Hit $100,000 in revenue, time to start looking up
I feel a bit sheepish posting this since I don't want to come across as bragging, but a promise is a promise, so here it goes...
I just recently surpassed $100,000 of revenue. Balsamiq has been in business for less than 5 months, so as you can imagine this level of success goes beyond my wildest dreams.
The Raw Numbers
My interpretation: not a lot of data here, but Mockups for Desktop sales are clearly growing (I guess it really does save people time and $$!), Mockups for Confluence had a bad October (not a big surprise given the financial markets meltdown), Mockups for JIRA is just getting started and Mockups for XWiki proves that it's really hard to charge for a plugin built on top of a free platform - not a huge surprise there, but I'm still bullish! :)
This is the same data, but stacked. October was lower than September, but still really good given the financial crisis. November is looking on track to be the best month yet. Also, these numbers are INSANE. :) It hasn't really hit me yet.
This chart tells me that it's all still very spikey and that I shouldn't try to make revenue predictions. It also tells me that I need to try to make it more predictable (more on this later).
Same data as above, but stacked. Notice how much less spikey this is (8 straight weeks of >$5,500 in sales). This tells me that having a portfolio of products is a very good thing. I'll be working on expanding that portfolio in the future.
the chart above is more interesting when you compare it to the one below:
Now # of sales doesn't necessarily map to "# of users", since a Confluence sale can be for 25/50/500 people and a JIRA sale can mean a whole company. Still, there's clearly a lot of demand for desktop apps out there (in this SaaS age, who'da'thunk'it!), but the margins there are way smaller than enterprise sales (duh!).
I am still confident that the plugin versions will grow over time relative to the desktop version, as more and more people "see the light" and start working in the cloud. In the meantime, thanks desktop lovers for keeping me in business! ;)
The next two charts are kind-of useless because the costs don't include my salary nor my rent, and some other small November expenses I haven't gotten around to recording yet. Still, I think they are useful enough to show how little out-of-pocket costs I really have:
I just like the slope of that one. ;)
Web Site Traffic
Some people have asked me for this in the past, so here's the chart with the # of visits since launch day:
I don't look at these too often to be honest. All the big spikes were blog posts that got picked up by Hacker News: they rarely correspond to big spikes in sales...still, knowing that thousands of people read this blog is pretty darn exciting.
That's great...now what?
When I started Balsamiq I thought that if everything went well, it would take about two years to get here. I was excited about the struggles ahead, the successes and the failures that were going to help me grow in those two years. So this kind of instant success, 18 months ahead of schedule, is a bit of a shock. I feel totally unprepared for it, so I want to be extremely careful about my next moves. I plan on doing a full round of one-on-one Skype sessions with my advisers soon, plus I have to finish 1.5 (I have a few bugs to fix and I'm waiting for a commercial Flickr API key...grrr) so I'll still be head-down coding for a little while longer.
Still, with over 800 customers to support, it's time to start looking up from the daily developer-work and ask myself some bigger questions:
- where is my time spent every day?
- where should my time be spent every day?
- where do I need the most help, and what would it take to delegate it?
- is it time to start thinking about adding a second full-time person to the company? (right now Balsamiq is a sole-member LLC, so I'd have to change that...it's a pain but I guess it's a good problem to have).
- there's all this money in the bank now: how should it be best put to use?
- what do I want to achieve in 2009, and how?
- what about 2010 and 2011?
- Is "adding flavor to Web Office Apps" still the right long term strategy?
- how can I make my revenue more predictable?
- to SaaS or not to SaaS?
Is Balsamiq no longer a startup, migrating towards "profitable and somewhat boring small business" status? I'd very much like that! Unfortunately, someone yesterday made me realize how far I am from it.
The "oh crap" question
Just yesterday, as I was preparing this post, someone emailed me the following (I paraphrase):
"We'd like to buy a big license. I was wondering how long you plan to stay a one-man company for. If you are in an accident, who will support us?"
And my world came crushing down. Though perhaps not the most tactful, the question is totally legitimate! I had a moment of panic imagining myself disappearing from the picture...what would happen to Balsamiq and its customers? Ouch, I don't know what sound implosions make but I'm pretty sure I heard it. Maybe it was my stomach.
Here I am, trying to be the "champion of one-man businesses", blogging about it all, trying to convince people to join me in "the future of software companies", and there I was: stumped by a simple, OBVIOUS question that hadn't even crossed my mind until then (and in retrospect, I'm glad it hadn't).
So...I think the days of Balsamiq Studios as a one-man-company are numbered. I don't really feel like I have reached my limits in terms of how much I can do by myself (I'm still not working crazy hours), but I'd be doing my customers a disservice if I didn't seriously start thinking about growing the company. And the numbers above tell me that I can afford to at least start considering it.
Like I said, I want to be extra careful in the next steps, so I'll take some time to do what's right for the company, my customers, and my sanity. :)
As a first step, I have asked Mariah to help me with the philantropic efforts. It's a baby step, but it lets me change the web site text from "I" to "We" everywhere, which is a GREAT feeling (check out the updated company page for instance).
I have also had a very good experience with my first contractor, and I have hired a second contractor for a surprise little project starting on Saturday (stay tuned). I'll take it as practice in having people work for me.
Now, if you're reading this and are thinking "this guy is ripe for the picking", please abstain from making acquisition or "partnership" offers. This kind of challenge is EXACTLY what I was looking for when I started the company, and I am still LOVING EVERY MINUTE of this Balsamiq adventure. I want to stay independent, at least for a while longer, and grow the company organically, as needed. I am lucky to have great advisers and I'll be looking to add a few more to my board (more about that in another post). That said, if you have some "immediately useful" advice for me, feel free to email me or leave it in the comments (I'm thinking books or blogs to read, people to talk to, that sort of thing).
So that's the status update. I don't think I'll share more revenue numbers for a while, if everything goes well things should get "boring" on this front (i.e. predictable with a steady and manageable growth).
As for everything else, I will keep sharing at every step of the way, there clearly isn't enough info about the organic growth of bootstrapped companies out there.
[Update: you can follow some comments on the Hacker News thread about this post]
[Update #3: I forgot that RWW was getting syndicated by the NYTimes. THIS is wild]