How I bootstrapped my company from $0 to $50 in MRR
Founder and CEO, Akita
About the speaker
Clay Smith is the founder of Akita--a Customer Success Management platform for SaaS businesses. Prior to founding Akita, Clay was Head of Technology at Dublin-based Franchise Direct. Clay has a keen interest in helping companies harness data to make their customers more successful.
David Clay Smith realised in his last SaaStock that there were other people just like him struggling to turn their idea into a product and into a business. Akita's original idea was to be a CRM type product for managing your existing customers. His session was going to be on all the issues they faced and how they stayed alive long enough to get traction.
David recommended if you were just getting started, take advantage of any start-up opportunities meant to help you succeed. Look for workshops and webinars. Just the process of filling out an application to Start-up Accelerators is going to help you out and if you do get selected, you get a bit of start-up capital. Look for some free hosting (Amazon & Google) and that will cover your first year or so.
Get a Co-founder
Start-ups can be really hard. Co-founders help you speed up your progress, they help you move faster, provide emotional support and provide some form of validation.
Change in RoadMap
David and team now decided to package Akita as a Chrome Extension. So, if Account managers were on CRM, Akita would pop up with an entire history of your company with that company.
But the response was muted. But a few of the customers did come back saying that their customer success team would like it. So, they became aware of who their customer was and what direction Akita should go in.
But the KEY point is to - Talk to Customers
David recommends this book
Running out of money.
A lot of start-ups fail at this stage. Bank Accounts are now 0. They didn't speak to customers soon enough, didn't do enough research, didn't get enough feedback and then repeat that process again and eventually they ran out of money before they found traction.
Try to do consulting and use whatever skills you have to get some capital. Use government funding (aid -programs) to try and get some cash. Depending on the progress you made you can try Angels and VC's.
If you are running low on cash, you have to CUT YOUR COSTS
Getting that 1st customer
Although Akita was looking a lot better, the product was expensive, the sales cycle was taking too long and no paying customers.
Some mistakes they made were
- Incorrect Product strategy
- Building features for a potential customer and losing track of own goals.
- Product was very flexible, so it took long to configure it for each customer. So, they didn't have enough trial customers and they weren't learning enough and moving fast enough.
David felt it was time to start from scratch again. They felt they had learnt a lot from the last 42 months
- They talked to a ton of different customers.
- This time they knew what to build and what not to build.
- They did HTML mock-ups and demos and the feedback was immediately positive.
Soon after the launch, Customers started signing up and very soon they had many customers and things went rolling from there. They started gaining traction. The sales cycle got shorter. They got referral customers. Existing customers bought more licences.