US Congress has passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill:
The measure will advance the country’s internet infrastructure, ushering an estimated 42 million Americans into the digital economy.
Curiosity-based validation is when your output makes people so curious that they proactively ask questions. Here's how to implement this for your product!
Nathan Baschez and Dan Shipper cofounded Every, a media company, writers collective, and newsletter bundle. Below, they talk leaving Substack (fun fact: Nathan was Substack's first employee!), creating community, and building a positive-sum company.
Want to share something with nearly 85,000 indie hackers? Submit a section for us to include in a future newsletter. —Channing
💻 Closing the US Digital Divide
from the Indie Economy newsletter by Bobby Burch
US Congress has passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill that will dish out $65B for broadband improvements aimed at remedying the US' digital divide. This measure will usher millions of Americans into the digital economy.
The digital divide
The news: Last week, the US House of Representatives passed the $1.2T bipartisan infrastructure bill. Once signed into law, the measure will advance the country’s lagging internet infrastructure, invest in new climate resilience initiatives, and rebuild aging roads, bridges, airports, ports, and public transit systems. A White House briefing praised the bill at its inception:
Broadband is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning and healthcare, and to stay connected...the President’s plan prioritizes building “future proof” broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas so that we finally reach 100% high-speed broadband coverage.
Why it matters: Tens of millions of Americans are currently shut out from participating in the digital economy. BroadbandNow Research estimates that 42.8M Americans lack access to broadband internet, and are closed off from buying and selling goods and services online. With millions more consumers being ushered into the digital economy, we will likely see an influx of new indie hackers, and new opportunities for current indie hackers.
The impact: The digital divide spans all US regions and demographics, but disproportionality impacts low-income, minority, and rural communities.
Lost opportunities: The fact that millions of Americans currently lack internet access translates to a profound impact on the broader economy. The US loses about $2.16 of potential economic activity every day that a person is not connected to the internet, according to a Deloitte analysis. That translates to about $130M in lost opportunity every day.
Educational impact: Students are about 7% more likely to earn a high school diploma with an internet connection, and will earn $2M more over the course of their lifetimes when compared to those who lack access.
Finding work: On average, an unemployed person with at-home internet access will find work seven weeks faster than one without. They will also earn more than $5K in additional income annually, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Access subsidies: In addition to expanding internet infrastructure, the bill will specifically target the digital divide by helping low-income households afford internet access. The bill allocates $14.2B for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create an Affordable Connectivity Program that will provide a $30 monthly broadband subsidy for eligible households. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program currently supplies a $50 monthly subsidy for this purpose also, providing another resource to promote internet access.
Tech training: The bill also dishes out $2.75B for a Digital Equity Program that will support state governments, local governments, and nonprofits in providing tech skills training to residents, and assist them in accessing broadband subscription subsidies and discounted devices.
Talent shortage? The entrance of more people into the digital economy should theoretically also address the tech talent shortage. In 2021, talent is short by 40M skilled workers worldwide. By 2030, the shortage is expected to reach 85.2M workers. About 87% of businesses are experiencing a computer science or developer talent shortage, or are expected to face it within a few years, according to McKinsey.
That’s wild: The new spending ushered in by the bill is equivalent to the cost of the US Interstate Highway System, which was created in the mid-1950s, after adjusting for inflation.
Specifics: Here are more details on how the bill aims to close the digital divide:
$42.45B for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program (BEAD) program, which will provide state grants to fund broadband deployment and adoption in underserved areas.
$14.2B for the FCC to create an Affordable Connectivity Program that will provide a $30 monthly broadband subsidy for eligible households.
$2.75B for a Digital Equity Program to ensure that "individuals and communities have the information technology capacity that is needed for full participation in the society and economy of the US."
Several billion dollars are allocated to existing programs, including $2B for RUS ReConnect, a Rural Development agency of the US Department of Agriculture, and $2B for the Tribal Broadband Program.
$1B for a new middle mile program. The “middle mile” refers to the segment of a telecommunications network linking a network operator's core network to the local network plant.
$600M for Private Activity Bonds (PABs), i.e. tax-exempt bonds issued by, or on behalf of, a local or state government for broadband deployments.
