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13 Businesses Making $1,000,000 a Year With 0 Employees | My First Million

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updated 12 Jul 2023

In this episode of the My First Millions podcast, the hosts discuss companies that are highly successful with just one or two employees. They were inspired by the news of a company called War graphs, which was sold for $54 million. War graphs was a gaming companion app for League of Legends, developed by a single person and had gained a million players and generated significant revenue. The hosts highlight the impressive achievement of a one-person company and mention other similar cases they have covered in previous episodes. They express curiosity about other businesses that operate profitably with minimal staff and aim to uncover more examples in this episode. The hosts also mention a rapper named Juvenile and his recent performance at the tiny desk concert series by NPR, which they found inspiring.

13 Businesses Making +$1,000,000/Year With 0 Employees

Biggest One-Person Business - Stardew Valley, Streamyard, and Plenty of Fish

In this part of the conversation, the hosts discuss examples of the biggest one-person businesses. They introduce the concept of the "tiny Desk Awards" for businesses that can be run by just one or two people. They establish that while some businesses may have contractors or agencies, the core team consists of one or two individuals. The first example mentioned is Stardew Valley, a game developed by Eric Barone, who taught himself coding and spent four years building the game before its release. It has sold 20 million copies and generated $150 million in revenue, all developed by a single person. Another example is Streamyard, a streaming platform that scaled to $30 million in revenue in a short time before being acquired for $250 million by Hopin. The hosts also mention Plenty of Fish, an early dating website started by one person named Marcus, which was acquired for $550 million. They briefly touch on other stories, including the founders of Minecraft and Twitter Trending, highlighting their success with limited teams and the challenges they faced along the way.

Highest Degree of Difficulty - TinyWow and Photopea

In this part of the conversation, the hosts discuss the category of the highest degree of difficulty in one-person businesses. They share examples of businesses that faced exceptional challenges. The first example is TinyWow, a website created by Evan Gower, who previously sold his website Tech Junkie for eight figures. TinyWow offers various tools, including PDF conversion and image editing, and has gained 6.6 million monthly visits. While the revenue currently stands at $20,000 per month, Evan plans to monetize it further in the future. The hosts highlight the difficulty of acquiring a high scale of traffic for content-based websites. The second example is Photopea, a web-based image editing tool that was created by a single developer, Ivan, who recreated the functionality of Photoshop. It attracts around 13 million monthly visits and generates nearly a million dollars in the last 12 months, primarily through ads. The hosts acknowledge the technical complexity and impressive achievement of recreating Photoshop and making it work in a web browser. They emphasize the challenges of building and scaling such projects alone, including the pressure, long hours, and sustained commitment required.

Easiest to Recreate: GetCyberLeads, Lenny Rachitsky, and Marketing Examples

In this part of the conversation, the hosts discuss the category of the easiest businesses to recreate, which involves selling information or services. They provide examples of such businesses. One example is course creators, where individuals can create and sell courses on specific topics, leveraging their expertise. They mention Sam Evans, who generates $10 million in revenue and $5 million in profit annually from his courses. Another example is DesignJoy, a design subscription service where customers pay a monthly fee to get design-related tasks done by a single designer. The hosts highlight the simplicity of the value proposition but also mention the challenges of running such businesses.

They also discuss the effectiveness of selling information through free content to establish authority and monetize through various means. Lenny Rachitsky is mentioned as an example who provides thought leadership content through his newsletter, community, and job board. They mention the success of his job board and sponsorships.

The hosts mention Harry Dry and his blog called Marketing Examples, where he analyzes and provides insights on marketing strategies. They discuss how anyone can study a specific niche intensely and become an expert by creating content around it, which can lead to monetization opportunities and niche authority.

The conversation highlights the importance of timing and being early in certain platforms or trends, as well as the need to be present and adaptable to new opportunities. They compare it to surfing waves, where entrepreneurs need to paddle out and be in the right position to catch the wave.

Most Fun: Joe Rogan and Gym Streak

In this part of the conversation, the hosts discuss the category of the most fun one-person businesses. They mention Joe Rogan as an example, highlighting his media enterprise and the enjoyment he derives from his work. They emphasize that Joe Rogan's podcast is a juggernaut and that he has built a mighty business with a small team. They mention his various hobbies, such as being a UFC commentator and doing stand-up comedy, which he integrates into his work. They also mention his ability to dictate how he wants to live his life on his terms. They consider his business to be worth at least $100 million based on its profitability.

