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52 Comments

Bootstrapped my SaaS to $20,000 MRR. AMA!

Hey, fellow indie hackers! 👋

Doing an Indie Hackers AMA today.

I'm Mike, the founder of user feedback tool Upvoty (https://upvoty.com), which I bootstrapped to currently over $20,000 MRR after I sold my previous startup which was doing over $1,000,000 ARR.

If you want to learn more about my story, the best source I can give you is my interview on the Indie Bites Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/episode/0dqtIzY7dizHmilXuwOumc?si=buCAJJTGTlCjEwIywAOcSw

I'm also working on several side projects as well:

You can follow me on the socials as well:

https://twitter.com/mikeslaats
https://instagram.com/mikeslaats

I'll be here all day, so ask away! :)

  1. 8

    Nice work @mikeslaats!

    My question:

    How did you get your first 100 paying customers?

    1. 3

      Thanks! I would say a decent percentage came from communities such as Indie Hackers, Product Hunt, Makerlog, and platforms such as BetaList. Besides that, we launched a couple of eBooks, went all-in on content marketing (blog), and did a lot of interviews (which not only boosted our brand, but also our SEO rankings)

      1. 1

        I'm planning a launch for my iPad app later this month, and I'd like to elaborate on this. Do you have any tips for launching on platforms such as ProductHunt and Indie Hackers? Were you able to get first 100 paying customers right away or did it take days/weeks?

  2. 6

    Are you running Upvoty alone?

    1. 1

      I'm the single founder, but I have a team of awesome people around me (devs, marketers) which I'm hiring.

      1. 1

        Hey Mike, do you hire just contractors or employees?

        I'm looking to expand my team too but I can't decide if I want to work with contractors or employees and build a team.

  3. 3

    Great job Mike!
    Wish you ton of luck!

    1. 1

      That's awesome, thanks!

  4. 2

    What is your tech stack? Does it matter what stack we use?

  5. 2

    You said you hired devs to build the product(s). How much was that? Is it an ongoing expense or was it an upfront expense?

    1. 3

      At my previous startup, I gave them a percentage of each sale. Now I'm just hiring them on a freelance basis. I'm working with devs from Holland so they're pretty expensive ($75/hour) but I know them for a while and I fully trust them, so that's my go-to for now.

  6. 1

    Did you use paid ads from day 1 or at all?

  7. 1

    Hey bro I want to ask how did you came up with idea of your bootstrapped business and how did you find your audience and approach them.

  8. 1

    Congrats @mikeslaats! This is really cool
    Not related to the post but https://foundermornings.com looks bad on iPad portrait mode. This might cost you some audience

  9. 1

    Any SaaS ideas you like but don't have time to pursue? :)

  10. 1

    What hosting do you use ?
    How much do you pay for it on monthly basis ?

  11. 1

    Wow, congrats.

    How did you start with marketing / customer aquisition? Especially the very very early days. How did you get your first customers and how did you get more?

    Thx!

  12. 1

    Did you modify your startup building idea and execution plan with time?
    Or created your complete startup on original idea.

  13. 1

    I've recently found your YouTube channel and I love your videos!

    My questions is: Did you do any cold outreach at the start? If so, what was your tactic

    Thanks Mike

    1. 1

      Thanks for the kind words! No cold outreach, just sharing the word on FB groups, platforms, etc.

      1. 1

        Hi Mike, congrats on your success. Did you just mention it out there, without asking admins? Or would you ask admin permission? I'm going the second route but don't get replies. I guess I should just share the word? Any tips to make this more successful?

  14. 1

    Congrats! I can see your SEO efforts are working nicely :)

    As you have some experience with YouTube, have you considered making video versions of some of your top written pages / keywords? (like "canny alternatives", "the best ways to communicate product updates to your customers" and "how to create a product backlog")

    1. 1

      We absolutely want to take our content marketing to the next level with audio (podcast) and video (YouTube), but this is something we have to outsource, not something we can do right now.

