Hacker News Re-Imagined

How We built a $1M ARR open source SaaS

  • 522 points
  • 13 days ago

  • @caust1c
  • Created a post

How We built a $1M ARR open source SaaS


@sgallant 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

Plausible's website metrics are public and you can see the impact this article has on their traffic (due to front page of HN, I presume).

Traffic goes from approx 4K visitors/day to almost 20K visitors today (so far).

https://plausible.io/plausible.io

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@adrianmsmith 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

All their marketing seems to be pitching the product against Google Analytics. But they don't spend any time differentiating themselves from other privacy-first analytics companies, of which there are many.

I mean, when they started in 2018:

> Uku’s first thought was, “Ugh. Can we just use something other than Google Analytics?”. This is how the idea for Plausible was born.

Surely they must have looked around and seen that there were already quite a few products doing privacy-first analytics? But yet they started anyway? And had success even though their marketing doesn't really state any reasons why the user should use them not the many other privacy-first analytics offerings out there?

I mean I'm happy for them that they're successful, but I think there must be more to it than alluded to in this blog post, both in (a) the decision to start in the face of lots of competition and (b) success despite not trying to differentiate themselves from the competition.

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@madmax108 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

Since reading the thread on money-making side hustles on HN a few days back[1], I was able to finally brush off my procrastination and start twiddling with some of my side projects that have been lying dormant over the years! And the model Plausible uses (I think the right term is "Open Core"?) which is also used by the incredible Product analytics tool Posthog [1] aligns really well with how I want to build out my side-hustles. Open source, but also available packaged and hosted if you so prefer.

One thing I was concerned about was about revenue that these "open source by default" products make, so glad that this post has come along just in time to alleviate some of those concerns (of course, as with most engineering side projects, the priority is to build something cool first, and if it ends up making some money, then all the better!) and it's always nice to see successful OSS-driven products in a crowded analytics space.

Congrats folks!

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=31764696

[2] https://posthog.com/

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@janmo 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

I have been using Google Analytics for years and it has become really crappy. Especially the latest release where you can't even see your daily traffic anymore. Everything is lagging behind, you can only see the actual data 2 days after the fact. On the other hand I have 3M+ page views, which would induce a $129/month Plausible bill. That's simply too much, especially because I have a very low CPM.

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@benjaminwootton 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

I’m also a happy customer.

There must be a lesson here in doing one thing well.

Thousands of people choosing to pay when there is a massively more powerful and fully featured free alternative.

Web analytics have also been around for decades, and even today there is no shortage of competition.

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@boberoni 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

I might be abusing the term here, but Plausible seems like the best example of a mittelstand[1] that sells SaaS.

They are not beholden to VC investors and can grow slowly, organically. According to this article, they were able to cover their costs by January 2021. By keeping their team small, they can remain sustainable for a long time and refine their product.

The biggest challenge for growth right now seems to be that customer support costs will scale linearly with growth.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=31327219

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@gigatexal 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

Everyone talks about revenue -- but what about profits? What's more interesting to me are companies that make a profit after expenses.

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@phgn 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

Now please use that money to build more features!

I tell everyone to use Plausible AND a more in-depth events tracking platform -- you'll regret it otherwise if you ever want to track churn rates.

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@yrgulation 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

“We’re intentionally small, profitable and sustainable.”

This here ^^. Too many fall in the trap of agiling themselves to death. Instead, find the right people with the right skills and dont force process. Communicate well and frequently and you’ve got yourself a well oiled team. Current client has successfully managed to daily, retro and refine themselves to a drop in productivity by at least 20%. My invoices are coming in nicely, despite wasting days on meetings that could have been an email or a short call with the relevant stakeholders, but i’ll fire the client first chance i find one that actually wants me to work and not play “fun” t-shirt planning pokers.

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@moneywoes 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

How did you build your landing page, it's very nice

How was your acquisition strategy for your first customers? Content marketing?

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@MuffinFlavored 13 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

> We’re a completely independent, self-funded and bootstrapped team of four

$250k/yr each, +/- payroll taxes, etc. etc.

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@codeptualize 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

This is very inspirational, it’s my dream to build a business like that.

It’s also great to see that it is still possible to build sustainable businesses without the more shady practices and growth hacking you often see, without millions of vc funding, without aggressive hiring. Just a small but strong team and a great product.

