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Last year our ARR dropped $500k. So we launched a side-project (and got 1000+ users in 3 mo). AMA

We officially launched SlidesWith at the end of November 2020 when our previous startup got covid killed, and by late Feb we had 1,009 active signed up users.

What the side project is

Slides with Friends is a tool for making video calls better — it's interactive slide deck builder (with tons of pre-made games you can use) to make zoom meetings / community events / online talks engaging and fun for your audience. Think of it like Powerpoint meets Jackbox games, where the goal is to help people come together and feel connected.

Pivoting when covid murders your $750k ARR startup

In March 2020, I was (am) running a startup in the pet care tech industry. We were in multiple cities, slated for NYC launch in q2, and had just hit $60k MRR in February. March was on track to beat that. 2020 was on track for $1m ARR.
In the space of 2 weeks, our revenue dropped by 75%; people stopped going to work (and stopped needing pet care). Instead of a million dollars in 2020, we did $300k in revenue.

We had a newly-totally-remote team, a system with the capacity to run at 3x its current rate, and some time on our hands. I wanted to help make our team meetings a little better, and I wanted still be able to connect with friends & family. My cofounder @Mason Hipp and I dreamed up SlidesWith together as a way to solve all of these issues at once.

How we got to 1k signups so fast

  • Content: creating sharable and high-value content for people in our target area.
  • Events: Joining communities and creating online live events specifically designed for those communities to 1) show off our tool but also importantly 2) actually provide value to the community's users.

About the Biz model & SaaS

It's a freemium product and thus far our paid conversion rate is around 6%. We're currently running only annual pricing, at a (dirt cheap compared to our competitors) $48 rate for the year. (This is a lifetime 50% off discount for early birds, that ends April 1. FYI.)

For those interested in the technicals, it's VueJS on the frontend and Hasura/PostgreSQL on the backend; the site is statically generated and deployed via Netlify and all of the backend infrastructure is handled by Nhost.

Things about me

I'm a snooty, overly-intellectual introvert who's had to learn how to overcome these traits. Here's an article I wrote about running great events as an introvert.
I'm running and event this Friday 3.26! about How to Beat Zoom Fatigue. If you run a lot of remote meetings / talks, this is for you.

AMA about growing a SaaS product, finding good marketing channels, being an introvert who still has to network, getting flattened by a global pandemic, etc.

  1. 3

    Congrats on your success! As far as the fast 1k signups, due to you joining communities. Can you get a little specific. Were they facebook groups that you searched that are related to technology for meetings.. or just internet forums ( like indiehackers ) that you joined? Are these ones you knew about already?

    ( not asking what specific groups of course.. this has always been a matter of anxiety for me.. .like which of the million ways to get word of what I'm doing, are the best )

    1. 2

      That's a great question. For the right groups, I ended up bucketing these into two types: groups for me and my personal development & connections; and groups made up of the people in our target audience (eg. our customers).

      In the beginning, I joined a lot of paid communities in the founder/builder spaces, in my first bucket (Can rec: IH, Ness labs, Rosieland/Indie women, Dreamers & Doers, Founder Summit). I used these as a springboard to make larger connections, find other groups. Then I started pitching these outside groups, as well as searching for additional paid communities where my customers are, to run free events for them.

      1. 1

        Thank you, that does shed light on the kind of community-building that success can require. I think it's smart to join paid groups -- you just have more serious people there.

    2. 2

      this has always been a matter of anxiety for me.. .like which of the million ways to get word of what I'm doing, are the best
      I second that

  2. 2

    Great idea; I like that it's so simple but provides so much value for that. Definitely gonna try it!

    We're currently trying to grow Algoly, our low-code data stream builder. Basically we provide all kinds of geolocation data, ready-to-be-used via APIs. We have a launch on Product Hunt in mind and are now trying to build up buzz beforehand.

    To that regard: which platforms proved to be most effective in building your community and how exactly did you go about approaching people: cold-messaging, writing blog posts, special offers, a combination of these?

    Thanks for sharing and good luck with Slides with Friends!

    1. 1

      Thanks, Algoly sounds cool!

      Re outreach methods, I've made a key mindset choice in my community building: be generous and have the intent to help and add value. It's easy to tell when someone is selling to you.

      I give away a lot. I run free events, I build & run custom happy hour decks for free for communities to help them have fun, I write free high-quality guest posts. I offer these through yes, some cold emails, and a lot of in-community connections and extended connections. When you approach people with the aim to help, they are often happy to connect you to those that need it (who can be your customers, and you just got a warm intro).

      The more you give away, the more people a) want to help you and b) you get brand exposure and backlinking. It's a high time cost for me, and may not scale large-marketing-term, but it's a good way to start out, and it's been high value. Bonus, I get to feel good about what I'm working on everyday.

  3. 2

    Hi Cecilia, what are your competitive advantages as an introverted indie hacker?

    1. 3

      Hi Leo!

      I think introversion, when harnessed and appreciated, can be a super power for founders. 💪

      Because socializing is a drain rather than an energizer for me, I can't just rely on my own whim & desire to "get out there" and "do it". I'm forced to do the (ultimately necessary) work of planning, systematizing, batching, and making repeatable, my networking and marketing tasks. This not only makes them happen (ongoing, reliably — which is the true secret to any success), but also means that I can scale and grow these tasks, in ways that a single, extroverted person might not be forced to do right away. This makes us grow faster, sooner!

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