How I built Reliable Bits to a million dollar business
I created Reliable Bits because it was the company that I wish existed when I was running my first startup.
Instead, the only options available to founders at the time (a decade ago) were development or design agencies that charged outrageous prices to do anything and were only with you for a very short period of time in your company’s journey. They then tend to leave you to your own accord to find sustainable technical and design talent after your product’s first version is out in the market.
So I started something to counter that – I truly believe in working with you, not for you. We like to be part of your team. I have to admit when I first started this company it was your typical design and development agency and our differentiation was based on what we called our price to value ratio (this is still a huge part of our core) but it’s not who we are today.
Today, we are the primary, virtually in-house tech and design departments of modern businesses. What exactly does that mean? It’s quite simple, the world has changed, and the way you build a business has also changed. We believe modern businesses are those that believe in self-sufficiency and like to build their businesses through investments from customers versus venture money. Often times, modern businesses partner with other businesses that have domain expertise to build out their company versus hiring a ton of employees. Reliable Bits is the tech and design puzzle in that equation. Over the past few years we’ve seen a proliferation of businesses with this structure and expect to see many more companies built this way in the years to come.
A little about me
My name is Deepak Devjani and I’ve been in tech for the last 14 years. I’ve seen it all from being a lead engineer to being a product manager. I’ve built some successful startups and some that have failed.
The one common dominator of all my roles is that I’ve always loved helping businesses with their tech and design. What makes me different than other tech folks is that I also have a deep (pun intended) understanding of business, product, and design. I have that from going to school for it and actually doing it for years.
My understanding and background of tech and business gives me the edge to be great at my business and provide exceptional value to people I work with.
How Reliable Bits got its start
I was working as a Technical Product Lead at a business model consultancy in New York where I was able to combine my passion for both tech and business. A friend of mine was thinking of building out a product and asked me to help vet some of the agencies he was looking at to develop the product. I of course said yes, because I loved the idea – it was a bar order ahead app that allowed users to place orders on their phone and pick up their beverage right from the bar. Without having to flag down the bartender in a packed bar or club! The founding team faced scaling issues but I still believe in the idea!
So while I was helping him, I was seeing some of the quotes he was getting and I was floored by the price these companies were charging. I’m talking $50K+ for the MVP of the iOS app (now you see why one of the core tenants of Reliable Bits is “Building your business shouldn’t cost a mortgage”).
As we kept going through the process all the quotes we received were insane and the agencies that I thought had the right price were crap in quality. That’s where I had the ah ha moment.
I told him I could just build this, and stay within budget. Keep in mind I still have my full-time job so I was doing this as a side hustle. He agreed and we built it for around $15K. That’s how Reliable Bits was born. I quit my job the next month.
I got my second client the same way and the third came from a recommendation from my first client. I slowly built the company brick by brick, while staying profitable.
Reliable Bits 2.0
It was about a year and a half in when I realized that I wanted to build a modern business myself because I didn’t believe in the typical agency model. In fact I wanted the traditional agency model dead. They were not aligned with the founders or even empathetic towards them. I wanted to build the type of business that I wish existed when I was launching my other startups.
I knew that my company couldn’t be a revolving door of clients. Plus, I didn’t like the idea of always needing to find new clients. Instead, I became much more selective in the type of clients I partnered with. The typical profile of a business that we work with is a self-funded business that wants to achieve and retain profitability. They aren’t chasing unsustainable growth models and more importantly they want partners, co-builders in Reliable Bits not just an “agency”. I also knew I couldn’t do this myself so I brought in a co-founder to help handle all the operations and back office so I could focus on what I love best – working with entrepreneurs.
So today, we are two co-founders with zero employees doing a million dollars a year in revenue from Reliable Bits.
We have a thesis that in this day and age you don’t need an internally hired tech and design team. That’s too much overhead early on. Our founders don’t have to worry about recruiting the right talent (let’s face it, this is the hardest part), firing, payroll, benefits, or HR management for tech and design. None of that. They can focus on growth and marketing, actually growing their business. We also believe this model applies to businesses just starting out and those that are more established but want to modernize their business.
Our structure is much different than other platforms like Upwork, Toptal, or Gigster. While they use freelancers, we use a network of talented dev teams from across the globe. We understand and know how to manage top technical talent that is east of US. We have the language, cultural, and communication context to get the best out of each team. Many of the developers have shaped the tech we use today, they’re extremely talented (if they weren’t FAAMGA wouldn’t be hiring them by the truckloads). We also have a team here in the states that manages the product so that founders have a great experience. We prefer team versus the freelancer model for a plethora of reasons:
- Rarely can one developer do it all themselves, if they can, they have superpowers (introduce me)
- We also want Reliable Bits to be your tech and design team so that you can focus on your business versus having to manage multiple freelancers.
- Lastly, because we have a team we can grow as you grow. We literally have a client that started with us a year ago that had a team of two developers that now has five developers that work on the product.
Some cool things have happened since shifting our business to this model, things we didn’t even plan for.
Over 70% of our clients are female founders. We think this is because our business structure brings down the barrier to entrepreneurship. Another fact is that 90% of our founders are non-technical. All the businesses we work with are self-funded or have taken on friends and family funding so they don’t have to chase crazy growth metrics and ruin their consumer experience along the way. Additionally, all of our clients have valid revenue models and actually generate revenue – many of them do millions in revenue.
While the business is growing and we’re doing great we wanted to take our mission to democratize entrepreneurship a step further. We wanted to build a program that allowed individuals with an idea, to pursue that idea, without having to put up any of their own capital. If selected, we’ll build the entire product for that founder, for free. All on our dime. So what’s the catch? We take some equity. But we do it 180° opposite of a VC. We are a co-founders, co-operators, co-builders. We’ll likely only work with 2-3 entrepreneurs a year. The one quality we look for is the founder’s superpower. As in, why are they the best person to launch this business? My superpower is the reason why I’m seeing success with Reliable Bits and I want the founders to have a superpower as well. We hope this will open the doors to entrepreneurship for many more aspiring folks amongst us.
‘Till next time
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