Maker Spotlight: Becoming an overnight Hacker News success (with Ethan)

Sergio Mattei Díaz
Sep 14, 2018 · 13 min read

Hey Ethan, welcome to this week’s Maker Spotlight. As is tradition, tell us a little about you and your experience.

Hey! I’m Ethan. My first dive into the world of indie makers was about a year ago, when I started Code The Web — a website teaching people web development. It wasn’t really a ‘product’, but in my desperate search for growth and monetization ideas, it lead me to the online maker community. I found out about many really inspiring makers, and I knew immediately that I wanted to launch a real product of my own. I wrote that down as my main goal for 2018, and I’ve recently achieved it!

What are you working on, Ethan?

The product that I’ve recently launched is KanbanMail — it’s a Kanban board for your emails. If you’re not familiar with the term Kanban, it’s a really cool Japanese system for visualizing tasks. I decided to apply it to emails! Here’s what it looks like…

Your main project is KanbanMail — how did you come about the idea? How was the creative process?

In early 2017, I started using an awesome tool called KanbanFlow to organize my tasks. This was the first time that I’d ever heard of Kanban, and I really liked it. I found it so cool that it turned a boring linear to-do list into a picture that showed you what you needed to do when right before your eyes! It made me much more organized, and I always knew what needed doing when. I’m a huge fan of visualizing stuff, and KanbanFlow was perfect. I’ve been in love with Kanban ever since!

We see that a while back you reached #1 on Hacker News, must’ve felt incredible? How did this come about?

I finally shared KanbanMail for the first time on July the 20th with 17 people. I knew most of them from Slack or Telegram. I’d shared a little MailChimp sign up form so I could notify them when I gave them access. I decided that I’d give everyone on the list access manually, to keep things under control. Little did I know how much that would come in handy!

Hacker News Poster!

Even if your product is ready, it’s not ready for launch if you are monetizing it. Make sure to allow plenty of time for this.

So, a month later the actual product was pretty much ready. I decided to take a leap of faith and let the remaining 446 people in all at once! What was the worst that could possibly happen? I also automated the access process so that new beta testers could access KanbanMail immediately.

Now, what’s the biggest obstacle(s) you’ve faced while shipping KanbanMail?

Wow, where do I start? Making a product on your own is not easy. Especially not a software product. I run into roadblocks nearly every day, especially when using so many API’s! I have learned to just accept that something is not working for a really weird reason, but then realize that someone must have done it before and so can I if I look at it the right way.

You’re also rather productive on Makerlog — a few days ago you reached 26 tasks done in less than 24 hours! What’s your workflow like?

I’ll usually start the day by checking my emails. Surprise surprise, I use KanbanMail! Bias aside, it has actually really helped me with my emails — both dealing with them and getting things clear in my head.

You’ve been an active maker in the community for a while — tell us how you got started shipping products and what you’ve learned.

I touched on this earlier, but it all started with Code The Web. I found the community based around Product Hunt and Indie Hackers from there, where I realized what I aspired to do. I set “launch a product” as my primary goal for 2018, and just a few hours ago I achieved it!

As always, closing question: What advice would you give other makers out there?

I think the most important skill that I’ve learned is talking to people online. Being transparent, helpful, engaging, and the sort of person that people want to follow on their journey.

Closing remarks

Thanks for interviewing me! I’ll be writing more like this in future, so don’t forget to follow me on Medium. And you can follow me on Twitter if you want tips, advice, interesting ideas, transparent statistics and updates on what I’m doing!


The Makerlog Blog

Sergio Mattei Díaz

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Entrepreneur, developer, founder of



The Makerlog Blog