do something else?

CA: It's funny because it actually made me much more ambitious than I ever was, which is ironic. You would think that not being an employee would have made me the most ambitious and being an employee would have constrained the scope of my vision, but the exact opposite happened. I'll get into some of the details. When I started Indie Hackers, I had spent six, seven years in Silicon Valley. I had gone through YC, all my friends were basically YC founders or hydrotech startup founders, and everything was like, "Go for a billion. Change the world. You can do it." There's very little respect for like, "Take a small first step and see where you get."

And after going that route, I was inspired and I really respect a lot of people who are doing that, but at the same time, I was just tired of trying to do that myself. I thought, "I could be doing this until I'm 40 and just genuinely never succeed. And then I would be embarrassed and feel bad about myself, and I just don't want to get there. So you know what? I just need like a quick wind, I need something that can pay my rent. Pay my rent, pay my cell phone bill, let me afford health insurance, get me to the point where I'm just stable. And then I can figure out what I want to do next."

And Indie Hackers was in a very meta way, not only a project to help inspire others to do that, but also to help me get there. And so about six, seven months after I started Indie Hackers, I didn't have sponsorship revenue to actually do that. I was bringing in like six and a half, seven grand a month in sponsorship revenue, and it wasn't super hard to get there, it was a few emails and phone calls, which are quite frankly pretty pleasant, doing sales was much less scary than I thought it would be.

Then Patrick Collison from Stripe emailed me out of the blue, it wasn't even on my radar that this could happen. They were actually at the very top of my sponsor's list, like dream sponsor. I was going to reach out to them last after I perfected my pitch to everybody else. But he emailed me first and was like, "Hey, can we buy Indie Hackers?" And we got brunch and felt each other out a little bit. And I was like, "Yeah, this guy's smart. And on the up and up, and I guess he thought the same about me." And so when we were talking, we were talking about our vision for Indie Hackers, and I was a little embarrassed because I was like, "My vision is to pay my rent."

With Stripe, "We're trying to raise the GDP of the internet and change that. Let's do it." "Oh, yeah, yeah. That's my step two." And I think he really challenged me to see some of the value inherent in Indie Hackers that I wasn't aware of, but when you're in the trenches, you're just like an operator every day, writing code, making sales calls. It's easy to lose track of the bigger vision. And I think he helped me develop a bigger vision in which I had already had, I was already saying on my podcast and writing in my post, but I just hadn't really concretized it yet, which is, I just want to inspire more people to do this thing.

I think the world is changing and more people can do it, and it's easier than ever, and more lucrative than ever, and more fulfilling than ever. If I can do that, I'll be happy. It's not what I expected going into it, I was totally 100% in it for myself at the beginning. So now, my ambitions are much grander than they've ever been. I'm much more plugged in to the actual impact that Indie Hackers has on people's lives. Like hearing a story of a stranger on the internet who sat down in their basement and coded something up, and now they're making $3 million a year and doing all sorts of stuff, that's crazy inspiring.

And people make actual life changing decisions based on stories that they've heard on the Indie Hackers Podcast or read on the form, which blows my mind to actually see people's entire lives being changed. Ironically, yeah, as an employee, I have much grander scope of my vision, I can't get into the details of how I'm compensated at Stripe, but it's almost like I'm running a high-growth startup and Stripe is an investor in it. And so I don't feel like employee. I have this whole other theory about how pretty much every employee is a business anyway:

If you're getting paid by somebody to do something, then you're business and you are selling them a product or a service. And if you're an employee, you're just selling the service of your time and your skills to just one customer, who's your employer. And besides that, everything else is the exact same as any other business. If you can negotiate with your employer to raise your prices, if you want, just like a business owner can raise their prices, and you can potentially find other customers and you can walk away and fire your customers if you don't like them.

And so I think it's not so bad being an employee, I don't have anything wrong with it, I just think if you're going to go that route, you should look at yourself as a business. You should really try to understand the value that you provide to your customer/employer, and you should really be willing to negotiate and willing to differentiate yourself from the rest of the competition, which is basically everybody else with your job title, so that you're uniquely valuable, and it's hard for your customers to not basically pay for what you're providing.

And I think there's lots of people like that and lots of companies whose job titles, you might not have heard of, and there's not open positions on job sites for them, but they're making easily a lot more money and there are a lot more plugged into the value that they're delivering and they have a lot more control over their lives. So it's not so bad to be an employee, but I don't think one should have an employee mindset once you understand the kind of business founder mindset.

Nathan: Awesome. Thank you.

How to let the world know you exist

Daniel Getman: My name is Daniel. I am creating a natural sweetener that removes willpower from the equation of healthy eating by making nutritious foods tastes indulgent.

CA: Cool.

Daniel: First of all, I'm not going to lie, I'm a new user of Indie Hackers, but I've been loving it after having dozens of posts instantly flagged on Hacker News. It's wonderful how helpful the community is. I was just curious, I just launched my business, how did you get started? How did you let the world know that you exist? And how did you grow the community?

CA: First of all, I love your product idea, I need that. I'm in the middle of a sugar addiction the last couple of weeks where I just started eating the worst stuff. I have a bag of Twizzlers in my cupboard right now. So I need your thing.

How do you get the word out? This is a tough challenge. It was particularly tough for me because I am a developer's developer, I love coding. After spending years starting lots of companies, I picked up an eye for design and I love design too. And so I just want to work on a product all day. I just want to sit down and build stuff.

And unfortunately, product is only one part of a business, you also have to figure out how to distribute and get the word out. And that's a crucial part of your business, and it doesn't matter to build the world's best product, if you don't have the word out there, no one's going to use it. And this is the failure mode that people go into time and time again. But with Indie Hackers, I was basically fed up with myself, I had taken a year off work because I'd been doing some contracting on the side of my projects. And I just took a year off and I'm like, "I'm going to start something. I'm going to make enough money to pay my rent."

And the first six months, I did the same thing that I've always done, which is just code or cool signing project that I thought would be cool with no plan of how to get the word out, no plan of how to advertise it or get people using it or any viral growth strategy, and I knew better than that. I've been doing this for so many years and I just let my emotions guide me. And so I scrapped everything I'd been working on and I sat down and I decided that I was going to have the willpower and the discipline to work basically backwards, work distribution first, which is what I had known.

