Episode 348 | Finding Product/Market Fit, Organizing Notes for Maximum Effect, Growing from $100k to $1M, and More Listener Questions

Show Notes

In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike answer a number of listener questions. The topics include finding product/market fit, organizing notes for maximum effect, and growing from $100k to $1M.

Items mentioned in this episode:


Rob:    In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I talk about finding product market fit, organizing notes for maximum effect, growing from $100,000 of ARR to $1 million and more listener questions. This is Startups for the Rest of Us episode 348.

Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and growing software products whether you built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.

Mike:  And I’m Mike.

Rob:    We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Mike?

Mike:  As I said on the last episode, I kind of finished up almost the tech stuff that I’ve been working on and started switching over to working on the website marketing stuff and currently targeting a public launch date of August 1st. I’m kind of greasing the wheels of the marketing pipeline at the moment and doing everything that can possibly be done in the amount of time that I have.

Rob:    Very nice. It’s about three and a half weeks from now.

Mike:  Yeah, above three and a half weeks from when this episode goes live.

Rob:    From whenever we record.

Mike:  Yeah, whatever. Something along those lines.

Rob:    It’s a few weeks. You must feel pretty good about it then. You must be pretty close to getting things out the door.

Mike:  I do. There’s still a few things that need to be taken care of between now and then so I’ve realized that as I’m putting together the website itself to do some price turning, that there are certain things that need to be in place that are not there yet just so that I can charge different amounts based on different things. Maybe they’ll be there. Maybe they won’t when it goes live but if I need to toggle stuff on the backend, or do certain things, or just give people stuff that they normally shouldn’t have access to for the time being, then that’s probably not a big deal. I’m just finding those little edge cases here and there and reworking some things as necessary to make that happen.

One thing that I’ve realized over the past couple of weeks is that I added a customer, I think a week or two ago, and they had this massive mailbox that went back for years and years and had like almost 750,000 emails in their mailbox. The system generally held up pretty well. I’m pretty pleased with how that stuff is going right now.

Rob:    That’s exciting. It’s nice to have some confidence going into a launch like this. You didn’t just up and build a product and have no one use it, not know if they get value, not know all the bugs that you have because you inevitably will until people use it. No app survives first contact with the real customer without having bugs.

You’ve taken this slow launch approach of trickling people in, getting your 20, 25 early customers in. That is obviously a more conservative way of doing it than the Silicon Valley pay $500,000 for some massive launch party. I realized that’s a strong argument. A lot of people don’t do that.

But even if you have a lot of funding, you want to move really fast that you staff up, and you build quickly, and then you just do this big splash launch. You’re like, “Alright, product hunt, man. Product hunt’s going to do it.” But then, if you product hunt and you haven’t already had 20, 30, 40 people touch this app, you just don’t know what’s going to happen.

As engineers, we know all the pitfalls and ways things can go wrong. While this is a slower, more calculated and more conservative way of doing it, this is obviously the approach that we espouse on the show. It’s that more careful, calculated, repeatable way to do it. It’s how I’ve launched a bunch of apps and how you’re launching Bluetick here.

Mike:  I think the interesting thing is I’m looking at the app now and I see places where clearly things will start to break or slow down just because of performance and depending on what it is, sometimes, I just look at it and say, “I’m going to let this go.” Versus other times where like, and this mainly has to do with data sorting, paging, and making sure that you’re not returning too many things on the browser.

Those are few places where I’ve looked at and just said, “It can handle it. It’s not great. It’s not awesome user experience, but it works, so for the time being, I can just push it off and I’ll fix it later especially if customers start to run into it or it becomes a big deal. But it works, it’s not going to fall over. I’m not going to stop everything and put it on hold for another month or two to fix those things. I may as well just push it out there.”

Rob:    You’re always going to have some part of your app that feels that way. There’s always a page or two that you’re embarrassed about, that you’re concerned it’s going to break, that’s too slow for large accounts. That will never stop.

Mike:  I have a single-page application.

Rob:    Oh Mike. Listeners can’t see me putting my head into my palm. For me, I’m actually working from Chicago this week. I’m with my son. We’re at his cello camp. We used to go to Oregon for this but now that we live in Minneapolis, it makes sense to come to Chicago. To be honest, it brings back memories, I was at the Oregon cello camp last year. I was signing life changing Drip acquisition documents on my iPhone with my finger from inside the halls of a music building on a small college campus that no one’s ever heard of in Central Oregon. It was just this.

