I got the chance to chat with Nathan Latka on the FoundersPath podcast. We talked about some of my projects, including T.LY URL Shortener and Weather Extension. The episode covers how he came up with the ideas, how I developed and marketed my projects, and where I see the future of my products and Chrome extensions in general.
Come on, man. So why are you being so much away for free? Does it make you nervous to ask for money? Yeah, I think that’s kind of the problem that a lot of people have. You are listening to conversations with Nathan Latka where to sit down and interview the top SAS founders like Eric Wan from Zoom. If you’d like to subscribe, go to getlatka.com. We’ve published thousands of these interviews and if you want to sort through them quickly by revenue or churn CAC valuation or other metrics, the easiest way to do that is to go to Gitlatka.com and use our filtering tool. It’s like a big Excel sheet for all these podcast interviews. Check it out right [email protected]. Hey, folks. My guest today is Tim Leeland, the creator of T-L-Y URL Shortener and Link management tool. His goal is simple make creating short links. One click process. This let him to create the URL browser extension that makes it easy to create, share and track these URLs. Currently, the company has over 10 million short URLs created and tracked. Sorry. At over 100 million clicks across those links, the Link shortener extension has over 400,000 active users. It’s an affordable URL shortener that allows users to brand, track and share their short URLs. Tim, you ready to take us to the top? Sure. Alright, everyone thought Bitly won this space. What mouse trap did you build that made you steal market share here? Yeah, that’s a great question. Billy has been around for a long time and definitely still probably the most popular that you see. But what I’ve been able to do is build the URL shortener extension that has gained a lot of popularity. And then on top of that, I’ve built a shorter URL shortener using the domain T Ly and have seen a lot of growth over the past year or so. I think the product this is a rare case, we don’t spend much time on the product. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a URL shortener. Right. So what are people paying for this? How do you make money? Yeah, you can use it for free short URLs, but when it comes to some additional features, so some additional analytics, the ability to use the API custom domains, be able to change the ending of the short URL, and some other features that you only get for paying. So smart URL. So if you want one URL that will redirect based on a user’s country browser and different things like that, if they’re on a phone, you want to take them to the App Store, they’re on desktop, you may want to take them to your desktop app. So that type of thing very cool. And so when people do this, if you look at only your paid user base on average with the customer paying per month yes, when I started this, and I think their prices have changed. But Bitly to build out a custom domain. It was very pricey, so I went with the approach of a more affordable option. So I started off at $5 a month, and that’s where I’m at right now. So pretty much anybody can get in there, add their own domain, and start sharing the term branded links so they can use their own domain and create as many short URLs, depending on what plan they’re on. This is great. I love this story. Okay, so URL extension, browser extension, allows you to grow a big user base, product led growth. You put up a five dollar month paywall. Now people are paying today. How many folks are now paying? Yeah, I actually looked at that just now. I have over 600 paying customers. So obviously there’s turn in there, but once somebody gets using it and they’re happy with it, they usually stick around for a while. That’s awesome. Okay, so $3,000 a month in revenue about, right? Well, the plans go up and down, so I’m actually over the $4,000, depending on what plan they select. The plans are really the difference are if you want teams and if you want additional short URLs per month. So that’s how it kind of scales. Some people sending out a lot of short links want to be able to generate more per month. Understood. And what year did you launch the business?
