I'm the creator of browserless.io -- let's talk about starting your own company

github logo ・1 min read

Almost 19 months ago I started a business called browserless.io. Mostly came from my attempts at writing a headless driver and scaling it for production. There's been a lot of challenges and wins, so much so that there's a wealth of information now that I'd like to get out.

But I really want this to be about what you're building. What's keeping you from building it? Is it not ready yet? Feel free to ask questions or get ideas!

twitter logo DISCUSS (12)
markdown guide
 

Starting my own company is probably something I'd like to tackle in the next couple of years.

I have attempted to times and times before, but there was always one thing I never got right...

Marketing

I always end up creating my product, but nobody ever gets to see it because I never market it right. What are your top tips to market a product and get some hands on it?

I am working on a few personal projects right now that I would love to turn out into a business.

Thanks ahead of time!

 

This is such a great topic and one that everyone seems to have differing opinions/strategies on! It's also a reason that I think many people suggest that you build something you yourself would use (and pay for -- big distinction). My guess is that if you build a product you'd use, then chances are you'd know where to find people that would use it as well. This can be anything from forums, meetups or even local events like Chambers of Commerce (if you're in the US).

One of the best pieces of advice that I remember hearing is that you need to be at the right place and time when someone is looking to buy. It's a lot to unpack, and I'm going to try and avoid the jargon. Say you're building a developer tool that "grades" your front-end build. Things like code-complexity, size, and maybe performance. If you're someone that built this, but never has done any front-end development, you'll likely blog about it on your site or create some content someplace. However, if you are a front-end developer you'll likely know a Slack channel or group/meetup already where folks are tackling this problem right now. That's exactly where you want to be -- next to the people that are looking for solutions to the issue!

browserless.io was the first time this clicked for me. I tried many many attempts in ecommerce and affiliate sites, but couldn't ever gain traction. That was because I didn't know other folks in similar positions, so I couldn't get it in front of them in a way that they'd trust it.

Obviously bigger companies that receive funding or have a lot of "runway" can just spend money or hire out to do this work. If it's just you, or you're bootstrapped, then you'll need to be much more strategic in what the product is knowing that you'll have an uphill battle getting users.

Whew! That was a lot -- hope it helps!

 

Thank you for taking the time to answer!

You definitely got a point. Hopefully w/ a few more tries I'll get one of them right! I definitely need to do a bit more research on my target audience.

With Browserless.io, when would you say was the "wow this will work" point? Did you have doubt up to a certain event?

(hope you don't mind the follow-up question πŸ˜…)

Hey no worries!

Fun story, actually! I was actually building a wish-list aggregator of sorts. It was pretty simple -- you pasted a link to a product you wanted to share with others so that they can buy stuff for you and mark it as bought without having to confer with other purchasers. I was literally scraping the links sent in for pricing and pictures to make the site more usable, and then I stumbled on Target's website which was a single-page app. This meant they had no usable HTML in their initial response, which meant I had to run a browser to parse/execute the JavaScript on the page and give me the results.

After going down the steps to do this I learned it was quite painful. I did a lot of research to see if there was a product that just did this already, and there wasn't! That's when I threw the whole "wishlist" app out the door and started working on browserless.

The TL;DR here really is that this was:

  • Something I would pay for.
  • Something I needed to ship a product.
  • Didn't already exist (not necessarily a requirement, but I really liked it!).

That was the "aha" moment!

Seeing how things unraveled from your point of view is really inspiring!

Thank you for sharing this! Looking forward to my "Aha" moment! πŸ˜›

Glad to hear it -- don't ever stop trying! I'm still failing, which I don't think gets talked about enough. Failures really are the pressure-cookers for success and we should talk about them more.

 

I'm currently building a VR/AR desktop-like experience for Android on top of Chromium. Been working on it for almost two years now. At this moment, I'm struggling with the arm64 build, since it became a requirement for publishing native apps on Google Play.

Have a look (the video is quite old though):
youtube.com/watch?v=XBuYCWAU50Y

Current version screenshot

 

Almost 19 months ago...

The big hit is 3 years. You are half the way :-3

Why 3 years?. Most companies die before 3 years. And when I say most, I mean, over 90% so the odds are always against the entrepreneur. So, hang in there!.

 

Thanks! I'll keep holding on!

 

From your experience how did you secure funding for your business as your operations grew. What are some suggestions you would like to provide for any one starting newly ?

 

I'll start by saying you should take this with a grain of salt as I'm very biased towards not taking funding. Let me explain.

First off there's a a great network of incubators that can help you -- if you have an idea that really requires funding (if you're building Uber, you're gonna need some capital of course). Businesses that are building marketplaces, wherein you act as the market, will likely require some sort of funding to handle settling of transactions. Otherwise I think taking a good look at at Y-Combinator or Hatch are great places to get some advice and/or funding. It also acts as filter to validate your ideas. If they aren't willing to take you on, then there's something either wrong or that needs to be improved.

OK, with that all out of the way, I deeply feel that more and more founders and businesses can probably go without funding whatsoever. You can either save up for a period of time to keep yourself afloat financially, or keep your dayjob while your building your business (assuming you can, legally). As your business begins to grow, and income begins to happen, then you can begin to spend that to grow or continue to build. For browserless my total monthly costs (assuming I had no customers) was ~$20/month, to put this in perspective. As customers signed-up then I programmatically began to lease/buy more and more infrastructure. This allowed me to get behind the cost problem, and if I had a rough month then I wasn't totally underwater.

I think self-funding also forces a lot of good practices that it's hard to ignore. It really makes you ship something that can make money, forces you to think about scalability and how to scale both your finances and infrastructure, plus gets you in the habit of building small changes quickly. Once you start seeing trends then you can invest in that direction.

This methodology also feeds well into funding when you need it. You'll have customers, already paying you, which means investors can check off numerous boxes. You're also in a much better positions if investors approach you versus the opposite.

Happy to talk more about any of that!

 

Thanks Joel for sharing your experience and perspective.

Classic DEV Post from Oct 31 '18

πŸ“Š Languages' Popularity on DEV

Some statistics about language tags on DEV

Joel Griffith profile image
Engineer, maker at heart, founder of browserless.io. Passionate about headless-chrome, libraries, and automation.