I chat with Indiehacker Robert Balazsi who has built a no-code web scraping tool that has really taken off since he started building in public. Robert and I dive into juggling work and indiehacking, the importance of being your own customer, and leveraging building in public.
If you’re trying to juggle work and building something on the side, then this episode is for you.
0:35 – where to find a delicious Hungarian desert
1:40 – an unusual food Robert consumes
3:02 –15 minutes of fame / Ted Talk
5:57 – the no code web scraping tool Robert is building
8:00 – how Robert got into web scraping
10:29 – 1st version of Datagrab
11:28 – free vs paid version
13:40 – building this app like a hermit
15:45 – tips for indiehackers
18:38 – tips for juggling work and indiehacking
22:30 – MRR goal
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Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.
Additional episodes you might enjoy:
#45 Dagobert Renouf - Brand design for your Startup in 5 minutes
#42 Csaba Zajdó - Top Startup in Europe for E-commerce: OptiMonk
#30 Andrius Rimkunas - The smart, wireless, GPS-powered alarm system
#28 Monika Paule, PhD - Trailblazing discoveries in Gene Editing Solutions
#23 Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė - Mindletic: a mental gym for your emotional balance
#18 - Irina Constantin - Vaunt - the Complete Solution for Real-estate Business Management
#4 - Julija Jegorova - Creating exposure for global startups
Hey, you're listening to innovators can laugh. The fun startup podcast. I'm your host, Eric notcher on ICO. We interview an innovative entrepreneur in the European tech startup scene. Every week. My goal is to have my guests share their wisdom or having a little fun in the process. Now let's dive in Robert, how you doing today?
Great to have you on the show. Thanks for having me, Eric. Yeah, no, no. I've been looking forward to this because you know, you, I think you're familiar with Kuo and, uh, for those listening, Kuo is this Hungarian Des uh, dessert that is so delicious. And, uh, Robert, do they make good Kuo in? K can you find that there.
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. Although, uh, actually, actually I am from another county, uh, in do Romania it's it's called Harita and that's that's exactly. That's exactly actually where the S from. So if you want, if you want the original one, then, then go there. So I'm definitely familiar with that. Be that
Yeah, but very, very cool. So you speak Hungarian too, is that correct? Yes, that is in fact, my native language. Alright. Alright. Somebody was telling me I was going somewhere and they said, Eric, just, just, you know, just a reminder, they only speak Hungarian, uh, at that place. And I said, well, it makes no difference to me cuz you know, I don't really speak Romanian that well either.
So so okay. As we get started, I like to ask my guest a few, uh, quirky questions just so we can get to know your personality a little bit better. Uh, Robert for you, the first question I have for you. Is what is an unusual food or drink that you consume an unusual food or drink? Hmm. Yeah, well, to be honest, I can, I can't really say I'm I'm consuming anything unusual.
Yeah. I like, I like Indian food though, so that's, it, it can be, it can be considered unusual in, in this place. You know, I, I really like, uh, I really like Indian food because it's spicy. I like, I like spicy. Um, but yeah, I, I think that's. That's about it for the drink? Um, well, I, I used to, I used to try out all these cocktails, you know, alcoholic beverages, but I don't, I don't drink for a few years now.
Uh, I gave up because of in the hacking because of the personal projects that I have and, you know, want to make progress on them. So no, pretty, pretty traditional, pretty. Pretty conservative in this side. yeah, that is funny because you know, over a billion people eat Indian food. Right. And there's not, there's not a lot of restaurants that are Indian restaurants here at Romania.
That that's a good point there. Uh, okay. Let's see here. Second question for you. Tell me about a time when you had 15 minutes of fame. 15 minutes of fame, 15 minutes of fame. Yeah, I think, I think they were mostly due to, uh, viral tweets. I, I would, I would say not really, not really anything. Or if you mean, if you mean live, if you mean live well, I actually held some, some tech talks, uh, in, for the company I, I work for.
So, you know, with, with actually external audience. So it wasn't just for, for my colleagues. Okay. That was like, that was like the first step. But then I, then I had some, some technical cause Java related tech cause uh, tech presentations for, for an external audience with representatives from multiple companies.
