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I bootstrapped my SaaS, UpLead, to $8.4M in 3 years. AMA.

Hey everyone!

I’m Will Cannon and I’ve been a serial entrepreneur since I was a kid. Started like many of you with my lemonade stand. I love building and growing businesses. B2B customer acquisition & SaaS are passions of mine. Here's what I’m working on:

UpLead (UpLead.com) is a B2B Prospecting Tool that helps you find new customers and grow faster. We launched in Jan 2018 and have done over $8.4mm in sales in the first 3 years.

Signaturely (Signaturely.com) is a super easy-to-use eSignature tool. Think DocuSign but for small-medium sized businesses and it’s free for up to 3 signed documents per month. Launched in Jan 2021, took from 0-250k visits/mo, 0-10k+ sign ups/mo within 8 months.

Both companies are 100% bootstrapped :)

Hoping I can help out the community here at IndieHackers.

AMA!

  1. 3

    Hi Will, 2 parter coming at ya! What led to your ah-ha moment that prompted you to start your venture? Either venture or both if you'd like. From that moment, how did you plot a course to secure your first customers?

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. 3

      From 2007 to 2017 I ran an agency and we did a lot of list building and cold email outreach. Many of our customers kept running into the same problem. They wanted high-quality B2B data that was affordable... That was the pain point that led me to build UpLead. To get our first customers I did what I knew best at the time, cold email outreach. Over time I started to diversify our customer acquisition channels as the business grew.

  2. 2

    Congrats Will!!

    I had a question about Signaturely's growth. 0-250k visits/mo in just 8 months is incredible. I would assume lots of SEO was involved - is there anything specific that worked really well?

    Thanks for posting this, and thanks for your time!

  3. 1

    Hey @iamwillcannon, thanks for doing the AMA!

    1. Can you describe your process from getting an idea, to hiring an agency, building MVP, getting first clients and scaling revenue? How did you approach each of the steps?
    2. Would you be keen to share how much did you pay to get your first MVP done?
  4. 1

    Hi @willcannon, congrats :) Trying to sign up to UpLead but getting an error. Tried 3 email addresses!

    1. 2

      @justinvincent new landing page had an error but its working now, please try again :)

    2. 1

      Are you trying with your business/work email? What error did you get? -- Our team can help via live chat or email: team (at) uplead (dot) com

  5. 1

    Wow, congrats on this huge milestone!
    I have several questions:

    1. What do you think of the freemium model vs free trial?
    2. What are your best marketing and acquisition channels?
    3. What would go differently if you ever raised round? Have you ever considered raising?
    1. 2
      1. Freemium with Signaturely has natural network effects which is nice, but its a long term mindset.
      2. SEO/PPC/Cold Email -- Over time we've built a brand so now most customers come to us via referral.
      3. 100% bootstrapped, happy I did it this way. No plans ATM to raise VC funding
  6. 1

    Congratulations Will 🎉

    Can you suggest to me some hacks to gain more signups for push to talk software ( Nuovoteam.com)?

    1. 1

      Cold email :) -- It's cost-effective and a great way to get started. Here's a free resource: coldemailbook.com

    1. 1

      Thanks for the support :)

  7. 1

    Congratulations Will 🎉

    I'd like to know how you've handled initial traction generation, provided that you didn't have the budget for marketing. 💰

    What has been the most successful channels you've used?📡

    An additional Q: How did you make your users engage with your product?⚡
    Were you developing features (that you thought were useful) constantly? ⚒
    Did you reach to a stall at some point (if yes, at what time?)⌚

    I know it's a lot(already asked 😂) to ask! But I'd be glad 🙏 if you were checking out our tool: https://www.pricewell.io/ and tell me your thoughts on it.

    Thank you

    1. 2

      Cold email was great to start, later SEO/PPC have worked well.... We're constantly doing customer interviews and asking for feedback on our product and this has really been a great driver of understanding the pain points of our customers and how we can better make them successful.

      I checked out your product and it looks pretty cool. Congrats!

      1. 1

        Thanks Will!
        Wishing you even more success in the future and grow UpLead even larger!

  8. 1

    Congratulations Will 🎉

    I got a chance to use UpLead and was really convinced how it works. Keep up the great work. I see there is a huge competition in this space and with this pace and experience Uplead is going to make a big impact.

    1. 1

      Thanks for your support!

  9. 1

    Any book recommendations?

    Looking to absorb as much knowledge as a beginner indie-hacker. So far, I have read Mom Test and Traction.

    Thanks!

    1. 2

      Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross had a big impact on me.

  10. 1

    Hey Will,

    Thanks for doing this AMA - huge fan of UpLead. Had the pleasure of working with Matt and want to say you're running a great company and it has some of the best employees I've had the pleasure of working with.

    In the early days (and still now), how do you differentiate yourself between larger competitors (ie ZoomInfo, Apollo, RocketReach) and yours?

    1. 2

      Hey George, great to hear you had an awesome experience with UpLead and Matt from our team. High-quality data + Affordable pricing are why customers choose UpLead.

  11. 1

    Congratulations Will 🎉

    I have recently got a chance to use UpLead and was really impressed with the product you've built.

    I'm curious to know why you decided to build just another(!) prospecting tool and what was your marketing strategy to acquire early users?

    Thank you for sharing!

    1. 1

      Similar answer I mentioned above... From 2007 to 2017 I ran an agency and we did a lot of list building and cold email outreach. Many of our customers kept running into the same problem. They wanted high-quality B2B data that was affordable... That was the pain point that led me to build UpLead. To get our first customers I did what I knew best, cold email outreach. Over time I started to diversify our customer acquisition channels as the business grew.

  12. 1

    Hi, Will

    Thanks for getting here today with us. Got few questions:

    1. How well did you know the space of sales tech before building uplead?
    2. Did you code alone both SaaS? What technologies?
    3. How long did you spend building the mvp for both?
    4. Im following you on TW and you mentioned the idea of taking an idea tested before and making a bit better then you have a good business. It s this widely applied? Could work for marketplaces also?
    5. How do you choose the niches?

    Thaaaanks

    1. 1
      1. I'd used all of the tools, so I understood the market and products fairly well.
      2. I hired a dev team in Russia, I found them on Upwork... Ruby+React.
      3. Approx 5mo for UpLead and 1 year for Signaturely.
      4. My experience has worked well in SaaS, unsure how it would translate when building a marketplace.
      5. Large TAM, Product Market Fit already achieved, Sales/Marketing nice is my speciality
      1. 1

        Thanks for doing the AMA. Just a follow up question on your reply to Aless. You mentioned you found a dev team on Upwork from Russia. Do you still use these to date? I am currently looking for a developer for our project maybe you could link there Upwork profile so I can reach out. Sorry if it sounds cheeky, it’s hard to find recommends developers on Upwork. Thanks and amazing achievement. Ash.

        1. 1

          Hi AshelyE, I'm founder of BugCrew. I'm a full stack developer myself and I am always looking for a good remote opportunity to work with smart team. Let's talk. Please drop by: support (at) bugcrew.net. See ya!

        2. 1

          Hi AshleyE Hope you're doing well we are a web design dev agency based on morocco feel free to reach out to us at info(at)adleadmedia(dot)ma
          Best regards!

        3. 1

          Shoot me an email: william (at) uplead (dot) com and I will make an intro, yes the dev team is available for other projects.

  13. 1

    Hey @iamwillcannon - $8.4M in three years is amazing. On UpLead, how were you able to grow from a few users to

    We are sitting under $10K MRR (through relationship sales) and trying to find scalable lead sources.

    1. 1

      I started with cold email outreach. It is really cost-effective... Over time I transitioned to SEO, PPC, Facebook, Affiliates, and a wide range of channels.

  14. 1

    Congrats for your amazing achievements.

    BTW,, in your pricing plan "$99/month, 170 Credits", What is credit? is it no of leads?

    The term "Credit" is highly confusing. :(

    1. 1

      1 Credit - 1 Lead you download/export.

      Viewing contacts is free, if you download/export to excel or your CRM it costs 1 credit per 1 lead.

      Hope this helps!

  15. 1

    Hello Will,

    Congratulations on the success of UpLead. 0 - $8.4M in 3 years is very impressive, and gives hope to the many of us currently at 0.

    I'm not far away from launching my own B2B SaaS, and I'm trying to consider where best to invest my time from a marketing perspective. Content marketing seems like my best option as I have a lot of domain knowledge but little budget.

    What strategy worked best for you to get sign-ups in the early days of UpLead? How did this change as the business scaled?

    Thanks!

    1. 1

      Cold email outreach to start... SEO is a long term investment and pays dividends in the long run

  16. 1

    Hi Will,

    I have a question on Signaturely.

    IDK about rest of the world but having worked on a eSign system in India we require that the signing authority have obtained a certificate from the CCA - http://cca.gov.in/eSign.html in order to conduct eSign. Has this been followed?

    1. 1

      Shoot an email to [email protected] and our team will get with you on this.

  17. 1

    That's very inspiring, Will! Congrats on your success.

    Can I know how you got the inbound/organic traffic?

    1. 1

      A lot of hard work and research. SEO takes a lot of time but if done right can have big rewards... Check out Ahrefs, MOZ and Hubspots SEO tutorials to learn some of the basics if you're just getting started.

  18. 1

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