The Brand Overflow Story

A story about how we started, survived and beat the odds.

Hi, I'm Ahmed!

I’m the founder and creator of Brand Overflow.

Who I am

proudly bornand raised in Pakistan, I have been professionally working online since the early age of 14.

Boundaries do exists, but no one can prevent knowledge from crossing them.

The internet literally shaped who I am today, and I am the living example of its global impact.

How I came to be

Initially coming from a design background, I taught myself how to code to the point of being obsessed by it. I have been eating, sleeping and breathing code for the last 14 years.

But more than a shelter, coding was a way for me to solve complex problems that usually required very expensive solutions I couldn’t afford at that time. Data analytics, scrapers, proxies, automation, I had to build my own for my everyday needs.

So naturally, it didn’t take too long before I began to solve problems for others, doing freelance development work that later bloomed into consultancy contracts.

Thencame SEO, the thing that made the most impact on my life and the business of my clients.

March 23 2019

An Idea 💡

SEO is by far the most cost effective and long term traffic acquisition channel that can make a real impact to a company’s bottom line.

The truth is, most marketers and businesses get lost in vanity metrics across a myriad of tools that they have to go through for one simple goal, traffic.

The Why.

Working in these corporate environments, I realized there was a huge gap in the market.

I wanted to bring SEO to the masses and finally allow SMB Marketers and Entrepreneurs alike to make informed decisions without overwhelming them with boring technicalities.

On the other hand, I wanted to equip pro SEOs with a powerful yet affordable set of tools without compromising on data accuracy.

A data platform that delivers growth.

June 5th 2019

Quitting my job

Me and my mom came to Pakistan in 2015 this is where I’ve been working since.

Salaries in Pakistan are lower compared to the Middle East and Hong Kong. Mine was good enough to live a great life in Pakistan. But quitting a cushy job in Pakistan is considered madness, specially when all you have to go in is an idea.

I was planning on starting my brainchild right here, in Pakistan. There’s no way I could afford Silicon Valley, I could make my savings last for some time and I had all the skills I’d need to get my project off the ground.

Everyone thought I was delusional.

August 29th 2019

The Scraper is Alive! ⚡

I had only around $5000 to live off of and invest in my startup. Clock was ticking fast.

The very first step was to develop the core scraping engine in a cost effective and scalable way.

After many weeks of tinkering and sleepless nights, I finally achieved what I wanted.

This stack gave the necessary financial room to expand development to other areas with the keyword tool, rank tracker, and user interface.

October 15th 2019

First 1000 Users ☀

What’s an MVP without beta testers??! I needed to find early users to take it out for a spin. Reddit was naturally the first place I turned to for feedback. The response was amazing and many of those users are still with us to this day!

The feedback I got helped me understand what people needed. Obviously there were bugs all over the place that needed to be fixed and it seriously lacked user experience. But all praised the rank tracker accuracy, so I knew I was on the right path.

Surely a working backend wasn’t going to cut it alone.

So I went back to the drawing board and flushed out 5 separate frontends over the next few months to test out different setups and frameworks.

November 21st 2019

Let the mistakes begin 💀

Now that I had a decent frontend and working backend, I integrated stripe for billing.

I just didn’t realize that I was doing my testing on Stripe production keys 😱 … which ultimately led to my main stripe account being disabled. 😭We were a few days away from Black Friday and I had no way to collect payments.Therefore I had to sit it out and resort to other platforms like BlackHatWorld (BHW) to get my first few customers during Black Friday.tl:dr – BHW didn’t work out as a sales channel after trying for 2 straight months.

  • Website wasn’t descriptive enough
  • Logo design was confusing people
  • USP and Offering was not enough
  • Price was too low – so people thought it was going to be a rip-off.
  • Feature naming was all wrong
  • App design was horrible (now I was being compared to the top dogs and not being looked at as a newcomer/startup that’s why)

After 2 months and a 600$ yearly subscription for that BHW membership, I got only 3 customers… Barely broke even on the membership cost actually.

January 1st 2020

Hunted!

I got in touch with Kevin, who’s a top hunter at ProductHunt to hunt BrandOverflow for me. He was kind enough to help me hunt!

This was the first good thing to happen to me in a very long time!

https://www.producthunt.com/@kevin

January 5th 2020

Almost bankrupt 😥!

ProductHunt had resulted in no sales despite me being the #4 product that day.

It was Mid-January, I barely had any money to live off and I’ll never forget the dread me my mom felt that entire month – not knowing where we’re going to get enough to pay for rent or food.

Even though I had the most financially sound and quality scraper – server costs still do exist – paying up to 700$/month for the last 4 months had put me in a hole.

I had absolutely no options to get a loan in my country or any friends that would be able to loan me any cash. I’ve been on my own since the start and this wasn’t any different.

It was quite literally do or die.

