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I bootstrapped VEED to $3.5M ARR & was just on the IH podcast. AMA!

Hey 👋 Im Sabba, co-founder and CEO of VEED.IO (We make simple online video editing software)

In less than two years, me and my co-founder Tim have bootstrapped VEED to 3.5M ARR and 500K MAU.

I was just on the IH podcast 🤯 and thought it would be a good time to do an AMA. Follow up questions from the podcast, product, growth, personal.... Almost anything goes!

This post was inspired by @lunchbag amazing AMA yesterday ❤️

  1. 3

    Hey @sabba, great episode. You left me quite intrigued with the beeped-out mistake! What hits me especially close about your case is that you're in the creation tools industry, and it is indeed true that everyone likes these tools but many still think these can't make money.

    I'm building a WebGL game engine, and although it's not the same, it's still a creation tool so, your experience really inspired me.

    How much % focus would you distribute between marketing, tool improvement/fixing, and feature development?

    Edit: forgot customer support... sorry customers.

    1. 7

      Hey @BeardScript Super nice product! Building a WebGL game engine takes some serious work and it looks like it is coming along nicely.

      If you have a product that people can use... you should be marketing it!

      Why?

      1. You work out if you are building something people want.
      2. Users help you with motivation.
      3. Users help you with product direction.

      How long should you spend on marketing?

      I would be spending a good 40-60% of your time on Marketing right now.

      VEED was very buggy in the early days and it still has a lot of bugs. If we did not have loads of paying users, then we would still have lots of bugs.

      How to market a name engine?

      Build popular simple games and put the code on Github (link to your site to show docs or the game running)
      Be active in three.js community, maybe link to docs on your site.
      Write tutorials
      Try and capitalise on trends (Create simple versions of trending games)

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        I expected a good answer... I wasn't ready for such an amazing one. You're giving me actionable advice for my specific case and I appreciate it greatly.

        Thank you so much for your advice and for the kind words towards Rogue Engine. It's good to know that a great piece of software like VEED in such a competitive niche was also buggy when people started using it.

        Best of luck! Sending you good vibes from the north!

        1. 2

          Reach out any time and best of luck!

  2. 2

    How hard was it to ship the auto generation of subtitles feature? Also (and conscious I still need to listen to the podcast), what sort of early stage sales approaches really moved the needle for you guys?

    1. 2

      First off your product looks amazing. Lots of our users are creating courses so i am familiar with the market. Its competitive, but the LTV is high. Being a simple and affordable solution is a good place to start.

      Building any feature or product is as simple or as hard as you want to make it. We have an amazing team working on VEED full time now, but the MVP was shipped fast with a limited feature set.

      In the early days, you want to stack just 1 user on top of the other. If you are adding a new user to your platform every day, you're growing and that's great. As i say in the episode, posting on quora worked fo us. It was not crazy, but it worked. So find what works for you and keep doing it! Best of luck

      1. 1

        Thanks @sabba, that compliment made my day.

  3. 1

    Are you still on GCP or moved on some other server after credits end?

    1. 1

      Still on GCP and love it.

  4. 1

    @sabba
    Also can you share how your tech stack looks like ?
    I guess you did allot of iterations until you found the sweet spot on how to process video
    Thanks!

  5. 1

    @sabba
    Great Saas you have
    How much of this revenue is actually profit?
    video processing is one of the costly things to process.

  6. 1

    Do you mind sharing your profit numbers or like breakdown any figures on the running cost? It was asked the last time you did AMA but you didn't respond, maybe you missed it.

    Just trying to get an idea of how much it costs (in terms of development teams, infrastructure, marketing, support..) to run a video-based service.

    1. 1

      I probably did not respond because it makes me feel vulnerable having this info public.

      Our render has been optimised really well over the last 2 years, so server costs are really not that bad. A lot of people are really surprised by how low it is.

      The cost of the team I very specific to how we approach growth. We COULD run the company with 4 people, but this would stunt our growth. Our team is mainly based in the EU so we don't pay SF wages.

      Right now we are putting all our profit to work on getting great new hires while leaving a sensible buffer for a rainy day. The amount of profit we put away each month changes a lot due to new hires.