So. That was a pretty big audience, you know? Yeah. Very out of way out of my comfort zone. Yeah, of course. Uh, but it went well. I mean, once you, once you get into the flow, I would say once you get into the flow and just, you know, just focus on the content, just focus on, on how to, how to present it. And then most importantly, you know, don't, don't really focus on, don't really focus on the way you are presenting because then.
Then you get, you know, uh, you can you get defocused on the actual content, if you are, if you're constantly looking for the perfect way to express yourself, then you lose sight of the actual content, the information. So you should focus on the information and, and the, the, the things will flow while. So, okay.
A bit of experience. If, if that, if that can be considered fame, because you know, it was shared on multiple sides, but. Nothing too, nothing too fancy or . Did you have any alcoholic beverages before you got on stage and started speaking or no, never. Never, ever. Never, never. That's that's a bad, that's a big no-no from my, from my point of view, because you have to be, you have to be sober.
To be yourself if, yeah. If you, if you, if you drink. Yeah. I mean, people, people argue, people argue that it, it could make it a bit easier to, you know, to get comfortable. But I don't, I don't really believe that. So, especially, especially for these presentations, if it's an invo informal setting, you know, like, like informal talks or something like that, maybe, maybe a beer, but.
I don't, I don't really believe in this. Okay. Yeah. So for me to feel comfortable for, for every, uh, podcast interview, uh, I drink all the time, you know. Oh, okay. Nice. Is that, is, is that, is that, vodka what you're holding Hey, I'm not, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna deny it and I'm not gonna confirm it.
okay. . Okay. All right. Let's dive in here. So your, your background is a software developer, but you're also an indie maker. Robert, uh, you're currently developing a Chrome extension. What does this extension do? Yes. So I am, I'm dev I'm building a no code, uh, web scrapping tool by no code. No code is a fancy term that, you know, is used in, in technical settings.
You know, technical people like are familiar with that or nontechnical people who are developers, but also non-technical people, uh, who like follow these, these no cost trend, you know? So what is it, what this means is pretty simple. It allows you to. It allows you to click and select elements on the page and set up your scrapers visually.
So, you know, that's what I, that's what I solve. And I opted for, for a Chrome extension, uh, because of pretty serious technical, technical reasons I used to, I used to support. I used to have a verbal application. And, uh, and what, what that, uh, did, is it embedded the page you were trying to scrape inside, but that's, uh, that's a big problem because of cross origin resource sharing.
So there there's a, there's a specific technical reason that, that it didn't work. And so. You know, I figured Chrome extension is the way to go mean browser extension is the way to go Chrome being the most popular. I, I choose that. So yeah, I mean, that's that solves the issue and, and people are pretty, pretty happy with it.
They don't get blocked on pages, so they can, they, if, if your browser, if your browser displays the page, As you would, you would navigate it. Uh, you would navigate to it as a, as a, as a normal user, then you could, you could extracts from it. You could extract data from it, uh, with my extension as well. So that's the big, big problem.
I, uh, you know, I hadn't solved. Okay. Yeah. How did, how did you get into, uh, web scraping? Yeah, that's a, that's an interesting story. So a couple of years ago I was looking for some, some. Deals prize deals for Samsung, some galaxy ES six, still, still have that phone still. It's still my phone. Haven't haven't, uh, switched from it.
And, uh, yeah, I, I, you know, I, I manually, browed a couple of sites to find the best deals. Then it occur, occurred to me. What if I could somehow automate all this and, you know, get notified on, on good deals. Then it occur to me that this can be for multiple products as well. So that was one scenario, but the, that scenario did not cause me to start this project yet, but a couple of months passed by.
and, uh, find myself browsing, stack overflow, go figure. It's a pretty normal thing for the developer. Yeah. Um, and, uh, looking for some, some, some technical answer. Uh, I, I, I asked the question there, I think, and, and looked, looked for answers. Like constantly browsed, constantly went, went back there and, you know, kept monitoring it if there are new answers.
And that was the second scenario. And it finally caused me to. Dive into automation a little bit. And, uh, yeah. And try to, you know, trying to, trying to research this topic, uh, a bit further didn't know the, the term web scraping at that time. So I didn't know that this is a whole industry. It's all industry horizontal, to be honest, because there are many, many use cases, which I later found out mm-hmm and so did a bit of research and, uh, yeah, I figured that, uh, I first, I wanted to, to create some API, you know, as a developer, but later figured out that, Hey, maybe people who are not technical, not developers or who are even developers, but want to save time, would rather use a visual solution where you can just click and see what you are, what you're actually doing without needing to write, uh, write a script and, uh, There you go.
