It sounds like a cliche, but when David Schneider quit his job as a business analyst and spent his savings travelling the world with his girlfriend for two years, it really did change his life.
During that time, he became a travel blogger, which landed him a spot on a podcast hosted by fellow influencer, Mark Samms.
When their conversation turned to the idea of creating a blogger outreach platform, Samms wasn’t just on the same page; he had already started a prototype.
The two joined forces to work on the project, and with the help of a developer friend, NinjaOutreach was born.
NinjaOutreach is an influencer marketing software for prospecting and outreach, and it also functions as a CRM, or customer relationship manager. Its technology enables users to filter through millions of social media influencers to find the ones that reach their target customers.
But the journey from creation to a 7-figure sale wasn’t without its struggles. Due to their relative inexperience in creating software, the founders made mistakes with their initial MVP (minimum viable product), which failed to garner any sign-ups at launch. “It had an ugly, unintuitive design, we hired additional cheap developers who did poor quality work, and we failed to talk to enough customers,” Schneider wrote in a post on Indie Hackers.
To add to the stress, they were bootstrapping the project, and would do so for the first two years, investing a total of $80,000, he wrote.
After the slow launch, the founders tried everything to get the business moving. Alongside a healthy dose of hustling, a promotion partnership with Warrior Forum and AppSumo finally kickstarted the sale of their product by increasing links, traffic and exposure. They also gave free accounts to many of the software’s early adopters, which landed them product reviews and frequent mentions.
A successful launch on ProductHunt brought in 100 sign-ups. Finally, the product began to turn a profit. Between the launch in January 2015 and July of that same year, the business grew from $0 to around $3k in monthly recurring revenue.
“Looking back, I learned that a bad year doesn’t necessarily spell certain doom for your business,” Schneider reflected in the Indie Hackers piece. “You hit a wall for some time, but you just have to keep trying and exhaust everything you know before giving up.”
By the end of 2015, NinjaOutreach was doing $10,000 per month in revenue.
By 2016, it was $30,000, Schneider shared on Indie Hackers. Then they cleared their next goal of $50,000 in revenue. At the company’s peak, they were making up to $70,000 per month through a customer base of around 750 clients, through various plans that ranged from $49 – $599 per month, Schneider told They Got Acquired.
A seller reaches out to NinjaOutreach
Despite the growing success, Schneider was uncomfortable about the direction of the influencer marketing space. Policies like GDPR were making it onerous to collect user data online, and he was worried that would severely impact the performance of their email outreach tool. The more Schneider thought about the future, the more he wanted to take his chips off of the table.
Then, out of the blue, he received an email from an interested buyer. While the sellers did not disclose the buyer in interviews with They Got Acquired, a Flippa case study shows serial entrepreneur Jean-Pierre Khoueiri resold the business a few years later.
The founders jumped at the chance. The business underwent a month or two of due diligence before the deal was finalized in March 2018, with the founders receiving a 7-figure cash sum.
For others looking to sell, Schneider warns that preparation is key. “You have to think ahead to prepare a business for sale; to make it run smoothly, ideally profitable, with all loose ends tied up and processes in order,” he said. “Think of it this way, when potential buyers examine the financial books for the last 1-2 years, what story do you want it to tell? We screwed up on this a bit because we invested a lot into growth before selling, so it wasn’t planned out strategically.”
After the sale, Schneider established shortlist.io, a marketing agency specializing in SEO, where he’s currently CEO and oversees a team of 20 employees.
NinjaOutreach sold again in November 2020 for $2.5 million, according to Flippa, a marketplace for selling online businesses. The buyer, Technology Commerce Management (TCM), which offers AI-driven, e-commerce optimization, announced the purchase in March 2021.