❌ Failed startup
✅ Successful startup

Addressbin: Problems of Being a Technical Solo Founder

Addressbin was an easy way to collect email addresses. Bad marketing and big competitors where the problems that dug its grave.

Canada
Web Application
Bad Marketing
No Passion

Adam Bard

March 16, 2018

Sponsor Failory and get your business & product in front of +20,000 CEOs, startup founders, entrepreneurs, developers and marketers every month.

This Interview's Sponsor

Do you want to grow your business? With GenM you can get free marketing from an apprentice as part of their training. The student will work 40 hours per month creating content, increasing SEO rankings, carrying out advertisement campaigns...

Switch to better payroll. OnPay makes payroll and HR simple by paying your employees, filing US payroll taxes, and integrating with your favorite software. We can take also care of benefits, and we’ll help you switch providers. Take a peek at how easy payroll can be.

Hello Adam! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?

I'm a software developer, and I make a lot of websites. The most successful of these so far has been Later for Reddit, a post scheduler for Reddit. But I was asked to talk about a failure, and out of my menagerie of these I've chosen Addressbin.

What was Addressbin about?

Addressbin actually still exists, so I guess it's still in the process of failing. It started as an easy way to collect email addresses, mostly (as is my habit) as a way to provide myself a facility to do so for free and then expanded to allow other people.

Having collected all those email addresses, it was a short step to allow people to send emails to them, which I implemented by making a special address for each list that would forward your message to each address, and just like that, I invented the Mailing List.

I added a few more features (Drip messages, opt-in forms) but ultimately at this point, I was competing with Mailchimp and everyone else and decided to stop working on it. It's still up and running fine and requires very little input on my part.

How did you grow Addressbin?

If you build it, they will come, right? Well, after that didn't work, I tried many other things, including:

  • Adding a blog to the site and writing some articles for it
  • Emailing my list, of course
  • I tried sending some cold emails
  • I made a spin-off site called easyecourse.com, which was the same software with a different stylesheet aimed at people who wanted to make email courses
  • I posted about it on Quora and Reddit a bit

My nearest success was the Opt-In Form Generator, a free attached tool that actually gets a fair bit of google traffic. Unfortunately, it hasn't performed as a way to get people into the product, probably because it's something that's useful mostly to people who have already landed on a provider. I tried the free tool route a couple of other times, but that's the only one that people were actually searching for.

Take payroll off your to-do list.

Rated “excellent” by PC magazine, OnPay gives US startups an easy and affordable way to manage payroll and HR. We do all the heavy lifting, including payroll taxes, onboarding your employees, and setting you up for free.

Get One Month Free

Reach +20,000 Startup Founders!

If you are looking to get your product in front of founders, CEOs, VPs, web and mobile developers, makers, consultants, marketers, bloggers, product managers, and many other thought leaders, then we can help you.

👉 Sponsorships

40 Hours of Digital Marketing for $50/Month

Do you want to grow your business? With GenM you can get free marketing from an apprentice as part of their training. The student will work 40 hours per month creating content, increasing SEO rankings, carrying out advertisement campaigns...

Check it out   👉

What were the mistakes you made?

My biggest mistake is that I really don't want to do anything but write software, and that only works if your product is so narrowly focused and immediately useful that it practically sells itself. I guess this is the usual mistake for a technical solo founder: I made a thing that nobody really needed. We're trained to make our software as general as it can reasonably be, but for the purposes of operating a small business, you really need to target a small niche, which I was never able to find.

What were your biggest disadvantages?

I have no idea how to market, and no inclination to learn, and in the end, I wasn't motivated to change that for this project. Marketing can mean a huge range of things -- everything from buying display ads, to approaching people on the street, and everything in between (including, for the sake of irony, email marketing). I just don't like bothering people!

Oh, hey, actually, the real disadvantage is that, given the above, I made a tool that's primarily useful for marketing. If selling is hard, selling something you have no interest in is harder!

If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

Nothing really, except to spend my time on something else. At least I learned from the experience.

Unlimited Design Services at $349/Month

Hire a graphic design and development team to create fully functional web & app UI/UX, branding, illustrations & everything else you can imagine on a monthly subscription that starts at $349/month.

Check it out   👉

What's your advice for someone who is just starting?

Make something you love, not just something you think someone else might like! 

Where can we go to learn more?

If you're that curious you can head to Addressbin website, since it's still fully operational. Or, you can browse my morgue file at my website.

✉️ Subscribe to receive weekly startup related articles!

We’re always digging for more failure stories like Addressbin. Sign up for our newsletter to keep updated on the latest additions.

👇 Other Interviews

Hubstaff: Growing a Time Tracking Software to $316,000/Month
By 
Dave Nevogt
  •  
February 21, 2019
United States
SaaS
Over 150K
Pull Reminders: Bootstrapping a Side Project into GitHub Marketplace
By 
Abi Noda
  •  
February 21, 2019
United States
Web Application
Up to 50K
Gadget Flow: Building a Site in 24 Hours and Growing it to +$2M/Year
By 
Evan Varsamis
  •  
February 21, 2019
United States
Web Application
Over 150K
Aura: Bootstrapping a SaaS Tool to $14,160/Month while Studying
By 
Dillon Carter
  •  
May 16, 2019
United States
SaaS
Up to 50K
Reroute Lifestyle: Find Niche, Create Content, Build Community
By 
Krista Aoki
  •  
February 21, 2019
United States
Blog
Up to 50K
SPUDS: Graduating and Raising $15,000 for a New Clothing Brand
By 
Paul Dickey
  •  
February 21, 2019
United States
e-Commerce
Up to 50K
Eventloot: Failing to Listen Feedback Means $20,000 Loss
By 
Justin Anyanwu
  •  
July 19, 2018
United States
SaaS
Not Practical
Tandem: My Failed Startup Inspired Success
By 
Nick Raushenbush
  •  
March 16, 2018
United States
Web Application
No MVP Validation
Monetizing Issues
Delite: How and Why it Failed
By 
Patrick Walls
  •  
March 17, 2018
United States
SaaS
Lack of Time
Not Practical
Botnim: 2 Co-Founders, 1 Digital Failed Startup
By 
Shaked Klein Orbach & Gilad Peled
  •  
March 17, 2018
Israel
Web Application
No MVP Validation
Not Practical
Eloquis: Losing $20,000 with a Bootstrapped SaaS
By 
Rohit Nallapeta
  •  
March 17, 2018
United States
SaaS
Unprepared Market
Not Practical
Team Voice: How Not to Bootstrap as a Solo Founder
By 
Kirill Vechtomov
  •  
March 17, 2018
Canada
SaaS
Not Practical
Lack of Time