I remember feeling overwhelmed and I couldn’t think straight. We’ve been talking about this for a year and doing negotiations for six months and then I keep thinking to myself shouldn’t I be calm, cool, and collected like at my home office with my laptop but no, I was running in and out. I dropped the kid off at cello, a lesson or a group thing, and then I ran outside and then I read on my phone, oh my gosh, this piece fell through. I’d get a thing to sign to override this and to sign over. It was exhilarating. It was also super stressful. But being here reminds me of that because it is the one year anniversary of the Drip acquisition just a couple of days ago.

Mike:  Today, now you can sit there without the dirty looks from the other parents.

Rob:    I know. That’s right. It’s Suzuki method of teaching cello and strings and so the parents were supposed to heavily participate and I actually had to talk to a couple of the teachers and I said, “Look, I have something going on right now. I’m in the process. My company’s being acquired. I need you to cut me some slack for a couple of days here.” That was fun.

Let’s kick off today’s episode with a voicemail question. Note to the listeners. If you want to get your question to the top of the stack, send a voicemail because we don’t get very many of them and it’s always cool to hear people’s actual voice. It’s just a better experience for everyone. It feels like The Collin Show. With that said, someone sent us a voicemail with a question for you, Mike, about Bluetick.

Andrew:          Hi Mike and Rob, this is Andrew calling from Australia. Mike, I’ve got a question for you in relation to Bluetick. You talk a lot about product market fit. Have you found with Bluetick that you’ve had a general type of customer or have you found already that Bluetick has started to be suited for either a particular industry vertical, a particular customer type in terms of size of the company, or to some other characteristic in terms of the groupings of your customers? Love the show and hope to hear you guys answer this question on air. Thanks. Bye.

Mike:  From the customers that I’m working with right now, they fall into a certain set of categories. I’m not saying that these categories of people, the customer profile that I currently have for the people that I’m working with right now is the long term ultimate customer base, I guess, of Bluetick. It’s just what I found so far and what seems to be successful.

They fall into a couple of different buckets. The first one is startup founders who are trying to validate an idea and most of them are trying to do cold outreach and get in front of customers or try and reach out to people that they think would be a good fit for their software. They plug people into Bluetick and it does essentially cold outbound outreach for those people and try to get those conversations started. That’s one group.

A second group is podcasters, to be honest. People who are running podcasts and are trying to get sponsorships for their podcast are using Bluetick to do that outreach to people they think would be a good fit and then start those conversations and then enter into the individual emails back and forth to try and get them to buy into a sponsorship for those podcasts.

A third category is small businesses who have an inbound lead funnel. Most of these are services based businesses where somebody will fill out a form on their website and the customer is approaching them and then they need to fill that request and probably ask for more information or try and get them to the next step. But what they’re finding is that a lot of people will fill out a form on their website or request information and then go dark or go silent.

What Bluetick does at that point is that because it’s a warm contact, it will help bring them back to the table. Very similar to Rob, you guys in Drip have this feature where you can send out a broadcast email and then several days later you can reschedule that same email to go out with a different headline if the person doesn’t open it. Bluetick, because of the way that it works, after the first attempt, if it doesn’t receive a response from the person, it will try again and again and again.

Those additional steps in the email sequence tend to aggregate together and give you a much higher response rate than if you just sent out one email, waited and if they didn’t respond, then you kind of walked away from the conversation. That’s the profile that I’m currently finding success with and people are comparing other products to Bluetick. There’s a lot of different cold outbound tools out there or tools that will remind you, “Hey, you sent an email to this person and they didn’t respond.” But Bluetick aggregates those things together, not just their features, but also the fact that it’s got a mini CRM built into it and helps you give a bigger picture of the whole thing.

That’s where I’m at right now. I don’t know if that completely answers the question but there’s a few different buckets that they fall into and I haven’t found one specifically that is better or substantially worse than the other.

Rob:    Yeah, that’s cool. I go back and forth on this. As an entrepreneur, early on in your entrepreneurial journey, it’s like I stuck to apps that really had a tight vertical niche and I feel like that is a good way to keep things simple, you know where to find them. I like that approach. However, there are tools that in order to grow to a reasonable size, they’re in such a competitive space that I guess it could be argued that you could say that Bluetick is advanced follow up in sales for podcasters. You could start out that way and then expand. Land and expand is what it’s called and then go horizontal.

