ConvertKit was founded in January, 2013 when Nathan Barry needed a better way to reach his audience as a blogger and creator to sell books and courses through email. Instead of a generic tool for all small businesses, ConvertKit focused exclusively on the needs of online creators.
The entire journey was public for the entire community to follow along, which started our core values of “teach everything you know” and “work in public.”
The goal was to reach $5,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR) within six months with only $5,000 invested—the rest of the money coming from pre sales to customers. Unfortunately we fell short at about $2,000 MRR. For the next year momentum stalled and ConvertKit didn’t grow. Without further results it became hard to invest more time in the product.
Then Hiten Shah, the cofounder of CrazyEgg and KISSmetrics, convinced Nathan that he should either shut ConvertKit down as an unsuccessful product or double down on it and truly invest everything to make it grow.
Taking Hiten’s advice, Nathan doubled down on ConvertKit in late 2014. Doubling down meant investing $50,000, focusing our marketing on the niche of email marketing for professional bloggers, hiring an internal team, and starting direct sales.
Direct sales worked. In the first month ConvertKit grew from $1,300 a month to $1,600. Then to $2,000 the next month. With a new team focused on the product ConvertKit got better every day. Each new customer was manually switched to ConvertKit through our concierge migrations, establishing our competitive advantage of caring more about our customers than any other company.
Relying on Customers for Growth
By July 2015 we were at $15,000 MRR and starting to feel the network effects from our current customers referring their friends. So we decided to build on organic referrals by launching an affiliate program with our customers. The program helped accelerate growth and demonstrate our appreciation for existing customers.
We closed out 2015 at $98,000 in MRR and finished 2016 at $500,000 in MRR.
In early 2017 we asked a simple question, “if we started ConvertKit from scratch today, what would we design?”
Rather than wait for a competitor to beat us on innovation we started from scratch and reimagined ConvertKit from the ground up.
That led us to design visual automations, to see an entire marketing funnel at a glance. We added powerful new features, but made them easy, quick—and most importantly—fun to use. All so that our customers could quickly build their automations and then go back to doing what they do best: creating.
Here to Serve Creators
We’re incredibly proud to have grown the company 100% independently, which means we only answer to our customers and ourselves. Because of that, not every decision we make is based on growth or ROI. Instead we are able to focus on products that are entirely focused on helping creators earn a living.
In 2017 we were able to bring many of these to life through an annual report showing behind the scenes of nearly 1,000 businesses, hosting 300 amazing creators for an in-person conference, and traveling across the United States filming a documentary telling the stories of these creators.
For the years to come we’ll stay independent and continue to reinvest our profits in our mission to help creators earn a living.