January 19, 2020

How I am bootstrapping a new SaaS. Currently at $1300/month

Mike Slaats

Tell us a little about you (name, age, country, job before starting a company) and what you are working on

Hey there! My name is Mike, I’m 32 years old, and I’m from The Netherlands. I started working on my own business when I was 22 years old and dropped out of college. From the age of 16, I always knew school wasn’t for me. I quickly started my own online printing service from the little garage in my parent’s home. I was really into online marketing and quickly grew the side to nation-wide rankings in Google. This really boosted my sales. When I dropped out of college I had the chance to help other people with their online marketing, and thus I started my own online marketing agency.

Mike

I grew this agency into a 6 figure business with 3 employees. We did great, but I wasn’t fulfilled at all. I really wanted to work on my own product and thus I started an online marketplace for construction work. We grew into a 7 figure business. Because of the growth in clients, we were getting more and more feedback. And that’s when I started working on my latest SaaS startup: user feedback tool Upvoty. I launched it in February 2019 and before the end of the year, we were already at $1,300 MRR. I wrote an ebook on how we grew this quickly.

What does education mean to you? Do you have any educational qualifications?

Education definitely means something if you want to be a doctor or another profession that requires certain knowledge or skills. But for entrepreneurship, it hardly does.

Most of the time it’s really a burden to have a high education when you’re starting your own business. In school, they are more focused on facts, to overthink things, and not to take a risk at all. In entrepreneurship, you can’t predict the outcome. You just need to go out there, take some risks, and see what happens. Don’t overthink, just go and do it.

What moment or experience inspired you to start your own business?

When I started my first business, it was really selling my skill; Doing online marketing for other businesses. It was a specific skill I possessed which other people really found useful. If you want to work on your own, that’s really a good way to start: Sell your skill.

Describe the process of starting and launching the business.

I will talk a little bit about how I started my latest startup, user feedback tool Upvoty, because it’s based on a framework I designed based on my 10 years of experience.

First thing: the idea came from scratching my own itch. That’s, besides selling your skill, the second-best way to start a business. If you’re facing problems in real-life and you can think of a way to either improve it or make it cheaper and better: there’s a chance of a valid business. But, you are not your customer, so you need to go out there and pitch the idea to see if there are other people who are interested in a solution to this problem.

With Upvoty, we faced a “problem” within my other business where we needed a way to collect and manage user feedback to make our product better. The existing solutions out here weren’t either good enough or affordable. So, we started to build one ourselves. Before we write a single line of code, we came up with a name (Upvoty), build a landing page, and pitched the idea in the real world to see if other people were interested. Within a couple of weeks, we had a couple of hundred sign-ups and that’s when we knew we were on to something.

We started building a first prototype which we launched in private beta in November ‘18. The first few clients got our product for free in exchange for feedback. This was really valuable and made our product ready for a public launch. In February ‘19 we launched publicly and within a couple of months, we already had more than $1,000 in MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue).

Did you ever doubt yourself or face any significant challenges along the way?

Everything’s a challenge, but that’s what makes it beautiful and that’s what gets me up in the morning. Doubt? No. I never doubt myself. If it goes wrong, then it’s just not good enough and I need to pivot. Both success and failure will make you a better person with a better business. Always remember that.

How are you doing today and what does “success” look like for your company five years from now?

My main business is highly profitable and is doing 7 figures. My latest SaaS startup Upvoty is bootstrapped with the revenue from my other startup and is doing great. We’re heading to $2,000 MRR already. Before the end of the year, I want it to be at $10,000 MRR. We are working on a better product and are going to do more acquisitions this year. So I think it’s possible to grow this big. You can follow the growth of our MRR on our IndieHackers profile.

In terms of customer acquisition, what is working? How do you attract and retain them?

The biggest growth hack I can share: narrow down your target audience and focus on this small group and target them with content, acquisitions, etc. When we started writing articles specifically for our ICP’s, we saw a tremendous spike in traffic and sign-ups.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Ship fast, worry later. That’s my personal motto. You don’t have a crystal ball. Just go out there and see if it works.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I use Slack for team communication, Front for team emails, Buffer for Social Media, EmailOctopus for newsletters, Sendgrid for transactional emails, Asana for project management, Baremetrics for analytics, and Stripe as payment provider.

What are some sources for learning you would recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting?

YouTube, Books (Rework, Intercom on Starting Up, The Lean Startup, My own SaaS Growth Tactics), podcasts (How I built this, SaaS Breakthrough show), and the best thing: go do it. Learn on the way!

Advice for professionals who want to get started or are just starting out?

If you want to start working for yourself, you can always start by selling your skill. What skill do you have that other people and businesses would pay for? Are you a great copywriter? Can you make videos? Do you have a great voice as a voice-over? Can you do SEO? With almost every skill you can start literally TODAY because of platforms like Fiverr. Start, learn, and grow. Don’t start because of the money. Start because you really want to learn.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are currently setting up vacancies for customer support in Asia and America.

Where can we go to learn more about you and your business?

You can learn more about Upvoty on our website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I personally share a lot of my lessons learned and progress on my Twitter and Instagram.