I think it’s too early to decide that right now. Podcasters may be too small of a niche, although it is growing.

Mike:  It’s interesting that you say that that’s a small niche. I agree with you that it is but they talk to each other a lot. I get a lot of referral in that. I think that’s partly why I’m getting traction there. It’s because they talk to each other and they’re saying, “How do I solve this problem of getting sponsors for my podcast?” And then they say, “Hey, use this tool. It’s really helpful.”

Rob:    That’s the thing. I say it’s a small niche but small is in quotes. If you would’ve build this to let’s say it tops out $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a month, which I think there are enough podcasters to do that for sure. That’s small compared to a multimillion dollar app or some Silicon Valley exit. But that’s a heck of a lifestyle business if you want to keep it that way.

If you own the niche and you’re the name in doing and then you add things in that that really help podcasters find sponsorships, and then you could even branch out into, well, conferences need sponsorships. That’s the whole reason you built Bluetick, originally, was to help with getting sponsorships from MicroConf.

There are other things you could easily translate into so we’re definitely getting, I’m getting ahead of you on this or ahead of ourselves and I don’t think we need to make this decision or the distinction yet but I do think it’s an interesting conversation that you probably have or should have going in the back of your mind of do I need to go vertical because there’s so much competition. Because you have to be different somehow. You don’t just want to be one of many apps that’s doing the same thing.

You either want to go vertical with it and build the best one for that group of people or you want to have a feature or two that really make you stand out where they say, “Well how are you different with the five other apps that do this?” And you can say, “Well, it’s this and that and this is the approach we take. It’s the light way to CRM.” Or whatever it is that you’ve built in that’s different, that you at least have a talking point and aren’t just a commodity.

Thank you for the question. I like that one. I appreciate it. Our next question is from Aaron Cordova. He’s asking about notebook organization. He says, “How do you organize your notes? I’ve recently started note taking with an iPad Pro and a pencil. Do you have a page per day? Do you organize by topics?”

I used to use my notebooks both for longer term notes and thinking and things I was thinking through and I use it for to-dos. I tried so many to-do apps over the years and I finally switched to Trello. I can’t go back now because Trello keeps it on the cloud, have a record that never goes away. I can never lose it. I can access it from all my devices. I really like to-dos being in an app somewhere and Trello is finally the one that broke me with that.

Now, my notes are really just in a black, a Moleskine notebook and I do not do a page a day because I don’t write in my notebook everyday. I still use Evernote for some work things. I use Trello for to-do lists and I use my notebook when I am on an airplane, when I’m deep thinking, when I’m trying to hash through a problem because paper and pen is just I think so much better with that than sitting in front of a computer because there’s no distraction.

If I were to flip through my notebook, I definitely date my pages and I put a topic at the top. If I’m going to be thinking through one problem, or taking action notes from a book that I’m listening to, or trying to think of what else I’ve written on my notebook recently, I tend to put things in there I want to say for a long time. If I know that it’s just super scratch brainstorm-y stuff or it’s, I don’t even know, like a grocery list or something that I know I’m not going to care about in a month, then I don’t put it in my notebook. My notebooks, I keep them pretty much forever. I have notebooks going back ten years and I do flip through them and I have some fascinating insights that when I look back and think, “Man, your view of the world was so different back then.” Or maybe the world was genuinely so different. Just the founder community and the entrepreneurial community and my aspirations for it.

All that to say, I don’t organize by topics because I just flip to the next page, I put a date, and then I flip through. This means that I don’t particularly have a great organizational system. When I remember, “Oh, I remember Derek and I talked about this and I noted that down.” I have to think in my head. I bet that was about six months ago. And then I do, I flip through the notebook and I find the page.

While it’s not the most efficient way to get there, what I really like about it is the serendipity. Typically, when I’m flipping through that notebook, I’m reviewing like six, eight months worth of thoughts that I have forgotten about. Actually, the act of looking through them often will remind me of like, “Oh yeah, there was this feature we were totally going to build.” Or “Oh yeah, we never implemented that one thing.” Or “I never got back to that person.” It’s like all this stuff that isn’t urgent and doesn’t keep coming back on the radar, but it was a really good idea four, five months ago.

For me, my notebook is more of a time capsule. It’s for deep thinking and thought process. That was actually why I don’t like Evernote for it, because Evernote, I know it’s great if you want to search or any of these note taking apps. Great, if you want to search and you know what you’re looking for, but if you just want to kick back with a cold beer in one hand and a notebook on the other and you just want to flip through and read things almost like a dead tree or paperback book, that’s the experience that I relish and that’s what I love about my notebooks.

