I Indie Hacked a $1M/Yr. App Idea in a Weekend

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What does it take to build a million-dollar business? Just ask Dawson Botsford, the developer behind Earnifi .

Dawson is a crypto entrepreneur who leveraged a unique opportunity in the space and turned it into a highly profitable company. He built it in a day, started out with no following, and used some counterintuitive strategies to grow his audience.

In this fascinating interview, Dawson tells the story behind building his business, “an overnight success 10 years in the making.” 

Watch the Interview

Dawson begins by talking about his background in software development and start-ups and explaining how and why he entered the crypto space, and he also shares his motivation for moving into entrepreneurship and the idea behind creating Earnifi.

Earnifi helps people find crypto airdrops, which are like coupons in the form of crypto tokens. As people often don’t know when they have one, he created a tool that allows him to notify people that tokens are available.

Even though he had the idea years before, one day he felt inspired and ready, and he created a quick version of his idea over just one weekend.

Dawson points out that, when he started, he didn’t have much of a following at all—just 300 people on Twitter. However, when he announced his new tool, his following tripled overnight and within a week it had really taken off.

Along these lines, he talks about how he chooses which ideas are worth pursuing.

Dawson discusses how his approach to monetization evolved over time, and how he started out by offering a service he didn’t even know if he could deliver as a way to gauge the market. He also shares a few unconventional marketing strategies in this interview, including an anti-email focus.

As for ramping up his project, he indie-hacked it, and he talks about the benefits and unique qualities of that approach.

He goes on to discuss how Earnifi spawned a whole secondary market and how he felt about the rise of scammers, and he also shares insight into the challenges he had to overcome in building his business and the importance of those challenges for personal and professional growth.

He discusses his thoughts on being the face of the business and shares a few strategies that he thinks set him apart and helped him get ahead.

Eventually, he sold his million-dollar business, but it wasn’t something he originally planned to do and the path to that sale wasn’t linear.

Tune in to hear Dawson’s inspiring story, reflections, and advice for other entrepreneurs.

Topics Dawson Botsford Covers

  • How and why he got into the crypto space
  • Why it’s important to “just get started”
  • Why he created Earnifi
  • What you really need to get started
  • How to determine which ideas are worth pursuing
  • His monetization strategy
  • How he scaled his project
  • The benefits of indie hacking
  • His anti-email strategy
  • Where his customers came from in the beginning
  • The secondary market he inadvertently created
  • Fighting scammers
  • His plans to sell the company
  • How he grew the brand

Transcription

Jared: All right. Welcome back to the niche pursuits podcast. My name is Jared Bauman. Today, we are joined by Dawson Botsford. Dawson, welcome on board.

Dawson: Hello. Hello. Thanks, Jared. Thanks for having me.

Jared: Thanks for joining us. You know, you were recommended by a previous guest, Noah Bragg. And, uh, when Noah was on, we were, we were talking, ah, just like this general concept of building something from scratch and taking it all the way, not only to monetization, but to actually selling it.

And I love these kind of. Complete stories we get to have in the podcast. We have one today with you and a SAS product that you built. Um, but before we get into your, your, your whole story here, maybe give us some background on who you are, catch us up to speed on what you were doing before you started this, uh, this little project we’re talking about today.

Dawson: Totally. So the project we’re going to talk about today is called earnify. But before we talk about earnify, uh, my backstory is I’ve been a software developer for a long time. I’ve been working on code for more than 10 years, uh, shipping stuff at all size companies. [00:01:00] So initially I was just a individual contributor at Uber.

So I was a software dev there and several other startups in San Francisco. Uh, kind of made the big leap out of, uh, the nine to five, you know, started nomading and traveling and just discovering what can happen when you’re more entrepreneurial with your time. So that really piled me into wanting to build my own thing.

And then eventually the Ethereum world just, uh, Grabbed me and fixed me. So, so that’s where the story leads into today of the company I started.

Jared: Yeah. It’s funny because, um, you know, you were on a starter story, um, feature recently, and, uh, that’s kind of where I was, you know, as I was doing my homework and kind of getting prepared for it, I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but, uh, you know, you, you certainly have quite a background.

I mean, certainly in terms of software development, uh, engineered Uber and a couple other things, I think. How did you get into specifically the maybe the crypto space or the space unit launching or if I into

Dawson: the crypto space is just so [00:02:00] intriguing to me because of how much power you can have as an individual.

So as an entrepreneur, uh, or as an investor, but, you know, as an entrepreneur, you can make so much change because of how much shared infrastructure there is already out there. Um, think about like, you know, You can build payment systems because of Stripe. Stripe makes it really easy to get paid. Well, think of Stripe plus plus, and that’s kind of what we have within the world of crypto.

