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EXECUTION Creating an SaaS startup without being able to code.

Discussion in 'Progress/Execution Threads' started by Locomote, Feb 22, 2017.

  1. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Sorry for the long opening post. I was asked by @Young-Gun to start a progress thread on my experiences to date of starting an SaaS business.

    I have spent the last 6 month putting plans in place to hopefully start a successful business but the foundation started a little earlier.

    2013- The goal was to get 2-3 years with a major corporation, gain experience and save a targeted amount of money.

    ------
    2015- I finished my slowlane job in Dec 2015 once I had saved my targeted amount of money.

    ------
    2016- The goal was to have a successful business of my own by the age of 30.

    Early 2016, I spent the first 4 month working on The Foundation and searching for what I wanted to do next. When deciding what I could do to get in the fast-lane I too wanted to navigate away from the industry I was working in (I thought it would be an area where I would be bored). I looked to see what areas I had the most knowledge/experience, I kept coming back to what I was already doing

    My knowledge and experience was what I could bring to the table.

    1. It was a major selling point when lining up customers.
    2. When dealing with coders I was the subject matter expert, when the coders had questions or suggestions for the design I would have the ability to make informed decisions without running to the client every two minutes to seek approval/input.

    (During this time The Millionaire Fast Lane by MJ DeMarco was recommended to me by a friend of mine on the FLF. It solidified the pathway I wanted to take)


    Idea Extraction
    May 2016, I met with my first employer who was running something similar. We had a 40 minute conversation about:
    1. How he got started?
    2. What would he change if he could do it all again?

    (We would not be competing in the same region so he was happy to share this info, also I think he was a little assuming when it came to my abilities).

    He mentioned how the market had begun to change and that customers would soon be looking for another kind of product. (That was it! That was my task to design an SaaS that would meet that need, while others would be spending time adapting their SaaS I could start one from scratch with no mess).

    I had figured out the area I could offer the most value in. The same week (by chance) after arriving back to where I was living I spoke with a business owner who mentioned the very same topic and expressed a serious need for it. I scheduled a time that it would be best to discuss the matter further.

    The meeting went well they had a second company who would be interested in the SaaS and even offered me investment money. I didn't take them up on the offer at that time because I had money set aside to complete the project myself. This was a major confidence boost.

    Coding
    I couldn't code so I began my search to find:
    1. What type of code would be best to create the software?
    2. What was the best to scale it?

    I spoke with 3 friends who were coders. Based on their advice and some other research ROR (RubyOnRails) was the the correct path. (Books I was reading at this time were "Zero To One" by Peter Thiel and "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug)

    Design
    June to August sitting at the desk in my room drawing, re-drawing and re-drawing the wireframes by hand.

    I was spending 8-9 hours a day designing and re-designing to find the minimum required product needed for the client, creating notes and flowcharts on each section for handover to the developers when the time came. (I knew the more detail I had the better it would be when it came to development. This was a long hard process of trial and error)

    Developers
    August to November, I had found my developers and created and signed contracts. Contracts were one of the longest items to complete and held up progress for a while. It took 2 months from September to early November to get theses in place. (A lot longer than I had thought and almost gave up on the project). At the same time late 2016 I got side tracked and sucked back into the slowlane. I took a job with a company, it didn't go to plan and wasn't as advertised. I thought I could work on my own project around the hours of work I was there 2.5months when I left.

    December, I was now in that awkward stage of paying people and having no product to show, I had to have blind faith that the developers would deliver.

    (Its important to note the developers worked part time on the project. This is something I chose because I felt it would work well for me and give me time during the week for testing, redesigning when needed and customer feedback. This may not work for everyone)

    ------
    2017- I have 3 modules of my software delivered and self-tested. I'm about to complete the business's website that offers an interim product/service that will later play into the software on completion. Also it will serve as a point of access to the software for clients.

    The next phase is to roll it out to both of the customers at the end of the month for a minimal monthly fee and gain invaluable user feedback.

    ---------
    Again sorry for the long opening post. Its difficult to summarize 6 months of work/process into a single post without sacrificing quality! Next one will be a lot shorter!
     
  2. Young-Gun
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    Young-Gun Silver Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Don't apologize for going long! I for one am vitally interested in all the details.

    And probably anyone seriously reading a progress thread is thankful for the brain dump.
     
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  3. holmzee
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    holmzee Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Nice write-up. Have you been looking for additional customers along the way besides the two you had talks with in the beginning?
     
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  4. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Thanks, if there is anything you'd like me to expand on just ask and I'll do my best to explain!
     
  5. Fox
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    Fox Moderator Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Great work, I got to see this all up close and am really looking forward to the next few months.
    If done right this has massive potential - high profit niche and a huge need for a great solution.
     
  6. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Hey great question!

    Short answer:
    • Yes and no.