      1. 1

        Okay cool, let me know if I can help! > https://photonicgrowth.com

  15. 1

    You have an amazing landing page! Love it.

    1. 2

      Thanks for the kind words!

      1. 1

        Did you build it yourself or you used an external tool? (also planning to rebuild mine)

  16. 1

    What are your user acquisition channels? What share of the MRR does each channel represent?

    1. 1

      Great q! We're mainly focused on content marketing (blog, ebooks, interviews, etc.) which represents almost 40%. We're doing a little bit of SEA (mainly targeting competitors) which represents 10%. And we recently started experimenting with sponsoring podcasts, etc. But the most important acquisition channel is our own software. Our customers have our software installed and with that, there's a little 'powered by Upvoty' mention in the software as well. This gets us referrals because the customers of our customers also want to use such software for their feedback. Works like a charm!

  17. 1

    Can you share what did you do to validate your idea?

    1. 4

      Idea validation: just a simple landing page with an explainer video and sign-up form. We advertised on a couple of platforms such as BetaList to attract some beta users. Product validation: We ran a private beta and we listened really carefully, of course by using our own feedback software, to our users and with that, we managed to launch a very decent first version which resulted in an MRR of over $1,000 within just a couple of months.

      1. 1

        How you made the explainer video?

      2. 1

        How long between the idea validation landing page and the actual first beta test?

  18. 1

    Hey, my questions are about marketing/user acquisition.

    How did you acquire users? What channels did you use? Did you use paid ads or something else? Did you do the work yourself or did you outsource that?

    Can you please elaborate on that? I will appreciate it a lot as we're in the moment when user acquisition is our top priority.

    1. 2

      Mainly content marketing (blog) and doing interviews. Basically, get the word out! :). Besides that, our own product is doing the hard work for us. It contains a link and 'powered by Upvoty' mention and thus we get referrals from our own product because the customers of our customers also want to use such feedback software.

  19. 1

    Since you have experience selling, what do you think your product would be valued at if you sold? How do you come up with the valuation?

    1. 0

      Good one, but if I were to sell my SaaS, it's different than my last business (it was more like a marketplace, not a subscription business). I've had some potential buyers reach out, but at this point, I'm not sure what my business is worth and it's not relevant atm. Want to scale to at least $50,000 MRR first 💪

  20. 1

    Where is your telsa vlog, Mike!

    1. 1

      Haha lol, we need to make some cool b-roll shots (drones, etc.) first before I can edit the vlog. Will probably do that this week, hopefully, I can push it out on Thursday.

  21. 1

    Have you always known how to code or did you start later in life? what resources did you learn too and what space do you think new dev (ones with no exp) should focus on now to seperate themselves from others for both jobs and indie hacking projects?

    1. 2

      To be honest, I can't code at all haha. I'm working with freelance devs that are building the products for me. But, I guess, how I look at hiring devs can help you with these questions as well, because devs that understand how marketing works (especially if you're a dev building your own product) are overall winning the game.

  22. 1

    So many questions 😄

    How did you validate your idea?
    How long did it take you to build an MVP?
    Did you have any audience before you started building in public?

    1. 3

      Validation came through a simple landing page with an explainer video. We launched the landing page on a couple of platforms such as BetaList, I shared it within my network (back then I had a pretty big following base on both Instagram and YouTube), and I participated in FB groups a lot, just to attract some first beta users. Before we started building the actual product, we could validate if people were interested this way.

      1. 2

        How many beta users did you have when you decided to move to a full, paid product?

  23. 1

    How do you manage all your projects? Are you even human!?

    1. 1

      Haha, lol. Outsourcing and delegation are my 2 best friends :)

  24. 1

    Awesome! How long did it take to get the first paying customers? And how did you acquire them?

    1. 1

      The first paying customer was already on board during the private beta period, which is always the best validation you can get :)

      1. 1

        How did you get that customer?

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