I'm a programmer/entreprenuer who founded PriceBlink.com. We offer a browser add-on that finds lower prices and coupons when you're shopping and stays hidden otherwise. The business originally started as a side project, but 15 months ago I jumped in with both feet and left my day job. Earlier today, we were featured on the "Get Appy" segment of the Today Show.

Ask me (almost) anything :)

Today Show Clip

Verification: https://twitter.com/priceblink/status/292422390133182465

Comments: 100 • Responses: 38  • Date: 

Madblood17 karma

No question, but have an upvote and a thank you. I use the PriceBlink Chrome extension, and it has saved me a few dollars. I really like how unobtrusive it is, too.

flashcfm9 karma

You're very welcome. And thank you too for taking the time to share your feedback.

grant02 karma

On the topic of feedback: is this a US-only thing? Nowhere in the website or FAQ does it mention any geographical limitations at all but your sample websites seem to be primarily American…

flashcfm3 karma

Hey, thanks for asking! Yes, it is US only and I guess we could do a better job of letting you know that. We try to make that apparent on our download pages. Like on Chrome Web Store:


We have:

"PriceBlink Currently SUPPORTS US RETAILERS ONLY (We will be adding additional markets in the future)."

But it doesn't necessarily jump out at you.

burdalane7 karma

How did you make people aware of your website and get your initial customers? As the site grows, how do you scale your architecture?

flashcfm8 karma

Great question. We had an advantage of being one of the first to market with a shopping add-on. First of all, we had a solid product that our initial customers loved. With solid reviews on addons.mozilla.org and the chrome webstore, we started being featured more prominently on the add-on marketplaces. You really have to wake up every morning and think "what can I do/who can I talk to in order to get another customer?" Lifehacker ended up picking us as one of their Top 10 Must Have Browser Extensions which gave us our first big boost.

Regarding scaling....I've spent the past decade working with various cloud architectures. Everything we did was cloud based. I remember the days in previous startups where we would have to buy more servers and physically install them to scale. It was a nightmare. Services like Amazon EC2, RackSpace, RightScale have been a tremendous help for our business. As long as you have your software architecture right then dynamically scaling really becomes an afterthought. These services allow you to horizontally scale your application in a matter of minutes.

Now don't take this as we haven't had our own scaling problems, but I'm just sharing some of the things we've learned over the past 15 months.

burdalane1 karma

Thanks! I'm working on a side project that I would classify as a social restaurant rating website. It's going to have somewhat different features and functionality from existing sites, but there are already a lot of big players in the market.

flashcfm1 karma

Awesome and best of luck! You can always feel free to PM me if you have questions about scaling in the future. And if you have questions about scaling then that's a good thing.

thedevilsmilkman5 karma


flashcfm1 karma

That's music to my ears, especially the PHP part! We're big PHP fans at PriceBlink so I'll keep that in mind. Thanks.

thedevilsmilkman1 karma


thedevilsmilkman2 karma


flashcfm1 karma

Thank you! It's greatly appreciated and I'm glad to know PriceBlink is helping you save money.

thomasmeadia4 karma

How do you find the motivation to work from home (assuming you did, at least initially) when there are so many distractions?

As a part of my current job, I have the opportunity to work from home, but always come into work as I end up 'half working' and distracted if I'm not in an office environment.

Did you struggle with this? How did you keep yourself on target and focusing?

flashcfm8 karma

It was easy since I had a mortgage and 4 mouths to feed. Seriously though, I think the key is to treat this like any other job. You have an office space in your house or offsite, and you get dressed in the morning and go to work at a certain time. If you are really pumped about your idea, you will find it hard to pull away from the job because you want to see it succeed so badly.

stephengarn7802 karma

Is it just products that sell online that you provide this service or do you also provide prices for in-store as well? if not you owe me for that idea.

flashcfm2 karma

We have thought about that idea. The challenge is not in building the feature into the toolbar, but rather in getting the dataset to display for users.

watto111072 karma

I have been working at a small start up for over 2 years now. Nothing really developed and things got bad. Owner resized the company in terms of man power and I luckily was not part of that reorganization. His mentality was that you can't quit, that our product will be successful, we just haven't been doing something right, and it can easily change into the right direction. When he told me this my feelings about the product had been completely reenergized and I have a lot more faith in the product being successful.

