I’m Quitting Indie Hackers

Summer Sixteen.

Drake’s single by the same name dropped while i was living in San Francisco.

i moved out west from New York City just 8 months earlier, a pilgrimage to the startup capital / Mecca / commune that is The Valley.

“you’re not serious about technology unless you’re in SoMa,” i convinced myself. in reality i hated everything about the town, and i still do.

then Indie Hackers launched, just 2 days after we launched Fomo.

the world was OK again:

  • a marketing SaaS tool committed to honesty and transparency
  • a public forum with a similar ethos, and open discussion

Fomo was one of the first and only advertisers on Indie Hackers, as Stripe quickly swooped them just a few months later.

Fomo's Indie Hackers receipt

the ads were a win for us, and Courtland (Indie Hackers founder) threw in extras like a newsletter shoutout and podcast opportunity.

Fomo ad on Indie Hackers

skip to Spring 2017.


Fomo wasn’t sure where it wanted to live on the “indie” spectrum. is this a lifestyle business? are we swinging for the fences?

it’s a question every founder ponders, and is immune to good times or bad. when work is stressful, “maybe i’ll automate, fire everyone, and settle on $50-100k /year.” when business is growing, “screw it, let’s IPO!

unclear how to answer this question, i backed off the Indie Hackers forums. i stopped reading interviews, up-voting comments, sharing…

but i loved the community:

  • highly talented people,
  • who could be working at iGoogleBook,
  • yet helping each other build solutions that,
  • while effective, generally earn smaller wages
  • than working on someone else’s vision.

Indie Hackers made it cool to be content with your business, while simultaneously practicing humility and learning (earnestly) how to grow it.

new wave

when Fomo made the decision to remain bootstrapped, but also* keep growing and remain the market leader, i dug back into the network.

our interview earned dozens of comments and 100s of relevant hits to our website.

Fomo on Indie Hackers

i live streamed 14 hours straight and nearly 50 folks watched at any given moment, contributing to a Google Doc to sketch ideas, data models and product names.

and when The Muse struck, i turned well-received comments into essays.

but all good things must come to an end.

here and now

this week, after dozens of freelance marketing gigs, more than a million in SaaS sales, 3 companies, and 6 acquisitions under my belt, i launched a course teaching everything i know about growth.

it’s not “cheap,” but it’s a lot less expensive than hiring me. and trust: a lot of folks try to hire me. (this is not a brag, it’s evidence.)

“to all the folks willing to pay for my time, why not deliver a better way?”

why not teach them to fish?

so i partnered w/ GrowthX Academy. i spent a few months building presentations, exercises, a reading list, and most important: a framework for growing SaaS platforms.

(content relevant to Indie Hackers, eh?)

first, i shared with my own network on Twitter.


result: ~45 inbound email leads.

next, i wrote the backstory and emailed my subscribers.

result: more leads.

sprinkle in some email Q&A, result: sales.

finally, i revisited a community i’ve contributed to since launch; i posted my course on Indie Hackers.

Growth DNA on Indie Hackers

cesspools are everywhere

most marketers worth their salt learned 2 years ago that reddit is essentially worthless for self promotion.

yes, a bit of tactful messaging and an “upvote club” of friends can game a piece of content or sales pitch to the top of a subreddit, driving 500-5000 clicks.

but as Nassim Taleb says, exceptions confirm the rule.

so i didn’t bother sharing on reddit. downvotes and vile hatred are not part of my daily routine. reddit has a f***** up culture.


in fact, the 2nd product i ever built while learning to code in 2015 was exactly this, a reddit crystal ball downvote simulator.

reddit hatred generator

you can burst your own self-promotional bubble with it here:
https://beforereddit.herokuapp.com/ (source code)

Indie Hackers, on the other hand… now that’s a community.

a place you can share and be rewarded: through comments, smart feedback, easy networking, and maybe even a new client…

err, so i thought.


my post on Indie Hackers about the growth course got exactly 0 (zero) upvotes.

it did get a couple comments, though:

  1. “what a great idea. post a product and say it makes $100k/month – then upsell people marketing course for $2k. goshh… is this what indie hackers going to become?”
  2. “Heads up to other readers: this is a sales page for a $1,750 course. Unless you already have traction or thousands of dollars lying around to to spend on online training this link may not be for you.”

let’s dissect.

comment #1

“post a product and *say* it makes $100k /month”

  • are you calling me a liar? (OP is referring to my tell-all Fomo interview)

“upsell people marketing course for $2k”

  • you mean, “a marketing course,” right? and it’s $1,750, not $2k. fake news.

“is this what indie hackers is going to become?”

  • why do you think people post interviews, go on the podcast? why do you think companies like Fomo *advertised* before the Stripe acquisition?
  • it’s to help others, yes. and it’s for commercial benefit. because when you help people, you make money. grow up.

ps, a course that accelerates an indie hacker’s marketing skills, propelling them further toward financial freedom, is exactly what Indie Hackers is about. GFY.

comment #2

first, i’m 99% certain this originally said “warning to other readers,” and not “heads up.” i could be mistaken, but i believe the OP changed their comment.

alarmist language like this deserves exactly the reply i provided: “lol.”

“unless you have thousands of dollars lying around…”

  • Low IQ.

“this may not be the link for you…”

  • censorship is scary.
  • this wasn’t a link to “get in my van” on Neopets.
  • Indie Hackers readers are smart, grown-ass adults who can click for themselves.

