Growing SnapShooter, Simon Bennett’s Side Hustle

The story of SnapShooter’s first year growth.

Simon Bennett
Jan 15, 2018 · 6 min read

‘Guest Hustle’ is a very special section of the Zero to Grow publication — yours. We welcome guest stories from frontlines. Hustlers share their experience, failures, and successes with us all. Want to contribute and share your story? Get in touch, we will make it happen.

Today, welcome Simon Bennett.

Hello Alex, Joe thanks for asking me to do a guest post on your new publication. My name is Simon Bennett and I’m a 25-year-old software consultant from Norwich (UK). I’ve been developing for years and started doing it professionally about eight years ago. At my day job, I consult mostly on Event Sourcing and CQRS in PHP. My framework of choice, of course, is Laravel.

The elevator pitch is; SnapShooter provides a better way for DigitalOcean customers to back up their Droplets and Volumes.

I found DigitalOcean to be very limiting, only offering weekly backups and retaining only the last four backups. On top of that, this option is solely available for Droplets, they have no automated system for Volumes.

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At the time I was consulting for a company who also managed hundreds of Droplets, mostly WordPress, and they needed a better way to backup after one of their WordPress servers was hacked. DigitalOcean’s weekly backup option was not frequent enough. Data loss cost everyone time and money.

I did some research on the DigitalOcean API and realised it was possible to provide a better backup system. The idea of SnapShooter was born. I spent a week getting the first prototype and decided that was good enough to release. There has been a tonne of feature improvements along the way but the idea has remained simple: better DigitalOcean backups.

It’s very exciting to see a Slack bot ping you when a customer has paid. I used to have a little dance and shout to my other half “Someone has paid!” I still get excited every single time someone signs up for a paid plan. It’s one of the first things I check every morning when I wake up. This is my favourite aspect, seeing people value my service enough to pay for it. After all, that is the real test of value for any business.

The other aspect I find rewarding is running the whole system, from coding to customer support. Through my consultancy, I help build software and, while I advise them on technical and business ideas, I am not entirely in control. It’s great fun to be involved in all the different facets of running a startup (abid a small one).

I did the typical thing, built the product put it online and just hoped it was going to take off like a rocket. It did not.

I decided to email Justin Jackson from Tiny Marketing Wins as I knew he was using DigitalOcean for hosting his Discorse forum. I emailed him a couple of days after putting the code online.

He signed up straight away! I had a little party and almost opened a bottle of champagne!

Then, nothing.

No one signed up for nearly two weeks. I got worried about my lack of market research, as I had just dived into development without building email lists or any other premarketing measures. But I decided the code was in a good enough state to go on Product Hunt.

This was a great decision. I got on to the front page 89 people upvoted, 50 people signed up and three people converted for a total of $16 of MMR (back when my billing was too cheap). As a side note, if you do plan to use Product Hunt it’s worth doing your research and finding if you know anyone who can bump your product onto the front page.

As aforementioned, Product Hunt was a great way to get started from nothing, a lot of attention in a short amount of time. But not a good source of DigitalOcean users.

My best channel has been the DigitalOcean community products page.
SnapShooter is listed as the 15th most popular project. I also try to be active on the community questions without been spammy, only providing links back to myself when it is relevant to the conversation.

In November 2017, I placed an advert on Laravel News Podcast and got my best growth results by far, increasing MRR by $160. The advert cost me $300, so it was only going to take me two months to recover that income a good investment. Some of this growth could be attributed to Eric Barnes who also tweeted about the product.

I decided to run another advert in Jan 2018 and, to date, this has only increased my MMR by $19. It cost me the same amount ($300) so this one will take me 15 months to get a return on investment. Maybe one advert was enough to saturate this particular channel.

After reading an inspiring post online about how cold emailing could work, and it just being ‘a numbers game’, I decided to give it ago. I got a list of WordPress websites, I then cross-checked this list for DigitalOcean IPS and used to find email addresses.

I emailed about 500 people. I received one fuck off, two no thanks and nothing else. I decided never to try that again.

Maybe emailing more people and finetuning the subject and content could yield better results, but I did not enjoy the process at all.

There are a couple of areas I want to work on. First, I want to improve SnapShooter’s SEO. I plan on optimising landing pages. I also want to write some more blog posts on key DigitalOcean backup questions that people Google.

I have recently coded a referral program into the system which allows users to get 10% off for each person they refer. Though it is already available, I haven’t promoted it just yet so I need to do that. I am interested to see how it works as SnapShooter has mostly business customers so am unsure how likely they are to promote.

I also want to help support small projects in my community. I am already sponsoring LaraHack, a 48-hour online Laravel hackathon that is taking place in February. I have also partnered with, a new frontend-based tutorial website. I am interested to see how these projects go and will keep attempting to find new partners if they work out well for both parties.

Three months means end of Q1 2018, I’d like to keep beating my growth every quarter. In Q3 2017, SnapShooter grew by 110%. In Q4 2017, it grew by 120%. I’d like to beat that number.

Achieving this is going to be a mega challenge, I will have to do everything I can to push the needle forward.

In 5 years, I would like to see SnapShooter’s income enable me to build up a network of products and services. There is not enough time in a day to achieve everything you want, so freeing up time is my main goal. It would also be nice to be able to pay people to manage some aspects of it.

If your readers do use DigitalOcean and are interesting in getting started today they can signup today at

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