Tim Bennetto – The Solo Founder Who Built a $74k MRR Social Media Tool After Teaching Himself to Code

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Tim Bennetto is a self-taught developer who built Pallyy into a $74k MRR (monthly recurring revenue) business. He runs the business solo, without funding, going against industry giants like Hootsuit and Later.

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What we will learn

  • What it takes to compete with industry giants as a solo founder
  • How to handle complaints about “bugginess” as a first-time indie maker
  • Why buying free tools give you more than buying traffic
  • How to get the best affiliates to promote your product
  • When you should change your company mission

Who is Tim Bennetto?

As a locksmith for 10 years, Tim Bennetto never imagined he’d one day build a successful SaaS business. His journey into tech began when he paid a developer to build an Instagram video editing app. Realizing how expensive it was to outsource development, Tim decided to teach himself to code in the evenings through a free Codeacademy course.

After months of persistence, Tim successfully built the first version of Pallyy (formerly known as Share My Insights) to compete in a crowded space against giants like Hootsuit and Later. However, by positioning his platform as the affordable option for small agencies with a robust pipeline of new features, Tim managed to break into this $3.2bn social media market and build a $74k MRR SAAS business as a solo founder.

Tim Bennetto Pallyy MRR Growth
Pallyy’s MRR growth

This is his story building Pallyy.com


How did he build a $74k MRR business in a highly competitive industry?

If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s worth starting a business in a highly competitive space, this article is for you. You will learn why Tim Bennetto finds it EASIER, not harder, to build in a crowded space and learn his strategies for breaking in.

Specifically, this is what he did:

  1. Building as a non-technical founder – You can go from zero technical skills to a fully functioning, monetised product within a year. Tim showed us how he made it work by being transparent with his users and recognizing that there would be a technical debt to pay later on.
  2. Competing in a big, crowded market – Tim advocates for jumping into crowded markets with many established players. As long as the market is big and the needs are diverse, you can attract customers who prefer your specific solution or method over others.
  3. Buying free tools for backlinks – Free tools that rank can be a great source of traffic for your website as long as they are complementary to your brand. Steal Tim’s process below to find valuable free tools to buy.
  4. Being generous to your affiliates – When you pay more, you attract better-quality, higher value affiliates. Tim pays a 40% lifetime commission to make it irresistibly lucrative for affiliates.
  5. Allowing your customers to shape your vision – If Tim stuck with his original vision which was to help people share their social analytics, they would likely be out of business today. Recognize the right time to change your vision for the business.

Let’s look at each in detail.

1. Building as a non-technical founder

When Tim started Pallyy, he had no prior coding skills. But by this point, he had already hired a developer to build his last MVP, which was an Instagram video editing app. He realized he could not afford to continue relying on expensive outsourced tech teams to build more MVPs for him.

Instead of doing what many others would do, which is to partner with a technical co-founder, Tim taught himself to code. He spent 6 months going through a free course on Codecademy every evening. His hard work paid off. Eventually he managed to hack together the first version of Pallyy (Share My Insights) in 2019.

Obviously, as a one-man team with limited tech experience, his tool wasn’t perfect. In fact, if you look at some of his earlier (read: more critical) reviews, you can see that his users commented about the bugginess of his tool.

Tim Bennetto Pallyy buggy
Feedback from the first version of Share My Insights

But you may remember the phrase “if you’re not embarrassed about your product, you’ve launched too late”.

Though buggy at first, shipping projects quickly was incredibly important. It enabled Tim to gather user feedback quickly to iterate his product.

Here’s where it gets interesting:

To manage user expectations in the early days, Tim focused heavily on transparency. He leveraged tools like Canny.io to share an open product roadmap detailing exactly what features or fixes were being released next.

Tim-Bennetto-Pallyy-changelog-updates

I worked on it every single day. I changed it so many times that people started to say, ‘If you change it again I’m leaving.”

