In this post, we are interviewing Will Hankinson, who currently runs Introcave, which he is bootstrapped to ~3500 USD, creating intros for YouTube content creators and brands. Lots of value in this one, so keep reading.
[Xtartups Interviewer] What does your product or service do?
IntroCave is an intro maker -- I primarily sell YouTube intro videos across a variety of categories like gaming and news.
[Xtartups Interviewer] What's your product's elevator pitch?
Starting a YouTube channel is hard enough without also having to learn how to use animation software. A high-quality intro video (either with the name of your channel or your logo) is a good step towards taking your channel seriously.
[Xtartups Interviewer] Tell us a bit about your team.
I use contractors from time to time, but do almost everything myself. I acquired the business in 2018 through FE International and work on it around one to two days a week.
[Xtartups Interviewer] What motivated you to work on this product?
I studied film and animation in college, but I've mostly been a web developer since graduating. IntroCave seemed like a good opportunity to dust off some of my old skills. I don't think YouTube is anywhere near its peak, so I like the idea of working on something that supports a growing industry.
[Xtartups Interviewer] Tell us where you are in this product/company's journey?
After being 100% one-time purchases since buying the business, I *just* rolled out subscription plans in August 2021. I had a lot of technical debt to smooth over, but now I have a good set of processes in place to bring on new content, and I'm ready to start testing growth channels.
Customers primarily find IntroCave through search engines right now, but I'm hoping that increased LTV will allow me to start buying ads profitably. The site does around $3-5k/month in revenue through organic traffic and word of mouth right now.
[Xtartups Interviewer] What has been your biggest learning moment in this journey?
Organic traffic is not as stable as I expected. I spent the last few years on mobile, where most of the installs come from platform relationships, ad spend, and word-of-mouth.
I thought buying a site with good organic rankings would be more relaxing than constantly tuning ads and viral loops, but it turns out SERP rankings are pretty volatile, too.
There's been an absolute explosion in video creation tools in the last few years, and that's made it a LOT harder to rank for what I consider my tier one keywords.
[Xtartups Interviewer] What has been your biggest validation for creating this product and taking it to the market?
I launched subscriptions a few weeks ago and thought it might take a month or two to pick up my first subscribers. I believe the product provides value, but I wasn't sure if there was enough demand for multiple intro videos. I've been pleasantly surprised by the conversion rates so far.
[Xtartups Interviewer] How did you find your first 10 customers?
I didn't! I bought the business when it was already making a bit of revenue. I've built a few products that never went anywhere, so it was pretty appealing to just skip that step and spend my time working on something that I know *could* make money.
[Xtartups Interviewer] If you weren't working on this product, which other product/idea would you be pursuing?
There are a few niches that I haven't tried -- enterprise SaaS, physical products, domain development. If money were no issue, I'd probably go back to game development.
[Xtartups Interviewer] Who is your favorite bootstrapped founder? And why?
I enjoy listening to Justin Jackson's podcast. He's a bit closer to my age, has a family, has a mortgage. I'm super inspired by digital nomads who post pictures of Bali and live on $2k/month, but it doesn't match up that well with my lifestyle.
[Xtartups Interviewer] What book or podcast has helped you in this journey?
I would say Hacker News has done more than any one book or podcast, but Startups for the Rest of Us is a good place to start.
[Xtartups Interviewer] What do you wish you knew when you started working on this idea?
I wish I knew how much more competitive the video maker space would get over three years. I purchased intromaker.com (it was parked) right around the same time as introcave.com. Immediately rebranding felt too risky (the $2500/mo revenue stream I was buying might just *vanish*), but I wish I'd spent the last three years growing links and talking about Intro Maker instead of IntroCave.
[Xtartups Interviewer] For someone who is thinking of starting a bootstrapped business, what would be the one thing they should watch out for?
I think going from $0 to revenue is the hardest part of building anything, and I feel like most people don't know that you can just skip that step entirely. If you have skills in operations and optimization, growing something that's already working is way easier than validating a new product from scratch.
[Xtartups Interviewer] Are you hiring for any positions? If yes, how can people reach out to you?
I'm operating solo at the moment. However, I'm active on Twitter (@SimianLogic), or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.