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How I grew Software Ideas to $6k MRR in three months 📈

Software Ideas Metrics:

💰 MRR: $6,019 (+48%)
💵 Revenue: $18,535 (+47%)
😊Customer Count: 318 (vs 216)
💔Churn: 2 (vs 1)
📝 Free Email List: 3.3k

format stolen from this post

🌰 Part 1 - How I came up with Software Ideas

It began with job boards.

After launching my first SaaS, CoderNotes.io, I decided to write up what I had learned, and take those lessons into my next SaaS business.

I specifically decided I wanted to start my next SaaS in a market that already had a lot of money in it, so I started doing research.

I figured that if a company could afford to hire employees they must be doing something right! Once I found a company that interested me, I'd research all about their market and competition to see if I could find a hole.

I wanted to see if there was a niche inside the market that wasn't happy with the current offerings, where a bootstrapper could make a play and win!

However, doing this research via job boards was slow, and databases like Crunchbase and Owler cost up to $1,000/year. It was at that point when I wondered if I could turn my research into a product, a paid newsletter of weekly opportunities.

I figured that if I could at least cover the cost of the databases and make a couple thousand in profit on the side, it would be worthwhile.

And so, the idea for a market-research based newsletter for b2b SaaS was born.

🌱 Part 2 - How I validated Software Ideas

The next step was validation. Taking what I had learned from CoderNotes.io, I wanted to do it right this time.

I knew I was going to ask for pre-sales. But first, I had to find out what channels would work for me to reach readers.

So I turned my research into a free blog post and promoted it on various channels, making sure to track the results. Here is the IndieHackers version, which to this day has 22,204 views!

I also tried sharing it on Reddit, Twitter, and in some private founder groups. What I found was that Reddit worked okay (~25 upvotes on /r/entrepreneur), but the other channels worked much better.

I knew that I wanted to pre-sell the newsletter, so I included this paragraph at the bottom of the post:

If you would like (and would pay for) posts like these, reach out to me at [email protected]. I'm giving away another free post just like this one to the people who email me there!

Key takeaway: When looking for qualified leads, you need to give value first, and offer a reason for people to engage with YOU, not the other way around!

I'll touch on how this worked for pre-sales in a minute.

🍃 Part 3 - How I verified my channels and pre-sold $200 of a newsletter

In order to verify my results, I felt that I needed to repeat the test a second time. I wanted to know that I had a reliable way of reaching new readers, not that I could get lucky with a single post.

Key takeaway: Most founders skip trying to find a reliable channel, and go straight into building an MVP. I consider the work I did here, before fully committing to the idea, to be a key reason why I was successful.

I made another post, listening to user feedback by diving even deeper into each market.

At the same time, I was getting inbound leads from the first post I had made. I had set a pre-sales goal ahead of time - After talking to 100 qualified leads, at least 10 would want to pre-order the newsletter for $19 for a month.

Key takeaway: Setting a specific goal ahead of time is key for pre-sales, so you know that you're not cheating yourself. It's too easy to lower your price or the number of sales and trick yourself that you succeeded when you didn't.

After talking to only roughly 35 qualified leads, I had my 10 pre sales, totaling $190. I also had one pre-sale which I decided NOT to count in my pre-sales goal, because I knew that the individual was a friend and supporter of mine. Be wary of that when you're doing pre-sales! Fans don't count, only people who couldn't care less about you personally who are buying the product to solve a need!

Having zoomed past my pre-sales goal, proven that I was building something people wanted to buy, and found two reliable channels I could use to find new readers, I was ready to fully commit to Software Ideas

(If you'd like to read anonymized versions of these pre-sales emails, I've released them all publicly here)

🌳 Part 4 - How I grew Software Ideas

This is the part that founders think is hard. You're probably expecting me to share some "growth hacks" with you, some clever techniques I used to get the name out there.

But why would I need those? You read step three, I had found reliable channels already. When you have that, you just need to put in the work, and growth comes naturally.

Key takeaway: By front-loading all the risky parts of the business by pre-selling and validating channels, growth comes as a natural side-effect!

The only thing to say here is that this is when I started looking at other channels that may lead to more people finding out about Software Ideas. I tried cross-promotion, newsletter sponsorships, podcasts, and more.

I'm still in the middle of learning how to find new channels, but so far what I've learned is that you need to find a channel, test it, and evaluate it. It's no different from finding your first channel, it just happens later on in the lifecycle.

And that's the three-month recap of Software Ideas.

  1. 8

    It's been amazing watching this take off since July. 🚀
    Thank you for continuing to build in public and share everything so openly.

    What's next for softwareideas?

    1. 2

      Thanks Curtis! I really have enjoyed the opportunity to give insight into what's working for Software Ideas, since I really think it can help out fellow founders.

      The main thing right now is The Foundation course (promo video), which is going to be included in a Software Ideas membership. I want to deep-dive on the pre-selling and channel validation steps I mentioned in the post, because I feel like there isn't enough information out there on how to do that.