That was more information you probably ever want to hear about it and maybe a unique use case. I’m curious to hear what your take is on this.

Mike:  I’ve tried Evernote and Trello. I still have my Evernote account. I just don’t ever use it and there’s things in there that I don’t go back and find or look at. The problem I found with both Evernote and Trello is that if I’m using it for any sort of to-do list or task management or anything like that, I end up with so many things in there that it just really falls apart. It’s too general purpose.

What I tend to do is it’s broken down based on what it is that I’m doing. Usually, what I’ll do is I’ll either start with index cards for a set of daily tasks that I need to do and get through and I can just mark them off as I’m getting through them. Occasionally, what will happen is that something will stay on an index card for too long and it will end up on the next day’s index card or the next week’s. If things end up there for too long, what I do is I essentially end up promoting it to some other place.

Sometimes, I’ll have a notebook where I will write down short term notes about something I’m working on, whether it’s really complicated or has a lot of things that I need to keep track of and I’ll write them down on paper. But at some point, like you’ve marked off a bunch of stuff and then you end up with 5 to 10 pages worth of stuff but half the pages are all crossed off, it doesn’t really make sense anymore and you can’t move them around.

At that point, I start moving things over into tools. For anything that is a bug or feature related, it tends to end up in FogBugz. Most of my general purpose tasks, or if it’s a marketing task, or related to a specific project, it usually ends up in my teamwork account. If it’s some sort of a thing that needs to go on a shared list that I use for home stuff, I use something called AnyList. I have a paid account that I share with my wife because it’s a family account so we’ll put our grocery list and things like that on it. It works really, really well for that.

Outside of that, I will also use Google Docs for taking long form notes about a particular problem that I’m working on where I don’t want to write it down if it’s not just a really quick thing or if I need to think about a lot of stuff, I’ll put it in Google Docs.

And then for mental brain dumps at the end of each day or at the end of each week, I have a journaling app that I have a subscription to called Penzu. That system works really well for me because each of those tools tend to be focused on a particular type of problem that it’s solving and it has the tools and the features and all the things that go with it that allow me to keep things organized within that context. Once I start crossing the borders between different context, the tools tend to fall apart. You can use FogBugz for marketing tasks but you don’t really necessarily want to be paying for a FogBugz account to give some contractor or somebody who is not going to touch any of your development stuff. Giving them a FogBugz account is kind of pointless so it’s easier to put that stuff in the teamwork.

I have a tendency to feel like this type of problem, it’s going to be different for everybody. That’s why there’s so many different to-do list apps and note taking apps because everybody works differently and you ultimately settle on something that works for you. The other 99 apps that you tried didn’t ultimately work out. I feel like this is a very context sensitive problem in terms of the type of person you are.

Rob:    Yup. And the process you use and how you want to handle it. I agree. Thanks for the question, Aaron. I hope that was helpful. Our next couple of questions are from John. He says, “Hi Mike and Rob. I’ve been listening to your podcast for about a year and I get bummed when Stitcher doesn’t have your podcast ready to listen to every Tuesday before I ride to work. I have a couple of questions. First is what are your thoughts on pay what you want pricing? I’ve created a software called Breakneck Install which is a downloadable application that helps developers quickly create an installer for their application.

There are giants in the market and my product can’t compete with them. I don’t feel like I could charge near what they do which is more than $500 per license. I thought of trying to pay what you want model. One of the benefits I see is not having to worry about licensing issues such as maintaining and creating backend infrastructure to deal with licensing. My fear is that I try this and then decide to go a traditional pricing model which may make future customers unhappy. Do you have any thoughts on this?”

Mike:  I think for a product like this where you’re trying to build an installer, it almost feels to me like what you’re going to run into is the market is going to be split between these people who are just starting out and they’re trying to build a product but they don’t have any money so you’re not going to get them to donate money to your cause.

It’s not going to be a viable source of income. If it’s something that you want to do because you have the money laying around and you want to put your effort into something like this, then that’s fine but I wouldn’t look at pay what you want pricing for something like that to really be able to make a dent in your bottom line and be able to let you go full time on it. I just don’t think that it’s going to happen.

