Reading List

Indie Hacking 101

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Build a Multimillion-Dollar Startup Without Venture Capital
by Rob Walling

Do you want to build a software product that people want and are willing to pay for? Do you dream of growing the kind of company that employs smart, creative people? Are you tired of waiting for investors to fund your startup?

You don’t need venture funding, and you don’t need permission.

With nearly two decades of experience as a serial entrepreneur, author, and investor, Rob Walling is one of the world's leading experts in SaaS. In this book, he shares little-known strategies that have been battle-tested by some of today's most successful founders.

Learn how to compete against large competitors and structure your pricing for maximum growth. Discover the four SaaS Cheat Codes that can dramatically accelerate your business's success. Learn how to avoid common mistakes that SaaS founders make and identify the right marketing approaches for your business.

In this book, you’ll find:

  • Questions and processes to take you from product-market fit to scale.
  • New ways to compete and differentiate yourself in crowded marketplaces, and how to react when someone copies you.
  • Pricing tactics, and the pitfalls to avoid.
  • Real examples from software companies that are operating today.
  • Whether you're a seasoned software developer, a no-code enthusiast, or you’ve never written code in your life, this book will walk you through the most actionable tactics to bootstrap a multimillion-dollar SaaS business.
Learn to Build Profitable Startups the Indie Way
by Pieter Levels
  • 💡 Idea: Get an idea from problems in your own life. If you don't have problems that are original enough, become a more original person. Don't build products that are solutions in search of a problem.
  • 🛠 Build: Build your idea with the tools you already know. Don't spend a year learning some language you'll never use. Don't outsource building to other people, that's a competitive disadvantage. Build only the core functionality. The rest comes later.
  • 🚀 Launch: Launch early and multiple times. Launch to famous startups websites (like Product Hunt, Hacker News, The Next Web), mainstream websites (like Reddit) and mainstream press (like Forbes). But more importantly, find where your specific audience hangs out on the internet (or in real life) and launch there. Launch in a friendly way, that means "here's something I made that might be useful for you", instead of acting like you're some big giant new startup coming to change the world.
  • 🌱 Grow: Grow organically. A great product that people really need which is better than the rest will pull people in. You don't need ads for that. Don't hire people if there's no revenue yet. Don't hire many people if there's revenue either. Stay lean and fast. Do things yourself.
  • 💰 Monetize: Monetize by asking users for money. Don't sell their data. Don't put ads everywhere. Don't dilute your product. Be honest that you need money to build the product they love and they'll be fine paying for it.
  • 🤖 Automate: Automate by writing programs that do stuff that you do repeatedly. Only automate if it's worth the time saved. For stuff that's too hard to automate or not worth it, hire contractors. Let them work as autonomously as possible. Where possible let robots manage them (for example by giving them alerts when things happen in your product). This lets you take time off, or work on your next business.
  • 🚪 Exit: Exit by not putting your company for sale, but letting buyers come to you. Filter out the majority of buyers that aren't serious. With the serious buyers left, negotiate a price by valuating your own company. Price it agressively high. Always keep the bargaining power on your side of the table. Get paid in cash, not stock and don't fall for the trap of earnout bonuses. Make sure you're prepared for the emotional fallout of selling (and missing) your business.
How to Start, Run, and Sell a Bootstrapped Business
by Arvid Kahl

Zero to Sold is a comprehensive and actionable guide through the four stages of a bootstrapped business: Preparation, Survival, Stability, and Growth.

From your first idea to successfully selling your business for life-changing amounts of money, this book will help you become a world-class entrepreneur. By focussing on your niche audience, finding their critical problem, and solving it with a product that your customers can't resist to pay for, you will learn how to create a recurring revenue engine that will make you financially independent.

It's easy to build software products. The hard part is turning them into viable businesses that stand the test of time. If you want to build a business that survives, you have to know what challenges you will encounter. Zero to Sold tells the story of a sustainable, bootstrapped software business that grew to thousands of customers before it was acquired.

Arvid Kahl is a software engineer turned entrepreneur who has accomplished just that. He co-founded and grew an online teacher productivity SaaS business called FeedbackPanda to $55,000 Monthly Recurring Revenue with his partner Danielle Simpson. They sold the business for a life-changing amount of money in 2019, just two years after founding the business. Arvid writes on The Bootstrapped Founder blog.

In Zero to Sold, Arvid shares his experiences, learnings, and insights from building a Software-as-a-Service business from start to finish. He shows what worked and what didn’t work. If you want to build your own bootstrapped business and stay sane while doing it, Zero to Sold will be your guide.

You will learn how to:

  • explore and validate your idea before you jump into building a prototype that no one needs.
  • find a well-defined audience, locate their critical problem, envision a solution that fits into their workflow, and build a product that makes them want to pay. Then, build a repeatable process of selling your product: a business.
  • grow your business sustainably and make it sellable, even if you want to keep it forever. Or sell it for a life-changing amount of money. Either way, you can prepare.

Zero to Sold is the ultimate business documentation: a memoir, a manual, a journal, and a guide. It will help you validate your ideas, build your products, and grow your businesses, whatever stage you might be at right now.

