The SaaS Podcast

The One Person, Million Dollar SaaS Business – with Mike Carson [170]

Millio Dollar Saas - Mike Carson

The One Person, Million Dollar SaaS Business

Mike Carson is the founder of Park.io, a service which helps you to backorder expiring domain names.

Mike is a developer who for many years struggled to find business success. He was working hard on multiple projects. But none of them were working out.

And it was a painful time for him. He couldn't understand why he kept failing. And he'd often wonder if he wasn't working hard enough or just doing thing the wrong way.

One day he just decided to let go of all that frustration and work on a project that he was curious and passionate about. He wasn't even thinking of it as a business.

And ironically, that project turned into Park.io.

Mike has built a million dollar SaaS business. He's currently doing over $150,000 in monthly revenue. And he's a one-person company. He has no employees and continues to run the business by himself.

Mike says that he just got lucky with Park.io. And there's some truth to that. We all need some luck from time to time with our business.

But I don't think it was all just down to luck. And in this interview, I deep-dive into what exactly he did to build that business, how he's dealt with major problems and competitors and how exactly he's able to run a one-person million dollar company.

It's a great an interview with a ton of valuable insights and lessons.

So I hope you enjoy it.

Read Full Transcript

[00:12] Welcome to another episode of The Saas Podcast. I'm your host Omer Khan and this is the show where I interviewed proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies and insights to help you build, launch, and grow your business. In this episode I talked to Mike Carson, the founder of dot Io, a service which helps you to back order expiring domain names. Mike is a developer who for many years struggled to find business success. He was working hard on multiple projects, but none of them are working out and it was a painful time for him. He couldn't understand why he kept failing and he'd often wonder if he wasn't working hard enough or just doing things the wrong way. One day he just decided to let go of all that frustration and work on a project that he was curious and passionate about. He wasn't even thinking of it as a business, and ironically that project turned into park.io.

01:15 Mike is currently doing over a million dollars a year in revenue and he's a one person company, he has no employees, and continues to run the business by himself. Mike says that he just got lucky with park.io and there's some truth to that. We all need some luck from time to time with our business, but I don't think it was all just down to luck and in this interview I deep dive into what exactly he did to build that business, how he's dealt with major problems and competitors and how he's able to run a one-person million dollar company. It's a great interview with a ton of insights and lessons, so I hope you enjoy it. Before we get started, if you haven't already grabbed a copy of my free SaaS Toolkit, you can get it by going to theSaaSpodcast.com. The toolkit will teach you about the 21 essential tools that every SaaS business needs. Also, if you need help building, launching and growing your SaaS business, then check out SaaS Club Plus it's our premium membership and community designed to help you get the insights, motivation, and support you need to succeed. Just head over to saasclub.co to learn more. Enjoying the wait-list. OK, let's get on with the interview.

[02:39] Mike, Welcome to the show.

[02:39] Thanks for having me.

[02:43] So I'm going to start with my usual icebreaker question. What gets you out of bed every day? Is there a favorite quote you want to share or maybe just tell us in your own words like what drives you?

[02:56] Yeah, I thought of a quote, this one quote, I think it's actually, it's attributed to Mother Teresa, but I don't think she actually studied. I think it's a misattribution there, but it's not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love. So I like that quote a lot and I think it actually, you know, there's a lot of good advice in that quote that I try to think I try. I hope I can live by that quote a lot because it's kind of in some ways is about um, you know, I think when you say, I think in a lot of ways what it would, it kind of summarizes that in A. I think a lot of people look to the future for like their, you know, like, I'm working so hard, but you know, I'm working on doing things I don't like now, but in the future I'm going to reach this point where I'm really happy and I think this quote kind of says like, you know, now it's gonna like put love into what you're doing now. And um, you know, and so, so I think that's, yeah,

[03:58] I haven't heard that one before. But where does that kind of mindset come from? Like the quote is a great way of encapsulating that. But have you always thought like that?

[04:10] No, no I haven't. I mean, I think, I think actually, you know, when I came across this quote was kind of a pivotal time in like in my life and I was doing all these projects and I was working hard and struggling, but I just kept thinking none of them were really working out and I just kept thinking, you know, one day it'll pay off one day, you know, and uh, it was a painful, as a painful experience because I was never happy with where I was. And then I think like the time I came across as close, like, you know, I started to realize that I can be happy where I am, you know, things that I have and just focus on what do I, what I enjoy. And I think a lot of that attitude actually just a lot of that realization helped part that I, oh, come about really, so

[05:08] want to get too philosophical here, but I'm going to try. So like, do you find that once, when you, when you sort of think like that when you're kind of more focused on saying, OK, I'm going to focus on being in the present moment, I'm going to kind of like really immerse myself in whatever I'm doing and love what I'm doing right now. Do you find that like better things start happening as a result of that?