Logically, if you'd asked me, I'd say, "Oh, of course, you do distribution first." But my behavior didn't reflect what I actually knew. And I'd spent a lot of time also giving advice to other friends that I wasn't myself following. So when I sat down, I just made a checklist. The first thing that matters is like, who is my audience? What problem do they have that I'm trying to solve for them? And then beyond that, I try to understand, "Okay, what is my audience like? What do they care about? What are they savvy about? What do they dislike? Where do they hang out?" Just really getting to know my audience, which for me ended up being very easy because my audience was people just like me.

It was people who were aspiring founders and who were engineers, who spent a lot of time on Hacker News, who really likes to read other stories from people, who had trouble finding these stories online because they just were pretty rare and they often weren't well-told. So I would scour Hackers News and just look at the places where people would post a comment about how they created their profitable SaaS business. And half the time, they wouldn't share their revenue numbers, half the time, they wouldn't talk about how they found their first users. They're just missing all these important details, which you just asked me about, the detail you asked me about Indie Hackers is exactly the detail that everybody wants to hear about these stories once they've actually tried it and figured out that distribution and growth is hard.

So I spent a lot of time just not coding anything and just reading stories and reading people's comments and reactions to them, and talking to people and trying to figure out, "Okay, what do you care about?" And it became pretty obvious early on, it's like, "Well, all of my people in my audience, so on Twitter and Hacker News, most of them are developers and developer circles. They are following other developer influencers, listening developer podcasts, etc. So I should focus this on software engineers, not just all entrepreneurs, mostly people who care about code, at least in the early days. And I should use Hacker News and Twitter and these developer influencers as my distribution channel."

So before I even knew what the product was going to look like, I knew that like, "Here are my customers and here's where I'm going to reach them." Fast forward, a few weeks, I'd done 10 interviews, which is pretty grueling, I had emailed like 140 people, and almost all of them, just didn't reply or said no, because I was like, "Hey, will you share your revenue numbers with me?" "Who are you? No." And a few said yes, they were  the visionaries. They said, "This is awesome. I wish I had this when I got started."

And I put them all on one website and I emailed the moderators to Hacker News, which is a good hack. You can just email the mods and ask them, "Hey, is it okay if I do a particular thing?" Or, "Hey, I'm going to launch this thing next week, do I have your blessing?" It's very vague, but I think the moderator of any community just likes it when people in the community give them a heads up or when they talk to them about what they're doing because it's hard to moderate a community. And I told them like, "Hey, I've got this thing. I interviewed 10 people. Is it okay if they all support me? I don't want to vote brigade, I don't want to have a voting ring, but they all were my co-creators, so can we all upload it?"

And then the moderator is like, "Yeah, sure. That sounds really cool. I liked the project. It'll make Hackers News page even better. So, for sure." So I just submitted it and I got 10 votes immediately because I emailed all the people I interviewed. And then from there, I think it just was at number one or number two for two days straight, 100% because I built the interviews and the product from the ground up based on what I saw people on Hacker News already liked. So it wasn't really guessing what people and this audience or this distribution channel cared about. I had proof based on all the other posts and comments they'd made over the years, and I just worked backwards from there to figure it out.

Whenever you can get out of your own head and do less guessing and speculating on what people want, looking for real-world proof of how people have behaved in the past, that is a really good indicator for how to do something that resonates. And ideally, you have a clear vision of who your target customer is because it's so easy to build a product and then say, "Okay, yeah, later on, I'll figure it out who's going to use this." Which Seth Godin calls it, crafting a key and then walking around to every door in the world trying to find the perfect lock.

That's really hard to do. But if you find the lock first and then craft the perfect lock for that key, if you understand who your customers and your users are, then it becomes much easier to figure out, "Okay, well, are these people who talk to each other and share tips and recommendations? Because if so, it's much more likely I'll build something that grows via word of mouth. And if they don't talk to each other, then it's hard to grow via word of mouth. And do they follow a particular influencers or post in particular forums? If so, then I know exactly where to go to reach them. And if they don't, then it's going to be really hard to reach them."

And if you find a particular customer segment that you want to target that doesn't check any of these boxes, then right in the beginning before you've written any single line of code or built anything, you can say, "Okay, this is not a good segment to target. I'm going to go after somebody who's easier to get in touch with and easier to reach."

Daniel: Incredible. Thank you so much.

CA: Yeah. Thanks for the great question.

How to start a successful podcast

Nathan: Your podcast is actually the only podcast I'm listening to all the time. I even go back and listen to previous podcasts. So I consider you a bit like a podcast God. What would your startup podcast guide be? What do you think are the best practices or what makes you different? Or what would you advise to someone who starts the podcast? Because we're actually starting my startup.

CA: Cool. I think lots more people should start podcasts, but you've got to be in it for the long haul. It's very hard to see if you're not consistent and it's very easy to quit. I wanted to quit after four episodes, and then after 10 episodes, then after 20 episodes, especially if your downloads aren't growing, you're just like, "Screw this, I'm out." So I would say, be consistent. But beyond that, I have the same mental framework for pretty much anything. I look at literally everything as a business. Daniel Gross who runs Pioneer, he looks at everything as a game.

He came on the podcast and I talk to him every now and then outside of the podcast, and for him, everything in life is a game, and for me, it's all a business. And so I analyze it the exact same way. Who is your target market? What do they care about? What do they like? Not what do they tell you they want, what have they proven through their behavior in the past that they want? What have they reacted to? I could ask somebody, "Oh, who do you want to hear on the podcast?" And they'll say things like, "I want to hear more failure stories."

And then I look at past episodes and other shows that have tried that and none of them have any uploads or downloads. So for me, not so much about asking people what they want, it's more about finding proof of what people want and just working backwards from there. So from Indie Hackers Podcast, I was pretty lucky that I had already figured out the formula by doing interviews on the website for six or seven months before I even started the podcast. And then it was literally just the exact same formula, but transported over to audio, which is a little different because it's more dynamic, it's less predictable, but the same idea was in place.

