How We Built An $8K/Month Niche Online Tool [Business Idea Validated On Reddit]

Published: January 6th, 2023
Lukas Hermann
from Stuttgart, Germany
started November 2021
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi there, my name is Liz and I’m the co-founder of Stagetimer together with my husband Lukas Hermann. Stagetimer is an online countdown timer you can share with other people via a link or QR code. That means you can create multiple timers to keep a meeting or presentation on time and share it with anyone around the world.

Every time I tell friends and family about it, most of them wonder how this can make money (and you may also be wondering the same). Well, people that run events could see the value right away. When you watch a TED talk, for example, the presenter has a TV in front of them that shows them a timer, so they don’t go on and on talking.

That is what Stagetimer does: it times anything that you want to keep on time. And this simple tool generates $8,000 in monthly revenue on average.


Word of mouth has been a great growth driver from the very beginning. That is the magic of going niche.

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

Lukas and I have always been interested in trying things and having some side projects while doing our full-time jobs. I was working with education and humanitarian work while he was working as a developer for a startup. One day in November 2021, while I was abroad visiting an NGO for work, he went to a recording studio where one of his friends works.

Something seemed wrong: his friend would start a timer on an iPad in front of the stage and then run to the control area to start the recording. That didn’t make any sense! How come he cannot start the timer remotely?

Out of curiosity, Lukas checked for such a tool once he was back home: a timer that can be remote-controlled. No, there was no such thing. That is when he decided to code one during the weekend just to test his skills.

He posted about it on Reddit and got some good feedback on what such a tool should be like. The new users coming from the Reddit post were so excited that the next features came easily. After six months of iterations done on evenings or weekends, Lukas launched a paid version in June 2022. Not a marketer, he simply posted on Reddit again, and to his surprise, got his first paying customer.

Less than four months later, Lukas wasn’t able to answer customer emails anymore since he still had a full-time job. I on the other end was done with my job after having two burnout episodes and wanting to make a career change. In September 2022, after a long call in which I shared with Lukas that I could not see myself working in education anymore, he mentioned he wanted a co-founder to help grow Stagetimer and asked me if I would be interested. I jumped on the opportunity and left my job without looking back.

I had done a few things in the past that got me started on marketing and business growth, but nothing deep. So that was my chance to make a career change and become good at something new. Being the nerd I am, I dove head first and learned everything I could about marketing, business growth, and customer development. I’m still learning new things every week, but I already feel comfortable that I can do a good job at scaling Stagetimer.

First post on Reddit before building the timer

Second post once the paid version of Stagetimer was created

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

The initial version of Stagetimer was as simple as it gets. The layout was simple and there wasn’t even a landing page. Once you typed, you would get to a simple timer that would allow you to display a message, a timer, or a combination of both. And, of course, the key element: you could share the timers with others instead of hoping that your guest presenter speaking from the other side of the world has remembered to set a timer before their presentation.

For event producers, this was a great step forward since now you could open the link on the monitor in front of the stage and control it from the control room. No need for cables crossing the whole venue.


Sharing about the timer on the ComercialAV subreddit was, in the end, the stroke of genius that put the tool in front of the right people: highly technical producers that crave tools that will make work easier. The feedback from these early users was always on point and very technically well described. That made our lives much easier.

I’ll never forget an email we got from a customer that had just purchased an annual subscription. He started by saying that he loved the tool, followed by a list of almost 10 feature requests, and finished the email with the phrase: “if there isn't much progress towards the requested features, then I guess we'd reconsider renewal after a year, but for now it does some of what we need”.

That was enough to make us work as hard as we could to make the tool as useful as it could be for our main customers. And I can gladly report that he has indeed renewed his annual subscription.

Starting projects based on ideas I had while walking, showering, or talking to someone has turned out okay, but starting a project based on a need or lack in the market has proved to be more engaging and scalable.

Describe the process of launching the business.

We never had a proper launch for Stagetimer until 1 year and 6 months after the tool was created. The Reddit posts brought the first users and these users started to refer the tool to everybody that would listen to them. Word of mouth has been a great growth driver from the very beginning. That is the magic of going niche: video and event producers were so happy about Stagetimer that they would recommend it to industry colleagues and even write us emails telling us so.

Another perk of providing a service to an industry where every single professional knows so much about technology was the kind of endorsements we would get. Several YouTube creators from the event and audiovisual industry would either mention Stagetimer in their product reviews or even make a video explaining how to use Stagetimer. It is no surprise that the videos they made were super high quality and better than anything we could have commissioned from any freelancer or influencer.

Video about Stagetimer made by John Barker, one of the industry professionals

And the final cherry on top came from the fact that naming the service was done in the most practical way possible. You must have heard already that when trying to sell a horse, simply advertise “horse for sale”. By naming the tool Stagetimer, which is exactly what it is, a stage timer, SEO ranking was almost immediate. When professionals look for a stage timer, guess who is on the first page on Google? From there, we started to do more work on optimizing our content for search and also started running ads.

In May 2022, we decided to launch Stagetimer on ProductHunt and made it as #1 product of the day with the support of our indie maker friends on Twitter. We didn’t get any sales from it since our main customer segment does not use the platform. In any case, we already considered the product validated by then and saw it as a nice learning experience.


