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🧠 Indie Hacker Earning 30K Per Month

How this founder built a startup solving a complex problem in a fast growing industry

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Case Study

Indie Hacker Earning 30K Per Month

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Mario Jankovic.

He’s the co-founder of Upstream, the 24/7 livestream-as-a-service platform helping YouTube creators take their channels to the next level.

Despite only live for 1 year, the team are about to cross €30,000 MRR.

And the best part? They’re 100% bootstrapped!

Here’s how they did it…

How Upstream got started

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Mario wanted to launch a video game. Being an avid gamer himself he had plenty of ideas but was lost on how to promote it.

After talking with his buddy they eventually came up with the idea that they would host a 24/7 live stream playing the game.

But one question was left unanswered: Is it even possible to hold a 24/7 livestream?

“So as it turns out, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong when hosting a 24/7 livestream.

Most people are just running it on their home computers and rely on their internet not dying, and their battery lasting.

There’s also a lot that can go wrong when streaming to Twitch or YouTube in terms of sound and video quality if you have bad internet.

If any of these things fail, you lose your stream and your audience and have to start all over again which obviously impacts your engagement.”

Identifying their opportunity

So clearly, despite all the big players like YouTube and Twitch doing the heavy lifting for viewers, there are still a lot of unsolved problems for hosts.

What’s more the existing products were just not up to scratch…

“A lot of customers come to us from competitors because their customer support is just terrible.

It’s still a relatively new space and there are a lot of details about YouTube, TikTok etc to know if you want to start streaming that aren’t really that obvious.

Plus when you're dealing with 24/7 live streams, it’s 100% uptime without failure. That’s a tough bar to hit, and it seemed like everyone else was falling short.”

Whilst being a new industry, creators are making a LOT of money streaming. Sometimes into the tens of millions of dollars a year.

So with Upstream, Mario and his co-founder are kind of selling shovels in a gold rush!

Getting their first customer

The team found their first customer for Upstream from Google Ads.

And whilst Google Ads can work, they cost money. And early on that’s not something a lot of bootstrapped founders have!

So they quickly developed an organic marketing strategy that led to their first sale…

“We spent a lot of time on Reddit, answering questions and trying to help people.

We used GummySearch to track specific keywords and as soon as we saw a new post we would make sure we were the first ones to comment.

One day I remember just putting my kids to bed and I got a message from my co-founder saying that we’d just made our first $30 sale!”

So that’s another +1 for Reddit - it truly is one of the best places to launch a startup (if done properly).

Focusing on quality

Mario and his co-founder have different skill sets. Mario is a front-end guy while his co-founder is more of a back-end developer at heart.

But as a team, they share the same goal - building the best product they can that, in their words, ‘just works’…

“There are no off-the-shelf solutions for live streaming so we had to build everything from scratch.

We wanted a seamless self-service experience where people could sign up and start streaming on their own server without any help from us.

That meant we had a lot of work to do to just get a working MVP. So anything like bookkeeping and invoices we automated straight away.

That gave us the time to really focus on the details of everything about Upstream from the UX right down to how we manage the servers.

Throughout the interview, Mario made it clear how important it is that founders focus on building really high-quality products.

The barrier to entry for startups gets lower all the time so quality matters now more than ever.

“If I were to give one piece of advice to any founder - don’t take the last 10% for granted. It’s what makes all the difference.

Make that extra push to differentiate yourself from your competitors. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just make sure to provide an awesome experience.

If you loved this case study - be sure to reply and let us know!

See you next week! 👋

Charlie

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