It’s been almost a year since I left Yahoo! Since leaving Japan, I’ve been away from Japan and living in Vancouver, Canada, where I’ve been devoting myself to my beloved personal development, focusing on getting our products out to the world, not just Japan. In this article, I’d like to write about how I continued to launch my own products, and how I met the people I met in the process of development, and how I came to find a product that I seriously wanted to compete in the world as a startup, rather than as an individual developer. It’s a bit long, but I hope you’ll read it if you’re a developer who wants to start your new thing in the U.S. or North America, or if you love building products.
I think a lot of people would think, “Canada? Not America?”.
As a matter of fact, Vancouver has a lot of incentives for IT talent, and more and more American tech companies are setting up offices in the city for talent that is not as costly as San Francisco. The fact that Vancouver has no time zone difference from San Francisco makes it easier for people to work remotely.
Vancouver also has a strong startup culture.
Hootsuite, the popular social networking client app, and Slack, the now widely used chat app, are startups from Vancouver.
When the cost of living is not as high as in the U.S., you can live in the same time zone as San Francisco, and the startup culture is thriving, isn’t that a good enough reason to come to Vancouver?
In Vancouver, I can get to work on a product that people all over the world use.
I chose Vancouver as my new home.
As the name suggests, indie hackers are people who create apps and other products as individuals and try to make money from them.
They are also known as Indie Hacker, Indie Maker, Bootstrapper, etc.
Some of the leading makers are as follows
- Pieter Levels, the creator of Nomad List, is the King of indie makers. MAKE: Bootstrapper’s Handbook is one of my favorite books.
- Andrey Azimov: I’m sure many of you are impressed by the way he has been creating products from a coding beginner to a product-driven developer.
- Hari Krishna: The maker of Visa List. I’m sure some of you who love to travel know him. He has helped me a lot with feedback and personally. I’m also indebted to Simple Ops, which he recently launched.
- Sergio Mattei: The maker of Makerlog. It’s a community site for makers where you can post a log of your work in a form that anyone can see. You can post in the form of a log, which is a compact unit, so it’s not too hard to join.
This kind of maker culture is very popular right now.
There are a lot of community web sites for individual developers.
Product Hunt is exciting every day because there is a race to see how many votes you can get in the exact 24 hours.
Once you’ve created an MVP for your product, the first thing you do is submit it to Product Hunt to see how many votes it gets and get feedback on whether or not there is a demand for it.
Of course, you can also expect to see a huge amount of traffic for your product.
How to successfully launch on Product Hunt (i.e., strategies to get votes) is sometimes a hot topic among makers.
In addition to these, I participate in a community called MegaMaker, run by Justin Jackson, co-founder of Transistor, where Adam Wathan, author of Tailwind CSS is a member. I think I am probably the only Japanese member there.
Actually, I studied in Canada 7 years ago when I was a university student using a working holiday visa.
So this time I only had a student visa as an option and I decided to attend school for one year.
I always had spicy ramen for dinner and I had a stomachache almost every day. Now I know that this guy was probably the culprit.
The main work areas are the library and the cafe.
I always go to the library because it was free, but for some reason, it was air-conditioned, even in the winter, so I would write code in the same outfit as I did outside. I was holed up in the library until 9:00 p.m. because the library closed at that time almost every day, regardless of the rats that sometimes run like the wind under my feet.
Pieter and Andrey were nomads in Southeast Asia at the time. When I saw their blog and twitter, I thought, “I should be in Southeast Asia if I am an indie hacker!”
Having always been a backpacking traveler, the digital nomad lifestyle seemed very appealing to me. So I decided to try being a digital nomad in Southeast Asia for two months in October/November 2019.
I spent two months visiting eight cities in three countries — Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.I’ve already visited these 3 countries before, so I did some sightseeing and basically wrote some code at hotels or co-working spaces.
I bought a GoPro and broadcasting live on the Internet while working on personal projects and freelance jobs because it was a rare opportunity for me to work in Southeast Asia for a few months.
Coding even at the poolside in Laos
Thailand, for example, has so many great coworking spaces, and I’ve actually been able to see a lot of Western nomads working there.
With these experiences in Southeast Asia, I took a peek into a new lifestyle — Nomad life.
As you can see in the article above, I could have made some money if it was a SaaS service that didn’t get much impact from the number of users, but I ended up creating a series of community-based sites that didn’t attract many people and were closed.
There were also a lot of things that never made it to release because I got bored or lost faith in the product along the way. At first, it was “This will be the next big thing!” But a few days later, I thought, “This is not good.” “I feel like that old idea was a good one, let’s do it again.”
People try to make it perfect. Especially if many people might see it in the future.
But after repeated launches, I realized that others don’t care about the bugs as much as I thought they did and that they see the good points of the product.
Then I thought as follows.
The value of a product is determined by the user
I now believe that launching the product itself is worthwhile. You don’t know if the product is worth it until it’s released.
It’s a waste of time to stop a launch because you think you’re not good enough. You don’t know if the product is bad until you launch it.
Delaying the release of an app due to perfectionism will hurt you….
