Teaminal logo Teaminal logo

2023 Year In Review

December 18, 2023 by Brad Simantel

Teaminal is an agile meeting tool for distributed teams. It lets you conduct agile meetings like standup, backlog refinement, and retro asynchronously, and integrates with Slack, GitHub, Jira, and more.

I’m a solo, bootstrapped founder, and I’ve been working on Teaminal for the past two years. As we head into the end of the year, I’ve been reflecting on 2023 - what happened, what I learned, how I’m feeling, what the numbers looked like, my goals from last year, and what goals I want to set for 2024.

If you want to follow along year-to-year, you can read my 2022 Year In Review for last year’s post.

What happened

Things are starting to work! I’m getting a bit of organic traffic, which is converting to signups, and I’m starting to get some real usage. From here it’s all about building this spark into a fire.

Monthly updates

If you want the whole story, you can read my monthly updates from 2023. I won’t link them all here, but you can start in January, and at the end of each post there’s a link to the next one.

One thing I notice reading these back is that early in the year I had a lot of guilt about how much effort I was putting in, or that I wasn’t working on the right things. It definitely seems like I spent a lot of time spinning my wheels.

I shipped a bunch of stuff

Some of the major features I shipped this year:

  • Gitlab, Bitbucket, Asana, and Monday integrations
  • Emoji reactions for posts and comments
  • Improved team and user management, including invite links
  • Lots of onboarding improvements, I think I took 3-4 separate swings at this
  • Notifications work way better now, emails have unsubscribe links, you can mute them, etc.
  • Video status updates
  • User profile pages
  • Improved telemetry and analytics
  • Marketing site improvements like adding logos and some other sections to the homepage, feature pages, etc.
  • A zillion quality of life improvements and bug fixes, for example the timeline now starts at the most recent item, so you never get a blank page when you open the app

I think the integrations and the zillion quality of life improvements have made the biggest impact on the product, but it’s really a cumulative change!

It turns out that in the second year working on a thing (and I assume every year other than the first), most of what you’re doing is iterating on the product and polishing it up.

I got my first real users

I’ll get into the numbers in a bit, but I did manage to get some real users this year! As of November I had a few dozen monthly active users across a half dozen or so accounts.

They’ve been almost all organic, too. Early in the year I listed Teaminal on 150+ startup directories, posted in Slack communities, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn a few times, and snuck Teaminal into a list of planning poker tools on Wikipedia (which has since been removed, sadly).

What I learned

Organic traffic is real

As I mentioned, I got a little taste of organic traffic and signups, and wow, I really like it! That taste has also given me the confidence to start really investing in SEO, hiring an agency to help with content and linkbuilding.

It’s also got me thinking about what else I can do to get links, and I think integrations are my biggest lever there. I can get links from the app directory of each integration, plus traffic from people searching the directory itself.

You have to spend money to make money

I don’t actually think the old adage is always true, but it’s relevant for Teaminal. I’ve been trying to build this thing as cheaply as possible, doing all the marketing myself, but it turns out I actually don’t have to!

I can spend some money and bring on help for SEO strategy, content, link building, PPC consulting (and paying for the ads themselves), and if this business is actually viable, they’ll pay for themselves. I have to spend the money to find out, though.

There’s always another thing

No matter how much I build, it seems like there’s always another objection around the corner. I built out new integrations after hearing “this is really cool, but we use GitLab/Bitbucket, not GitHub.”

I’m currently working on redesigning the retro feature after hearing “we really like planning poker, but the retro functionality is too basic” a handful of times.

I like to think I’m knocking down those objections for good, and once I clear out all the big ones the boulder will start to roll down hill, but maybe people are just politely saying they’re not interested.

How I’m feeling

I’ve tried nothing and nothing’s worked

I feel like this has been another year where I know what I should be doing on the marketing front (writing content, building links, testing PPC channels, etc.), but I just really struggle to make myself do those things.

I’m trying to change that by working with the SEO agency, and am looking into hiring a PPC consultant to help me get started with Google Ads, and so far I’m feeling really good about those things, but we’ll have to wait to see the results.

I also think that getting a little taste of traction this year has lit a fire that wasn’t there before. I’m excited to keep building momentum.

I still believe in the idea

I found myself wondering this year “is this just a hobby?” It’s been two years now and I’m just starting to get a trickle of signups.

But I do still believe in the idea. I think there’s potential to build a decently big business here, and the model of an app that can get traffic from SEO and integrations and is adopted bottom-up really fits my skill set.

The numbers

Top-line metrics

All numbers have improved since last year, most noticeably in that I actually have a few dozen active users now:

  • 1473 visitors to the marketing site (vs. 626 in 2022)
  • 70 account signups, 104 user signups (vs. 13 accounts, 18 users in 2022)
  • 56 monthly active users in November (vs. 0 in 2022)
  • $0 in MRR (same as 2022)

The visitor count is still way lower than I’d like, and the rest of the numbers are downstream from that, but progress is progress!

Engineering metrics

The pace of development has slowed down from last year. In 2023 I made 392 git commits (an average of 1.07 commits per day) vs. 1,079 commits in 2022 (2.96/day).

I think this is partially the nature of working in a more mature code base on more complex features, and partially that I spent a lot of time not working on the app because I was busy procrastinating on doing sales and marketing.

Costs

Here’s the breakdown of my regular expenses:

  • $1,300/month for an SEO agency (marketing)
  • $112/month for Render (hosting)
  • $23/month for AppSignal (monitoring)
  • $12/month for Google Workspace (email and productivity)
  • $10/month for Postmark (transactional emails)
  • $100/year to keep the LLC alive (legal)
  • $12/year for Cloudflare (domain registration, object storage, and CDN)

That’s $1,466/month in total. I’d need 245 users on the premium plan to break even.

Also just to note, the SEO agency is a 6-month contract that I just started, so I’ll be reassessing that in June.

Last year’s goals

The goals I set for myself last year were:

  • Alternate marketing weeks and coding weeks to force myself to actually do marketing work.
  • Focus on SEO and get to 5,000 monthly visitors.
  • Get to $5k MRR.

As you can see from my numbers above, I whiffed hard on the monthly visitor and MRR numbers. I’ve been averaging about 150 monthly visitors lately, and I’m still at $0 MRR.

As for alternating marketing and coding weeks, I didn’t really do that either. I found myself procrastinating on marketing tasks a lot, and I think I actually would’ve been better served if I’d just let myself focus on the product, doing marketing work as inspiration struck.

Goals for 2024

For 2024, my goals are:

  • Publish 52 blog posts about remote work, agile, scrum, etc. for SEO.
  • Get going on social media, sharing those articles (or at least my monthly updates) on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Hacker News.
  • Try Google Ads and retargeting as new marketing channels.
  • Ship 12 new integrations and get into their app directories.
  • End the year with 1000+ monthly active users.
  • Get my first paying customer.

Basically I want to grow the funnel and get more people into the app, and plan on doing that with a combination of SEO, PPC, and integrations.

Hopefully some of those folks will convert to paying customers, but honestly, just figuring out the top of funnel and getting people to try the app is my main goal. If I can make those users happy and get them to stick around, I think paying customers will naturally follow.

Like what you see?

Subscribe to the Teaminal newsletter for monthly updates