Demystifying the 12 by 12 challenge.
The pro and cons of the most popular indie hacking challenge.
The 12 by 12 challenge is a popular way of approaching bootstrapping products in the indie hacking world.
I think it became popular thanks to Pieter Levels, one of the most successful indie hackers in the space.
I’ve seen some criticisms of this technique in the community, and despite not having done the challenge myself, I have some experience in launching products (I’ve launched 7 in the last 2 years) and I have some thoughts to share with you.
The challenge consists of launching one product every month, for 12 months.
The key idea of the challenge is to launch products until you find something that sticks, something that people love to pay for because it solves a problem they face.
And you’ll test if you can easily get exposed to those people, and get the first $1/2k MRR or $5k revenues in a month or so.
What I think is good about the challenge is that it forces you to think with the shipping mindset. Too many times I’ve seen developers procrastinating the launch of a product because it was not good enough — I made this mistake too.
My first product started in 2019 and it took two years to be built on the side of my full-time job. TWO YEARS. Simply because it was never feature-complete enough.
I could have launched that product after a month, with a minimal MVP, just to see if anybody would have paid for it, and collect feedback.
Your product should solve one key problem, and all the rest are nice to have.
Social media scheduling tools need to schedule posts on one platform to start. Launch it with that.
Analytics tools should allow the collection of data, and that’s it for an MVP.
You got what I mean.
The shipping mindset is key especially when bootstrapping as a solo founder.
We usually don’t have time and money to apply complex and long-term growth strategies, so if we don’t see traction in a product, let’s move to the next one.
Don’t get me wrong, as soon as you see traction, you should start with the classic long-term strategies (SEO, content, newsletter, podcasts, and so on), but not before the validation and product market fit have been found.
The challenge also makes you more comfortable and expert in launching products. You can use a mix of platforms like Product Hunt, Hacker News, Reddit, X, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Even better if you are part of a community that’s the right target for your product (ideal situation).
Moreover, it allows you to experiment with product ideas. You should start a business based on one problem solved for a specific niche. But this is not always clear. The challenge gives you the possibility to launch anyway and see if you can get traction for a problem you didn’t know existed.
I don’t recommend doing it, it’s risky and time-consuming, but if you are in that mood, and you are strict on spending only a month on an idea, why not do it?
Plus, if you document your journey on a social platform, maybe doing building in public, it can generate a lot of traction, and you could start to create relationships in the indie hacking community.
What is bad about the challenge?
I’ve seen many people doing the challenge that were not able to launch complete MVPs, or that started to randomly launch products, for the sake of doing it.
If you are in this situation, especially if you have a full-time job, a family, and maybe kids, simply slow down.
If you launch 6 products instead of 12, that’s fine! You’ll learn a ton anyway.
The 12 by 12 challenge is useful to:
enforce a shipping mindset
test your distribution channels
make experience with product launches
experiment with product ideas
practice building in public
Are you going to ever do the X by 12 challenge? (you choose the number of products 🙂)
I hope you enjoyed this issue, if you have questions or suggestions, please reach out to me on X.
Whenever you are ready, there are a couple of ways I can help you:
Shipped.club is the best Next.js Startup Kit. It contains all the code that you need to launch your product in days: landing page, waitlist, pre-sales, affiliates, authentication, payments, email flows, SEO, and designs.
Userdesk is the AI Assistants platform for businesses that helps collect leads on auto-pilot and reduce customer support while giving you precious insights on what your users are looking for.
See you next Sunday! 🙌