In 2007, Gary Brewer regularly visited the websites of various start-ups and looked at their source code to see what technology they were using. He noticed that this activity could be automated, but no one had created such a platform. So he did it himself. BuiltWith is a way to quickly see by site which libraries and external services it uses, and by the name of the library, which sites are using it.
At the time, Gary was working for a corporation in Sydney. He created BuiltWith as a side project and worked on it every night for 4 years.
Gary never intended to build a business, but clients quickly noticed how valuable his information was. The most popular request was to find potential clients. A Mailchimp competitor easily got a list of those who used the original Mailchimp.
In 2011, Andrew Rogers was building a similar business. But he saw no future in it. He met with Gary and asked if customers were paying him any money.
Gary had an income of $40,000 a month. He was still doing BuiltWith in the evenings. Gary was afraid to leave the corporation to work on a start-up full-time. He wasn't sure how stable the income would be. Besides, he had a good boss who relied on him, so he felt obliged.
Andrew asked to work for Gary. Gary was too stingy to spend money on salaries, so Andrew only got equity and the title of co-founder. In effect, he became an adviser. And his most valuable advice was to get Gary involved full-time.
Andrew tried to set up analytics and hire people. However, Gary didn't want that. They decided not to hire a programmer until revenues reached $100,000 a month.
Gary's view on metrics was that if they didn't change his behavior, they were only a distraction. He only measured the number of trials started and new subscriptions per day, the average number of reports generated for each account, and the current and total number of clients. And that was it, no tricky charts.
At one point Gary noticed an inverse relationship between the number of emails from a potential client and the likelihood of conversion. Good customers didn't email, they just bought. So he automated customer service.Gary answers most questions in about 10 seconds with a link to his knowledge base. If someone has a problem that no one has encountered before, he writes a new article and makes a 20-second video with exact steps to use in the future.
One of the most common problems with the helpdesk is unsubscribing. Gary has tried to make unsubscribing as simple as possible, so as to minimize the hassle of dealing with it. Then he can spend more time on interesting things, such as building new tools.
Investors were regularly interested in BuiltWith, in the busiest year they called once a week. Gary ignored them, saying it was a waste of time. Andrew responded. The time was wasted.
The revenue grew faster. Eventually, Andrew withdrew from the business. There was no longer a full-time role for him.
They agreed to meet once a month for an hour. Then Gary moved the meetings to every 2nd or 3rd month to save time.
BuiltWith never had a systems marketing or sales department. A free trial and a blog on a website with a contractor writing an article once a week was all it was.
In 2015, journalists estimated the company's revenue at $14 million a year. Andrew blogged that this was a slight exaggeration. It may be just that now.