Building in Public September 30, 2020

Our journey to $1m ARR

Sarah Hum @sarah

In August we reached $1m ARR 🎉 I mentioned I was going to write a blog post about it so here it is! I broke down our journey into different milestones and what we learned at each step.

👉 How we build a $1m ARR SaaS startup

Canny's journey to $1m ARR

TL;DR 👇

$0 ARR: Be very specific about the problem you solve and who you solve it for
$0-$1k ARR: Don’t forget to prioritize things outside your expertise
$1k-$10k ARR: Validate your product before pulling the trigger on your launch
$10k-$50k ARR: Talk to your customers, go after low hanging fruit. Experiment with pricing.
$50k-$100k ARR: Identify areas for a potential first hire—they’ll make a big impact on the company and your productivity
$100k-$250k ARR: Learn from mistakes, hire people for the long haul
$250k-$500k ARR: Double down on your wins. Use (reasonable) take home assignments on promising candidates.
$500k-$1m ARR: Balance company vision, metrics, and customer feedback to prioritize high-impact projects
$1m+: TBD, we're continuing to push on product and trying outbound sales for the first time!

  1. 3

    Nice work. 3 years seems pretty quick to get to 1M ARR to me. And then I see you did it while traveling the world, with a remote team. It goes to show what is possible, that you can have it all, so to speak!

  2. 2

    $1M ARR with no outbound sales is incredible! Congratulations and thanks for the inspiration.

  3. 1

    Great story !
    Can you share the technical side of things ? where you are hosting your app
    What stack do you use
    And how much money you spend on the tech .
    This is very valoble information
    Thanks

  4. 1

    Congrats! Thanks for sharing your journey and insights!

  5. 1

    Fantastic read. Loved the fact that you started as a couple, and could overcome the difficulties of hiring another person.

  6. 1

    Canny is an amazing product, and this is super inspiring to read -- keep killing it 💯😄

  7. 1

    Woow!! Pretty inspiring journey. Congrats!! 3 years is an amazingly short time to get to that scale.

  8. 1

    This is a great read, thank you so much for sharing, I’ve been working on building a new SaaS since July and stories like yours keep me motivated :)

  9. 1

    I was validating this same idea and trying to build one. Canny is much better than I imagined and solves almost everything I was trying to solve. So, excited to see this. Congratulations and good luck with the growth.

  10. 1

    Thank you for sharing this 🔥

  11. 1

    That's amazing. I've followed Canny's journey since last year and I read your blog. Congrats on the huge milestone :)

  12. 1

    Thanks for sharing Sarah! Where you say "Validate your product before puling the trigger on your launch", it looks like you were already making money with Canny. I tend to think of a launch as happening before generating revenue. Curious about what your "launch" with Canny looked like.

    1. 3

      Hi Allison! The 3rd section in the blog post "Launching: $1k to $10k ARR" is all about our launch. By launch we mean our public announcement of Canny. Our story is a bit unique in that Canny kind of evolved from an earlier side project. We had a handful of paying customers come out of that which pushed us to reposition and rebrand to Canny. Hope that helps clarify!

  13. 1

    That's amazing! Love the approach! Congrats!

  14. 1

    Amazing read and congrats on the success!

    1. 0

      Thanks for reading Ryan!

    1. 0

      Thanks Davis 😊

  15. 1

    Congrats Sarah!

    I'm curious, what are the inbound strategies you've used to grow Canny? Any articles you've written on it?

    1. 1

      Thanks Youssef! No magic formula unfortunately. A good combination of building a good product, pricing it well, marketing. Our year in review posts might be helpful.
      Year 1
      Year 2
      Year 3

  16. 1

    Woo hoo! Congrats Sarah and team!! Nice seeing you here as well.

    1. 0

      Hey Mirvise! Thanks so much 🙏

  17. 1

    Congrats! One thing caught my eye: "We’ve never done outbound sales, meaning all of our growth came from inbound channels"

    Did you ignore outbound out of principle, or because you didn't see a good ROI early on?

    1. 1

      Thanks! Not out of principle, mostly because:

      1. We're not sales people
      2. We were more interested in figuring out our inbound engine in the early days. It made more sense with our MVP and how we priced it. We probably wouldn't have gotten a good ROI if we tried it. We still love having a self-serve product now, just dabbling in outbound for bigger deals.
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