- How BannerBear grew to a $50k MRR business
How BannerBear grew to a $50k MRR business
Imagine living around the world and working remotely for the last few years for yourself and building a product you love and making a ton of money. It's the Indie Hacker dream. No corporate politics, useless meetings, and no rest and vest coasters. Just you building and shipping your dream.
Well, BannerBear is just that. BannerBear is a REST API that allows developers to generate cool, well-designed social images at ease. In 3 years they:
Grew to $50k MRR while maintaining high profitability
Low churn rate of 6%
Completely bootstrapped and built from scratch by solo founder Jon Yongfook.
We'll go over the story behind BannerBear and some key factors to their success 👇
🐻 The Story Behind BannerBear
Before BannerBear began, Jon Yongfook quit his full-time corporate job to start a challenge in September 2018.
12 Startups in 12 months, something Pieter Levels did back in 2014. The challenge promotes finishing products entirely, instead of leaving them halfway (something I'm sure many of us are victims of).
Within 7 months, Jon Yongfook had shipped 7 products. Two of them got acquired, and he moved on to a final remote video collaboration tool full-time. But after a few months, Jon came to a realization. He wasn't really passionate about building a remote collaboration tool. On top of that, the project wasn't generating revenue. Yongfook found himself unmotivated and less willing to ship out features.
So he decided to focus on a new project in a field that interested him and his past experiences - image generation.
Specifically, he hoped to solve a time-consuming issue many companies face—creating social media banners. Specifically, BannerBear would scan your website and create Open Graph images (IG stories, FB posts, etc) using pre-designed templates.
📲 Finding Product Market Fit
After a few months of working on BannerBear, Yongfook came into a few issues:
Customers had a lot of custom requests. Jon designed all the templates himself so fulfilling these requests would be very time-consuming.
The product was catered toward non-technical users, and Jon didn't have as much passion. Instead, he wanted to talk to developers and solve their problems!
So just like any other good founder, Jon pivoted! Instead of designing each template for every possible use, Jon turned BannerBear into a REST API where developers could have flexibility and ease in customizing the designs. This also made his target audience developers!
While this made the product more niche, Jon was happier to work on this. He found his product-market fit.
👷♀️ Build in Public
This is the key to BannerBear's initial marketing success. What is it?
Simple. You announce what you plan to build/achieve within your business and share each step. And then your audience follows to learn and get inspired during your journey.
In Jon Yongfook's case, he shared everything about BannerBear, even before building it. He blogged about his experience with BannerBear as a Shopify App (before it pivoted again), what he did to get his first 25 customers, and his journey to $36k MRR.
Jon would spend 1-week coding and the next week marketing what features he pushed out, creating demos, answering questions, and posting on Indie Hacker/PH/Twitter. Eventually, he began building a large Twitter following, currently at 60,000 followers, as well as getting initial customers through the communities he interacted with.
📝 Content Marketing
Most API services would simply explain what you could do with their service. BannerBear builds demos, tutorials, and blogs to show you what you can do. Remember that old saying from school "Show, don't tell".
Whether it's generating images to Webflow, turning Instagram posts to NFTs, or using BannerBear's API to convert Tweets to LinkedIn posts, the team at BannerBear is constantly marketing their product.
When experimenting with the early versions of BannerBear, Jon realized that charging a $9/mo SaaS app wasn't going to cut it. He'd need over 5000 customers to reach his current MMR and the amount of customer support, in the beginning, wouldn't be worth a couple of bucks he'd make.
Instead, by pricing appropriately and targeting other businesses, BannerBear only needs ~500 customers to do their current MMR.
His post on why most indie hackers undercharge their SaaS is truly inspiring!
Jon Yongfook started BannerBear from scratch a few years ago. He achieved success and profitability, ~50k MMR, by:
Working on an area and product he's passionate about by pivoting through ideas
Building in public to attract a large audience and investing in communities through Twitter, Product Hunt, and Indie Hackers
Content marketing by giving tutorials, blogs, etc on how BannerBear can solve an issue
Pricing aggressively when targeting a niche audience
Shipping a ton of features fast
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