What are your thoughts on the new bill? Let's chat in the comments!
Discuss this story, or subscribe to Indie Economy for more.
📰 In the News
🔪 Tinder's interactive dating experience, Swipe Night: Killer Weekend, lets users solve murder mysteries.
💤 Instagram's new feature encourages taking breaks from the app.
🚙 Tesla's Full Self-Driving test vehicle is "severely damaged" following a crash.
✨ Is effective metaverse moderation impossible?
🧸 You can now Build-a-Bear online.
🧐 Curiosity-Based Validation
from the Growth & Acquisition Channels newsletter by Darko
While doing research for my upcoming book on how founders validated their SaaS ideas, I've discovered an interesting, novel approach. Because I couldn't find anyone else talking about this, I decided to call this approach "curiosity-based" validation.
Essentially, this is when the output of your SaaS, mobile app, or digital product makes people so curious that they start asking questions like the ones below.
What's this thing you're using?
WPComplete ($1.5K MRR) is a "mark as complete" WordPress plugin for people who have online courses.
Paul Jarvis, WPComplete's founder, validated the need for the plugin in a rather unexpected way. He already had a number of WordPress courses, and needed a plugin to allow his students to mark course lessons as complete:
I hired Zack as a freelancer to develop a plugin for my courses, which he did. He did a great job of it, too.
What happened after the plugin was deployed was rather unexpected:
After adding that functionality to all my courses, students [were] asking: "Can I buy the plugin?” I was getting more emails about the WPComplete functionality than I was about the course content.
The same thing happened to Gilles Bernhard, founder of SCPlanner ($3.5K MRR), a SoundCloud promotion tool for artists. Before SCPlanner launched, Gilles demoed the product to prospective users using screenshots:
Before the actual launch, I essentially demoed the product for prospective users. Every time I planned repost promotions for somebody else, I used SCPlanner and sent a screenshot of my settings and schedule. That way, they knew that I had done the work, and could easily track when the reposts were being made.
What happened after Giles sent the screenshot became the catalyst for launching SCPlanner:
People quickly began asking me what tool I was using and how they could get it. That's when we decided to launch.
How are you doing this?
Your product generates an output. If people find the output compelling enough, they'll ask how are you doing it. This happened with Get Me To Europe ($300 MRR), a newsletter that offers cheap flights deals to Europe:
When my friends saw photos of all the different places I traveled, curiosity got the best of them: "How the hell are you affording this?"
They were always shocked when I told them.
The exact same thing happened with Scott's Cheap Flights ($320K MRR), one of the most popular services for finding cheap flight deals:
In late 2013, I found the best deal I've ever gotten in my life: Nonstop from New York City to Milan for $130 roundtrip.
When I got back, coworkers asked me to let them know the next time I found a fare like that so they could get in on it, too. Rather than try to remember each person I was supposed to alert, I decided to start a simple MailChimp email list [to] alert everyone at once. Scott's Cheap Flights was born.
Powered by validation
Feedier ($2K MRR), is a tool for accepting feedback from site visitors. Before launching, Feedier's founder put the software's output on a website, including a "powered by Feedier" button:
This created curiosity, and people signed up:
We started by buffing up and testing our solution on one of our websites for the WordPress business. This website receives a decent amount of traffic every day, so we knew we could use that as a test of our feedback component.
We started by putting our widget on this website with a sweet Feedier logo in the footer. That got us some early adopters while we were still polishing the admin side.
If people are unable to contact you directly, use a "powered by" button on your software's output as a gateway to your main product. If your software generates results that people want, they will become curious and proactive.
How to accomplish this?
Take the output of your software and distribute it across your target audience. Go to communities where they hang out, use cold outreach, etc. If you're relying on partnerships and can't reach your audience directly, use a "powered by" button like Feedier.
Then, keep watch. Will enough people contact you to ask questions? If so, you're one step closer to finding a product-market fit.
What validation methods have been most effective for you? Share below!
Discuss this story, or subscribe to Growth & Acquisition Channels for more.
🌐 Best Around the Web: Posts Submitted to Indie Hackers This Week
🤷♂️ Why you won't find a tech cofounder. Posted by Kyle L.
