Returning to the IH scene with two new products after pivoting a failed one

How is everyone? Today I’m returning from a few months of radio silence while I worked out what to do with my failed product. I’m now launching two new products from it.

For reference, Astrola combined many features for SaaS products (Knowledge base, Feedback, Roadmaps, Changelog, Blogs, and Newsletters) under one roof.

When I launched Astrola back in November, I was ready to get going after spending 8 months on the side coding it. The launch was fairly well-received, however, after many conversations with users, they only wanted specific features at a reduced price.

I had built the product out of the hassle I found setting up all these features on new apps. You had to learn how each system worked and proved to be quite costly for self-funded products.

At the start of the year, I had started thinking about what to do. I had one paid customer and spent many hours trying to push it - not great. There was a quote I had read on IH at some point that suggested to not build an all-in-one product as it makes it impossible to market. At the time, I thought nah, my idea is solid. Little did I know this rang true 3 months later.

With this in mind, I decided in February to pivot the app into two so each product could be scaled and marketed individually. I had a few requirements:

  • Must have a clear plan of what should be built.
  • Speak to people in my network to see if they would use the product.
  • Take your time. (As these are side projects, I decided to take nights off between to recharge)
  • Build a reusable boilerplate framework that lets me create them quicker.

Astrola - Feedback/Roadmaps/Changelogs


Astrola now lives on a new domain and focuses on gathering feedback, roadmaps, and changelogs. I’ve revised a lot of features and requests to improve the process of gathering feedback for your products.

Dack Docs - Documentation/Knowledge Base


Dack takes care of the knowledge base and documentation features Astrola used to do.

The blogging/newsletter features are no longer available as I didn’t find much of a niche compared to other blogging tools. This lets me focus on the new products better.

Splitting these apps into two lets me drive a different vision for each and can tell people it does X and Y exactly - rather than it does X, Y, Z, A, B, C.

The last 3 months have been great too, as I’ve now got an awesome boilerplate built for creating new products. For those interested, I build SaaS apps with Laravel and now a modified Jetstream/InertiaJS framework. Now has never been a better time to start developing with this stack. It’s amazing how fast it’s improved my workflow.

The SaaS market is tough. But it can be very rewarding once it works, we just need to keep trying.

I’ll be starting back up on Twitter again to document their growth and maybe some technical guides on building SaaS products too.

Hopefully this was an interesting read, does anyone have a similar story with pivoting your product?

  1. 3

    Here's some feedback from me, for what its worth

    1. Really debated taking a trial as I know I'm probably not going to want to pay even $15 a month for this. However I Looked over your three pricing options and clicked "start free trial"

    2. Signup was fine, I'm in!

    3. Now that I'm in, whenever I try to do anything I see a version of your pricing screen again. The exact same one that I just traversed through less than 2 mins ago, except this time its INSIDE your app. I am very very confused.

    4. I click "start free trial" - again - expecting it to send me to try and register again ( I thought this whole experience was a bug)

    5. It takes me to the stripe screen looking for CC information......

    6. I'm absolutely out. Done. I cannot fathom why you're looking for CC information upfront. I mean I get you need to try it, but SO. MANY. of us IHers have tried looking for CC upfront and it just doesn't work.

    1. 1

      Hey @Primer, thanks for the feedback. Nah you are right. I was actually trying card upfront this time as I had so many fake accounts to clean up last go around, but I totally understand not wanting to try without a card. Shouldn't be too much work to switch to a generic trial. I'm not keen on them either, but seen a couple of folk do it and thought I'd give it a try.

      Will try to get generic trials without card sorted soon, need to do some testing first.

      Justin has also written an interesting blog about upfront card trials. This was originally where I got the idea: https://justinjackson.ca/saas-trials

      1. 1

        You're welcome and good luck.

        1. 1

          Hey @Primer - ended up quite a bit of code work but both apps now don't require a card upfront. Should have done that for the start - live and learn. I've set your account to trial until the 7th May 😊

  2. 2

    I can say that technical guys like us that builds infrastructure for clients all day, believe that if you build an infrastructure as a service, people will pay like you get payed as freelancers/agency. Nothing can be further from the truth. Getting payed is a "sales" and "marketing" operation, not technical operations. From an objective POV your product is no different than a carton of milk :) If you can get someone to buy it, you have a business. Therefor trying to go head to head with frontegg.com et al probably won't work without VC money. I think your realization (and mine back when) is the correct one. Aim for a different market segment than those VC backed guys and you may have a fighting chance.

    First time I am talking about this, but basically I am working on attacking this flawed line of thinking that I had for a long while. I am building something in the vicinity as a side project as well and hoping to release it sometimes before i my kids graduate :) no, but seriously hoping soon, just taking me so long... I have the same problem as you have but I have a lot of experience in failing (like 5 years of fails over a period of 20 years). Hopefully this last one will get me to the next level.

    One suggestion from my POV, don't give up. Assume it is hell to sell anything. If you have 1 customer, then you got more than most. I once walked away from about 10K$ business thinking i can do better. You can't. It is a miracle someone buys something online today.

    1. 2

      Hey, @Tzahi indeed it is. Sometimes I wonder if I need a cofounder to deal with marketing operations, but for now it's the solo game. What sort of product are you building this time round? I feel the pain of failures and you have quite a few years of experience it seems. For me, while I see them as failure, I take that experience and apply it to the next attempt as improvement.

      Best of luck with your next venture. If you ever need feedback/testing just DM me on Twitter.

      1. 1

        I had cofounders. The deal with cofounders is that you have to be sure, and i mean really sure. The reason is that once you do that you have a lot of stuff that a startup (or any company) have to think about like vesting etc... I think it is completely different. On the up side, it does make you lower the context switch significantly and complement your skills.

        I am a bit shy on building in public but am planning to do so. It is a bit of technology I am repurposing for a rudimentary customer database for automating stuff like coupons/credits, detect a user that is about to churn, detect a user that is ready for an upsell like a pro plan. More and more until most of the new money (what we used to call NCV new customer value) comes from existing users as you scale. There are a lot (and i mean a lot) of products in this space but I think there is a room for 1 more specifically for guys like me.

        1. 1

          Yeah, I can understand the plus and negatives of a cofounder, you need to be as you say really sure of the decision.

          The public building has its plus and negatives too. I done it for the initial Astrola build and definitely stirred up some more ideas from people if I hadn't, but I also think I could have finished quicker without the distraction of social media.

          Understood, best of luck with this product, will follow your progress on Twitter if you decide to document it :)

  3. 1

    The fact you have a paying customer you would think there are more out there.
    It can take a year + before your product gets traction.
    I have read many founders story that their idea starts slow.

    1. 1

      Hey @StuCole - that's very true. Not giving up though, just trying a new approach based on the feedback we got the last few months ☺️

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