I want people who have inspiring stories, who have accomplished something great, I want to walk through their story in chronological order because as humans, we're just wired to like stories. I want to actually not gloss over the details, so actually get into the strategies and the tactics, because I know my audience is technical and they're operators and founders and they actually want the details, they're trying to struggle through these problems themselves. I know the broad checklist of problems that most Indie Hackers and founders face and the uncertainties they have, and I can fill the interviewees into basically covering how they solve those problems.

And I just think the formula is already figured out for me. So my advice to you if you're going to start a podcast is, treat it like you would treat any business that you're starting. You want to validate your idea, you want to assess the market. Right now, we're in the middle of a podcast explosion. Even in 2016, it felt that, but it's nothing compared to what it is today, there's a podcast for anything and everything on earth right now. And I really wish people would do more unique things that really branch out and break the mold because it seems like everybody just has the generic interview show or everybody's got two founders talk about growing their business, which is fine, but it gives listeners less of a reason to listen to your show in particular because they can get it anywhere else.

It's almost like being an employee, where it's easy for a company to fire you or pay you less if you have a very neatly packaged set of skills that they can hire anyone else for. And so you want to be unique and provide unique value to people. And I think to do that, you should look for inspiration elsewhere, look out of the tech industry. Barstool Sports has an incredible podcast network, and I'm not a fan of theirs, but I'll go look at their shows and see what they're doing. And they just have the most random stuff, and it's almost always entertaining.

They have a show where their founder just goes around and eats pizza and just riffs on the world. I'm building a podcast network at Indie Hackers right now, and I'm looking for people with unique shows. And almost no one has a unique show. I just found a cool one called Run With It, where they'll take a founder, who's already running a successful business, and they'll bring them on the show and say, "Hey, give us a random idea for our audience, and then we're just going to hate on your idea or talk about your idea and just discuss and have fun with it."

And it's really entertaining, it's really unique, it's really helpful to the audience because one of the biggest problems that aspiring founders have is they don't know what idea to work on, they don't know how to evaluate an idea. So they get to hear from a new entrepreneur who gives them an idea and helps evaluate it in front of them every day. That's super helpful, it's super unique, it's hard to unsubscribe from that podcast once you subscribe, because where are you going to get that anywhere else? There's not very many other shows. So I would say focus on being unique, being consistent.

And then there's some other less intuitive things about podcasts; people don't like listening to stilted awkward conversations, so you want your conversations to flow. That might mean you need to do a lot of editing, that might mean you need to bring on people who are just socially skilled, to the exclusion of others. Number two, I think any sort of content producer, you're a curator. You don't want to give people everything you produce, you want to get people the best stuff that you produce. They're coming to you because they don't want to waste their time searching through a bunch of stuff they don't like.

So if you record bad episode, scrap it or re-record it. I do that all the time. My second most downloaded episode, we re-recorded it four times, and it was my best friend, so she was willing to put up with it. But I think people underestimate the degree to which really great creators throw away stuff that's not good and only present what is good. Be consistent, which I already mentioned, realize that a lot of podcasting is just entertainment, people are bored and looking for something to do, and they want to learn. The number of insights per minute you can deliver is helpful, but the conversation should flow and it should be remarkable, and there should be interesting stuff going on.

And then the last thing I'll say is, in my experience at least, podcasts grow through word of mouth. There's so many things that people want to do on Twitter, with sharing all these snippets and videos and all sorts of stuff, and people who are browsing Twitter are usually not in the mood to listen to a podcast, or they're not in a situation where they can immediately say, "Let me listen to an hour-long podcast." And so I've never found any promotional, anything that really works to boost download numbers, only word of mouth has worked.

I've had episodes that got 1,000 likes and 300 retweets and got very few downloads, and I've had episodes that got 10 retweets or one retweet and got 100,000 downloads. So it's just about episode quality, it's about episodes that people are going to share with their friends or listen to five or 10 times.

Nathan: Cool. Thanks very much.

CA: Yeah. Good luck.

More on building a positive community

Matt Johnson: Hello. Thanks for doing this, it's nice to meet you. Working on Taskable – we aggregate all your tasks, communications and information, put it in a single view and help you plan and prioritize your day. I'm currently in St. George, Utah, of all places, outrunning the smoke in California. But I was going to say, I'm a member of a bunch of communities. I'm always blown away by how helpful and generous people are with their time on Indie Hackers. I'm just wondering what you think the secret is to why that's the case and how do you maintain such a positive community when there's a lot of examples of communities that can become toxic or maybe less helpful, or maybe a bit more antagonistic? Is there a secret to that success and how you do that?

CA: Yeah. We got a similar question earlier, but I'll try to answer it differently this time. I think part of it is just everybody in Indie Hackers has skin in the game. It's not a community of people just watching others build products, it's the community of people who are building businesses and who therefore can empathize with what you're up to. And when you come to the community and get help, and it's free, you didn't pay anything for it, it just gives you this feeling of like, "Oh, I want to pay it forward," most of the time. And so if you see someone else that you can help, you're more likely to help them.

So I think controlling who's in your community, making sure that it's people who understand and empathize with others in the community is super helpful rather than being... There's a lot of committees that are one to many where there's one person on the stage, and a lot of people watching, a very small number of people on the stage, and a lot of people watching, whereas Indie Hackers is more of just like a crowd of everybody doing the same thing. Beyond that, I like to think of community and digital products in general, just as analogs of the real world.

I think it helps because we evolve in the real world and it's hard to make sense of all sorts of digital products. If you had to build a cup in real life, there was a great blog post on this years ago, but you'd never make a cup that was 1,000 pounds, it would be very obvious to you, it doesn't work. But when you're making digital products, sometimes it's not obvious that you're adding way too many features and it's way too bloated. I think the same is true of a community. In a real world community, it's obvious to you that you want people to be in the same place at the same. And those are two of the dimensions that matter, and you want people with similar skill sets, etc.