    Long answer:
    • The previous job I worked gave me access to a wide variety of businesses in a number of industries and at the time was large market research but I only realized it later. (Opportunities are all around us hardest part can be recognizing them)
    • I have kept it to 2 companies because its small and easy to manage/focus while still in the testing and feedback phase. If the first roll out is successful I will add more customers.
    • I have been looking at polar opposite industries to really stress test the software and see how malleable it really is. I have 2 potential clients in mind that will give me this but I haven't approached them yet because its not the right time.
    I'm focused on building value right now (one customer, one problem, one solution). When I know the value is there I'll grow the user base.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
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  7. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Lol...No pressure then ;)
     
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  8. shakyhands
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    shakyhands Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    I'm definitely looking forward to hearing your progress with this one. Stories like this excite me haha.
     
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  9. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Its a slow week...

    Slow weeks are like the hard yards in football, the 3rd and 1 if you will of the entrepreneurial world. As tempting as it is to throw long again and aim for maximum reward, all I need is that 1 yard get to the next phase to regroup.

    This takes something which in the past I haven't been good with... patience.

    Patience is something I've really grown to understand during the progression of the project, so much so that I've grown to love the challenge of slow weeks. I've a number side roads all merging into one. If I can get them merged this week it will be a big big step.

    Don't underestimate the slow weeks, managed correctly they'll setup the next phase to go fast!!
     
  10. johnwmintz
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    johnwmintz Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    Great post. I am going down a similar route as you except I am just now starting. Looking forward to seeing more posts.
     
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  11. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Good progress made last week. The website is now complete and the initial stages of SaaS is linked to it. I'm really happy with how its looking. I wanted to have this finished before I presented the software to either client so that the project would look a little more complete/professional.

    I contacted Customer1 today and setup a time to present later this week.

    Naturally the "nerves and what if's" have started to set in. What if they don't like it?, what if they change their mind? Definitely a sign that I'm outside the comfort zone right now but thats exactly where I need to be. For better or worse I'll be learning something this week! (action = reaction)
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2017
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  12. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    My presentation plan for later this week.

    For past jobs I've done a few presentations for other peoples SaaS. The biggest thing I've learned from these are to keep the talk time sort and get the product into the customers hands.

    The plan is to split the presentation into 3 parts:
    1. Powerpoint Presentation(10minutes)
    2. Live demo(30minutes)
    3. Q&A's to finish (20minutes)

    -------
    Powerpoint Presentation will be kept short and simple, doing this will make it easier to keep the customers attention. The slides will consist of a 5-10 step user guide from where to login, main page options and how to complete the desired task.

    I plan on keeping it on point to provide and showcase the solution the customer is looking for, everything else is excess and will be avoided until the demo.

    -------
    Live Demo, I will select the person who has the greatest position of influence over the decision on taking your software or not. Thats the person I really want to impress.

    I already know who this person will be. I have setup a user name and password for them to login. The plan is to run though the 5-10 step process of the presentation in real time, building trust in the product. Once complete I'll show the customer different parts to the SaaS (creating users, settings etc)

    -------
    Q&A's will be a good way to end. The customer will have questions but it will also be a good time to ask a few myself. This is where I'll get to listen and learn. Its the perfect place to pitch some open ended questions e.g.

    • Is there anything you think is missing or that I haven't covered?
    • Do you see any issues incorporating this into your business?
    • How much value do you think this would add to your day to day operations?

    I'll be hoping at this point to get some positive feedback and really open up some discussion.
     
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  13. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Success!! The presentation went well. Customer1 was really happy with how the SaaS worked and looked. I learned a lot during the Q&A section too. I definitely feel the software is adding value and moving in the right direction. Customer 1 is more than happy to start paying a minimal monthly fee to use the modules currently available, while the remaining modules are being worked on.

    Its a good feeling having your first paying customer!
     
  14. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    I hope everyone reading is having a productive Friday. I'm still riding the high of getting my first customer earlier this week. I got paid today for a four month user period up front. I set it to 4 months for a number of reasons.

    • It locks the customer in for a time period I'm comfortable with them paying a minimal fee for.
    • I know the software should improve dramatically in the next 4 months which will increase the value providing to the client.
    • The goal is to move the client to larger monthly payments for the second half of the year (along with any other customers I sign up between now and then).
    • It puts a measurable milestone on time to devote and succeed with the next phase of development.

    Something I haven't chatted too much about is the team.


    Did I tell my developers about our first customer?
    Answer = Yes I did.

    I told them because the are my team and it adds credibility to the project, it will be easier for them to stay on top of their game knowing that a paying customer is going to be using their code. Having set a 4 month mark I feel will help the them understand where the project is going, the time line in which certain goals need to be achieved by and the why. I always work better when I understand and feel apart of the bigger picture.

    Its important to me to reward the team with positive feedback on their hard work. I want them to know that they're on a winning team. The developers are the engine without them I wouldn't be able to complete the SaaS.
     
  15. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    I'm having some growing pains this week, as the project grows so does the daily routine requirements. Gaining a client means I need to be a lot more regimented and on top of things.

    I listened to a great podcast episode called "Win The Day" (Highly recommend for anyone looking to get a routine going).

    It was exactly what I needed to hear to get myself energized and thinking a little more long term. We underestimate what we can achieve in one year but over estimate what we can achieve in 5 weeks. I have a 4 month window to get the next stage ready to launch, as tempting as it is to try and rush this I need to focus one day at a time, getting what I need completed not just what I want and being ok with not seeing immediate results.