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        Can you scale this business WITHOUT getting any great hirees? In my experience, there is no correlation with the amount of people and the results.
        You are not Henry Ford who needed people on the assembly lines.

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          We could scale WITHOUT new hires. But at what cost to the business, the product offering and our ability to scale and stay competitive? Let me rephrase that, we are inviting all profits into growth. We could run VEED on a very small team, but our aspirations is to build a really big company with a world-class product offering.

          1. 1

            Constraints are the best thing that can ever happen to you. It makes you think logically, rather filling the void with money. Banks can't run successful startups. Rich VC's can't bootstrap. Read Henry Ford and how he scaled his company. You will probably avoid lots of errors in your quest to dominate the video editing niche.

      2. 1

        I really understand your concern. And what you said makes total sense. Thanks for sharing, Sabba.

        Yeah, nice to have that buffer.

  7. 1

    Nice, and very inspiring @sabba!

    Can I ask how you sustained the server and processing costs at the start. What sort of cost margin was it or is taking up? Video takes ups a lot of resources, did you account for that right from the beginning?

    1. 1

      We were on the GCP startup program, the credit lasted us a long time and got us to profitability. Without this, maybe we would have needed seed funding. Our rendering is really not too expensive to run. I know some other companies are running on top of after effects, this however is extremely expensive to run.

  8. 1

    Hey Sabba, wanted to ask 2 quick questions:

    1. when was your snowball moment and what caused it - when did you go from writing on quora and getting 1~3 users a day to really gaining a lot of traffic that increased on the daily
      (was it product market fit, some change in a process etc.)?

    2. I notice you purely focused on consumer needs rather than competition - what was your mindset on competition when launching VEED.IO (I'm guessing video editors are a competitive market)? Do you believe in the idea of abundance - there's enough for everyone and as long as you're bringing customers in, you're alright?

    Great product btw and good luck in the future, I'll have a listen to your podcast episode on a train journey tomorrow!

    1. 1

      Hey Jakub, We wrote this blog post some time ago that explains how we got from 0 to 50K MAU - https://www.veed.io/blog/startup-growth-no-budget/

      We don't like to think too much about competition. Instead, we focus on making a great product for our users. After all, they are the ones paying for the product. We serve our users, no one else.

      When it comes to ideas, you can look at any big tech company and think about what part of the market are they not serving very well. In our case, we look to complex adobe products and try and make them as simple as possible.

      1. 1

        Ahh thanks for the link, and great podcast & timing with the reply btw, just finished it a few minutes ago!

  9. 1

    Hey Sabba! Congrats for your awesome product. It's AWESOME.

    1. Did you guys raise any money at all? Where did you get the money to make the idea reality?
    2. Di you developed it all by yourselves or hired somebody?
    1. 1

      Thanks so much Fernando. Are you working on anything right now?

      1. We never raised any money. We started the company on about £6K each, we won some money in a startup pitch competition and wasted it all. We did have server credits that really helped us get off the ground in the early days.

      2. At the start it with just me and Tim, then we hired two grads who both quit on the same day two months later. Then it was back to me and Tim. And then we found Mate and Veljko who came on part time, then full time and are still with us today.

      1. 1

        Thanks for the answer! Not working on anything in particular right now. Just gaining new skills and finding niches/opportunities that might be interesting.

  10. 1

    That bum Alec from your Youtube videos does a pretty good job appearing in the organic google searches. Congrats.
    How did you get to launch the youtube marketing campaign? Was Alec your relative or an employee?

    1. 1

      Well Alex, I will not have a bad word said about Alec. But as you think he might be related, maybe I look like a bum too? 🤣

      We put out a job post looking for a "youtube content creator" and Alec applied. I was very impressed as he had his own channel that was very popular and he also was just a super nice, hard-working guy.

      In the early days, we hired people who could just get the job done on their own. Alec picked up the camera, made a video and never looked back.

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        No one judges a winner. Good job on getting a job done. 😜
        Which source you used to place that job ad to find Alec?

  11. 1

    I've tried your software some time ago and I was impressed! Also thank you for a great podcast episode.

