How ScrapingBee Bootstrapped to $1.5M ARR By Writing Quality Content
Building a bootstrapped startup is tough. Without runway from VCs, you generally have a shorter lifespan to build a successful or “ramen-profitable” business.
This was especially true for Pierre de Wulf and Kevin Sahin. In July 2018, they gave themselves 12 months to bootstrap a startup after quitting their full-time jobs. After a few failures and only 3 months left, they had one last shot.
Fast forward to today and ScrapingBee does over $1.5 million in revenue/year and they work on it full-time with one employee.
Here’s the story👇
Pivoting to ScrapingBee After Two Failures
Pierre and Kevin quit their jobs in July of 2018 with one goal: launching a B2B SaaS product with successful traction within 12 months.
They previously tried to build a B2C product while working their full-time jobs but found it difficult to scale users and monetize efficiently. This pushed them towards focusing on B2B products in a validated niche.
Their initial product was a price monitoring tool to allow e-commerce stores to “spy” on their competitor’s pricing. Successful Product Hunt launches, early customers, and positive guerilla marketing encouraged them to pursue the idea.
But after 9 months, PricingBot was failing to earn more than $800/month. Churn was incredibly high but most importantly, e-commerce felt like a completely new space to Pierre and Kevin.
PricingBot Revenue Graph
They didn’t understand the space, which made it difficult to identify useful features and headroom, sell to potential customers, and grow the business.
With 3 months left of their goal, they decided to pivot again. This time, they wanted to create a product they would actually use and in a niche they understood well.
ScrapingBee and SEO Strategy
This led them to create ScrapingBee, an API that handles the complexities around web scraping so you can seamlessly extract data from websites.
This marked all of the checkboxes they were looking for in a product: they both had previous jobs/industry experience in web scraping (Kevin even wrote a book about it), they used third-party web scraping tools for PricingBot and didn’t like those solutions, and they would also be selling to businesses instead of customers.
Unlike PricingBot, Kevin and Pierre knew what a “good product” would look like for ScrapingBee. They’ve worked with web scrapers both as indie hackers and in larger businesses.
They also knew that web scraping is a difficult concept to master, yet millions of businesses rely on it every day. The number of Google ads around this gave them confidence that their main focus needed to be ranking high in search.
But they didn’t just try to pump out 800 articles in 10 months as Leo Widrich did.
Instead, they focused on writing the best possible post on a topic so it stands out and ranks above the rest. 30 hours worth of research and writing per article. Each one of their posts consistently requires at least a 15-minute read and captures every minute detail around web scraping.
How did they get traffic in the very beginning? Well, it’s pretty simple actually. After writing a blog post, they simply copy and paste the content to tech forums like DEV, IndieHackers, HackerNews, and Reddit, linking back to ScrapingBee.
Their first post, Web Scraping Without Getting Blocked, got over 20,000 visitors from this strategy. Their Reddit posts constantly got over 1k upvotes and the same post would do well in other outlets.
Write one high-quality post, repurpose it to other platforms to drive initial traffic, and eventually build strong backlinks.
Today, ScrapingBee gets nearly 350,000 visits a month. 72% of this is from organic search and 23% is from direct traffic.
Similarweb analytics for ScrapingBee
ScrapingBee is a pretty amazing business. They have one full-time engineer and have bootstrapped their way to $1.5 million ARR.
But their journey feels somewhat straightforward or simple even. They didn’t have some crazy growth hack, marketing strategy, or a ton of cold outreach.
Instead, they built a product that solved a problem, wrote quality blog posts, repurposed these to social media and forums, and eventually ranked high in SEO.
Simple but effective.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this helped you or you found it interesting! If you want to give some feedback, you can either respond to the poll or reply to this email.
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