How This One-Person SaaS Business Generates $16,000 Per Month

My One-Person Business Generates $16,000 Per Month After Just 3 Years

Angus Cheng’s journey with Bank Statement Converter is truly remarkable. In less than three years, he’s grown this SaaS business to $16,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR) as a one-man operation.

In this interview, Angus shares behind-the-scenes details, including the revenue from each month during his first year in business. He also shares interesting details like how he leaned on Google ads to build his user base and get feedback, plus how his Gmail account was banned for too much cold email outreach! 🤣

👇 Key Takeaways

  • Angus started his business out of a frustration that he thought others must have also.
  • He saved money from his previous job, which allowed him to go full-time right away.
  • Most of Angus’ initial customers came through Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads.
  • Angus has no background in business but has learned as he goes.

Overview

Business Name: Bank Statement Converter
Website URL: https://bankstatementconverter.com/
Founder: Angus Cheng
Business Location: Online (Hong Kong)
Year Started: April 2021
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 0

How much revenue and profit does the business generate?

Monthly Recurring Revenue is at $16,000 USD. Monthly operating costs are around $500 USD

Tell us about yourself and your business.

My name is Angus Cheng. I grew up in Hong Kong and always loved using computers. When I was thirteen I started making games using Macromedia Flash. I learned to code in ActionScript for these games. That’s when I realized “Aha! So this is how software works!” 

I studied Computer Science at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, New South Wales. In my final year at university, a friend asked me if I wanted a programming job. I said sure. A few days later I was woken up at 12 PM by a phone call. 

“Is this Angus? Are you looking for a job?”

“Yup.”

“Okay, I’m making apps using Microsoft Access. I can teach you everything. When can you come in?”

“I can come in today.”

“Cool, how much do you want?”

“$20 an hour?”

“Okay, uhhh… I’ll give you $40.”

That’s when I realized that software development must be lucrative. Since then I’ve worked at lots of different companies.

In 2010, I worked for a company writing software for automated teller machines in C.

From 2011-2014, I moved back to Hong Kong and made my own XNA games for the Xbox 360. Over this time I released six games. Only two really made money. The rest flopped.

In 2014, I worked at a mobile game studio.

In 2015, I worked on my own mobile apps.

In 2016, I worked at an outsourcing company.

From 2017-2020, I worked at Credit Suisse, a bank that no longer exists.

In 2020, I worked at Bullish.com.

How does Bank Statement Converter make money?

We sell monthly/yearly subscriptions for the service. Prices range from $30 a month to $599 a year. There are three tiers of subscriptions. You can buy 400 page credits for $30 a month or 4,000 page credits for $99 a month.

Bank Statement Converter

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

At the end of 2020, I got very angry at work and rage-quit my job. I decided to work for myself building apps. Since I was no longer receiving a paycheck, I decided to analyze my spending to see how long I could live without a job. I went to my online banking looking for a CSV or Excel dump of my transactions. My bank would only provide PDFs. Annoying. 

I decided to write some code to get the transaction data out of the PDFs. I was able to do it, but it was unbelievably difficult. The bank I use is the dominant bank in Hong Kong. I figured, “Well, if I needed this, other people in Hong Kong might need this too.”

How and when did you launch Bank Statement Converter?

Around that time, I had a friend who would always talk about starting a company. He’s an excellent front-end developer and I’m not. I called him up and said, “Hey I’ve got an idea. Want to meet for beers?” He agreed. We got some beers and I pitched him the idea of turning my PDF scripts into a SaaS

This was April 2021. I think we met the next day and spent the whole day working on the app. Around a week after that, we had a minimal viable product (MVP) available on bankstatementconverter.com.

How much money did you invest to start the business?

Starting the business cost almost nothing. We bought a domain and paid for some Linux servers on Amazon Web Services. I think the launch cost us less than $100 USD.

How did you find your first few clients or customers?

We bought Google Search Ads. These ads are very expensive, and we were never able to run them profitably. However, they’re a good way to get real users using your app. You needed these users to get feedback and fix bugs.

What was your first year in business like?

MonthRevenue (HKD)
April 2021$0
May 2021$791
June 2021$1,246
July 2021$2,397
August 2021$1,829
September 2021$2,057
October 2021$3,681
November 2021$5,231
December 2021$7,490
January 2022$10,050
February 2022$11,926
March 2022$11,671

In the first year, I was spending all my time working on coding BankStatementConverter. At first, I thought I would be able to find one algorithm that would work for every type of bank statement. It’s possible to have a pretty good algorithm for many types of bank statements, but the resulting CSV won’t be as good as a specific algorithm for a specific bank statement.

I couldn’t really leave Hong Kong because of COVID, so all I did was code the app and go hiking. I went on 6-hour hikes twice a week. I didn’t know much about business, so I listened to YCombinator’s entire YouTube channel while going on my long hikes.

