Less than two months ago 3 Years as a One Man Startup became my most read blog post by far. I ended it with:
Readlang is ramen profitable, helping more people every day, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Of course I’m continuing.
It reached the #1 slot of Hacker News and got over 59K views in just 2 days. HN sometimes gets a bad rap but I found the responses overwhelmingly positive and encouraging, even the critical ones. In amongst the hundreds of responses was an email from Severin Hacker, co-founder of Duolingo.
I wonder if you’re interested in a job?
I was in no mood to abandon Readlang, not least because January was shaping up to be its best month yet (it ended at $3200 revenue). But being a huge fan of Duolingo I had to learn more. A couple of chats with founders Luis and Severin, a programming challenge, and a bunch of emails later… and I’m due to start work in a couple of weeks.
Don’t worry — Readlang isn’t going anywhere. I designed it to be easy to maintain so there’s absolutely no reason to shut it down. I’ll fix bugs, ensure smooth running of the service (Linode outages permitting!), and may think about ways to reinvest some of the revenue to improve it. But I’m not good at focussing on many things at once, so for my own sanity I’m considering it feature complete while I get started at my new job.
This wasn’t an easy decision since it cuts short Readlang’s potential. But actually it’s already met the modest goals I set out to achieve 3 years ago. Despite the “struggling startup” angle of previous posts, I consider it a success.
If anyone paid a subscription to encourage future development and feels cheated by this, please get in touch and I’ll be happy to refund you.
As for the future, I’m excited to work with a world class team at Duolingo, and to create software that helps orders of magnitude more people than I’ve been able to on my own.
I’ve spent most of the past 3 years creating one language learning web-app, Readlang.
I wrote about my struggle to get this off the ground almost two years ago and was thrilled with the response on Hacker News and elsewhere. I’ve been meaning to write a followup for a long time, but would always convince myself to wait…
Just a couple more tweaks and usage will explode. *Then* I'll have something to write about!
Well here I am, three years later. Usage didn’t explode, but grew in fits and starts. I’ve worked hard for 3 years and am still making less than minimum wage. But that’s not as bad as it might sound.
Laptops have two big usability problems:
- Small displays - After using large desktop monitors, working on a laptop feels cramped and unproductive for anything beyond simple web browsing.
- Terrible ergonomics - Your head is tilted down to view the screen, which can lead to back problems after long periods. A common solution is to use a separate keyboard and mouse and raise the entire laptop using a stand (I haven’t tried it but The Roost looks like a good one).
With the release of decent USB powered monitors there’s now a simple solution to both these problems. Place a second display above the built in one:
I’m 16 months into my language learning startup, Readlang. So far I’ve been working completely alone, learning a lot about web development, design and marketing as I go. I’d like to say that I’m learning about running a business too, but calling it a business sounds like a stretch, since it’s still only making pocket change.
This is going to be brutally honest, I’m not afraid to share numbers. For starters, here’s the performance of the site over its entire lifetime so far, from Nov 2012 to mid March 2014:
|Signups:||4,667 (19% of visitors)|
|Paying Subscribers:||126 (3.1% of signups, excluding the first 600 users who have free lifetime membership)|
And this is how I arrived here, month by month…
Chrome for iOS has been my main browser since I bought my iPad over a year ago. I love the way it syncs my bookmarks and history with my desktop Chrome browser and its familiar UI. But one thing that occasionally annoys me is its speed. From the start Chrome was marketed as the fast browser but so often on iOS it feels like I’m browsing in bullet time.
I blamed it partly on having the first iPad with a retina display (3rd gen) which is a little underpowered to push around all those pixels. But mainly, I just figured that all mobiles and tablets were slow, right? Well, not quite…