Building in Public January 12, 2021

Before I jump into building a SaaS, what are some things I should know? 🤷‍♂️

Brayden 🙃 @BraydenTW

Hey everybody,

Yesterday I wrote a post talking about this cool idea I have for a SaaS product.

I can't wait to get started! 😄

But I know there are a lot of experienced indie hackers on here who have built a SaaS. I was wondering if there is anything I should know prior getting into this.

If you haven't checked out the yesterday's post, be sure to! It will help give some context on what I'm trying to achieve.

Here is a recap:

The problem 😥: Being a developer and learning new languages/frameworks can be quite the handful. Developers might feel rushed with all this newness and make unwise decisions in the end.

Are there current solutions? 🤷‍♂️ : Yes, but they're not great. Roadmaps and huge posts have all the info, but don't deliver it in a simpler/non-stressful way.

What am I building to solve this problem?: An interactive roadmap with all the resources you'll need to be a developer in 2021. Developers can pace themselves, make informed decisions, and achieve their goals!

  1. 8

    I will be honest with you... I tried to read the post you wrote but couldn't make my way through tons of flashing gifs so it would be nice if you'd recap your idea here. I'm building a SaaS app too, so who knows maybe we could exchange some pieces of advice :)

    1. 4

      Good luck for the both of you.

      If you ever need any business strategies on SaaS, you can take a look at this free database I've created.

      Cheers.

      1. 1

        Thank you very much! Your page looks pretty useful!

      2. 1

        Thanks @yunsn, will be sure to check it out.

    2. 1

      @seacat: sorry about that!

      Here is a recap:

      The problem 😥: Being a developer and learning new languages/frameworks can be quite the handful. Developers might feel rushed with all this newness and make unwise decisions in the end.

      Are there current solutions? 🤷‍♂️ : Yes, but they're not great. Roadmaps and huge posts have all the info, but don't deliver it in a simpler/non-stressful way.

      What am I building to solve this problem?: An interactive roadmap with all the resources you'll need to be a developer in 2021. Developers can pace themselves, make informed decisions, and achieve their goals!

      1. 2

        Thanks, I got it now! :-)
        I think your idea is brilliant. I meant those roadmaps may be very useful. As a codementor I saw many people looking for a clear program to be a front-end-dev, back-end-dev, ML-dev and so on. So, I think it's pretty viable.

        Now, back to the real life.
        I'm not sure if a SaaS app could be a good solution. I rather see it as a catalogue of roadmaps that everyone can download. Monetization: ads, or maybe a paid subscription (but not sure if people would like to pay). Another form could be a store of such roadmaps (they shouldn't be expensive, of course).

        But! A complement idea is here - a SaaS allowing you to create any roadmaps (I saw existing solutions what meant there is a market).

        So, generally speaking, my advice is to think carefully who would be your paid customers and which form of the app they would prefer.

        Good luck!

        1. 1

          Neat ideas!

          I think that’s true. Offering a catalog with ads for monetization or a “Support Us” donation page would be pretty good.

          And also a desperate idea where people can make their own roadmaps is pretty cool. Would that be considered a SaaS app? Would it be monetized by a subscription plan?

          Anyways, thanks for your help. I’ll continue to brainstorm and reach out to devs to see what they think.

          Thanks for the help!

  2. 6

    Building is hard, but selling is way way way harder ;-)

    1. 2

      Yep, I figured that! 😂

      What’s the hardest part of selling you would say?

  3. 4

    Not trying to pour cold water on you, but expect that it's going to be extremely hard to get your new SaaS off the ground in the early stages.

    Once you've found the first few early adopters, ask for their feedback -- what they like and don't like.

    Also try to focus your app on a single target audience initially -- e.g. for developers only, or for ecom businesses only. I didn't read your last post, just giving these examples off the top of my head.

    It's super hard trying to become a (for example) note taking app for everyone and anyone.

    1. 1

      That’s true. I think I’m going to focus on either new developers or developers trying to achieve something big such as getting a job or something.

  4. 3

    Hi Brayden, my initial reaction is that this sounds more like an info product, and in my opinion it's hard to make an info product a saas unless there is a ridiculously large library of content. If think you might have an easier time selling a one-time purchase rather than a subscription, but you're welcome to test out this theory.

    Also, I think as far as info products go, this seems like a good idea – and I think there's always room for valuable info products in the market. Good luck!

    1. 1

      Thanks! I was thinking something along those lines too.

  5. 3

    One thing I'd say to myself is to talk to users as frequently as possible, preferably every day if possible.

    There are exceptions to this, especially if you're building something to yourself, but even then its probably smart to start talking to them quickly.

    1. 1

      Yep, I’ve been doing that as best as I can. I’m messaging some indie hackers and some people on dev.to.

      The more feedback I get, the more refined this could turn out to be.

