Discover Boring Businesses that Quietly Rake in the Cash

Interview with the founder of Textbelt

Ian Webster
Founder, Textbelt


Textbelt is a straightforward SMS API designed for developers who simply want to send SMS.

In this interview, we have a conversation with the founder of Textbelt, Ian Webster.

How did you come up with the idea for the business?

Back in 2012 I needed a low-cost way to send notifications. I hacked together a project that used free email-to-SMS gateways and open sourced it. I never intended it to be a business.

How did you build the product?

In bits and pieces over many years, nights and weekends. The open source version was popular but eventually mobile carriers disabled or limited all of their email gateways due to abuse. That's when I opened a paid version - by 2015, there was no longer a good way to reliably deliver SMS for free. At the end of the day, the mobile carrier needs to get paid.

How big was your team when you started?

Always been just me.

How did you launch the business?

I posted the open-source version on Hacker News. I launched the paid version 5 years later, but didn't post it anywhere. I remember being pretty surprised that anyone would pay.

How have you grown the business since its launch?

Word of mouth.

What are the main marketing channels that work out for you?

I am not deliberately marketing the project, but probably people find Textbelt through the open source project.

Which tools do you use most often to help grow your business?

Steady, constant iteration.

What is the business model (ads/subscription etc)?

One-off purchases of SMS credit. I have a small number of people on subscriptions

What do your finances look like?

The Indie Hackers graph only shows part of sales (Stripe revenue). The business has averaged $24k revenue/month over the last 12 months. Admittedly, margins are low compared to other SaaS as I have not had much time to optimize contracts/payments for SMS delivery.