Shutting Down NavHere

It is hard to say goodbye

Posted by  on September 14th 2020 04:57 pm

So over the last few weeks and months, I have made the not-so-easy decision to shut down NavHere. It was a product both birthed and killed by a change to GoDaddy's domain forwarding service.

GoDaddy, for all it's faults had a really decent domain/link forwarding and masking product, and best of all it was FREE. This all changed in 2018 with a series of changes that eventually broke domain forwarding. If you forwarded your domain, you would lose your path, if you had link forwarding enabled, you couldn't forward the domain, and if you had domain masking, you would again, lose the path.

I had multiple domains utilizing this, and my buddy's Austin's domain stopped forwarding to his university professor page.

When we realized what happened, we built NavHere, a "highly available" (failover-able with floating IP, but not balanced), vanity domain and link forwarding service.

I built out the infrastructure on Digital Ocean

  • 1 web application server (for the domain administration)
  • 2 forwarding servers (1 primary - 1 failover with floating IP - and it was imaged so spinning up a new one took 30 seconds)
  • a 3-node cluster of database servers.

All together it only cost about $55/mo to host, so figuring I only need 10 signups a month to cover the cost, I went off to the GoDaddy support forums where everyone was complaining to start letting people know... and got banned ALMOST immediately. A handful of people did see those posts, though and were the first to sign up. A couple of them even PAID! I just KNEW I was on my way to a million dollars in ARR. Then silence.

A couple of weeks after launching, I decided to reach out to a former manager and sell them on it. I knew they were paying around $15k per month for a similar service, and secured an "SMS of Intent" from my former manager stating they would switch over to us providing we gave them an API to manage their domains and links.

Yes! Profitability here we come!

In the couple of weeks from that initial enthusiasm to when I finally secured and exposed the internal API, my former manager left the company. There had been a series layoffs, budget freezes, and an emphases on outsourcing. So even though NavHere would have saved them $162k/year, there was no one there who would/could approve it. Again back to square one. With only a few paying customers, and still losing around $40/mo (a tiny rounding error, no doubt, but still, a loss).

By the end of 2018, we had hundreds of free-trial users, and were serving 100s of thousands of forwarding requests each day. But we had only converted a few paying customers (it was in the low 10s of paying customers), and most of those sales were VERY hands on. I was having to explain DNS to small business owners who all they know is their GoDaddy stopped working. It would some times take over a week from when they first contacted to when they had finally set up their DNS records, and another week before they would set up their DNS records correctly, and all of that for only $9/year. It wasn't sustainable.

It wasn't fun.

And then, as quickly as they broke it, in mid 2019, GoDaddy decided they were tired of people complaining and fixed/reverted/whatever the breaking changes they made, and since then, we have not had a single new paying customer sign up (rightly so, I feel). And now, all but a couple of paying customers have left - I hope back to GoDaddy's free domain forwarding.

So with that, I have decided to shut down NavHere effective 2020-10-31.

I know I said it wasn't fun, but that is a lie. Anytime you build something that is useful to someone, it IS fun. What becomes less fun is the after-building part of running the business.

It was fun; it was exciting; but NavHere is no longer needed. And that is sad.

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