I'm asking out of curiosity and to hear another perspective. At what point do you know if your product is going to be successful or fail (lets say in years)? The obvious answer its failing because its not bringing in any money. But if it is failing, is there a mentality that you can't quit no matter what? That you need to keep working on it because you will finally think of the idea, or do something that makes your product work? Or if it is failing you just need to let it go and start with something different and new?

By the way, priceblink is a really cool product. I came across it when I was looking to add some stuff to chrome. When I saw it, I immediately said, "oh wow, what a brilliant idea!". It's been quite useful in helping me save money. I always thought that if anyone would have made something like this, Retail Me Not would have been the first to do it.

flashcfm5 karma

This is my favorite question so far as it's one that I've struggled with in past ventures. Here's my take:

  • As an entrepreneur, you absolutely must be 100% committed to success so you can deal with the inevitable setbacks. You have to be of the mindset that you can overcome any obstacle...that the breakthrough is just around the corner if you just keep trying things.
  • What you're looking for along the way is key markers of validation. For PriceBlink as soon as we built the beta version, I realized that whenever I was shopping without it, I felt anxiety -- sort of like driving without a seatbelt. I knew then that we had created something special. Then when we started getting users, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. At that point we knew that it was just a matter of getting our product in front of more shoppers.
  • As a responsible parent/spouse, you also can't drag your family into financial ruin. Personally, what I did when I started out was to agree with my wife on some milestones. We're willing to go x time without a paycheck. We're willing to spend $X of our savings. I recommend doing this ahead of time, because once you're in the thick of things, it's very difficult to objectively make these sorts of decisions.
  • Now obviously, some ideas just turn out to be dead ends. Throwing in the towel is extremely difficult. If you have external investors, they'll tell you when they're done, but if you don't, here are some signs that you might need to cut bait: you can't find/keep a group (even a small group) of profitable customers; you don't have any new ideas for how to change your venture's trajectory; you start to dread going into work each day; given your metrics to-date, you can't come up with an economic model that can support the business (i.e. if you can't make money on a single customer, all the volume in the world isn't going to make a difference).

Hope that helps. Best of luck with your venture.

cynikalAhole992 karma

Congrats! Did you code this yourself or with friends or contract out the idea for programming and development to a 3rd party while retaining the intellectual/property rights? I've had ideas but don't know programming enough but this sounds bigger then a one person thing.

flashcfm2 karma

A majority I did myself, but my two biz partners are very technically savvy and contributed a fair amount. There are bits and pieces we've had to outsource, but at all times we maintained IP rights.

My advice is don't let your ideas hold you back...especially if you feel strongly about them and you're not a programmer. You can find all sorts of contractors on sites like odesk, elance, and rentacoder at reasonable rates. At some point you'll want a technical cofounder to help manage and guide development, but until that point you can get a product launched and get market validation pretty quickly.

-atheos2 karma

What advice would you have for the transition from "regular job" to the uncertainty of entrepreneurship? I'm currently in the position of building my business, but in no way is it financially viable for me to leave my regular job to pursue my business. I feel like I'm in a catch 22 because the job that pays the bills is demanding enough that I'm unable to focus on my business enough, but if leave that job I certainly wouldn't be able to focus on the business either.

I feel stuck and it sucks!

TL;DR Im poor so can't quit my job to pursue my dream, feel locked in. Wah, cry, Wah.

flashcfm2 karma

I think this is one of the toughest quesitons about entreprenuership, especially if you are not 22 years old and can couch surf at your friends' houses and eat Ramen noodles while your business starts up.  

The first issue you need to address is how much do you really need to spend both personally to live and to start up the business.  Obviously if you don't have savings built up already it is going to be a lot harder to get started right away.  

Have you thought about taking on a partner?   If your startup business is a really good idea you should be able to convince others of the merits of your business.   Your partner could be a co-founder who is going to help you with the work, or maybe they are a financial partner and can help fund the business startup.  Either way, having a partner will make things a lot more easy when you are stressed out about your company, and will also provide you with a sounding board for your ideas.  You can blow off steam with them about the challenges / problems you face (and save yourself from having to pay for a psychologist).    Maybe you have to share some of the success of your startup, but 50% of something is way better than 100% of nothing.  