[05:36] I mean I think one thing that I've noticed that has had a huge positive and I think like a real, like kind of an unimaginable positive change, like unbelievable really like positive changes just focusing in. So that attitude what I had before, it's kinda like focusing on the lack, focusing in my life, it's like it's dwelling on a lack of believing in a lack in my life. Like a lack of what I want, like not having what I want. And I think when you do that kind of manifests in your life, like it makes it real. And this is kind of philosophical, but I do believe it, like once I started thinking like once and maybe it's not so much like I guess it is. Yeah, it's like being grateful for what you have and focusing on like seeing, just seeing what, just being aware of that, the abundance in your life and you know, like being grateful and having a lot of gratitude. I think that then in turn kind of manifest more abundance and stuff in your last one. I know it sounds kind of crazy or you know, like very, I don't know, a not very practical but I really, I think it actually is very, has very practical and real.

[06:59] I don't think it's crazy. I don't personally, um, some of the best days that I have or when I feel that things are going really well for me are the Times that I kind of practice being grateful more often. And uh, you know, there was, I can't remember who, which book it was, maybe it was, was it Martin Seligman or whatever, but this idea of just like focusing on like three good things every day or getting into the habit of writing down three good things that happened every day. And I know people have taken that idea from like the, the, the sort of the five minute journal. I'm kind of sort of that built in, but I found when I started doing that, you initially sort of look back at your day and you start like writing down things that you're grateful for, things, you know, good things that happened. And then once you start doing that consistently, you almost kind of like start living your day like OK, I'm sort of looking around for what I'm going to write tonight.

[07:53] Right. So it's kind of like your brain is just on this kind of. It's kind of programmed to go and look for like, you know, things that they're going to make your day better or making more grateful. So yeah, I don't think it's crazy you. I think it's great stuff. So let's, I want to talk a little bit about kind of what you did before park.io kind of came about. But before we do that, let's just sort of set the context and it'd be great if you could just explain to the listeners are like, what is park.io? What does it do, what problem is it trying to solve?

[08:28] So yeah, that is a place where you come back, order a domain names. So what that means is when a domain name expires, it goes through this process where, um, you know, first it expires and then there's a kind of a grace period and then it's deleted from the registry and then it can be registered again and at that time if it's a, if a good, you know, valuable to domain, a lot of people are interested in, um, there's a lot of competition to get that domain name at the time that it becomes available. And so the Park.io provides a service where we get to, we try to get the domain for people when it becomes available.

[09:14] Got It. And how is it different to maybe other services out there that help you try to get a domain?

[09:21] Oh, well we focus specifically on kind of like hacker type domains, which is .io, .oi, .me? Um, I think a lot of the other ones more focused on .com, um, or .net or some others. So I think we're more focused on that, like kind of niche,

[09:43] obviously there's a lot of great stuff to talk about with, with [inaudible] and how you've built that into a business that's doing, what is it like it's over a million dollars a year now. Right? Right. And you're a one-man company, which is awesome. So there's a lot of stuff to talk about that. But before we get into that, I, I, I really want to kind of talk a little bit about what was life like before you, um, you started Park.io, you worked on a number of other projects and you were trying to build a number of other products and most of those things didn't work out. So tell, tell me a little bit about that and what kinds of things you were working on.

[10:26] Yeah. So I mean it's just, I guess just a lot of it was mostly like projects in my spare time that I thought, uh, I, I just tried to launch it a lot of different projects. I mean, I thought, you know, if I, uh, I, I, you know, I tried to go by the mentality of like try to fail fast and um, and things like that and so I did fail fast with a lot of projects, but it's, yeah, it's like, um, there's a lot of different ones. I mean in some of them like seemed to take off at first that was the most frustrating part really is like I would launch some of these projects and they would get to the front, you know, like number one on hacker news and a lot of people would be really interested at first and then it would just dwindled down and slowly like die off and was really frustrated.

[11:19] I mean sometimes it wouldn't even get on the front page of hacker news or anything like that, but it's a, yeah, it was, it was kind of a frustrating experience. Like just, you know, every it, it didn't seem to really take off and then you know, and I didn't know what it would look like if it, if it did take, like if I didn't know if, you know, it was, it was, it was. I not trying hard enough on some of these things was and I put was an app putting enough time into it or enough like, you know, trying to do enough marketing and stuff or what was I did, I didn't really know know what the problem was. But now in hindsight like Park.io, it's clear like for me at least like, you know, it's just obvious when a project doesn't work and when a project does, where it's, there's like just a really clear difference like with the projects that even even if you get traction going on, it's like with parked I others traction from the beginning and it just kept growing like every day more and more users.