2020. Okay, so fairly new. Is this a sole founder scenario? Up to month? Yes. It’s just me kind of doing it almost as a side project on top of full time job. So this just nights and weekend type thing for me. I see dad posters behind you. You’re a busy guy, huh? Yes. All right, so how many kids do you have? Three boys. Okay. Three boys. A start up and a full time gig. Yes. All right, busy guy. Okay. I guess walk me through why $5 and when did you officially launch that paywall? What month? I’d have to look back at that. Was it this year or last year? It was last year. Okay, so second year in business and why $5? Or you just sort of make it up and see what happens? Yeah, I think I kind of went the route of what a lot of people starting out, they don’t charge enough. But I was trying to give an affordable option to people who just want a certain number of links per month. So that’s kind of where I came with the price. I did some calculations on how much storage and scaling. That’s where the cost comes in for me is server costs and scaling this. What do you think all in costs are per month? Per user? No, for you to run the business. So hosting wise, I’m over $300 a month. That’s a big cost. Yeah. And I’ve started experimenting with some advertising, so seeing how that goes. Paid advertising. What do you want to do with the business long term? If someone came to you today, you have a very large Chrome extension, 400,000 users. If someone offered you $100,000 all cash upfront today, do you sell? That’s a good question. I’ve actually not had official offers, but I’ve had people interested, and for now, I’m kind of holding onto it to see how far I can take it. What was the largest offer you got? I know it wasn’t binding, but just that you were talking about it was a few months ago, so it was more the 200,000 user range. $200,000. Right. 200,000 users. Okay. I’d have to look it up. I don’t remember, but come on, Tim, you don’t forget those things. What was the offer? What was the range like in the 60? $60,000. So, I mean, did it at least warrant a conversation with your spouse at the dinner table, or were you immediately like, no, I was kind of thinking that would be a pretty good deal, but no, I want to keep growing, and we both decided to keep working at it. That’s awesome. I love that. All right, so that makes a lot of sense. Again, let me go back to my first question. Where’s the product going? Right. So do you offer $100 a month plans? What can you build on top of this, you think? Yeah, so the plans scale up depending on how many short links you want per month, and also team members. So the largest plan I have right now is 100,000 short links per month, and that’s at $400 a month. Is anyone on that one? I don’t think anybody’s on that one, but I have some on the $100 a month plans. So just to be clear, if you have 100,000 short links per month, it’s $400 a month? Yes. So you can create the 100,000 each month. So it kind of scales where you can do that many per month. I don’t know if you guys listening or having the same thought I am, but holy shit, Tim, you give away a lot for a very little amount of money. I’ve seen things where it’s like, if you go up to five links, it’s $300 a month, and you’re like, 100,000 links a month for $400 a month, why not? Yeah, it could come back to bite me. Do you guys care about valuation right now? Specifically your valuation? Do you think you might raise soon or sell a portion of the company? There is no other tool on the Internet that you can use to get a better and higher valuation than Founderpath’s new evaluation tool. We have over 253 deals that went down over the past 30 days. All the revenue numbers, all the evaluations and the multiplier. That way you can go filter the data, find companies that are your same size, what they sold or raised for or at, and then use those as comparables in your decks to argue and debate and get a higher valuation and less dilution, which is the name of the game less dilution. Check it out today at founderpath. Comproducts. Pluralvaluations. Again. Both pluralfounderpath. Comproductsvaluations. Here’s a way to reverse engineer that. How many users do you have that have more than that that created more than 100 links last month? Do you know? I don’t have those numbers. I’d have to take a look. Do you have some sense of how active your biggest users are? How many links they create per month? The biggest thing is not necessarily the links, but more so, the tracking of the redirects. So that’s where a lot of companies limit the number of redirects tracked per month. And that’s where if somebody creates one link and it has millions of redirects and they’re having to track stats on that, that’s where it really starts to add up. So how many redirects do you allow to be tracked per month at $400 a month? So it’s unlimited. Come on, man. So why are you giving so much away for free? Does it make you nervous to ask for money? Yes, I think that’s kind of the problem, that a lot of people have tests starting out. Tim, why not just rip it off? Why not just throw up a plan for five grand a month and just test it for a month and see what happens? Yeah, that’s a good idea. You look at, like, a tiny URL who’s been around for 20 years, and they’ve been giving away for free. So now they do some other things through advertising, and they actually recently introduced paid plans. Interesting. Well, it’s interesting what you’ve