AJ is the founder of Carrd, a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that enables users to create simple and fully responsive one-page websites. He started designing and creating websites in 2012 and is based in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Despite the clear success of Carrd, AJ didn’t start thinking of himself as a founder until four years after his launch. Even now, he sees himself more as a maker than a business owner.
Carrd has grown significantly under AJ’s leadership. The platform has been used to create over 2.5 million sites and has generated over $1 million in annual recurring revenue. AJ’s work with Carrd demonstrates his commitment to providing valuable tools for web developers and designers.
Mike: Card is free (and paid) platform for easily building business and personal landing pages with loads of extra features as well. How are you seeing the tool platform being leveraged by customers and to what level of success?
AJ: In (almost) every conceivable way! When I set out to build Carrd, I wasn’t really targeting a specific audience or market beyond “people who need a basic one page website” so by design it’s pretty use-case neutral. That particular decision seems to have paid off, as Carrd has now grown to over 6M sites encompassing almost every use case, from simple “link-in-bio” sites to sophisticated landing pages and everything in between. This does present some development challenges, the most notable being the fact that supporting such a range of use cases prioritizes building features with broad appeal (as opposed to more niche ones). However, this approach has enabled us to reach a very diverse audience and opened up many opportunities for improving and growing the product, so that’s pretty exciting.
Mike: One article I read referred to you as the mysterious founder of Carrd. Are you mysterious?
AJ: Haha, if only! I’m not particularly active on social media so I guess that contributes to the perception, but that’s only because I make a conscious effort to limit my screen time to work (= a necessity given how easy it is for me to be distracted).
Mike: What makes Carrd different from sites like Wix? How do you differentiate?
AJ: As someone who actively avoids using competing products for a number of reasons (the biggest being a desire to solve for stuff truly from scratch vs. subconsciously importing solutions from elsewhere) I can’t speak to specifics. However, based on what users have described we’ve managed to maintain a level of approachability and ease of use that resonates with a lot of folks. I think much of this comes from the deliberate decision to prioritize simplicity over capability, which definitely makes the platform unsuitable for certain advanced use cases but offsets that by streamlining the experience for everything else. Beyond that, the fact that we’re a free product with a relatively affordable paid tier certainly helps us stand out.
Mike: With all business, online or not, there are challenges. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced with Carrd and how did you overcome them?
AJ: By far the biggest was figuring out how to transition a solo side project into a functioning, sustainable business run by a team. Having worked on Carrd by myself for a number of years, it was a challenge learning to “let go” of certain responsibilities and actually delegate tasks to other (way more qualified) people. Thankfully I’ve (mostly) made it to the other side of that transition and the product, business, and even my personal well-being is significantly better for it.
Mike: What is the secret to getting your product in front of enough users that it gains traction and takes off? We’ve all seen great products that just didn’t catch on for one reason or another.
AJ: Wish I could give a definitive answer, but the reality is what you alluded to — being a great product doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll succeed (and conversely, being a not-so-great product doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll fail either). I don’t think there’s really a single formula for success, but I do know you can do things to at least increase your odds, and IMO one of the most effective is to already have an audience. Thanks to my previous work on HTML5 UP (a side project where I designed and released free site templates) I had already grown a fairly decent audience on Twitter/X interested in web design/development stuff, so by the time I was ready to launch Carrd (a full-on site builder) I had a big headstart I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Mike: Do you have any other projects, side projects, or hobbies you are working on?
AJ: It’s funny, but after a literal decade of doing nothing but side projects, shockingly no. Carrd is my full time gig now (which is still sometimes hard to wrap my head around), but I seem to have acquired a number of non-screen/mostly outside hobbies so that balances things out nicely 🙂