[12:18] And then with other projects it was like it kind of dwindled down. And so yeah, I guess for me like there's a, it's clear yet what I recommend to like hackers and stuff is just to launch a, you know, a lot of projects and um, you know, you'll know, you'll know when it, when it works, when it doesn't. And I think that there's a lot of, there's a lot of opportunity for developers and hackers is that like there's not a lot of risk in terms of uh, you know, upfront capital and stuff like that or it's mostly just time really, you know, you, you put up some time and then you have the potential reward of, you know, doing really well. So I think it, I think the best way to play it really as a developer, as a hacker is just to launch a lot of different things and uh, you know, when one of them will hit and you'll know it and then just continue from there.

[13:19] Can you give me an example of, of something that you built that was one of the ones that you said seemed to, uh, it looked like a promising idea or seem to take off early but then didn't go anywhere.

[13:34] Yeah, there a couple of, like, one I did was called ask.io, uh, and it was, it was not a, it wasn't really so much for like, like making money. It was more like, it was a way like, so basically it featured somebody could ask a favor of the world, um, each week and like everyone would try to help this person out and it's, you know, it got to the first page, like number one on hacker news and it took off and it's, you know, it started, it was really into like popular at first and like there's some articles written about it and stuff, but then it just died down. I think I maybe didn't. Uh, I didn't, I couldn't figure out a way to keep the users engaged in it and just keep it going. It just kinda dwindled and died out so that, that was one. And then another one was, I had this, like I, I came up with this idea to do this handwritten letter service, like the had an API and everything so that you could like send an email or a text message to the service and it would create a hand like we would, somebody would actually meant like do a handwritten letter and mail it to the flight to like wherever you wanted. And uh, I mean that's got some buzz, like a TV station interviewed me and, and Pee-Wee Herman tweeted about it.

[14:55] But, um, but yeah, it was like, so you've got it a little interesting at first, but then like nobody used it really. And I, uh, so, um, so I guess those were a couple. I mean, you know, that's. So, yeah, I guess those were a couple of different things that didn't really take off.

[15:15] So how, how did you, like when you came up with the idea for each of these projects, did you kind of try to do some validation or did you just say, OK,

[15:29] I think he's like, I didn't do any of that. Like I feel, I know, I, I, maybe I would be better if I do stuff like that, but I think, well actually I think one of the reasons Park.io have succeeded is because it really was just like kind of a hobby. I didn't do any validation or anything like that. It's just like it started out as something I thought was cool, fun, you know, and I was interested in it and I worked on it. And so it just kind of grew from that, like not even really having an idea. And so these other things. Yeah, just maybe I did a little stuff like that, but I just kind of, it was more just like what would be a cool idea, but let me just build it and see what happens. And uh, so yeah, I didn't really do any of that.

[16:14] So you're kind of more about just if you have an idea just start small, do something quickly, fail fast and move on and try something else.

[16:25] Yeah. And I think now like what I would also recommend is, is, um, you know, just, you know, I don't even know if it's like, I think personally the best, the best things come about if, if you're not like thinking, OK, is this going to be a great business, you know, like is this gonna? Cause I think those things, I think it's a lot more important at the beginning, at least from my experience, it's a lot more important at the beginning to really be interested in what you're doing and kind of love it, you know, like love what you're doing and have fun with it because then it just flows a lot easier. It's a lot easier to do work if you're interested in it, you know, it a lot better than other people will. Uh, so I think that's another thing. It's like, yeah, do, do a lot of things fail. You'll fail. It's like 99 percent and then one will take off. But also try. Yeah, try to have fun with it and try to do things that are interesting to you. And then as you get interested in them, you might think of a business idea, like he might, a business might not naturally come out of it. I guess.

[17:38] How many of these projects did you. Did you work on a try before you finally came? Came up with Park.io?

[17:47] That's a good question. Um, I don't know, a probably, uh, probably 20, 30 something. Yeah. I don't know.

[17:47] So. so fair amount.

[18:05] Yeah. Yeah. And so your developer, so you, you were building all of these projects, right? So let's, uh, let's talk about Park.io. So how did you like, where did the idea for that come from?

[18:22] Yeah. So that, I mean that's just a, you know, since I've been building things I, I, I'm interested in domain names and I knew that like having a good domain name, it makes it, it, it leaves an impact on, on people, especially when you're first launching. So I just started trying to get good domain names and I saw some, like there's one that was expiring, uh, and um, so I tried to figure out exactly when it would become available. I wrote a script and I still just missed it, like somebody beat me to it and so then I just started researching it a lot more and I wrote my own scripts and I got some good domains that way and then eventually it, it be it like a, it became to the point where I could get every domain that I wanted that had expired. So then I decided to launch it as a surface.

[19:15] So. So what would the script it would just notify you when it was ready to buy or would it actually try to buy the domain?