But when people get digital, they're just like, "Oh, I'm going to build a forum or throw anybody in the Slack room and have no real rules or processes. I'm not going to care about the time that people gather, I'm not going to care about the problems, etc." So I think a lot about that, I hired an excellent community manager, Rosie Sherry, who's built her own community from the ground up, and she thinks a lot about that. And we try to do a lot to stoke the flames. We post helpful and informative discussions that get people saying positive things.

We try to lead by example because I think people tend to copy others that they admire. People more than anything, copy what they see working. And so often, we'll see you on the community, if somebody does a particular type of post, it's very distinct and memorable, and it does really well, for the next two or three weeks, we'll see a lot of copycat posts that are just like that. And so we try to shape the posts that do the best to make sure that when people copy them, they're doing it in a positive light rather than a negative light.

We'll email people in the community and say, "Hey, you've got this cool story and it's hidden away here, why don't you make a post about it in this way?" And they will. And then a lot of it is just incremental, building on what works. So a long time ago, we noticed people kept making these posts about, "Please review my landing page." And then we made a landing page feedback tag, and that did well. And then we switched over to groups, and that was doing well. And we did a landing page feedback day, and that did really well.

And so a lot of it is, I would never have predicted or guessed that that was a way that people could find a lot of value, but it is. And instead of rejecting it or ignoring it, we just make it a first-class citizen and really lean into it. So there's no one trick, but I think if anything was the most important, I would say, it's just people having skin in the game and people following the examples of others.

Matthew: Cool. Thanks for that.

CA: Yeah. Thanks for being a part of Indie Hackers.

Mistakes to avoid at the start

Emile Paffard-Wray: Hi, Courtland. I'm Emile, building Profiled, which is a resume generator for developers. And my question is, besides spending all that time coding and not enough time talking to users, what are the biggest mistakes that you see Indie Hackers making when trying to get things off the ground?

CA: Yeah, there's so many. This is why it's hard to give advice because everyone has different mistakes, everyone's stuck in a different feedback loop, which might be negative, or it might have different walls they're running into. And so you give advice and then it turns out it doesn't apply to 80% of people, but for 20% of people, it's really salient. So I'll just say a few of the things that I've seen. A lot of people just don't get started getting, started is table stakes. You're better off starting with something really crappy and small that doesn't matter than sitting around waiting for the perfect idea to strike.

In fact, some of my favorite Indie Hackers, Pieter Levels who created Nomad List, Tobias van Schneider, who was the head designer at Spotify, is really the single person who's responsible for Spotify's look, and he now runs a SaaS company called Semplice, which is really crushing it. Both of them are prolific makers, and both of them really believe in just working on really stupid on ambitious things that they're passionate about, and then throwing their way if it doesn't work. And they both have folders, they've shown me on Zoom, directories on the computer of thousands of projects they've started and never told anyone about, and they really dumb things, and a few of them blew up and did really well.

And so that's one model I think works with people who have trouble getting started, just keep your expectations low and start something. For people who do start, there's a whole another group of people who start too many things and none of them catch on, and they're not really in my opinion, iterating and learning from their past mistakes. So I think you need to give things room to breathe. I did a podcast on YC, I think they called it, Your Whole Goal Is Not to Quit. And I believe that wholeheartedly, the number one because of business failure is quitting.

And quitting is caused by all sorts of things, but you have to give your projects, your ideas, your features, time for success, which means you have to be resilient. And it sounds like meaningless platitude and pretty generic, but it's so true that if you quit before you've tried everything or the most promising things, you're just never going to find success. There's so many things I tried with Indie Hackers that didn't work, and there's so many founders I've talked to who've tried things that didn't work and it just kept going and found other ways to make it work, because your first guess is usually not going to be right.

So I think too many people quit early, and corollary to that, too many people fail to construct an environment that allows them to not quit. So if you, for example, quit your job with three months of runway and the bank, well, you're going to have to quit working on your project in three months, and it will be much better if you kept working on your job and you found a way to take the excess salary you're making and hire a developer to help you build your product. And you can maintain that indefinitely and not quit or some other way that you could figure out how to make it so your environment's not going to force you to have to quit your product after a certain period of time.

Also people working on projects they don't even enjoy, that's another reason why people quit because then things get hard and they're so focused on the end goal like, "I want to build something that changes the world and makes me a boatload of money," but they don't realize that the whole process needs to be fun, otherwise, when it's hard, you're just going to give up before you get to the end goal. So I think people structuring their companies in ways that don't make them happy is a huge mistake. What else? I think having the wrong mental model for what a company or a business is, can really be a hindrance.

A lot of people think about businesses as inventions, and an invention is this thing you have to come up with and a flash of insight, and it's got to be unique and different than everything that's come before, and you got to keep it secret. And if you take that model to the business world, you're going to get burned because businesses don't need any flash of insight, a business idea doesn't need to be unique or never before done. It doesn't need almost any of the things that an invention needs. Most of the businesses that we frequent every day are to some degree, clones of existing ideas, or incremental improvements on existing things that already were out there.

And they got released in some MVP format and just the founders iterated on them. And maybe they innovated in one area, but in most areas, their businesses are pretty conventional. If you look at a company like Stripe, yeah, it brought payment processing to the masses, but it's real innovation was being super developer focused. And there were other ways of process payments before Stripe. And so I would say, don't look at a business as an invention, but really figure out what people already want, what people already need, and then just innovate in one or two ways.

Innovate in the niche you target and add special features that help a particular group of people, or innovate on your distribution channel and make your product available to people who frequent some channel that previously would never have seen a similar product, or innovate on your market, bring the same product with different group. But don't think you need some brilliant flash of insight and everything has to be amazing, because it really doesn't. I could go on, there's probably a million mistakes that people make. Another good one is trying to do too much yourself, I think.

I think it's important to understand what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are, and focus on your strengths. This is something that I struggle with, I'm a perfectionist, and being a perfectionist usually means you focus on your weaknesses, you focus on what's bad and you try to remove all the blemishes because once you remove all the blemishes, and something's blemish free, then it's perfect. But perfect is not the same thing as great. If you can have something that's blemish free, if I go outside and paint a wall perfectly, and it's the most perfectly painted wall anyone's ever seen, okay, it's perfect, but it's not great. It doesn't do anything for anyone, it's not like amazing.

