Please welcome AJ, the founder of Carrd, a platform for building simple, fully responsive one-page sites for pretty much anything. With over 4000 upvotes, Carrd is one the most popular products of all time on Product Hunt.
Davis Baer: What’s your background, and what motivated you to get started with Carrd?
Did that for like, a decade or so, which is why I really, really needed a new challenge. Not because I disliked what I did, but because I had picked up a ton of new skills/knowledge along the way — particularly in recent years when I took things in a more experimental direction — and I wanted to see if I could pull off something big.
After a bit of brainstorming I settled on the idea of a one-page site builder since it felt like a good fit for not only the type of challenge I wanted, but also my existing background doing template/theme stuff (=gave me an edge in understanding the potential market, what users wanted, etc).
What went into building the initial product?
A week or two of planning followed by a few months of off-and-on development on a (very rough) prototype of the site generator (mid 2015). No real UI to speak of, but it was enough to validate the idea and move the project forward.
Following that, I hunkered down and worked on what would become the private alpha I ran by a handful of friends (late 2015), a few private/public betas (early 2016), and finally the version I’d end up launching in March 2016.
What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
“Freemium” I guess would be the best way to describe it. You can visit carrd.co/build right now and build up to 3 sites on the free “Basic” plan, then upgrade to one of four “Pro” plans (starting from $9/year) if you want more features like custom domains, forms, widgets, etc.
As to growing revenue: most of my focus has been on building the platform so I haven’t really spent a whole lot of time/effort on this, but it seems the freemium model combined with the fact that you don’t even have to sign up to try it out makes for a pretty potent “word of mouth” strategy, and so far it seems to be working well (the numbers keep going up on their own :)
How did you get your first 10 users?
Twitter! I already had a decent following on Twitter from my template/theme work so it wasn’t too difficult to find folks to try (and give feedback on) my then-unknown project.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome?
Definitely scale, but probably not in the way people think. From a platform perspective I (luckily) had the foresight to develop the thing with scale in mind so as far as building and serving sites — no problem there.
However, as Carrd grows and gets used by not only more users, but also different groups of users beyond just my own peers (who were mostly bootstrap/startup types), I’m having to address things I simply didn’t think of (how should I handle users who like to squat “premium” .carrd.co URLs?) and implement features for use cases of Carrd I never anticipated but are apparently pretty popular among my user base.
If you weren’t building Carrd, what would you be doing?
Probably building something else! :)
That “new challenge” phase I went through in early 2015 would have still lead to me working on something, but I suspect that “something” wouldn’t have been as good of a fit for me as Carrd has been.