Making $1M Every Year with 0 Employees: How an Unassuming Millionaire Coded Photopea All By Himself

5/5 - (2 votes)

This guy makes an annual profit of $1M+ with zero employees and only $700 yearly maintenance costs.

Ivan Kutskir, the solitary force behind Photopea, a free, web-based photo editing tool, has carved out a niche for himself in the competitive world of digital design tools.

With over 500K daily users and a staggering annual revenue exceeding $1 million, Ivan’s story is not just about numbers but a testament to the power of perseverance, strategic thinking, and the judicious use of resources.

πŸ§‘β€πŸ’» This is not a sponsored article and I’m not affiliated with any mentioned products or services. The reason I share this story is simple: I found it inspiring, and I hope you do too. It’s highly relevant for developers, and it shows that everybody can carve out their own niche on the Internet, creating a SaaS recurring revenue business.

Feel free to check out my other article after this one:

πŸ”— Recommended: 10 OpenAI SaaS Ideas to Scale a One-Person AI Company

The Genesis of a Photoshop Alternative

Ivan’s journey, originating from a small village in Ukraine and later transitioning to the Czech Republic, is a blend of curiosity and self-taught expertise. His first encounter with a computer at age 11 spiraled into a fascination with computer graphics, leading him to build his first website at 14. There is a decade-long process after every success story.

It was during his undergraduate studies in computer science in 2009 that the seeds for Photopea were sown.

Identifying a Gap and Filling It

Ivan identified two significant barriers with Photoshop: its hefty subscription fee of $20/month and its substantial computing power requirements, which limited its usability on slower computers and web browsers.

There is a reason Adobe is a $248 billion market cap business! Disrupting only a small part of the Adobe business unlocks $USD millions, if not billions, of opportunity for a new entrant. Even if you’re only a coder with access to OpenAI API, you can carve out a tiny business worth millions by solving a small need not addressed by the bigger players. Exciting news for 1-person coding startups!

In 2012, he envisioned Photopea, a platform enabling users to open Photoshop files in a browser without needing Photoshop installed. His initial version, which allowed users to open .psd files and download layers separately, gradually evolved into a full-fledged editor after thousands of hours of meticulous work.

The Financial Rollercoaster and Strategic Monetization

From 2012 to 2016, Photopea operated without a monetization plan, earning Ivan only $29K post-graduation. Despite the financial struggle, Ivan saw the potential in Photopea and continued to enhance it while pursuing his post-graduation. His peers ventured into lucrative jobs, but Ivan, driven by passion more than profit, stuck with Photopea.

The Marketing Genius Without a Degree

Ivan’s marketing strategies were unconventional yet astoundingly effective. Without a marketing degree or substantial funds, he innovatively utilized every platform available, from commenting about Photoshop alternatives on various forums to posting on Reddit and Hacker News.

His attempts were often flagged for self-promotion, and his outreach to YouTubers for reviews was mostly met with silence or demands for payment.

Community Engagement and Viral Success

Despite the challenges, Ivan’s relentless commitment to Photopea, from solving over 400 user issues to creating open-source libraries, won him a loyal user base. His excellent customer support, where 80% of users joined GitHub just to request new features, and his insightful blogs every time a new feature was added, turned users into ardent fans.

In October 2018, Photopea witnessed a surge, hitting 1.5M visits. It has grown to 13M visits in a single month (August) in 2023!!!

Ivan leveraged this by hosting his first AMA on Reddit, which went viral, amassing over 50K upvotes and 2.2K comments.

Subsequent AMAs and his transparent sharing of his journey further propelled Photopea into the limelight, even catching the attention of notable figures like @levelsio.

A Financial Breakdown Worth Noting

Ivan’s financial breakdown is particularly noteworthy. With 90% of his $1 million annual revenue derived from ads and the rest from premium subscriptions and licensing, he has managed to maximize his profit while keeping operational costs low. His monthly expenses include $50 for hosting and $16 for the domain, totaling approximately $700/year to run a million-dollar business. 🀯

A Perspective on Ivan’s Journey

Ivan’s journey is a compelling narrative about spotting opportunities where others see barriers. His story underscores that financial success in the tech world is not solely tethered to hefty investments or a team of experts but can be achieved through strategic thinking, community engagement, and a genuine passion for solving problems.

In a world where subscription models and high-priced software dominate the market, Ivan’s Photopea stands out as a beacon of accessibility and user-centric design. His approach to monetization, particularly his reliance on ad revenue, is a reminder that if a product genuinely meets a need and is made accessible to everyone, financial success can follow, even without traditional marketing or a premium pricing model.

πŸ§‘β€πŸ’» Especially today in a post-GPT world, you can easily launch new SaaS products using “ChatGPT at the heart” using skills like prompt engineering to handle the tech, functionality, backend, frontend, and even customer service

Ivan Kutskir, with Photopea, has not only provided a high-quality, accessible alternative to expensive design software but also demonstrated that with strategic thinking, community engagement, and a steadfast commitment to solving user problems, one can carve out a successful, financially lucrative niche in a competitive market. His journey is a reminder that passion, coupled with a keen understanding of user needs and strategic utilization of available resources, can pave the way to success, even in the most competitive of arenas.


πŸ§‘β€πŸ’» Recommended: 10 Steps Learning Path: Becoming a Python Prompt Engineer πŸš€ on the Finxter Academy