[19:24] Yeah, at first it was really simple scripts. It was just like, OK, it's a script that was telling me the day that it was going to the day and the time that it's going to become available and then I would just hand register it. And that way that actually works surprisingly well for this for awhile. But then, um, then you know, some, some other people had scripts that actually registered it. And so then I would write some scripts that registered it and then sometimes I would get them. But sometimes some of the other people would get them and then yeah, eventually they just became more sophisticated and fast and uh, and then they were able to get them all the time.

[20:00] So initially you just did this because you wanted to buy some cool domains? Yeah. Yeah. And then did you start selling some of them? Is that like how you generated revenue initially?

[20:12] Yeah, so I got like 20 or so domains and so the cost started to add up and I mean, I just kind of felt that they were, they were good domains and I just kind of felt that they had of value. But, uh, like I told you, I told him my wife because it's the cost started like I bought another domain and you know, and I was like, I think it's worth, you know, something. And she was like, well, why don't you try selling a couple just to make sure that what you think is, you know, really true. So I did, I sold a couple and uh, did this all pretty well and so then I thought, you know, OK, well I'll use this money that I got from these to buy some more and I'll do the same thing. So I just scaled it up that way at first.

[21:04] How are you figuring out whether a domain was valuable enough to sell? Was it, was there some, some research behind that or again, was it, it? I liked the domain.

[21:19] Mostly, at first it was like, to me it kind of felt obvious like it just, I just had this feeling like or, or I could imagine a certain and actually this actually, you know, getting domains like this helped with ideas, you know, it's like, oh, this is a cool, I could imagine a cool service with this domain or you know. So I think at first, yeah, it was just like, you know, like ask.io and I got that. It's like, yeah, this, I mean come on. And then there's like, you know, the shorter it is like there's two letter.io domains and I was like, he's gotta be the rare, you know, they're so rare. And then. But yeah, eventually I um, one thing I figured out is that uh, more, you know, if you type the name of the word, the domain before the data, so like for ask.io if you type ask that into Github search and the number of results that come up like that corresponds to the closely to the value of the domain. So like the more search results that come back for a term that you type in, the more value that domain will have.

[21:19] Really?

[21:19] Yeah.

[22:27] I wouldn't have thought of as a way to.

[22:30] I think it works well for .io domains.

[22:35] OK. So, so you, you sold them and you made a little bit of money there and how much did you make from selling those two domains?

[22:46] I think I sold. So I registered, I think they were both two letter domains and I think I got them for like $49 and sold them for I think around $2,000 each.

[22:46] Nice not bad.

[23:04] So at what point did you, did you decide, OK, I'm going to turn this into a service?

[23:11] It was, yeah. So I started at the end of 2013 getting into domains and registering domains and I think by June I launched, Park.io at the end of June 2014. So six, around six months later. And mostly it was at the point where, uh, I knew that I could get a lot of the domains. Like I knew I could get almost all the domain, so that's why I put it up.

[23:40] What was the first version of the product, like how long did it take you to build it?

[23:47] Yeah, the first working on the scripts to catch the domains is really fun. And researching that and like it's really competitive and kind of thrilling. It's like right at this time the domain becomes available. It's like, you, you anxiously await and then the time happens and then you check to see who got in. It's like, you know, it's Kinda, you know, you're competing with everyone in the world. And it's like exciting. I got that. But then like building the interface, uh, you know, that was just like grunt work. It was like, OK, I, I gotta build a user interface. I got to make a way for people to submit orders and pay for them and like manage the domains and stuff. So it wasn't nearly as fun. Um, but yeah, so I just remember, but I knew that, you know, it'd be cool and I could even, I could use it to like, uh, for, for myself. So I, it, it, you know, it was, it wasn't as fun to build it, but I still worked pretty hard and for a couple of weeks, I think a couple of weeks and then it's still very simple, like a lot of, uh, not there are a lot of things not automated is kind of bare very bare bones. And at first, you know, just like the very basics that could go up there. So.

[25:03] Well, how did you get the word out?

[25:07] Yeah, I didn't. That's the thing. And I think this is one way. I mean it's probably specific to this type of business domain thing, but um, but yeah, it's like it's just, that's how you, that's how I knew it is obvious that there's some value here because the first day I put it up, I didn't tell anybody and I got a few orders already. Like the first day I got a few orders and they found it because what the way, I guess one good thing that I did that helped us for the domains that we caught, I would put up a parked page that said this domain was capped at Park.io and then put a link to Park.io, uh, and so, um, so I think that's where a lot of the users came from is just, uh, the parked pages from the domains like that, uh, that they were interested in Or we're waiting.

[26:05] Ok. The way that Park.io works is that you showing like domains that are about to expire and if I like something I can go in place in order for it and if you get it then I, I pay you for it. Right. Like is it like 99 bucks or something like that. But it sounds like what you were doing in the early days was you had already bought the domains and you were selling them because obviously that's how you were getting the parked page set up.