There’s this whole financial system out there. And so when I started to discover that, I immediately was just so hooked to understand not only what can I build here, but it’s, it’s so greenfield and fresh that a lot of your ideas could be like the first time anyone’s ever thought of that within the space.

And I feel like that’s kind of a generational opportunity. So I didn’t want to sleep on that and immediately just wanted to go all in on trying to understand what’s this whole hype movement. Not around the price, but the price actually is a hype movement that’s following some of the engineering developments and just like, [00:03:00] This new financial system.

Jared: Did you, while you were at Uber or other, you know, other paths in your, in your development and your developing career, like, did you know you wanted to start something on your own or was it more a situation where an idea came to you and you thought, I really don’t want to do this, but it’s such a good idea.

I kind of have to pursue it. Like which way did you kind of bend as you were navigating through the software world?

Whoop. I think I lost you there[00:04:00]

still has your mic. I just can’t hear you saying the Cal digit Thunderbolt three audio is what it’s got. I’m just looking right here. So it still has it connected, but I can’t hear your audio for some reason. Are you muted?[00:05:00]

Can you hear yourself? I can’t hear you.

Yep. That’s good call. Yeah. Try that.

Dawson: Okay. How about now, Jared? There you go. Sorry. I think it’s my, uh, kind of like mass connector thing. So I switched, hopefully there won’t be issues from here on.

Jared: Okay. No problem. Um, uh, it’s very easy to edit that together, especially given as an easy cut point. So if you want, just pick up at the question I’d asked where it was like, Hey, did you always knew you wanted to start something on the side, or did you, uh, kind of land on it and feel like you had to do it sort of thing?

And we can just pick up there.

Dawson: Okay. Awesome. Yeah, I’ve, I’ve really [00:06:00] always been someone who wanted to start my own thing. And I think for quite a while I had an imposter syndrome about that. Um, so I just want to encourage people, if you feel that you’re that person, it’s okay to take time for the education and for the exploration, because once you do decide to start something, it’s a big commitment.

So for quite a while, I’d say five plus years, I was just, uh, in between nine to fives and pretty disappointed because I thought of myself as, well, I should just, I should just be starting something already. I should already be an entrepreneur. And it was kind of a FOMO and I had trouble sticking with work actually because of that.

I was constantly moving jobs, but it’s kind of like rest assured in the end, you’re going to get to the path that you are destined for. So for myself, I would just tell my earlier self that it’s okay to wait and do a little more exploration first. Cause then you’re going to come in also being an expert or being really skilled at whatever the interest area you do pick to work on for a, for a startup.

Jared: So you’ve got this [00:07:00] background. We talked about that. You’ve got a, an interest or a passion in crypto. You want to start something. Where did the idea for earnify come? Like, what was the moment where this started to crystallize?

Dawson: For me, it really crystallized when it came to hackathons. So hackathons are like these programming competitions.

Uh, some people think it’s about, Hacking into computers, but it’s not about security. It’s about kind of like a startup marathon weekend. And I was just doing a bunch of these hackathons, just shipping different ideas every weekend. Uh, or, or like once a month, I would say I was, I was doing them once or twice a month.

Um, and, and then earnify came to me, earnify was the product, which I feel like maybe a good intro now. Would be that earn if I help people find crypto

Jared: airdrops. That was my next question is tell us about earn or five. So it probably is a good time.

Dawson: Okay, perfect. Yeah. So, so airdrops are these, uh, think of it like a coupon.

It’s like, uh, come use my product and, and they give you money to come start using it. Uh, the [00:08:00] money they give you, it’s in the form of crypto tokens. So it’s, it’s a new token as it’s minted, it’s distributed through what’s called an airdrop and you can use it for governance. You can sell it right away. But the TLDR is.

These airdrops are worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, but there’s no way to know. When you have one, uh, there’s no way to get notified because of how the anonymous nature of crypto works. So earnify was the notification system for you. And I just, I shipped a quick version of it over one weekend and the, you know, the, the market responded really well to it.

So I just went all in.

Jared: Well, let, let’s unpack a few of those things there. Cause I feel like there’s got to be a lot more to that story in the one sentence in there. You said, I made a quick version of it. I shipped it and it went crazy for, let’s talk about first how you built it. So how, I mean, how did you, how, how did you build it so quickly?

Dawson: Yeah. So I, I was just actually recounting this to a friend earlier today. I had this process where [00:09:00] back, uh, three, four years ago I would have an idea and I wanted to see how quickly could I make it real. This would be a website, usually, or some type of app, whether for your phone or for, you know, the website.

I would just see if I could do it within an hour, or within three hours. And the idea is like, it’s gonna be minimal, it’s gonna be basic, but can I make the thing? Because I think so many of us get hung up on the idea of never quite starting also. And so I just wanted to make the starting pressure so low.

