$3M MRR Bootstrapping in a competitve market

How ConvertKit reached $3M MRR as an email marketing software

$3M MRR Bootstrapping in a competitve market
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This is one of the most inspiring charts you'll ever see.
The first 3 years of ConvertKit - January 2013 to January 2016
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18 months into the project, Nathan Barry was stuck at $2000 MRR
But over the next 16 months he would skyrocket it to $128,000 MRR
And in 11 years he would take it to $3M MRR - January 2013 to February 2024
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I don't think he realized back in August 2014, what he was about to achieve.
If you ever feel down and dejected, come back to this chart.

Starting with a challenge

Nathan was a designer and creator who was making a living selling e-books and doing client projects. He had no experience building a SaaS.
But he was getting excited about the idea of a predictable recurring revenue stream.
That’s when he decided to take on “The Web App Challenge” - build and grow a SaaS to $5K MRR in 6 months.
He documented the whole thing on his blog - This was back in 2012, much before building in public was a thing.
Setting an aggressive challenge like this can force you take action and move forward. Getting rid of perfection and doing only the most important aspects of a project.
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ConvertKit is born

Eventually the Web App Challenge became ConvertKit - an email marketing tool for authors and bloggers, plugging all the gaps that Nathan faced with Mailchimp.
He missed his goal of $5K MRR, but did reach $2K MRR in 6 months, which is not bad.
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Plateau and Turn around

But growth stalled after the first 6 months.
For almost a year, ConvertKit’s revenue didn’t go up. Instead it actually declined, went down to be as low as $1300 at one point.
Nathan had been trying content marketing to grow ConvertKit at the time. But he wasn’t seeing any results from it.
That’s when decided to go all in one direct sales.
  • He reach out cold to influential bloggers and authors
  • Got on demo calls with them
  • Helpted them get onboarded, even manually onboarded many creators himself.
He did 100s of 1:1 demos like this.
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This led to the eventual turn around of its fortunes.
And within 16 months ConvertKit crossed $100K MRR mark.
Today, 11 years later ConvertKit does $3M+ MRR - and it’s a completely bootstrapped business. Started by 1 person back in December 2012 as part of a crazy 6 month challenge!

Top Lessons

Top lessons from ConvertKit’s success -
  • Take on extreme challenges when you’re short of ideas.
  • Double down on 1 thing that gets traction
  • Building in Public can help you get some initial traction, but it plateaus after a point.
  • Outreach + Direct Sales is a great way to get customers in the early days.
  • Content Marketing, SEO, paid ads all other channels come after this.
  • Hang in there during tough times - we over estimate what we can do in 1 year, but under estimate what we can do in 10 years.

Further Reading -

3 types of experiences to learn from

Working theory -
There are 3 types of experiences you can learn from -
  • 1st hand - do shit yourself
  • 2nd hand - talk to someone who has 1st hand experience
  • 3rd hand - Read/listen to a "produced piece of content" from someone who has 1st hand experience
All 3 serve different purposes
You need all 3
But can't over-index on any 1
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More in this tweet

From the vault -

3 random post from the Superframeworks archives -

Useful links you don't want to miss -
Last week’s top link -

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Eternally Curious. Writing, Learning, Building in Public. Writing about Ideas + Inspiration + Insights for creators, solopreneurs and indie hackers | Simple tips and frameworks to help you build a sustainable solo business

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