— Tim Bennetto

Over the next 3 years, Tim self-developed Pallyy as far as he could as a self-taught developer. But in order to scale, Tim knows it’s now time to bring on a technical engineer to help rewrite Pallyy from the ground up. In his own words, to “repay his technical debt”. In fact, his first hire is exactly that.

Tim Bennetto Pallyy First hire

In short, if you are building your own MVP as a first-time coder, this is what you can learn from Tim’s experience:

  • Be transparent
  • Use a public roadmap to manage expectations
  • Commit to continuously improving your product

2. Competing in a big, crowded market

Tim Bennetto is a strong advocate for building a product within an established market instead of inventing a novel but unvalidated idea. In his view, entering a mature market with validated demand makes more sense and is less risky. You are also less likely to fall into the trap of chasing hypes.

Tim Bennetto Pallyy Competitive Crowded Markets

How to compete against industry giants with bigger teams and deeper pockets

When I was researching his story, it’s clear he gets asked this question a lot. For Tim, it comes down to making your product affordable and continuously shipping new features.

Pricing

Against common advice, one of Tim’s USP for Pallyy is affordability. He always priced his tool on the very low end of the market. Even when Tim eventually put up his prices from $15 to $18 per month, he is still one of the cheapest social media scheduling tools out there.

Here’s a screenshot of Pallyy’s pricing against a popular competitor’s.

Tim Bennetto Pallyy Pricing

Note: The reason this works for Tim is because the market is a) growing and b) big enough to avoid a race to the bottom on price. Even if there was such a price pressure, Tim is somewhat insulated as a solopreneur without huge overheads.

Moving quickly

Tim wanted his customers to trust the team behind Pallyy (him!) to constantly fix bugs and bring out new features. In fact, I’ve heard the founder of Beehiiv, a new newsletter tool, discuss the same strategy to win over users from incumbent tools.

The idea is that even if your tool isn’t yet the best in the market, you can give your customers a reason to believe you will eventually become the best.

You don’t need to build every feature

I was curious if there was any other reason that made Pallyy compete effectively against industry incumbents. So I dug into all 62 of Pallyy’s customer reviews on Capterra (a popular software review site) to find out.

This review perfectly sums up what I learned:

Tim Bennetto Pallyy Pricing (2)

For a mass-market product like social media scheduling that is used by many people with a diverse range of needs and preferences, you can win over market share just by offering your own twist on the solution:

  • The simplest tool
  • The cleanest interface
  • The only one that integrates with [a niche tool]
  • And so on

You don’t need to build every feature your competitor has to win. You can start by focusing on one of two use cases to attract your own subset of users. For example, you can design your dashboard to appeal to users with different workflow preferences than your competitors.

3. Buying free tools for backlinks

Free tools are simple things like “TikTok Hashtag Generators” that are free for website visitors to use but generate a ton of traffic and goodwill for your core product. Building and buying free tools is one of Tim Bennetto’s biggest growth hacks.

On Pallyy’s website, we can see 25 free tools that are driving traffic to his site. At least 7 of these free tools were acquired by Tim.

Tim Bennetto Pallyy Free Tool Acquisition

One such example was Image-to-caption.io.

He was researching relevant keywords to rank for when he came across an image caption generator tool that was ranking #1 on Google for the term “Image caption generator”. After some back and forth, he bought the site for $2,000 and started redirecting visitors from the tool to Pallyy.

It was a terrific deal. He added 5,000 daily visitors to his website overnight.

Even to this day, it is still one of the top-ranking keywords driving traffic to Pallyy’s website every day.

Tim Bennetto Pallyy Free Tool Acquisition - Image Caption SEO ranking

This became his free tools formula:

  • Find keywords you want to rank for
  • Build, or buy a free tool already ranking for the keywords you want
  • If buying: Rebuild the exact same tool on your website, 301 redirecting visitors from the original website to your page. This step is important because it helps you benefit from the acquired site’s traffic WITHOUT losing backlinks.

4. Being generous to your affiliates

Affiliates now drive 20% of Pallyy’s monthly revenue.