It's better to, I think, double down on your strengths rather than papering over your weaknesses, figure out what you're good at and just create something great there. And if the rest of your product sucks or your business is crappy, that's fine. Every great business has things that are crappy about it; Stripe, Airbnb, Google, Facebook, all have mountains of technical debt, and all sorts of crappy code that's still being rewritten to this day. And it's easy to hear those stories and think, "Oh, here's what I'm going to do it better. I'm going to make sure I don't have any technical debt." But I think that's the opposite lesson you should come away with.

You should come away with a lesson that, hey, these companies had all these mistakes and still made it big, which means that focusing on this little mistakes is not the key to winning, it's really doubling down on your strengths and what makes you great. That's the key to winning. So I think that's a pretty big mistake founders can make is getting obsessed with trying to do all the things perfectly and not accepting that when you're just one or two people, a lot of stuff's going to be crappy and that's fine as long as you've got something that's really worth it.

Emile: Awesome. Thanks.

Leveraging online communities for marketing

Daniel: Hey, how do you leverage online communities to get traction? You, for instance, used Hacker News. I've been trying to use Reddit for diabetic weight loss, nutrition channels, but a lot of them have rules against self-promotion. So how do I work around that?

CA: Yeah. This is like a good example of when you need to work backwards. If you really want to use a community to get your audience going, which I think is a great way to get started because communities are these pre-packaged audiences that other people have built, and then they can just become your audience, which is magical, you don't have to start from scratch, but as you said, communities have rules, and they have regulations, and they have constraints. And in my opinion, these are actually good things because they constrain the infinite possibilities you have down to a few set of choices, just makes your decision-making easier as long as you're working backwards.

So if you're like, "Hey, I've got this thing, and I'm going to write this kind of promotional post, let me jam it into every community that I can," Then I think it's not going to work because you're just not working backwards. But if you're like, "Hey, let me see which communities are the best. Now, let me go there." And all of these communities have a huge history. You can scroll back for years and years and see what people have upvoted, what people like. And that's the best evidence you could ever have as an entrepreneur, you have all this stuff that just tells you proof positive, "Here's what succeeds here."

And then you should work backwards from there to craft your product and your message to fit into the shape of this particular container. So with Indie Hackers and Hacker News, it wasn't an accident that I was doing these transparent interviews with founders, it was because I would go read all these Hacker News threads, and every one of these threads, somebody would ask, what's your one person's SaaS startup? But like 300 comments, and the ones that got voted to the top every single time, fit a particular format and structure. And so I just copied that structure for the ones that succeeded and looked at all the comments of people who responded and who asked more questions, and I made sure that I did what people there wanted, so the people in the community would support it.

That might look different with different sub-Reddits, with different communities, a lot of things say, "Okay, you can't be self-promotional," well, then don't be self-promotional, maybe you do something that is giving more to the community than taking from the community. Maybe you share a lot of really good advice or feedback or learning. Maybe in the community people talk about how much research they have to do to compile nutrition information, and you just go out and do a ton of research for them, and you do this little research dumps. And you say, "Hey, I'm going to post a research dump through this Reddit every week, but I'm actually doing two or three a week and you can come subscribe to my newsletter if you want more, or you just sign it with your name, your Twitter account or something."

And that might be a way for you to provide value to the community in a way that fits in with their rules, in a way that you've seen they upvote a lot and they care a lot about, and also siphon off some of that traffic and audience for yourself. So I think it depends a lot on your community, but you should always work backwards and work from what they want and what they already support, rather than trying to figure out how you can jam your thing the way that you want it to be.

Daniel: Awesome. Thank you so much.

CA: Yeah. Good luck.


Emma Nguyen: I've got a question from Emma from Vietnam who can't connect to the video or audio right now, but it's basically a motivation hacks. So when you did your first podcast in your tent and you thought about quitting, for example, how'd you get around that?

CA: Yeah. Motivation, big thing. BJ Fogg is a behavioral researcher at Stanford, and he's got a whole equation for behavior, like what gets anyone to do anything. And I think it's something like, motivation times ability, times prompt. So motivation is the first thing in that equation, is really important. If you don't have the motivation to do something, you're not going to do it. You also need to have the ability and you also need some call to action, but those are easier to get, motivation's a tough one.

When it comes to being a founder and being self-motivated person, I think one of the essential challenges is that, it's not the way society is structured. We're not really used to that, especially if you've worked a full-time job or you've gone to school, usually you have all these external systems and motivation, train tracks, so guidelines that get you to do things. If you think about the fact that every day, two or 3 billion people wake up and go to work nine-to-five, and they're incredibly productive, maybe not incredibly productive, but they do a reliably every day, year in and year out for their entire lifetime, that's a minor miracle. How's everybody's so productive?

And I think if you look at what's driving people, it's the fact that they have these frameworks, most of which are social. So social accountability is a huge one. If you have a boss who you respect and look up to, you don't want to let your boss down. If you have colleagues who you respect and who are depending on you, you don't want to let your colleagues down. If you're providing a salary for your family to survive, you don't want to let your family down. If your friends all respect to you and thinks you're cool or smart, you don't want to embarrass yourself by getting fired from your job.

And so you have all of these slightly uncomfortable social barriers when you're on the normal track to get up and do things everyday even if there are things that you don't necessarily want to do. But the second you become a founder, you quit your job, and you're accountable only to yourself, you lose that motivational system. And I think it becomes much harder to do things when essentially the only thing pushing you forward is just pure willpower, because your willpower is not going to be constant, it's not going to be consistent every day, it's not this inexhaustible resource.

And so what I've always done for Indie Hackers is I've always tried to have social accountability. The very first day that I launched Indie Hackers, I also launched my mailing list and I made a commitment in every mailing list, "Here's what I will have done by next week." And within a week, I have thousands of people who are like, "Okay, you said you're going to do this thing. Where is it?" And it was uncomfortable, I wasn't happy every Thursday when I had to send my newsletter because that meant on Wednesday, I was going to be burning the midnight oil to get things coded and get things done, so I didn't embarrass myself in front of a lot of people, but Jesus, was a good motivational hack.