🛠 Seven tools to build your SaaS. Posted by Rishi Uttam.
😔 I failed. Here's why. Posted by Michael Aubry.
📝 Typeform beats everybody at SEO. Posted by Jaume Ros.
🤔 What's your signup conversion rate? Posted by G. Moose.
🆓 25 free SEO tools. Posted by Hrishikesh Pardeshi.
Want a shout-out in next week's Best of Indie Hackers? Submit an article or link post on Indie Hackers whenever you come across something you think other indie hackers will enjoy.
📚 Nathan Baschez and Dan Shipper Talk Every
from the Listen Up! IH newsletter by Ayush Chaturvedi
Nathan Baschez and Dan Shipper cofounded Every, a media company, writers collective, and bundle of business newsletters.
Every is structured as a writer collective:
- Writers have the creative freedom to run a profitable business newsletter as they see fit, without anyone influencing their content.
- Readers get a bundle of premium newsletters at a price that's just a bit higher than the cost of subscribing to any one of them alone.
- The company makes enough to offer editorial assistance, distribution, and financial support to the writers.
Nathan and Dan leaned into key one thing: Great writers benefit from mentors and a community to help them hone their craft, refine their writing, and make it useful to readers. Writers need support, and readers need value. Read on for more!
Nathan was successfully running a business strategy newsletter called Divinations, and Dan was running a productivity newsletter called Superorganizers.
Both were paid newsletters hosted on Substack that were doing well, having both built an audience for themselves. But Dan and Nathan wanted to take things to the next level.
They decided to bundle their newsletters into a new one called The Everything Bundle, and it was an instant hit. Readers loved the concept of paying a slightly higher price for tons more value, and their revenue doubled quickly. Here's more from Nathan and Dan on the concept.
They incorporated their business when they hit the $10K MRR mark, and left Substack to host the bundle on their own platform.
Nathan was the first employee at Substack. As former VP of Product, he understands the platform better than most people.
He believes that Substack is a great option for writers who have been writing for a long time and already have a huge audience (like journalists quitting newspapers), but says that it can be hard for someone just starting out.
Since Substack offers almost no distribution or editorial support, and takes a cut on every subscription, it's not the best model for lesser-known writers who are trying to scale.
Nathan and Dan built their own content management system and migrated their content from Substack. That's when The Everything Bundle became Every.
Every is a bundle of business newsletters focused on analysis and commentary, as opposed to news and scoops. Writers on Every write long-form pieces on business stories and trends, with a focus on utility: Writing content that is most useful to the reader.
Writers get a percentage of the subscription revenue, and ownership of their email lists. When a reader signs up, they are asked for their primary newsletter choice. That newsletter writer gets 50% of that reader's revenue.
Nathan believes that building a company that benefits both the writers and the readers has made the difference:
The way we think about what we’re doing is this: The magic of writing is that it can make readers feel less alone in the world. The magic of a writer collective is, perhaps, that it can make writers feel less alone in the world. It has for us. And that is the point.
The Every bundle has 13 newsletters covering a range of topics, including productivity, business strategy, and culture. There are two subscription options: $200 annually or $20 monthly. Every has around 2.4K paying subscribers and 36K free subscribers.
Here is Every's growth strategy:
- Write really good stuff.
- Post it on Twitter and Hacker News.
- Hope it goes viral.
Insights for indie hackers
- Create something useful and incorporate later.
- The best business models are the ones where everyone wins: The founders, collaborators, and consumers. Build a positive-sum business.
- A like-minded cofounder is a huge asset. Find one, then do everything necessary to make it work. Nathan and Dan even went to therapy together!
- Keep iterating and improve your offering.
Check out the full episode on the Indie Hackers Podcast here!
Discuss this story, or subscribe to Listen Up! IH for more.
🐦 The Tweetmaster's Pick
by Tweetmaster Flex
I post the tweets indie hackers share the most. Here's today's pick:
🏁 Enjoy This Newsletter?
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Special thanks to Jay Avery for editing this issue, to Nathalie Zwimpfer for the illustrations, and to Bobby Burch, Darko, and Ayush Chaturvedi for contributing posts. —Channing