Ideas and Validation February 26, 2020

I made a tool 3 years ago – it's still being used. Worth it?


Three years ago I started learning the programming language Elixir and I was looking for a side-project to test it out. At the time, I was a bit annoyed with the tools available to do "planning poker", meaning to estimate agile stories in story points as a team.

I tried "PlanItPoker" but it had lots of bugs when being used on multiple devices. Planningpoker,com was super expensive for a simple tool and the Jira integration seemed hard to set up. Also doing this in Slack was sucky because everyone could see each other's votes and the product owner had to calculate the story point "average" and add them manually in Jira.

Because Elixir is well suited for "realtime" things like this, I made a tool called "estimator" and blogged about it in 2017. My colleagues liked it. Then, I kind of forgot about it...

A few weeks ago, I realized that 2 teams have been using this tool every 2 weeks for the last 3 years. I was wondering: why not learn how to make a SAAS out of this? I like learning new things 👍

I've made a some pages around the tool:
The tool works, if you have Jira Cloud you can try it. It's free anyway because I didn't implement the payments yet 🙃

What do you think? Please be honest, does this sound like a good idea?
Since this is my first SAAS product I have no idea what I'm doing. For me, this is an experiment to learn.

  1. 1

    IMHO, I think this is a "nice to have" product, not a "must have" one, so it will be hard if you want people to pay for it.

    But it's just my opinion, you have to try to know.

    Maybe you can set the pricing for 2-5$ / month to see if anyone is willing to pay, then increase it later if needed. But you should do some kinds of marketing, to get more than 2 users. If you have 100 users and about 5 are willing to pay, it's a good number. That's the only way to know

  2. 1

    i mean, you should just go for it. give it a try, why the hell not?! and, if some folks have been using it for years... wow, they should be willing to pay! fantastic start!

  3. 1

    You already have the first validation: you know that your tool is useful to other people. That's a great start.

    Now the next validation is to find out if they would pay for it. Just go and talk to them to get as much information as you can:

    • Why are they using it?
    • Have they tried other tools?
    • How are they using the tool? (maybe some use case you didn't expect ?)
    • What are they working on?
    • How big is the team?

    Maybe you already know some of the answers, but you got the point 😅

    Later, ask them if they would consider paying to keep using the tool (come up with a value that seems reasonable for you - it'll probably be the wrong value anyway, so don't waste time on that yet).

    From this conversation, you'll definitely have some insights. Maybe they'd be like "OMFG I FCKING NEED YOUR TOOL TO SURVIVE" - then interview more potential customers to see if they share this pain. Or maybe it's an "oh, your tool is nice, but I wouldn't pay for that because of X, Y, Z" - then you can decide if it's the time to give up or you can keep trying to find something they'd pay for.

    Anyway, give it a shot. Worst case scenario you'll learn something 😛

    1. 1

      Thanks, I did what you suggested.

      I sent the tool around and asked questions. What I learned:

      • One team uses Slack and is fine with it (maybe not seeing the value), they would not pay for the tool
      • One concern was: "Am I even allowed to share the companies Jira data with a third party?". That's something I didn't consider.

      Unfortunately nobody was like "OMFG I FCKING NEED YOUR TOOL TO SURVIVE" haha. So there are things I learned, but not sure what to do with it yet. I'll keep digging.

  4. 1

    I have used similar tools before and they're buggy and and annoying... although, to be honest I was looking mostly for free ones as the company I worked for wasn't dedicated to the agile/scrum process.

    I think it's a valuable idea in a space that doesn't have a clear winner, and if the jira plugin shows up in the marketplace, it should market itself – have you found this to be the case?

    1. 1

      Yes I had the same experience. I was also looking for free options to be honest haha.

      Not sure about the marketplace, it often requires admin permissions to just try it out (estimator doesn’t) and I personally never searched there. But maybe I’m wrong and a lot of people use it.
      I think when implementing the login I went for a solution (oauth) that is not supported yet on the market place. I’ll have a look if it’s possible, thanks!

  5. 1

    Who is you your target audience? Say if you had to describe who best has the problem for the estimator who is that?

    1. 1

      I think it's for (scrum) teams. Both, developers and product owners – which collaborate on getting estimations for planning of work.

      However if I have to make it very specific then I'd say scrum product owners because it brings most value to them: not having to copy paste Jira stories, no calculations of t-shirt sizes to numbers (which Jira requires) , no filling of story points in Jira fields.

      Would that answer your question? Should I work on getting this more clear?

      1. 1

        This type of product -- like most - has a "user" and a "buyer" where those are different roles and often different people. Clearly smaller orgs squish all the roles over just few people. #startupSermon - but for bigger org who has more money to spend on these effeciency oriented products - those tasks are separated.. think person who sets up JIRA vs someone who works the most tickets. Usually different people at any org I've been a part of - no matter the size.

        I guess even when i comes down to it - even people who are both "buyer" and "user" operate in a different part of their brain when they do both each role. Obviously its easier to communicate they "user" benefits to a "buyer" when they are first hand familiar, but don't foresake the "buyer" benefits in your efforts.

        Looks nice by the way.

        1. 1

          Thanks! Yes indeed. In this case I guess the user would be either a product owner or a developer. And the buyer indeed a Jira admin or a finance person?
          I’ll have to think about what the benefits for those could be other than making it as easy as possible for them to manage users or invoicing.

          I see that other tools (which do the same/similar things) often work with a freemium model. Is that to lure in the users until they convince the buyer in their organization?

          1. 1

            yes - for the "buyer" - the freemium (aka:dropbox model) - is a virus model where your software has infected the org and the only way to "contain it" - is to "insert coins here"

            Or you could do an X day free trial - and you can unlock/extend it to X+MoreDays if the JIRA bill payer/ CTO/ Product Owner/ Finance person gets involved.

            just a crazy thought - obviously the implementation gets harder the more "crazy thoughts" you take on ;)