Providing a SaaS product to both large enterprise customers and smaller startups means we’ve got a wide range of possible touch points with our user base. One of the benefits to this is the opportunity for 1:1 feedback. Sometimes it’s in the form of a formal business review, sometimes it’s a cold email to an employee that gets forwarded up the chain. In this particular instance, a budding entrepreneur reached out to our VP of Growth Marketing for some potential cross promotional activity, and our relationship grew from there. We hope you enjoy his story and learn how he’s driving real results with email using SparkPost.

Where Indie Hackers Started

Meet Courtland Allen, Founder of Indie Hackers. Started in August of 2016, Indie Hackers is a unique online resource for entrepreneurs featuring interviews of successful startup owners as well as an active community forum. Courtland founded Indie Hackers to inspire developers and entrepreneurs interested in launching their own businesses by highlighting the stories behind successful companies.

“There are tons of news stories featuring the traditional startup path, but there’s a growing trend of devs who are building or growing smaller side projects. These projects are not necessarily making billions of dollars, but are making enough to warrant a side income or small business.”

To date, Courtland has logged 130+ developer interviews from companies of all sizes, projects spanning from mobile apps generating $500 per month to those that have grown their businesses to $100,000’s per month. He prides himself and his content on transparency, so he makes a point to ask each interviewee the same set of questions, including how much income their projects generate.

Where SparkPost Fits

Courtland’s offering is two-fold, the interviews with entrepreneurs and then there’s a bustling community forum where aforementioned entrepreneurs can collaborate. He built the forum from scratch, which meant he was missing several features like email notifications. Around the same time that he built the forum, Courtland connected with Software Engineering Daily podcast owner Jeffrey Meyerson at a meetup. Jeff recommended SparkPost and Courtland reached out to our VP of Growth Marketing, Tracy Sestili. Courtland mentioned that he was looking for software that would notify members in his forum of when they received a reply and Tracy said that SparkPost does this and would love his feedback if he should try it out.

How Indie Hackers is Using SparkPost

Courtland easily implemented SparkPost for email notifications for his forum. In his own words:

“In terms of building the whole system, implementing SparkPost was the easiest. There was a little bit of guess and check and sending a few emails, but overall pretty painless.”

Here’s how it works: Courtland set up SparkPost to send his users email notifications when they get a reply to a comment on his forum. He uses Firebase for storage data for the forum. He wrote a simple script that runs every 15 minutes searching for new comments, then uses the SparkPost Node.js client library to send an email. To standardize the email message, he created a template inside the SparkPost UI that provides the HTML content of the comment and a link to click and reply. These templates use substitution data to provide a customized message to every recipient while still using a standard format. Eventually he wants to implement an inbound domain and relay webhooks, so that users can reply to comments without leaving their inbox.

What’s Next

Between the time of our interview and the publication date, Courtland has announced that he’s selling Indie Hackers! Stripe has acquired Indie Hackers and Courtland will stay on to run the business. In fact, his new title is “Indie Hacker at Stripe”. What this means for Indie Hackers: He’s no longer doing sponsor or affiliate programs. His number one goal is to expand the community and help aspiring entrepreneurs have transparent conversations and learn from each other. He’s also recruited his twin brother to work with him full time.

“Pretty routinely, I get messages on Twitter or emails from people who started companies because they were inspired by Indie Hackers. It’s hard to measure the influence that something you created has on other people, but if even one successful company gets created from Indie Hackers, I’m happy.”

To learn more about Indie Hackers or Courtland, check out his site or follow him on Twitter.

— Jen