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Interview with a Successful Startup Founder

Building & Selling a SaaS for +$1M in 8 Months

Danny Postma
Danny Postma
January 18, 2022
Category of startup
Marketing
Country of startup
Indonesia
Revenue of startups
$10k-$25k/mo
Interview with a Failed Startup Founder

Building & Selling a SaaS for +$1M in 8 Months

Danny Postma
Danny Postma
January 18, 2022
Category of startup
Marketing
Country of startup
Indonesia
Cause of failure of the startup

Danny founded Headlime, an AI-powered copywriting SaaS that writes marketing copy for you automatically. It reached $20K MRR in February 2021, and finally got acquired in March 2021 for a 7 figure sum by Jarvis.ai.

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Hi Danny! Who are you and what are you currently working on?

Hey there, I am Danny Postma. A 28-year-old Full Stack Maker from the Netherlands, who currently lives in sunny (but currently rainy) Bali, Indonesia, after traveling the world for a few years.

I’ve founded a few startups (Landingfolio and Inspireframe, to name a few), but my main success story has been Headlime, an AI-powered copywriting software as a service that writes marketing copy for you automatically, which got acquired back in March 2021 for a 7 figure sum.

I’m currently working on Rareblocks.xyz, a soon-to-be decentralized marketplace for website components and templates.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My story begins in 2015, when I started my first side project, a design gallery highlighting the coolest landing page designs on the internet (I was 21 at the time). When I was working as a freelance Conversion Optimization Specialist, I couldn't come up with solid ideas for landing pages for clients. As a result, I decided to start my side project, called Landingfolio, solving this personal challenge.

Make something you'd like to use yourself. Even if no one buys it, it's still worth something to you. Furthermore, you are the most knowledgeable customer and know exactly what you want.

Landingfolio expanded rapidly to become one of the most popular landing page inspiration websites, with over 1000 visitors each day. Inspiration websites are extremely difficult to monetize because designers typically visit for inspiration and then leave. I've been running the website for four years without making any money from it, focusing instead on client work.

A year ago, I began my journey as a digital nomad, traveling around the world and meeting plenty of talented individuals who have built great online SaaS companies. These folks motivated me greatly, and I realized how successful a startup could be if I only knew how to code.

As a result, I had to make a difficult decision. Reduce my client work to two days per week and devote the remaining four days (plus one day off) to learning to code. As a result, I embarked on an eight-month full-time trip to learn to program.

I leveraged everything I learned from Landingfolio to create Inspireframe, which was launched in June 2020. In this launch, I tried a lot of different techniques, documented them all for later use, and then used them all in my most recent and successful product launch.

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How did you go from idea to product?

Headlime started back in the depths of a global pandemic while in lockdown. I was sitting in the kitchen, drinking cold matcha and writing down ideas I could start working on next. Ideas that would be easy to build and validate before wasting years on them.

Then I remembered: Three years ago, a friend and I wrote a book, called Headline Formulas, which has sold a few hundred copies.

That's when I decided to turn Headline Formulas into a tool. I decided to focus on this for two simple reasons: 1) books are worth less than tools, and 2) it would be easy for me to build it, as I already had all the content ready.

One month of building late, version one of Headlime was finished. It was a simple “content spinner”. The site had 200 formulas, which you could customize quickly by filling in different variables. The tool would then output 200 customized headlines to use in your marketing content.

The launch was an instant success, with over $60,000 in sales in the first few weeks. Most of this was thanks to a limited deal I launched, which gave customers access for a one-time fee instead of paying a subscription fee. It honestly blew me away as this was my first ever successful product launch.

I think what I did right here is mostly listening to customer feedback. Their vision of the product was beyond my wildest ideas. Customers did not only want headline templates. They wanted all types of content, like emails, Facebook Headlines, and Google Ads. So from that day on, I went on a shipping spree, launching new features, content and updating the tool to users their wishes.

I couldn’t have been in a more perfect industry at the right time. Two months after launching Headlime, OpenAI launched their new flagship AI product, GPT-3. A neural network that can write content. And boy, was it powerful.

I messaged the CTO of OpenAI to get access and got it. I quickly realized that this AI was insanely good at producing marketing copy. With the proper training, you could explain your business, and the AI would output almost perfect marketing copy for ads, blogs, websites, etc.

I saw the writing on the wall. Content spinners are done. AI-generated content is the future. So, I decided to go all in: Headlime would turn into an AI-powered copy generator. I went off the grid for five months and started using all my working hours (and free time) to build version 2 of Headlime. 


Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?

