BrandBird is an online image editor for turning screenshots into beautiful social media graphics.
We speak to its founder, Jim Raptis, a serial indie-hacker who has bootstrapped his way to a number of profitable digital tools. Jim shares his belief that designers who can code have a superpower when it comes to developing micro-SaaS. We also discuss the initial spike Product Hunt can give new ventures, the importance of listening to customers and building viral loops, and the much-debated future of no-code versus custom code.
Hi Jim. Please introduce yourself and your professional background?
👋 Hi Stuart. My name is Jim and I’m 25 years old indie-hacker who builds micro-SaaS products like BrandBird App (image editor for social media graphics) and MagicPattern.design (10+ tools for designers).
My expertise is within the UI/UX design & front-end development ecosystems which allows me to build MVPs and iterate quickly. From time to time, I work as an individual contractor for startups and entrepreneurs.
You’ve got a small portfolio of indie tools, can you talk us through them and how they all fit together?
Of course! I started building free indie tools and resources 3 years ago and launched my first solo SaaS product MagicPattern in August 2020.
I quickly realized that the backbone for these SaaS tools is 90% the same (auth, pricing, marketing website, etc.) which made me think about launching more micro-SaaS tools in parallel. Plus, most parts of a SaaS product can be automated which makes the whole process even simpler.
In April 2021, I launched BrandBird as a fun experiment but it quickly gained popularity and I ended up with a second SaaS product on my portfolio.
Switching context can be tedious, but I really enjoy the process and appreciate the safety of running multiple bets instead putting all my eggs in the same basket.
"Switching context can be tedious, but I really enjoy the process and appreciate the safety of running multiple bets instead putting all my eggs in the same basket."Jim Raptis, BrandBird app
I first heard about BrandBird from Ch Daniel of Simple.Ink fame. How does it help busy founders such as Daniel?
Ch Daniel is a great talented guy, and one of the greatest fans of BrandBird!
BrandBird is a tool for people exactly like Ch Daniel. Busy founders who appreciate good design & branding, but have very little time to worry about designing their own assets (or even don’t know how to design).
So BrandBird kinda gives them design superpowers and allows them to create their marketing graphics, like social media posts, newsletter graphics, blog post images, even their landing page assets.
Where does your inspiration for these tools come from? Why do you think somebody hasn’t done them before?
I always try to solve problems that I face in my daily workflow as a designer & developer. All my ideas came from problems and friction that I faced while doing my daily tasks.
If I can’t find a product that solves these pains, I try to find a creative solution & test whether it’s possible to automate it. Then I build a quick MVP and launch it!
About your question my products are unique, I believe it’s because of my background. My background in design allows me to think things differently from a unique perspective, and my experience with code allows me to quickly build the MVPs. Most people usually do one of those two things. Either think of a very complicated unique solution that is not feasible, or jump right into coding without thinking about the problem itself.
"My background in design allows me to think things differently from a unique perspective, and my experience with code allows me to quickly build the MVPs. Most people usually do one of those two things. Either think of a very complicated unique solution that is not feasible, or jump right into coding without thinking about the problem itself."Jim Raptis, BrandBird app
I love the new feature to import a screenshot from a URL. Is that something people were crying out for?
Exactly! It was a feature requested by many people so I couldn’t postpone it anymore. And that’s the reason we must always have open communication channels with our customers. The most creative features & ideas for BrandBird are not mine but inspired by my own customers.
Plus, it’s a very interesting feature because I had to test a lot of different screenshots via API solutions to figure out that neither of them fits my requirements. Then, I built it on my own, and might become a spin-off product very soon…
Can you give us an idea of the size of BrandBird today and how you’ve attracted users?
BrandBird is growing like crazy the past few months since the beginning of 2022. A few months ago I passed 100 active customers which was a huge milestone for me.
The rapid growth comes mostly from word of mouth. The product’s purpose helps a lot because the goal of BrandBird is to create eye-catching graphics.
Then, the BrandBird users share these visuals with their audience on social media, and people repeatedly ask them how they created them. Since most of the BrandBird users love the product, they’re willing to tell them that they used BrandBird.
It’s a well-defined viral loop, and works like charm!
You’ve been #2 Product of the Day on Product Hunt and since built tools to help others on the platform. How central has PH been to your success?
Product Hunt played a huge part in my success. It was the platform that introduced me to the makers’ community and helped me realize that building a SaaS product on your own is possible and extremely profitable.
It might sound dramatic, but I strongly believe that I wouldn’t be here today if had never heard about Product Hunt 3 years ago.
Apart from that, it helps me a lot to spread the word about my product especially when they’re in the early stage. Their tech community is the biggest around and is willing to help you with feedback and even boost your revenue.
However, we shouldn’t focus all our marketing strategy on Product Hunt launches. It’s great to spark initial interest but you can’t launch there every week. You need to find other reliable acquisition channels.
"It might sound dramatic, but I strongly believe that I wouldn’t be here today if had never heard about Product Hunt 3 years ago."Jim Raptis, BrandBird app
You’re saving people a world of pain with No-Code tools. Why’s that important to you?
It’s simple for me. The majority of people (even in the tech industry) are not tech-savvy and rarely bother to (or even can’t) learn technical stuff like coding themselves.
Then it’s really important to empower these people and help them achieve their goals with no-code tools.
A question we’ve been asking a lot recently is where do you think No-Code will be in 5 years’ time?
As a person with experience in both worlds, I’m impressed with the no-code evolution and can’t wait for the future.
I’d love to see no-code becoming the de-facto solution to build anything. But to be honest, I believe the future will be somewhere between no-code and code. Complex solutions will still require custom dev work, but we’ll be able to automate more and more boring stuff in our lives.
What’s been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far with BrandBird?
Before BrandBird, I haven’t realized the real power of talking with your users. They have a ton of insights to help you build a better product, solve annoying problems, and focus on your long-term vision. Plus, they become your best brand ambassadors and actively boost your marketing efforts.
What’s next for BrandBird and your other projects in 2022?
My main goal for 2022 is to hit the $5k MRR milestone (with all my SaaS tools combined) and I’m very optimistic about that. Also, I want to focus more on marketing actions over blindly adding features.
For BrandBird, the biggest technical challenge for me is to introduce simple video editing.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to build their own marketing tool?
Focus on building viral loops inside your product and listen to your customers. Since your audience is creative marketers it’s a competitive advantage to talks with them and enhance your product experience.
"Focus on building viral loops inside your product and listen to your customers. Since your audience is creative marketers it’s a competitive advantage to talks with them and enhance your product experience."Jim Raptis, BrandBird app