      I've shared these steps privately with some members and gotten great feedback, so I'm really excited to launch that in the next month or so!

  2. 2

    Recently read through one of the free newsletters, it's great stuff! Is your stack no-code? i.e. the newsletter itself, and the course/membership site?

    1. 1

      Thank you! I'm glad you liked it.

      It's not no-code, the membership site is coded by hand (my day-job is as a developer). And the newsletter is through Mailchimp, moving to ConvertKit shortly.

      1. 2

        Me too, but I'm sooo tired of coding ;) Thanks for the reply!

        1. 1

          I was just talking to a couple no-coders yesterday, the speed they can develop is crazy impressive!

  3. 2

    That incredible!!., congrats Kevin! I follow Codernotes.io since your first share on IH and PH. After 3 months, I'm planning to give up on the road to become an indie hacker because I don't have income :)))

    Thank you for share!

    1. 1

      Hey Lâm,

      Thanks for reaching out! Do you mean that in three months from now you'll give up, or that you don't currently don't have income and you are about to give up?

  4. 2

    Have you done a write up on the opportunity fir a downmarket version of Tableau or Domo - enterprise BI software? Would love to read it - mainly because I’m building and launching that product right now, but also because I love your write ups. Thanks for sharing the process!

    1. 1

      Hey Daren, I haven't touched enterprise BI yet! I'll keep that market in mind for future issues!

  5. 2

    Congrats and thanks for the share!

    1. 1

      Thank you very much!

  6. 2

    Was there a consistent medium to the interviews? Were most of the messages timed like live?...

    Thanks for the sharing.

    Also I didn't quite get the part of getting out of bootstrapping for you? Does this service enable it for you? Or just the content is for ideas that are big and need funding?

    1. 2

      Hey there, let me know if I misunderstood your questions at all:

      Was there a consistent medium to the interviews?

      By interviews, do you mean the pre-sale conversations? Those were all done online via email, slack, or similar.

      Does this service enable it for you? Or just the content is for ideas that are big and need funding?

      I think you're asking about the value prop for Software Ideas? The concept is to look at markets where there are large or VS-backed companies that are focused on enterprise or large business sales, and identify gaps in the market where their offerings don't fully satisfy a niche. From there, I write about a positioning I think a founder could take to compete and win against the VC-backed company, for that specific niche.

  7. 2

    Great numbers!

    Where did you find the leads you talked to for pre-sales? Was it just through the message they sent you to get the free post?

    1. 1

      Thanks!

      Yep, all my leads came inbound through posts like the one on IndieHackers. Check out that link I put in the post and you can see the actual conversations!

  8. 2

    Love it! Well done mate! Keep sharing your success! Subscribing tomorrow (getting a new CC)

    1. 1

      Thanks Vaibhav! Will do and thanks for supporting the project!

      If you can, try to subscribe by 2 PM eastern, so that you'll get this week's newsletter directly in your inbox instead of having to go to the archive for it!

  9. 2

    Hi Kevin,

    interesting read! I wonder why you decided to go with a subscription business model? what are the other available options you considered to monetize content?

    Cheers :)

    1. 1

      Forgot to say:

      I also believe that a premium pricing model has more of a product-founder fit for me. I would have struggled to be as consistent with building up a free newsletter. With a paid one, I am obligated to deliver high-quality writing every week, absolutely NO exceptions!

      I think this works a lot better with my personal habits. In addition, I really didn't like the idea of having to pander to advertisers in order to turn a profit from the newsletter. I really like how paid content incentivizes the writer to spend their time crafting the highest quality content they can, instead of optimizing open rate and click rate so advertisers can see ROI.

    2. 1

      Hey Ido!

      Thanks for the question :)

      I knew that I wanted to have a premium/paid product. I had started with a freemium model for my previous SaaS, and really disliked how it tricked me into thinking the product was doing better than it really was.

      When I decided to look into Software Ideas, I actually did investigate a range of payment models, but all of them involved taking payment upfront.

      The main one I looked into for a time was a one-time purchase of a huge list of ideas at a much higher price point, but that actually didn't have as much appeal as a newsletter did.

  10. 1

    Great article. Some really solid advice. Thanks

  11. 1

    Wow! amazing, thanks for sharing!

  12. 1

    It's been few months since you're sending these news letters. Is there any story you can share where someone built something and earned revenue based on any of these ideas? That would be an interesting read.

  13. 1

    Just signed up...;) - wrt testing and evaluating new channels, do you also have a formalized way of doing this?

    1. 1

      Awesome, thanks for joining! I actually just posted this milestone, so thanks for helping me get there!

      Yes I think there is a somewhat formalized way of doing this, but it depends on the channel. It looks something like this:

      • If you are just starting, there are a more limited number of channels you can explore. Things like referral marketing, and product-driven marketing (like offering a "freemium" plan) might end up working great for your business, but you can't test them right now, so they'll have to wait.

