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An interview with Hari Dulipudi

If you haven’t heard of @1Hakr, I suggest getting him on your radar now. Hari is a Sydney-based, self-funded indie maker & microstartup king with a bunch of successful sites.

I first learned of him through Visalist, which is the easiest way to find visa/passport requirements for every country on earth. Since then he’s launched Simpleops, which is a performance monitoring tool that is off to a fantastic start. And he has like 3+ other highly successful microstartups as well.

I had a short but fun Zoom chat with Hari last week, where we discuss how he defines microstartups, the advantages of building microstartups over VC-backed companies, how he manages his time between them all, and what his end goals are.

You can listen to our 15-minute conversation.


Hari:

… or you are being pressured by VCs to have hypergrowth. So you’re doing at your own pace, which is very important. I’ve worked in a startup for five years when I was in India. So I realized that most of the startups fail because they are forced to chase growth. They are not allowed to do it at their own pace because every startup is not the same. Every problem they are trying to solve is not the same. It’s unique and it takes its own time. But because of VCs, everyone is forced to run at the same speed, which I think is one of the main reasons why many startups fail, which is not the case with microstartups. You have complete freedom because you are bootstrapping it and you are trying to build it on your own.

Hari:

So another thing with micro startups I personally do is I try to do it alone, and so one of the reasons… Or if you work with teams, I worked with teams, I’ve been a product manager, engineering manager. So one of the biggest things that you have to succeed in is basically convincing other people. That’s the hardest job. When you’re working alone, you already win the biggest problem. Of course, there are a lot of benefits when you work with a team than alone, but pros and cons, that’s a trade-off. For me it is without trying to convince someone, okay, this is right. Let’s only do this. That is not there. So yeah, kind of that.

Stefan:

That’s interesting. First of all, I love what you’re saying about how VCs and growth capital can strangle a company, really. It’s right for many companies, but it’s not right for every type of business, not right for every type of business model. I think so many people fall into the trap of I need capital, I need VCs and it’s like, no, you can bootstrap. It’ll take longer, but you’ll own everything yourself, you control your outcomes, you control your growth. So I love all that.

Stefan:

I like what you said about it being a solo adventure, right? You think of a micro startup is it’s almost like a solopreneur kind of thing. Would you agree with that?

Hari:

Yeah, mostly, mostly and there’s nothing wrong and if you have one more, miniature, a small team, but primarily you’re removing one of the biggest hurdles of trying to convince a bunch of people. It could be your close friends, but still you have to convince and that’s energy spent. You would rather spend that energy in solving the problem itself and then [inaudible 00:02:59].

Stefan:

Yep, very good. Makes sense.

Stefan:

My final question on microstartups, how do you think about the passive nature of microstartups versus more traditional startups? Do you perceive, or do you have any feelings about micro startups should lean more on the passive income side versus active? Or does that not fall into your equation at all?

Hari:

Okay. So we are only categorizing these because of the scale or the potential that they have initially. If you take a startup, let’s say, they might be solving a bigger problem and their ambitions and goals could be a lot higher. Ultimately, you’re doing the same. You’re trying to solve a problem for a particular set of audience. Only the scale is changing. So it really doesn’t matter if it’s an active income, passive.

Hari:

I mean, that should not be a concern for that matter for a startup also or for a company because they are trying to solve a problem. If they can solve the problem, of course, everything else will come and fall in place, the money, your [inaudible 00:04:10] all will come if you are focused on solving the problem for the consumer.