The key is to offer generous commissions because this attracts the highest quality affiliates. A good affiliate will not only bring you sales but also valuable backlinks from their affiliate sites.

In Tim’s case, he pays a whopping 40% lifetime commission to his affiliates.

Tim Bennetto Pallyy Affiliate

Here is how Tim finds good affiliates:

I searched for posts like “Top Instagram Analytics Tools.” I went through the first few pages, opening every article. I checked if they had affiliate links. If yes, I added those sites to a list and emailed the owners directly.

— Tim Bennetto

He must have had to send a lot of cold emails because most of the time, these emails were simply ignored. If it feels unscalable, it’s because it is! In fact, Tim tried many unscalable things when he first started, including DM-ing potential customers directly on Instagram to get them to try his tool.

But these unscalable actions do pay off.

Even though he now has a way to automatically capture inbound affiliate requests, some of his top-performing affiliates today are still the ones he reached out to himself in the early days.

In other words, don’t be afraid of the hustle.

5. Allowing your customers to shape your vision

Founders often start their company with a vision. Shopify’s vision for example is to make commerce better for everyone.

The problem is, when you are not growing fast enough, it’s hard to tell if it is because your vision isn’t resonating, or if you’re simply not marketing hard enough.

If this is a struggle you have, Tim’s experience may provide insight to show you when to review your company vision.

Lessons from a failed product hunt launch

Originally, Share My Insights (Pallyy’s previous name) was created to help teams collaborate by enabling Instagram analytics to be shared. At that time, there wasn’t a good tool to do so, and Tim thought this might be his product’s core USP.

Unfortunately, his Product Hunt launch flopped and he struggled to grow Share My Insights for a while.

I went to Share My Insights’s Product Hunt launch page to see what users said about the tool.

Interestingly, the only user comment on that page mentioned absolutely nothing about sharing insights. The user simply liked its analytics.

Tim Bennetto Pallyy Share My Insights

Lesson: When you launch a product, start monitoring what your customers say about you.

If they somehow misunderstood your core value proposition, instead of correcting them, ask questions to see whether you’ve understood the market demands correctly.

For Tim, people clearly ignored the core sharing capabilities of his tool. He quickly pivoted the company’s vision to “assist brands and agencies with social media analytics”. Today, it is to “simplify social media posting”.

As Tim bluntly puts it: “If I had stuck stubbornly to my original vision, I would have gone out of business quickly.”

Pay attention when nobody uses or mentions your product’s central features. That likely indicates your vision requires fundamental rethinking.

Juicy ideas to replicate success

Tim Bennetto’s story is inspiring. It shows you that anyone can learn to code and develop a product that can stand against industry giants.

Here are 5 ideas you can takeaway from today’s topic.

  • You can build your own product by learning to code. This can save you a lot of development costs and allow you to ship faster. Sharing a live feature update roadmap and being transparent with your customers can compensate for your scrappiness at the start.
  • A crowded market can be a good thing… as long as the market is big and growing. This gives you plenty of room to add your spin to the solution and capture a segment of the market.
  • Free tools are good sources of traffic. Acquire free tools that are ranking for relevant keywords to get their traffic and backlinks.
  • Pay your affiliates well. A generous offer can attract higher quality and more valuable affiliates, even though finding them may require some hustle.
  • Pay attention when nobody uses your product’s core features. This may indicate that it’s time to review your vision for the business.

What’s next

Check out our last issue sharing Marc Louvion’s unconventional approach to marketing that grew Ship Fast to $43k monthly revenue in 2 months.

In the next issue, we will look at Gumroad millionaires and see what we can learn from them.

If you haven’t already, sign up to get notified when a new issue of Juicy Ideas drop!

Growth Strategies of Top Indie Makers Delivered to Your Inbox

Each week, we will reverse engineer the growth and distribution strategies used by top indie makers to grow their startups past $100k annual revenue. Subscribe so you don’t miss the latest issues!