This is how I get into I, I got into, and this is how datagram was born. It was, it was almost five years ago. Oh, wow. Okay. How long did it take you to have your first version of, uh, datagram. Yes. So the, so the first version, uh, the first version took like one year, uh, but it was really bad and it, it, uh, it solved the, it attempted to solve the issue the way I, I mentioned previously, and that is to embed the page inside of a app, which didn't work.
So I needed to, I needed to pivot, uh, to the, to the Chrome extension. Pretty fast. I mean, relatively fast one year is a, is a big one year is, is still a long time considering some of the great folks here in, in, you know, tech, Twitter and India community. Just, just push out the product in a month. Uh, so yeah, uh, thing is that I learned a lot, so.
You know, at the end of the day, that's, that's what matters. And, you know, I kind of have a process on for, uh, launching products, uh, relatively fast and yeah, got a couple of ideas, actually, non related to web scrapping. So I might, might pursue them or some of them. Yes. So, yeah. Is, is there a free version and a paid version?
Uh, when you download this. So the fir the, the free version. Yes, there's the, there's the free version, uh, of, uh, let me put it this way. You can run, you can run your scraper, uh, two ways you can run it in your local browser. And there's also a cloud service that I offer, which allows you to run, run it in, in the background.
So the, um, So the browser extension is free, uh, and you can run it, uh, locally in your browser. Uh, there, there is a, there is a, a 100 page limit and. It it's also due to the fact that the, the memory, the, the browser's memory is gonna fill up pretty fast. If you, if you leave it, uh, run to run on indefinitely, you know, so I, I needed to, I needed to, to do a cap to cap this limit so that, uh, It doesn't freeze.
Mm-hmm I'm talking from experience. I tried it out. So yes, there's a there's there's this free version. And then I offer a free trial of 1000, uh, cloud credits, which translates to page requests, uh, for the cloud service. Yeah. And I also, I also offer for regarding the paid plans. I'm pretty, I'm, I'm a bit more flexible that most of the alternatives and, uh, that is because I offer.
Monthly subscriptions. If you know, for a fact that you are gonna have recurring, uh, data needs. For example, some of my, my customers are building products on top of data, you know, like aggregators and stuff. And so they obviously need, uh, need the data every month to be refreshed. And then there are people who are obese and, you know, they just research something and need, need the data.
Uh, once. And so, uh, for them, I also offer like these bulk packages that you can purchase. Um, they don't, they don't expire obviously. And, uh, and yeah, you can, you can use that. So both, both ways. It's a bit more complicated, but I, I think I did a decent job on, you know, clarifying this on the pricing page or something.
Yeah. Now, when you, when you came to, uh, to marketing the app, when releasing it into the marketplace, did you do anything to, uh, to try to get more users to download it? And if so, did you make any mistakes? Uh, that the first couple of years, or even the first few. So the problem, the problem for me, the, the big problem for me was that I was living like a, I was building this like a hermit without any outside interactions whatsoever.
Okay. Uh, and that was, that was for, for two years, I think , I haven't heard of this. I haven't heard of this build in public. I have, I wasn't, you know, as, as many of us, yeah. I had my Twitter account. Lingering for years. I, I haven't took advantage of that. Yeah. Then I joined, then I joined, uh, uh, a discord group and, uh, yeah, an amazing community actually.
And, um, and, uh, yeah, it's, it's called Ardio. I have a good friend. Uh, Ivan who, who runs it. So that was the, that was the first interaction. It's a, it's an in maker's group. That's the bottom line. So it's an maker's group and yeah, that got me, that got me, you know, that got some traction. Uh, people got interesting because I shared, you know, I shared my, my progress.
I, I. I asked questions, you know, shared my opinions and stuff like that. So yeah, got involved in the community. And then I saw there that people got actually involved in on Twitter, got active, had some good results and decided, Hey, I might as well give it a shot. And then I got connected with, uh, with a few.
