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.

Indie Hackers 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.