Hitting Pause On Solopreneurship And Moving To A B2C Product [Update]

Published: September 26th, 2023
Apurva Chitnis
Founder, ProgressBar
from London, UK
started October 2021
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Want more updates on ProgressBar? Check out these stories:

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

My name is Apu, and I’m a founder and builder. I wrote about ProgressBar for StarterStory last year, so thought now was a good time to give an update!

ProgressBar is a Windows taskbar app that shows your day and year progress, so you can make time for what matters. A picture tells a thousand words, so here it is:


It’s as simple as it looks - two icons that show your day and year progress with just a glance!

After building ProgressBar, I decided to hit pause on my solo entrepreneurial journey and join a small team building an exciting app called Shelf. In short: it’s Spotify wrapped, but for all media that you love: books, songs, articles, films, and TV, and it updates weekly! More on this below :)

The hardest thing for me was moving from building B2B products to building B2C products.

Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

Building and releasing ProgressBar was a really rewarding experience. I made my first $ online, found some product-market-fit, and was a finalist of the Side Project of the Year for Product Hunt.

Along the way, I learned how to understand user needs, design a product, build it, create a brand and launch strategy, release the product, and then support users. In essence -- the end-to-end startup. To summarise my story:

  • Since I wanted to ship fast, the tech stack had to be very simple! I used a mostly undocumented and deprecated Windows SDK (as you can imagine, it was very painful to use 😅) and Squarespace to build the landing page and online store, so that I could accept payments via Stripe and PayPal.
  • I found initial users through communities I was part of Ramen Club, Indie Hackers, and Indie London. The members of these communities are entrepreneurs and builders and were therefore keen to support the project since it was solving a real need for them.
  • I scaled the user base by posting on ProductHunt and Twitter, and I asked early users to share if they liked it. The biggest source of customers was reviews on blogs/sites of productivity enthusiasts. A single review in Taiwan generated dozens of new users -- the power of the internet!

After some time, I decided to put a pause on my solo-entrepreneurial journey not soon after. I was getting more curious about crypto -- not the financial applications built on top, but more the power of the underlying technology.

It seemed that there was untapped potential in what applications could offer the user. And I was getting more curious about consumer culture -- particularly the way Gen Z and millennials create tweets, reels, and stories.

And so I joined koodos -- a company dedicated to helping people connect to themselves and others through the media they love. We’re building Shelf -- a profile for you and your interests, that automatically updates as you watch, listen, and read. We launched earlier this year, and it’s been great fun so far!

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year? What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

The hardest thing for me was moving from building B2B products to building B2C products.

In B2B, you can usually understand user needs fairly easily. You can ask them about what problems they have, how they’re currently solving those problems, and if they’ve dedicated their budget or time to their workarounds.

One of the biggest challenges is when the user is not the purchaser, but otherwise, the story is fairly linear -- and finding out what to build is straightforward.

B2C is very different. Users won’t simply tell you what they need in their lives, and they don’t have problems that they need to solve, per se. And they usually don’t have a budget dedicated to solving those problems. But they may ‘hack’ other platforms to address their needs.

This was my biggest learning -- to understand what users need, we had to understand how they spend their time on current platforms. We had to talk to them, read between the lines, and really sit with their answers -- it was much more like research. I had to totally shift my understanding of product development.

Before building Shelf, we saw users sharing photo summaries of media they’re interested in, Spotify histories, favorite songs, and films on Instagram and TikTok. And they weren’t just doing it to document their interests to themselves -- they were also sharing those with their friends. It was a way of helping others understand who you are and what moves you.

This suggested to us that there was a deeper need being unmet with the current generation of social media apps, and a ripe opportunity for a new one. And that’s where the idea of Shelf stemmed from.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

Shelf is an exciting product, but only part of our broader vision.

One of our core beliefs at koodos is that your data is yours, particularly data that is most meaningful to you, including metadata about what you’ve listened to, read, and watched. Right now that data is locked behind proprietary APIs of third-party platforms and inaccessible, even to you -- and even though you created it!

We believe that you should have control over this data, and be able to share it with other apps, and services to enable new product experiences. In the long term, we aim to make the data you use on Shelf interoperable with other platforms, which we believe will unlock a creative explosion of apps. We have more updates to share on this soon!

What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

I loved this article, explaining how to conduct 1:1s. My key takeaway? To commit to saying at least 1 awkward thing per 1:1 -- regardless of who it’s with. I’ve implemented this in my 1:1s, and it’s been incredibly helpful.

I also really loved 'Arnold' on Netflix. It’s a fascinating insight into a man who rose from relative hardship to the top of three professions: bodybuilding, acting, and government. He’s an immensely inspiring and charismatic figure. I think my biggest takeaway was the drive and focus he gave to his ambition -- something that most folks can learn from.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

Whilst building ProgressBar, I heavily utilized branding and marketing to help make the launch successful. As I discussed in the previous article, telling the story of the product and where it fits in was deeply important, particularly because the product is so simple.

What I didn’t expect was that branding would be much more important for a B2C product. Every touch point with the user is an opportunity to explain and strengthen your value proposition -- from your social media posts, and onboarding experience, to community culture. Your product isn’t just your product -- it’s everything the user sees, thinks about, and believes about you


Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yes! We’re looking to hire for 2 roles right now:

Feel free to DM on Twitter if you’d like a warm intro :smile:

Where can we go to learn more?

  • If you want to try out shelf (and DM me if you’d like an invite!)
  • We write about our mission and fun engineering challenges on the koodos blog
  • I write about culture, economics, and general musings on life on my personal blog

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