Luca Restagno's indie hacking odyssey: From coding to community, overcoming challenges, and life in the fast lane
Imagine three people: one stuck on the sidewalk (traditional employment mindset), another in the slow lane (relying on saving and traditional investments), and the third in the fast lane (building scalable businesses).
Which one would you choose to reach your financial goals?
Luca Restagno, the mind behind shipped.club, opted for the fast lane, choosing to create value and establish businesses with scalability. He says, "At that time (2017) I started listening to podcasts about successful digital entrepreneurs, but the pivotal moment was reading the book The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco."
This shifted Luca's perspective away from the conventional career ladder towards the swifter realm of digital entrepreneurship.
"The Millionaire Fastlane" by MJ DeMarco is a popular book among entrepreneurs that challenges conventional beliefs about wealth.
It advocates for a proactive approach to financial success, emphasising the importance of entrepreneurship, creating value, and building scalable businesses to achieve financial freedom quickly.
Armed with over a decade of experience as a software engineer within corporate realms, Luca initially clings to the notion that a stellar product would effortlessly draw customers. "Build it, and customers will come. Nothing is more wrong than this."
But two years of toil on a SaaS project, launched on Product Hunt, end in unsettling silence—there is no resonance. "I built my first SaaS in 2019 for two years on the side of my 9-5 job, launched on Product Hunt, and didn't get traction."
Despite setbacks, there's always a silver lining. For Luca, as one door closes, another one opens, and he says, "I opened Twitter, and I discovered the indie hacking movement, and everything changed forever for me."
The awakening comes when Luca discovers the crucial role of distribution channels, with Twitter and the indie hacking movement becoming catalysts for transformation.
Navigating the entrepreneurial landscape, Luca faced the challenge of identifying the target market for his products. Drawing from personal pain points, he crafts solutions related to Twitter's Direct Messages, and success follows suit.
"Solving your problems, that others face as well and related to lead generation (money-making problem) almost ensures that your product will resonate with your target customers."
The products, a DM automation micro-SaaS, and a productivity inbox, thrive, generating $4k MRR almost on autopilot.
Luca unravels the secret—solve your problems, and chances are others face the same challenges, especially if it involves lead generation. It aligns with the timeless advice: focus on falling in love with the problem, not just the solution.
However, no entrepreneurial journey is without its hurdles. The main adversary in the online business arena is generating traffic. If you've built a solution to a problem, how do you make people aware of it?
With a clear target persona in mind, Luca then shifts focus towards SEO and marketing for sustained growth.
"The main issue of an online business is generating traffic to the product website. By looking at the most successful founders, the most reliable channel is SEO," he says.
But goes on to say that this is not the only way, but is particularly effective, "because even if it takes time and a lot of effort, it generates constant organic traffic of people with good intent."
Bombshell moment: Twitter, now rebranded to X after a deal with Elon Musk, imposes exorbitant pricing on its APIs.
"In 2023 a black swan event occurred. Twitter, rebranded to X after the deal with Elon Musk, decided to apply crazy pricing to the Twitter APIs. From free access to $42k/month."
Luca's two Twitter products meet their demise, as do the products of many other Twitter based indie hackers. However, rather than succumb to defeat, Luca pivots to AI, launching Userdesk.io, an AI Assistants platform for lead generation, which now generates $1k/month.
Scaling and expanding become the next chapters in Luca's saga.
The path of exploration leads to a focus on marketing and SEO in 2024. SEO, a complex yet effective avenue, is complemented by a foray into branding for Luca's Next.js Startup Boilerplate, shipped.club.
The quest for sustainable growth unfolds, with marketing taking centre stage.
In the midst of challenges, doubt, and the fast moving tech landscape, Luca's resilience shines through. He kept going, applying the principles of "The Millionaire Fastlane" where others might have faltered.
With a community of indie makers and a solopreneurship commitment since August 2023, Luca navigates the exciting yet precarious full-time entrepreneurial journey.
The support received from those around him fuels the pursuit of his passion.
"Join the Twitter indie hacking community; it's the best community I've ever seen. It is very supportive, and you can get access to unbelievably valuable content and advice."
Reflecting on pivotal decisions, Luca unveils the significance of building a community of indie makers. A product targeting them brings forth the magic of product-market fit and founder-product fit—lessons learned through experience, not textbooks.
"You don't understand it until you experience it," he says.
Luca's journey speaks to the essence of understanding the target customers, being genuinely excited about solving their problems, and constantly seeking ways to make them happier.
In the final chapters of Luca's entrepreneurial narrative, the advice for aspiring founders echoes wisdom gained through trials and triumphs.
In Luca's own words, "Join the Twitter indie hacking community; it's the best community I've ever seen. It is very supportive, and you can get access to unbelievably valuable content and advice."
The imperative act of shipping something tangible becomes a guiding principle. Luca emphasises the need to focus on marketing, encouraging others to join the supportive Twitter community for invaluable insights.
Regardless of the recent X rebrand, the indie community still thrives there. Luca's story remains intertwined with the larger narrative of that Twitter community.
While direct mentors are absent, the community serves as a spread mentoring platform, offering a wealth of knowledge through shared content and advice from fellow founders who build in public.
"I never had direct mentors, but I discovered a lot about what the other founders do by reading their content and suggestions. Many of them do build in public, so they share a lot about their journey."
The journey continues, and Luca's story becomes a beacon for aspiring founders navigating the unpredictable seas of entrepreneurship.
So get out there and make something.
Find out more about shipped.club.