If you're not quite ready to jump, figure out what you need to do get your business to the point where you're comfortable jumping ship. It could be "generate $X revenue/month" or "build a beta version and get some initial positive customer feedback." Then, spend every spare hour working like mad to get to that point. The key is to start working on your idea somehow, someway. The fact that you need your job is perfectly understandable, however the key to being an entrepreneur is figuring out how to get the ball rolling. Bring in other people to help you realize your business.

LoLeRcAkEs312 karma

First off congrats. Second off, any tips to people who are looking to start a startup?

flashcfm2 karma

Thanks. Assuming you don't already have a business in mind, here are some suggestions:

  • Write down all your business ideas whenever you have them. I keep a list inside my to-do manager.
  • Solve a problem that you can relate to. My partners and I are all frequent online shoppers who obsess over finding the best deal when we buy. PriceBlink was a solution to a problem we were intimately familiar with -- having to look up prices, search for coupons, and browse reviews.
  • Try to learn about as many businesses as you can and think about where the business opportunities might lie. Every time I see something new I tend to think about the business angle -- how could you make money in this market.
  • Talk to people about your ideas. Get feedback & advice. Make sure you're not the only one who thinks its a great idea. Keep in mind, your closest friends may not be your target customers, so make sure you talk to the right people.

Unlimited_Chainsaw2 karma

Can I work for you? I don't know anything relevant to your business, but I can make a mean pizza.

flashcfm2 karma

Chicago or New York Style?

Unlimited_Chainsaw3 karma

Chicago! (Born and raised, baby)

flashcfm3 karma

All I can say is if your pizza is anything like Pizzeria Uno's then we may have to consider.

AintNoFortunateSon2 karma

How do you make money?

flashcfm6 karma

For some retailers we get paid with affiliate commissions, but we do not use that as a determining factor in which retailers to include. We attempt to provide the broadest coverage of retailers possible irrespective of whether we are paid or not.

Mrkingofstuff2 karma

How would you compare your life as an entrepreneur working for yourself compared to working full-time for somebody else? Is it worth the stress and the personal liability?

flashcfm2 karma

It's absolutely been worth it.  There are definitely challenges -- lots of work for not much pay (at least early on) and when things go wrong I'm almost always involved with the resulting fire drills.

On the other hand, the freedom you have with your own company is easy to get used to.  If I come up with a great idea, I can literally drop everything and get cracking on it.  Working for a big company, you have to pitch your idea over and over to so many different stakeholders. Consequently, most ideas never go anywhere.

andy246012 karma

How much money have/do you pay to Microsoft?

flashcfm4 karma

Pay Microsoft? $0. They should pay us for the difficultly of developing an add-on for Internet Explorer. From, a technical perspective that was one of the most time consuming things that we did. I know of several addons that gave up or choose not to develop for IE because of the challenges. It is unfortunate because it means that IE users don't have the same opportunities as users of other browser platforms.

TheZetetics1 karma


flashcfm1 karma

We draw our price results from over 11,000 merchants, most of which are on the small-independent side. We show all the results (unfiltered) sorted by price and let our users decide which retailer works best for them.

AnalBruising1 karma

Looks great, WELL DONE!

From your data what is the most likely time people are buying stuff? Do you have plans to make it work for sites outside the USA?

flashcfm2 karma

Afternoon through mid-evening is the busiest time. You'd be amazed at how much shopping is done during the work day -- kind of like redditing.

stuckinhyperdrive1 karma

1) How long did it take you to build up the courage to quit your job and focus on your startup?

2) How'd the family take it?

3) Honest opinion: Is there still a place for non-tech marketing people in startups? It seems more and more often that they are merely replaceable cogs rather than important building blocks in any business.

flashcfm1 karma

  1. It took a while (see my comment regarding mortgage + 4 mouths to feed)
  2. My wife is very supportive. Obviously she wanted to know that we weren't going to go broke, but she sees how much happier I am now. Because I can move my work around to suit my schedule, I can do more things with my kids now.
  3. Definitely. I've always said that the two most important people in a company are the person who makes it and the person who sells (markets) it. Getting customers is so important and believe me, it doesn't happen by itself.

