Holger Sindbaek

Founder of Online Solitaire

Holger Sindbaek is a designer and developer from Copenhagen, Denmark. He’s the creator of Online Solitaire, a website that lets people play Klondike Solitaire, Spider Solitaire, and Freecell online for free. He’s managed to grow his website to $10.000 in monthly revenue, although he’s run the site as a side-hustle.

Where did the idea for Online Solitaire come from?

Reading Patrick McKenzies’ annual reports on his Bingo Card Creator, a side hustle that later grew into a legitimate business, initially motivated me to build something that would produce money while I was asleep. Seeing how he could take a simple (and, to be honest, not very original) product and turn it into a passive income left an impression on me.

I decided to do something similar since I didn’t want to “create” something unique, which is really difficult. I wanted to build a better version of a product that already existed.

I had some experience developing Mac applications, having created a rudimentary calculator, so I knew that the Mac App Store would be a place to start. I eventually wrote a script that scraped games from App Annie, an app store statistics site, and ranked apps based on the average rating, popularity, and income. Basically, I was seeking popular apps with low reviews and relatively high revenue.

I made an estimate of how much each app would earn and how difficult it would be to create. Based on that, I chose solitaire because it seemed to be a nice blend of all the features and there were several Solitaire programs available, such as Spider Solitaire and FreeCell.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I do a lot of different things during my day and it can be very hard to switch between writing, doing SEO work, coding, designing and so forth and still be productive. What really works for me is to treat my work as a blue-collar job. So I’ve made a conscious decision of sitting down at my computer from nine to five (or thereabouts), doing whatever needs to be done. It might not sound like much, but it keeps me from working late into the evening, which really messes with my daily rhythm. Having a daily rhythm really helps with sleeping well at night, which is crucial if you want to be productive continuously.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Whichever project I start, I know that the first thing I need is some kind of validation. I’ve done too many projects where I haven’t spent the time in the start to validating whether people actually wanted the product or not.

When commencing a new project I often get filled with energy and just want to get going, but I’ve learned from bitter experience that I need some sort of validation before I start.

If it does seem like there’s a need for whatever project I’m doing, I try to get an MVP of it up and running as soon as humanly possible, so I can get people to start using it from the very start. Getting feedback from people is crucial when developing a product and to get people to use your product it needs to exist, so getting an MVP up and running is a big priority.

What’s one trend that excites you?

AI finally seems to have come to a point where it’s beginning to be useful. It’s super interesting and somewhat scary. Lately, I’ve been trying some of the AI writers out there and they’re surprisingly good. I’ve tried them out in relation to writing a blog post. They’re not quite there yet, but very close.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

When I was younger I’d often work late nights on projects, which would lead me to sleep horribly and become very unproductive the day after. Now I’m in my thirties and I’ve kind of realized that projects are more like a marathon and less like a sprint and if you start sprinting in a marathon, there’s little chance that you’ll finish it.

It might be boring advice, but getting a good night’s sleep and forgetting about work when the day is over has been working wonders for me in relation to being continually productive.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Your first product or startup won’t make you a millionaire, but there’s no chance people will like what you’re doing unless you give it all you’ve got.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

It’s impossible to deliver 8 productive hours a day. I don’t know if nobody will agree on that, but employers certainly might and society seems to be set up like that.

On average, I think I do 4-6 hours of focused work each day, and the remaining hours I do things that demand less focus from me.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Physical activity! Run, work out, do team sports… anything really. Your brain won’t work optimally if you don’t take care of your body. Just going for a run (or a long walk) a couple of times a week will do wonders. Personally, it calms my nerves and stabilizes my whole system.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I don’t know if there’s one particular strategy that has helped me grow my business. I think in my case that it’s been a lot of small things that have helped grow the site. At the moment I’m focusing a lot on SEO (search engine optimization) since Google is such a massive driver of traffic.

Before I’ve started focusing on SEO, I spent a lot of time listening to my users and improving the site, which has helped a lot in retaining the people who come to my site.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I co-founded a startup with a friend in New York and worked on it for 3 years until we got out-competed, which was a really tough experience. Those 3 years were super hard and it took me some time to get on top again. I don’t regret having had that experience, but founding another startup is not something that I’m considering again.

Just after having had that experience is when I went back to the old solitaire game that I’d had as a small side-hustle throughout those 3 years. To get my mind off things, I decided to program the games again as a website, and I think that kind of helped me.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

People seem really fascinated when I tell them about how I’ve grown Online Solitaire to become so profitable as a site-hustle. I think there are a lot of programmers and designers out there that would love to have a side-hustle that would make them some money on the side (maybe just a few hundred dollars). There are already newsletters like SoftwareIdeas out there that find and analyze different business ideas and send them to your inbox. You’ll have to quit your job and go full time to make those ideas come to life though. I think there would be a market for a newsletter for programmers who are looking for side-hustle ideas.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Lumbar support for my office chair. It costs a lot less than $100, but even if it did cost $100, it would be worth every penny.

In general, when it comes to work, which is where I spend most of my waking hours, I don’t cheap out these days. It’s simply not worth it!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

A good to-do list is really what saves me the most time and gives me the best overview. I use the to-do list for Mac called Things, which I really love. It’s not a free one, but it’s so good that it doesn’t matter it costs money.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Scott Adams “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” left an impression on me. Scott is the guy who made the Dilbert comic strip and in it, he gives the story about how he came up with the comic and how he managed to make it a success. One thing I loved about it is how he described that being kind of ok at multiple things might lead you to be able to make something really great if those things can work together somehow. He comes off as a generalist, who’s really good at combining his different skills, which is what I’m aiming at as well.

What is your favorite quote?

“Vision without execution is just hallucination.” – Henry Ford

Key Learnings:

  • Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t work yourself into the ground.
  • Be picky about the ideas you pursue. Validate that there’s interest in your idea and think about the revenue model before you start.
  • Consider whether you’re the right person to execute the idea. Do you have the right combination of skills and insights that makes you better suited than most for that specific idea?