Indie Hackers result: zero leads, 7 migraines.

key learnings

marketers don’t expect every channel to work. but we do expect to learn from every channel we try.

here’s what i learned this week:

  • Indie Hackers is doing a great job following reddit’s footsteps
  • i will no longer spend precious free time contributing to the “community”

let’s face it: case studies, interviews, roundup blog posts… they’re porn.

insecure marketers especially, can’t get enough. it’s easier to read about someone else’s success than achieve it ourselves. these are weak people.

yet evidently, when those who have achieved success try to share it, insecurities compound and mob mentality seeks a scapegoat to their personal problems.

after all, nobody wants to confront their own inadequacy.

“how dare he charge $1,750 for a course!”

next steps

this isn’t the first time i quit an infected network.

  • 3 months ago i quit Instagram
  • 2 years and 20 days ago i quit Medium; one reader even wrote about it
  • 6 years and 4 months ago i quit Facebook

but i’m not special, and i’m not alone.

in a world where 99% of people consume and only 1% create, communities who fail their contributors, fail their readers.

i’m still a fan of the Indie Hackers founding team, their Stripe partnership, and of course the Stripe platform, but Peter Thiel’s advice is prescient:

“Don’t fuck up the culture.”

goodbye Indie Hackers, goodbye Low IQ comments that don’t create, only destroy.


  1. Jon Stenstrom June 21, 2018 at 11:46 am

    Well put man. It’s hard for people to grasp the drives and motivations of those who make. It can get lonely we the top trying to show people a different thought pattern or life path.

    Where’s next for you after indie?

    1. Ryan Kulp June 21, 2018 at 11:49 am

      thanks Jon. i think my next move will follow the old adage, “the only way to get the job done right, is to do it yourself.”

      this doesn’t mean i’m going to build a platform, but i can at the very least control who i spend time with in the real world. which networking events do i attend? who do i meet for coffee? etc.

      appreciate the insights.

  2. Mike June 21, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Daniel Ndukwu June 29, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    Damn Ryan,

    It’s sad to see you go. I didn’t see your post, otherwise I would’ve upvoted it.

    It’s unfortunate that some people feel everything should be free. Have you ever noticed that very few people take action on free advice?


    Where are you hanging out now btw?

    1. Ryan Kulp June 30, 2018 at 12:28 am

      thanks for the support, Daniel. i hang out mostly in Gramercy / East Village. you? (unless you’re asking about online… in which case my answer is “nowhere”)

      1. Daniel Ndukwu June 30, 2018 at 10:09 am

        Haha, yea, I was talking about online.

        But since we’re sharing, I’m in Atlanta but I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in Africa. It’s refreshing. Let me know if you ever wander to the motherland, I’ll take you around.

  4. CJ Nwafor July 19, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks for the article Ryan, it was super insightful and helpful. Would love to ask a couple questions as a non technical founder looking to boost my technical side if you have a moment to chat. I’m actually in the east village too right by alphabet city.

  5. Sergey Alekseev August 31, 2018 at 6:18 am

    UPD: you got exactly 1 (one) upvote. ;)

    Thanks a lot for sharing useful content! Especially for someone who develops Shopify apps.

  6. Dana September 1, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    This bums me out, but I get it. I remember the first time someone called me a “pretentious douchebag” on the internet for publishing a well-researched article.

    I was looking for your tell-all interview (which is now down). I’m trying to expand my mind on what businesses to build by dissecting existing ones into customer, pain, solution. Would you mind sending me a private copy? I promise not to forward and to send you a virtual respectful nod of appreciation.

  7. Matthieu September 26, 2018 at 3:08 am

    That’s an interesting article.

    I might be naive here but why you simply didn’t explain in two lines that the course is anyway less than hiring you and can be useful for some people on Indie Hacker?

    I’m not sure judging a community on two comments is really accurate. Maybe a lot of people missed your post for other reasons?

    1. Ryan Kulp September 28, 2018 at 3:18 pm

      2020 hindsight. i’m not convinced the value prop of “cheaper than hiring me” is sticky enough for the 99.99% of folks who have never heard of me or wanted to hire me, and regardless i’d rather the material speak for itself. but thank you for reading.

  8. John Blackwell November 12, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    So where is an honest value prop to go to gain traction? Are you going exclusively word of mouth?

    Just starting out and I’ve just been trying to see any negativity as part of the hard work required, but I’m kind of with you on all of this.

    1. Ryan Kulp November 12, 2018 at 2:33 pm

      hey John, thanks for asking.

      i acquire students from my personal network (tweeting, blogging like this), from word of mouth, and various backlinks to my course around the web (CourseReport, Quora, etc).

      i don’t currently do any paid advertising, and i don’t link to the course in presentations, podcast interviews, or really any of the 10+ places i have the opportunity to do so.

      we’re successfully teaching (+ learning), so i’m happy. this recap was just an expression of how low IQ i’ve found the Indie Hackers community, which is unfortunate.

      onward and upward!

  9. Nick December 12, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Honestly this might be a scarcity mindset but I prefer that programmers stay stupid about marketing and sales. Less competition. Let’s face the facts, right now as developing software get easier and cheaper more products will pop up as they have been. I like the barrier to entry. I like NOT sharing hard earned information unless someone wants to buy it. Besides, if they want it badly enough they’ll go get it and find a way. Just like you did. Now where is your damn link so I can give you my f*cking money.

    1. Ryan Kulp December 12, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      interesting thoughts. i agree with not sharing hard earned information if someone is ungrateful*, but i don’t think all content should be pay to play either.

      will send you the link privately ;)


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