    The Bad News
    I had a developer drop out of the team this week for personal reasons. He couldn't commit the required time to the project each week, it sucks a little (this is always a hazard of employing people, you should always have a back up plan).

    Luckily I listened to this advice when it was given to me and had prepared a potential replacement ahead of time. I'll be having a Skype call with them tomorrow to hopefully have them onboard for next week.

    The Good News
    I did get a call back from Customer2 yesterday. I have a software presentation with them later this. I'll be planning on replicating the presentation I did for Customer1 and hopefully I'll be putting them on a 4 month deal too.

    Wish me Luck!
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2017
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  16. KSR
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    KSR Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    Good thread, will follow.

    I'm curious though, did you say that 'The Foundation' is yours? How is that coming along?
     
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  17. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Hey thank you, I appreciate the compliment.

    The foundation is definitely not mine.. When I said worked on it, I meant I studied it and watched the tutorials etc.. I definitely cannot take any credit for creating or owning that course!

    I don't think I can edit my original post because as it was posted so long ago but I hope this clears up any confusion.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2017
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  18. KSR
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    KSR Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    Ahhhh, I see! How did you find the course? Was it good?
     
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  19. Scot
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    Scot Ductus Exemplo Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Great job on your first customer! Woo hoo, 1 in a row!

    Remember, do things that don't scale. In the beginning you can go above and beyond to land your first customers.

    Can't wait to hear about your second customer.
     
  20. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    It was recommended by a friend. I found it very helpful on how to find/choose and test an idea.
    • Idea extraction
    • 1 client, 1 problem, 1 solution
    It really helped me break down each stage I needed to go through and get the project rolling. It made the process manageable through bite sized pieces rather than overwhelming myself with the entirety of the project at once (ending my entrepreneurial paralysis).

    I haven't followed the course to the letter when creating the SaaS as everyones situation is always different, but like I said it mainly helped me get over my initial fear of taking action and ending my entrepreneurial paralysis.

    If you're asking me should you take the course? I would suggest reading @Young-Gun 's Progress Thread - SaaS Startup Thread, 2nd Time Entrepeneur first for idea extraction and execution (pretty much a step by step guide). Plus there is more than enough info on this forum within the gold threads. If you still feel like its not enough by all means look further into the course.
     
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  21. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Update from the week:

    I presented to potential Customer2 this week. I was able to have a good discussion with them. Again it gave me a lot of food for though when listening to what exactly they were looking to get from it. The meeting concluded with them asking for a little time to gather their thoughts on the software.

    I emailed Customer2 following day to see if they had though any further on the software and if they had any other questions for me.

    They said they would need a few weeks before they made a decision and the software solution was a long the lines of what they were looking for but as its still in testing/development stages they wanted to see what other products are available to them on the market.

    Not the immediate conclusion I was hoping for but I did gain some valuable info from meeting with them. I'll be honest and say I had thought it was a bit more of a sure thing but I guess thats why you should never count your chicks before they hatch.

    I think the main issue was that the decision maker wasn't that tech savvy, and even admitted it themselves. Because of this I think they found it difficult to visualize the true value of what I was offering.

    I could tell by the questions they were asking:

    "Do we have to have the internet to use this?"

    Its definitly a tough question to get when your trying to sell someone on a web based application. :(

    I don't think I've lost the sale, I just think is natural for people not to part with their money when they don't know a lot about a certain topic or area. I know from past conversations with Customer 2 and Customer 1 that they haven't been able to find anything similar on the market so I'm not worried. I feel its more of a stall tactic to see what I'll have by the end of next month. If thats the case I don't mind because the more I have developed the the higher the per month price will be.

    Not the perfect end to the week I had hoped for but as the saying goes "If it was easy everyone one would be doing it!"
     
  22. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    The last couple of weeks have been busy.

    After missing out on closing potential Customer2 I happened across potential Customer3.
    -------
    Started out well, Customer 3 was just as interested as Customer2. I explained that it was a work in progress and still in development but that I was looking for people to test the software with for feedback. I didn't know when I would get another chance to present to #3 so I just went for it, pulled out my laptop on the spot and walked #3 through the presentation. I got the same look and reaction as the one I received from Customer2. They both loved the idea and what I'm creating but just wanted to see more!

    (It's coming but I just don't have it yet! No need to go looking for Customer #4 the feedback has been received loud and clear get the next module done ASAP!)
    -------
    I spent the last 2 weeks focusing on the hard yards again and will continue to until I get the next module of the software up and out (Targeted date April 16th).

    Silver-lining if the module had been ready I'm sure I would have closed both Customer2&3.
     
  23. OAK
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    Wow... super inspring keep up the great work.

    Congrats on your first customer!
     
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  24. Locomote
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    Locomote Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Cheers guys! I appreciate both your comments, they keep the motivation going!
     
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  25. tristano
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    tristano Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    Congratulation for your beginning! Can you tell what was your slowlane job and your education before your decision to be an entrepreneur?
    Thanks.
     

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