One Person Business: Bannerbear
$500k in ARR, with an API to auto-generate visuals for marketing
Hi all, Guilherme here. First of all, apologies for the radio silence for the last month or so. I am in the process of launching a business, and it has been taking me a lot of time, leaving me with zero mental bandwidth to focus on other things.
For the new 50 subscribers that joined in the meantime, welcome! I hope you enjoy this newsletter.
Bannerbear, created by Jon Yongfook, helps you auto-generate social media visuals, e-commerce banners, dynamic email images and more with our API and integrations.
Jon quit his job to pursue a more entrepreneurial life in 2018. During the first year of that journey, he decided to try and launch 12 startups in 12 months. He explains why he chose to do so on his blog, and I feel like these lessons are valuable for anyone following this newsletter:
Being forced to ship
This step is always, always, a problem. Most people have ideas, and they try to build them, but they never quite get there. After some time, they stop working on them, and never pick them up again.
Increased probability of success
Finding that one idea is hard. Unless you get really lucky, the chances of coming up with a successful idea on the first try are super slim. So iteration is a good way to increase your chances. You can try different markets, pivot quickly through a different path, or completely drop ideas if you find there’s no interest in them.
It gives time for your products to breathe
Even after launching, generating interest or reaching the right customers can be hard. Sometimes projects need time to mature a bit and start pulling some attention.
It’s less risk-averse
Have a crazy, completely out-of-the-box idea, but are too afraid to launch it? Then this might be the perfect context to do so.
And, well… It’s fun!
Jon didn’t finish the challenge? And, why is that, you ask? Well, because at startup #8, he found something that kinda worked, and also that he was interested in: image generation. And so, Previewmojo was born. It was a very narrow and focused product, that allowed anyone to automatically generate open graph images from a few predefined templates.
He quickly understood there was some potential here, and after reaching $400 MRR, decided to rebrand the project and focus a bit more on marketing. And so Bannerbear was born. Around this time, Jon also focused the product on being 100% API based.
There’s one thing he mentions about his journey that really caught my eye, and could be a strategy that other solopreneurs could apply to what they’re building: divide your time into 50% coding and 50% marketing. He would do and still does, 2 weeks of coding and 2 weeks of marketing. A lot of people tend to focus way too much on the building (especially techies), and forget that making sure you reach your audience is also important.
Around October 2021, he got to $6k MRR, and the product was steadily growing. By January 2022, a bug milestone was it: $10k MRR.
The product market fit was there and from that point on, it was a matter of keeping the product functional and making sure that he listened to what the users wanted. And so he did. After taking Jon almost a year to reach $10k MRR, it only took him 6 months to double that to $20k MRR.
At this point, Bannerbear was no longer a one person business, and had full-time customer support. It is now running at $500k ARR, and well on its way to reaching $1M ARR.
I am one of the customers helping on that journey. And, so far, I have gotta say that Bannerbear is probably the best product in this category out there. And trust me, I’ve tried them all.
If you want to hear the full story, then please watch the video below. Jon goes into detail about every step of the way, and there’s lots of great advice for anyone going through the same journey.
If the challenge of building 12 startups in 12 months got you excited, then check the discussions on Indie Hackers for some more inspiration!
Here’s a good Twitter thread
And here’s a funny tweet
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Until next time - Guilherme
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