A few years ago, when great conferences like Build and New Adventures existed, I met Chris Armstrong. We became friends and have sporadically kept in touch over the years.

Chris went onto bootstrap Niice—a tool that facilitates creative discussion within teams—to over 100,000 users. I’m bootstrapping With Jack and felt I could learn some lessons from Chris. A 1 hour discussion on building and bootstrapping Niice was born.

Here are some things I learned from my chat with Chris, but I recommend you listen to the whole conversation.

  • Chris built Niice—which started as a side project—in one week to scratch his own itch
  • He built it quickly because momentum is everything. He found that having a working prototype to show a developer helped them get excited about working on it with him. His developer was able to jump in quickly and fix the bits he couldn’t get working
  • The idea for Niice was sketched on a plane from Toulouse on Monday. Chris launched it the following Monday
  • It was a modest launch, but it was enough to validate the idea
  • It took 2 years before Chris could dedicate full-time to it (he now has a small team working on it)
  • At some point Niice shifted from an advertising model to subscription model. The advertising model wasn’t great for advertisers as people didn’t use Niice to click an ad and be taken elsewhere
  • Chris launched at 2.30AM and quickly made his first sale. He’s since become friends with his first customer, Mark, and has lunch with him when he’s in the USA
  • To Chris, bootstrapping means slow but sustainable
  • His goal isn’t to get rich. It’s to have freedom
  • Chris says that being in business is being able to pay your bills. It doesn’t matter what the rest of them (competitors, other startups) are doing
  • Initially he wasn’t sure what problem he was tapping into. He figured that out as the app developed by speaking to people and building new features
  • Niice had 100,000 visits in the first month of launch and was covered in The Next Web. Growth has been organic
  • You don’t know what will resonate with people, so keep building stuff and get it out there