And I have never been as productive as I was in those first few months when I was sending out updates with what I wanted to do every single week to a bunch of people. And if you don't have a bunch of people on a mailing list, that's fine, tell friends, get a mentor, get a co-founder or a partner, someone you can be accountable to and who you won't want to let down, I think is probably the biggest motivational hack that I know.

Speaker 5: Awesome. Distinct similarities between that and Pioneer. The concept of "next week, I will have this done."

CA: Yeah, exactly. It's a good feedback to put yourself into.

The future of podcasting

Shred Vepencheri: Hey I'm Shred, I'm working on Oyku, it's a no-code platform for the creative class, including the podcasters. Basically, it allows podcasters to build product for streaming apps for their shows without having to code. So my question is, I've been working with a lot of amazing podcasters who are really passionate about their shows, but the thing is, a lot of them feels... they don't really monetize their shows just yet, there's no ads and so they really get turned down. And the thing also they're not very much also inclined towards putting premium content.

So I want to know your thoughts around the future of podcasting, how are podcasting... Do you think that they would monetize? And how will it all would be for podcasters to explore the idea of having premium content and some membership program, sort of thing?

CA: I think the future is pretty bright for pretty much any content creator, especially people who want to make a living doing it, just because... On one hand content is kind of a commodity, anybody can produce content, anybody can produce a podcast or write a newsletter or do any of this stuff, but what's good about it is that, it's not a winner take all market. There's no one podcast that's going to take all the podcast listenership, and the same way you see with social networks and a lot of the bigger stuff that comes out of Silicon Valley, where investors want to pile money into basically markets where one person's going to take everything.

So this provides an arena where like Indie Hackers and people who have slightly more modest ambitions can all compete and all do something that they like and find a niche and still succeed, even though there's a million other people succeeding. So I'm pretty bullish on podcasts, I'm bullish on paid podcasts. I do think that podcasts in particular are cool because they're sticky. If you write something, unless you're a very distinct stylistic writer Matt Levine or Paul Graham, it's hard for people to understand, to really see your personal voice and what you're writing, but in a podcast, it literally is your voice.

And we're wired evolutionarily to be able to differentiate between different people's voices and personalities and speaking styles. I've been recognized out on the street before because I said a sentence and someone's like, "I've heard your voice in a podcast." It's that distinct of a fingerprint. And so I think people end up identifying with you and become loyal and don't unsubscribe or stop reading at the same rate as they would with written content. If somebody is writing something and then somebody else writes something better, you might just say, "Okay, I'm going over there."

But if you become familiar and you're friends with the podcasts that you're listening to you, which happens, you develop this loyalty and affinity to what they say. And they can say the same thing as someone else has said, but you like it better because it came from their mouth. So in terms of what you're trying to do with your business, I think trying to sell something to someone, or even just get them to use something when it's not high on their priority list, is a very hard task. People try to sell me stuff on my podcast all the time. And sometimes I use it, sometimes I don't, and almost always their ideas are good.

Almost always, they have something that I'm like, "Oh, that is cool. I would like to do it." But running a podcast is a lot of time and a lot of work, and I also have a million other responsibilities. I'm trying to code the social network basically by myself all day, and I read a million emails and other podcasts and AMAs that I'm doing, and meetings at Stripe, and a team I'm trying to run, like a million things. So I can only really, really focus on the top two things on my priority list for every area. And the rest, even if it sounds like a good idea, I have to say no.

And so in terms of how that affects you, I think number one, you should think about your product and how high of a priority is what you're building for your users. If it's like six or seventh on their list, then it's not a high enough priority for them and you got to figure out how to get it higher. But also, who are your users? Because different people have different priorities. And if it turns out the people who you're podcasting, that you're talking to have cool shows, and you like them and they like you, but they're not that enthusiastic, maybe you need to go after podcasters who are super serious, go after people who already have sponsors and who have quit their jobs to focus on their podcasts, and podcasting for them is their entire life and their entire business.

And for them, they're going to be able to take care of their top 10 priorities because that's all they do, and it's super important to them. I think about this a lot at Indie Hackers because we're building out a media company in a way where we're always trying to get people to write for us and make good contributions to the forum. And consistently, the people who do that the best, who always want to work with us, who are reliable and put stuff out consistently, are people who attach their forum post to some other endeavor that's their livelihood.

They have a paid newsletter or something, so they're always cranking out content and they're super easy to work with. And other people who are just like, "Oh, I would to write a post and have it featured, maybe." They take forever to get back to us and they're not super serious, and they don't put a lot of effort into it. So I would think about who your customers are, maybe just go to some place Patreon, or YouTube, or Substack, and find people who are already making money and pitch what you're doing to those people first.

Shred: Absolutely. I think that's what I'm learning. And I think also what's happening is the guys who are really serious, have more than one shows, they're mini-network in themselves so they have two, three other shows so they're making a regular income and stuff for them. So trying to gear it towards that feature from a product perspective, and also we're connecting with Patreon.

CA: Yeah. Very cool. Sounds you're on the right track. Another idea might be, there's lots of production companies and agencies that work with podcasters. I've got a producer, I pay him hundreds of dollars per episode to make my show sound great, and edit it, and cut all sorts of stuff so I don't have to. They might be good partners because they're always looking for more scalable ways to make more money, they might want to do affiliate deals. And they're already working with lots of podcasters who are serious enough to pay them money for it. So that's another idea.

Shred: Personally, I've reached out, I think sent out seven emails just this week, and I haven't heard back, but I think I need to do more emails. So I'm trying to reach out with the reseller angle with these agencies basically, but we will see how that goes.

CA: Yeah. Keep sending emails, change up your email format. I'm much more likely to respond to emails when they're not immediately right off the bat, like, "Let me sell you something." But when they seem a fellow creator or worker who just wants to shoot it with me and discuss something or ask me how I do something. People like flattery, like, "Oh, I really liked how you edited this episode. I've been trying to do this, what do you think? Blah, blah, blah." And they'll say whatever and be like, "Yeah, I'm trying to do it for my podcast creation app, check it out, what do you think about this?"

