How I Built a $600 / mo Product In One Day

I’ve been working on a few big projects recently, and became frustrated with the inertia built into launching anything big. Sometimes it seems like things will never be ready; like there’s just too much to do.

So I decided to take a break, and really challenge myself.

The Challenge: Building a $500 / mo Product in A Day

For some reason, I’m most motivated by absurd goals. Could I really find a market, pick a niche, and build a product in a single day? And what about marketing?

I decided that a single day wouldn’t afford any time for marketing, and so decided to just focus my efforts on finding a simple market inefficiency. That is, finding a pain point from within the web.

Deciding to Build Something Small

I decided to build some sort of plugin for an Open Source web project. I’ve noticed a real inefficiency here. All the good programmers are out there building the next Twitter, not making life easier for the businesses using Open Source software.

But which Open Source web software? To find out, I pulled up Google Trends, and searched for my potential targets:

As you can see, WordPress turns out to be the great big old winner. It simply gets searched for more often than my other two potential targets combined. And it’s growing like crazy.

A perfect market to search for inefficiencies.

Total Time Spent Finding Market: 2 hours

Narrowing It Down: Finding Unserved Pain Points

The most obvious market for WordPress is within Commercial themes. However, this market is pretty damn competitive, with multiple companies already established making 7 figure incomes. I decided building a complete theme and finding a place to market it in a single day was too obvious a path.

Seems WordPress plugins may be an interesting niche.

So instead, I focused on secondary needs. What is the purpose of WordPress, and what’s a user’s greatest pain point that isn’t being served?

In my case, I decided it was figuring out what the hell to write about. Having run a company, I know that it can be a pain to write content about widgets every day. I mean, how much can a person say about widget x?

Problem Definition: Making it easier to come up with ideas about what to write about.

Having the Aha! Moment

So again, I began researching. How do writers aggregate data relevant to their topic?

The answer was by monitoring RSS feeds, twitter, news sites, etc.

So my product would put that very front end right into WordPress. Grabbing RSS feeds, and putting them directly into the WordPress backend.

This is going to be our product.

Product Definition: RSS feed aggregator integrated into WordPress with the ability to put excerpts into post automatically

Total Time Defining Product: About 30 minutes

Leveraging Existing Technology

So we’ve defined our product roughly. The question now becomes:

What existing technology can I leverage to solve this problem?

It turns out, there’s an incredible library for manipulating RSS feeds in PHP called SimplePie. It’s dead simple to use, and it’s got great examples. I build upon one of the examples and get my RSS feeds working in under an hour.

Plugging into WordPress

I don’t want to say WordPress is poorly documented, because it isn’t. However, it is pretty dry to read technical writing. That being said, my next job was to bring my nice SimplePie based RSS reader right on into the WordPress backend.

To do so, I needed to create a plugin skeleton for WordPress, and add a plugin for TinyMCE. These two meant I had to go back and forth between the WordPress and TinyMCE documentation to figure out how the two fit together.

But once it was all plugged in, I had a working prototype another hour and a half into my actual work.

Total time to build the actual product: 2 1/2 hours

Finding a Marketplace

This was the real opportunity for efficiency. As part of my experiment, I didn’t want to spend a dime on building a market or processing sales. As the day wore on, I decided this could make a great example for someone with absolutely no monetary resources.

So I began researching markets to publish my Commercial WordPress Plugin to.

There was my old favorite, the Envato Marketplace, but they charge a ridiculous commission structure. Something like 50% if you decide you want to retain control to your own product.

That’s just a little too high, even for me.

So I kept looking, and found this great site, Turns out they only want a 10% commission to add your software to their marketplace.

However, they insist upon all plugins being released under the GPL, and so I needed to go back and make sure all my code had the GPL inserted into it. However, I signed up for an account, created a zip file, and began writing the documentation for my plugin.

All told, creating some screenshots, writing up a description and cleaning up code probably took more time than writing the actual software.

Total Time Finding Marketplace, Writing Copy: 3 hours

Success! The product has been built and sent out in under a day!

Finally, Watching the Money Roll In

With the marketplace I chose, there was a delay in waiting for my plugin to be approved. However, from the very first day I had sales.

I chose a very low cost for my product, because I believe people don’t have a problem paying for something if it’s less work than pirating it.

That being said, my product is being sold at $14.95 per copy. If you’re interested, you can see a video of it in action below:

You can check out the final product, Content Avalanche here.

Entrepreneurs as Systems Designers

I realized recently that the most effective use of my time has become systems design. Most of my software projects suffer from entropy almost immediately, faltering without other people involved to spur them on. I can’t keep updating all the software and sites I want to write forever.

So now I’ve begun a completely new approach to the businesses and projects I take on. That is, I now have the following terms and conditions before I’ll touch any new project:

  • Other People’s Money
  • Other People’s Efforts
  • Other People’s Intelligence

Understand, I now understand that entropy is built into everything. If I don’t incorporate other people’s efforts and capital into my project, it’s too easy for them to wither away.

Business As Systems Design

So, instead of designing solutions in software, I like to view business as an opportunity to create new systems. These systems create new customers, and provide for their needs through creative application of other people’s talents.

Building a better world is a key motivation in my work. In doing so, in remains that the most important task of all is being a coach to others, including myself.

Business As Moral Imperative

So I don’t see business as a process of extracting a profit from as many potential customers as possible. I see business as a process of unlocking potentialities.

  • I take capital that would otherwise be invested in processes that were wasteful, and make them more efficient.
  • I take talented people who would otherwise be underutilized, and I push them to be better.
  • I take intelligence and ideas, and I apply them in ways that would otherwise not have been possible.

It is this flow and this design that really excites me. Because I see the potential within the organization to create better people, better products, and a better world.

Building Positive Feedback Loops

In essence, entrepreneurship is all about creating positive feedback loops. Becoming a systems designer, but the systems we are designing are actually life itself.

Getting even more meta, we are all reality designers, and our jobs as entrepreneurs is to create an even better reality than existed before.

Ycombinator itself is a great example of this systems design. Paul Graham is more of a coach and mentor to the people involved in the startup.

Focused on Unlocking the Potentials of People, Capital, and Ideas

Instead of focusing his efforts on building some new widget, he’s in the business of building new positive feedback systems. Unlocking the capital, the intelligence, and the wisdom to flow into new systems.

Truly effective people understand the wisdom in building self regulating systems, with positive feedback and growth continuing past the initial effort.