And so I would just be really forgiving and welcoming shipping stuff quickly, but led me to be able to be someone who can ship quickly. And so that’s what, you know, it’s like a overnight success. 10 years in the making is the phrase I’ve heard a lot. And I think that’s probably very true in this situation.

Cause I was. Such a honed software engineer within this tech stack that I could go build it within a weekend.

Jared: So you built it within a weekend. Had you built up a following in this community to some degree? How did you get it off the [00:10:00] ground?

Dawson: The part that I think is most inspiring, I would hope is most inspiring for the listeners here is that I was not someone who had a following.

So I had 300 followers on Twitter and that’s where I announced it. And I got over a thousand likes on the tweet that I was announcing the product. And yeah, tripled my following within one week. And it was just, it was just gangbusters. Uh, it really took off. And so I wanted this to be an inspiration to folks that like, you don’t have to have anything that you don’t already have in order to get started, you know, you just have to have the drive, um, and the passion and then get your ideas as, as purified and, and honed down as possible so that you can make MVPs.

And get something into the hands of the people who are going to use your products.

Jared: I think a lot of people listening, um, and we probably all heard this story to some degree. And it’s this idea of a product that takes hold really quickly. And I just, I want to maybe ask you a little bit more of a [00:11:00] in depth exploratory question.

Like, how do you Explore your own knowledge base to try to find those really good ideas. Um, I’m trying to think about the person listening that might be sitting on the next great idea. They know it, but they haven’t tapped into it yet. Like, do you have any ideas for how you process through, Hey, this is the idea worth trying out, or this is one of the many ideas worth trying out and it happened to work.

Like, how do you tap into that inside of yourself? expertises.

Dawson: This is a really golden question because. You know, time is kind of our shortage and an energy is your shortage is, is what’s the worst? Uh, what’s the most valuable idea that you can go spend your time with? So for me, what I do is I have notes and it’s, it’s kind of this This funny trade off because I don’t have an elaborate note taking system.

I just have notes, like Apple Notes. And it’s every hackathon idea I’ve had in the last 10 years in one document. And what I do is when I have a new one, I put it on top as I’m just [00:12:00] going throughout the day. And every time a hackathon comes along, I pluck off the idea I’m most excited about. So for me, excitement is the metric.

And you just have to be forgiving. If you, one day you were ecstatic about an idea and a week later, it sounds boring to you. That’s okay. That’s not your idea, at least for now. And I’ve actually had times where I won a hackathon recently, where the idea was in my notepad for two years. And it wasn’t that the market was more ready.

It’s that I was more excited and I was more ready to see how to implement that idea two years later. And so I would just urge people to have a low barrier to entry again. Just kind of do like a notes, idea dumping or a notepaper tab, like, uh, in your pocket, whatever you need, really, in order to always have these ideas building.

Jared: Well, let’s talk about that tweet that it sounds like that was what turned this into something at that point. The likes, were they turning into customers [00:13:00] was, you know, what was your kind of your monetization strategy? Was it a freemium model or was it a pay to play kind of thing? I mean, walk us through that initial setup.

Dawson: So when the tweet first went viral, it was a completely free product with an email signup. So when it first launched, you know, the first two hours, there was no email signup, but the second it started getting traction, I was like, I’ve seen this before, I need to do something to make this product sticky, so I wasn’t going to waste the views that were coming in.

Just added a simple header that had an email signup. That was, I think, I think the text I had was. get notified of future airdrops. So people were coming to check their current, but I just made this promise out of thin air. I’m going to notify you of future ones without knowing if I would, that would even be possible or how I could do that.

But I knew that if enough people wanted that, I would figure out how to do that. And that’s exactly what happened. So I really went through a progressive system here where at first it was completely for free. I think it was one month in. After having shown people value, [00:14:00] I had notified them already of airdrops completely for free.

Then I made it a freemium model. So it is different than most, I would say, SaaS freemium models in that certain airdrops were completely for free forever. Like the ones that first landed before I launched the product. I wasn’t going to add a paywall on top of those later, but basically every time a new airdrop came out.

That would be paywalled. And so I would tell you exactly the dollar amount you had to go claim completely real. It was ready for you right then, but you didn’t know where to go to claim it. And so this was the information asymmetry. I had these large lists to understand where do people go to get this, these, these tokens.

And with a quick, a quick payment that amounted to sometimes 1 percent or less than 1%, maybe 5 percent of the cost anywhere in that range, then they would get it revealed and they could go claim it.

Jared: So you basically had a perfect [00:15:00] scenario where you had the best clickbait ever, but it wasn’t clickbait. It was reality on the other waiting on the other end.