ProcrastinatingHero1 karma

How do you find the deals? Do you search for them manually, contact people or do you have a program which does it automatically? Also, how do you earn enough money to survive? (Not trying to be mean here, your webpage design looks sliiightly sketchy but the idea sounds good! I'll give it a try when I move to the U.S. this summer :D )

flashcfm0 karma

PriceBlink gets its prices from over 11,000 merchants. It's not a manual process. Re: your 2nd question -- we've had hundreds of thousands of users install our add-on.

TheZetetics1 karma


flashcfm1 karma

PM me the URL of the product you were looking at and I'll take a look at it. Thanks.

TheZetetics1 karma


flashcfm2 karma

Thanks. Should be fixed now. Turns out those 2 items actually have slightly different UPCs, which is why the add-on didn't make the match.

kurds_way1 karma

Hey, cool product, congrats!

flashcfm1 karma

Thank you very much. If you ever have any product suggestions we'd love to hear them.

zodar2 karma

I just installed this extension and it is amazing; I found a great new price on a monitor I've been looking at for several weeks. If I could offer one product suggestion, it would be to find some way to give me the monitor for free. Or, like, a free monitor, and then they give me money. And a robot arm that shoots donuts. Amen.

flashcfm2 karma

Thanks and glad you got a good deal on your monitor. Robot donut arm? That's funny. I'd love one that shoots donut holes into my mouth from 50ft away, while I'm sitting at my desk.

bhalp11 karma

Can you talk about your production stack? Where are you located? What kind of investments have you gotten?

I am starting a business of my own with a website and I love every bit of info.

flashcfm1 karma

I am very fond of the LAMP stack. LMGTFY



I used to do a lot of Ruby on Rails so that's another good stack to consider. It allows you to get your idea up and running quickly, assuming you're familiar with the programming environment. Check out Rails Scaffolds for a great way to model your data quickly with minimal effort. The tough thing about Rails is that is can be hard to scale. At a previous startup we did a lot of with nginx and Phusion Passenger, after we outgrew Mongrels.

Right now we're all LAMP just because it's a stack we're very familiar with and if we need to bring in outside resources it's generally easier to find good PHP devs than Rails devs.

I'm located in Austin, TX and have business partners on both the east and west coast. So we have most US timezones covered :)

Regarding investment capital... we are a bootstrapped business, but have been approached by various investors. I personally have been involved with a couple of VC funded businesses and it's a whole different ball game. At one startup we raised $11 MM in capital and things got ugly pretty quick. We brought on a bunch of executive level management hires and got way too top heavy. Shareholders got diluted (including myself) and morale went way down. I'm not saying that VC funded (or even Angel funded) businesses can't become successful, but it tends to change the dynamics within the company. You're no longer accountable to just your customers & coworkers.

bhalp10 karma

Thanks. I am already working in rails and fond of it myself, but I taught myself Ruby and the RoR, so at this point I don't know much else, so I love asking people what they are dealing with. I just yesterday deployed the website online for the first time and my plan has been to quickly become attractive to outside money, but I like the idea of exploring all the possible options.

flashcfm1 karma

Congrats on your first deployment! Now I gotta ask was it done with Capistrano??? Don't rush to bring in outside money. See how you can efficiently do market validation without burning through a bunch of time and money. Read The Lean Startup if you haven't already. Some great info about MVPs and validated learning.

h8r1231 karma

Are there any copycats of your product?

flashcfm2 karma

Yes, we've seen a few crop up with various bits of what we do, but we're a small and nimble business so we're working hard to innovate and stay ahead of the competition. We were early to the game and are one of the leading shopping add-ons in Chrome Web Store and Mozilla Add-on Marketplace.

dexigo1 karma

what was the first two week like from when yo had the idea?

flashcfm2 karma

The two most exciting parts of a business are when a) you first have an idea and b) when you launch your product / business. The greatest part about when you first come up with an idea is that the world is limitless. You are primary focused on what you want to build for users / customers without the nitty gritty of all the things needed to get your business off the ground. Ideas are the fun part, what comes next is the tough part (coming up with spec documents, a business plan, figuring out resources, negotiating agreements, etc...). In the first two weeks, if you aren't totally excited about your business to the point that you don't wake up thinking about it, you might want to reconsider whether you want to move forward. There will be a lot of long days ahead, and you need to be able to draw on that reservoir of excitement that inspired you in the first place.

