The Indie Hackers Podcast #61 How to Bootstrap Your Way to $250,000,000/year with JT Marino of Tuft & Needle

Full podcast here.

  • Why did you decide to quit your job and start a company: We were essentially building the next app for someone else and decided to change it up and build a company of our own. (2:09)

  • If you have a name people don’t know you need to lean on some credibility markers...another aspect is reviews...that’s why we launched our product on Amazon. We asked our customers to write reviews there. Eventually, we became the number one rated mattress on Amazon. (36:08)

  • Courtland talks about reading The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and The Age of Amazon. I did a podcast about the book. Check out Founders Podcast if you’re interested. (38:26)

  • Why should you consider opening your own retail stores: “You could buy an iPod at Best Buy...but there is a lot of benefits to going direct to Apples as well.” (41:38)

  • Going from clicks to bricks...all the advice was conflicting. You don’t know if it’s going to work or not you just have to do it. So that’s what we did. We started by just opening a store in our office in a really bad part of Phoenix. (45:55)

  • We listed our store on yelp and google. We didn’t even put it on our website. The first week nobody came. 2nd week we had 1. 3rd week we had 2. Within 6 months there would be 50-150 people waiting to get in on Saturday. (47:00)

  • When your primary (customer acquisition) channel hits the top of that S curve and starts to round you are going to need a breakthrough to kick it back into gear or you are going to need a new channel to pick up the slack. (54:17)

  • But when you have just a couple of people working on marketing you don’t want to spread them across too many need to think about mindshare. If I have someone fully dedicated on the channel and then they have to pick up another channel or they thinking as deeply about the one channel that works? Are they taking it to its fullest potential? Do I want my person who is fully focused on google Adwords thinking about how to compete on that channel all the time vs spreading their mindshare across several other channels?” (54:40)

  • We spent $500,000 on a tv commercial. It was polished. It was beautiful. And it made no difference. It looked like every other commercial on tv. It didn’t stand out. (Mistake). With our billboards all we did was a black billboard with white text: mattress stores are greedy to learn the truth. That worked. It was on fire....some of our ads look like they are made with no budget. Blair Witch Style.” (1:00:55)

  • We learned that when you outsource something the people that you are outsourcing that work to don’t care about your objective as much as you do. (1:05:56)

  • I would say we are very paranoid. We are paranoid we are going to screw up everything. (1:08:51)

  • It was extremely difficult to hire. That’s one of the reasons we are in Phoenix. No one wanted to join a mattress company. It was like the dumbest idea they had ever heard of. (1:10:09)

  • Be frugal: Our first office was in a transmission shop. The cost was just a few hundred dollars a month compared to a few thousand dollars in Palo Alto. (1:11:48)

  • What are your personal goals? I want to be proud of my work. (1:22:18)

  • If you are starting something...think about the problem you are solving and ask yourself if it’s actually important. (1:24:09)

  • If you are bootstrapping you don’t have the cash and press... how can you reduce the amount of time to get an answer? How can you get someone to pay you? We did it in a week. How can you do it as fast as possible? (1:24:43)

  • Book recommendation: The Halo Effect (1:26:16)