Systematizing TinyPilot

Indie Hackers - April 22, 2021

Michael Lynch (@deliberatecoder)


  • How can I take a two-week vacation from TinyPilot?

Obstacle #1: Order fulfillment

  • All TinyPilot stock is in my house
  • My girlfriend is the fulfillment manager
    • She prints shipping labels, packs outgoing orders, schedules pickups

Obstacle #2: Stock replenishment

  • Two weeks can clear us out
    • A spike in sales can (and has) exhausted our inventory within two weeks
  • My girlfriend and I share responsibilities in reordering parts

Obstacle #3: Low bus factor

  • My girlfriend returns to grad school in June
    • Her availability shrinks to 5 hours per week
    • She currently works between 6 and 25 hours per week

Obstacle #4: Customer support

  • TinyPilot receives one to six customer support requests per day
  • I'm the only one who manages customer support

Finding a new assistant

Notable things about the job

  • Pay is $16/hr
    • Higher than other jobs in the area that require no degree
    • e.g., Subway pays cashiers $13-15/hr

Notable things about the job

  • Emphasis on non-monetary benefits
    • Flexible hours
    • Work with a growing “tech startup”

Sharing on Facebook

Sharing on Craigslist

Sharing Results

Channel Applications Interviews Hires
Personal connections 0 0 0
Local facebook groups 5 2 1
Craigslist 6 1 1

Application process

  1. Didn't follow instructions: archive email, no response
    • Filtered most candidates at this stage
  2. Not a good match on paper: Email response
  3. Strong candidate: Offer interview
  4. Good interview: Offer job

New employee training: start small

  1. Assemble power connectors
  2. Do functional testing of power connectors
  3. Assemble Voyagers
  4. Do functional testing of Voyagers

New employee training gotchas

  • Hard to create training manuals!
    • Took 5-8 hours of writing per task

Hiring “real” employees

  • Before this, I'd always hired contractors
    • Less paperwork
  • This role doesn't match IRS definition of contractor
  • Need to do tax withholding, provide legal notices, etc.

PEO Solutions

  • Professional Employer Organization
    • Do payroll, tax withholding, legal compliance
  • Got a few recommendations:

JustWorks as a PEO

  • JustWorks is okay so far
    • They keep asking me the same questions over and over
    • Keep trying to upsell me different services
    • They hide the fact that it takes 2 weeks to activate your account

Office space

Office space

Office space

  • 15-minute walk from my house
  • $550/month
    • Includes furniture and utilities

Leasing process

  • Only received a paper copy to sign
  • Asked a lawyer to review a week ago
    • Still waiting for results

The office timeline

  • Move processes in phases from my house to the office
  1. Product assembly
  2. Functional testing
  3. Pre-packing
  4. Fulfillment