Angus Cheng
Photo courtesy of Angus Cheng

If you want to learn about starting a tech business I highly recommend absorbing all of YCombinator’s YouTube channel into your brain. Their advice is the best and it’s 100% free. They aren’t trying to sell you a course.

In the first year of operation, I made around $77,000 HKD (about $10,000 USD). The job I quit, paid me $150,000 HKD per month ($19,000+ USD). Said another way, after quitting my job, I spent a year making what I used to make in two weeks. I didn’t feel like a successful businessman. However, it was encouraging that “Number Go Up”. 

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

Google Ads

I spent about $40,000 HKD ($5,000 USD) on Google Ads between April and October 2021. After six months of running ads at a loss, I figured “I can’t get this to run profitably, just turn them off”. At the time I was getting about 150 users a day. After turning off the ads, traffic went down to 30 users a day. A big drop, but it wasn’t catastrophic.

Another interesting thing happened after turning off the ads. People started clicking on my site through the search results instead of the ads. Which led to my site going up the search result rankings. Basically, my search engine result positions started going up.

Cold Email Marketing

I was talking to a customer and he mentioned he does marketing for SaaS businesses. I asked him if he’d help me acquire users. He said sure. We talked a bit and decided to run a cold email marketing campaign. I paid the guy for a two week trial. I reviewed his work, it was full of mistakes. I paid the guy for 20 hours of work and it looked like he did one hour of work.

I then took over the cold emailing campaign and got it running. The emails I sent out were mostly ignored. Some people sent me back angry emails. About 1 in 1000 emails resulted in a sale. I sent out so many emails that Gmail (justifiably) banned my account.

Oops! 

I had to migrate my Gmail account to Fastmail. Not wanting to lose my Fastmail account, I ended my career as a cold email marketer. 

Content Marketing

A friend of mine works at a crypto exchange and he started a blog about technical details of exchanges. His posts got a lot of attention. He put in a lot of effort, but he got a lot of traffic from his posts. I started reading about content marketing.

I can’t remember exactly what I read, but what I read made me think “This is the most cost-effective type of marketing!” The great thing about content marketing is it can last forever. I’m writing this in February 2024, but maybe you might be reading it in February 2034. Then maybe you’ll go off and buy one of my apps. 

My friend’s success, and what I read led me to try it out myself. I started a blog at https://bankstatementconverter.com/blog

I think a lot of people get content marketing wrong. They think “Let me vomit out as much content as cheaply as possible”. Instead, I thought “Let me write stuff that people will be interested in reading, and hopefully that’ll get me traffic and then maybe they’ll buy my stuff and maybe my search rankings will go up.”

It’s impossible to quantify the impact of my blogging, but I think it has helped.

Customer Support

This is something the nice people at YCombinator talk about. At the early stage of a startup, you have very few customers, this is especially true if your startup sucks. 

I replied to every single customer support query and tried my best to solve all of them. Originally I didn’t support scanned bank statements, but a customer sent me a series of angry emails so I did a bunch of work to support them.

How is this marketing? Keep the customers happy, and they’ll tell their mates. People do like to recommend good products to friends/colleagues.

Angus Cheng
Photo courtesy of Angus Cheng

Tell us about your team.

My good friend created the front end and worked with me for about a month but left amicably after that. Since then it has been just me working on the Bank Statement Converter.

What are your future plans for the business?

Basically, supporting more banks, and getting more users around the world. Most of my users are in English-speaking countries.

How did you make the transition from side hustle to full-time?

I didn’t side hustle. I got mega pissed off at work, told my boss I was quitting, and then did this. I was paid a lot of money as a financial engineer, and I saved most of it. I purposely didn’t buy a house because I thought, “Build up a runway and start a company”.

What was the turning point when you knew your business was successful?

In July 2022, I made around $20,000 HKD the next month I made $63,000 HKD. I did this by convincing a customer to buy a large plan.

How much traffic does your website receive, and what are your primary sources?

About 4,200 users a week. Primarily from Google search results. I pay zero dollars for traffic now.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned growing the business?

Talk to your users, they will tell you their problems and sometimes what they want. 

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Acquiring users without cost-per-click advertising. For a very long time, I thought that was the only way I would be able to get people to use my site.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Do more executing and less planning. People love planning, plans are pretty cool but getting stuff done is much better.

What is your favorite quote?

Whatever you want to do, believe it, believe it, believe it, even if you don’t believe. Play the game of belief. Act as if you believe.

Anthony Hopkins

If you had to start from scratch, where would you begin?

Today, I would probably learn as much as I can about AI and build something there. Bank Statement Converter is cool but it isn’t the coolest thing I could build right now.

What are your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

Books:

Podcasts:

YouTube:

Founder Reports is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.