After 5 years of work I'm closing Coding Ninjas

• 3 min read

Funny story, I never chose this business.

I moved to Israel – a very expensive country, where you take any chance to make extra money.

Someone asked me to help find freelance developers. They were happy with the results and referred their friends, who brought me more customers, who brought me even more customers.

The side hustle became my full-time gig.

Twelve months into this side hustle, I was making over 10k monthly GMV. I quit my job to do this full-time and invited my friend to become a co-founder.

Btw, I’ve made bad decisions in choosing partners before twice. Both times the business got nowhere. This time I made no such mistake.

When I realized, I can’t (and don’t want to) do this by myself anymore, I asked myself who is the smartest person I know? I knew Vasyl for 7 years already, we worked together in 2 different companies and were close friends. I could not have made a better decision.

Vasyl Dzesa, Anvar Azizov, Aleksandr Volodarsky

The same happened when we’ve decided to add a 3rd technical co-founder in 2018. We knew Anvar for 6 years, worked with him, traveled with him, and he was the smartest person we knew.

We wanted to be an Uber for web development. You just post a task, and the next available driver developer picks it up.

The more we worked on it, the more we realized that the exponential growth of such a business model was a utopia.

Coding Ninjas About page

We didn’t feel growth until bigger contracts came in

We slowly grew to $45k monthly GMV. New clients mostly came from referrals and sales through marketing communities, like OG slack community and the BAMF Facebook group.

Along the way raised $60k from angel investors and blew most of it on Google ads.

The things starlet kicking when we started content marketing on Quora. We grew almost 2x in the first quarter of 2018 and again 2x by the end of the year.

At the same time, we had more and more requests from early-stage startups that needed to hire full or part-time engineers or build an MVP. They had bigger budgets, could work directly with developers without anyone in the middle, and needed much less support.

To be honest I tried to fight the pivot until the end.

I saw more possibilities to innovate in the transactional business. Also, transactional clients have 2x higher margins.

But in reality, they became less than 10% of our GMV and I had no more arguments to back my ideas.

We could still support both models and make some revenue from the transactional model (both clients and developers are super loyal there) but this would have been a huge distraction for the rest of the team.

Rebranding made a huge difference for us

First of all, why we did it?

  • Coding Ninjas is a very generic name. And it’s OK for a side-hustle or a car service center, but not when your market is tech startups.
  • Words like ninjas, expert, guru or similar are overused and actually lower your credibility
  • There were several Coding Ninjas, that provided different services but existed for a long time, and we didn’t want to compete in SEO

Because of the new brand, we stay on top of the minds of those who visited our website until they need to hire an engineer.

I get dozens of messages like this every week:

LinkedIn message screenshot
Compliment about the brand

For 4 years during the Coding Ninjas times, I felt like anything moved when we pushed hard and fully stopped when we let it go a bit.

5 months after launching Lemon.io it finally feels like results accumulate from all of our work from the very beginning.

So, for the sake of a better future for Lemon.io we are terminating service at codingninjas.co, letting go 3 employees and 10% of our revenue.

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