There are also a lot of open source alternatives out there that would make something like this difficult. You’re absolutely right when it comes to installers, most of them tend to be very expensive and what you’ll find is that the people who don’t have the money will go for the free open source versions. And even if you give them a paid option that is a pay whatever you want, it seems to me like you’re probably not going to get very much money from that. They’re not necessarily going to be willing to pay software maintenance and things like that.

You’re going to spend a lot more time fixing bugs and addressing individual issues than you are trying to build the product where if you were just selling it to smaller businesses that had revenue and the capabilities to pay $500 to $1,000 per license, you’d be able to make a business out of it.

Rob:    I have mixed feelings about this. I’ve never done it so I can’t speak from experience. I can only speak from the experience of entrepreneurs who I’ve seen done it and who I’ve talked to. It can work but you need a really large install base. You need a lot of people downloading so you can’t just say I have a few hundred downloads a month and expect that you’re going to be able to do pay as you go and make any kind of money from it.

The problem is that if you do pay as you go and someone pays you $10, how much support do you now owe them? If they start asking for feature requests, if there are bugs that they discovered, if they’re demanding, if stuff goes sideways, it becomes a challenge. I can see a lot of problems with this and my gut is that it’s not going to work unless you are getting, I don’t know what the number is, but it’s thousands and thousands of downloads per month, because a bunch of people are going to pay you nothing, and then a few are going to pay you a small amount.

When podcasters try this, when other small, downloadable WordPress plugins or whatever try it, they don’t tend to get a lot of money. I don’t know that I agree with your fear that if you were to have pay as you go for now, that you can’t undo that later without making future customers unhappy. I think what I would say is I’d rather call it a beta, or an early access, or put some moniker on it and I would say, “It’s pay as you go while it’s an early access.” Even if you already released it and it’s not an early access anymore, that’s what I would do so that if you decide that you don’t want to go pay as you go anymore, that it just doesn’t work out financially, you can always undo that and it’s a pretty easy thing.

I’ve seen apps go from free to paid before. If you grandfather people who already have it, I don’t really know what complaint future potential customers could have other than, “Oh, I should’ve downloaded it last month instead of waiting till now.” There’s a time where I tripled the pricing of DotNetInvoice from $100 to $300, and a couple of people emailed me and said, “Hey, I was in the process of thinking about buying it. Can I still get it for $95, or $98, or whatever it was?” I gave it to them. It was like two or three people.

One I later regretted, he actually turned out to be the worst customer, the first toxic customers that we had but that’s beside the point. I don’t know. It’s easy enough to try. I see your point. I think if you have something that can’t compete in the marketplace like going freemium or pay as you go is often not the right answer. The right answer is make something that can compete in the market place. Have a differentiator or just set a cheaper price.

If this thing really does do a good chunk of what developers need, they can only get it for $500 elsewhere, then what about charging $99 or $199. You don’t necessarily want to be the low price leader but is there a space in the market. You think about Infusionsoft, Eloqua, all these really expensive marketing automations and Drip came in at the beginning, a lighter weight product that was easier to use and less expensive. I do think that there’s an angle that could be added there as well.

Mike:  I think the lower price point is definitely an angle that you can go at because there are certainly ways that you could charge a couple of hundred dollars for an installer. I do like your idea about letting people know, “Hey, this is pay as you go for the time being.” And then make it a point that it is something that you can undo later and move to some other one. Just be upfront and clear to people like, “Hey, this is the pricing for now and it’s going to change. We just don’t know what it is yet.”

Rob:    Our next question is about growing from $100,000 of ARR to $1 million. This is from Pawel Brzeminski. He says, “Hi Rob and Mike. I’ve been listening to the podcast for years. I really respect what you’ve done and that you’re sharing all this knowledge with the rest of us. I found your podcast immensely helpful in launching my own SaaS app, which is called Snap Projections. How do you think about growing a self fronted SaaS past $100,000 ARR? So that’s about $8,000 or $9,000 a month. What do you specifically pay attention to in terms of marketing, sales, operations, hiring? Any specific tips on growing in a vertical niche versus horizontal? What would you do differently right now?” It says more of a question for Rob but it would be interesting Mike’s take as well. “Anything specific to watch out for?” His background on them is that they have two people on board, more than 120 clients/customers, relatively low churn, and they’re operating in a niche of financial services applicable to Canada only.

Mike:  I’ll be honest. I don’t know how qualified I am to actually answer this question so Rob, why don’t you throw some things out there and maybe there’s something I can think of, I’ll just piggyback on it.

