In this episode #46, we are talking with Justin Duke, Founder of Buttondown (, a lightweight email app that can be used to create and distribute newsletters.

Justin shares his vision of launching a SaaS product. Why your Product Hunt or closed beta launch is never THE one and only. How every feature you add changes the product and adds to your launch cycle. He also talks about the journey of a solo-founder and how he structures work with contractors and aims for the business to ultimately grow to a much bigger company with a great culture. Justin also discusses the way he juggled his day job with building a startup and how he decided to go all-in with Buttondown.


(0:00:05) –  Building a Successful Business 

Justin Duke, the founder of Buttondown, an elegant tool for producing newsletters, talks about how he was working at Stripe and Amazon, and how his experience in big tech, learning how to work with large organizations and massive data sets, helped him to understand how to build a tool that works for him. He explains how he started building Buttondown on the weekends and the process of getting it to where it is today. Justin also talks about the importance of customer validation and how to balance caution with shipping quickly.

(0:11:51) – Marketing a SaaS Product 

Justin Duke, the founder of Buttondown, explains how he navigated working solo as a founder and the challenges he faced when learning different roles. He was able to target a specific niche of people who had the same use cases and pain points as himself but found it difficult to shift into marketing mode for users outside of that niche. Justin’s approach to marketing went against conventional wisdom but found success by creating long-form copy that resonates with users who have already tried out other platforms and want something different.

(0:25:55) – Culture and Growth Through Resource Allocation 

Justin Duke shares his journey of sourcing and onboarding contractors to help grow Buttondown. He talks about the challenges of finding the right people for the job in a competitive industry and the importance of leveraging his personal network. He also explains how he ensures that the team understands their roles and the overall goal of the company, and how he provides ownership and agency to the contractors he works with.

(0:33:52) – Motivation, Growth, and Customer Communication 

Justin Duke explains how growth is not an end goal for him, but a byproduct of building strong products that resonate with users. He believes that the bootstrap route provides a nice blend of incentives for him to focus on what’s best for his users. As his product has scaled, he has moved away from the YOLO approach and leaned into successful strategies from big companies. Justin shares his insights on product market fit and how to effectively reach out to customers and gain their insights. He stresses the importance of meeting users on their level, using plain-spoken language in communications, and avoiding the temptation of giving too much away.

(0:45:00) – Product Development and Team Expansion 

Justin Duke, the founder of Buttondown, managed to strike a balance between getting the product out to customers quickly and making decisions that would make it easy to continue working on the product in the future. The advantages of hiring a dedicated onboarding engineer to help with customer success were discussed, as well as how Justin had to overcome his own misgivings about the process. Justin shared his advice on how to approach product and marketing decisions from the perspective of a user and how to make sure your product works exactly as expected.

(0:51:22) – Craft and Authenticity in Saas Industry

Justin Duke, founder of Buttondown, shares how he prioritizes craft and authenticity in his product and journey as a founder. Striking a balance between getting the product out quickly and making decisions that would benefit the company in the long run, he emphasizes the importance of building strong products that people love. 

Head of Growth,