Bootstrapping a Startup to $75k ARR within 12m but read more

Pierre de Wulf:
Reflecting on 2 years Bootstrapping.

In July 2018 I quit my job and tried to build a profitable SAAS with @kevinsahin.

And we failed, hard: $600 MRR after 1 year.

We tried again and had a bit more luck: $75k ARR within 12m.

Here’s what I wish I knew when I began, a thread:

1. This thing takes time

Bootstrapping a SAAS is long, very long.

Of course, you’ll hear about fast growth but real overnight successes are very rare.

Most of the time, when you look behind you’ll find:

  • years of building an audience
  • several failed attempts
  • consistency

Example 1: look at the @convertkit growth chart, one of the most successful #openstartup projects of all-time.

Monthly revenue stalled between $1k and $3k during the first 18 months.

They are now at $1.9m MRR

Example 2: LemList, 1m ARR < 2 years, but prior to that, the team spent years building several tools and a large audience

From 0 to $1m ARR in less than 2 years and without any fundings | by Guillaume Moubeche | MediumIn the last few months, I’ve been a bit quiet when it comes to sharing our journey so I thought that nailing the $1,000,000 ARR milestone was a pretty cool opportunity to write an article :tada: If…

2. If you need 30 emails to sell a $30/month product, the problem is not your emails.

With PricingBot we often had months-long email exchanges for a $50-100 subscription.

It could have never worked.

If you’re in this situation you should ask yourself if:

  • you can increase your price, a lot
  • your audience is the right one
  • your product is the right one

3. Talk to your users early

One easy way to do it is by offering 10x what your free plan offers to people willing to spend 15 minutes on the phone with you.

You’ll get feedback from people who really want to use your product. We did it and really had amazing insights.

4. For every customer giving you feedback, assume that 10 others felt the same way but did not care enough to tell you.

“3” is a number I like.

We start talking about implementing a new feature every time 3 users ask for the same thing.

Pareto and all that :nerd_face:

5. If you can’t have feedback, look-out for clues.

Clues that you’re doing something right:

  • ppl are angry when your product does not work
  • ppl say that your product is too expensive but pay anyway
  • ppl ask you a ton of thing even if your onboarding is :-1:

Clues that you’re doing something wrong:

  • You had a 3 days down-time and no one bat an eye
  • You have < 1% conversion rate on your landing page
  • People love to talk with you but never pay you

6. When starting, focus on what matters, don’t waste your time on futile things.

Futile things:

  • product name
  • logo
  • domain name
  • the color of that button

What matters:

  • clean landing page
  • copywriting (no typos!)
  • getting user feedback

7. Once you have found an acquisition channel that works, go all-in.

In the beginning, It’s easy to get lost in all the marketing opportunities out there.

You should really try to master one thing before going elsewhere.

This one is from Traction…

It will save you time, money, and energy.

The content was working for us.

It was not perfect but it was working.

So we learned a ton about SEO and content marketing and haven’t tried something else for the last 12 months.

This is our results:

8. Offer top-notch support

It is surprisingly easy to out-do your competitors’ support:

  • reply to emails in less than 30 minutes
  • have in-app chat
  • be friendly in all situations
  • offer a follow-up to users having trouble using your product.

Does it scale? no.

Will you lose a bit of focus? yes.

But in my opinion, it’s worth it. Many people were delighted about how fast we answered support tickets, even if we did not solve the problem right away.

9. Rate limit your payment endpoints.

Hackers are constantly monitoring IndieHackers, ProductHunt, and co searching for unprotected payment endpoints.

They often do this to bulk test stolen credit cards.

You should ask @ossia what he thinks about it.

How I Stopped a Credit Card Thief From Ripping Off 3,537 People – and Saved Our Nonprofit in the ProcessMy 2 year old woke me up by canonballing from my bed’s headboard down onto my face. I groaned and peeled off my eye mask. My phone said it was Wednesday, January 8, 2020 – the big day. I tucked my so…

10. Apply to those new bootstrapper-friendly funds.

I’m talking about @TinySeed, @EarnestCapital etc.

Applying to TinySeed was probably the best decision we’ve ever made regarding @ScrapingBee.

There were only upsides doing it:

  • you get financial relief: risking your own savings is stressful and risky
  • you still have control of the company
  • the process is fast and straightforward
  • community and tutors are awesome and teach a lot

Even if you’re not accepted this is a good way to have honest feedback about your biz.

All in all those last two years have been crazy and exhausting but I don’t regret choosing freedom over comfort.

Let’s hope the next two will be as fun :crossed_fingers: