Daniel Reeves is Bootstrapping Beeminder at ~40,000 USD MRR Making Goal Tracking More Interesting

In this post, we are interviewing Daniel Reeves, who currently runs Beeminder, which he is bootstrapping at ~40,000 USD per month, making goal tracking a better and more fun experience. Keep reading to know more about the idea and the journey.


[Xtartups Interviewer] What does your product or service do?

Goal tracking and commitment devices.

[Xtartups Interviewer] What's your product's elevator pitch?

First, you pick a quantifiable, graphable goal, like getting 10k steps a day as measured by Fitbit or 4 hours a day of productive time as measured by RescueTime or getting to inbox zero. Beeminder graphs your progress and sends you reminders and if you don't keep all your data points on a track, we charge your credit card.

[Xtartups Interviewer] Tell us a bit about your team.

We're a literal mom&pop business with a handful of part-time employees.

[Xtartups Interviewer] What motivated you to work on this product?

There is kind of two origin stories for Beeminder -- both true!

In 2005, the year after the future Beeminder co-founders met, Danny was trying to finish his PhD thesis, arguably the most procrastination-prone activity in history. Bethany came to his rescue with all manner of crazy incentive and productivity schemes. She dubbed it the Voluntary Harassment Program. So we were heading in the direction of Beeminder very early but it wasn't until 2008 that we first built a website embodying the ideas. That's when Danny started helping a friend lose weight by implementing the principles from The Hacker's Diet via email and Mathematica.

Bethany was doing similar things in Excel for herself and they joined forces and hacked together Kibotzer, the kibitzing robot. That continued as a side project for a couple of years till late 2010 when they quit their day jobs to work on it full-time, which is also when we changed the name to Beeminder. It then took us another year till we publicly launched, in late 2011.

[Xtartups Interviewer] Tell us where you are in this product/company's journey?

It's probably fair to call it a lifestyle business at this point. We're growing but extremely gradually.

[Xtartups Interviewer] What has been your biggest learning moment in this journey?

Too many to name! We're working on a blog post collecting all the principles of startups we've formulated over the years, many of which we've blogged about individually. To name one we're particularly proud of: The Shirk-n-Turk Principle, which says not to automate things before you have to.

[Xtartups Interviewer] What has been your biggest validation for creating this product and taking it to the market?

Hearing about life-changing things (such as completing PhDs) that users accomplish with the help of Beeminder.

[Xtartups Interviewer] How did you find your first 10 customers?

Friends and family.

[Xtartups Interviewer] If you weren't working on this product, which other product/idea would you be pursuing?

We've talked about writing a book called "Homo Economicus Wannabes" describing all manner of crazy hyperrational lifehacks we've concocted.

[Xtartups Interviewer] Who is your favorite bootstrapped founder? And why?

Patrick McKenzie, now at Stripe, is overflowing with wisdom about bootstrapped startups.

[Xtartups Interviewer] What book or podcast has helped you in this journey?

Thomas Schelling's Choice and Consequence.

[Xtartups Interviewer] What do you wish you knew when you started working on this idea?

Something we call the Startup Egg-Basket Principle: do not try to diversify at all. Stay laser-focused on the one thing you are best at.

[Xtartups Interviewer] For someone who is thinking of starting a bootstrapped business, what would be the one thing they should watch out for?

Same answer! Or, to pick something else: don't wait till all your ducks are in a row. Put something together that makes even a single user happy and launch it. Iterate from there.

[Xtartups Interviewer] Are you hiring for any positions? If yes, how can people reach out to you?

Not at the moment. Feel free to reach out by email (founders@beeminder.com) or Twitter (@bmndr).