Software as a Service December 21, 2020

Quit or continue a SaaS app with paying customers?

Simon Grimm @Saimon

I'm torn between putting more work into one of my projects or mentally closing it - and both options don't appeal 100% to me.

Basically I'm a community expert for the Ionic Framework, have an online school about it and released a bootstrapping tool this year called Kickoff Ionic

The tool get's like 10-20 signups per week, and since July 2020 I got about 40 paying customers. Half of that was during launch, so now it's more like 1-2 upgrades to the PRO plan per month - not a lot of revenue compared to my courses and books.

The hope: I haven't marketed it that hard yet, and there are still a few things missing in the tool that would improve it. It could even have its own blog or features I haven't even considered but...

The problem: I don't know if I can market this enough and add more exciting features to attract enough people to it to judge the time spent on it, which takes time away from my other projects 🤷‍♂️

I really enjoy the idea of the tool, and I'm actually quite happy about building something that people actually paid for (with a working payment flow 😂).

But at the same time I'm not sure if the time I have to invest is well spent, or if you should abandon it and move on to the next try.

Any ideas on this from the community? Perhaps I'm thinking in the wrong direction so I'm looking forward to what others think about a situation like this!

  1. 4

    Give it a couple of weeks of all out effort! Then decide if you want to quit.

    Or just read this article: https://nathanbarry.com/quit/

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot for the article - definitely something I will think about!

  2. 3

    Did you consider trying to sell it rather than just closing it?

    1. 1

      Hmm not really, never went that route before and not sure if anyone would be actually interested in it :/

      1. 1

        I would personally try to sell it before closing it down. Maybe one of your current customers would be interested. Maybe you can add a small note on your landing/contact page describing you'd be willing to sell it.

        Also maybe you could make it open source. That'd give your project a chance to survive.

        Good luck!

  3. 1

    Also consider getting some outside help (via contractor for example) to help market it. That way you still keep the product alive while opening up time for other projects.

  4. 1

    As your previous customer (Ionic Academy), if I were starting a new Ionic project, I would pay for this. I probably would be out after the initial purchase because I would get all of the value out of it in one shot. I'm not sure if you have tried marketing it to your previous Ionic Academy members, but I think that would be a pretty natural fit. I am already your customer and I trust you, so I wouldn't hesitate to buy from you again.

    I think the best advice I could give, though I have never been in your situation before is to get really clear on what kind of numbers you'd need to hit and by when. That way you could tell yourself you've tried.

    On the other hand, reading the 'Traction' book and in it they recommend squeezing every last bit of juice out of something that works until it stops working in order to not get distracted.

    I hope that helped.

    1. 1

      Thanks for being a previous member!

      Funny that I actually just started reading traction. And after all the comments in here I have several ideas but you are right - I should sit down first and think about numbers.

      I also don't like the annual plan setup that much, but after a lot of considerations it was the best solution for now.

      I definitely haven't marked it enough to previous members, and also not to the right market like agencies I guess!

  5. 1

    Hi Simon, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think there is no easy answer, just a few things that you can consider.
    Is it an option to put your tool into "maintenance mode", or do you have to keep your hand on the steering wheel?
    Maybe consider taking a break (as something already suggested) and then see what you want to do.
    Your post reads like your still have many ideas, which is crucial. Maybe your doubts are even somewhat linked to the ongoing pandemic, which certainly isn't helpful to lighten one's mood.
    I think this recently hit me (a bit), but I've been getting back on track again in the last couple of days :-)
    Cheers, Daniel

    1. 1

      The tool is basically in maintenance mode since weeks as I don't need to work on anything. But of course, with future versions I would have to update it at some point.

      Yeah I have ideas, but I have to figure out if this can become a project that generates a real % of my income or not enough for my needs. Time to get into some numbers!

  6. 1

    My suggestion would be to keep going, because 40 paying customers isn't all that bad! I'd be happy if I had at least ten people buy my stuff!

    We obviously don't know the entire context of your situation, but I agree with @heytherebuddy, give it a full attention for some time and see if you're still as excited as you were. If it makes you happy, then it's probably too early to quit :)

    1. 1

      Yes I think if I continue with it, putting 100% (of the available time next to my other projects..) into it for some time especially in terms of marketing is the way to go.

  7. 1

    Hmm, really tricky. Thanks for posing this very interesting situation. For me it comes down to: are you still enjoying it? If not, I'd quit. Money on its own is not a good enough reason.

  8. 1

    Hi Simon,

    Really interesting product. I did Ionic development for about 2 years, and I could totally see why this would be valuable to the right people. I'm not sure, but I'd guess your paying customers are either agencies who are often making new apps, or simply devs making "one-off" subscription purchases because they want to use product but don't plan on being long term customers? My initial thoughts are that it doesn't seem like a huge market, but I could be wrong. Have you tried to calculate a rough number of how many potential customers you have?

    Here's a thought: Have you considered leveraging your audience to pivot to a new, more expensive, more widely useful product? Using your learnings from this endeavor to address a pain point you found for your existing customers?

    1. 1

      Haven't calculated the market or agency numbers yet, definitely something I will now take a closer look at!

      The subscription was the best I came up with, I could fill a whole other thread with the thoughts behind that..

      So far I didn't get enough helpful feedback, but overall people enjoyed using it. But it's a tool most devs would rarely use as you are done after your export :/

  9. 1

    I'm in the same boat as you. We have a few paying users, but at the current pace we won't get breakeven for years. We are continuing to work though as we've got a lot of straight up improvements lined up. It would be a harder decision if we weren't sure exactly what to build next, but we feel we do. It's not likely it moves the needle enough, but there is a chance.

    I think you will know better than anyone the potential of the improvements you want to make. You could also get an idea of the market and the potential to market it, to get an estimate of what it looks like if you make something people love. That way you can do estimate the worth of your time and chance that the next changes you do push it over the edge, and make a more informed decision.

    1. 1

      Yes I think estimating the market and potential first to see where this might end if it works is a good first step for now - thanks for the input!

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