I Spent All My Savings Developing A Ghostboard Analytics Tool

David Burgos
Founder, Ghostboard
$450
revenue/mo
1
Founders
0
Employees
Ghostboard
from Madrid, España
started July 2018
$450
revenue/mo
1
Founders
0
Employees
540K
alexa rank
52
followers
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Become A Ghost Blogger

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi! My name is David Burgos, I’m a full-stack developer from Spain and founder of Ghostboard, the GDPR-ready, exclusive analytics for Ghost blogs. From new bloggers to some medium-size companies uses Ghostboard

Ghostboard was launched in mid-2018 and currently, the MRR is about $450, only with organic growth (no $ in ads or similar).

i-spent-all-my-savings-developing-a-ghostboard-analytics-tool

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

After migrating my blog from WordPress to Ghost due to performance and writing experience, I realized that I had no stats. I have never been a fan of Google Analytics due to privacy and UX. On the other hand, I think general-purpose analytics tools are great for statics websites but not for blogs or apps.

Then I double-checked if Ghost had any stats but I found the API. What if I build something just for myself?

Don’t spend your savings. Keep your job, build and launch your startup as an experiment. Learn and have fun. If you make enough money, then take risks.

When I co-founded startups in the past, we started building whatever from just ideas and then tried to sell it to users or companies. In my past experiences, this never really worked. With Ghostboard, it was different: I needed this service, I didn’t find any alternative and I was willing to pay some money.

To be honest, I didn’t research about market size, audience, and that kind of stuff. I searched for an analytics tool for Ghost and I didn’t find anything that solves specifically as I wished. I was going to build something for myself in the first moment, I wasn’t starting it as a startup or business in mind.

I was working remotely in a company. After some months with the prototype running for myself, I was developing Ghostboard full-time for about 9 months using my savings. When it ran out, I looked for a job and continued working on Ghostboard some nights and weekends.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Ghostboard started as an ExpressJS monolith in a $5 server on Digitalocean as a prototype for my blog: simple, low-cost, and with a few features.

i-spent-all-my-savings-developing-a-ghostboard-analytics-tool
Screenshot: an early version of the dashboard

I used frameworks and tools I already knew and I started with the basic features I needed. Then, based on the first customers, I added more features and improved every component. And behind the scenes, refactoring and scaling.

Since I’m based in Spain (EU) and it was the first time charging customers, it was funny when I had to charge a different VAT based on each EU country. I got the VAT per country list from my accountant and applied it dynamically in the app. Probably there is a better option but it was fast for me and it works.

Describe the process of launching the business.

To be honest, on those dates I did not have any strategy for launching. I think as a developer I don’t like spending time on marketing but I should do it.

What I did was: first, I posted Ghostboard to BetaList. After going live, I posted on Hacker News and Product Hunt. Then a couple of sites linked the website. Ghostboard got a few hundred visits and only a couple of subscriptions. I was expecting 10X more but that is what I got. Don’t struggle with it, the key here is to get at least 1 subscription, maintain it and get more later.

I was more focused on building a better product than promoting it. But I was wrong, since I was using my savings, I should have focused much more on marketing.

What I would do differently now is to split my resources and time into 2 budgets: one for the product (development, optimizations, scaling, etc) and the other for marketing (SEO, content marketing, sales, etc.) to allocate time to do it and don’t postpone them forever. In other words, a bit of long-term vision and time management.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

To attract customers, I used the blog to make tutorials, product updates, frequently asked questions like How to find posts without featured image, and interesting content for potential customers like fix some errors or how to enable AMP tracking.

Also, Ghostboard has some open source projects on Github that bring traffic to the app, for instance, ghost-purge-images a free command-line interface (CLI) to remove unused images on the blog to free disk space.

The big source of traffic is the search engines with almost 80%. In the second place, social sites like Twitter and Github with less than 10%.

No, I didn’t use ads or similar, zero budget for ads. I truly believe in organic growth, I’m ok with no hockey sticks in my charts.

About retaining customers, yes I applied discounts to users on free trials or customers that discovered and reported a bug. Also extended free trial if the user contacts with special circumstances. Nothing magic, just common sense.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Ghostboard is not profitable yet. About the monthly costs: infrastructure costs about $200-250 plus the fee in my country is about $300 and the current MRR is $450. Yes, I’m crazy.

Some metrics on Stripe (year to date vs prev year);

i-spent-all-my-savings-developing-a-ghostboard-analytics-tool

Plans for the future are: more open-source, a couple of big features more and do the homework: spend time on marketing.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I think it’s important to know who you are and accept it, know your resources, take your time, and go at your speed. It's important to avoid bad feelings. Eat healthily, do some exercise, meditate, be with your family & friends, etc take care to avoid burnout.

A happy customer that cancels, could return or refer to other people.

To have some friends outside the startup but related to technology or marketing may help you, to acquire another perspective and feed your brain

Don’t stress if any contact from a company or any deal with a company goes down before going live. This is common in business, it’s ok.

Also on the other side, don’t fear contacting people and businesses for the first time.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I recently moved from DigitalOcean to AWS due to performance, high availability, and pricing (if set upright).

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Sure, I love books. Some of them:

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Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Don’t spend your savings. Keep your job, build and launch your startup as an experiment. Learn and have fun. If you make enough money, then take risks.

Spend time on marketing, even if you build the best product in history, people should know about it, discover it, etc.

Monitor errors and services. Send automatic alerts.

Talk and listen to your customers. You will be able to improve your product (bugs & features) and remember, people first. A happy customer that cancels, could return or refer to other people.

If you are a Ghost blogger, use Ghostboard to improve your blog SEO, tags, links, and so on.

i-spent-all-my-savings-developing-a-ghostboard-analytics-tool

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
David Burgos   Founder of Ghostboard
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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