11th June 2021Hello 👋
This is the first blog post on TogetherDB, very exciting! I will write very transparently about the process of building this product but also about the business side. It will probably be one post per week - if you like to follow the journey you can subscribe here.
A quick introduction about me: My name is Michel and I started working on TogetherDB around 1 year ago. I am a software developer by trade and worked in startups and lately a larger company as a software architect, for a total of now 10 years. My greatest joy is creating useful and easy-to-use software products and over the years I have created around 30 of those in the evenings and weekends. Most never had a single user but I created a somewhat successfull online Russian dictionary that has 35,000 visitors each month and generates around $1,000 monthly in passive income while running on auto pilot.
I very much love freedom, that's also why I lived as a digital nomad for two years while traveling around the world, all over Asia and the Americas. Currently I live alternatingly half a year in Düsseldorf in Germany (family, friends and the beautiful summers!) and in Bangkok in Thailand (tropics! palm trees and fresh mangos!).
So - I work a lot with databases, of course, because for each project all the users' and the project's data needs to be saved somewhere. I always used MySQL Workbench and pgAdmin to construct, view and administrate the databases and I tried a few other tools as well. Don't get me wrong, they work well, but I always felt that they were kind of... uninspiring..?
Even the newer and more modern ones like TablePlus felt like there are no new ideas and there is so much that could be better. As a simple example, when I look at the sessions table and have a user_id column, why don't I directly see the users' email addresses here? It's a simple 1:1 relationship and it would help me so much to see this data. And why can't I quickly give an intern access to that database without having the hassle of firewall settings, "GRANT"s and explaining them how exactly to use that SQL-centric editor, especially which buttons in there not to press.
Then I stumbled across the beautiful AirTable and am a big fan of online databases ever since! That absolute ease when creating a table, when navigating the tables and changing the cell values, the super simple collaboration and everything feels so lightweight and fresh.
The downside of AirTable is that you can not use it to as your backend database because its API is capped at a super low limit. And you can't plug it in front of your own database. So people usually use it as "spreadsheet with column types" that you can collaborate on with your friends or your team.
So I decided that I want to merge the power of traditional databases (MySQL, Postgresql) with the ease of use and modern feel of AirTable and Excel. There are actually several angles of how to achieve this, for example I could create an online database similar to AirTable that gives you direct database access for your backend. I actually implemented this in part but threw it away to finally settle on building a modern, web-based alternative to PHPMyAdmin.
This now is the first step: Building a modern database management tool that feels as lightweight as AirTable! I will expand in the next post on all the ideas that I have to make the handling just suuuuper convenient.
I want TogetherDB to be a sustainable business - at least a lifestyle business that can sustain myself comfortably and allows me to work self-determined on a product I am passionate about. But I am open to growing it to wherever the ceiling is. I quit my job last year for this as well, to give it my full and only attention.
I knew that it would take at least a year to develop a database management tool that is superior to most existing tools on the market, that's why I decided to start out in a niche with a value proposition that is a subset of the final product: A web-based SaaS tool that companies can use to safely give database access to their non-IT employees. That way I just needed to implement read- and write- functionality but not all the admin features like specifying tables or columns. The collaboration and access management was quite a bit of work but it is a true USP (unique selling point) so I have something to stand out in the market.
And this is what exists now, a database access tool from the browser, with fine granular permission management and inviting others simply by their email address. The target group is mid-sized tech startups and we have a first customer happily using TogetherDB since 3 months already - here is the case study. Recently I had Hans join me part-time who is a great human being and a proven sales veteran and who will help getting the first 10 customers 🙏 That will give us a humble revenue base and I will burn through my savings slower while I implement the admin functionality so TogetherDB can become a true alternative for the traditional database tools.