And they're like, "Oh yeah, I'm an expert. Let me tell you what I think." And then next thing they're buying it. So I would say try all sorts of different sales tactics and emails, don't give up. I sent so many hundreds of emails in the early days of Indie Hackers to get my first interviewees, and then another 100 emails to get my first sponsors. And it's surprising what works.

Shred: I'll sure try that pitch. Thanks a lot.

Jumpstarting a community

Moderator: Next, I have a question from Chris and the team at HackerStash, who are from Netherlands and UK, they're building something very similar to Indie Hackers. The differentiation would be that it is a pay to play, and that a pot goes to people each week for the winners of the... for those that are upvoted the most.

Chris Pattison: One question that I do have, which is quite particular to us really is, people that are launching a new community, is that a lot of the communities that I see launching nowadays, they start off as content streams first, and then they built on community later. That does solve that chicken prosaic question quite well, but in our case, we're very much focused on launching as a community first. I wonder if you have any advice on how you tackle that particular problem.

CA: Yeah, I totally get it. I also did the content first community later thing because I was doing the interviews and sending them out week after week. There wasn't a huge gap, it took three weeks to launch Indie Hackers, then a month and a half of sending out new interviews every week, and then I started the community. But the challenge with community is the Chicken-and-egg problem you mentioned, nobody wants to be a part of a community that's dead. The value of a community is it's a striving place where you can talk to lots of other people. And the problem is in the beginning, it's not a thriving place where you can talk to lots of other people, so it doesn't have value in the beginning.

So you have to figure out a way to create that value. And the good thing about it is there's no objective measure, it's all relative. Earlier I was talking about thinking about community as physical space, and the two most important things are a time and a place. So if you'll get real-world communities, if you'll go to alcoholics anonymous meeting, that's a community. And well, how do they deal with time and space? Well, they meet once a week in a small room with chairs facing each other in a circle, and it's 10 people. And that's a fine community even though it's only have 10 people who are only active one day a week.

Now online, you might think, "Oh no, I got to have an ever present forum that's always on or a Slack chat room that anyone can connect at any point in time," but then you've just blown up the time that your community exists from some very constrained amount of time to something that's always on, which is really hard to sustain and is always going to feel empty unless you have thousands of users. And similarly, space is something you can deal with too. If you create a community forum, and I don't know what your community looks like, but if you could have community forum that can show 35 different posts, but people are only making three posts a day or a week, it's going to look dead and empty and not very valuable.

Whereas if your community is like, I don't know, a website where there's a big question up at the top, and every week, the question changes and you just leave comments on that question, then it's going to look super active and lively because you've constrained the space down to something very simple where we don't need that many people to participate. So if I was going to start from scratch and I was going to build a custom community from the ground up and I wanted to do it without going content first, and not having to drive tons of eyeballs, I would just try to constrain the time, the space to something extremely small.

Get everybody ideally online looking at the same thing at the same time, and then even if you only have five or 10 people, you create a lot of buzz and excitement and you can grow incrementally from there. The alternative is if you do it like I did it, which was, I didn't constrain the time and space at all, maybe Hacker's forum was a forum like it looks today in the early days, and there was no one, is you have to fake it till you make it. So it is like the Reddit strategy. You make a lot of accounts, you start talking to yourself, you have all these conversations, then you try to filter other people into it.

That's a lot less fun, a lot less sustainable, a lot easier to give up on. And again, even if you do that way, you still need a big content machine because who are you going to funnel into this faux community that you're constantly propping up. So for me, that looked sending a ton of emails to my newsletter, and then it was always fake conversations and trying to get people into the door and it took months to do, but if I were doing it your way and I can go back in time, I would just constrain the time, constrain the space, and then gradually expand it.

Chris: Yeah. Awesome. Thanks. That's really great advice. One other quick question, just curious about, do you see any obvious threats to Indie's continued success?

CA: Yeah. I think unbundling is in a way a threat, Indie Hackers, theoretically unbundled Hacker News. It happen to exist as a small subset of Hacker News or once or twice a week, there'd be a discussion on a particular topic. Now, I see significantly fewer Indie Hacker founder entrepreneur discussions on Hacker News, because a lot of it happens on Indie Hackers. Theoretically, someone might do that to Indie Hackers itself. There might be lots of different niches, e-commerce entrepreneurs, or crypto founders, or community founders who create their own communities and their own interview shows that are much more niche and focused on those particular groups. And it's death by 1,000 cuts.

Why go to Indie Hackers when you can go directly to the thing that you want? Why read some really broad magazine that's very generalist if you're a dirt biker, why not just go read Dirt Bikers Express or some better magazine that appeals to your interests? That's a particular potential threat. That being said, I think unbundling is also useful because ultimately, on Indie Hackers, what happens a lot? People link to their Hacker News submissions and their Hackers News posts. And we're boosting Hackers News profile. Ultimately, there have been a lot of clones of Indie Hackers already, and a lot of people there talk about the latest episode of the Indie Hackers podcast or what's at the top of the Indie Hackers forum right now.

And so it's cohesive. And I think as long as I'm expanding the community, I think in a judo move, going with the flow rather than resisting it, things will be good. right now, for example, we have a ton of different groups, and these groups are themselves their own communities. And a lot of them are big, our no-code group is 17,000 members. And I was the moderator of it for the last six months, barely moderating it at all, people were just doing free freeform stuff. So earlier this week I was like, "Hey, who wants to moderate some of these huge communities on Indie Hackers that I'm faux moderating, but not really paying attention to?"

And so now I've put those in the hands of people who were deputized to really grow this communities for their own sake and their own benefit, and I think it would just be hard for others to directly compete with that social cohesion and all those social connections if they're trying to build a massive community, just because again, community value comes from the liveliness and the people there. And Indie Hackers already has a lot of activity and a lot of people there. So I'm not super worried about competition. I think there are very few moats in business, but some of the strongest ones are network effects and Indie Hackers has a lot of network effects.

