From idea, to MVP, to $$$ in 60 days

I finally have a success-story to share. I've been working on bootstrapped businesses for the past years, struggling to find users, pleading friends to try my app and hoping someone would subscribe.

This time it is different.

  1. It took me a month from the idea to the MVP.
  2. It took only a few days for users to find me and sign up.
  3. A few days after launching a paywall, I got my first subscriber.

In hindsight, it really is a story of simply doing everything the way I was told I should do it. Le me review my past businesses and explain how this new business is a great example of following the bootstrapped business handbook.

Quick look back into my previous ventures

My first business (a personal CRM) took years to launch and wasn't solving a clear problem. I struggled to find users (it was a web app, so only SEO could save me) and churn was super high for users who did subscribe (most of the revenue came from users who didn't use the app and had forgotten to unsubscribe).

Still, I reached $500 MRR.

For my second business (an app to send voice notes per email), I learned from my errors and did things better:

  • Launched on the Chrome store (made user acquisition easier)
  • Built an MVP in a month or so

At the time of writing, it is growing on average by 30$/MRR/month and is about to reach $500 MRR as well.

Still, it wasn't solving a real clear problem: Sending voice notes per email is a nice to have for most people. Not a necessity.

My new business: invoicing app for Switzerland

Switzerland recently made it mandatory for all invoices to have a QR code that replaces the older payment slips.

This meant all non-Swiss invoicing apps had become obsolete. Additionally, I realised that there isn't a single invoicing app for Switzerland in the App/Play Store.

This meant I could easily build an invoicing app with Flutter and release it simultaneously on all the stores + web.

This is exactly what I've done and after having been in the stores for 30 days only, I already crossed 100 downloads and 4 paid customers.

I'm literally the only option if you want to create a Swiss invoice in the stores. The alternatives are web based only.

5 Key Elements of a Good Bootstrapped Business

You know this, every startup and business book preaches it, I'm not making anything up:

  1. You need to solve a clear problem.
  2. You need a reliable way to acquire users.
  3. Your customers need to be willing to pay for what you offer.
    4. Because you're bootstrapped, you need a niche.
    5. Because you're bootstrapped, you need high margins.

And let us review the different businesses I worked on:

Solve a clear, real problem

  • Keeping in touch with friends: Meh?
  • Sending voice notes per email: Ok-ish?
  • I need to send an invoice: OK.

Clear, reliable user acquisition strategy

  • SEO and word of mouth: Meh?
  • Chrome store, Appsumo: Ok-ish?
  • App Store, Play Store (without competition): OK.

Customers need to be willing to pay

  • 50% churn: Meh?
  • 17% churn: Ok-ish?
  • Too early to say, but for now, very low.

What I love is that I finally applied what I had known for so long:

  • Pick a niche. Not an invoicing app, an invoicing app for Switzerland
  • Leverage stores for user acquisition, SEO is not enough.

Obviously, it is still very early and I'm not ramen profitable yet, but the path to get there is very clear. I'll post an update this spring!

Tips & learnings

  • The Mac App Store is under leveraged, we're getting 50% of our downloads from there.
  1. 5

    Fantastic post. It always comes down to the same thing: are you solving a real problem that someone will pay for. And it can be hard for us to shutdown an idea we love, even if we know it doesn't really solve much of a problem. Props to you, and good luck with the new SAAS!

  2. 3

    Extremely helpful post. Short and sweet with a lot of insights about bootstrapped startups (Which is something I'm very interested in).
    Congrats on your achievements and I wish you the best for what comes now!
    Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. 1

      Thanks for the kind words!

  3. 3

    Thanks for sharing this great story Nathan. Do you think that would be worth having some interviews with ideal users before creating an MVP?

    1. 1

      For sure if the problem isn't validated yet.

      In the case of invoicing apps, the problem was already validated. I was 100% sure that people needed apps to create invoices and could verify this by:

      • looking up competitors offering that service
      • having the problem/need myself.

      But if that isn't the case, if you don't know for sure if people need and are willing to pay for your product, then you have to talk to users :)

  4. 2

    Hey Nathan, Thanks for sharing, Can you tell us how hard it is to get an initial set of customers for your product?

    1. 1

      By being in the App Store, it was easier than ever. Literally someone signed up on the first day I launched, without me doing any marketing.

      Takeaway here is really: "Be in the App/Play Store, it drives sign-ups for free."

  5. 2

    Hi Nathan, congratulations on your Invoice App. How do you find out if something is a clear problem or not, any tips or suggestions?

    1. 2

      The most hardcode (and best) way is to ask people to pre-pay.

      But it's super hard.

      The next best solution is to build a simple version of your idea and get people to sign-up and pay. If you can't do that, then there is no way it is going to work.

      If you have to build for years and years before having something people will pay for, you need another idea :)

      1. 1

        Thank you so much for your valuable feedback. I appreciate it.