[26:30] Yeah. So the domains that I had caught earlier, like the domains that I had before I launched a slide, I put up parked pages. So like for something like for the two letter .IO's and like some that had recently become available that had expired and become available for registration like the week before I put up the parked page. And so that's how, that's where the first user it came from and placed the first order.

[26:59] OK so big difference from maybe some of the things that you'd done earlier when there was excitement but not necessarily customers, but this one sounds like you didn't do much at all and you got sales. What literally like literally on the first day?

[27:16] Yeah. Literally without telling anyone or like putting it anywhere. Really. Yeah. So that was a striking difference right from the beginning.

[27:26] Wow. OK. So this is definitely signs of life there. Like, what were you thinking like, like where were you? Where did you decide to sort of take the business then? I guess you did. Were you even thinking of as a business at that time?

[27:45] Um, yeah. I mean I, you know, I launched it and I was, I guess I was happy, I was happy that, I was happy that orders were already coming through. I was happy that it was profitable right from the beginning. Like uh, you know, I wasn't, there was people who had already paid and like the um, they're paying more than I was paying for the domains, so. So yeah, right from the beginning I was pretty happy that, you know, and I didn't know how big it would get and so I thought well this could just be a nice side thing that I'll just keep running. Uh, and I, and also I didn't know how, like there's a lot of competition. I didn't know how long that I would be able to have the competitive advantage. So, uh, so I guess, yeah, at first I thought this is nice, but I don't know where it's going to go. I guess that's how. And then, you know, it's, it kept growing every, every month and got bigger and bigger.

[28:42] And like in the first year, did you do, did you do any marketing?

[28:48] Um, I mean the, the marketing that I, I mean the main thing is doing the parked pages, like for the domains that had expired domains go to auction if, if more than one person orders it. So I think those basically the domains brought most of the users in a. But other than that, I mean I have like, I had an automated, you know, an automated newsletter that goes out once a week and automated twitter posts, uh, and I did a couple of interviews, like podcast stuff. Um, but other than that I didn't really. Yeah, I didn't really do any marketing, like, you know, like I put, maybe I posted it to hackernews or something that maybe it did a blog post and put it on hacker news or something like that. But nothing, nothing real

[29:37] What kind of automated news. What did you send out in the newsletter?

[29:42] It's just a.. Every week it sends out like, um, the, the current auctions that are going on and also, uh, some domains that are going to be dropping in the next week. So domains you can place orders on. And then, uh, also the, uh, sales for the last week the domain sales.

[30:09] Like how, what, once you launched? So you said you launched some time, 2014. How much were you earning like after the by the end of that year?

[30:18] Um, I think, well I started out it was I think doing like $5,000 a month. At first, uh, and then one of the big, like after four months or so, uh, we've got one domain, smtp.io and there were a few companies that were interested in that and send, Sendgrid, actually ended up getting it. Um, and so it a high auction, like it was a, I think it sold for 5,000 something, so it kind of doubled the revenue and also I was just really happy to get Sendgrid as a customer. And um, so then after that, yeah, just kind of continued growing and probably a lot of the growth just had to do with the interest in .io domains I think um, you know, at first they weren't as popular and then they just kept getting bigger and bigger.

[31:17] Wow, so you think about $5,000 a month. That's kind of a round out 2014. Uh, at what point did things really take off for the business?

[31:29] I think around seed, I think around maybe June 2016 it started to get really crazy, like mmm. I think are for that month, I think the revenue doubled the previous high. So it was like more than two times the previous and yeah, went into like the six figures and I think uh, you know, from there, it, it, it. Yeah. I think that's, that was like a notable time and I think a lot of it had to do with the few different things. I think that .io domains became a lot more popular. There was some games like slither.io and some other things that became really popular with like mainstream. And so I think that um, it made people a lot, a lot of people, a lot of people become aware of that io domains and then I think other, around that time domain investors became more interested in .io domains because of this. So I think that like those two things coming together kind of made it explode.

[32:36] And did you do anything different with the marketing or was it still the same approach that you'd be using back in 2014?

[32:45] Yes. I don't know if I'm the right guy to ask for advice. I lucked out. I completely lucked out was. Yeah. I mean, I do feel very lucky and I did a, you know, a lot of it is, is just luck really. So I didn't do a lot of, you know, I didn't do a lot of marketing or stuff like that, but um,

[33:21] But yeah, I think the parked pages is, is kind of a marketing tactic. It clearly works because, I mean, you can't get any more targeted than that, like um, in terms of like reaching people who want to buy the domain. OK. So, so did you say you, you were, you were doing six figures in 2016. Was that six figures a year or you hit six figures a month by then?

[33:53] Yeah, that was a month ,per month.

[33:56] Wow, and how much of that money is profit?