Indie Hackers content

Jura Fitzgerald: My name is Jura, I'm from Ukraine, I work on Charlotte it's internet for common line obligations. I have two quick questions. The first one is I have lot of emails in my mailbox, emails from Courtland at Indie Hackers. Is it you who wrote all the content?

CA: Yeah. Some of them I write the content, some of them I just oversee the content. And also depends on the date, the further back you go, the more likely it is that I actually wrote it. So if you're getting the milestone emails, that's an automated list you can subscribe to that just shows you the top milestones posted by the Indie Hackers that day. I don't write that, that's automated. Same with the Community Digest, the top posts from the groups that you subscribe to are the people you follow, assuming you've followed any people or groups, that's automated. But then we get our Indie Hackers Newsletter, which goes out once or twice a week now. and that'll be a collection of stories.

And each story in that newsletter is written by a different person usually. And often, that newsletter comes from my brother, Channing in Indie Hackers. So he might write the intro and sign it, Channing, or I might write the intro and sign, Courtland. And then we might have an interview in there conducted by Channing, or a podcast description that I wrote, or really good posts from the forum that somebody else wrote. And so we try to sign each part of it based on who wrote it. And then there's the welcome email, which you get when you join, which I did write, but I don't manually send it every single time somebody joins, but I did write it as if I was writing it to a friend and I tried to make it very personal and I encourage anyone who gets it to respond.

So it's an automated email, but I send hundreds of responses every month because people get it and actually respond, and take me up on and ask the questions and I want to actually be there and see what people are working on and talk to them. So I think having a personal touch is good, but you can't do everything. And the degree to which you can delegate or automate stuff is super helpful, especially later on, once you have a pretty large community or a large following.

Jura: Yeah. Another question, if you were launching, let's say, e-commerce community today, what do you focus on?

CA: If I was launching an e-commerce community. I don't know anything about e-commerce. So the first thing I would focus on is like, who does know a ton about e-commerce, let me find these people. There's all sorts of cool tools out there, SparkToro is a really great one that people are sleeping on, but you can go there and you can literally put in the name of a brand, or the name of a website, or the name of a Twitter account, or just a topic name, and SparkToro will literally tell you, "People who visit this website, listen to these podcasts, follow these Twitter accounts, subscribe to these people on Instagram, do a lot of Google searching for XYZ."

And I just try to learn a lot about my market and who they hang out with and what they're up to. And again, I'm a big fan of not trying to find some super novel idea that no one's ever done before. I don't think that is really useful. I'm more of a fan of looking for proof in what people are already doing. And it's something I want to scream from the rooftops because I think not enough people really get it. I would want to find out, where do people who read e-commerce content or participate in the commerce communities, what are they already talking about? What are they spending a ton of time and money on today, right now, already?

And that'd be proof positive for the things that are most valuable to them, the things at the top of their priority list. And I always try to make sure my community met those needs. So if people in e-commerce communities were only always just talking about Shopify customer support, that was the number one topic of conversation, then I might think about making a community around that. There are some distinct aspects of community I think there are universal. If you want to have a thriving community, for example, you have to have your community based around the topic that people actually want to discuss.

It's surprising how many times people create a community around something they, as a founder are interested in, but no one actually ever has conversations about it. So it needs to be something that people actually want to discuss, something that people don't churn from. I actually wouldn't start a Shopify customer support community because once you have a question and you get an answer, you churn, you don't need it anymore, versus the community about like, I don't know, a sports team; guess what, that sports team is going to exist from here through the rest of time, they're always going to have new seasons and new controversy, they're never going to churn because the activity never ends.

In other words, it's a problem that people have or desire people have to discuss this thing that literally can never be permanently fulfilled, which means your churn is going to be pretty low. I have a whole checklist actually of evaluating a particular problem that I want to solve and whether or not it's a good problem we're solving. And I don't remember all the items off the top of my head, but it's kind of reach how many people have this problem? Value, how much people have proven that they want to pay either time, or money, or status, or reputation to solve this problem.

Frequency, how frequently do people have this problem? Is this something that people have every day? Or is it a problem people have once a year like filing taxes, because that's going to control how often they use your product. If you're building a community and you want people there every day, the community needs to solve a problem that people have every day. And there's really nothing you can do to change people's visit frequency if it doesn't align with the frequency of the problem they're experiencing. Community cohesion, how much do these people actually talk to each other and like each other?

A lot of people will do stuff like, "I'm building it to-do-list for people who really want to connect their Airtable to Google Docs." And it's like, well, that's cool, but there is no community of people who want to connect Airtable to Google Docs. These people don't know each other, there's no potential for word of mouth spread, it doesn't make any sense. Whereas if you're building a tool for teachers, guess what? Teachers talk to each other and share product recommendations and hang out after school. And so you can grow much more easily if you build something like a cohesive community.

I already mentioned retention, solving problems that never really end, that don't have an end in mind. Indie Hackers does that, founders never get to the point where they're like, "you know what? I never need to learn anything about running a company again." So I'm solving a problem where people perpetually have that problem. There's a whole bunch of other stuff, if you really think about it. So I would work backwards from the community and from the target market, and understanding the problem and try to solve a problem that I thought was really valuable, and lasting, and frequent, and all those good things.

Jura: Very helpful.

CA: Yeah. Good luck.

Moderator: Courtland, thank you so much. This has been fantastic. Really appreciate you coming in.

CA: Yeah. Had fun. Feel free to ping me on Twitter, I'm super slow at email, it might take me a month or two to respond, but I'm Courtland@indiehackers.com, much more responsive on Indie Hackers itself. So if you ever make a post there, feel free to tag @csallen, and happy to chime in and contribute. Finally, if anyone ever wants to start a podcast targeted at Indie Hackers or founders, I'm trying to grow a podcast network. So if you do something cool or unique, send it my way and I'll take a look and try to help promote you and get the word out about your show.

Moderator: Fantastic. Awesome. Thank you again.

CA: Yeah. Thank all of you.

Moderator: See you, everyone.

Daniel: Thanks for your time and insights.

CA: Yeah. Thank you.

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