BuiltWith is one of the most efficient businesses of all time.
$14m+ a year in revenue. 1 full-time employee.
Here's how the founder did it.
In 2007, Gary Brewer was visiting a lot of random startup sites & looking at their source code to see what technologies they were built with.
He noticed nobody had created a platform to make this easy so he did.
Designing a Life
Gary was working a corporate job in Sydney at the time and realized it wasn't for him.
He didn't want employees.
He built BuiltWith as a side project and worked on it every evening for 4 years.
Gary never set out to build a business, but customers quickly noticed how valuable the data was.
The most popular use case is using the curated data as a lead list.
Ex: If you are Mailchimp competitor, you can find & email everyone that uses Mailchimp
Hedge funds looking at the technology being used by companies and how certain technologies are doing.
Reporters looking for data for stories on products they are covering and who is using them.
In 2011, Andrew Rogers was building a similar business for hosting analytics. He wasn't seeing traction.
He met up with Gary and asked if he had any people paying.
Gary had revenue. $40k/month. Still working part-time.
Gary was nervous about quitting his day job and going full-time.
He wasn't sure how stable the revenue would be and he had a good boss that relied on him so he felt a sense of obligation.
Andrew begged his way into working for Gary.
Gary was too cheap to spend money on wages so Andrew got equity only and the title co-founder. Really an advisor.
His most valuable contribution was getting Gary to go full-time.
Andrew tried to setup metrics and employ people. Gary didn't want to. The hurdle for hiring a programmer was set at $100k per month revenue. Gary’s take on metrics was that if it didn’t change his behavior it was only a distraction.
They only track trial and customer signups per day, number of reports created per account, and current and total customer numbers. That’s it.
The business wasn’t just about money. It was about creating a business that matched the founder.
Gary noticed an inverse correlation between the number of emails from a prospect & likelihood of converting.
Good customers didn’t email, they just bought. They got it.
So he automated customer service and only replies for a couple hours.
Most questions Gary answers in about 10 seconds with a link to their knowledge base.
If someone has a problem he has never come across before, he'll write a new article & make a 20-second video to show the exact steps so he can share it in the future.
One of the most common customer service issues is unsubscribes.
He tries to make unsubscribing as easy as possible so he has less to do.
Then he can spend more time on fun things like building new tools.
One call a week in the busiest year.
Gary ignored them saying it was a waste of time. Andrew answered.
VC backed competitors popped up that educated the market for them.
Revenue grew faster.
Eventually Andrew stepped back. There was no longer a full time role for him.
They agreed to meet once a month for an hour. Gary pushes these out to every 2nd or 3rd month though to save time.
The free tool is what gets most paid users signing up.
No outbound sales team.
A contractor produces a weekly blog post.
Traction in 2017:
- 2+ million page views
- 500,000+ total users a month
- 2,000 to 3,000 paying customers on plans ranging from $295 to $995 per month