built. A lot of people would kill for the kind of product led growth, sort of acorn foundation that you’ve built, which is compelling. And I also love I talk about this all the time, actually. It was a chapter in my book about using Chrome extensions as your initial community and your initial go to market. So have you learned anything? How did you grow that Chrome extension to 400,000 users? Yeah, that’s a really good question. So I started building extensions back in 2015, and I actually built a weather extension that grew to 200,000 users. And it’s still pretty popular whether extension.com, if you’re interested. I use the extensions I built to help promote my other extensions, and it’s been in that space for a while. And so the URL shortener extension, the idea came from when Google was shutting down theirs. I built the extension to use multiple services, and whenever they’re shut down, that’s when I saw a huge jump in numbers, which is what year it might have been 2019. Okay, interesting. Now, did you do things, though, to encourage people to leave you a review on the Google Marketplace? Do you rank higher or do you optimize your headline on the Google Marketplace to make sure they rank you in the right category, like this kind of stuff? Yeah, just from building the other extensions, I’ve kind of learned a few tricks and obviously just the words you put in there. And then reviews are important. But no, I mean, it ranked well as far as Google searches. If you search URL shorteners actually in the top page, which helps out a lot. But yeah, so back in 2019, it had 60,000 users. So that’s kind of the growth of the past three years or so. Yeah, it’s interesting. When I search URL shortener in Google, I get all these responses and yes, you’re listed as one of them. I’m trying to find it right here, featured by Google. So there’s a lot oh my gosh, this is competitive. Holy crap. There’s a lot of these guys, huh? Yeah, you have tiny RL bitly and rebrand. We are kind of the top that I’m familiar with. What about, like, timeline? The URL shortened these kinds of things. Not sure what’s interesting because the reason I landed it’s under extensions URL shortener called time. Lee Land. T-I-M-L-E-L-A-N-D. That’s mine. Tim Leland. Okay, I was wondering I was going to say because in the description, it says the best way to create short links using T Ly I’m. Like, I wonder if this is okay. Yeah. So this is the first result then, in Google, right? So when I look at URL shorteners and I go down the page and click on this thing, which is actually Google, it’s a link to Google’s thing, chrome, Google Comfortyourstoff. So that’s interesting. Did you intentionally set that up or is that like a nice accident? As far as being on the top search? Yeah. Why does Google make have yours on number one for that keyword term? Is it just because the name of your thing is URL shortener? And that was my search. I think that’s a lot of it, but yeah, I’m not 100% sure there it makes a lot of sense. People go, Nathan, why did you name your show the top podcast when you launched? And I said, well, look, I just looked up the most searched word for podcast when I launched, and it was what’s the top podcast? I said, Hell, I’m named my show the most search thing. Yeah, it’s a good idea. Interesting. Okay, any other tricks we should know about sort of Chrome extensions?
Yes. So using the extensions to promote each other. So somebody’s already installing one, that’s always a good thing. So when you install mine, I kind of encourage people to check out some of my other extensions.
And just to be clear, you’re the only one on the team, which is right in your bootstrapped, right? Yes, I love that. Cool. Listen, we’re excited to see what you do next. In the meantime, let’s wrap up with the famous Five number one favorite business book. Maybe not it’s necessarily a business book, but I just read Atomic Habits by James Clear. It relates to business of building good habits. That’s probably my most recent number top choice. Number two. Is there a CEO you’re following or studying?
Are you familiar with Taylor Otwell? No. What cone is he with? He’s the founder of Laravel open source development framework, and he’s built several companies around it. Number three, favorite online tool for building URL shortener. So the framework that I use is Laravel? The framework, yes. Number four. How many hours of sleep do you get every night? I try to get at least eight. So, married and with three kids, right? Yes. And how old are you, Tim? 34. Last question, something you wish you knew when you were 20?
I think when I was 20 in college, I was doing computer science. I wish I started a business then versus wasting a lot of my free time. There you have it. Launched in 2020, right around Google shut down their URL shortener. He launched T Ly, his own spin on the platform. His Chrome extension now has 400,000 downloads. Launched a paywall late last year for $5 a month. I think it’s under priced, but he has great revenue and his customers get great value. 600 customers paying $5 a month, about 4K or north of $5 a month, over about four kwh right now. A monthly recurring revenue. Recently turned down an acquisition offer for $60,000 because he wants to see where he can grow this thing. One man solo prior cranking. It profitable. His biggest cost is $300 for hosting. We’ll what happens next. Tim, thanks for taking us to the top. Thanks. This is great.