Really, really, really great folks like Ishi, for example, pretty sure you heard about him. He's also a serial maker, uh, building small products. So yeah, got a, he became a good friend of mine and uh, yeah, I, I, I just saw, I just saw the advantages this brings, so I keep continuing it. All right. Very, very cool.
Very cool. Yeah. Now, when it comes to indie hacking, uh, what do you believe are the most important fundamentals? Yeah, that's a, that's a, that's an excellent question. So I would say, I would say that the, you know, if, if we are talking about a few tips I could give, uh, the, the first one is don't, don't take that much time as me, uh, like.
Try to try to release a product as early as possible. Something that, uh, something you have as early as possible and regarding the, you know, regarding the product itself or the idea itself, I would say that the best case is if you have the problem yourself, because you can be your first customer. Now this can be dangerous.
This can be a trap that you got, you you'll get so consumed in your own reality. There are there's no one, no one, except you who would use, you would use that. Mm-hmm and for that reason, you definitely need to talk to people as well, but it's a good start. It's a, it's a B Hey, it's, it's, it's better to, it's better for you to be your own customer, because then you would, you would be using your product on a daily basis.
And at least, you know, that some of the things that you definitely think needs to be, uh, need to be improved as opposed to, you know, Choosing some field that is, uh, you might be passionate about, but you don't really, you don't really need that on a daily basis. So that's a, that's a, that's a great, that's a great thing to have to be your own customer and yeah.
I mean, leverage, leverage building in public. Share your story. People are interested in your story. People can relate to the, to your story and people will trust you. If you share your, if you share your story, they, they will trust people. They won't trust faceless companies. Yeah. Who are sharing nothing but marketing lingo and, and, you know, everything is perfect and, and stuff like that.
And, and for that, for that reason, I also, you know, I also recommend sharing everything challenges. Yeah. There are some cases like production outages that you might not want to dive into too much, but it's perfectly okay to, to be honest and share the issues that you had, you fix the, you fix them and the lessons you learn.
So. I know for myself, I would much rather test, uh, trust an Indy maker who, who is doing this than a faceless big company who doesn't even, you know, care about his customers, is it, which is why, uh, this is one of the, one of the advantages of as a user to choose an Indi maker because you know that his.
He's he, or she's the guy, a girl who, who, who is building this stuff. So, so that person, that person will get back to you as fast as possible. So, yeah. Um, yeah, it's a pretty, it's a pretty exciting thing. Okay. How are you able to juggle both? Uh, both work and, and then also Indi indie hacking here, you know, with the app.
Is there, is there any sort of habits that you do that has made you successful in juggling both things. Yeah, one of the hardest, that's one of the hardest things that has to be one of the hardest things to, to figure out, to be honest. I, I, I cannot really, I cannot really say I have a well defined process on that, but to me, it's, it's like pretty simple and I don't really have other options than.
Work for fulltime for now work full time, uh, eight hours. Uh, and then after that in the evenings, uh, I can, I can spend a bit, a bit more time on, uh, on hacking. To mention that I have a family. So I'm also with my child playing with my child, teaching her chess. Oh really? My daughter. How old is she? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Yeah. How, how old is she? Yeah, she's she's seven. So first grade, first grade in my, in the school. There's the, there's a zero grade here. So there's a, there's a preparatory grade. I, I, I'm not sure. I'm not sure how it's called in English, but there's a, there's a preparatory grade. It's it's like a zero grade, you know?
Yeah. Which is pretty good for developers because it's zero based. So we know, uh, we, we can, we can understand more easily. Yeah. Joking. So yeah. I mean, uh, yeah. Yeah. She is. She's seven learning, learning the learning to. By which, which causes us to like, uh, sensor some of the things that we want to say or write.
Uh, yeah, I mean, really, uh, so back to the back, back to the point, it's pretty hard to, it's pretty hard to juggle. It's pretty hard to juggle. I all, all I can, all I can say in this area, all I can recommend in this area is. If you, if you commit, if you commit like two hours or three hours, pretty, pretty, pretty exhausting at some 0.3 hours a day, make it count.
Prepend preplan your stuff to do in the previous evening, or whenever you have a bit of time and then just get to it and, and get it. Don't get distracted, try to try to make it count, try to do deep work. Uh, Carl Newport has a great book on that called deep work. And he, you know, he, he outlines some of the strategies in, in this area, but the bottom line is that try to focus, try to make it count.