Stefan:

It’s interesting because I look at like Visa List and there’s no reason that couldn’t be a fairly large company. I mean, this is my assumption, but I’ve read some interviews where you’ve talked about some future plans you have and if you were to go that route, that doesn’t feel like a microstartup anymore. It feels like just a solid small business, right? A good, solid, small business that’s bootstrapped and beautiful. Great. I certainly don’t want to pigeonhole certain terms, but at some point it may be difficult to keep moving forward without turning it into something different. Is that something you are kind of okay with, are you thinking about that or…

Hari:

Yeah. Yeah. Ultimately, as I said, right, the scale is what it matters. It’s very easy to build some things from zero to one, but the same philosophy, the same mindset would not work if you want to grow it from one to five. So, of course, it won’t be a microstartup anymore if you decide to grow it further and, of course, you can’t work alone, you need more helping hands, figure out multiple moving parts if you really want to take that route. Yes, I completely agree it won’t be microstartup anymore.

Stefan:

Well, it’s interesting to me because, I mean, Visa List alone is a great microstartup success, but you have others and you just launched your most recent project, which is off to a great start as well. So how do you…

Hari:

Fingers crossed.

Stefan:

You know how to nail a launch. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from you is launching matters, marketing matters. I think that’s what a lot of indie hackers don’t understand is how important the marketing is, and you’ve definitely nailed that part, which is awesome. So, yeah, fingers crossed, for sure.

Stefan:

But how do you manage your time between different microstartups and not lose focus? Without losing focus, one, and without hiring a bunch of more people to help scale?

Hari:

Yeah. I keep talking to a lot of indie makers, I mentor them. One of the things that they keep falling back to is create lot of things. They have so many ideas and they keep fluctuating from, okay, I want to do this. I want to do this. They don’t finish any of it. And that’s where everything becomes a mess and they can’t come out of it. It’s not just in terms of building things. It’s also the mental mess that it creates there because you’re hopping between multiple things at the same time, and none of them are completed. So it’s like this. You started something in hopes that it will become huge and it’s been two months and it’s not growing like you anticipated. Some new idea pops up and you jump onto it and start building, so you leave this and that keeps happening. You keep jumping, do four or five things and you never really make the first one fully realize it potential. I think that is the biggest problem that I see.

Hari:

For me, what I try to do is I try to finish what I started in certain fashion that from the idea that I had, I tried to put goals, okay, this is my goal. I’ll reach it. If I don’t reach it, I’ll move on. But I have to give it this time, which could be a month based on the type, B2B, B2C or SaaS or something like that, the time and the goal. If I reach it, then I’ll grow it further till a point where it becomes… like Visa List, right? I started building it two years back. But if after the initial launch effect, left it there and start a new project, it would not have grown to 70 a month. Of course, it was pre-COVID, but yeah. That is I think is the biggest reason where I’m able to focus on multiple projects at the same time, because I have made sure that we have reached a certain potential, a maturity. And now that they could be automated in certain fashion and I only end up spending 10%, 15%.

Hari:

But at the same time, these microstartups have a roadmap that I’ve created. If I wanted to go back and explore that, I could keep doing it. It’s not like completely done. No, I still have a roadmap of a year for Visa List. It’s just that I’m not doing it anymore because I think I’ve given it a lot of time and, again, because of a standstill of the market. And I was getting a little bored of it for working for two years so I just had to build something.

Stefan:

There’s so many directions to go, I want to be mindful of your time. I think what you said about indie hackers, they get all these great ideas. They do 20% of the work. They get frustrated when they stall out and they move on to the next thing over and over and over again. And so you’re talking about you have actual goals, actual roadmaps, and you said something interesting about… You used the word finished and that’s my final question here. How do you think about an end goal for some of these microstartups, right? Does the idea of exiting cross your mind, or if it’s passive and earning income, would you rather just keep the cash flow? Because I think you and I have had a few chats about what Visa List might’ve been worth. I mean, that was before coronavirus, but it’ll come back. That’s fine.

Stefan:

So clearly you’re thinking about this stuff, but yeah, I’d love to really get inside your head around the end state. Because at the end of the day, there are only 24 hours in a day, there’s only one you. And if you don’t want to get a big scale team, big growth story kind of thing going, something’s got to give. So do you ever think about selling businesses or tell me about your thoughts there.

