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This year I reached several milestones. My revenue grew to over $1 million per year. Traffic increased to 1.4 billion requests per year and I'm serving over 1 million users per month. Over 20,000 people have paid for my products now. Nomad List and Remote OK are the main revenue generators responsible for 3/4 of revenue.

From the beginning of my little startup career I wanted to prove you can do things differently when building a company.

Without funding

Imagine burning $2 billion dollars of VC funding in 6 monthsThat's $10 million per day$455,000 per hour$7,589 per minute$126 per second https://t.co/TVk7RMXuy8β€” ؜ (@levelsio) October 21, 2020

I wanted to prove you don't need to raise venture capital investment: early on I was never able to get venture capital investment, and I discovered you don't need it. Instead of raising money you can operate extremely lean and scrappy and still succeed. My belief was customers would care about the story behind the product more than how it looked. And they would be okay that it wasn't immediately perfect and might have some bugs. Instead, they'd appreciate the authenticity of that more. As long as I'd improve based on customer feedback, I'd get a loyal and happy customer base and get more customers from word of mouth.

Without a team

It's a big experiment to see if I can do it. The goal is to reach $1M/y as a solo founder with just automation. I'm nearing that. If I hit that I might sell or hire peopleβ€” ؜ (@levelsio) July 27, 2020

I wanted to prove you don't need to hire a big team, but instead could do it mostly solo by learning how to things yourself. When I started out I could barely code, but I learnt it on the spot. From the beginning I've come up with the idea for, then coded and built every single feature on my sites. I've designed the layout, the logos and picked the colors (mostly looking at what the big startups like Airbnb and Product Hunt did). I've edited the landing page videos myself, sent newsletters and did all the marketing myself. (I did pay two part-time contractors: 1) to keep the server secure so I wouldn't get hacked and lose my customer's data; 2) a moderator to keep Nomad List's community a friendly place).

Without fancy technology

https://t.co/rORz8wW1YR is a single PHP file called "index.php" generating $65,651 this month. No frameworks. No libraries (except jQuery). πŸ’– (SGD 89,415=USD 65,651) pic.twitter.com/aG0K3oGm9bβ€” ؜ (@levelsio) September 21, 2020

I wanted to prove you don't need to use the latest hipster JavaScript framework and a complicated hosting set up with hundreds of servers in a cluster so you could scale. I use a single VPS server on Linode for all my sites. I've reached the frontpage of Reddit multiple times with it. I don't use any framework except jQuery. And I use a language despised by most professional engineers called PHP, also without a framework. My code is mostly vanilla. Kinda like duct tape programming. My deployment process is extremely primitive: I write my code in Sublime Text, then I test it on my laptop (I have NGINX locally, so I open nomadlist.test for ex), then if it works I upload it with Panic Transmit via SFTP. I don't use Git and my versioning works by having backup services with infinite history running on my laptop. But I'd mostly just undo in my code editor. I said primitive, right :D

Without paid marketing

I wanted to prove you don't need to buy ads, but instead that the best marketing is organic and that if you make a product customers use and love, that word of mouth is your best funnel. I've used the story of my own life and building my products with all the ups and downs as my primary way of marketing. Instead of acting like a professional startup founder whose life and business is perfect, I've tried to be as transparent and vulnerable as possible. People like to go on a journey with you especially if you share all your imperfections and mistakes.

Normalization of deviance

This scrappy way of building also made me ship super fast. I saw it as a light form normalization of deviance:

Normalization of deviance is a term used by the American sociologist Diane Vaughan to describe the process in which deviance from correct or proper behavior becomes normalized in a corporate culture.Vaughan defines this as a process where a clearly unsafe practice comes to be considered normal if it does not immediately cause a catastrophe: "a long incubation period [before a final disaster] with early warning signs that were either misinterpreted, ignored or missed completely".

A presentation I made about building companies without funding

Why prove it at all?

If it's possible to build million dollar companies without being able to code properly, without outside investment, without a team, without a network and without fancy technology, that means theoretically any person with a laptop anywhere in the world with internet access can now learn to code, find a problem, build a solution, (and with Stripe expanding around the world) charge money for it.