[34:04] Uh, yeah. It's uh, it's a, it's a, it's a pretty profitable, mean that I don't know what else to say. It's, it's, it's, uh, yeah. Sorry, I don't really know how to answer it. I don't know the exact number of how it was.

[34:24] Probably like 80%, 20% profit or 50 is probably around 70% profit or something like that. Yeah, there's not a lot of, I mean I'm the only employee, the server costs are low, the domain expenses are pretty well, so yeah.

[34:40] OK. All right. So you're making all this money and the business is just growing, you're not having to do really any marketing apart from the stuff that you tried from day one and then kind of continuing to do that. Did you think about hiring people to sort of help you?

[34:56] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought about this early, you know, once it started growing, a in there, started making profit, I was like OK, I know there's a lot of conventional wisdom that like, well, like on hackernews and stuff, it's like how to grow and like there's a lot of pressure basically. It's like if you have something that starts to take off, you're supposed to grow, you're supposed to like hire team, grow as big as you can and uh, you know, you know, try to like IPO or whatever, like get bought for a billion dollars. So I, at first I was like OK, I gotta do this. And I started like talking to people to hire and having conversations, but then I, you know, yeah, I'm kinda, I'm very introverted and I think I just really enjoying what I was doing when it's just yourself, you can, you can make decisions really fast, you can move really fast and you can make changes really fast.

[36:01] You can, um, you know, you have a lot more control, you don't. So, and there's not much time wasted. Like it's very efficient. It's very, very efficient. So you know, even just talking with these people about potentially hiring them and having conversations, it took a lot of time in the conversation, you know, it's like how much progress you make during a conversation, I don't know it just… So I decided, I kind of decided I didn't want to do that. I didn't, I didn't want to try to take that route and I was happy where, where it was and how things were going. And I, I didn't know if that, I didn't think that was the best way for my happiness. And I don't even know if it's the best for the company. I think the way that this business is, and it may, I mean maybe I'm wrong, maybe it would've been better to. I'm sure I could've used some help in some ways, a lot of ways, but I think, uh, being able to move quickly, I've really valued that are so. Yeah, I didn't, I decided not to try to grow it.

[37:08] So I mean, I find that fascinating. Like firstly that you went against conventional wisdom and yeah, sure, you know, maybe you know Park.io isn't a, you know, $100,000,000 business, but maybe it doesn't need to be right in terms of you have a business that allows you to be working on something that you find fulfilling, um, is kind of taking care of whatever your financial needs are. Uh, I mean, that's, that's awesome. You know, and I, I kinda told you, we spoke a bit before we started recording and I just think it's, I, I just love your story because of that, because you, you kind of have, you're showing people that there is just one way to do things right. And it's just like sometimes when we get caught up in this, uh, this mind trap of thinking that we have to do things in certain ways and I think it's so refreshing when I meet people like you that you show, you show people that know that there are other ways to kind of, you know, build a business or do things. But one thing I'm kind of curious about is like, if you're running a business that's doing over a million dollars a year, this gotta be a lot of work, right? Like,

[38:37] eah, yeah, there is. I mean, there is a lot, a lot a um, yeah, there is a lot of work and I'm sure, yeah, it would be nice to have help. But uh, you know, I think that's one event in another advantage. It like a developer has that, is that like you can automate a lot of things. Um, so, uh, you know, if you, um, if you, you know, if you're doing something over and over again, you can just kind of automated write a script or something. So in that way, I've been able to reduce a lot of work. So a lot like most of the work now, like half the day is spent like communicating with like doing support stuff basically that communicating with customers, helping them out and stuff. So that's like half the day and then the other half is a, you know, there's some business type things like taxes and stuff like that or business like talking with registries and stuff and then there's a development so I don't have as much time as I would like. It would be nice to. I probably should hire somebody to help with some of the stuff. But um, yeah. So there's a lot of work but at least there's a lot of ways to automate a lot of stuff too.

[40:00] So I'm just kind of curious. What does your typical day look like? Like what time do you get up? How many hours do you work?

[40:08] Yeah. So, um, I, well I have one year old son, Nasa, I get up pretty well. I, I guess he gets you up early. He gets, I used to sleep a lot later but I get up around six and then I'm pretty much until lunch. I just work on a, just like support and like answering emails and you know, helping out customers and stuff and then after lunch I do, uh, I try to focus on, I have a To-do list of things like either developing or fixing things or you know, more code related things that go on until, uh, around for [4:00] or so. And then I do some things in the evening to just because some domains drop, uh, in the evening, so I just make sure that that's all set up. So I do some things after dinner also maybe like an hour or so after dinner too.

[41:09] And it sounds like I'm automating is a big part of what you do. Right? I mean it was interesting you said, you know, hey, automated newsletters and tweets and whatever else you're doing. Um, so do you think that that's one of the big reasons that you are able to, to run this business yourself?