Hari:

Yeah. I’ve been approached by multiple people to sell my businesses. One guy keep mailing me from last three years. He’s relentless.

Stefan:

Wow.

Hari:

But anyways. So the thing with [inaudible 00:11:24] these people who buy versus me is that I have never built my microstartups to sell. A lot of people actually have an exit strategy, even for the startups. If you see, they have an exit strategy saying that at least loosely build that, okay, maybe if somebody offers me 10 million, I’ll sell my startup and then exit. Or [inaudible 00:11:54] you there. Something like everyone has an exit strategy in terms of when you’re building the businesses and these small businesses, small micro startups they also think that when they are starting.

Hari:

But for me, I don’t think in that way. So when they try to offer me from that perspective, it is something that I can’t accept because in my mind, of course, business is worth much more. But I would definitely do it if it’s something that if I was 10X offered the current potential is, if I am offered, I would definitely give it a [inaudible 00:12:39]. But it’s not something that I actively think or work towards because once you start doing that, your goals are different. It’s not…

Stefan:

You what? What’s that? Once you start doing that…

Hari:

Your goals are different then.

Stefan:

Yeah.

Hari:

You’re optimizing for that. Then that takes precedence and not the problem that you’re trying to solve because you are trying to show growth and that’s what even startups do, again, why they do it because VCs force them. Again, it becomes that cycle, which is even if you do that, thinking with that mindset of starting a microstart with the mindset of selling it off, at some point, again, falls into the same trap as VC startup trap.

Stefan:

Fascinating. I think what really is most compelling about this new world of microstartups is the idea of pacing. It’s at your pace, the pace that matters for you. Two years ago, you were building Visa List, your pace was hot and heavy. You’re building, you’re developing, you’re researching, you’re doing SEO. You’re doing everything that you wanted to do at that time. Now the world has changed. Travel is down. So maybe it’s time to ease up off the gas pedal on Visa List, start a new micro startup. But the point is up to you. You don’t have to answer to anyone else. You don’t have growth targets you have to hit. Your roadmap can be three, five year time horizon. Would you say that the idea of owning your pace is kind of one of the strongest aspects of this new world?

Hari:

Yes, you’re absolutely right, because everything boils down to peace of mind, which makes anyone happy. Because if you have peace of mind, you are happy. And everyone who is chasing your building startups, they want money because they want to be happy, which is, as you mentioned, peace of mind. When you do things at your own pace, you inherently have peace of mind because if something is troubling, you can pause it. You want to deal with that. And everything is at your own pace. Ultimately it’s boil down to that, peace of mind.

Stefan:

Excellent. Well, Hari, I could talk to you all day, but you’re a busy guy and you have three micro startups to tend to. So I don’t want to keep you too much longer. I’m going to stop recording here real quick and, yeah, I just wanted to say thank you very much for your time. Yeah, I admire you. I think you’re doing a great job and it was a pleasure to talk to you. I’ll probably include a transcript of this discussion in a future newsletter for my new newsletter. It’s called Alternative Assets and it’s about all sorts of things, but part of it is microstartup. That’s a big part of it.

Hari:

Awesome, awesome.

Stefan:

Yeah. If I’m ever allowed to travel again, next time I’m in Sydney, man, let’s grab a coffee or something.

Hari:

Definitely, man. It was a pleasure talking to you, man.

 


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Author

Stefan Von Imhof

Stefan Von Imhof

Stefan lives and breathes asset analysis and valuations. Formerly the Head of Product at Flippa – the world’s largest marketplace for buying & selling online businesses, he built Flippa's Due Diligence Program, and has bought & sold dozens of websites & newsletters. Prior to Flippa he was the first product manager at HG Insights, a market intelligence company sold to Riverwood Capital Partners in 2020. Originally from Boston and later Santa Barbara, CA, he now lives in Australia with his wife & Boston Terrier, Charlie.

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