🚪 $15,000 monthly revenue for this ad marketplace
The No-Code Success story of Swapstack and Jake Schonberger
Katt here. Welcome to the 103 new subscribers 👯
Yesterday it was the demo day of the participants of the 100 Days of No-Code Bootcamp. It is so cool to see how they go from insecure and full of questions to showing off their own product made with No-Code in 30 days. I remember that feeling when I graduated one year ago… So empowering 🙌.
The story this week is about a profitable business made with No-Code. Learn:
🏗️ How they started with doing things that don’t scale
💪 How they really focused on solving a problem
🪄 Which advantages and challenges they had with No-Code
🧪 How they acquired their first users and grew to a team of 4
🔦 Tool Experiment
I was thinking that it would be super interesting to turn a web app of mine (growthmakers) into a mobile app, so I could send push notifications to users when new projects were listed. Enter the sponsor of this week Mobiloud Canvas.
How it worked:
I had a call with Mobiloud to discuss requirements and goals
I filled in a form to provide them some information (URL’s, logo, description, …)
In 2 weeks I received a first mobile app version to test
After approval, Mobiloud will submit my app to the app store
What I liked:
Any changes you do on your web app are reflected to the app
Works for any website
The team has a lot of knowledge on everything around the app store
It is a great way to validate if your user needs a mobile app before you invest money into building a custom app or time building it yourself.
Interesting case studies
🎈 7 Cool Finds
Create beautiful mind maps (which you often see go viral) with Mindmeister.
KTool helps you to read articles and newsletters on your Kindle. Like that you spend less time on a computer screens and can read more focused.
On Geeks & Experts you can book 1:1 sessions with experts from all over the world, in a wide range of topics (Community, Marketing, No-Code, Productivity, …)
Launch your business landing page right now in minutes with amazing Carrd templates from Templatery
Sometimes you just need some social pressure and time constraints to launch that idea you have been thinking about for months. Join NoCode Weekend.
Hivoe is the ultimate platform for effortless lead generation. Get qualified Twitter leads on autopilot & skyrocket your sales!
*This section is a mix of paid sponsorships (in bold) and cool things I use, discovered or made.
🔥 Maker Interview
Hello Jake, tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m Jake, based in New York and I studied Product Design. The program was very focused on the iterative design process. They forced us to go out into town and ask people real questions. Awkward, but also a very interesting experience. After that, I co-founded a startup in the peer-to-peer payment space for 2 years. Eventually we shut it down and I went to work at Facebook for 5 years doing channel partnerships and business development. Then I went back to school for a master in design engineering, which was focused on design research.
Tell us about your product that you made?
Swapstack enables newsletter writers to monetize their publications in multiple ways. We provide them pre-approved affiliate deals and sponsorship opportunities. From an advertiser perspective, Swapstack is essentially a new channel that advertisers can grow their company with. The TL;DR is that a lot of advertisers are trying to move some dollars away from programmatic or paid social. Newsletter advertising works really well, but it's very hard to scale. With Swapstack we enable them to scale.
How did you come up with the idea?
It all started two years ago. I had just left my master's program, so I graduated into the pandemic. I started my newsletter and worked on that for about six months, and then met my now co-founder, Jake Singer. He had just left his job, was also working on a newsletter, and was looking around for something to do.
We both were very intrigued how we could monetize our newsletters. We met a ton of other people who had the same problems, all having trouble monetizing their newsletter.
So we decided to focus on newsletter monetization, we started designing an MVP to validate whether there were meaningful problems in this space that we could solve for both publishers and brands. The initial hypotheses for these were:
Newsletter writers don’t have the time or ability to secure sponsorships from high quality brands.
Brands are missing an opportunity for a high quality, high-ROI marketing channel because they either don’t know about it or it is too time-consuming to execute.
What went into building the initial version?
So to validate we started with ‘do things, that don’t scale’. We initially just acted as a manual agency.
We went out and found some brands that were interested in trying newsletter advertising.
We connected them with some newsletter writers to do a sponsorship
We created a Carrd landing page, some Airtable lists to keep track of everyone we were meeting, along with a Slack channel to communicate with newsletter writers. From there, we suggested ‘matches’ and if both sides wanted to connect, we sent an intro email. Airtable and Zapier automations made the entire thing feel more put together than it really was. After some positive feedback from our earliest users, we felt confident that we had an opportunity to create value for our users. We decided to build a v2 of the MVP with Bubble.
At that time Swapstack was just a marketplace, we weren't collecting a payment, we weren't facilitating payment, we weren't doing anything that touched the money. And so the first product we built was really just an invoicing tool. Our product now had the introductions and the payment and people started using it. In the first month the total invoiced amount was $500 and in the second month $3000 in invoices.
The whole time, our product development process was very iterative and focused on a combination of user centered design and the lean startup methodology. We are always talking to users and figuring out what are they doing and what are they not doing, testing all the time and figuring out what the next step was.
Why did you choose to go for No-Code?
My co-founder, Jake Singer had already built a couple products with code and no-code, he was much more proficient in no-code.
We decided to not do a massive fundraising round and do the building ourselves. By the time we did raise a small round, we already had a pretty robust product on Bubble.
Were there any challenges you've faced by picking No-Code?
Some disadvantages we encountered:
You're reliant on Bubble, so if Bubble goes down or if there's a bug, you're kind of just waiting. That luckily hasn’t happened in the last 9 months so it’s been more stable
In the early days, we were looking around for Bubble developers and the ecosystem wasn’t that robust yet. So it was hard to find people. But that also has gotten better.
What's your business model and how have you grown your revenue?
Swapstack is positioned as an ad network. Advertisers come to us and say they want to pay a dollar per click. We basically take that budget and spread it across the network of newsletter writers. On that model, we basically take a cut.
How have you attracted users and grown your product?
At the very early days, I was basically on all the Facebook groups, the Discord groups where newsletter writers hanged out. Just DMing tons of people.
After that, we tried different things. The main strategies that have worked really well is our SEO and content approach. We write a lot of content with focus on SEO and that has gotten us to a place where every week we onboard somewhere between 15 and 20 newsletter writers per week.
We have also done like one or two paid advertising in other newsletters through our own platform and that worked really well. Sorry, to admit that 😄
Can you share some numbers/stats?
We have about 1100 publishers on the platform
Their reach is around 60 million readers per week
We do about a $100,000 gross merchandise volume per month (money flowing through the platform)
We make around $15,000 per month
And we are a team of 4 now
What's your advice for No-Code Makers who are just starting out?
When starting with No-Code, my co-founder always advices to choose a product that is simple and try to replicate it, that'll give you a really clear line of sight of what you're trying to do.
From a business perspective, my advice is to really focus on the problem. If you are obsessed with the problem, you'll figure out how to solve it. That’s a much safer and easier way to maneuver into a business that's creating value. Instead of just wanting to build something because you like the tech.
Where can we go to learn more about you and your project?
Check out Swapstack
Check out my newsletter Premoney
Any questions for Jake? Reply to this email or ask them in the comments.
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