Since I came to Canada, I’ve been making products and striking out every day.
And finally, I was able to create the first product that I am proud to bring to the world.
There’s a Q&A website for makers where you can ask questions about indie hacking, how to come up with ideas, how to get your first customers, etc. (I call it Quora for makers).
By emailing famous makers directly and asking them to sign up for AskMakers and a few of them, including Justin Jackson, have actually participated.
When I messaged Justin on Slack about AskMakers, he signed up really quickly and even promoted it within MegamMaker. I cried.
Even those of people who didn’t sign up have given me very warm feedback, so I thought I can go for it! And I felt even more confident.
And finally, I’ve decided to launch on Product Hunt. My goal was to get 100+ Upvotes within 24 hours. To achieve our goal, we posted articles to forums and platforms where we could post them and contacted everyone we knew incessantly.
If it’s a good product, it will get vote, so let’s not ask people to upvote it directly.
Some makers say things like the above. However, it sounded fine-sounding talk to me at the time, and as a completely unknown maker, I decided to put aside such pride and ask all my acquaintances for help, and I did it intending to promote it through all the channels I could promote it.
Below are some of the articles I wrote to promote the launch at Product Hunt at the time.
I made an app called AskMakers - The best place to ask experienced and successful makers questions anonymously from r/SideProject
The Product Hunt race starts at midnight and I hardly got any sleep that day.
Hari and Justin Jackson gave me a bug report and I almost cried because I appreciated it too much.
The result was 103 Upvotes, 7th place in the world that day, and the first Product Hunt launch ended with an unbelievable result.
I felt like “I finally got a base!”
When I see people accessing the website from all over the world, I feel the power of the internet.
About 10 months after the first launch, it’s finally time for a second try. The launch of AskMakers 2.0.
I decided to launch to Product Hunt at midnight on July 20 and I started to prepare for it.
Specifically, a few days in advance, I wrote the image material, text, etc. to submit to Product Hunt in Preview Hunt. It took me about 3 hours…
I also wrote down all the channels and names of individuals I can promote my launch in advance on Notion.
July 19, 11 p.m., an hour before the launch, sitting up in the living room and fidgeting. I was restless.
And we finally launched it at about 00:10!
The new version of AskMakers is now LIVE on @ProductHunt 📢— Taishi@🇨🇦 (@ProductHance) July 21, 2020
This is a Q&A web app for makers (You can say Quora for makers)💡
Thank you for the support @mijustin @1HaKr @hyper_yolo @jonathanbull @jtatsubana and many makers👩💻🧑💻🙏https://t.co/ufuB8O6JPb
My target Upvote count was set at 200 (I was slightly freaked out about what I would do if it was less than the previous Upvote count (103)).
I watched the Upvote count transitions and looked for bug reports and made sure that I could reply to comments as soon as they came in.
At the same time, I wrote and posted an article for each site to promote AskMakers 2.0.
I wrote and posted the following posts. (My blog, dev.to, and Medium are cross-posts) Here are a few.
I rebuilt AskMakers from scratch as AskMakers 2.0 - The best place to ask experienced and successful makers questions. from r/SideProject
I stayed up until 5 a.m. If you’ve ever posted on Product Hunt, you may know that I was so excited that I don’t sleep at all….
my desk at about 4 am
As I watched the vote count go up with each browser refresh, I kept sending messages to people I knew on Slack, Line, and Messenger.
As you’ve seen so far, I am tenacious and my launch was kinda unsophisticated.
Pieter Levels, for example, has over 80,000 followers. It will be relatively easy for him to get the world to know his product.
On the other hand, I don’t have such a big account, which means I don’t have a big presence on the Internet. In order to let the world know about my product, I needed to be proactive in promoting his product.
As an indie hacker, you have to handle not only development, but also marketing, sales, and everything else by yourself.
And what I’ve learned from my projects is that the hardest part is after you’ve built the product. I’ve created a product, then, where are the users? How am I going to find them? The phase after you build it is the hardest.
Contributing to the community is not something that works immediately, but takes time, so I felt it was better to keep it in mind regularly. By contributing to the community, you will be more likely to get people to respond to your posts when you need them.
Development: user support: marketing = 4:2:4
As a result of the launch, I was able to get 255 Upvotes in 24 hours! Thank you to everyone who voted for me!
I’ve been featured in the Product Hunt newsletter! Users are likely to come to AskMakers via Product Hunt over the next few days.
I’ve been feeling something in myself lately. It’s the limits of indie hacking.
You are the one who sets goals and gives up. You can always decide on deadlines, all the features you want to implement, and especially since there’s no money involved, you can always compromise on your own.
After creating many products, I felt that “as long as I work on it as an indie hacker, it’s just a hobby”. I realized that it’s very difficult to develop my product into a business if I am an indie hacker.
I felt like I could see the limit of what I could do if I continued to create products on my own.
I thought I wanna be one of them. I wanna know what I can do if I start my company in Vancouver.
I am already 29, but I believe my life has just begun!
In September, we’re doing our best to talk to venture capitalists and do our best to brush up on our ideas and get them invested in us.
Thank you for reading!!!