180 days of growth — from 0 to $146k revenue without any funding
188 days ago we launched the first version of Postpace and started our beta period. Instead of a free beta access, we decided to sell our subscription with a single payment offer.
Our goal was very humble, we wanted to onboard a few hundred customers who will help us with feedback and help generate some pre-seed money.
As a fully bootstrapped business so far, we consider our customers as our investors. And from the beginning we set our mindset to listen to each and every customer’s problem and develop accordingly.
Even though we have a grand vision of building a productivity platform for content teams with end-to-end workflow automations, we started with one single feature.
It was nerve-wracking to launch in a crowded market of search engine optimisation and content research tools with just a single feature but we took inspiration from Reid Hoffman. We were mortally embarrassed to launch so early but today, I’m super proud to overcome that fear.
As founders, we have a very unique background and our challenges are different from most SaaS founders. My motivation to write this and all future articles is to share our journey of building a global SaaS company (both wins and failures) in a very transparent manner.
So, without further ado, let’s start 😀
- It is easy to procrastinate on perfectionism and R&D but it is profitable to launch super early. Customers are people like you and me and they are way too forgiving than we perceive.
- Validation of revenue model is equally important as validation of idea, especially for SaaS. Opting for a recurring payment is a bigger commitment for customers than what we think as founders.
- First version should always be technologically lean. Utilising no-code tools or APIs reduces the risk.
- Product management is a must-have expertise for both technical and business founders. It helps you listen to your customer and protect you from building the wrong product.
- Today there is no shortage of communities, thanks to Product Hunt, Reddit, Facebook and Linkedin. The trick is to launch over and over in every possible community.
- Targeting enterprises in early days is a waste of time.
Okay, now that you have been reading the intro, let’s start with the numbers. First I would like to clarify that 95% of our $146,000 revenue is from the single payment offer we launched. Our monthly recurring revenue is still very low, only at $250 from 9 recurring customers.
So after 180 days of launching our first version, our:
Total revenue is $146,000
Total customer is 1345
Monthly recurring revenue is $250
Total unique visit to our landing page is 45,000
Total user signup is 4000
Capterra review is total 72 with a score of 4.7/5
Number of Facebook group member is 650
Number of update and feature released during beta is 5
Now let’s start from the beginning
We are two founders working full time and remotely. We have been friends since our university days and in the past 10 years, we have launched several SaaS businesses together. We share complementary skills of business development & engineering.
In another life, we launched and grew a software as a service (SaaS) development agency from 0 to 20 team members. So you can tell, we have fairly good experience in ideating and building SaaS solutions.
When the covid-19 lockdown started back in March, 2020 and I had all the time in the world between my bedroom and my makeshift office in the guest bedroom, I decided to solve my own problem which has been bugging me for a very long time (at least 5 years).
Clarity about the problem
I’m a ranking focused content marketer. I spend most of my work hour researching ranking opportunities for keywords in Google search. Being on the founding side of a small company, my job also requires content marketing in social channels.
In today’s world, content is the lifeline of customer communication. Whether it is a company announcement or customer awareness campaign, content is how companies communicate with the stakeholders. It is convenient, reciprocal and profitable.
But with the continuous increment of publishing channels, content marketing has also become a chaotic job. Publishing content is no more a linear process.
Every blog article needs to be considered as a product that requires proper management from ideation to monetisation throughout its lifecycle. Every newsletter has to meet the audience’s expectation and every social post has to resonate with the followers. It’s a work that requires a tremendous amount of effort, collaboration and perfection.
In short, content marketing is an essential but time consuming task. What makes it harder is the absence of a project management tool to centralise the whole operation. So we set out to solve this problem by developing a productivity platform specifically for content marketers.
We set our success metric for the mission in the simplest form — saving time. We want to save the highest amount of work hour for a content marketer by implementing workflow automation.
Designing the minimum viable product (MVP)
Now that we had a clear understanding about the problem we are attacking and our objective set, designing the first minimal viable product was easy.
Also thanks to Evan Kimbrell and Cole Mercer for the wonderful Product Management course on Udemy, I learned to be methodical about engineering.
We were launching in a slightly crowded market and a very educated customer base. So to get attention, we have to do one thing better than everyone else. And from years of experience with the content marketing workflows, we knew exactly what we wanted to automate first.
Content topic research and brief writing process has always been an underserved yet very important step in content writing. It usually takes 1–3 hours of Google searching and data crunching work on a spreadsheet for one article. We designed our whole version to do this exact thing better and automated in less than 2 minutes.
Building the platform (during the global lockdown)
This is the first time me and my co-founder were working 100% remotely. Also it was just 2 of us working every aspect of the project from bugging people on linkedin to interview to choosing a design for the dashboard. Also the mental pressure from the pandemic and global lockdown made it worse.
Failure #1: The first few weeks of the development was disastrous. Our sprints were cut short, reviews and testing were delayed and at some point, it felt like remote working is not for us.
But after taking a few days break and lots of discussion, we implemented a process and some tools and things started to improve. Since then Bubbles has become my favourite feedback and collaboration tool. If you are from Bubbles team, I would like you to know, I’m a HUGE FAN :)
Lesson #1: Solo or team, implement a process from day one and treat your idea as a company and culture will evolve.
Launching the MVP
Launching the platform was quite easy. We wanted to launch with a lifetime deal offer. Working with affiliates is not new to me. I have been on both sides of affiliate marketing before. So we reached out to all top ranking deal platforms and a few Facebook group founders. We got positive interest from all of them. That confirmed, it’s a buyer market.
