How My Startup Got Acquired After 6 Months

I couldn’t find the service I needed, so I built it for myself. And that was the start.

Josh Howarth
Published in
17 min readDec 3, 2019


That’s me (right!) at a Japanese temple for New Year’s. That dragon is supposed to give you luck :)

Short version

👨‍💻 Spent two months building an app to detect trends.

🙂 Launched as a Show HN and reached #1 on Hacker News (briefly!).

📈 Another four months growing and improving.

🐦 People continued to like and tweet about the project.

🤯 Failed to monetize.

🎉 Enough traction to get acquired by Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko.

🕺🏼 New focus, name, and design overhaul: 👉

Long version

I should preface this by saying that I was tremendously lucky with how things turned out, and I’m not recommending this as a reproducible guide for anyone.

Instead, I’d like to give thanks to the people who supported the project — all those good folks on Hacker News, Indie Hackers, and even Reddit.

And personal shoutouts to Vincent of Threader (who convinced me to write this story!), Adrian Love, Daniel Eckler, and my wife, Akane.

All your feedback helped to continuously improve the project, and your encouragement was great fuel in the absence of revenue.

How it started

I began work on in April while living in Japan. Back then, it was called

I started to realize that it’s 100 times easier to bootstrap a profitable online business if you ride a big market trend. Jump on the opportunity before the competition gets too fierce.

A great example of this is Jon and Justin at, who spotted a growing B2B market for podcast hosting and bootstrapped a SaaS for it.

Another classic example: Pieter Levels tapped into the digital nomad and remote work trend while…