A brief review of 2020

When I wrote my year in review last year, I had this fear that if the next year turned out to be even slightly less enriching, it would be a bummer. Fortunately this year did not disappoint at all. Despite everything that happened with Covid, to say that it has been a fulfilling year would be an understatement.

Much like a Japanese anime, my journey this year is divided into story arcs. There are 3 arcs to be precise:

  • Growing superlemon.xyz to $30k MRR.
  • Growing sankalpjonna.com to > 300 impressions a day.
  • Starting delightchat.io and building the DelightChat tribe.

In my previous year in review, I described how Preetam and I started Superlemon and grew it to a profitable business while continuing to remain a team of 2 people. This year we took it to the next level.

Growing Superlemon to $30k MRR

A rough start

The year did not start off too great. We pretty much flatlined between $12k - $15k MRR for 4 straight months and we started losing subscribers at the same rate at which Covid-19 started taking over the world. Things looked bleak. 

This is when something struck us. Something so obvious that we kicked ourselves for not seeing it sooner. 

Dropping our prices

We had multiple pricing plans and our top plan which included all of our features at the time cost $30/mo. This attracted mostly premium brands that could afford to spend so much money on an app that helped them communicate with their customers over whatsapp.

This was not the right thing to do for 2 reasons. Firstly covid-19 affected everyone and we had a social responsibility to reduce the prices, but more importantly, there was a huge stream of new businesses that have been forced to go online and they were looking for cheap tools to help them with their business. This meant that the number of customers that we previously had access to has increased exponentially. 

This led us to making the move that changed everything for us. We originally had 3 confusing pricing plans that cost 10$, 15$ and 30$ respectively. We made the 10$ plan completely free and we clubbed the 15$ and 30$ plan into one single plan worth 9$ a month. So we essentially dropped our prices by 67%.

We set up a banner announcing this within the app where we talked about how we support businesses during these tough times and therefore dropped our prices.

We dropped our price by 67%

I hate to sound like a buzzfeed article but what happened next blew our minds. It led to a huge stream of new installs, a 10% conversion rate and our MRR rose to $30k.

Revenue growth after the price drop

Bringing superlemon to conclusion

Although changing the pricing plans was the core reason behind this rise in revenue, there were many other factors at play that allowed us to achieve this milestone. My Co-founder preetam summarized this pretty well in this blog post.

During this journey we got to understand how ecommerce businesses work, the core problems they face and how solutions for those problems can be productised. The best part is that we got paid for discovering these learnings. Not sure if I could have asked for anything better.

So what is the future looking like for Superlemon? All I can say now is that we have a big announcement to make in the near future (wink wink).

Growing sankalpjonna.com to > 300 impressions a day

One of the things I mentioned in my previous year in review was that I planned to write more this year. I am proud to say that I have kept that promise and I have written a total of 17 blog posts this year. Most of these posts did not get much traction, but the ones that did gave me a lot of confidence about my writing abilities. 

My first viral blog post

After my last year in review, I was not really sure what to write about. Preetam suggested to me to write about something that I experienced which can provide value to folks who are a few years behind in the same journey that I have undertaken. This narrowed it down quite well. I simply had to write content that helped other bootstrappers. 

This led me to write about how we managed to have an AWS bill that was only 2% of our revenue at Superlemon. I was able to write about this because the experience was still fresh in my mind. What happened soon after was something that I can only describe as the feeling that a youtuber might have felt on creating a viral video. 

The post got featured on Hacker News and remained in the #3 position for the entire day. Traffic to my website which was previously non existent had suddenly spiked like crazy. Folks started reaching out to me over email asking me questions about various AWS services. It was a truly exhilarating feeling.

Getting featured on HN

Traffic spike after getting featured on HN

There was another consequence of this blog post. I now had a consistent amount of traffic to my website because it started ranking for a few keywords that people were googling.

I could not fathom this. This meant that I now owned a corner of the internet where some people willing chose to enter and derive value out of. I could not stop writing after experiencing this feeling.

Realisation that blog posts need to provide value

A couple of weeks after the first viral post, I wrote another post that went viral. This was written around how bootstrappers can run their webapps in a serverless way by making use of AWS cloudfront and s3.

Sure enough, this post also got featured on Hacker news and provided me with a misleading sense that everything I write can get featured on Hacker news. The subsequent blog posts proved that this was far from the case.

I wrote a few blog posts around various tech problems that I solved at superlemon. Some of them got a little bit of traction on platforms like reddit and linkedin. Some of them got zero traction and got phased out into the depths of the internet. 