Dawson: Honestly, exactly. It’s kind of like a generational opportunity. Back to what I said, it was like, Hey, here’s free money. And it’s completely legit free money. And I feel like free money is such a, such a meme at this point. It’s like, there is no free cake. There literally is free cake within this world, at least.

And, uh, yeah, I had kind of the keys to the castle there to be able to notify millions of people about what they matched.

Jared: So what was the ramp up, if you could take us through it in that first couple of months, and I do want to go back to some of your like landing page and marketing stuff, but maybe just while we’re on the topic, like how are you structuring what to tackle, um, you know, within the first month you’re announcing paid services.

How quickly did you continue to launch services? How much time are you putting into these services to build them out? And did you kind of start to layer in a team? I’m just curious, like where this. How this scaled from a high level, I’m sure we’ll get into more [00:16:00] details later, but how this scaled from a high level to give people an idea about

Dawson: it.

Yeah, the part that’s funny we haven’t mentioned yet is that I indie hacked this product. So I built it completely alone. I didn’t grow out a team and there were selects consultants I worked with. So that’s probably a good time to mention that, which is as soon as there started to be more users, I think it was three weeks in was when I worked with a designer.

So that was an external designer helped deliver designs to me, but I implemented them as the engineer. Um, and then eventually months into the process, I brought on someone to help me build the support side of it. Uh, the way I could process refunds, the way I could respond to requests when it got really high volume from, from the customers requesting stuff.

Uh, but besides that, I Andy hacked it. And the, the, the benefit of Indy hacking like that is you have a direct line to your customers and you’re the one building the solutions to those. And so I would just go through Twitter a [00:17:00] lot. I actually did a ton of organic marketing. I did a ton of direct messages.

I just made it known that I was, I was an indie hacker, and I wanted to connect directly with the users to give them what they needed. And that really turned out well. So I’d say it was a, you know, there was that pop at the beginning where I got a thousand followers. I mentioned on that single tweet, but I really just kept going with that playbook over and over announcing new features directly to my Twitter.

And I had like an anti email strategy, so I would not email people unless they had unclaimed airdrops. And it, it grew this tremendous level of trust that I don’t know if any products ever had, which is the open rates insane. I’m telling you, you have money and you just need to open the email to know where it is.

And so I was just ruthless about filtering out spam and sending these emails only when they had a lot of money to go claim.

Jared: What was the biggest channel of growth in the beginning? Um, certainly I guess, uh, should we call it a viral tweet? I mean, um, but, but did, did, That got you your first [00:18:00] initial base.

But where did the customers start coming from? Was it like referrals? Was it continued viral tweets or a continued virality that, that, that, that, uh, kind of surrounded this product?

Dawson: It was definitely a viral tweet in the beginning. That’s a good word for it. Unfortunately, I was never, as to this day, I’ve never had as viral of a tweet as the initial announcement.

Hard to repeat, aren’t

Jared: they?

Dawson: It’s, it’s genie in a, yeah, it’s magic in a bottle, like, uh, lightning in a bottle. I could not. Repeat it. Even after, even the acquisition announcement of, Hey folks, like this is going to be in the hands of a really capable team now, probably half the amount of responses. So to me it was, it was continued shipping.

Yeah. On Twitter, but really I would, I would denote it to referrals. And I don’t, I never set up tracking. That’s the funny part about indie hacking this and the way I did it at least is most people out there probably have better systems for tracking this sort of thing, but there was no referral benefit.

Like you couldn’t even sign up a friend to [00:19:00] get 10 percent off. It was just known that there were no discounts of any kind for anyone. And just tell your friends about it if they have money, because you want to help your friends have money. That’s I think how it got shared, honestly, because I would have people messaging me, even letting me know I had unclaimed airdrops and I’m like, yeah, I know that I run the website.

So there, there became this like secondary market actually of, of some folks. Who would notify people for them in a DM and be like, Hey, give me 10%. And I’ll tell you where you have this airdrop anyway. It just became this ecosystem where folks knew that’s where the answers were. The answers were over on earnify.

Jared: No kid. So there became a secondary market that came out of this product.

Dawson: That’s insane. There is someone actually tried to do the secondary reselling to me. Just a month ago, uh, using, using bankless, which bankless is to cut to the end of the story real quick. That’s who I ended up selling this product to.

Uh, someone used bankless to tell me that I had an unclaimed airdrop and I was like, I get it. I know that I have that [00:20:00] airdrop. I made the thing.

Jared: That’s interesting. Yeah. It’s, it’s like, um, you know, in the SEO space, uh, a lot of people will use a third party tool to like send over a quick audit of a website or something.

It kind of reminds me almost of the same thing, but you’re the one who created it. The audit tool in this example.