      • Once you decide on a channel you want to test, it's time to create a time-locked, measurable experiment. For Software Ideas, I made a few of these on different channels:

      Experiment: A completely free, formatted version of my newsletter will do well on IndieHackers (link), Reddit (link), and Twitter (can't find the old link)

      Out of these, two did well, and one did not. They were inherently time-based since a post only stays on the front page for so long.

      Once I found channels that worked at a small scale, I kept doing small experiments to see what worked and what didn't, until I found reliable strategies for letting new people find out about the newsletter.

      I wrote a small blog post, that is actually a placeholder for [The Foundation](https://www.reddit.com/r/Entrepreneur/comments/ho2033/looking_for_a_business_idea_here_are_three/ course), which you can read here, which summarizes a couple strategies for different channels.

      Hope that helps a bit!

  14. 1

    Superb work done, Kevin! Going to add this story to my repository.

    1. 1

      Thanks! Glad you like it, I'll try to keep updating as the story continues!

  15. 1

    Thanks for sharing Kevin. Are you using Stripe for subscriptions?

    1. 1

      No problem! Yes, all of my subscriptions are managed using Stripe and Stripe's APIs.

  16. 1

    Nicely executed. Congrats!

    1. Run pre-sale to verify if people are willing to buy your idea/product without building it.
    2. Test if you can find a channel to get consistent customers.
    1. 1

      Thanks, and you nailed it!

      I also wrote a bit more about growth today here

  17. 1

    Did you have to buy these two expensive databases before you were able to validate your idea?

    1. 1

      No, it just made it easier to do the research as quickly as possible for finding ideas. If you're not trying to write a newsletter or gather 10+ ideas, you're absolutely fine to use the free resources! (Or, take a shortcut and use Software Ideas, wink wink!)

  18. 1

    Congrats on the success. This post does a good job of explaining how you got your first $200 and validated your model, but how have you grown to $6K MRR since then?

    1. 1

      Hey Maximus,

      That was kinda the point! Once I had found my two channels, Twitter and IndieHackers, I simply had to be active on those channels, posting quality content example, and overall allowing people to find out about Software Ideas.

      Basically, I got the fundamentals right, and because of that the product sells itself when it gets in front of the right people.

      1. 1

        So, the reliable channel that you mention here, is it just the 2 posts on IH, or do you plan to do it regularly?

  19. 1

    "When looking for qualified leads, you need to give value first, and offer a reason for people to engage with YOU, not the other way around!"

    I can see how this works for a newsletter. But what about SaaS applications?

    For example, I have a Chrome Extension. And it's a freemium product. Free to use with a limited set of features. I don't want to give an X-day trial because I feel like people would abuse that and keep signing up with different e-mails.

    1. 1

      Hey Samiul!

      That quote is really meant in the context of finding qualified leads for customer conversations, not once you already have a product.

      That said, freemium is a marketing strategy that does exactly this (giving value first), so you're already doing this!

  20. 1

    What's the biggest success story of any of your customers using your service so far?

    1. 2

      Only three months in so far, so most founders are still in the early phases!

      One founder took an idea and turned it into an open source library that allows anyone to create a website directly from notion, which is pretty awesome!

      While the idea didn't come to him from the newsletter, one subscriber took the market research from an idea and applied it to the product he launched that same day, and has now gotten a number of pre-sales.

      There are a number of founders who are just getting their feet wet with an idea as we speak, which I'm super excited about! For example, one reader is in the middle of customer conversations for rentify.store, just spoke to him today and he is ramping up after spending the month dealing with moving logistics.

      EDIT: I also probably don't know every startup that a reader has started due to the newsletter, these are just some of the ones from founders who have specifically reached out to me to let me know

  21. 1

    Happy to answer any questions, share more metrics, etc!

    1. 2

      This is really cool! One thing I wonder when I see this - and it could just be me - is... if you're successful at giving people product ideas that they turn into businesses, wouldn't they stop needing to subscribe? Is this just me overthinking it??

      1. 2

        Thanks! This is a valid concern, but you'd be surprised. There are a number of reasons why this isn't they typical case. Some people read for inspiration, others read to understand a framework for looking at ideas, and some people start an idea but decide it isn't for them and are still looking.

        I think it's kinda a myth that most founders just lock on to an idea and take off from there. For most, finding an idea that you're going to commit your next few years to is a longer process, filled with false starts.

        That's a major reason why I have my minimum plan at three months, because I want to align readers' incentives with what I believe is the most optimal process for finding an idea, doing the due diligence to see if it's a good fit for them, and ideally exploring at least a couple ideas to be able to compare the traction they're getting.

        1. 2

          Love it! Also really like that you've set the minimum at 3 months - which sets the expectation of a longer-term relationship but is a much lower barrier to adoption than a yearlong requirement.

          Keep up the great work and love how you're building in public :) Super inspiring!

  22. 1

    This comment was deleted 4 months ago.

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