Table of contents
So Daniel, what's your backstory?
I'm Daniel Nguyen, an entrepreneur based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. My father, an IT teacher, introduced me to the concept of programming at a young age. The typical career path for us involved studying hard, getting into a reputable university, and landing a great job. I did fairly well, enrolling in one of the top universities in Vietnam. However, I dropped out to start an online business, which didn't quite pan out. Since then, I've primarily been involved in software consulting and building side projects for fun.
I love creating things on the internet. I earned my first dollar online about 15 years ago, selling a plugin for an open-source forum software called Invision Power Board. Last year, I became active on Twitter and discovered many inspiring solo founders there, like Pieter Levels, Tony Dinh, and Damon Chen, to name a few. This led me to pause consulting and delve into this indie hacking thing.
What's Bolt AI and how did you come up with the idea?
Bolt AI facilitates access to ChatGPT in any Mac application. It integrates ChatGPT deeply into your workflows, eliminating the need to constantly switch between the ChatGPT web UI. When I initiated this project, I didn't anticipate it becoming commercially viable. It arose from my personal annoyance of having to continuously toggle between the ChatGPT web UI and native Mac apps like Xcode or Apple Notes. So, I conjectured that integrating AI directly into macOS would save a lot of time.
How did you attract your first handful of customers?
I tweeted a few video demos that went semi-viral, and many people signed up for early access. Then, I built the MVP and shared it on Twitter, Reddit, Indie Hackers, and WIP.co. Some early users really liked it, and I gained about 10 to 20 customers that day.
How did you validate Bolt AI?
Bolt AI originated from my personal needs, so it naturally solves them. I just needed to confirm if it's something other people also wanted. After launching the MVP, I garnered more than 100 beta testers. I continuously interacted with them, improving the product based on their feedback. I'd say the process was pretty smooth. Speaking to users invalidated many assumptions that I had.
How did you grow to get you first 100 customers?
My initial growth strategy involved building BoltAI in public on Twitter, which secured me an initial customer base. Later on, I began sponsoring multiple AI newsletters. People are always searching for improved ways to enhance their workflow, and BoltAI is an excellent solution for that use case. Now, I'm investing more time in paid ads.
Tell us about the distribution channels that didn't work
BoltAI is still fairly young, I launched the MVP in April so I haven't tried many marketing channels yet.
The least-performing channel is probably Reddit.
How did you make the transition from side hustle to full-time entrepreneurship?
I've been freelancing for over a decade, so the risk was rather low for me. I know I can return to freelancing at any time. Freelancing is great because it allowed me to work just a few days a week and devote the rest of my time to my products.
My advice to new founders with a side hustle is not to transition to full-time unless you've achieved ramen profitability, especially if you have a family to support. If possible, try negotiating with your employer to work fewer days, for example, four days a week with a 20% salary cut.
Any promotions you would like to add for Founderoo readers?
Use this discount code for 20% off: FOUNDEROO20 (max 20 redemptions)
What specific tools have been most helpful in growing your business?
Below are some of my favourite tools:
- Payment & email marketing: LemonSqueezy.com
- Analytics: SimpleAnalytics.com
- Customer Feedback: Canny.io
- Customer Support: BentoNow.com
- Marketing & Video Demo: ScreenStudio, Xnapper
- Landing Page: Tailwind UI
- Marketing Copy: ChatGPT
What drives you to do what you do?
I guess it's the potential uncapped upside and the interesting challenges that drive me to pursue this hard journey.
Who are some experts/entrepreneurs to follow to learn how to grow your business?
Some of the entrepreneurs that I really admire:
Any quotes you live by?
'We have two lives, and the second begins when we realise we only have one.'—Confucius