January 11th 2020

First Lifetime Deal

The very first lifetime deal I ever did was on ByPeople. This deal didn’t generate a lot of revenue but it did introduce me to a new revenue source – lifetime deals!

ByPeople Deal

January 19th 2020

Trying to re-ignite MRR

I had earned $1500 during the lifetime deal from bypeople.com – after which I started promoting the lifetime deal myself which earned me a cool $6500.

With $8000 I had decided that I’d run Ads (several platforms) to get immediate exposure as well as some other tricks that I had developed myself.

After spending around 6000$ from what I had earned I realized that even at this point I had a huge lack of features that people expect from a SEO platform….I had some huge customers turn off their subscriptions after the first month because we weren’t there yet.

I could reach the right customers – but not able to sell them something so incomplete.

January 25th 2020

Stack Social + Freelancing

While this early Lifetime Deal launch was a moderate success, I was again running low on cash and I needed to get more exposure to a bigger audience to fund the startup.

People weren’t ready to pay a monthly subscription yet and the product needed further development, but there wasn’t any time – nor money – left.

Stack Social

They’ll always have a special place in my heart. They came in at a time when I was on my last breath. A deal had been locked and scheduled to be live in February. There was one catch – I would only get paid 60 days after each sale (the refund period).

I wasn’t out of the woods yet. I made sure my app was running fine and that all the new features/UI was working as expected.

Nevertheless, I still had to do some freelance work on the side while watching the sales go up.

1st Feb 2020

Let the stress begin

During these 2 months I was working on both sides for at least 6 hours each. My stress levels were reaching peaks that I had never experienced before.

My happiness was that I’d be able to eat and keep my baby from going under. Hunger is the greatest motivator, I wrote such resilient and sound code that I impressed myself – I was breaking my own limits.

19th March 2020

My First Press Coverage

Thanks to Stack Social my startup was being seen by people, the very first video review I got, was from Alston Antony. I was overwhelmed by emotions, with all that had been going on, I never would have imagined my product being reviewed on Youtube.

Brand Overflow was being featured on Youtube as well as respected publications as well! I was over the moon!

Brand Overflow on Saas Pirate

22nd July 2020

First Enterprise Customers

Thanks to all the press coverage I was able to land my first enterprise customers that only required API access to the system and not the dashboard and with huge limits, such as 500k on-demand keyword rankings per day in 10 different countries at the same time which is around 5million operations/day.

From 5 customers I was able to lock in 1 year contracts valued over $30,000

This wasn’t the recurring revenue I was aiming for but it was definitely a step in the right direction as AHREFs and other reputable SEO platforms do offer enterprise APIs as well to huge clients.

25th July 2020

The rise

Thanks to my freelance work I was able to :

I just didn’t realize that I was doing my testing on Stripe production keys 😱 … which ultimately led to my main stripe account being disabled. 😭We were a few days away from Black Friday and I had no way to collect payments.Therefore I had to sit it out and resort to other platforms like BlackHatWorld (BHW) to get my first few customers during Black Friday.tl:dr – BHW didn’t work out as a sales channel after trying for 2 straight months.

  • Pay my credit card bills
  • Pay Server bills
  • Run my household
  • With around $40k left over.

The StackSocial deal had ended and I was starting to receive my earnings from there as well! I continued the lifetime deal with my own efforts to raise capital for real growth, I reinvested everything I had while working on more features for the platform and it’s backend scalability.

At this time I was a marketer, live support, sales, frontend, backend, devops, designer, content guy – the pressure was even more than before!

5th August 2020

Let's grow a bit.

My efforts had paid off.

  • Stack Social – $28k in sales
  • My Lifetime Campaign : $40k in sales

Only with PR, reviews and word of mouth. My marketing efforts finally started giving me a significant return on my marketing strategies.

With some cash in my pockets I started my office in a coworking space and begun hiring my first employees to allow me greater focus on sales operations and development.

At this point, it was about running the business. Lead, delegate and scale fast.

11th August 2020

The Hiring Rule

My one and only rule regarding hiring was that I’ll only hire people when I’m able to support their salaries for at least a year.

With the uncertainty that comes with a startup, I wanted to hire and train young sharks that are hungry for the right opportunity.

This would put me under extra pressure and delay the output of the team – it’s against every founder book I’ve ever read.

I wanted to give my people opportunities :

  • Hire young and ambitious employees
  • NEVER require a degree
  • Always give 3-4 months time to learn and apply
  • Always pay above market average salary, even at fresh/internship levels

When I started my first job in Pakistan my salary was 318$/month. Before that my last salary in Hong Kong was $7800/month.

I wanted to instill a real company culture and embody the change as an entrepreneur in my country. That’s how you create the wealth of a Nation.

Pakistan overflows with talent. Having so many skilled engineers there was also another reason to stay in Pakistan to maintain competitiveness.

