In this blog post, I’m sharing our startup journey — how we launched Awesomic and earned the first $100k ARR.
NOTE: What is ARR?
ARR is short for “Annual Recurring Revenue.” It means the annual income generated from subscriptions and other billing cycles that occur repeatedly. ARR is one of the vital metrics for estimating the year-by-year growth of SaaS and subscription companies that use a recurring revenue model.
ARR is calculated using the formula: MRR (monthly recurring revenue) * 12 (months)
What Is Awesomic?
Awesomic matches companies with vetted designers on the same day for a flat monthly fee. You simply sign up for the platform, create a task, and get a result in 24 hours.
We’ve collaborated with more than 550+ companies, agencies, and startups worldwide. Additionally, Awesomic got into the Y Combinator S21 batch, while in 2020, we had raised an angel round from Pipedrive founders and European unicorn investors.
We have worked on more than 4000+ design projects—from ad banners and graphic design to landing pages, logos, UI&UX, animation and much more. Check out the MemoryOS case study about the most-funded mobile app on Kickstarter that raised $642k after Awesomic’s redesign.
Birth of an Idea: from Concept to MSP
The idea of creating Awesomic came up when working on a previous startup with my “partner in crime” Stacy. We struggled to find the right designer. We had to change contractors often — rarely did they provide enough focus on the product because of working part-time. Typically, it takes up to 14 days to find the right candidate using typical freelance platforms, especially when a wide range of design skills is required to complete a project, like branding and logo, UI/UX, and marketing design.
Thinking over this problem, I came up with the idea to create a platform that would manage a wide network of designers and instantly connect them with clients. Clients would be able to create the tasks and directly communicate with designers — with no middle man. That was my next new startup idea.
I knew that we needed to validate the demand first before creating the product. It would be easy to get stuck on product development, which has happened before, and I didn’t want to repeat past mistakes. Creating a good product takes a lot of time and resources, so I needed to know that people would love my product idea.
In 10 days, I created a landing page for the new startup (initially named Pizdata) that describes the concept and provides the option to sign up. That was the first stage of our startup development.
Fun fact: we didn't have projects to show in our portfolio because we had just launched, so we featured two design works created for my previous startups and two more freelance projects from a friend of mine, a designer who agreed to help me test the Awesomic idea.
From day one, our process was very simple:
This landing page — our MSP (Minimum Sellable Product) — was all we had at the beginning. Our plan was to find first customers, validate the process with them over email and then create a real platform. This strategy allowed us to launch the product in a fast and cost-effective way.
Getting The First Client
The launch was not fancy — neither Techcrunch nor Product Hunt had been involved yet. After I started a website, Stacy wrote a Facebook post about our new startup. On the next day, I got my first client due to this post — it was Outtalent. Tilek Mamutov, the CEO at Outtalent just got into YC S19 batch after 10 years in Google X. He had an idea to help engineers get a job at FAANG companies, but had no website or logo. So, that was our first task. I invited Stacy to join Awesomic as a co-founder as we had already worked together on 3 previous startup ideas!
In the first 2 weeks after the launch, we got 3 clients and our MRR was $1197, which could be counted as $14K ARR — that was our starting point. We were super excited about such a quick launch and the first month working on Awesomic.
From MSP to MVP
The clients loved the new way to find designers and deliver results. In the first two months, we had 5 active users and $2400 MRR = $28.8k ARR. At that point, we were unable to continue manually handling communication between designers and clients in addition to finding new designers.
So, the solution was to build an MVP (Minimum Valuable Product) and automate the process. I did a one-man-hackathon for 72 hours in a row and created the first version of the Awesomic platform.
Luckily, I’d coded high-loaded systems, payment solutions, and built software development teams for fast-growing startups for 7 years before creating Awesomic. These skills helped me iterate fast on product development.
‘You Are Unfundable and Unscalable’
Clients loved the MVP version of Awesomic from the beginning. In the third month, we had 7 clients and around ~$3000 MRR ($36k ARR).
In those days, one famous VC investor, from the US, with hundreds of investments in portfolio came to Kyiv for a few days, chasing the next unicorn in Europe. Luckily, he was holding office hours in our local coworking space Lift99, and we were the first ones who signed up for this opportunity to pitch a new startup and share our startup story.
