Pivoting My Startup Journey

Hi, I’m Wilbert – a solo bootstrapped founder. I launched multiple products last year, and the recent one is still receiving new signups now and then.

But something started to shift early this year.

I felt the urge to start something new. And no, I wasn’t bored with what I did. I was far from giving up either. So I took some time to contemplate and decided to write what I got. In this article, I’ll walk you from the time I started to focus until the decision to pivot.

Let’s start with the initial idea.

Why I focused on one product

Bruce Lee Quote

I started Browserhub in June 2023 because I felt the pain of web scraping. In the beginning, I found similar products in the space, but I tried to build from what I knew. After I built the MVP, I realized the browser automation space is huge. It’s a multi-million dollar market with various use cases and customer segments. I paused for a moment, and I realized that I needed to go into a few iterations before I found a niche that fit.

Browserhub is also the first SaaS that I committed to grow. I had no experience in writing content, performing SEO, or even running ads. And I didn’t have many followers either on social media – 1.4K+ at that moment. So what’s the chance for David to win over Goliath? I had to admit that the journey would be slow. It’s because I had to juggle between learning and applying marketing at the same time.

Half a year passed by and I learned a lot. But at the same time, the business still needs more time to grow to the place I want. I know that’s the time to go back to the drawing board.

I’m sad with the result

I remember when I got a payment notification. Somebody purchased my product and I rushed to greet him. That was a sweet moment until SaaS introduced me to churn. People can subscribe and pay for our product, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be paying forever. In my case, I had celebrated $0 MRR a few times. And it’s frustrating every time I have that.

I’m here to serve customers, but I’m also a father and I have a family to feed. After running Browserhub for 6 months, I reconsidered it. Do I want to give more time? Am I still passionate about it? I said yes to all. But do I want to grow it again right now? That’s another question.

After some time, I realized that I could leave Browserhub for a while – it can run by itself. Even when I don’t market it, new customers still sign up and use the product. So that helped me to make this bold decision.

I’m flipping the script

Up Direction

I’m back to square one. The first quest is to search for product-market fit. In this phase, there is no certain route that guarantees success. The best way to navigate it is to follow the intuition – do, learn, repeat. With that in mind, there are some core principles I’ll make sure to follow:

1. Experiment until something sticks

I don’t imply building a few ideas at once, stick with me. Make one thing and try to grow it for some time. The skin in the game can’t lie on itself. At some point, I’ll feel it. It may feel like an uphill battle, which I can leave it for a while or shut it down in total. Or it becomes a snowball of momentum, which I can double down and push through.

Now we can see that the experiment is not a literal command – it’s a mindset. Knowing what to do at the moment is the strength of all successful founders. And that’s something I want to cultivate more.

2. Write more authentic content

There is a fundamental aspect of life that can’t change, even in the age of AI. That’s the human touch. In the past, I’ve seen various spins of a particular knowledge. Yet, there’s no other Wilbert Liu – I’m the only one who can tell my story. And I’m far from the spirit of narcissism – I don’t mean to write about me all the time.

Here’s what I’ll do: Combine my story with any subject I want to write.

So there’ll be no place for AI in my content? Not at all. I can outsource the general knowledge to it. But to make AI write good content is another thing to learn, which will take some time. Many times though, I prefer to write with my hands.

3. Participate more on makers communities

I was trying to be present in all communities, and that’s the recipe to ruin my day. Instead, I’ll choose 2-3 places and start to provide value to them. Here are the few that come to mind:

  1. X/Twitter – It is the home of makers and serendipity. I’ve met like-minded makers on it, but also customers of my previous startups. I can’t imagine doing indie businesses without it.
  2. Indie Hackers – AI content filled the site last year, but I found some authentic conversations these days. I’ll try it again for some time.

I hope I can find one more community – a smaller in size. It’s because a small community is more engaging and we can hold accountable for each other. But now I don’t have anything in mind. Please let me know if you find one.

And those are my 3 principles to reach product-market fit. But I don’t stop there. I came up with a few tactics to start executing.

I’ll launch a new product

When I was starting, I always set a month as the deadline to ship the MVP. I’ll build the product in private, and then launch it on several platforms. But that’s not what I want to do here. I asked myself, what if I embrace build in public from the start? That sounds interesting. As I want to experiment, I’ll try something I’ve never done before.

Here’s a glimpse of what I’ll do:

  • Start with the landing page – I’ll write the problem statement and gather email addresses. Think of it as the initial validation. And it’s also good for SEO – the site can get indexed by Google right now. That means people can find my site on Google when word-of-mouth starts to spread.
  • Build in public radically – I know there’ll be competitors spying, I know there’ll be copycats waiting. But the benefits outweigh the rest. So long as I keep iterating, I’ll find a way. And I also see it from the lens of my future customers. They’ll find trust in the business if they can see the product is growing.
  • Set a north star – I don’t want to run in circles, so I must have something to pursue. The simplest one I can find is to state a number. That said, I’m happy if I can reach $5,000 MRR this year – a ramen profitable number for me.

I hope everything will be good in its time. I’ll do what I can control – that means I keep moving forward, adjusting the course if needed, and never give up. One day, I want my startup journey to prove that there’s no overnight success. It’s a constant iteration to make something people want.

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