Version 2 was finished in December 2020. While building it, I would drop the occasional teaser on Twitter on how powerful the new tool was. So, when I launched in December, the growth and hype were out of this world. Revenue would double every few weeks. I started December with $1K MRR and reached $20K MRR in February 2021.

Most growth happened organically. I’m part of the “build in public” group on Twitter that shares all learnings, numbers, and progress. Lots of these tweets would go viral. This caused a flywheel effect. Bigger accounts would see the tweets on their timeline and learn about Headlime, which got me featured on Techcrunch.

The tool also felt like magic, not only for me but for everyone who used it. It solved a big problem for a lot of people. Copywriting is hard. Getting creative ideas is even more challenging. Imagine paying $29 (or eventually $59) a month for a tool that can do all your copywriting for you — a no-brainer purchase.


How are you doing today and what are your goals for the future?

One thing to remember is, I was working all by myself on Headlime. And running a fast-growing company solo was taking its toll. I’d spend hours a day on customer support, needed to develop new features quickly as many companies started cloning Headlime’s success, and do the marketing, all simultaneously. 

I was so overwhelmed that there was no time to train or hire anyone else. There were three choices for me to make at the time.

Get venture funding and work 80 hours a week for the following years, bootstrap the company and risk being overtaken by funded competitors, or sell it. So, when I got two acquisition offers from two prominent tech startups for a life-changing amount of money back in February 2021, I decided to take it. 

Seven figures for building a successful startup in eight months for a guy who grew up not wealthy was too good of an offer. It was the right decision, as I’ve realized I like to start things, not manage things. 

Headlime is now in the good hands of my friends at Jarvis.ai, who (I’m obviously biased) are creating the next revolution in automated copywriting.

Headlime Landing Page

After sipping cocktails on the beach in Bali for a few months, my hands got itchy again, and I decided to start my next project, rareblocks.xyz, a decentralized marketplace for digital content. You can follow the progress on my Twitter, where I still build in public.

Since starting Headlime, what have been your main lessons?

My main lesson is to work on something you’re passionate about or a problem you have yourself. Headlime solved my issue for being horrible in copywriting. I was my own customer, so I knew mostly what I wanted. I got lucky that others had the same problem I had.

Another lesson is to build in public. A product won’t market itself. And a great and easy way to do so is by just sharing what amazing stuff you’re working on. Yes, others might copy you, but is your product actually good if no one wants to copy it? 

And the last lesson is to ship often and quickly. The only way to see if there is demand for your product is by putting it in front of customers. Don’t work on something for a year without launching. Put out a minimum viable product. If it has potential, your customers will give you valuable feedback on how to shape it further.


What were the biggest obstacles you overcame? What were your worst mistakes?

One of the biggest challenges was the large amount of “entrepreneurs” plagiarizing Headlime, stealing the code and content, and launching it under another name. This made me very cynical back in the days, but I’ve come to realize building a successful product will get copied. You just have to work harder to be more innovative enough than the copycats. Something I managed to do by launching version 2 of the tool.

Another obstacle was the large amount of negativity you get when you’re put in the spotlight. Negative comments from customers or competitors trying to sabotage me got me down for a while. Luckily I have a well-supporting group of fellow entrepreneurs around me who would cheer me up and cure my imposter syndrome.

Headlime felt like my one golden ticket to wealth, and I was scared daily it would all get taken away. I’d wake up with multiple churn messages in the morning, and it would absolutely ruin my day. Or a competitor got funding, and I’d be scared days were over for me.

The most significant upside of selling Headlime might have been calming my mind. Running a high-growth business is tiring. I’m lucky I was still young, without kids. I have the utmost respect for any founder who juggles many responsibilities on the side.


What tools & resources do you recommend?

Tech stack:

  • Notion for note-taking and product management.
  • Twitter for marketing and publishing my progress.
  • Heroku to host my products.
  • NodeJS, MongoDB, and Digital Ocean for my software backend.
  • Heroku and Nuxt for my software frontend.

I'm an absolute massive podcast and book fan. I'm especially fond of behavioral psychology books, and I am still not sure why I studied psychology. Below is a list of my favorites:

Podcasts:

  • Indie Hackers - Interviews of product makers like me.
  • My First Million - Two guys bantering about the latest products and trends.
  • How I Build This - Amazing in-depth interviews about how the founders of big companies got started.
  • Reply All - All things internet. The most hilarious podcast ever and so well crafted.
  • Criminals - The storytelling in here is so good.

Books:


Where can we go to learn more?

Come say hi to me on Twitter, where I share all progress of current ventures! 👋

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