Dawson: Oh yeah. They do SEO. They do it with security too. It’ll be, uh, we, we found a vulnerability pay us. Yeah.

Jared: Uh, okay. So, I mean, I, I want to go back to a couple of things that you said at the beginning, you talked about how, um, and we talked about this beforehand and you talked, you hinted on it with the email and not wanting to spam people with email, only wanting to send email when they actually had something to claim, but you kind of played into this.

Bigger, uh, uh, kind of elephant in the room that you mentioned that you were dealing with, which was in the crypto space, there is a lot of trip. Um, you know, people take a lot of, uh, people have a lot of trepidation when it comes to, uh, marketing and email and, and just this general idea [00:21:00] of trust as it relates to brands.

Can you talk a bit about that? And then some of the things that you were really cool that were really core to you and your business that you, that you tried to deploy to address that.

Dawson: Yeah, absolutely that you’re hitting it right on the head, Jared, that there’s a lot of scam, phishing, spam, everything within crypto.

It’s just unfortunate with new economies, with new worlds that are unregulated, that’s the people who are going to flock to it are early adopters and aggressive scammers, because less is regulated. So, like I mentioned, I really wanted to be the quality place to go to. And that involved a lot of extra time on my part, a lot of extra effort.

And this is the part I really want to hit on, which my starter story interview took a slightly different angle on the storytelling, which is that it was not an overnight success. This was two, three years of very hard work, almost constant watching on Twitter, on [00:22:00] Discord, on Telegram to watch for these announcements.

And afterwards I felt a really strong moral obligation to be the filtering layer. Like I’m the person notifying you. It’s just me. I had no checks. There were no secondary checks to say. Uh, if what I was doing, if I was picking the right airdrops, basically, because there were plenty that I did not add, which turned out to be scams turned out to be, you know, people’s getting their tokens drained.

You can get for those of you who aren’t super active in crypto, you may not know, but sometimes it’s just one click and you can drain your entire wallet. And so, so this could happen. And there were plenty of pages out there that did this. And yeah, I took it as a moral obligation to be. You know, I’m helping people come to the frontier with me in this world of airdrops.

And so, yeah, I was really, I was really strict about it.

Jared: How’d you safeguard against that? Because I think that’s really interesting. You talked, I think you touched on it really well. Like it’s a very unregulated world, which is a lot [00:23:00] of what is attractive about it. But it also means that you. Have to go into it with your guard up.

How were you able to filter that? And then I guess my fault question I’ll ask after this is like, how did you convey that trust to people to make sure they felt like they could trust that?

Dawson: The way that I went about it was that I would use my technical knowledge to look into each project, but I would go be the guinea pig also.

And so I know what it means to sign that one transaction that drains your wallet, for instance, that I mentioned. I know what that looks like. And so I would load up these, basically the way it works is they would post a tweet or they’d post a blog post saying, here’s our new token distribution. Here’s our new airdrop.

Come here to claim. So you just get a website, you go to this website and they have a claiming process where you sign a transaction. So I would go through that and I would say to myself, like, you know, how legit does this look? You can do things like, do they have a following? Do they have clout? Uh, does it [00:24:00] seem like they’re just gimmicky?

Are there spelling mistakes? Are there grammar mistakes? So there’s just a lot of quality there that I would filter. Um, and then, yeah, I would use that trust to help protect people. But it came from an interest in wanting to be the ethical solution here. Wanting to be the person who’s going to jump into the front lines and then deliver the, uh, The truest information directly to you.

Jared: You just touched on it. So I’m going to, I’m going to ask you now, and I’m bouncing around a good amount, but you’re, you’re keeping up really well. So I normally try to follow a little bit more of a, of a starter story. Ask, let’s follow the timeline here. But as we come about it, I just want to ask, and it does, I have to say, I watched your starter story, like I said, your starter story episode, and it felt like such a quick rot, and I think it is a quick, Success story.

I’ll just say for people who are listening, who maybe haven’t found that success, but to your point, it was years. It wasn’t days. It wasn’t months. It was years before you did end up exiting. What were the biggest challenges that you had to overcome? That’s a [00:25:00] broad question. I realized, but again, for the person listening who is in the midst of starting something and maybe we don’t want them to tune out because it was all, um, sunshine and roses for you.

Yeah. What were the challenges or the biggest ones that you ran into on the growth?

Dawson: The not sunshine and roses is such a great point. I want everyone to feel that and know that. Anyone who summarizes their success as sunshine and roses is either delusional or selling you snake oil. So that’s a part that I definitely want to hit on.

But what I’d also love to say is that that hard work, that lack of sunshine and roses, That’s the exact thing that also makes it fulfilling.