The Surprisingly Simple Way to Launch a 7-Figure Business in 48 Hours
by Noah Kagan and Tahl Raz

More people than ever want to be their own boss, but venturing forward with your own business can be hugely intimidating. Are you investing effort in ideas that have no basis in customer demand? Are you shying away from even considering starting your own business? Noah Kagan knew this feeling all too well, but has since discovered how to banish the one simple thing holding aspiring entrepreneurs back, to become a 7-figure founder.

MILLION DOLLAR WEEKEND offers an into-the-deep-end process for overcoming fear and perfectionism and making the business of your dreams a reality. Step-by-step, Noah shows what it takes to oust fear and build the "ask muscle", and shares practical advice that every entrepreneur needs to master. By demystifying what it takes to start a business, turning risk into realistic action and fear into fun, this is the beginning of your journey to successful entrepreneurship.

And the best part? You can kickstart this process in a weekend.

A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup
by Rob Walling

Start Small, Stay Small is a step-by-step guide to launching a self-funded startup. If you're a desktop, mobile or web developer, this book is your blueprint to getting your startup off the ground with no outside investment.This book intentionally avoids topics restricted to venture-backed startups such as: honing your investment pitch, securing funding, and figuring out how to use the piles of cash investors keep placing in your lap.

This book assumes:

  • You don't have $6M of investor funds sitting in your bank account
  • You're not going to relocate to the handful of startup hubs in the world
  • You're not going to work 70 hour weeks for low pay with the hope of someday making millions from stock options

There's nothing wrong with pursuing venture funding and attempting to grow fast like Amazon, Google, Twitter, and Facebook. It just so happened that most people are not in a place to do this.Start Small, Stay Small also focuses on the single most important element of a startup that most developers avoid: marketing. There are many great resources for learning how to write code, organize source control, or connect to a database. This book does not cover the technical aspects developers already know or can learn elsewhere. It focuses on finding your idea, testing it before you build, and getting it into the hands of your customers.

How Great Founders Do More with Less
by Sahil Lavingia

A revolutionary roadmap for building startups that go the distance

Now more than ever, you don’t need a fancy office, Ivy League degree, or millions of dollars in venture capital to launch a business that matters for the communities you care most about. Software, the internet, and remote work have made it possible for entrepreneurs to start for free, make a customer of anyone, and grow a profitable, sustainable company from anywhere.

Packed with hard-won, battle-tested lessons from Lavingia’s own journey of building Gumroad, a platform for creators to sell their work, The Minimalist Entrepreneur teaches founders how

  • start then learn
  • build a community, then solve a problem for them
  • charge for something even before you’ve built anything
  • avoid running out of money and, more importantly, energy
  • run a tight ship amid the rise of the gig economy and remote work
  • own a business without it owning you back.

The Minimalist Entrepreneur is the manifesto for a new generation of founders who would rather build great companies than big ones. This is essential knowledge for every founder aspiring to build a business worth building.

How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you
by Rob Fitzpatrick

The Mom Test is a quick, practical guide that will save you time, money, and heartbreak.

They say you shouldn't ask your mom whether your business is a good idea, because she loves you and will lie to you. This is technically true, but it misses the point. You shouldn't ask anyone if your business is a good idea. It's a bad question and everyone will lie to you at least a little . As a matter of fact, it's not their responsibility to tell you the truth. It's your responsibility to find it and it's worth doing right .

Talking to customers is one of the foundational skills of both Customer Development and Lean Startup. We all know we're supposed to do it, but nobody seems willing to admit that it's easy to screw up and hard to do right. This book is going to show you how customer conversations go wrong and how you can do better.

How to Build Habit-Forming Products
by Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover

How do successful companies create products people can’t put down?

Why do some products capture widespread attention while others flop? What makes us engage with certain products out of sheer habit? Is there a pattern underlying how technologies hook us? Nir Eyal answers these questions (and many more) by explaining the Hook Model—a four-step process embedded into the products of many successful companies to subtly encourage customer behavior. Through consecutive “hook cycles,” these products reach their ultimate goal of bringing users back again and again without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging.

Hooked is based on Eyal’s years of research, consulting, and practical experience. He wrote the book he wished had been available to him as a start-up founder—not abstract theory, but a how-to guide for building better products. Hooked is written for product managers, designers, marketers, start-up founders, and anyone who seeks to understand how products influence our behavior.

Eyal provides readers with:

  • Practical insights to create user habits that stick.
  • Actionable steps for building products people love.
  • Fascinating examples from the iPhone to Twitter, Pinterest to the Bible App, and many other habit-forming products.
Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business
by Paul Jarvis

A refreshing approach to entrepreneurship centered on staying small and avoiding growth - maximizing happiness, sustainability and profitability.

Paul Jarvis left the corporate world when he realized that working in a high-pressure, high-profile world was not his idea of success. Instead, he now works for himself out of his home, and lives a much more rewarding and productive life. He no longer has to contend with an environment that constantly demands more productivity, more output and more growth.

In Company of One, Jarvis explains how you can do the same, including:

  • Planning to set up
  • Determining desired revenues
  • Keeping clients happy
  • And, of course, doing all this on your own.