  6. 2

    Wow, congratulations on the success of your latest business venture! It's inspiring to see how you've taken your past experiences and applied the lessons learned to create a successful bootstrapped business. It's great to see how you've identified a clear problem and found a niche market to solve it in. The fact that you were able to launch your MVP and acquire paying customers so quickly is a testament to your hard work and dedication.

    I'm looking forward to hearing more about your progress in the future.

    And it's worth to try Mac App Store too, it's a great way to acquire more users. I designed my video editing app Filma (https://filma.app) initially just for iPad and I was shocked to see that 70% of the users are now Mac users (after we added Mac compatibility).

    Keep up the great work!

    1. 1

      Totally regarding the Mac App Store, it is a very underrated store :)

  7. 2

    Great post, number 4 resonates the most with me.

    Just launched an app and I'm starting to think I should maybe focus on one niche and rewrite my marketing message to it, rather than trying to cater to cold outreach as whole.

    curious, did you generate the image with AI?

    1. 3

      Totally did use Midjourney for the image :) I'm doing this for all my images now.

      Yeah, make sure you have a niche.

      I went from:

      • The whole world (personal CRM) - 8B
      • Email users who care about being personal (voice note app) - a few millions
      • French speaking, Swiss, self-employed (invoicing app) - 50'000
      1. 1

        This really puts it into perspective, thanks & all the best!

  8. 1

    Great work on grabbing opportunity when available.
    Love your story. It's motivating.
    Thanks for sharing!

  9. 1

    Hey Nathan, great to read about your process here

  10. 1

    This is an amazing story, thanks for sharing!

    Did you do any validation on how burning/important the target problem was for users? I guess the change in law guarantees that it's at least important, but I wonder if you talked to potential users and found any key insights to improve confidence in the size of the opportunity, pricing to choose, etc.

  11. 1

    Awesome success story. I've been creating half-way finished projects for years now =)

  12. 1

    Great post. In your case, the "solve an actual problem" could be seen as "pay me little, or pay me nothing and waste a total of even more resources".

  13. 1

    Congrats, Nathan, and thank you for sharing your story! Curiously, why did you choose Flutter over other platforms?

  14. 1

    What do you think you could do to actively increase your user base?

    1. 2

      For sure my focus will be on content creation. I want to do more than just rely on the app stores. Creating content specifically for self-employed in Switzerland for example.

  15. 1

    You discovered a market and became the ONLY (or maybe one of the only) player. This is top-tier market research! In fact, you didn’t even have to offer a killer product. You identified an emergent market need and executed FAST enough to solve it!

    I’ve been speaking to a few friends and we’ve all agreed that getting to market first and doing it faster than everybody else can be a game-changer.

    Great work mate, great work!

    I’m curious, how did you know about the new Swiss policy? Was it out of sheer luck?

    1. 1

      I'm from Switzerland and this new policy hasn't been a secret really. We knew it would come. I actually think I'm a bit late, could have launched 6 months earlier :)

  16. 1

    Great read! Super clear and concise. More WINS. 👍

  17. 1

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  18. 1

    Did you do anything for user acquisition in terms of marketing, or is it happening organically being you're the only player in the market as of now?

    1. 1

      Totally organically. The App Store is a huge user acquisition engine that I have totally missed while building for the web only.

      Even with competition, I'm expecting the App Store to drive a lot of traffic.

      As an example, a friend of mine who also built a Personal CRM, but for iPhone, got as much traffic as I did, even though I spent 2 days a week on content for the web, and he did nothing except being in the App Store.

  19. 1

    Nice! Now also introduce to the German-speaking part of Switzerland

    1. 2

      Absolutely! The app is already translated :)

  20. 1

    Your Switzerland Invoice App is quite fascinating, specially when you realize that you are the only one solving a problem & also the future looks promising. Look luck man!

  21. 1

    For your second business of voice notes on email what Programming language did you use to develop the product?

    1. 1

      Not sure I get your question?

  22. 1

    Great post, thanks for sharing! I'm really glad to hear that you've been successful in launching an invoicing app for Switzerland. It's a great example of how focusing on a specific niche can be beneficial. I think the key insight here is that SEO alone isn't enough to get users, and leveraging stores such as the Mac App Store can be incredibly powerful for user acquisition. Thanks again for sharing your story, I look forward to hearing about your progress in the future!

    1. 1

      Haha please tell me this was written using GPT3 :P

  23. 1

    Congrats Nathan, I really admire your persistence and ability to learn from each venture. I had similar struggles with my SaaS business (still learning a lot from the experience).

    I also co-run a site with @guylig, which showcases insightful founder stories (Founderoo.co). Have a look at some of our founder stories and let me know if you're open to sharing your story too :)

  24. 1

    Thanks for sharing this. I'm currently working on two projects and can clearly see that one falls in your "5 key elements", and the other not. Time to focus :)

  25. 1

    I like this simplistic story. Thank you. <3

    1. 1

      my pleasure! Thanks for your comment!

  26. 1

    Thank you for this valuable information! I'm currently working on my first Saas and 100% I need to consider those elements 💪

    1. 1

      Glad I could help :)

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