Jared: You

Dawson: know, as humans, we’re not here to live the easiest life. We’re here to live the most fulfilling life. And so I really believe that hard work is a path towards fulfillment and achievement.

Um, you know, that if it was easy to do, everyone would do it. And so I think that the best thing we [00:26:00] can do is hope for something. That’s the right amount of challenge with the right amount of reward. And so for me, one of these hard things, for example, is. Is the trade off of time. You know, when I started earnify, I was alone up in the mountains.

I lived up in Breckenridge, Colorado for ski season, and I had actually just gotten injured, so I really wasn’t skiing much, so I spent 10 hours a day or more in my computer, uh, in my office, just grinding away on the computer and there was no one else with me and I didn’t have many people to check in or to talk to, or to share life with, and that was a trade off I made, not everyone has to do that same trade off, but I spent almost a year just monk mode on this.

And that was just the beginning. That was just the first year. You know, after that, it was still nights and weekends. I can remember being out at the bar with friends and, and, you know, stepping away from the group for a sec to check my phone to see if something had just come out. I can remember.

Thanksgiving vacation flying down the highway while tethering through my phone and sending millions of dollars of airdrop notifications [00:27:00] over email through my T Mobile network as I’m flying down the desert in Arizona, for instance, like those are all those are all a part of the story here. And so it’s not beautiful, but it’s, uh, I mean, it’s not clean and simple, but it’s beautiful.

And it’s scrappy. And that’s the best part. Honestly,

Jared: did you always know that you wanted to sell it? And was that a part of your growth plan? Or was this more of a build continued to grow, continue to make monthly recurring revenue, continue to grow the revenue streams? Which one was your goal? And how quickly did you kind of land on that?

Dawson: I actually never had the goal to get acquired. So The timeline we’re talking about here was about two years of solo building. The conversation with Bankless started before that two years was up, but two years in was when I sold the company to Bankless and became the CTO at Bankless. And then I was with Bankless for a year.

So it was not at [00:28:00] all in my plan. I didn’t once consider it, but I did know in my head already, if someone were to be Acquirer, the potential acquirer, it would have to be someone completely ethically aligned and someone who’s going to continue this product. Cause I genuinely believe this product needs to exist for the everyday person.

I mean, it’s, it’s one tool that’s helping everyday people find millions of dollars that they would otherwise not get. So it’s a bit of like a Robin hood ask thing. Cause if you. If you don’t claim these airdrops, some of them expire forever. And then they go back to the treasury and they go back to the people running the projects, which is, yeah, I think of it kind of like a Robin hood, uh, methodology.

So, and not the app Robin hood, the actual story of Robin hood.

Jared: I have kids. So I’ve just been reintroduced to this whole Robin hood concept. I got you.

Dawson: Okay. Thank you. Yeah. The 10 second TLDR is, uh, take from the rich distribute, give it to the poor in a way. But anyways, so Bankless reached out and I was open minded immediately because [00:29:00] I had been a longtime listener.

In fact, Bankless the podcast was what got me into Web3. It got me into crypto and Ethereum. And so I did have this goal in my head. One day I want to be mentioned on Bankless. That had been my goal since 2020 when I first started listening to this podcast. And I didn’t know how it would come about safe to say that happened as I became the CTO of that company and then Departing bankless.

I actually just departed here in January of 2024. And so after departing I’ve been a bit wandering I’ve been a bit confused because yeah, earnify was everything. It was my baby I was changing the world and I was satisfied and having fun doing it And so Yeah, there’s totally like a, there’s a filling the void section in Tim Fires is four hour work week, which is about like, what do you do after, you know, you’ve kind of automated or reached this.

The success point that you were initially always chasing towards, and I don’t have an answer for you yet, but it’s a very important chapter to pay attention to if [00:30:00] you’re on this journey.

Jared: I can’t tell many people I know who have sold a company and thought that they would land on what’s next. As quickly as it landed on the next project inside their company.

And, um, you’re exactly right. It can be a very challenging, uh, desert to go through going back to your analogy of flying through the desert. But, you know, and it’s an important question to answer. So, um, um, The lead up the buildup to getting acquired. I mean, I know you can’t tell us the details of the actual acquisition, which is totally fine and totally normal, but what can you tell us about what types of, what type of success you were having, pick your metric.

Um, but what kind of success was, uh, was there an RFI garnering at the time?

Dawson: Yeah. So the acquisition dollar amount, like you mentioned, that’s not publicly shared, but the monthly ARR is so annually recurring, I was making over a million dollars a year. And so this was folks paying monthly or folks paying yearly.

Yeah. So you take that into account. You can do some basic estimations or guesses [00:31:00] in your mind and understand that I did pretty well in this, in this acquisition of this exit. So, yeah, I mean, I, like we mentioned, I thought that I would solve that would solve everything in life, right. That would, that would make all, all problems go away.

