The Importance of Keeping Your SaaS Product Lean
“The truth is though, that when you think you’ve thrown out everything, there is still stuff that you might do without.”
Written by Simon Alcott: Published May 6th, 2020 | Updated May 6th, 2020.
Simon Alcott is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a company that helps grow SaaS websites ⚡. From time to time he speaks with SaaS founders about their growth journeys. Check out the latest interview below.
6 Minute Read
When Less is More…
Today we have another exciting SaaS growth case study to share with you. WhalePages was recently fortunate enough to chat with Dan Makarov, the Co-founder of Bird Eats Bug, about his SaaS company’s journey so far. Let’s jump into the interview below 👇
💬 Hi and thanks for joining us today. Can you kick off the interview by telling us how you got involved in the SaaS space? What was your first project in the software space and how did your early projects propel you to where you are today?
Together with my co-founders we worked on a SaaS product that used satellite data to help farmers fertilise their fields more efficiently. Naturally, when working on something, you discover various pains and inefficiencies. A lot of these pains are solved by existing tools, but there will always be ones that aren’t or the solutions are not great.
One day one of us mentioned that it takes a lot of time to find the exact scenario that leads to a certain bug and that it would be great to have a tool that would record your actions (like a dash cam) and you could just rewind to a specific moment in time. The others then added that it would be even better if the tool would get technical logs automatically, so that an engineer could understand what caused that bug. That’s how Bird Eats Bug was born.
💬 What were some of your biggest early failures in the SaaS space and how did you overcome them? How did those failures help you grow as an entrepreneur?
The biggest challenge is to get people to find and try your product. On top of that we set ourselves a goal of 50 installs by September 1st. Of course, we could just ask our friends to use the product, but decided not to do that as a) the feedback would always be skewed and b) we wouldn’t find out if the market truly needs what we’ve built. We tried various approaches to get the first users, but long story short – we didn’t have 50 installs by our self-imposed deadline.
But as an entrepreneur you have to always keep going and work your ways around problems.🏃
So we decided to bet on Product Hunt. After a lot of research into best practices and preparation, we have release Bird to PH community. We got over 700 people to try the product in the very first day. A lot of them still use Bird today.
If you’re interested, you can check out our Product Hunt listing here (https://www.producthunt.com/posts/bird-eats-bug).
💬 How long did it take you to develop a first version / MVP of your current project? What did the MVP development process look like?
The first version took about 1.5 months. We threw out all the features we could and settled on the 2 main benefits: continuous recording (i.e. dash cam) and gathering of technical logs.
The truth is though, that when you think you’ve thrown out everything, there is still stuff that you might do without. 🗑️
In that case, we settled in the end on just the regular video recording instead of the “”dash cam”” approach. Sure, it wasn’t as good, but it was already better than reporting bugs manually.
💬 What have been some of the biggest product decisions you’ve needed to make as a company? Have you ever had to pivot or change your offering? How has your SaaS product changed over time?
One of the biggest decision that startups need to go through is figuring out when to start charging for the product. There are 2 schools of thought on that. Some say the product should be paid from day 1, others recommend keeping it free to get the as many people as possible hooked up.
Here’s what we did. There’s a famous framework suggesting that you have product-market fit when at least 40% of users say they would be “”Very disappointed”” if your product no longer existed. Instead of using it to give us an answer on product-market fit, we decided that once we hit that magic number, we will implement payments. And that’s exactly what we are doing right now 🙂
💬 How did you go about ensuring product / market fit? What are some of your biggest takeaways / lessons within this topic?
Build stuff for YOUR users. It sounds pretty obvious, but often you might find yourself in a situation where you benchmark your product against others. In our case we also looked at the companies who we considered to be competitors and implemented e.g. ability to take screenshots for feature parity reasons. In the end, only a small percent of our users actually take screenshots – most still record videos. And we should therefore build improvements for OUR users, not someone else’s.
💬 Are you self funded or do you have outside backing (VCs, angels etc). What are the pros / cons of your funding path?
So far we’ve been funding the company ourselves and I would recommend that to anyone who’s just getting started. Not having resources to hire additional people makes you laser-focused and gives an opportunity to understand better the areas where you have little experience in order to better hire for those roles later.
Once you have some certainty that the market needs your product, you can choose to stay bootstrapped or gain some additional speed with external funding.
💬 As time has gone on, what have proven to be your 3 best customer acquisition channels? Can you tell us a little bit more about how you got each of those channels working for you?
I would name 2 here.
👉 Product Hunt. It’s not only great to kickstart your product usage (if you manage to rank high on the day of your launch), but it also drives a bit of traffic months after that. It’s also great for investors to find you and see if people resonate with your offering.
👉Word of mouth. We once did a survey among users and found out that 96% of respondents have recommended Bird to their friends and colleagues. Unfortunately though, we were not able to find a magic sauce for word of mouth yet, apart from just trying to make the product as good as we can.
💬 What role has content marketing played in your SaaS company’s growth? What content systems and strategies do you have in place to help ensure growth in this area? What have been your biggest SaaS content marketing takeaways?
We haven’t had prior experience with content marketing, so the finding would be rather obvious for a person skilled in this area.
Early on we decided to publish things that would be interesting to our audience, but not in the area where our product is. The idea was that people would come for content, check who this content was written by and then try our product. Even though such posts generated a lot of traffic, few people converted. When we publish articles relevant to our product area, we don’t get as much traffic, but it converts better. Like I said – very obvious in retrospect.
💬 What’s a “must read” book for SaaS entrepreneurs?
“Made to stick” by Chip and Dan Heath
💬 If you had to start over again and do three things differently what would those three things be?
👉 No matter how small the feature seems, would try to further scope it down.
👉 Would not reference other products to decide whether to implement a certain feature or not.
👉 Never expect 3rd parties to stick to timelines.”
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today Dan. I know everyone reading this will have at least one big takeaway that they can apply to their own SaaS company. To our blog audience, if you’ve enjoyed this interview I encourage you to head over to Bird Eats Bug to learn more about what they do 🙂
If you have enjoyed this interview and would like to read more just like it, then head over to our SaaS marketing blog.
Written by Simon Alcott: Published May 6th, 2020 | Updated May 6th, 2020.
Simon Alcott is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a SaaS marketing agency. So, if you have a SaaS company and you’re kinda into things like website traffic and increasing your MRR, then our SaaS growth boxes are probably for you.