We shortlisted two and reached out to some of the founders who launched with them before. The goal was to vet before confirming any meeting. After the vetting, meeting and deal signing, everything was straight forward.
We launched during the Black Friday weekend. It was a really good decision. Even though it is very crowded and everyone is offering discounts, BFCM week is a great time to launch.
How and where to launch lifetime deal?
Since publishing this article, I get a lot of message asking my suggestion about launching a lifetime deal. In the last 12 month, we have published our lifetime deal with the help of 4 partner companies and also our own offer hosted in our dashboard.
The best ROI comes from our own hosted lifetime deal. We keep 100% of the revenue. The second highest ROI comes from Appsumo Marketplace and also it is the most flexible launch partner channel. They take only 30% revenue and doesn’t require exclusivity. That means you can simultaneously sell the deal on your own website. And once your product is ready to scale, launch with Appsumo Select which is the best option in the market in terms of revenue and reach.
We launched with a webinar. The goal of the webinar was to show how the platform works and introduce us founders. It was a very good strategy. The early adopters feel confident when they see who they are buying from. In the first week of launch, we generated $25,000 revenue.
Lesson #2: Launch with a webinar and show how your product works, who are behind the products and discuss your vision. Live stream everything on all social channels and talk to everyone who wants to talk to you about your product.
Building the community
Building a community is super hard but it is also rewarding. I can list 99 reasons why you should start a community for your product but I’m going to show you the top 3:
- You need to talk to your customers almost everyday. Emails are usually a one way communication, the person who starts the conversation, carries out the conversation. But in a public forum like Facebook group, it’s a crowd conversation. Nothing is conclusive as long as you do not moderate it too hard.
- In a community, people uplift each other. In 2021, no company can survive without customer education and awareness. But why does it have to be only between company and customers, it can be between anyone considering a proper platform is provided.
- Building a business is hard, you need all the help you can get. Building a community around your product will give you a platform. You will know your customers personally and can ask for favors like review, introduction to potential new customers and case study etc.
We started building our community from day one of launch. We onboarded everyone with a custom introduction to the Facebook group. It helped kickstart the engagements in the group.
My regret is not launching the community much earlier, maybe from the day we started with R&D.
Lesson #3: Start your community as early as possible, onboard everyone personally and build relationships.
Feedback loop and improvement
The earliest users are the most engaging ones, they are very vocal about both what they like and what they don’t. This is the perfect crowd to establish a feedback loop and use to evolve the MVP to a full suit of product.
We implemented live chat on both landing page and dashboard. This was phenomenal. I talked with more than 400 users through live chat so far. We received praise, feature suggestions, use case ideas, sales query and more.
We also set up a public trello board with our entire product roadmap so that users can participate in the co-creation. We also publish our change logs regularly on the Headway app and send email newsletter regularly.
We set up a system to collect feedback and organise them. It’s a simple one but has been pivotal for our product growth:
Step-1: We take a screenshot of any kind of feedback and save it in a folder.
Step-2: Before starting a sprint, we go through all the collected feedback and categorise those according to modules.
Step-3: We convert the feedback into user stories and prioritize using the RICE scoring model.
Step-4: We run a sprint for no more than 2 weeks and ship the updates.
This simple feedback loop and development method helped us release 3 new modules and 3 large updates in the platform in less than 6 months from the launch.
Lesson #4: Agile or not, design a feedback loop as soon as you launch. It will keep your customers happy and keep your team sane.
Driving traffic by launching over and over
There is a common misconception that you can launch only once. Yes, it may be true for Tesla or Samsung but definitely not for us. Nobody cares how many times we launch.
We launched more than 50 times in less than 6 months. After our deal launch during Black Friday week, we launched on Product Hunt and made it to #5 Product of the day. We were also featured in that week’s newsletter.
The next week, we launched on BetaList and made it to the featured list. This drove a significant amount of traffic and signup. We also got a lot of attention from small publications for new startups and twitter bots. This was fun.
Today there is no shortage of communities, thanks to Product Hunt, Reddit, Facebook and Linkedin. The trick is to launch over and over in every possible community.
I found a list of places I can submit my startup and used that. Many of the sites on the list were offline. So, I updated the list with launch-worthy communities and directories.
Things that didn’t work for us
- I tried cold emailing for enterprise leads but it didn’t work. Also we don’t have a sales team. So the cold emailing campaign to prospects with direct landing page url was a failure.
- Multiple attempts to make it to the Hacker News frontpage didn’t work for us. We hardly got a few upvotes and the thread died along with my hope to get noticed by Sequoia Capital 😂
- I’ve been waiting for my access to GPT-3 for the last 8 months. I have so many ideas 🙏
What’s next for Postpace?
After such an exciting start, our goal is to keep building the product and focusing on our mission — saving time with automation.
We want to focus more on building a growth machine using content marketing, community and superior technology. My personal goal for the rest of 2021 is to launch and grow our blog with original research and valuable contents.
I’m also super excited about joining the open startup movement. So I will be documenting all our wins, failures and lessons publicly. Writing this article has been super fun and I plan to publicly share all our growth experiments and results.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article. I will really appreciate if you share, recommend, clap and connect 🙏
I’m on twitter 👉 https://twitter.com/muntasir_rashid
Automate content research, writing & optimisation 👉 https://postpace.com
Read the 2nd open building report 👉 365 days of growth — bootstrapping from 0 to $225k revenue in the first year.