And it’s just the opposite of the truth. Uh, or not the opposite of the truth, but I’d say that, yeah, you just, you just need a full and balanced life besides that. So, and if I was going super well and is still going really well, bankless is still running it. Like I had mentioned was an important part of my goals here.

And yeah, I’m basically searching for the next thing and searching for maybe what else I can make impact with.

Jared: Yeah. Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. Um, Hey, I know we still have a little bit of time and I want to ask you a couple of questions about how you grew the brand from, let’s call it a marketing perspective.

Um, uh, I think a lot of people listening are going to be very intrigued by that. We get a lot of people who are trying to grow their online business, whether it’s a website, whether it’s a SAS product, it was an e com, Whether it’s [00:32:00] an idea, an app, whatever it is. And, and I think that, you know, without burying the lead, like you obviously did a tremendous job growing this product.

Um, and I think that you have a lot of almost counterculture ways of doing it. Like, Hey, um, we have a lot of people in this podcast to say email a lot. Uh, Dawson says, don’t email or I didn’t email at least at the, at this case. Like what other types of strategies did you use to grow the business, whether they were by design or by accident that ended up leading to the growth that you got?

Dawson: I think an important aspect of what I did. That we haven’t yet mentioned is I, I went on a talking tour. So I spoke at conferences, but when I spoke at the conferences, I told people the earnify story, but in the way that related to them. So I would go to these hackathons that had, uh, that had a conference attached.

And, and my talk was called from hackathon to million dollar business. And so it was just like, Hey folks, I did exactly what you’re at the start of. And if you want to make this thing [00:33:00] into a product, here’s how you can do it. And so I think that really helped grow and get just true users, true believers.

And having this, uh, I think it’s a thousand, a hundred true friends, a hundred true fans, or a thousand true fans. The idea that you’ll just have diehard, just diehard users that, that live and die by your product. That was super relevant to me because the people who started in a week, one a week, two of the products were lifetime customers.

I know several of them as friends now, and they’ll mention just casually that, yeah, they’ve been following my work for a few years. And I had no idea because I don’t know who was there in the beginning unless they were really loud on Twitter,

Jared: right? How do you create those? I mean, how did you create those?

What was it about those people that followed you from the very beginning to where you’re even friends with them now?

Dawson: One of the things i’ve always done is i’ve always given people the time of day when it’s on twitter when whether it’s a dm or it’s a [00:34:00] A public tweet. I think just a small response from people can mean the world I recently had folks reach out After my starter story interview, for instance, and I was on a call earlier today with someone who’s, who’s doing environmental impact with Ethereum, for example, and just, I don’t know where that conversation is going to go, but he took out the time to reach out to me and to make the effort to see our similarities.

And, and I just think that everyone who is respectful of your time deserves at least a response. And so I would just, I would just go nuts on responding to DMs. I can remember once being in an Uber. And going through my old tweet DMs that I had not responded to. And I went back, I think over six months and I just had, I think a hundred different replies by the end of this Uber ride, I felt sick from looking down, but I’m glad I went through that.

And, and even just giving someone a quick response can mean a lot to them. And so just being, being a human, being real, being, you know, there’s an, there’s a person behind this product also affects how nice people are to [00:35:00] you. And what kind of. Messages, nasty messages they send you when they’re frustrated instead that it can be a little bit more productive messages if they know it.

Jared: There’s a real person there humanizing it. I think I’ll do a follow up question on that. Cause a lot of people listening are going to, um, use SEO search engine optimization as a strategy for growing their traffic. And there is a common thing in the SEO world to not put your face in front of something.

Now this exists across all business. Do I need to, um, Personalize the brand with my own face, with my own personal background. Do I need to put myself as the founder on the about page? Do I need to be the person out in front of the business or can I create a business where I don’t have to be the front person or the face of it?

Again, I talked about it. From an SEO perspective, it’s very common, but in general, I think a lot of people that, um, well, developers like yourself, uh, SEO people, people who like to build online businesses are attracted to it because they don’t necessarily have [00:36:00] to be out in front of the business, but then they potentially are losing a lot of the benefits from being the face and the persona of the business.

You seem like you really leaned heavily on Dawson, the brand Dawson, the person being behind earnify and really exploiting. You know that in a positive way at every chance you could in front, in terms of the business, talk about where you land on that and how impactful it was for you to be kind of the face, the business, doing the tweets, interacting with people to the degree that you did.

Dawson: I think that that’s a really wise strategy for SEO. Like what you said, it also makes it a much more sellable product. So, you know, I didn’t name this product, like earnify by Dawson. And I don’t think there was an about page that mentioned anything beyond the technical, like, what is this website basically.

