A fellow entrepreneur recently asked this question in a private Slack community:
Him: “Sometimes I fear that you have to either go big with Saas or go bust. I’m seeing startups getting millions left and right … is there room for the rest of us aiming at $5K-$10K MRR?”
Me: Oh my goodness, yes.
Him: “My activity is really good, though wondering if I can get to my dream $5K MRR anytime soon. Just over a month since launch.”
Everyone in the thread: Dude. You’re putting way too much pressure on yourself way too early.
An odd side effect of Stripe, Gumroad, and WordPress making it so easy to create and sell products online is that digital weekend warriors side-step the crucible that entrepreneurs in retail, manufacturing, and food services have to go through just to open their door.
Because starting a business online is so easy, many first-time entrepreneurs are conditioned to expect that success will be just as easy and immediate. The fact is, the vast majority of successful businesses grow slowly, organically, and are quite boring to read about.
The Silent Evidence
There’s a ton of silent evidence that doesn’t bubble up to the surface on social media. You’re more likely to hear about companies raising beaucoups of money from VCs or massively successful bootstrapped businesses (ConvertKit, Basecamp, Mailchimp) specifically because they are outliers and more interesting stories.
The number of “boring” businesses we’ve never heard of just cooking along providing jobs and personal autonomy for their founders and employees with $100k MRR is staggering. A list of these boring businesses used to be available in every U.S. city in the Yellow Pages.
My parents ran a ~$2MM ARR business you’ve never heard of in a town you’ll never visit for twenty-five years. They just didn’t tweet about it or add themselves to Baremetrics’ Open Startups dashboard :)
Stay Patient, Stay Grounded
Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when I have to remind myself to actually believe everything I just said :)
- Gail Goodman on the Long, Slow SaaS Ramp of Death (famous talk about the long journey)
- Josh Pigford with some thoughts on Gail’s talk, four years later (his illustrations just below the fold are solid)
- Transistor’s public MRR numbers
In terms of being patient, sometimes it just takes time. Look at Transistor’s numbers. Slow, steady growth. And this is with Justin’s audience that he has earned over nearly a decade coupled with the massive popularity of podcasts over the past few years.
If there was ever going to be a surefire success out of the gate to open up for business and have enough subscribers to sustain a couple of employees on day one, this was it. The fact that it’s taking a while for Transistor to get there is not a sign that something is wrong, it’s a sign that building a business takes time and you gotta be prepared for the journey.
A Few Things I Enjoyed this Week
I’ve been using Breaker instead of Overcast the last couple weeks and I’m digging it. On the one hand, liking and commenting on podcast episodes is engaging. On the other hand, I don’t know if I want a “Social Podcast App”. I sort of like that podcasts are insulated from the like-counts and comment-tracking of social media. What do you think? Let me know on Twitter at … oh wait.
This is a great 8-minute talk by James Clear about habits, decision-making, and continuous improvement.
If you liked “Storm” by Paperwhite last week, you’ll enjoy “Someone” by Anna of the North.