    You mentioned user acquisition. What channels would you focus on and how would you grow a paid newsletter geared towards self-improvement and skill learning?

    1. 1

      Very good questions and I have been thinking about this recently. https://marketingexamples.com/ https://saasmarketer.io/ and https://nesslabs.com/ have all done a great job at this. All of them make incredible content and they do it consistently.

      So step one, make crazy good content. I know Harry spends weeks working on just one post!

      Then step two is sharing that content. You need to work out how to share it in a non-spammy way and provide as much value upfront as possible. Think about posting it on Reddit, Twitter, FB groups...

      And finally, make it paid. This can take a long time, 1-2 years until you see your first $. But if you focus on making great content, building your list and giving it away for free, your hardcore fans will hopefully convert.

      I believe all the people above and done podcast episode on this, so give them a listen and learn from them. Best of luck and send me a link when yours is live!

  12. 1

    Which marketing method and type was most successful ? for example "Facebook ppc", "Taboola Native", etc.

    1. 1

      We never done paid. We will explore this at some point tho.

  13. 1

    Hey Sabba - congrats - just listening to the podcast! It sounds awesome. My question - to scale up and get the big clients - what marketing/sales/ acquisition tactics worked?

    1. 1

      We dont have "big clients" in terms of $ value. We are more B2-small-B / B2C. So for us, it is about ramping up traffic. If you let know what you are working on, I am more than happy to share my thought on what marketing/sales/ acquisition chanels might work. I recommend reading "Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth" this book outlines every possible acquisition channel and how to work out what ones work for you.

  14. 1

    You currently have a bug in the "get started" top button on mobile, it opens the homepage in a new tab.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the heads up Ran! I Will let the team know

  15. 1

    What was the tech stack that you used to create this? Very unfamiliar with video editing software programming, would love to learn more about it!

    1. 1

      We wrote a post called “how to build a video editor” on our blog, it explains it all from start to finish. https://www.veed.io/blog/how-to-build-a-video-editor/

  16. 1

    Hey Sabba, thanks for sharing your story on the IH podcast – really insightful stuff particularly around marketing strategies. Congrats on your success!

    How do you think about hiring/headcount relative to your overall revenue? I'm guessing that at 35 employees, most of your revenue is going towards payroll. Do you feel that you have the right number of employees? Is the goal to hire as many people as your revenue allows so you can grow more quickly? Is there a certain point where you feel you'll stop hiring? I think I recall Jason Fried of Basecamp saying that 30-40 was his ideal company size, but then they grew to 50 a couple of years later, and then 60 shortly after that.

    (p.s. Your about page says you have $5K MRR... may want to update that 😉)

    1. 1

      Im going to be honest Steven, I just don't know yet. Ideally, we get to a point where rev growth and headcount start pulling apart, but that us not happening just yet. 30-40 people is a super nice team size as you know everyone and its a family vibe. Thanks for the about pages heads up, I will get to that :)

      1. 1

        Thanks for the honest answer. Congrats again on your amazing success – truly inspiring.

  17. 1

    About to listen to your podcast. Making 300k a month seems unfathomable and straight up un-realistic.

    Why do you think Veed is better than other similar alternatives available?

    UX, UI, Functionality, features, etc?

    What is your key advantage in your own opinion.

    1. 1

      Our revenue is public and verified by stipe - https://www.indiehackers.com/product/veed

      Yea your right, it is crazy and feels un-realistic to me too.

      I can't speak for competition and their level of product-market fit. However, building a product in any market is all about making something people want. We spent a lot of time and still do spend a lot of time talking to users and understanding their needs. This has helped us shape our product for them.

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        Could you please expand more on how you talking to users? What is the process behind your feedback loop?

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          User pays (or signs up) -> Gets an email -> % of them books a call -> I speak to them and makes notes and lear!

          1. 1

            Thanks for the answer. So in your welcome emails, you also add something like a Calendly link to book a call, right?

            What is your call-to-action?
            It looks like at this point user wants to learn how to use the product, and you want to learn what the user actually wants to achieve.

            1. 1

              yep! Experiment with CTA, simple A/B test will sort that out in no time.

  18. 1

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