[41:30] Oh yeah definitely, I mean it's a. Yeah, I mean there's just. Yeah. This is like the type of business that like my, my father could have done. Like it's just not. I don't know that this type of thing is possible, like back just one generation, you know, like this is something that um, is kind of like a new type of thing. Like how, uh, uh, I, uh, yeah, just think that the way that the Internet has formed the services that have come out, like Amazon web services and stuff like it's just made it to a point where this type of thing is now possible where one person can run something like this. I think that's a kind of an advantage that we have right now in our times. Something like this is possible.

[42:15] So one thing that strikes me is that the, you've been in business for almost four years now and so a couple of things right? I would've thought that we're talking about competitors, right? So on the one hand you're going to have to kind of more, you know, I don't want to call the established, let's just say bigger companies who are offering a similar service as park Park.io who potentially like getting into your space and kind of going after the same domains that you sell. Um, and then on the other hand, I guess the more you're out there sharing your story about Park.io, I wonder how many kind of copycat sites there are a kind of a parent trying to do the same thing as you. Um, and you know, and I guess a big part of your success is, I guess your secret sauce is the way you've figured out how to get these, these domains, but like what has been kind of like the competitive situation like for you, have you, have you seen it get more competitive? Um, is that something you worry about?

[43:39] Yeah defnitely. At first it was, there wasn't much competition. I'm actually the registry the .io registry decided to sell their own backorders I think it was because of Park.io. I, uh, I'm not hundred percent sure, but. So that was like, I thought the business was over at that point, but it actually, it turned out their system was a little different. Uh, people were still interested in using Park.io and so, um, it didn't actually hurt business in business actually did really well and then they shut that down and then things. Yeah. And then more competitors, a lot of others, a lot of change, a lot of things happened like, so then .io registry changed management and so the whole system changed. And then it became like, I lost some competitive advantage at that point and more competitors came in and then like, so just the end of last year, like I was getting pretty concerned.

[44:39] I told my wife I didn't think he was going to be that good. And then um, luckily we acquired a competitor a and now things are really good again, like getting every single domain. Um, so yeah, it's like there's constantly things coming up and I don't, I have no idea how things are going to. I'm always, I'm always thinking that yeah, it's not, it may not last, it probably don't see how it can last forever. So, but, uh, but you know, it's just, I think you just, this is one thing I realized recently, she was like, so I consider myself a hacker and that's like computer stuff. It's like to be, to be a hacker, you, you just, you're resourceful and you're just like kind of build with what you have. You have some things and you make you make it work with what you have. And what I realize is that business is like, it's very, it's like exactly the same thing. It's just not code, it's just business. It's like you just have what you have and you just try to be resourceful with it and make things work. And it's. So, it's like hacking because. Exactly like hacking. It's just there's not coding involved.

[45:50] Yeah. Yeah, that's a good way to think about it. OK. So in terms of like monthly revenue, what are you doing at the moment?

[46:01] Uh, it was also a January or February was even better than January. So it's doing really well. It's, I mean, it's still a, it's like between 150 and 200 thousand.

[46:23] So this year 2018 could be over $2,000,000.

[46:32] Uh, possibly.

[46:37] Um, and, and also it's worth pointing out, this is not, this is not MRR, this is not monthly recurring revenue subscription behind this business. Yeah. So this is, this is these transactions like people coming individually one at a time to to, to buy these domains?

[46:57] Yeah. Yeah. I know. I sometimes wish I had a recurring cause it's like I feel like I could just relax a little more that way.

[47:09] I love it. All right. Let's, let's talk a little bit about a couple of other projects that you've got going on because it sounds like even though park io takes up a fair bit of your time, you still, you're still pursuing some other projects at the moment. Right?

[47:36] Time. I, yeah, I don't have a lot of time but I do still try to do some other things. I'm still interested in some other things too.

[47:45] So can you, can you tell us about one of them?

[47:48] Yeah. Well I mean I guess file.io is another one that I did. It's kind of, you know, in some ways it's similar to some of my other things that started out with, you know, as on hacking it, like went to maybe number one on hacker news when I first launched it and it got a lot of interest and then, you know, what, well, it was free so I didn't really make any money. And so after awhile as you know, I thought well I thought my re, my thinking was like it's kind of a cool thing and uh, I'll keep it up because, you know, it's not the cost that much servers and it's, and you know, maybe uh, some people find park.io through it or I don't know. So I uh, I decided to keep it up but then after a year I was like, I don't know, maybe I'll just shut it down because it's not making any money.