Splooge_Bob1 karma

No Question. Just wanted to Say Congrats!

flashcfm1 karma

Hey, thanks a ton. It's much appreciated :) I failed to mention in those 15 months there were a lot of sleepless nights and busy weekends, but it's been worth the effort.

Rudebrazen1 karma

What has been your biggest challenge so far (that you're willing to divulge)?

flashcfm2 karma

I think the challenge for most startups is getting consumers aware of your product. There are certainly a myriad of technical and business challenges that startups typically face, but those are within your control, and usually you feel like you can solve those issues. When it comes to getting new customers, it can be challenging especially if you are a not a company with deep pockets to spend on advertising. People who have used PriceBlink find it to be very useful, but there is a huge market of individuals who have never even heard of PriceBlink. The first challenge we face is building awareness. Fortunately, we have have some success with user referrals but that takes time.

Ilovebobbysinger1 karma

What computer do you use? How do you keep it secure? :)

flashcfm2 karma

For starters, I always use the password "password" :) But seriously, I use a MacBook Pro to do all my programming and design. I used to run a Linux desktop, but didn't have all the tools I needed. Generally, Mac (Unix based) and Linux computers are more secure than Windows machines so I don't run into a lot of problems related to viruses and malware. One thing I've used for the past couple of years to keep me from using the same password over and over is a browser extension called LastPass. You should check it out if you haven't already.

Timeriot1 karma

Saw this AMA, tried to download it from your website (just disappeared after attempting to download) and directly from the chrome store, which gave me an error "download was not a CRX"


flashcfm1 karma

It sounds like you somehow got the wrong file type (which makes no sense if you went directly to the chrome webstore). In any case, if you could contact our support department at [email protected], we will be more than happy to work thru any issues that you have. Mention that you posted this issue on reddit. I let the person in charge of support know of your issue and he will get you squared away.

bijan_1 karma

Really insightful to read all your advice to other entrepreneurs.

Currently, I'm in a situation that is similar to where you were in the past. I have a day job, but we've founded a new company called PriceWaiter that actually has a lot of similarities to PriceBlink.

We're getting to the point where we've built a bulletproof product, and are starting to sell strongly. Hoping to shift to this new business fulltime soon.

Anyway, thanks for all the insight!

flashcfm1 karma

Congratulations. And good luck!

leodoestheopposite1 karma

If a user navigates to Site A, where there's an Affiliate Link to let's say Amazon, clicks on the link going to the Amazon page. Your widget shops up, but the user, without clicking on any of your links, decides to buy from Amazon, who gets the Affiliate commission Site A or PriceBlink?

TL;DR: Do you override Affiliate commission?

flashcfm1 karma

Nope. That wouldn't be right. Unfortunately, others in our industry don't always follow the same rules.

karmaisourfriend1 karma

I just used this last night. Thanks!!

flashcfm1 karma

Glad that you like it. Our goal is always to make our customers happy.

DinoczarDotCom1 karma

This seems very similar to http://www.joinhoney.com/, another site/extension I found thanks to Reddit.

flashcfm3 karma

Those guys have an interesting product and are off to a good start. A couple of differences:

  • PriceBlink displays coupons, but it also does price comparisons and lets you know how a product was rated at other stores.
  • Right now PriceBlink supports coupons on over 7,000 different merchants vs. the 100 or so that Honey supports.
  • We actually think it's important to show the coupons to our users (vs. just applying them in he cart). Often there are discount coupons that are subject to some minimum -- say "Free Shipping on Any Order $40+" If you have $38 in your cart and are staring at $10 in shipping charges, you might like to know that.

oskarkush0 karma

I love that extension! I just built a htpc, and it definitely helped automate the bargain hunting on components. It's always one of the first things I add to a new browser. Thanks op, and here's an upvote! p.s. dogs or cats?

flashcfm0 karma

Congrats on your HTPC and glad PriceBlink helped you along the way! Dogs or cats? 2 dogs and 1 cat (belongs to the wife). I try to claim the cat, but he just ignores me and hangs out with the wife. Here's a video that sums up the pet experience in our house: