Meet Vedran Cindric, the founder of Treblle, an API monitoring SaaS that's currently doing $4k/MRR. I've interviewed Vedran, trying to learn the background behind his business as well as how they grew to $4k/mo. Enjoy!
I’m Vedran and I like to say I’m a lifelong developer. I started developing with QBasic back in the day and doing it professionally when I was 18. I started out as a front end developer but quickly learned that I needed to know back-end development if I wanted to build everything myself. So besides HTML/CSS/JS I know PHP/MYSQL and most recently Laravel. The cool kids nowadays call that a full stack developer 😎 I also know devoos because i’m super passionate about performance and you have to know how servers and the cloud works in order to optimize everything.
I ran a development agency for the past 10 years and actively developed almost every day. A few months ago we decided to switch gears and secured a seed round for our new product called Treblle. So at the moment I’m exclusively working on anything Treblle related! I still develop but there are days when unfortunately I don’t get to do it every day.
The reasons were actually pretty selfish 😀 I ran a development agency and at one point we had like 50 APIs and apps live or in development. So my days were spent on providing integration support to other developers, writing documentation, jumping on calls trying to debug trivial things, trying to understand if there are problems on the APIs…so I started thinking that there must be a better way.
I looked for weeks on what others were using, what solutions are available and quickly realized there isn’t a tool that does what I needed. Since then we started building Treblle and never looked back. Even early on Treblle literally saved me and my team members hours upon hours every week so I’m super motivated to continue helping ourselves and others solve things that shouldn’t be as complicated and time consuming. There is a saying that the best developers are the laziest and always try to come up with solutions to make their job faster and easier 😂
I always say that absolutely every back-end developer has built a version of Treblle in their lifetime 🤣 So Treblle started as a small logging tool which I used to help me understand how others were using the API, what they were sending and all in an effort to help me understand where a problem might be. A basic tool like that did help me, but nobody else who was on the team. So we started building a more sophisticated version of my logging tool which would have a GUI and would be understandable by your average mobile developer, tester, product manager and even a CEO.
We kept adding features that would allow for that and we started inviting our agency clients and their developers on to the early versions. Everybody loved it, especially the mobile developers! We then started realizing that there are a lot of people like us out there with the same problems and that they see Treblle as the solution.
I’ve always been a PHP guy so our tech stack in some cases is conservative. On the front-end I’ve used pure HTML/CSS/JS as much as I could and to make my job easier we are using Bootstrap in some cases. I’m a huge fan of keeping the front-end code optimized and performant hence the minimal approach and besides Bootstrap no frameworks like React, Angular or Vue.
On the back-end side we are using Laravel. I’ve been developing with PHP/MYSQL for 15 years and I simply fell in love with Laravel. We’ve been able to achieve wonders with it and we plan to continue using it. Besides that, our cloud infrastructure of choice is AWS and we use a lot of services: S3, SQS, SES, RDS, Lambda, CloudFront, API Gateway and so on.
We were the first users of Treblle. Short and sweet. We built it for ourselves to help us with our daily problems. We used it for months on many projects in the background behind the scenes on many of our client projects. It made our daily job easier and we were also trying to test the scale. Slowly our clients and their developers started noticing that we had answers ready to a lot of hard questions about APIs, bugs that happen, usage and similar. So they started asking us if we could give them access to Treblle. We would onboard them, show them around and they were all interested in using it on all projects and being able to actually see it for themselves.
We came up with a pricing structure which was I would say symbolic but still they started paying for Treblle on top of what we were doing for them. Because a lot of the projects we worked on for our clients also involved a lot of their developers we started seeing interest from them as well. They would reach out and ask us about Treblle and if they could use it on some side projects they had or even on real ones. Slowly but surely those developers started spreading the word across places we didn’t even have clients like India, Ghana, Peru etc...We were thrilled that real developers liked the product so much that they would recommend it to others. That was the bulk of our initial growth: a combination of existing clients in the tech space and a really good product that people love. To this day we still grow like that and I hope we will continue to do so.
Besides getting our initial users through our already established clients, what worked for us was getting involved in relevant online communities. We all know that Reddit is a great place for developers, and you can find subreddits for almost anything.
The approach is simple: provide value first and then link your product in a casual manner. If your product is good enough to solve people’s problems, they will sign up and try it. Few of our posts were among the 10 top posts of the month in subreddits like /entrepreneur /laravel and /api. This got us a good amount of traffic and few signups. This approach applies to Hackenews and Quora as well.
Another approach that worked for us was recommendations and reviews. Being a developer myself, I’m always eager to test out new products if recommended by thought leaders in my space, so we also utilized this approach. We reached out to few influential people in our community to give Treblle a try. If they liked it, they would share it on social media. Twitter is the channel that works excellent for this type of campaign.
Moving forward, we are focused on creating high-quality content on our blog and building relationships with blogs and online magazines geared towards API and app development. Hackernoon is one of the distribution channels we are using for our blog content. One of our blogs actually managed to get into the top 5 stories of the day and got featured in their newsletter.
We’re a classic SaaS company and since we’re developers ourselves we tried to keep the pricing super simple. You basically pay for the number of requests made to your API and that’s it. Initially we weren’t tracking revenue because we started offering it to our agency clients and it was helping us. But since we actually transitioned to a separate company we’ve grown our revenue to about 5K within the last few months. Again we still haven’t launched and we’re just getting started with marketing. So I think this is pretty good for now.
The first thing we are doing is we are redesigning our current website. It was built before we actually knew what the product will look like at the end. After that we plan to launch in November on Web Summit. In the meantime we are also adding features that we set out to build. Some are really small, some are requested by our clients but a lot of them are big and long term features that will make the entire platform even better. Some of them include: building a universal iOS/iPadOS/MacOS app, allowing users to set up events on certain API requests, improved analytics and similar.
Talking to people about your product, idea, technology, business, users...You’d be surprised how much you can learn from various people in various businesses just by talking and asking questions. We’ve asked our clients what they think about Treblle a million times. Every time I speak to a developer who is using Treblle i ask him “how can we improve, what do you think, what do you need?”. I’ve talked to people that have nothing to do with technology and APIs about everything from running a business, scaling, hiring, life. You can learn from anyone you just need to know what to look for.
I’ve dropped the project at least 2-3 times because I couldn’t achieve the scale at cost and performance I wanted. People didn’t even understand what we were building because they never saw an API request before Treblle. The 3 of us built an entire platform in less than a year working after our real agency work or on weekends. The point is: don’t give up, persist, and just build whatever you are building. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be “final” if it just works it’s good enough. If you can walk in a room and give a demo of what you're building you’ve done it. It will just get easier from there.
Our platform is live and you can start using Treblle today on https://treblle.com. We also have a blog focused mostly on development and startup life which you can find here. I personally try to cover the things we do on Twitter. and LinkedIn.