Rob:    For sure. It’s a really broad question but I appreciate it. It’s almost like what are the things to watch out for because they’ve already had a decent amount of success obviously to get to even that $8,000, $9,000, or $10,000 mark. It’s like what’s the difference to get to seven figures or what has to change between then and now?

What my experience with this is that it’s going to depend on how big the market is that you are in. I’d bring up Drip because that’s the most recent thing I’ve done. We were in a position where we were in such a large space that we didn’t have to change anything in terms of our market. We didn’t have to go from vertical to horizontal or do any of that because there were enough people who wanted it that we needed to do it. We needed to execute on marketing and hiring in essence. Keeping developers going to build features but really, the product, once we had product-market fit, has always been really solid.

I think that’s the first question to ask. If you really are in a niche of financial services in Canada only, it’s like is the market even big enough to get you to a million or are you going to have to either go into another vertical or go more horizontal and serve a lot of vertical niches or just not even be vertical at all. That’s one thing to think about.

I think you can definitely get to seven figures with a very small number of employees or contractors, somewhere between 5 and 10. I think one thing to watch out for is hiring too quickly or trying to hire ahead of revenue because you want to get there faster. It’s a lesson that I learned. It doesn’t necessarily, especially hiring developers, it doesn’t necessarily make that revenue move faster. If you’re already at that $10,000 point, I always would try to look at what is my bottleneck? Why are we not growing faster? Is it because our product needs more features or is it because we’re not marketing or selling enough?

My next hire would be either a developer, or it would be a marketer, or a salesperson, or we’d start doing demos, or whatever. When we were in that $10,000 to $20,000 MRR range, maybe we just hit $25,000, that was when I realized that not having someone who could talk to people on the phone and essentially do customer success/sales, that was a limiting factor for us and that’s when we brought Anna on. That was a game changer for us. That was a bottleneck for us in that $20,000 to $30,000 range.

You may be there but then again, you may be that salesperson and that’s not a limiting factor and it’s more of your market’s too small and your development team is moving too slow or whatever and they need more help. That’s the thing I think that you need to think about at every point is whether you’re at $10,000 or you’re at $50,000, what is your limiting factor? What’s going to double your growth next month or add 50% of your growth to next month because you want growth. The bigger you get, you have to accelerate growth.

When you’re at $10,000, growing at $1,000 a month is actually a victory. At the time you get $20,000, $30,000, you want to start growing at $5,000 a month so you need to think differently about how am I going to 5x growth between those two points. That often means you’re either growing wider, building features faster or dumping more money in the marketing or getting into paid ads, finding a new channel, because that can be a big piece of it. You may just need more people on the top of the funnel. That may be a thing or you may need to close more people that are in the funnel.

That’s why I use all those rules of thumb that we’ve talked about in the past. If you’re already converting 40% to 60% of your trials to paid and you’re asking for credit card up front, then that’s fine. I would push that aside for now and I wouldn’t try to improve my on boarding and I would say, “How can we just get more people to the top of this funnel?” But if your churn is 10% per month, well then, “How are we going to cut churn by making a product better and by retaining more people?”

It’s looking at each of these things and just bouncing from one to the next and you improve one and then you put more people in top of the funnel and you realize, “Oh, now this other thing is broken.” And you just hop from thing to thing. That’s kind of a brain dump of how I thought about it but I hope that gives us some things to chew on.

Mike:  I like everything that you just said there. It boils down to recognizing where the bottlenecks are going to be. One thing that comes to mind is you mentioned something about limiting yourself to just Canada for example, because that’s where the company is based right now and those are the people that they’re targeting. But does the customer profile need to change? Are you targeting one type of customer and you need to move to a different type of customer?

Let’s say small financial planning companies versus individual financial planners. Does your customer profile need to change in order to be able to get more revenue per customer in a way that’s going to help the business grow or are you going to max out? Again, that’s just a limiting factor. Not necessarily through geographical border but the customer base that you currently have and that you’re going after.

That all boils down to the same thing. Is there that limiting factor that you’re going to need to overcome? Whether it’s that or whether as you said, the bottlenecks in the marketing funnel, customer acquisition, all that stuff. It’s finding those bottlenecks.