  6. 3

    Idea/Problem Validation & Market Positioning (What is it?)
    Focus first on validating your idea and working toward identifying your market positioning.

    It sounds like your idea is something about helping developers learn new frameworks. My first question is, which developers? Beginners, intermediates, experts? Start with an assumption around a relatively specific customer profile. Based on what I know about your idea (very little), I would say start somewhere in between beginners and intermediates. Maybe people who know React but have something like 3-5 years total experience. Experts probably don't need your product because they can pick up new frameworks in a day or two. Beginners probably don't have enough background knowledge to know to go looking for your thing.

    Once you have a customer profile -- validate that they actually have a problem first. Talk to some people who fall into that profile and see if they have this problem. The key part to this is listening to what people are telling you vs looking for confirmation of your solution (confirmation bias), especially because it sounds like you may be starting with a solution (cart before the horse).

    Market Validation (Are there customers who will pay for it?)
    Once you've validated a problem exists, validate that a market exists. Is this something people are willing to pay money for? I'm not sure exactly what your product will do -- something around teaching people new frameworks -- but my first impression is that you're going to be competing with a lot of free educational content on the internet. The best way I know of to monetizing educational content is by creating high-quality premium courses (egghead.io, for example, or hosting your content on a platform like podia).

    It also sounds like from your headline ("choosing what path to take is tough") your interaction point with the customer is decision-making. Should I learn a new framework? Which one? My first impression there: decision-making is a cognitive problem, and having the requisite information to make an informed decision is an intermediate input to the final thing.

    SaaS is just a fancy name for workflow software: there is some existing workflow that's painful and/or economically costly and I'd pay to make it better. I used to use Mint.com for free to manage my personal finances, but it sucks, so now I pay for Lunch Money. Making marketing pages takes a lot of time, so I'm willing to pay for Umso. Financial research/charting is a pain and most of it sucks so I pay for trading view to use their charting software.

    I think it's helpful to make a clear distinction between SaaS/workflow software that people pay for and premium educational content. In one you make money by making software and finding customers who will pay for it (the finding customers part is both super important and a shitload of effort). In the other, you make money by producing content and finding people who need and will pay for your content. It's worth identifying these as two very different businesses, with vastly different customer lifecycles, churn rates, dynamics, etc.

    Ok, this is probably way more than you bargained for, so I'll stop here. Good luck.

    1. 1

      Hey @ajsharp, no problem! These are great points.

      After reading the comments on this and the previous post, I've figured out that my ideal target audience are beginner-intermediate developers who are really looking to pick up the pace and learn more.

      I totally agree with you that advanced devs wouldn't need this (because they know the jist of things).

      As far as naming this a SaaS or educational platform, I'm not sure.

      I am not creating my own course. I am curating a list of different articles/free courses/videos that will help developers become proficient for each step of the way.

      I'd say that I am providing the user with a dashboard and the customizable, interactive roadmap itself. The resources are all there in the roadmap tool, I just want to make it more "goal-focused" so they can really focus their efforts on let's say "getting a job", "being a freelancer", "or mastering the language".

      You said:

      SaaS is just a fancy name for workflow software: there is some existing workflow that's painful and/or economically costly and I'd pay to make it better.

      So I just curated the resources needed for every step of the way (which is saving the user time) and I will build a workflow tool that will walk them through the steps it would take to reach that goal.

      Does this make sense? I'm still not super great at this whole new area of marketing/SaaS.

      Thanks for your help.

  7. 3

    If you want to build it in NodeJS then you can do it in a weekend with Saasify

    1. 1

      Sorry, I’m creating it with NextJS and React after watching @leerob’s course (react2025.com).

      It helps a lot to teach me how to build a real-world application.

  8. 2

    If things go well people will ask you to add stuff. Take care to only say yes to the stuff that is going to improve things for everyone.

    In other words: don’t please everyone at any cost!

    1. 1

      Thanks for the advice! Will do!

  9. 2

    🤷‍♂️ What problem are you solving and how ?

    1. 1

      I told that in my previous post and summed it up to a another IndieHacker:

      Here is a recap:
      The problem 😥: Being a developer and learning new languages/frameworks can be quite the handful. Developers might feel rushed with all this newness and make unwise decisions in the end.

      Are there current solutions? 🤷‍♂️ : Yes, but they're not great. Roadmaps and huge posts have all the info, but don't deliver it in a simpler/non-stressful way.

      What am I building to solve this problem?: An interactive roadmap with all the resources you'll need to be a developer in 2021. Developers can pace themselves, make informed decisions, and achieve their goals!

      1. 1

        How many experienced developer really find it stressful to learn new language / framework ?

        How many developers really jump between the different programming language every year ? ( say from PHP Developer in 2020 to Ruby on Rail Developer in 2021 or from Symfony Framework in 2020 to CakePHP Framework in 2021 )

        Have you really spoken to these stressful developer. Do you know what that stress look like ? I just want to understand your problem statement better in terms of end user prospective.