[48:38] It's just an expense and stuff. But then I was like, OK, I'll try to charge a just to see. And then kind of like that just happened at that time. So a client like wanted a white label version of it. And so I worked a deal out with them so it became profitable but still not that much, so I kept it running. So it's, I mean it gets a lot of daily use, but it's not like making a lot of money and I would like to, I mean there's a lot of things I would like to do with it. It's a, but I haven't really had the time or like it's hard to justify because it's not making that much money. But like I would like to make it so that it's hosted with IPFS. So it's like, you know, it's not centralized to basically an Amazon and stuff. So yeah, there's some things I would like to do with it there. But um, yeah, I've gotten also have gotten interested in the blockchain and bitcoin stuff and I had been working a little bit on lightening, uh, and just getting that running and I'm thinking about trying to integrate like lightening bitcoin payments on Park.io, so

[49:48] So you don't really think of these as businesses from the sounds of it, right? It's, it's kind of more like you're kind of pursuing some projects that you're interested in

[49:48] Yeah probably for those yeah, just more.

[50:02] But maybe maybe with Park.io, maybe they, they become a business in their own right. Yeah. Fascinating.

[50:11] All right. Mike I kind of feel like we could just keep chatting for hours, you know, it's just like you have such a unique and interesting story. I, I, I just, I've got so many questions that I still kind of want to ask you. So, uh, you know, maybe I have to try and convince you to come back, but I know what kind of, almost out of time. So, so let's, uh, I think we should just wrap up for now, but uh, so I get into the lightning round. I'm going to ask you seven questions, just answer them as quickly as you can.

[50:45] Alright, qhat's the best piece of business advice that you've ever received?

[50:49] Yeah, I think, I guess like keep it simple and focus on what you do better than anyone else.

[50:57] What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

[51:02] I think this book, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike is really good, especially if you, if possible, if you're a runner and you can listen to it, listen to it on audible while running, I think it's really good, but it's talks about, uh, I think one thing that I could totally relate to. All these problems come up all the time, like obstacles are just constantly coming up and you think it's going to end the business, but then there's like a way around it and figure out a way around.

[51:29] I'm going to check that out on, uh, what's a. What attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful entrepreneur?

[51:39] I think being resourceful, I think that's one of the most important.

[51:45] What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

[51:50] I think the thing that has helped me the most is, uh, actually it's um, passana meditation like meditating.

[51:59] So what's the, what's the passana meditation? What's the difference?

[52:09] The passana if you got a dhamma.org d-h-a-m-m-a.org to have this organization where you can, uh, they have these 10 day meditation retreats all over the world and they're completely free. You don't even have to pay for food or lodging or anything. And it's a silent, it's 10 days of silence. So you can't read or write or talk or listen to music or anything. You just meditate the whole time. Yeah, it's intense, but it's, it's really, it really, it really helped me in my life in a lot of wear.

[52:37] What's the crazy business idea you'd have to pursue if you had the extra time? I'm not even sure I should ask you this question, it's like, of all those you got going on.

[52:47] Well, one thing I would love to do, which I just haven't got. Yeah, just haven't had the time, but I would love to do at some point is um, I think DNS, the domain name system is, would be great on the blockchain or on a blockchain. So just because it's right now it's really centralized around registries and like I can like organizations. So I think that like if it was decentralized, I think that would be a lot more free. So I think that would be really cool.

[53:17] What's an interesting idea. All right. What's uh, interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know?

[53:26] I used to be a, a professional subway musician in New York City for a while. What is the professional that means I did it for a living but I barely was able to make a living on it but I did it for a few months.

[53:46] And finally, what is one of your most important passions outside of your work?

[53:52] I'm really interested in um, like consciousness and like just like, yeah, meditation and just like trying to understand I guess spirituality, I am interested in understanding why, why we're here and, and like bringing that into like a practical way to live.

[54:13] Awesome. Um, all right. So I definitely need to figure out how to get you back one day. I'm just trying to convince you to do that. Sure. But you know, thank you. Thank you for making the time to do this. I really appreciate that.

[54:27] No problem. Thanks for having me.

54:28 If people want to find out more about Park.io, they can go to park.io if you're looking for a domain, you can go to Park.io and if people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

54:42 Uh, you can, uh, humbly.com is like the thing, the company where I launched the all my other projects on, so you could go there in contact me there. Sign up for the newsletter or um, yeah, that's, that's probably the best.

[54:58] Mike. Thanks again. I wish you continued success.

[55:02] Thanks for having me.

[55:02] Cheers.

55:05 Thanks for listening. I really hope you enjoyed this interview. You can get to the show notes as usual by going to theSaaSpodcast.com where you'll find a summary of the episode and links to the resources we discussed. If you enjoyed the episode, then head over to itunes and subscribe to the podcast. If you haven't already done so, and if you're in a good mood, consider leaving a rating and review to show your support for the show. If you're not already an itunes, just go to theSaaSpodcast.com and click the choose button. Thanks for listening. Until next time. Take care.

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Omer Khan

Omer Khan is the founder of SaaS Club and the host of The SaaS Podcast. He helps entrepreneurs and companies to build, launch and grow great SaaS products & businesses. Learn more