Unfortunately, Stacy and I left the meeting room after only 10 of the 20 minutes that we’d reserved. We got crushing feedback that Awesomic would be unscalable and unfundable (that means it would never be able to grow).
A few minutes later, we caught up with Ragnar Sass, Founder and CEO at Pipedrive and Lift99. He asked how everything went, we told him the truth, and Ragnar said, “I know a company. Investors told them the same at the beginning, and now they have $1b in annual revenue. The best thing to do in the VC communities is to PROVE THEM WRONG.”
“Prove Them Wrong” – stuck for a long time in my head 🙂 We'll do that. We'll definitely do.
Spent all the Money and Took Out a 40% APR Loan to Launch on Product Hunt
In the fifth month, we reached a plateau, having 5-8 clients and an MRR up to $3.5k ($42k ARR). We spent more than we earned, running out of cash. Was that famous VC investor right? We didn’t believe that. According to our estimates, we would break even at $6k+ MRR ($72k ARR), becoming a financially stable startup 😅.
To make that leap, we had to hire two more designers and launch on Product Hunt. We needed a few thousand dollars to execute this plan. Living on a shoestring, we decided to take a 40% APR (annual percentage rate) loan from our friend to launch our startup on Product Hunt. The deal was a very good one for our friend, so we received the money quickly.
We hired 2 designers, redesigned the landing page, and launched on Product Hunt. Luckily, due to the very hyped name (I’ll explain this below), the whole Ukrainian startup community supported us. The launch was super successful and we reached $7.1k MRR ($85k ARR). At the beginning of this crazy month we almost died from working nonstop, but still made this “leap of faith”—and in our variation of multiverse it worked! We jumped to the next stage of our startup business development.
Wave of Hype and 10 Sales from One Napkin
I mentioned above that our company’s first name “Pizdata” created the hype. Let me explain. “Pizdata” means “f*cking awesome” in Ukrainian. We have plenty of stories about how this name helped us.
One time, I was sitting in the Lift99 coworking hub and about 100 marketers flocked there for a meetup. I realized that all of them were our potential clients! What could I do to get them to discover our company? Shouting “F*cking awesome!” out loud – Stacy said, that “Wasn’t a very good idea”.
Then I noticed a man looking at the bulletin board with business cards at the entrance. I decided to write our proposal on a napkin and stick it on there, so it would stand out from a bunch of neatly-designed business cards.
And so it happened — this napkin brought us dozens of clients! Our first ad cost $0, but the ROI was unbelievable. Now everyone who enters Lift99 can see it at the entrance. We’ve reached thousands of people who represent our target audience.
From the very start, the initial name of our company brought us a lot of clients. We became a startup that was easy to remember — and not just in Ukraine.
One day, we even woke up to find ourselves meme heroes on the Romanian web. The local business media featured us, exploring our brand and naming. This is how our startup became the talk of the town in the EU.
The First $100k ARR and Beyond
In a couple of months after launching on Product Hunt, we reached $100k ARR. What helped us do it (apart from the hype around the initial name) was continuous and valuable feedback from the PH community. Celebrating that milestone on our entrepreneurship journey with a cake felt like a great idea.
In the early days, our hyped name helped us grow too. But we knew that our core audience didn’t get the joke, so we started looking for a new name. After 6 months of search, we came up with “Awesomic” – awesome on the cosmic level.
For now, Awesomic has delivered 3500+ design projects for 450 companies like Silviaterra, Reface, and People.ai.
We’ll be describing the next chapters of our startup story in the following articles. If you want us to send you our insights and discoveries, let us know.
In summary, let’s reiterate the key points about our startup development. What helped Awesomic grow fast?
- We made quick and short product iterations. We didn’t fine-tune it over a long period of time but launched it as soon as possible, relying on the build-measure-learn feedback loop.
- We created an MSP—Minimum Sellable Product—first. After realizing it was in demand, we built an MVP (Minimum Viable Product).
- The Product Hunt launch was our “leap of faith”. We took a 40% APR to make it and then redesigned our platform.
- Hype naming works. It helped us gain recognition and acquire new clients.
Launching a thriving startup and going from $0 to the first $100k ARR fast is real. Awesomic is proud to keep assisting clients around the world in creating stunning designs.