This is a continuation of the series where I interview entrepreneurs & creators overcoming their challenges & building a business from scratch.
This time we have Luca Restagno who is a software developer with over 10+ years of experience. He's currently building Hivoe & Inboxs
Here we go through a short 5-minute interview to understand more about his journey. Cheers to Luca for doing this ✨
1. You’re a software developer with 10+ years of experience. How did you start your journey as an entrepreneur?
After working for many companies, I realized that I had accumulated enough technical knowledge to build my own product & scale it rather than having to continuously do it for someone else.
What I didn’t know was that I had to put more effort into marketing than building.
Instead of a fixed salary, I could dream of growing an MRR. This made the career game seem no longer interesting to me as there were too many factors out of my control.
I built a product on the side for 2 years and launched it on Product Hunt. It got only 70 upvotes. That’s when I understood how crucial an audience is to launching and growing a SaaS.
Six months later we (I and a former colleague) sold that first product. Then I started a new journey as a solo indie hacker.
2. How did you start building Hivoe & Inboxs and what were your learnings?
I started Hivoe because I was active on Twitter & I was trying to build an audience.
I noticed that a lot of big accounts were recommending Twitter Direct Messages as a powerful tool to create new relationships.
That’s when I decided to build a small product around this feature, and Hivoe was born.
A person I met on Twitter tried Hivoe when it was really at an early stage, and he wanted to pay for it which was quite incredible to me. I rushed to integrate a payment processor to collect money and activated the first subscription at 5 euros a month
After a while, I realized that the DMs messaging experience provided by Twitter is not powerful enough, especially if you run a business on Twitter.
You cannot mark a conversation as unread, save it for later, add tags, and so on. That’s how I thought about improving it, and Inboxs was the result of that idea.
For Inboxs, I used a completely new approach - Pre-Sale Validation.
I created a landing page in which I described the features included in the product, and a clear call to action, “lock your price forever” (a lifetime deal) for $50. The visitors didn’t have an opportunity to try the product before purchasing, but surprisingly 20 people purchased the deal in a week.
This is how I validated the idea.
3. How do you balance time between your full-time job & 2 startup products?
I spend 8 hours a day focused on my full-time job. It is my main source of income.
All the rest is dedicated to my two products and being active on Twitter, which is my main source of traffic.
I don’t have any strict rules. I spend my time on the product that requires my time. For instance, now I’m focused mainly on Inboxs because I want to consolidate it based on the feedback of users and make a recurring subscription for it.
There’s no guarantee that I’ll be productive. I just spend a lot of time, very focused on the things that I like to do.
Context switching is overwhelming, but as a software engineer, I’m quite used to it.
The main problem is that you’ll never be able to do all the tasks you’d like to complete. So I decide on the most important task & focus time on that. I don’t have a magical productivity system. Just hard work and consistency.
4. What’s your primary marketing strategy for products?
I’m definitely a newbie in marketing, and I still need to understand a lot about it.
At the moment I observe what others do, and I try to learn. Marketing is about putting your product out, in a way that’s appealing and generating traffic so that your product is exposed to an audience.
I’m active on Twitter, that’s a social platform I enjoy very much. I found an amazing community of supportive indie hackers & solopreneurs. I’m very active there, and I grow my audience a little bit every day. Twitter is definitely my main source of traffic.
5. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are trying to grow their businesses & to those who are just starting out?
- Who are trying to grow their business?
I’m still in the face of growing my businesses but what I would focus more on is providing the best customer experience possible (give timely support and make them happy)
Listen to your customers even if you are already making money, you can discover incredible things about how they use your product and work on content, SEO (long-term game)
- Who are just starting out?
If you are getting started, stop developing your product and focus on growing an audience for six months (on your favorite social platform or a newsletter)
When you have an audience big enough, you can launch whatever you want, and you can be sure that someone will try it, provide you feedback, and even pay for it.
What are some books/podcasts you’d recommend?
My favorite podcast is Wannabe Entrepreneur by Tiago Ferreira
The first book I read about building in public & building an audience has been "The Embedded Entrepreneur" by Arvid Kahl. I strongly recommend it.
Where can people learn more about you?
- Twitter: @ikoichi on Twitter
- Products: https://hivoe.com, https://inboxs.io
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