Bootstrapping Selar.co to $550k in annual revenue and $2k MRR

Growing the passion/creator economy of Africa with Selar.co

The irony of this milestone post is, I was going to hold unto it until it was $1M considering $1M is a “glossier startup figure”, but then I thought, why wait till then? In 2020, our total transactional revenue with <3k creators was $270k, and in 2021, it’s now over $550k/₦220M (Jan- Apr), plus we’ve grown to 7k+ creators in 4 months, so why not celebrate that?

Despite the boom of digital products in more developed countries around the world, there’s still the assumption that Africans don’t pay for content (especially digital content), and that’s why I’m exceptionally proud of the work we’re doing because everyday we prove this wrong 10 times over, and now to the tune of over half a million dollars (in less than 4 months), so clearly, Africans DO pay for content.

While we’re a very robust ecommerce store builder, at the heart of it, we’re really just about empowering African creators and businesses with the tools to monetize their knowledge and earn a good living from selling their products and services both locally and internationally.

@jackbutcher via Twitter (https://twitter.com/jackbutcher/status/1357549673574187011?s=20)

I remember seeing the above image on Twitter sometime in September 2020. That was two months after we saw a significant uptick in our numbers after almost 4 years of iterating it slowly. The image gave me hope, but the thing with startup work is, where there’s joy and hope, there’s more anxiety. lol.

I often tell my friends that the thing I hate most about startup culture is the discontent and anxiety. Nothing is ever enough; you set a huge milestone, you work hard, you hit it and it’s still not enough. You have to make a new goal and go back to grinding, smh. I don’t want to rant in this post, this is meant to be a thank you post to everyone that helped along the way.

They say startups are a journey, and in this journey of building Selar, so many amazing people have helped, and I just want to say thanks to a few of them.

If I forget anyone’s name here, please forgive me.

To my day ones Yinka, Yomi, Dotun & Early, I definitely couldn’t have started Selar without you guys ❤️

Ezra Olubi, thanks for always being helpful with all the technical issues I had since the beginning, and thanks for always being very kind & supportive.

Iyin Aboyeji, thanks for always saying yes to help me with anything in such a selfless way. Your AWS credits plug is why Selar lasted its first 3 years without much traction or profit. Also, people really don’t know you mean it when you ask “How can I help”.

Flutterwave 🙄, if GB, Jimi or Adejuwon (my account managers at Flutterwave) see this post, they’ll be shocked to see me thanking Flutterwave considering how much I harrass them about their product every three days, but I have to give them credit too. While we’re plugged into multiple payment integrations (Stripe, PayPal, Paystack, e.t.c), Flutterwave built a lot of the infrastructure that powers Selar today, especially the African countries interconnectivity and I don’t think we could’ve gotten this far without them.

Tony Elumelu foundation & GIZ, thanks for giving us a $10k grant in 2018, that really helped.

To my best friends/therapists/advisors/people I pour out my heart to and complain about so much, I love you more than words can explain. Raymond, Mitchelle, Daniel, Michelle, Yinka, Dotun, Tomi & Aisha, thanks for always being there for me in every imaginable way possible. I cannot imagine what my mental health would look like without you guys. 😭❤️

To my amazing team, thank you Charis, Onome, Ibrahim, Lucky & Kelechi. Despite everything above, you’re responsible for taking Selar from 0 to 100.

To our customers, you mean the absolute world to us, you’re the reason. I can’t highlight everyone, but having 1/2/3 customers in the first 3 years was the only reason I found it hard to close the product and move on. Thanks for staying, thanks for trusting us, and thanks for referring Selar to the next person. Your referrals are why we’ve gotten this far.

Finally, thank God! Because He did that!

About my choice to bootstrap

It’s funny because I was 100% sure I was going to raise VC money by the end of 2020. All of my startup employee experience (Paystack, Flutterwave, Dapi, et al) have been that, so I was sure I’d go down that path too, but mid way, laziness kicked in and bootstrapping just felt more comfortable to me. It also helps that we are in cash-flow positive, so we’re not pressed for cash too. That being said, the opportunity cost of not raising VC money I often think about (but have chosen to ignore) will be the speed of growth, the network, and AWS credits. Yeah, AWS credits mainly. 😭

What’s next? Keep talking to customers, building and marketing.

Over the last 5 years I’ve personally spoken to at least 2,000 creators & businesses, constantly learning and iterating our product to what it is today. I think there’s a lot of nuance to solving ecommerce for both creators and businesses in Africa, and it would be fun to see this through. Despite the amount of users we have, we’ve still not scratched the surface in reach, and there’s more ground to cover, especially as we grow our userbase in more African countries.

In less than 5 minutes, anyone can create an online store on Selar and start selling their digital products in over 8 different currencies, with international payments fully integrated for you.

Selar is live in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, US & UK, with 33K+ users and 7k+ creators/sellers. On one hand, our userbase is still very small, and not representative of the African creators space, but it’s still pleasing to see the growth of the African digital creators sector that Selar is powering today.

Get started by signing up for free at Selar.co/register

I complain about things (I care about) // Software engineer // Currently building Selar.co // douglas@selar.co