February 24, 2020

$1,000 MRR! (harder than I anticipated)

Pat Walls @patwalls

Some of you might know my story, but I’m the founder of Starter Story. Over the past year, I’ve been working on a product called Pigeon.

Anyways, Pigeon just hit $1K MRR, and for me, it’s been a pretty crazy and unexpected journey, and I learned a lot.

Not all revenue is created equal, and for me, building a SaaS was a new type of challenge and I feel like $1K is a good milestone to reflect! And not because it’s $1,000, but because it equates to about 40 paying customers, which feels like a lot (for me).

DISCLAIMER: If you’re looking for a case study about how to grow a SaaS fast, this is probably not the one. This is mostly a look back at how I slowly reached 40 paying customers, what worked, what struggles I faced, and what I learned.

It also feels like a big milestone because I worked so damn hard to get here. Every customer felt like a big win, and every churn, lost opportunity, etc felt like a loss.

So, I wanted to write my thoughts while they’re still fresh and show you the real truth & honesty behind the last 10 months.

Here's a few takeaways, maybe it helps someone else building a similar product and just getting started:

Anticipate very slow growth in the early days

Growth was a lot slower than expected.

In the month after I launched (June), I only added 1 paying customer!! 1 CUSTOMER!! It’s pretty crazy to be working so hard on something and you only have 1 person sign up in 30 days.

And the next month after that? 2 CUSTOMERS!! Haha!

Churn is real and it sucks

I've never built a SaaS before, so I never really experienced churn first-hand.

Personally, every churn felt like a gut punch, especially in the early days, when things were less validated and I associated the success of the product with my own self-worth (I do that less now).

Eventually, I got better at dealing with “rejection” though (mostly). Some things that help:

  • Often, churn is completely out of your control, and can be due to something happening for the customer, like their business idea not working/pivoting in a new direction, etc.
  • Don’t assume anything and try to get the answers. When a customer cancels, knowledge is power. Try your best to learn WHY.
  • Be empathetic and put yourself in the customer's shoes - if they are churning because they aren’t getting enough value from your product - that can be an opportunity. When I lost customers in the early days because I didn’t have XYZ feature - now that feature is a selling point!

Discouragement and self-doubt

Mentally, I also went through some hard times. Not all bad though, but there were definitely some days... Being a solo founder certainly doesn’t help here either.

I got a YC interview that completely sidetracked me, and getting rejected from that felt like a gut punch because of all the work I put into prepping. I didn’t expect to get in, nor do I regret applying, but the interview process consumed my mind for a 2-3 week period back in October. Not much work on the product got done during those weeks, and when I look back at that "YC time" I remember feeling very stressed and unhappy.

In general, the “slow growth” got to me, at times. Compared to Starter Story, it felt like I was working double overtime to make a nickel.

But I did find some coping mechanisms for this self-doubt, here are a few:

What worked:

Don't want to bore you too much in this milestone, but I wrote a bit more about my journey, and also what worked, such as:

  • Direct sales
  • Building an email list and announcing features constantly
  • Quora
  • Using a chat popup thingy to your advantage
  • The Google audit
  • and more.

You can check out the full post here.

Thanks

I want to thank everyone that helped me along this journey - looking back it's amazing how many people I've met through this IndieHacker community over just a couple of short years.

If there's anything I can do to help you guys, please don't hesitate to ask.

Loading comments...
Today's Top Milestones
  • Hit $2,000 MRR from 300 paying subscribers!
    Big milestone for the two of us at Plausible Analytics today! We've just hit $2,000 MRR from 300 paying subscribers with our s
  • 1000+ Zero to Sold Sales in 7 Days / Made ~$8,500
    It has been exactly 7 days since I launched my book Zero to Sold. I launched it to my audience on Twitter last Monday, and I've been tracking and shar
  • Trended #1 repo on GitHub over the weekend! 🔥
    After Addy Osmani tweeted about our app last Thursday, there was a lot of noise about Res
  • First paying customer🎉🎉
    I took some days off to visit Viena during the weekend. On Sunday night I opened the mail and found one of the best notifications that I've ever recei
  • Update 98: Added $100 in MRR, $1600 MRR
    Happy Monday, Indie Hackers! 1. What we worked on last week and how well did we achieve our goals? ✅ Added 1 new customer. +$100 MRR. We are currently
  • MVP release
    Today I am happy to announce that KnowEthereum is live and available to the public! It took me a bit longer than expected as I wanted to make sure tha
  • Time to pivot!
    ... and how early user feedback is a life saver! After talking with some potential customers, I realized that the problem I had and I was sure a lot o
  • First paying customer🎉🎉
    I took some days off to visit Viena during the weekend. On Sunday night I opened the mail and found one of the best notifications that I've ever recei
  • Update #1 - 500 Active Users
    In the end of June 2020, we started our open Beta. People have been able to enrol in our beta waiting list for the past few months. Today we reached t
  • Technology investment, blog, and COVID stuck 🐜
    Our blog section becomes alive ❤️ https://scrapingant.com/blog/ And even some articles were at the main of HackerNews. 🤓 Blog writing is a pretty goo