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42 Comments

Software Engineer looking for reliable SaaS ideas

I've been a software engineer for over 5 years now and have worked on various greenfield and brownfield projects. I want to branch off and spend the next 3 months building a MVP SaaS product. Every post I read says it's all in the execution and effort, and the idea is nearly irrelevant. Assuming these posts are correct, the next step for me should be to find a reliable and safe product idea and simply execute better than the competitors (or find a pain point they've yet to solve.)

I'm still quite skeptical about this approach, but I'll ask anyways: if the idea is not that important, then what are some safe and reliable SaaS ideas?

  1. 19

    I've watched/read almost 1000 founder interviews and two pieces of advice for you:

    • Try to stick to B2B. Sell shovels, don't dig for gold.

    • Target small-to-medium-sized businesses. Because you can reach them, and they don't take months to buy your product (unlike enterprises).

    1. 5

      Great statements! I'll add one more axiom.

      If you can't be first, be different.

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        if you're not first you're last :D

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          It's better being the last than being on your couch.

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            it's a joke...quote from a movie lol

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              "Oh hell, Son, I was high that day. That doesn't make any sense at all, you can be second, third, fourth… hell you can even be fifth."
              Hilarious movie 😂

            2. 2

              I actually did laugh out loud on that one. lol
              The irony is having first-movers advantage doesn't guarantee success. Googling first mover disadvantagejust gave me chills!

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              I know, I just wanted to follow the comment train.

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          Unless there are > 2 people in the race!

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          When playing chess (or go or backgammon, etc..) would you rather be the person to make the first move or the person to make the last move?

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        This comment was deleted 10 months ago.

    2. 2

      @zerotousers with this "Sell shovels, don't dig for gold" You just summarized my answers to all those training about how to succeed on the dropshipping, stock market and cryptocurrencies buy/sell etc..

      I meanwhile Have a question, how long it took you to analyze read the 1000 founders? do you want to continue watching reading about other founders?

    3. 1

      Alas this is what we are doing so crossing fingers and toes for success soon 😆

    4. 1

      I am going to stick this to my entrepreneur board 👔

    5. 1

      I like that saying!

  2. 9

    Don't start a newsletter or open source analytics tool :)

    1. 1

      Why no analytics tool? :P I was about to start building one :P

  3. 7

    the idea is nearly irrelevant

    Whoever says this is deeply misguided at best and dead-wrong at worst.

    Idea determines market, and market is everything.

    You need to pick a market that would fit your goals, skills, circumstances, and available resources, that's growing and not too saturated, that's not too big yet not too niche, and, believe it or not -- something that most first-time founders overlook -- that actually exists.

    People wax lyrical about product-market fit, and, while that's undoubtedly important, what's more important is founder-market fit.

    For example, in my case, I knew I was a solo founder, and I don't foresee growing a team anytime soon.

    I knew I wanted to grow Zlappo slowly and steadily, so I picked a SaaS product targeting a lower price tier and niche market segment. It would be insane to start a startup competing with big companies or even funded startups with a team and $50 million in the bank. While it's possible that you can outperform them in a David vs. Goliath situation, why would you want to disadvantage yourself like that? Starting a startup is hard enough, and you should be removing risk from it, not adding risk to it.

    Believe me, starting a startup is very hard, and, even in startups where you have every advantage on your side, you can still fail.

    In my case, I knew from the outset that the idea/market had to fit my skills, knowledge, available time/money/attention, and also personal goals (what I want to get out of the startup). I knew I wasn't good at sales, so I had to pick a market/product that could be almost-100% self-serve, from lead generation all the way to payments and customer support. That rules out enterprise software and even a lot of SMB-targeted software, which startups with teams and funding are fiercely competing against one another for market share.

    Do you really want to go there?

    I decided to focus on the B2A (business-to-aspirational) segment, which is the sweet spot between selling to consumers and selling to businesses. Think the one-man consultancy or affiliate marketer or blogger. They think like businesses, but they're easy to sell to like consumers. It works for me, and I think, of all the mistakes and faults I've committed in the past, picking this market segment isn't one of them.

    I wish you the best of luck and success, but, if you can take away one thing from this post, I hope you internalize the idea that founder-market fit is extremely, extremely important in determining your eventual success.

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      This comment was deleted a month ago.

  4. 7

    I saw this on IH recently: https://www.softwareideas.io by @Kevcon80
    May be useful for you.

    FWIW, I strongly disagree that the idea is not important. Idea and execution are both important.

    Good luck!

  5. 5

    I agree on the "it's the execution what matters", but: it's difficult to perform a GREAT execution if you don't understand the idea and its context PERFECTLY. And it's difficult (not impossible, of course) to get to that level of understanding and commitment on someone else's idea.

  6. 3

    There are no safe and reliable SaaS ideas.

    If you seek for safe and reliable business, open the barbershop or pharmacy.

  7. 3
    1. The market size should be big:) than even bad products survive).
    2. do the same thing but for diff audience as an example
      Easy money sir :)
  8. 2

    Just start something. No matters how good is your initial idea. When you start selling - idea changes ))

  9. 2

    @Jake Russell.

    What you need is to find a niche , hopefully a niche you have interest in. Observe the niche, find out what issues they are facing and come up with a solution.
    So you don't need an idea you need a problem to solve. I was asking myself the same question not too long ago. :)

  10. 2

    It's not really that the idea is irrelevant but that having an idea is the easy part. Good product execution is hard.

    Another intresting point is being able to recognize whether the idea is any good:

    • Is there a market or it?
    • Can the product/service be sold with enough profit to compete and sustain a business?
    • Do you have a clear vision of the value it brings and the problem it solves?
    • Do you know how to build it?

