Product Development March 27, 2020

Mistakes and lessons I learned from building my very fist SAAS

Irfan Gumelar @mig13

Disclaimer: sorry for bad english

After months of development, I'm finally able to launch my very first SAAS, it's https://formcubes.com.

In my very first IndieHacker journey I did a lot of mistakes but also learn a lot of lessons. Here is some mistakes i made and lessons I learned on my journey:

I launch my landing page waaay too late (my biggest mistake)

At first, I was thinking I'm not gonna launch a landing page before i have a product. Sell my idea while I building my product? Nah, other competitors might steal my idea.

Yes, I'm that dumb, until I found IH. I ended up with only one person on my waiting list on my launch day. I have emailed him that Formcubes is live but I have not heard from him till now, which leaves me with 0 organic users lol.

Moral of the story: Launch landing page and market your product as early as possible.

Go with the cheapest option got my launch delayed for 2 weeks

As I bootstrapping my product I need to reduce my cost to the lowest. So, when I need an email sending service I choose to use Amazon SES over other alternatives.

Little did I know, it's troublesome for me to move my SES instance out of the sandbox environment. My request for production mode got rejected by the Amazon SES team twice without explanation, even though I believe I fully comply with their requirements.

Out of frustration, I decided to replace Amazon SES with Mailgun even though it's a little bit pricier than Amazon SES, insert my cards details and BOOM, I'm on production instance!

I wish I was using Mailgun from the beginning.

Moral of the story: Go with the most convenient for you, find the balance of price and benefit.

MongoDB managed service is more expensive than other options

When I started this project I want to have a new skill under my belt, so I decided to use MongoDB. Unfortunately, I didn't check the managed services prices first until I realized that MongoDB managed services are more costly in comparison to other DB. But I just roll with it.

Moral of the story: check the price of any technology you gonna use.

Worried too much about scalability (premature optimization)

I'm worried too much about technical things. I design my app like I have a ton of concurrent users, which I don't. So I include caching, queue, scalable architecture, background worker, etc in mind. I ended up with an API backend instance, a Redis instance, a background worker instance, a DB instance and a lot of wasted hours!

In reality, an API backend and a DB instance are enough for now. I can save like $14/month and a ton of hours. On a bright side if everything goes right I'm already prepared for that lol.

Moral of the story: premature optimization is evil.

I discovered IndieHackers waaay too late

I believe most of those mistakes I made because I found IH way too late, I just know about IH around 2 months ago.

Moral of the story: Find the right community and mentors for you

I think that's what I aware of for now. By the way, I just put Formcubes on AlternativeTo, it would be great if you guys can check it out https://alternativeto.net/software/formcubes-com/

  1. 3

    Nice tip. Just curious why you need a MongoDB managed service? just host your own mongdb on any ubuntu server.

    1. 1

      I'm not confident enough to maintain my own server because I have limited experience with DevOps. So I just leave the security part to the big companies and focus on the business.

      Can you advise me where I can learn about DevOps? those seriously can reduce my cost.

      1. 1

        you don't need devops. Just host your own instance of mongodb. Unless you have hundred thousand of users your self hosted instance will be just fine in an ubuntu server. It cost me $5 a month for an ubuntu server, not for merely my db, but my entire app.

        1. 1

          Isn't configuring VPS hard and e tedious task?
          like regular OS updates, firewalls, configuration and a lot of things regarding security.

          I was considering a $5 VPS too, but after I read someone misconfigured their server then got their DB erased and blackmailed I go with managed service route.

            1. 1

              Thank you my man, I'll check it out

          1. 1

            It happened to me before. However, you can prevent it with the correct firewalls and best practices. Setting up the box is about 12 hours of work if you're new. Then taking it to the next level with security precautions is about 6 hours of work. So 18 in total. If you really need to cut costs and can afford about 18 hours then do it. If the paid service is more but worth saving those 18 hours then use the paid service.

            1. 1

              Thank you for your information, may I know what happened to yours before?

              I'll probably try to set up my own box on my next not so important project first.

  2. 2

    What has your experience been like on AlternativeTo? Checking it out - but wasn't aware of it.

    1. 1

      They have pretty good SEO. If you search on google with keywords like "Figma alternative" they will list similar products, usually they got first rank on google. Give it a try.

  3. 2

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

    1. 1

      Thanks, appreciate it!

  4. 2

    It so easy to fall into these pitfalls even if we are aware of them. When we become too comfortable, we should take a step back and ask ourselves if we are neglecting other aspects of the building the business.

  5. 2

    I'm worried too much about technical things. I design my app like I have a ton of concurrent users, which I don't. So I include caching, queue, scalable architecture, background worker, etc in mind. I ended up with an API backend instance, a Redis instance, a background worker instance, a DB instance and a lot of wasted hours!

    Absolutely feel this one. It's an easy trap to fall into when you use these technologies day in day out at a day job. It seems easy because you forget about all the little things that have been done beforehand and the team that you can fallback on for help if something doesn't work.

  6. 2

    Thanks for sharing. I think the mistakes you did are very easy to make, especially for us technical people.

    How about marketing? What kind of marketing did you do for your SaaS, and any lessons learned that can be shared?

    1. 2

      I just started to push my marketing, I go with cold emails and promote it on related forums. I also will try Beta List and working on better SEO.

      At the moment, I don't have enough data to classify which marketing strategy works and which isn't.

  7. 1

    Awesome post. God knows I have made so many mistakes with https://storycreatorapp.com/.

    As engineering founders, I would say we just need to roll with the mistakes. Put our egos down and learn.

    What are you doing for marketing and growth?

    1. 1

      It's been a week since I launched formcubes. My growth is really really slow. Maybe because I lacking in marketing and have 0 online presence. What I've done so far is just listing formcubes in alternativesTo and promote it in Quora.

      To compensate it, my plan is to make a partnership program with small to medium blogger/small business, basically i will give them a trimmed version of Paid account for a year in return of a post about formcubes and some backlinks for the sake of SEO. To complement it, I will try to do some content marketing too. What do you think?

  8. 1

    Congrats on the feat! Best wishes!

    1. 1

      Thank you Welly, I wish you luck too :)

  9. 1

    Thanks Irfan for this great post =)!
    I'm just asking which MongoDB cloud service could you recommend?
    If you start today, would you go with MongoDB? If not, which DB would you choose?
    Thanks

    1. 2

      I'm just asking which MongoDB cloud service could you recommend?

      I have not use my MongoDB instance to the fullest, so I can't say much regarding performance/security/hidden cost/backup, etc. But currently, I use Mongo Atlas because they give a generous trial and support data center in USW2.

      If you start today, would you go with MongoDB? If not, which DB would you choose?

      Maybe I will go with PostgreSQL because it supports JSON format and a lot of hosting companies like Digital Ocean and Render provide managed service for PostgreSQL. And their cost pretty reasonable compared to MongoDB.

      1. 1

        Thank you so much for the reply =)!

  10. 1

    Thanks for posting your experiences.

    I agree in part about the optimization i.e. don't do it if you don't need it. But given that you went through the process of implementing, I think there is a real advantage for the future: on this project or the next, if you suddenly get a spike in users due to successful PH or whatever, you'll have the practical knowledge on how to scale quickly. The alternative is watching your site fall over, and have the awful feeling of not knowing where to start to address it. So see it as good skills in your back pocket.

    1. 1

      You are right, thank you for your words.

  11. 1

    Very interesting read man. Honestly, you made something relient, be proud. Although, I do agree with your statement on the landing page.

    1. 1

      Thank you man, I appreciate it.

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