Welly Mulia: The long road to BirdSend

Issue 06

Hi friends! Welcome to “Procrastineur”, a newsletter about struggles and successes in modern entrepreneurship.

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It’s Thursday, June 3, 2021, and this week’s founder is Welly Mulia:

  • Always a techie

  • From WordPress plugins to Zaxaa, and finally BirdSend

  • Some advice from the king of indie emailing

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Welly’s Story

Getting rich quick... or not

Welly always wanted to work in technology. He was born in Indonesia, studied primary and secondary school in Singapore, then traveled to the USA for college. He studied Management Information Systems at the University of Arizona before heading back to Indonesia.

Welly worked “normal” jobs for a few years, then circa 2006 he stumbled across the Internet.

There were lots of people selling products teaching how to “get rich quick”, how to only work four hours a week, and that it's possible to game the system into insane riches. Welly dove right in!

Except it's not that easy.

Welly worked as a black hat, a coder who uses his expertise to navigate around the “proper” way of doing things in order to gain an advantage. He specialized in marketing tactics, tricking search engines like Google into ranking certain keywords much higher than they would naturally have come up.

Welly earned some nice paychecks doing this, but it was a constant struggle. Google and others crack down quickly on these operations, meaning Welly and others had to constantly find new ways to game the system.

It wasn't worth it.

Zaxaa - Welly's first SaaS

Welly had no desire to continue working the way he had, so after a year, he decided to try something new.

Welly's first move was to building WordPress plugins – WordPress being the first great “no code” platform for building websites, which benefited from people worldwide building out extra functionality.

After a few years, Welly was ready to start his own company. In 2012, he started Zaxaa, a platform much like Keap (formerly Infusionsoft). It was an all-in-one stop for sales and marketing systems, combining direct customer sales with outreach programs.

Zaxaa was hard to use though. Customers told Welly and his team that they weren't sure whether Zaxaa was supposed to be an email marketing system or a sales funnel. Growth wasn't ideal. The product didn't fit the market. Welly and his partners knew there was opportunity out there, if they could just grab it.

So, in 2018, they pivoted.

BirdSend is born

Welly and his team decided to stick with email marketing.

They named this spin-off BirdSend, focusing in on a few different groups of people – marketers first, then creators as a whole, and finally coming to “Indie Hackers”, a self-named group of creators and builders who haven't taken investment money.

The focus on these creators has paid off. BirdSend currently sends around 1 million emails every day and continues to grow.

Welly's Advice

  • Keep your day job! You can go full-time when your income is increasing steadily or matches your salary

  • Investment is great! Control is too. Balance your desire to keep the business growing at your pace vs the mad dash to hit the 100x returns that Venture Capitalists want

  • Connect with your audience! BirdSend focuses on Indie Hackers because they want to work with them, and because these creators give great advice. It took them a while to get there and they made mistakes along the way because they didn't consult their customers first.

  • Build in Public! People want to help and to learn from you. Share your wins and your losses, and you'll create community. They'll help grow your product.

You can connect with Welly on Twitter as @wellymulia.

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Procrastineur” is a newsletter about modern founders’ successes and struggles, written by Will Whittenton. You can connect with me through my website, Twitter, LinkedIn, or send me an email at willwhittenton@gmail.com. If you enjoy the newsletter, please share!

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