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Kushagra Gour is the co-founder of CSSBattle - The CSS code-golfing game
 

Tell us about your product and what inspired you to start it?

CSSBattle is a game where you replicate images visually with CSS in the least number of characters to climb the leaderboards. There are battles that happen regularly where different targets get unlocked. Apart from the code-golfing aspect, it is one of the most used platforms for practicing and improving CSS by developers from all around the world.
 
We had this idea of gamifying a UI developer's primary job i.e. converting designs/images to functional HTML/CSS. Why can't we make that usual process more fun and gamified, we thought. To make it more fun and competitive, we added the code-golfing aspect to it. We wanted to make this boring & complex language fun for everyone. We were both soon hooked, and found ourselves playing for long durations trying to beat each other’s score. That’s when it struck that every frontend developer would love to play this! We built and launched the public app strictly within one month! And here we are - still working on this a side project for over 3 year s and proudly making CSS fun for over 230K+ users
 

How long did it take you to acquire your first 50 customers, and what was your growth strategy?

Our launch idea was simple - we cold-emailed a few amazing people in the CSS community requesting them to play our initial version and tell us how they liked it. Fortunately and surprisingly enough, they didn't tell us - they tweeted...haha
And it shot up overnight from just those tweets that players were making about their addiction!
Within just a few days, we had 10K players already playing! We were blown away.
 

Which technology stack are you using and what challenges and limitations does it pose?

Our frontend started with a simple react app, which later was migrated to a NextJS frontend.
For the backend, we use Firebase!
 
One of the early challenges we faced was with Firebase. Firebase costing really shoots up fast as you grow. If you don't have prior experience with that, it can cost you a fortune
We realized it the hard way and kept making regular optimizations to bring it down to acceptable levels.
 
We introduced caching layers, optimized the read operations and changed our database structures a few times!
 
Also, we were facing SEO issues being on a client-side rendered app. That is the main reason we started migrating to NextJS. By that time, we had a frontend of good scale and migration had its own set of challenges. Specially, the social share images for pages - that is pretty important for us since players share these pages a lot while sharing their target scores!
 

What are some of the most essential tools that you use for your business?

There are a few tools we use.
 
  • Emails - We use SendInBlue for sending mails to our players.
  • Chat - Internally we chat on Telegram.
  • Analytics - we rely on Google Analytics.
  • MRR.io - We use MRR.io to keep a check on changes in revenue, churn and other numbers.
  • Chat forum - Discord is where our lovely community is ❤️
  • Discussion forum - Github discussions
 
Those are mostly it :)
 

What have been some of the biggest insights you've gained since starting your entrepreneurial journey?

1. Product development is actual very straightforward. Just build a good product that solves a problem. Get a few initial users. Listen to those initial users to keep building a roadmap for your product. Building for your users is the best way to grow!
 
2. Game, that too for developers, is difficult to charge for 😅 That is where we need to be the most creative. Searching for different avenues where there is potential to sell.
 
3. Being able to build software products is one of the biggest blessing you can have - you can build a global community with just a laptop sitting in any room in the world! I truly feel lucky!
 
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