In this video and blog post I wanted to talk about some insights out of my own experience in successfully launching a startup. As most of you know I’ve launched my second startup, user feedback tool Upvoty, in het beginning of this year. The idea for Upvoty – however – came from my own needs within my other startup where I needed a way to manage user feedback in an easy and efficient way.
Only within a couple of months I’ve managed to get over 25 paying customers and an MRR of over $400 dollars. And with this speed, I’m projecting a $1,000 MRR before the end of the year. Most startups will work for more than a year to get to this point, if they even reach this point at all.
Because I have worked on my main startup Vindy for about 8 years now, I’ve learned a couple of DOS and DON’TS when it comes to launching and scaling a startup. So, when I decided to launch my second startup Upvoty, I wanted to try a certain framework, which really worked well for me in my other startup.
So, let’s talk about how I have launched Upvoty and how I managed to get over $400 MRR in just a couple of months.
1. The idea
It all starts with the idea for your startup. But how do you come up with an idea? Based on my own experience I can only recommend to look for certain pain points of your own: look around you. Do you see any problems in your life? Things that could go better?
For example: my idea for Upvoty came from my own problems and needs: I needed a way to collect user feedback in a highly efficient way. And I figured, why not make a new product for it and market it so other startups can enjoy a good solution for their user feedback.
But here’s the thing, and this is important, you have absolutely no guarantee this is a valid startup idea if it’s only based on your own pains and needs. You might be the only one who needs a solution like this. Or, maybe there are already some good products out there. At this point the idea is just an idea.
It’s time to take it to the next step!
2. Research the idea
It’s time to research your idea in 2 ways:
1. What are some of the existing products and solutions out there?
2. Is there any need from potential customers for your product?
So. The first thing I did was Googling the sh*t out of finding a solution for my problem: a tool to manage user feedback. If there already was a good solution out there, I probably would have decided to use that one, instead of building it myself. But, although I found a couple of good solutions, they were not good enough. They were either too expensive or I didn’t like their usability.
So, I moved on to the next phase of researching my idea: talking to potential customers.
The most valuable validation I could get for my idea was when I launched a landing page for my product and I asked people to sign up if they were interested in this upcoming product. Within a couple of weeks I had a couple of hundred sign-ups. It was then when I realized I might be on to something.
If you are wondering how to get people to your landing page to sign-up for your product I would recommend to go to places where your potential audience is actively present. In my case I was lucky to already have a follower base on my Instagram and a mailing list of business owners. Besides this, I also posted articles on Betalist and Indie Hackers. This resulted in a couple of hundred sign-ups from potential customers.
3. Target audience
My number 1 tip in deciding who to target your product is to make your target audience as small as possible. Remember the saying: “If you’re selling to everyone, you’re selling to no one”. So, make your target audience as small as possible from the start.
For example: I didn’t even decided to target on “startups” in general. I think it’s way too broad. So, I decided to focus on small “SaaS businesses”. It’s all about what they call “product market fit”. The smaller your audience, the higher the chance of finding a fit.
4. Launch in beta
Next, is time to launch! And, by launching, I don’t mean launching your complete product because that takes wayyyyy too much time. Launch ASAP. Remember the saying by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”.
The first version of your product is almost always to be ashamed for. And that’s a good thing. Because a perfect launch doesn’t exist. You just need to go out there and ask for feedback. So, when you crafted the first working version of product, launch in beta and even give it for free to the first potential customers in exchange for feedback.
For example: I’ve launched Upvoty back in November 2018 and gave the first users a free trial of 3 months. You can’t imagine how much value I got from these users during this period. It made our product much better and mature.
So, don’t expect too much of your first launch. And you really shouldn’t care at all. The most important thing now? Getting real feedback from your clients in order to optimize your product the right way. If I had to pick one step in this framework as the most important, it would be this one. If I’ve learned 1 thing in building and scaling a startup for years, it’s that you really, really need to build your product for your user’s needs based on their feedback . Only then they will stick with you because your product or service adds value to them. Maybe that’s why I built a user feedback tool myself 😉
Make it personal
When you launch as a startup, make sure you deliver what other big companies can’t: a personal connection. Send everyone who sign up an email, show interest in what they do and really think about the value you can add to their needs. Or like Hans Spagel does it by making videos with a personal welcoming.
— hans ???? (@hanspagel) June 27, 2019
Optimize & Iterate
After you’ve gathered feedback, start working and grinding on your product and iterate the process above: launch quick -> gather feedback -> optimize -> and again! This way you will develop your product into an actual solution for your first users and soon they will start paying for it!