Another example discussed is Joseph Mambra, the founder of Gym Streak. He is described as someone with the attributes of a tinkerer. He taught himself coding and design and launched Gym Streak as an app for tracking workouts. He added a unique feature of 3D visualizations of exercises using a suit worn by his friend. The app uses AI to suggest weights and exercises and has both free and premium options.

The conversation highlights the enjoyment and fulfillment that can be found in running certain one-person businesses, where individuals can integrate their passions and hobbies into their work.

Business You Would Most Want to Own: Milled and BuiltWith

In this part of the conversation, the hosts discuss the category of the business they would most want to own, focusing on low-maintenance businesses. They mention two examples: Gym Streak and Milled.

Gym Streak is described as a company founded by Joseph Mambra, who taught himself coding and design. The app tracks workouts, suggests exercises and weights using AI, and has gained users through Facebook and TikTok ads. Joseph plans to scale the business to $15-20 million in annual revenue within the next two years. Despite being the only employee, he has achieved significant growth, with $300,000 in year one and $2.5 million in year two. The hosts find Joseph's journey and accomplishments fascinating.

Milled.com is introduced as a website that compiles email marketing examples from different companies. It allows users to search for specific brands and view their email campaigns for inspiration. The site generates revenue through display ads and affiliate links. The host praises Milled.com as a low-maintenance business that generates approximately $1 million in annual revenue. They acknowledge the under-monetization of the site but appreciate its potential and the fact that it requires minimal maintenance.

Overall, the conversation focuses on businesses that offer low maintenance, high potential, and the ability to generate revenue while minimizing day-to-day involvement.

Rookie of the Year: Joseph Mambwe and Only Finder

In this part of the conversation, the hosts discuss the category of Rookie of the Year, highlighting two individuals: Joseph Mambwe and Kevin Van Trump.

Joseph Mambwe is praised for his achievements with Gym Streak, an app that tracks workouts and provides AI-based suggestions for weights and exercises. Despite being the only employee, Joseph has experienced significant growth, with $300,000 in year one and $2.5 million in year two. The hosts believe Joseph's story and potential make him a standout rookie.

Kevin Van Trump is described as a remarkable individual who runs a newsletter focusing on agriculture and its impact on commodity prices. Although initially underestimated due to his appearance and accent, Kevin's knowledge and success are evident. He charges subscribers around $300 per month, resulting in an estimated annual revenue of $20 million. The hosts find Kevin's daily newsletter writing routine impressive but acknowledge that they wouldn't personally trade places with him.

The conversation highlights the accomplishments and potential of these individuals in their respective fields, recognizing their impact and unique approaches to their businesses.

The Key Takeaway's

  1. Common Industries: They highlight the most common industries where one or two-person businesses thrive, such as thought leadership on social media, e-commerce, agencies, games, apps, plugins, and data aggregators.

  2. Attributes: Successful entrepreneurs in these businesses possess specific skills, such as copywriting, design, investment judgment, market analysis, or expertise in their respective fields.

  3. Leverage: The hosts emphasize the importance of leveraging code, capital, or media to scale these businesses. Leveraging technology through code allows for scalable software solutions, utilizing capital for growth, and leveraging media platforms like podcasts or newsletters for broad reach.

  4. Becoming the Best: They stress the significance of striving to be the best in a particular area, as the internet provides a global market. Being the best allows entrepreneurs to offer their product, service, or education to a wide audience.

  5. Loneliness: The hosts acknowledge that running these businesses alone can be challenging and lonely. They highlight the importance of having support from a spouse, significant other, or finding a complementary partner to share the journey and provide accountability.

  6. Feedback Request: They ask listeners to share their thoughts in the YouTube comments section and indicate whether they enjoy the themed episode format or prefer the freestyle style.

Overall, the hosts provide insights into the industries, attributes, leverage, and challenges associated with running successful one or two-person businesses. They encourage engagement and feedback from the audience to shape future episodes.