Pieter Levels Operating Manual - 1-Man $2.7 Million ARR Startup Studio

Table of Contents


Pieter Levels

This is part of my operating manual series opening up the playbook of private equity and company building luminaries. Check out past ones with Mark Leonard, Andrew Wilkinson, Robert F. Smith, ESW, Felix Dennis and John Malone.

If you are interested in buying, growing, and selling small companies, check out my course & community on it at IndiePE.com.

Pieter Levels (@levelsio) built a $2.7m ARR 1-person portfolio of businesses.

He built it all himself and never raised money.

Here are his unusual operating principles...

Portfolio of Small Bets

Peter builds and tests a ton of ideas.

Only two had real commercial success:

-NomadList and RemoteOK

Only 4 out of 70+ projects he ever made money and grew.

>95% of everything he ever tried failed.

His hit rate is only about ~5%.


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He just kept trying until he succeeded.

And the success was 10+ years in the making.


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Hang on the Fringes

Peter was a digital nomad long before remote work was common.

He built products and services with himself as the first customer.

He could guarantee demand and catch the wave if he was right about his lifestyle becoming more popular.

Be Hard to Contact

It's nearly impossible to contact Peter.

His DMs are closed. You can't email him.

You can tweet at him, but that is about it.

Peter protects his deep work time at all costs.

This frees him up to live the life he wants.

Be a Combo Threat

Peter is a good writer and coder. A rare combo.

He can both build a big audience through writing & build new products to test.

It's hard to fail when every launch becomes either a commercial success or at least a content success.

Test Ideas

Peter builds simple versions of his ideas to see if people are willing to pay.

Anything short of putting a credit card down is meaningless feedback.

He is great at cobbling together services to get the first version out.

Then he tests on his audience.

Hire as a Last Resort

Peter has no full-time employees.

He has some folks that help with customer service & DevOps part-time.

He makes his products self-service. No sales meetings.

And automates as much as possible.

Robots & part-time humans keep things off his plate.

Work Async

Peter doesn't take meetings.

He works async as much as possible.

This frees him up for deep work like coding or writing.

It also lets him live a more peaceful / free life by avoiding peak crowd times.

Build in Public

All his companies have open analytics.

This is easy content marketing for him. It also builds trust.

Add /open to the URL of any of his websites to see analytics


Just add an /open page, it's organic

— @levelsio (@levelsio) June 28, 2022


Most other founders that reach multi-million dollar ARRs think of raising venture capital.

Peter shows it's not necessary.

You can build a big software business on your own.

No need to interrupt the compounding.

If you are interested in buying, growing, and selling small companies, check out my course & community on it at IndiePE.com.