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🌊 Build For Yourself

🌊 Build For Yourself
By Open Water Weekly • Issue #31 • View online
🌊😎 Cool kids forward Open Water 😎🌊
Welcome back to the Open Water Newsletter, I’m the Editor Jacob Peddicord. First off, some housekeeping. In order to slow down and enjoy my last summer before going full-time, this newsletter will be moving to once per week. This may not be a permanent change, but I want to try it for now.
Today we are joined by our first pseudonymous founder, aj who is the creator of Carrd and HTML5UP. I actually used some of his templates when I was just getting started, so it was cool to get the chance to interview him. If you are thinking of starting side projects online, he is a great person to follow.

🎙 aj
What was your motivation to go from selling website templates to building your own site builder?
So interestingly, there wasn’t a straight line between doing the site template thing to building an actual site builder. In fact, what really kicked off the whole thing was the realization I had been doing the site template thing for literally years, and it was probably time to do something more interesting – particularly since in that time I’d picked up a bunch of frontend/backend skills I had yet to put to real use.
What to do became the question at that point. After working through a number of ideas that were either far beyond my expertise or just straight-up crap, I ended up circling back to an area I was familiar with – web design – and realized a site builder could be the way to go if I could figure out a way to do it that was a) interesting and b) feasible to tackle as a solo project. After a good bit of planning, the idea for a one-page site builder and ultimately Carrd was born and I was off to the races.
Other than Twitter, what has been your most successful strategy for growing Carrd?
Focusing almost entirely on product and, well, not actually worrying about growth, which I realize sounds insane but given Carrd was essentially a vanity project in its early days, growing it into an actual business wasn’t exactly on my radar – which inadvertently gave me the freedom to base product decisions on what I thought was interesting/cool vs. what might improve a particular KPI and ultimately lead to some crazy word of mouth growth.
I should stress, however, that this freedom came entirely from the fact that my previous projects gave me enough financial stability to take this more laid-back approach and that my existing following on Twitter is what kickstarted the whole word of mouth thing. Lacking either of those factors, I’m not sure Carrd would be where it is today.
How have you managed development, support, and growth as one person?
Pretty well! Deliberately limiting Carrd’s scope allowed me to keep the product simple on the front end (reducing support load) and the backend (reducing development time/complexity). This allowed me to pretty much solo the whole thing up until a couple of years ago when Carrd really began to surge in growth. At that point, my (now cofounder) Doni came aboard to take over all day-to-day operations while I built and maintained the product.
What do your next 6 months look like running Carrd?
Given Carrd’s trajectory right now, team building. As someone wiser than myself once told me, startups have to build two things: the product itself and then the team to support that product into the future. In some ways, I do miss the days when Carrd was a one (or even two) person product, but the excitement of seeing where this thing can go with a (slightly) larger team behind it more than makes up for it.
What do you think your business will look like 10 years from now?
Well, considering just a couple of years ago, I still thought Carrd would remain a one-person side project. I should probably avoid making predictions :)
What’s one piece of advice you have for someone starting a side project on the internet?
Not always applicable, but try to build something you’d actually use yourself – then actually use it! You’ll not only end up with something for which a userbase already exists (i.e., you) but also iterate on it much, much faster.
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