        1. 1

          Well for example, from 2018-2019, there was almost a 2.5 million increase in number of developers.

          That’s 2.5 million new developers probably looking at guides/watching courses/looking at roadmap videos. There’s a good chance that quite a lot of them could be confused. I see this is very common on dev.to where people ask, “what framework should I learn?” “Should I be a backend developer or Frontend developer” “how to I get a job at big tech”?

          And the list goes on and on. What I’m build here is a tool that solves these problems for developers and will help them walk through the steps, pros, and cons so they can make an informed decision at the end.

          1. 2

            If you are speaking about very beginners , then yes they are quite clueless.

            But at the same time, they don't need yet another service/ Product to solve their problem.

            All they do is 1) Speak to people who have already been there for 15 minutes.

            They can get a a 100 feet overview and rough idea from where to start with. Their clueless-ness and stress ends here

            Once they get a rough idea about where to start with then they will buy books, video tutorials etc to guide them

            From there, a basis curiosity will drive them. That's how may developers end up learning lot many thing in their starting days.

            With that said, What is the real problem is your product really solving ?

            1. 1

              This is exactly how I learned.

            2. 1

              Good points you bring up there.

              It all really started from all these questions developers ask. They ask it on a forum or website and they get tons of answers from people on both sides of the spectrum. However, there are still too many pros or cons in their mind in order to decide.

              There is a never a perfect answer for anything. My tool is essentially an easier way for developers who want to learn something new. Without all the stress of tons of people saying left and right to do, and what not to do.

              This tool I'm building will help developers pace themselves when going on the process through learning. Another indie hacker on the previous post mentioned how "learning to learn" is also very important.

              Without all the hassle of getting sources from here and there on the web, the developer will have it all in their hands, without getting it thrown at their face. (Like on many "Complete guides").

              Thanks for bringing up these questions, @sachingk. What are your thoughts on this idea overall?

              1. 1

                I would say you are building a information product not SaaS.

                When these people come to me I just advice they to start learning HTML/CSS/Javascript. Because these days those are the starting point of any web development. Sometime even for mobile app development.

                From there, out of curiosity these guys learn rest of the things in attempt to answer " How To ____"

                I would say you should speak to 20 such fresh beginner to understand the problem statement better.

                That's it for today.

                1. 1

                  Thanks for your help. I’ll work on that this week for sure.

  10. 2

    Simple roadmap, which works for me:

    • Create a waitlist landing page
    • Promote landing page, gain email subscribers
    • Create main functionality (MVP)
    • Show MVP to potential customers
    • Ship your product fast (launch early)
    • Validate idea
    • Have fun, do not overthink, make it simple

    Maybe would be helpful.

    1. 1

      Got it - thanks! Super great advice.

      When you say:

      Ship your product fast

      ... should I launch on ProductHunt?

      1. 2

        Yes, try to launch your product on ProductHunt or other platforms faster. After some time you can launch 2.0 versions too.

        I found this video very helpful, on my starting point:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6reLWfFNer0&t=1420s

        1. 1

          Sounds good - thanks!

  11. 2

    Have two plans - the perfect vision and the mvp that actually provides the service without all the "niceness" you think are a must.
    Have the full plan before you begin.
    Start with lower fidelity versions

  12. 1

    Love the idea! Im currently teaching myself Web Dev and would highly benefit from this. Happy to jump on call if you want for user research. Also, would try to make it as multi-media as possible

    1. 1

      Thanks for your support. I’ll let you know if I continue on with this.

  13. 1

    I think others have offered great advice here. I think what I'd ask/offer is - can you genuinely help one person with this problem in a non SaaS, non-scalable, manual way? Like, try to find people with this problem on IH, cofounderslab, reddit, etc. and just say, hi I noticed you're a new dev trying to make sense of what's out there. I'd love to chat with you on the phone for 20 minutes and hear where you're at and offer my perspective, no strings attached.

    I think if you have a handful of those conversations (and also do discovery in the process) and the person afterwards is like wow that really helped, the nature of the actual problem and the potential "product" will begin to take shape.

    1. 1

      Great idea! I’ll try this!

  14. 1

    There are so many gifs in your post, I'm not exactly sure I got it right...

    But it seems to me that you're trying to build some kind if course or infoproduct and not a SAAS?

    1. 1

      Sorry about that. I can remove them if it helps.

      But kinda. It’s a curated list of resources, put into an interactive roadmap. People can set goals, and have a dashboard with their progress and other stats such as their current tech stack.

      1. 1

        Ok got it. I still think this will get better adoption if you sell it as a one time purchase product. Eg as a notion template.

        1. 1

          True, I was thinking that too.

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