Rob:    Thanks for the question Pawel and apologies that it took us so long to answer it. He actually sent that to us last October. Our last question of the day comes from Matt Sencenbaugh. He says, “Hey Rob and Mike, I’m launching a SaaS app on April 1st,” sorry, Matt. It was a couple of months ago, “with two customers who have already signed on. My question boils down to what legal documents do I need at launch? Terms and service, privacy policy, sales agreement, etc? Do you guys have any recommendations for getting the required documents in a cost effective manner? Finally, just doing a sole proprietor affect this legal question at all?”

I will start off by prefacing that neither Mike nor I are lawyers, nor do we play them on TV so our advice is based on experience. It should not be considered legal advice. You should consult with an attorney to get real, legal advice. I have a quick answer to this one. I could say when we launched Drip and when I re-did HitTail and when I’ve done my other apps, terms and service, and privacy policy are the only two things that I really have and I use as a free plug for these guys, they used to advertise on This Week In Startups but it’s Snapterms, snapterm.com. I think it was $600 for privacy policy and terms. Those are not going to be the best. If you were to pay for a lawyer to do it from scratch, it might be $1,000 or $2,000 but they will work with you more to get tighter buttoned up language. But if you’re launching with two customers, it’s just how much time and money do you want to spend on this.

Mike:  There’s a ton of privacy policy and terms of service generator tools out there. There’s even some that are licensed under Creative Commons and you can use any one of those. I think our general guidance, not necessarily, as Rob said, legal or financial advice on this particular thing is what we’ve seen people do is find something that seems reasonable for the time being and then once you get to a point where you can afford it and you have something to protect, then you go the route of having something custom built and custom designed for your situation. None of the tools out there that either generate these things for you or even the ones that you find on a website like Snapterms and you download something that is reasonably customized for you, they’re not going to encompass every single scenario.

Every lawyer, even my lawyer has done this before. He will look at legal agreements and he will take things from different legal agreements that he’s seen based on how they’ve been used in the past. If one of his customers got screwed over by a particular piece of legal jargon, he will sometimes take that and put it into his legal agreements to make sure that his customers and clients don’t get the short end of the stick when it comes to interpreting the documents that he’s put together.

Based on how experienced your attorney is, they’re going to have a wider wealth of knowledge, the longer they’ve been in business and the more agreements that they’ve seen and they’re going to be able to use those to craft the one for you. Maybe you get two or three different lawyers from different firms involved, it seems like it would be overkill but it’s always an option. I’m sure that larger businesses tend to have legal teams so that they can get that kind of experience and breadth and put together something that covers them from every possible angle.

Rob:    The part about it’s a sole proprietorship has that impact. It just means that you have more exposure and more liability. I don’t know that it’s risk tolerance. Like we always say, you just have to figure out if you’re concerned about there being liability on your shoulders or in these early days, if you feel like you could get sued for something because the way to remove liability or to push it off is to form an LLC or an S Corp and then have really tight terms of service and privacy policy and all that stuff. Air tight, as they say.

That’s the way to ultimately get rid of it all. It costs a lot of money and it’s again, for me and my experiences, not something that I spend a lot of time or money thinking about in the early days of an app because there is less exposure at the time but you have to evaluate it for yourself.

Mike:  An interesting hack for this to find out how much exposure you have is to go to an insurance company and ask them for a quote for liability insurance and find out how much that quote is and then use that to decide whether or not you need to go out and get something crafted from an attorney to help cover you. That seems to me like a pretty good way to get an independent gauge of how risky what you’re doing is.

For example, back when I was doing enterprise level consulting, we would be given admin access at the domain level on somebody’s network and some of these companies were like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, NASDAQ, those types of companies. Our insurance rates were outrageous. They were like $500 to $1,000 a month for insurance. It was only two or three of us. That was absurd but my wife’s got insurance for her business and it’s only, I forget, like $100 a month or something like that. It’s ridiculously low.

Depending on what you’re doing and how much risk and exposure you have, the insurance company will charge you more. Just getting a price quote from them would be a good way get an independent verification of how much risk there is without you having to sit down and do a ton of work on it. You’re going to have to provide them with paperwork and documentation and they’ll have an auditor review it but you could use that to help out.

Rob:    Yup and if you’re going to do that and get a quote, I would recommend a company that I worked with before. They just made the process really easy. It’s foundershield.com. They themselves are a startup. It’s kind of just an insurance broker but they operate, like, I’m guessing they have some funding because they operate like you would want a startup to operate rather than some stodgy old business insurance company.

Mike:  Matt, hope that helps. I think that’s probably the place to wrap it up for the day.

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