Company name: Hovercode
Revenue: 110k/ Month
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey! I’m Ramy and I’m the founder of Hovercode, a dynamic QR code generator for brands.
Hovercode makes it easy to create stylish QR codes with advanced features. Our customers are mostly small businesses from a range of industries like hospitality and e-commerce.
It’s still early days so our monthly revenue is only at ~$150, but I’m seeing some good signs and expect that to grow quite nicely over the next few months.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve been running a business called Page Flows for about 5 years and during that time I’ve continued to build side projects. I understand the importance of focus in business, but I enjoy experimenting and learning about new industries, so the trade-off is worth it for me.
While hunting for my next side project in early 2021, I met up with a friend who works in marketing. He told me about a recent project he worked on that involved QR codes. QR codes didn’t take off in the UK until the pandemic, but they’re everywhere now.
I always found QR codes interesting, so after that conversation, I started to think about whether there were opportunities in the space. After a few hours of internet sleuthing, I discovered that while a huge number of large brands were using QR codes extensively, most were using them in incredibly basic ways.
If there’s one thing I know about marketers, it’s that they get more advanced with technology over time. My theory is that if QR codes continue to grow in popularity, marketers will start using them in more advanced ways. That was enough to convince me to get involved.
There are tons of QR code generators on the market and most are cheap or free. Building another generic alternative wouldn’t get me far. After doing a bit of keyword research and noticing some round QR codes in the wild, I convinced myself that a focus on round QR codes would be enough of a differentiator.
I started tinkering with Python to see if I could generate some decent-looking round codes. Some of the existing solutions support round QR codes, but they are mostly quite clunky. Would this be a big enough differentiator? Probably not, but it was enough to get me into the QR code space and let me iterate my way to a better position on the market.
Once I figured out how to make round codes, I started planning Hovercode’s launch. In terms of validating the idea, I have tried techniques like customer interviews but never managed to get anywhere with them. My current approach is to build and launch things into the market as quickly as possible and decide whether to continue based on how the market reacts.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
My first step was figuring out how to generate circle QR codes that looked good. If I couldn’t do that, I’d need to come up with a different angle. It was quite tricky and involved a lot of trial and error, but I got there eventually. It took a couple of days of tinkering to get to a result I was happy with.
Once I was over that hurdle, I started working on a landing page and got it online as soon as possible. I like to get some sort of site online early to give Google some time to index it before launch.
I then simultaneously worked on building out the basic QR code features and the marketing website. I made landing pages for each feature as I was building them (e.g. QR code tracking, editing, etc).
I used Python and Django to build Hovercode and hosted it with Digital Ocean. I chose Django because it has been my language of choice for years and I didn’t want to spend the time learning newer and shinier technology stacks.
Getting the basics of Hovercode online with the marketing site took about a month. As always, the final 10% took way longer than expected.
Describe the process of launching the business.
As soon as the Hovercode marketing site was online, I submitted it to any and every startup listing website I could find. SaaSHub, AlternativeTo, G2, etc. I also added it to my personal site, which gets some traffic. My main aim was to get Hovercode noticed by Google. I wasn’t expecting masses of traffic, but if some of the pages were indexed it would be a solid start.
At that point, I put Hovercode on the back burner while I focussed on my other projects. This was always the plan as I wasn’t sure which of my side projects would get traction. A few months later, the site started getting tiny amounts of traffic from Google. People were signing up and using it! It was amazing to see that QR codes created with Hovercode were being used and scanned in the real world.
None of my other projects were getting similar action so I decided to put more time into Hovercode and planned a launch on Product Hunt. I also started working with a content marketing agency that helped get the blog up and running.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
SEO has been the biggest driver of traffic so far. There’s a constant flow of people looking to create QR codes or learn more about QR-related topics. I also experimented with Google Ads but turned them off after spending a few hundred dollars because I wasn’t sure if they were working. I’ll try running ads again soon.
Launching on Product Hunt also gave us a nice boost of traffic, but it didn’t lead to any paying customers.
One major challenge so far has been attracting users who are willing to pay. Most people only need to use one or two QR codes in their business and don’t need advanced features. In those cases, there are plenty of great free options and they can use Hovercode’s free plan without ever hitting any limits.
Getting discovered by businesses with more advanced use cases has been more challenging, but it’s starting to happen more frequently. Customer support has also been important. I try to be as responsive and helpful as I can, which has led to a few upgrades.
Don’t spend too long working on a product before getting it in front of potential customers, especially if it’s your first-ever attempt.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Hovercode is currently sitting at ~$150 MRR and is getting about 5k unique visits per day. I’ve built and launched a handful of side projects in the last couple of years and Hovercode has been the one with the clearest pull from the market. It’s not a rocket ship by any means, but the early signs are promising.
My plan for the future is to continue focussing on more advanced features like the API, integrations, customization options, and more. I’ll also be investing more in content marketing.
I’m not expecting Hovercode to grow into a massive business, but I see a clear path to ~3k MRR and beyond.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Working in a space with tons of searches and activity is way more fun than working in a space with less movement. Most of my other projects were in spaces with way less interest, so it was always an uphill battle to get traffic. Although most of the people who land on Hovercode are free users and won’t ever need to pay, it’s fun to put something out there that’s getting used almost every minute of the day. It’s super motivating.
Another thing that I’ve learned is that it’s fine to work in a suboptimal way as long as you’re ok with the tradeoffs. I understand that if I focused all of my attention on one product, I would be more successful. For now, I’m ok with being less successful if it means I enjoy the process more.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I attended the MicroConf Europe conference in 2021, which was super inspiring. It was awesome to meet so many founders in such a short period of time. During that conference, a talk by Sabba from VEED really stuck with me. One killer line was to “make something people search for.” It’s a play from the famous “make something people want” slogan at Y Combinator that I found much more actionable.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Follow Sabba’s advice and make something people search for. Keyword research tools like Ahrefs give you an insight into what people are actively looking to buy.
Another piece of advice I always give after making this mistake so many times: Don’t spend too long working on a product before getting it in front of potential customers, especially if it’s your first ever attempt.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes, but not for Hovercode. I’m looking to hire a couple of freelancers to help me add and update videos on Page Flows. If you’re reasonably tech-savvy, are into design, and would be interested in part-time work on a freelance basis, please reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org).