It looks like it was a long journey, I applaud the perseverance, and congratulate them on their well deserved success.

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@rmbyrro 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

> With all the new trials and customers, and an increase in larger websites trying our service, Plausible became much slower to use. (...) We moved from our PostgreSQL database to ClickHouse

Had the impression they were monitoring up to a couple hundred websites at that time. Probably small ones.

I'm surprised Postgres was slowing them down. Maybe the queries or the database were not well optimized?

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@your_challenger 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

This is one of the best blog post on company building I've read. Actually the only one I've loved! (All I've read are VC garbage)

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@majani 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

What makes it such that the majority of such stories are in SaaS? Or are the SaaS success stories just the loud minority since they are very dependent on content marketing?

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@mathgladiator 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

I love posts like this because they help set expectations. I'm building a real-time SaaS (among other things) and I've got a lot on my plate.

I also use plausible.

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@jacky2wong 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

Great read! Thanks for posting

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@mbStavola 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

We're currently on the 500K views/mo plan and are more than happy customers.

They're affordable, ethical, and the product does exactly what I want and nothing more. I simply love Plausible and I'm happy to see them picking up steam!

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@Dowwie 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

Can you comment on the impact that Elixir has had for your platform? Usually reports of technology decisions are biased towards the positive, so sharing any challenges that you've experienced along the way would be really helpful. Do you think that Elixir was the right tool for the job and if you could start over again, would you choose it?

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@robertlagrant 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

I don't understand how AGPL protects them from cloud providers hosting their stuff. The cloud providers could:

- Host the code unmodified, which is within the terms of the licence

- Host the code modified, and release the mods, which is within the terms of the licence

Surely the worry is they will just host and charge for it for less then Plausible can, which AGPL doesn't stop (to my knowledge)?

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@hoofhearted 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

What are they using for creating the static content pages from the .md files?

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@tlarkworthy 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

I use plausible analytics to measure traffic on my observable notebooks. I did try with GA but it didn't work with Observable's iframe sandboxing. Because plausible is open source, I could fiddle with it a little and could get it to report the top level page user facing URLs instead of the iframe's. Very happy I can get traffic stats from a site I don't own and very happy I don't need user consent because it's GFPR compliant. It tracks just what I am interested... My traffic, and with a little config it excludes my own page views. Great product, perfect for my use case I wish them well.

https://observablehq.com/@endpointservices/plausible-analyti...

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@NorwegianDude 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

It's a cool service, especially for those who don't need the more advanced features of Google Analytics.

The new Google Analytics is a mess to use, but at least it's no longer limited to ~"10M" hits for free each month.

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@foreigner 11 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

How did they eat for the first 2.5 years before they started paying themselves?

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@dpcan 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

So, if an open source company changes their license, the code that existed before the license change still exists under the previous license right?

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@throwaway4good 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

Let’s not forget that these guys are extremely good at marketing.

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@winrid 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

Looks like it runs on Elixir and ClickHouse, neat.

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@SmellTheGlove 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

Huh turns out plausible.io is blocked by my pihole. What’s the case for unblocking this flavor of analytics?

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@simonbarker87 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

I’m a happy Plausible customer for https://allthecode.co - the privacy aspect is amazing but the killer feature for me? Actually understanding my website data and knowing how to find where traffic comes from and where is goes without needing to search for hours on end. GA is a disaster of UX now and this is wonderful in comparison.

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@pgl 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

I like Plausible, and ethical analytics services in general. I'd certainly use them over Google Analytics. But it does frustrate me that Plausible (and others) take the stance that because they are doing what they can to preserve privacy, they have an absolute right to collect telemetry about users.

This includes things like CNAME cloaking, and adding a local JS proxy script so that visits can be sent back to Plausible's servers to make it harder to block for the user. The user has expressed a clear preference for their visits not to be logged, and Plausible (to satisfy site owners who want every visit logged) have done whatever they can to circumvent that.

I get it - it's a business, and making sure the site owners are happy is a big part of making money. But it grates that the whole thing is supposed to be about privacy while ways to get around privacy preferences are baked in.

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@sherbondy 12 days

Replying to @caust1c 🎙

Pretty darn fun to be able to see the Hacker News front page effect in realtime since they have their own site's Plausible stats publicly available!

https://plausible.io/plausible.io?period=30d&source=Hacker+N...

What a great demo of the product :D

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