But as soon as you hopped over to Twitter, actually for, I think a year and a half, the Twitter link in the footer was my personal Twitter and there was no company [00:37:00] Twitter. I don’t know if that’s recommended. That’s what I did. And by not recommended, I mean, yeah, that can really hinder, uh, your, your growth potential because, because then I can’t use my personal Twitter for anything but work.

And so there was a trade off time there where I got serious about it, started a company, Twitter grew the company, Twitter, and, and did replace myself a bit. So, so I did feel what you’re talking about here, but to me, it really matters what stage of the business for me, when it first started, The best thing possible, at least within the ecosystem I was in is, is be the face, be like, here’s what I’m shipping.

Y’all, this is what I built this week. This is what I’m building next week. And that really does work well, but again, once you landed on the website itself, there was no mention of Dawson and you could share the website with your friends and it’s just a tech product that, um, I still have times when I mentioned or define people know the airdrop checker in the crypto community, but they won’t know me or Dawson.

[00:38:00] Oh,

Jared: wow. That was you.

Dawson: Yeah.

Jared: Yeah. It’s, um, it’s one of those things where both sides have negatives and drawbacks. Um, and it seems like you, it seems like you really strategically worked both as best as possible in this scenario, you know? Um, Hey, so, uh, as we start to wrap up, I did want to ask you going all the way back Um, you know, I feel like an interview we did recently, um, talked about this concept of getting started and not sitting the sidelines and taking action and diving in today and getting going and creating momentum because the quicker you go and you try.

If it doesn’t work, you can move on and if it does work, you can get the process going and get started. Um, you started quick. You wrote this in five hours and shipped it. Uh, I mean, talk to people listening that are more, that are further than just an idea. And that have something that, that they’re in the process of taking to market.

And again, just, um, [00:39:00] obviously you followed a path of shipping quickly and then, you know, uh, learning as you went once it was live, but how important was that to the success? And, um, what could you say to someone listening who is slowly deploying rather than fast, going fast with their deployment?

Dawson: I think there’s multiple styles of growth for different kinds of companies.

That’s the first thing I’ll say, but I am a biased, uh, Member of this question, uh, a biased responder. And I think that the faster you go, the faster, you know, like we’ve just said. So there’s an interesting metric actually, when it comes to weight loss, which is the quicker you lose the weight, the more likely you are to keep it off forever.

So this is the idea that, you know, if you lost weight quickly, then that means that you’re really driven. You’re really passionate. You’re really putting the right steps into action. And I think of, I think of startups as something similar. Now, lifestyle businesses are different. And earn if I was a bit of both or if I started [00:40:00] as kind of like my lifestyle business and most lifestyle businesses can hopefully sustain, you know, one person or a small family, but obviously mine reached more success than that.

And so it was some weird combination of a lifestyle business and a startup, and I would say for lifestyle businesses, slow growth can be okay. So I think just like, no, no, who you are, no, what you believe in here. Because if you are a lifestyle business and you’re putting yourself under the requirements of a rocket shipping startup, you could be finding success, but be unhappy with it.

And if you’re a startup, you’re just finding slow growth. Maybe you’re not a, maybe you’re not a rocket shipping startup. Maybe you are just a lifestyle business and that could be okay too, but embrace whatever you’re building. I would say, especially if you’ve started to find some traffic and yeah, get to know those customers more and see.

Yeah, are you building a rocket ship or are you building, uh, something [00:41:00] just consistent?

Jared: Dawson, where can people catch up with what you have going on now? I will, um, include a link to the starter story, um, uh, video people can watch. But, um, it does a great job of quickly syncing things up. But, but yeah, where can people follow along with what you’re doing nowadays?

Dawson: I’m posting most of my things to Twitter, uh, twitter. com slash Dawson Botsford. And then I also post on Farcaster, which is a Web3 crypto alternative. And besides that. Uh, for the nerds out there, I’m on GitHub all day, uh, posting open source code. So that’s really what I’ve done with this, this kind of leave of absence.

This hiatus is I’m shipping a bunch of open source software.

Jared: That’s great. Well, that’s fun. Well, very good. Dawson, thanks for coming on board. Congratulations. What a cool start to finish story. Um, I just, like I said at the very beginning, I love it when we can kind of get an entire story encapsulated in one.

When one go here, and I just am absolutely blown away and inspired by how quickly you [00:42:00] took it to market, but then how you continued to grow it. You did both. You launched and had a huge success story out of the gate, and then you carried through and built an incredible product that ended up getting acquired.

So well done. Congratulations. Thanks for joining us. Thank you for the time, Jared. I appreciate it. You got it. All right. We’ll talk to you soon. Bye bye. Cheers.



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