6th September 2020

First Interview!

As a startup from Pakistan I always wanted to be interviewed in my country first before anywhere else. This is where I met Mutaher Khan who was gracious enough to interview me for the first time in my founder life.

8th September 2020

DigitalThink Launch

Here’s where I met Mohammad Ali via users that I gained from stacksocial, they urged me to run a campaign on DigitalThink – this turned out to be an amazing experience!

This was the first time I ever went on live stream and boy, was it fun! Interacting with customers via live stream was the best thing ever, I could answer questions faster, explain my platform and vision alot better!

15th September 2020

Paypal Banned Us!

Hardly one week into a two week sale, our paypal was disabled permanently without any way to get it back.

There were tons of queries by users not being able to pay via paypal that had no other option of payment – we were losing sales.

Not only did I lose the ability to take payments but all of the earnings were stuck inside a paypal account with a 90 day hold!

I had to pause the deal because on the 25th September because I had no solution to the problem.

I had generated $42,000 in sales via DigitalThink at this point even with a huge mishap of paypal.

During this deal I was super overloaded with dev, design, livechat, frontend, backend, devops and 3x scaling up of the infrastructure.

I became We.

My months of hard work and insane levels of stress was finally paying off, my team had learned enough to be a part of Brand Overflow’s life at this point, my story had now transformed into our story.

Together, they re-created the main website, took over live support and started preparing themselves for all the big challenges in the future.

Watching them learn and grow has been the best part of my journey as a founder!

Sidra Rafi Fafri
Muhammad Usman Ghani

Digtal Think Again!

I had made a promise that I’d be back to resume the deal for people that had missed out, and so I was back to resume the deal after getting Paddle integrated!

And this time around, I did many more live stream sessions with Mohammad Ali – because I had a team behind me!

We ran a flash deal to close the lifetime deal at DigitalThink from 25th Nov till 1st Dec. The deal was special because there was a 20% off discount.We earned another $40,000 thanks to the fantastic campaign that Mohammad Ali orchestrated in his group!

DigitalThink LifetimeDeal Group

10st December 2020

Featured on HubSpot!

We grew in marketing because of HubSpot, we never would’ve thought that one day our keyword tool would be mentioned in an article on the HubSpot Blog!

An incredibly humbling and joyous moment for us, they mentioned us in their post where they are talking about the most expensive keywords on ppc and the tools they used to find them.

Brand Overflow next to Semrush and Ahrefs on Hubspot blog is really mindblowing on its own!

Community Love❤️

We’re blessed to have great users spread the word about us and our features through out facebook during our entire year’s campaign to survive. This is the the most any startup can ask for and we’re so thankful for each and every early-adopter that took a chance on us. We thank you and love you!

31st December 2020

The Final Stretch

After finishing the DigitalThink campaign and the discontinuing exclusive discount, we reinvested some of the money we had earned into our own marketing efforts for a final blow out sale that would last the entirety of December. It was not going to be easy because we were not offering that 20% off discount anymore, we still marched ahead!

Our motto was never again, we would never run a lifetime deal again for Brand Overflow after this year ends.

We gave it all we had and as a team we were able to earn an extra $35,000 in the 30-day campaign. During this campaign we had several surprises, one of which was a last minute in-depth review by Arman Mazaheri – it was so in-depth and explained each of our features so well that it got us alot of attention!

25th January 2021

$10,000+ in fraud!

Every business has to deal with fraudulent transactions at some point, we learned this the hard way.

We discovered there were some fraudulent transactions that were made with stolen credit cards and also attempts were made to resell those accounts. 🤬

We managed to close down those accounts but we still took the loss in funds.

15th March 2021

$40,000+ affiliate payouts!

From the day we started working with partners in Jan 2020 till 15th March we had paid out over $40,000 in affiliate commissions to fantastic partners, that helped us gain the momentum we need in order to succeed.

15th June 2021

We shifted our office.

On June 15th, 2021, we lost our office because the entire building was suddenly ordered to be demolished. 😰 Since then we started working from home, never missed a target and kept fighting for Brand Overflow and getting the updates out, fixing all the bugs that kept coming in while getting the new features ready. We lost the place where Brand Overflow started, it didn't only hurt us emotionally but financially as well. We never gave up, with SEVERAL other mishaps that we faced along our journey, this was the absolute biggest one.

In those 10 days I spent 12 hours in office construction/preparation and 4 hours at home doing backend code to make sure that LTD upgrades would be out on time. On July 5th, 2021, the entire construction/preparation of the new office was not only completed but the entire team FINALLY came back to the office so that we can work in the same place.

This company's legacy is built on my core values, I'm a survivor and gone through hell and back to keep this dream alive. Nothing broke me. Instead of coming with delays and excuses I come with a win and a huge freaking smile on my face, EVERYTIME. 💪