    As for coming up for ideas the best way is to solve a problem you currenty have. Domain knowledge is by far the most important skill in building a product (unless it's a really hard technical problem but I think that's out of the scope of an indie hacker).

    IMO 3 months is just too short unless you know exactly how the product should work. Unless your idea is extremely simple, you will realize your perception of the idea and the problem will change once you start building. If you're experimenting, it's better to start as a side project and see how viable it is. Experiment with the problem, allow yourself to fail, iterate. Once you are absolutely sure it's worth it and you are capable, go full time.

  11. 2

    B2B or B2C no matter what you decide, building is the easiest part. The toughest job is finding your first 100 customers. So instead of looking for an idea, I would recommend to explore your options on what you can sell to 100 people with your current networks. Build that product.

  12. 2

    Make sure the problem you are trying to solve is popular [enough to justify your work effort]. Then try to fit that into your goals.

    Example: 1 million people a day eat fast food (and this is an under statement)

  13. 1

    I don't think that you will succeed in anything good without anyone. You need your own team at first. Of course, having a great idea is wonderful, but what's the point of it if you cant properly realize it? Here is a link for you https://www.impulsis.com/services/magento-development-company/. You can hire them.

  14. 1

    Are you interested in becoming a Founder/CTO for a soon to be launched SaaS startup in the U.S??

  15. 1

    Build webflow for chrome extensions or a low code tool for chrome extensions.

    Edit:
    Validations:
    The market for chrome extensions is huge. Basically 70% of internet users use chrome.
    It's B2b
    It's almost always a good idea to make something that potentially makes someone else money.
    Chrome extensions are the goal rush (especially with companies like honey being bought for 4 billion) you would be creating a pickaxe.
    The market is proven with tools like this. Webflow, Bubble, Glide, the world is essentially waiting for it.

  16. 1

    Some great insights and tips here. Here's my general approach:

    • Fall in love with the problem not the solution (idea)
    • Make sure you can launch V1 at max in 3 weeks
    • Try get some pre-sales through the door, you'll realise ideas don't matter
    • Iterating again, find LARGE knowledge gap problems. This doesn't mean solve world hunger - Linktree is a f***ing great example. LOL a dev can spin this product up in 1 day MAX, but the knowledge gap of the target user for building a simple website was huge - so find people with large knowledge gaps to their desired solutions
    • B2B is definitely better than B2C (churn is high and marketing spend is high) but as mentioned above, B2B in small business (<100 - 500) not corporate, you'll take forever to close a deal
    • Try build in public, people will often tell you what works for them and what doesnt
    • Use indiehackers, producthunt as great inspirations for building out some ideas

    Hopefully this helps!

  17. 1

    Jake you might find some value in @csallen's Hustlecon talk about idea validation.

    https://www.indiehackers.com/post/idea-validation-slides-from-my-hustle-con-talk-5581d0ba95

    Particularly relevant:

    Your idea is just as important as execution. In fact, it's better to focus on that, because it's easier to improve. You probably can't become a 10x better executor, but you can have a 1000x better idea.

  18. 1

    You can build a better product overall but probably an easier way is to take a validated product and build a better version of it for a section of that audience.

    I got this idea from one of the IH podcasts: https://www.indiehackers.com/interview/how-were-growing-our-business-by-solving-our-own-problems-in-public-1b2d776e57

    Her approach was simple but brilliant. The hypothesis is that any big service with a massive audience has to cater to the majority and so will almost always have size-able pockets of users that want a certain feature but will never get it. You can target those users and build a version of that product to address that need. You may not become as big as the incumbent but you will get a healthy portion of the market.

    In her case, the giant was unroll.me. A free service that lets you unsubscribe from emails but sells your gmail data to advertisers. Most users are ok with this tradeoff. But she noticed that a minority were privacy conscious and were not willing to make the trade. So she essentially made the same service (Leave Me Alone), but made it privacy first and charged a monthly fee to make it a sustainable business.

    She's not as big as unroll.me (you can't beat free) but she siphoned off a healthy portion of this massive market and makes a good amount.

    So that's one (really smart) way to jump on an already validated idea and build a differentiated / better product.

  19. 1

    Lots of great advice in the comments here. Thanks everyone for taking the time to respond!

  20. 1

    SaaS natural growth looks to slow down compared to 2-3 years ago but with Covid situation, things may look differently for 2020 and onward so it is good timing indeed.

    Solve a problem, that can help millions of users, is expensive, is current, requires/offers lots of engagement from end-users, besides with the right setup/idea b2b and b2c can be built in same idea. Go for it.

  21. 1

    There is no such thing because you still need to solve user acquisition etc. Building is the easy part. I can build MVPs all day long, does not mean anyone will use them. But since you are already comfortable and confident with building here is what I would suggest:

    • pick an idea/problem that you are personally passionate about and will continue to be at least 3 months out when things get rough and newness wears off.
    • You may research what is already out there or don't — that way you won't risk copying anyone.
    • Make it
    • Try to acquire users and make sales.

    Last step is the hardest. Also see this for inspiration.

  22. 0

    I have one of the greatest advice ever. Check this site: https://openstartup.dev/

    Those are great websites with an already-proven market. You can even see how much they make so you will choose better.

    I think you can start copying an idea and just making it better and then do as much marketing as possible.

    1. 1

      what is MRR? next to the current on this website?

      1. 1

        MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue). The Saint Grial of SaaS is to generate recurring revenue so that's how they measure how much they earn. So $1000 MRR is $1000 per month of earnings with new clients or with subscriptions.

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    This comment was deleted 9 months ago.

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    This comment was deleted 8 months ago.

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    This comment was deleted 10 months ago.

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