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

Throughout the whole time since the basic version of Stagetimer was created in November 2021, Stagetimer has been growing mainly from search and word of mouth. In the case of search, we have been focusing on creating content on our website that will rank well on Google and complementing it with ads. Whatever we don’t rank organically for, we target with ads on Google.

As for word of mouth, there is not much we have done so far other than continue to iterate on the product and always try to provide the best customer service we can. We have noticed that our users genuinely love Stagetimer and are happy to recommend it without any form of incentive or compensation. Knowing that you should mess with something that is working, we decided not to introduce a referral form of incentive. It may change in the future, but as of right now, organic word of mouth has been working well.

Retention, in our case, has been something we had to learn based on the use of our specific industry. During holidays sales usually go down for Stagetimer and many people cancel their subscriptions during vacation time. We came to terms with it when we saw that the same customers came back right after vacation is finished and understood that they simply don’t need the tool during that time.

We also noticed that many people would subscribe and cancel before completing a month of use. That worried me at first, so I would write them a message saying that if they did not like Stagetimer or it did not do what they expected, I would give their money back (and I meant it). In the end, nobody ever accepted a refund and instead sent me glowing reviews of the tool and mentioned that they only needed it for one event. That is when we decided to create a one-time event license that you can purchase, use for 10 days, and not have to cancel afterward. This has boosted our revenue ever since, and most customers end up buying 2-6 licenses a year.

Be very careful when adding features thinking that once they are implemented, free users will then convert. This is usually not the case.

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

Stagetimer is now our full-time job and has been providing for all our expenses, including a trip around the world we are taking right now, as I’m writing this on December 2022. We call it our full-time job because we have already quit our previous employment and don’t do freelance work to complement our income. But in reality, we work anything between 2-6 hours a day on Stagetimer and use the rest of the time on side projects, learning, wellness, and things we do for fun.

Lukas still does all the technical work alone, which may change soon since we plan on having someone fix bugs and do some development work. He also does the finances together with a bookkeeper. That is definitely the best investment we have done so far: having a professional helping us with accounting and taxes.

I do marketing, customer service, and sales. Funnily enough, the more we grow, the fewer customer support tickets we get. As more and more established companies purchase Stagetimer, we see that they hardly contact us for anything. And since we have focused on product-led growth, we only do inbound sales (companies that contact us for Enterprise deals), for which I am the point of contact.

Fun fact: I don’t sign emails as Stagetimer’s founder, so most customers that interact with me feel like talking to an employee, and I like it that way.

As for marketing, my work consists mainly of managing content creation for the website, managing our ad account, and occasional interviews such as this one.


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

Starting projects based on ideas I had while walking, showering, or talking to someone has turned out okay, but starting a project based on a need or lack in the market has proved to be more engaging and scalable. Seeing our first users and customers using the tool and receiving feedback from them has been a very successful way to build a business.

One of the early lessons from building Stagetimer has been the value of assessing feedback. Feedback from free users can be very deceiving. When free users say that they will buy if you add this or that feature, always make sure to compare the information with requests made by actual customers. They already made clear with their money what the value of the tool is and what should be added. Be very careful when adding features thinking that once they are implemented, free users will then convert. This is usually not the case.

Another lesson for us was the benefit of adopting a freemium model. When users can have access to a limited amount of features forever, a relationship of trust and goodwill is built. Once they need access to all features, the decision to buy your service or product is much easier since there is already trust in place.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Here are the tools we use for Stagetimer:

  • Paddle for payments
  • Email for customer support
  • Firebase for authentication & subscription management
  • The app is built on the MEVN Stack (MongoDB, Express, Vue.js, Node.js)
  • Cloudflare for DNS and load balancing

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

My favorite and only podcast I have been listening to lately is My First Million. I have also listened to a lot of Planet Money and Hidden Brain, two of my favorite podcasts in the past.

My favorite books on business are:

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

I truly believe that building a business out of an actual need will give you more pleasure than just trying to build something that may make you money. And the process of finding these business ideas can be a lot of fun. Lukas and I often play a game where we challenge each other to observe how things around us could be done better. We try to look for inefficiencies and problems in everyday activities, and then come up with solutions and ideas for how to fix them.

This game has given us a lot of great ideas for potential businesses.

I do have ideas for businesses all the time as I think and get interested in different topics. Ideas, however, can be deceiving. They may sound super interesting in your head, but other people may not find them as interesting or useful as you think. For every idea that comes to my mind, I try to first understand if other people have the same pain or desire and then make sure it is painful enough that people will be willing to pay for it.

And as my last piece of advice: if you have a job right now, start building a side project first, then quit your job and go full-time on your own business once you have validated your product or service. This way, you can build your business without the added stress of having to make money right away otherwise, you will be broken.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We have been working on Stagetimer just the two of us since the beginning but have recently started to outsource a few tasks, such as content writing and other marketing activities. We don’t foresee hiring soon but are curious to see what challenges will come along the way as we scale Stagetimer.

Where can we go to learn more?

Lukas and I are quite active on Twitter, where you can see our process as Lukas is building in public, and I share mainly my learnings on marketing and customer acquisition.

You can also learn more about Stagetimer here and use it for free to time your meetings, presentations, or anything else.

You can also contact me by email anytime.

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