Why did you start IPInfo? Then, when and what was it that made you want to go all in?
I was working on a bunch of different side projects, and had to set up a local IP geolocation database for each one, and would spend a bunch of time keeping it up to date on all the various servers. I thought it would save me a bunch of hassle to set it all up on a single server and expose an API that could be used by my other projects, and thought it might be useful to others too. I posted about it online and answered some StackOverflow questions mentioning it, and it really took off from there. Within a few weeks the small server was getting millions of requests a day.
After noticing we had some users making a lot of requests I introduced paid plans, and kept a free tier that I thought could cover all hobbyist usage. I wasn’t sure if anyone would pay for the service, but the subscriptions soon started rolling in.
I didn’t have any plans to go all in initially, but the project kept growing, and demanding more and more of time, and I was really enjoying work on it. After a few years it was clear that I was damaging the business by not giving it my full attention, and it was also clear that there was growing demand, and a lot of interesting problems that could be worked on.
What motivates you?
I want to create something meaningful, and long-lasting.
What do you like to do in your free time away from IPInfo?
I love running and hiking – there are so many great trails in and around Seattle. In the winter I love snowboarding, especially with my kids who are great little skiers. Pre-Covid I loved traveling, although I haven’t been able to do much of that lately!
In your opinion, why do some startups succeed while others fail?
I think there are likely so many factors. Luck plays a huge part, for sure. You definitely need to get a few keys things right: the market/customer, a way to find them (or for them to find you), and the product. It’s possible to do a lot of things badly, as long as you do a few things well. You can always figure out the rest later.
Besides your own, what other startup (any time period) do you wish you could have founded/worked at and why?
I’ve been lucky to work at a bunch of different startups from a very early stage, and I’ve learned so much and had so much fun at each one. Most of the companies I admire are those that do things a little differently, and play for the long term. Companies like Basecamp, Buffer, MailChimp, Automattic and Gumroad. I think it would be really interesting to have been at one of those companies just as they were scaling up their businesses, and figuring out what has become their way of doing things, and seeing the discussions that took place and the decisions made to arrive where they did. Fortunately, many of these companies operate really transparently and openly, so you can often read about it. But it would have been fun to see it evolve first hand.