The realisation hit that everything I have been writing so far were things that I enjoyed writing about and sometimes there is no overlap between stuff that you enjoy writing about and stuff that actually provides value to people. 

The evidence of this was a blog post I wrote about how conversations evolved with technology. This post was just a series of personal observations and there was no actionable for anybody reading it. The only folks that even read it were probably those who had some time to spare to read something that won't really help them in life. 

Experimenting with various types of posts

Even though I realised that I must treat my blog like a product and make sure that whatever I create provides value to someone, I was still unsure on which area to pick where I can provide value. The obvious area seemed to be tech but I wanted to try writing more generic posts. 

I also continued writing technical posts which clearly gained more traction than the generic posts. It quickly became obvious that this was the path that I was meant to take. I have been coding for the past 6 years and therefore technology is where I can provide the most amount of value to any audience that is kind enough to lend me their ears. 

This does not mean that I will completely stop writing generic posts. I will simply narrow my focus on quality posts that have a strong actionable for anybody reading them. I recently wrote a piece about how we are trying to maximise individual and team productivity and it did well because there was a strong actionable for team leaders, product managers, co-founders, etc. 

As a result of all these experiments, my website now ranks for a wide range of keywords and I consistently receive more than 300 impressions a day.

Impressions on my website for the last 3 months

The Future of sankalpjonna.com

Once it became obvious that technical posts received more traction, I decided to narrow my focus even further and start writing about stuff that I gained expertise on as a result of working on it for the last 6 years. This to me is Django and Django Rest Framework

Why I decided to do this and how I plan to do it is something that probably warrants its own blog post so I will simply conclude by saying that there is now a learn Django section within my website which I plan to expand further in 2021.

Starting DelightChat and building a tribe

After our experience with Superlemon, Preetam and I realised the importance of customer support. It was no longer a second class citizen and a business that is completely online relies on their social media reputation for sales and that reputation will be affected with bad customer support. 

So we decided to delve further into this industry and upon speaking to a few Superlemon customers, we realised that in today's world, businesses receive more support queries from chat based mediums like Facebook and Instagram than email and all the existing products in this space were built around email. 

The market for a tool which had all customer support channels including email and chat based channels in once single interface seemed quite promising and with that DelightChat was born. 

Building a Tribe

Even though we accomplished a lot at Superlemon with a team of 2, we realised that to be a truly long term business that had no dependency on any other third party app and could hold its own in the market meant that we can't do this alone. 

Thus began the process of assembling a team. This is undoubtedly the most difficult thing that I have ever done in my life, because finding good people who are not only skilled but aligned with the goals of your company and are willing to treat the product as their own was not a piece of cake. 

The good thing was that this path led us to hire some great folks who are motivated and want to become better at what they do. We also made some bad hires which set us back quite a bit but the way I see it, I am glad we got to experience this early in our journey because as a result we have made our hiring process much more streamlined. 

Pursuit of becoming a good leader

Being a team of 2 has its disadvantages, the biggest one being you do not end up learning how to work with a team. 

While working in a team there are differences of opinions, there are conflicts, there are communication gaps and there are instances where a lot of your time gets diluted as a result of managing folks and this gives you less time for your own work. 

There have been instances where I made the wrong calls while my teammates had the right idea. In some of those instances, I realised this too late and the damage had already been done. Whenever this happens I try to own up to my mistakes and grow as a person.

I do not have a concrete way of solving these problems yet. But if I am willing to do everything in my power to acquire this new skill and I hope to become somebody that inspires my team. This is my main goal for 2021.

Future of delightchat.io

It has been 3 months since we started this venture. We are a team of 5 people (soon to be 9) and we plan to release the beta version of our product towards the end of January of 2021. Once folks start using our product, we will set up a tight feedback loop between product development and requirements of the customers. This will dictate the future of DelightChat.

What I want from 2021

I have briefly mentioned my goals for 2021 in the previous paragraphs, but these goals become official only if I can be explicit, so here goes:

  • Grow sankalpjonna.com to > 1000 consistent impressions a day and achieve a domain rating of 40 (I am currently at 20).
  • Build a great team.
  • Become a good leader to the team by aligning their personal goals with the company's goals and take good care of them. 
  • Make DelightChat profitable. 

And that's a wrap folks. Hope you enjoyed this post and if you want to know more about our journey, check out my co-founder Preetams 2020 year in review post.