My five figure exit

August 30, 2021 (3y ago)

Ever struggled to launch a project? Felt like you're part of the "unlucky" group of people? I felt that way too. Up until a year ago, I couldn't count on both hands how many projects I've launched that faded out. I was stuck mindboggling why, and never knew the true reason for my failures.

This last year has been a whirlwind for me, its opened my eyes and made me realise why (from personal experience) that they've failed. My motivation has also stemmed from my father, who sold a portion of his company for £56 million roughly 2 years ago. I have always wanted to build my own career - without "piggybacking" off his own success.

So, let me introduce myself - I'm Charlie, a 20 year old developer from London who has been programming since I was 12 years old. I have always loved programming, and started because I wanted to be able to be self-dependant - as developers can be very expensive!

How it started.

In January 2020, I started working as a full-time web developer 5/6 days per week. To say the least, while I loved my job, I wanted to do my own thing and build up a side-project outside of work. That's when a buddy of mine reached out to me in early March, and mentioned that other game tracking platforms were trash. This gave me a huge incentive, I loved building websites, and I certainly loved dealing with data.

This project involved aggregating data from the games' publicly accessible datasheet, retaining this minute-by-minute in my own database. As time progressed, we at one point were dealing with more than 90 million rows of data. As you can imagine, this became a huge strain as we needed to implement server-sided caching to minimise strain.

Platform growth & generating revenue.

The platform was grown 100% organically, through SEO by utilising specific keywords that would be commonly typed in. For a start, we used two commonly googled terms in our domain. This, paired with a .com allowed us to stay consistant and we appeared #1 for those keywords and some similar. The .com doesn't always matter, but I personally prefer it - and it looks cleaner.

In addition, we used Ahrefs, it allowed us to view where we placed for various keywords on our site. It has paid plans, but we stuck with the free plan as it worked fine for our usage. It also allows for seeing competitors, and what keywords they perform better in.

We also had a huge reach thanks to word of mouth, and we had a multitude of influencers who recorded videos on our platform. In turn, they gained hundreds of thousands of views, and we gained lots of exposure in the process. By this point, we had lots of traffic but yet remaining as free to use for others.

I was recomended to use Google Adsense - a platform to monetise from visitors viewing advertisements whilst on your website. From prior experience, I didn't think they made anything more than pennies - but, I was wrong! After integrating this, we were bringing in a solid 3 figures per month. This allowed us to cover our hosting of $200 per month, and have additional income to host community giveaways - I always wanted to reward everyone in return, I wasn't in it for the money.

Protecting our users' privacy.

As time went on, we began to read countless articles mentioning the shady practices that Google were performing, especially within their free-to-use analytics platform. We heard about Fathom Analytics, a paid-to-use platform that cared about privacy, and vowed to not dive into your analytics in return for a monthly fee (for server upkeep). The service is honestly amazing, and the team are very friendly, I would highly recommend them!

Our next move, removing the need for Google Adsense, this was hard because it was a revenue stream, and many advertising platforms often violate users privacy - for targeted advertisements. However, our community was gamers, we already knew this, and so we spent time researching other businesses that would spark interest to a potential visitor. We offered them a top and bottom placement throughout the site, and used the average market CPM (cost per thousand views) and would sell placements for ~$3,250 a month.

How I sold the business.

I listed it for sale on MicroAcquire - a platform aimed at allowing smaller bootstrapped businesses such as mine, the ability to be bought by those who saw potential in your idea. To list it for sale, you'll be provided with 30 questions, and range from why you're looking to sell, how much it generates, how much you're looking to sell it for and any future ideas you have for it.

I'll be honest, while I had lots of genuine interest in those who saw its potential, I also received messages from timewasters. I'd be asked to provide "more information", but information on what? Upon replying asking, I had no further messages. This became frustrating, all the information needed was written on the for sale post. I really hope Andrew (the CEO) and his team can add something in place, as it may be that people copy paste these same messages.

However, after countless zoom meetings and back-to-back discussions, we finally negotiated a suitable 5-figure price and the deal was complete after 3 weeks. I couldn't describe the feeling of being rewarded, after having numerous family members and friends who felt it was a "waste of time" sitting at my computer.

What I've learnt, and hope to achieve next.

Keep going, and don't give up! You will go through countless projects that may fail, but each one provides experience for the next. In addition, focus on the core of your project and not the money - I realised this the hard way, your project will be of a less quality in turn.

I began to release that my lack of motivation after the project released, was solely because I was focusing on the money aspect first. I overestimated and expected it to generate, yet I never gave it enough time to grow and gain an audience. Moreover, the project I just sold was aimed at being free because I had a steady income, I just wanted something fun to do outside of my day-to-day job.

So, the key take-away from this? Focus on developing your project and making it the best it can be, not the revenue aspect of it. By pushing at the core, you'll unlock opportunities to implement paid additions later on.

In the process of selling my business, I've learnt a lot about the questions involved, the data needed to be presented, and pitching your future ideas to a potential investor. This alone, shows them where you see the project moving forward and the direction to head in.

This is only the start for me, my next goal is to develop a holiday booking platform with the hope to sell it for 6-7 figures. If this article helped, I'd love to know, feel free to tweet me @heychazza.