It can, it can, uh, it can be done so you can, you can definitely make progress. It will take a bit, it will take a bit. And one other thing, uh, I actually, I actually recommend, but I cannot do. Know, like, like, like thes, like thes me more or something that I am teaching a skill of power that I have not possess.
Like, uh, what I, what I could recommend is that. For folks who don't have families yet. So they have a bit of savings. Maybe take the leap, maybe, maybe leave that company. If you have a, if you have a, a few months or a years of saving, you know, take the leap, leave, leave the company and, and try to try to work full time.
It would be obviously orders or orders of magnitudes. Uh, Simpler and, uh, and manageable and faster to, to make progress on your project. I can't really do that because, uh, there's, there's there, isn't only about the, the salary that I'm, you know, I'm getting and obviously need to support my family. It's also the, the, the medical assurance, which my family also benefits.
So it's, it's much more complicated for me. I cannot really do that. Yeah. Uh, I cannot really do that. And. Won't actually won't until I, you know, I, I have a, I have a decent, uh, Mr. Can't really do that. Yeah. So what's your goal. Do you mind sharing your, your goal for, for data grab? Is there like in, in a, in a certain amount of timeframe, you wanna have a certain Mr.
From this? Yes. Well, I,
I went with like 5k MRI at the end of this year. Not gonna make it. Uh, and that is because virtually I, I, I have, I have a single customer right now, monthly as for monthly recording revenue. However, I also did, I also did a couple of side gigs, which were related to web scraping. And the reason I did that, because then I, I can improve my tool.
According to the lessons I learned, you know, from, from real projects. So that's, that's another, that's another tip. Uh, if you can, somehow, if you can somehow do gigs to leverage your tool, or if not, to, to learn why it won't work with your tool and try to do, you know, deliver the, deliver the, the work manually, but then improve your tool accordingly.
So that next time you can actually do it using your. Okay. Gotcha. Uh, hopefully which could hopefully be faster. Right. So, so I don't, I don't have a, I, I don't really have a, uh, an MRR spare, an MRR, uh, yet, but I did have, I did have several, several gigs. I, I used to have a, I used to have a gig, which was actually Mr.
So it, it ran a couple of months, um, It's it's like the, the rest, the, the rest majority of the money I'm making is, is still from consulting. I'm trying to, you know, improve my tool. But yeah, I'm, I have an exciting, I have an exciting and big, big feature that I'm, I'm I'm planning. And that would actually, that would actually make things much, much more flexible and, uh, you know, make, make Datalab much more powerful.
And then, yeah, I. I'll market it, uh, I'll market. I, I, I will really, you know, double down on marketing as well. It's always, it's, it's always this feeling that, uh, I could, I could market it, but you know, it's not that powerful it's it might not be that powerful that people would actually find it useful. I'm not not saying you cannot use it.
Uh, it, there are many, many scenarios when it's ideal, but I feel. You know, if I could make it much more powerful and then push the button, the marketing button and launch it, launch it on product hunt and stuff like that. It would benefit me more. So, you know, that's what I'm planning, marketing. It's it's marketing year , but I need to improve it.
Uh, I need to improve it. Uh, considerable. Okay. All right, Robert. Well, listen, where can others learn about you in, uh, in datagram I'm on Twitter at Robert, uh, ZSI. Uh, so that's as, as my name and, uh, yeah, I'm, I'm pretty much only, only on Twitter and the data grab site on is, is data grabbed up bio. Okay. I I'm on that, but mostly on Twitter, I'm, I'm interacting.
I'm interacting on Twitter. All right, everybody I'll include, uh, Robert's uh, Twitter handle and the show notes as well. Robert, thanks so much for, uh, for coming on. Innovators can laugh, everybody listening. Uh, Hey, if you enjoy this episode, tell others about it. Uh, where we interview some of the most innovative, uh, indie hackers and startup founders in Europe.
All right. Thanks for listening. And, uh, see you guys next week. This is Eric signing off. Thanks Robert. Love everybody. Thank you. Thank you for me. Yep. Have good day.
Thanks for listening to the show. If you enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate it. If you could give us a review and star rating, also, don't forget to sign up for the ICO email@example.com, where you can get the bio and details of each guest. Thanks.