Matt Wensing returns for his third appearance on the podcast. He is the founder of Summit and was in TinySeed Batch 1.
We dive into Matt’s decision-making process for re-writing the entire codebase. We talk about choosing the right features to build, talking to your customers, starting with a blank slate vs templates, and much more.
The topics we cover
[06:48] How to handle customers that are not engaging
[11:35] Figuring out the right features to build
[19:24] Making the decision to re-write the codebase
[31:27] The value of forecasting
[33:18] Designing a sparse SaaS homepage
Links from the show
- Out of Beta
- Things You Should Never Do, Part I
- Episode 450 | Founder Hotseat: Matt Wensing of SimSaaS on Making Consistent, Needle-Moving Progress
- Episode 491 | Hard Lessons Learned, Reaching High-Touch Prospects, Finding Advisors, and More Listener Questions
- Episode 489 | 15 Years to a SaaS Exit (Plus Why Forecasting is Crucial)
- Summit | Twitter
- Summit | Website
- Matt Wensing | Twitter
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If you have questions about starting or scaling a software business that you’d like for us to cover, please submit your question for an upcoming episode. We’d love to hear from you!
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Rob: This is Startups For The Rest Of Us episode 516. Thanks for joining me this week. As you know, every week on this show, we cover topics related to building and growing ambitious startups. But they’re ambitious yet sustainable. They’re startups that live within our life and help us help our employees, our customers, and other people who are involved. These are obviously not nonprofits, but they’re not the typical Silicon Valley startups where people are sacrificing their freedom, purpose, and relationships in order to build these companies and where fundraising can be a goal in itself.
We want to build real businesses with real customers who pay us real money. And we want to do it in a meticulous and disciplined way, in a repeatable fashion to where we could build many, many businesses in the same fashion. We don’t want to rely so much on luck like a lot of the big venture fund companies do.
This week, I’m talking with a returning guest, Matt Wensing, about when to rewrite your SaaS codebase. It’s something that he has just spent the last three or four months doing. But before we dive into that, I want to cover two talking points.
First is, you might be noticing that my co-host Emeritus Mike Taber has not been on the show in quite some time. I believe it’s been about three months. Mike and I have been chatting via email and text, and we even did a phone call today. He has stuff that’s going on that he really isn’t able to talk about in public. He has things going on that are interesting and are very likely to push his business forward in interesting ways. But when you can’t talk about it in public, it doesn’t make for an interesting podcast.
He’s still working on Bluetick. I do want to get an update from him on that and everything else that’s going on. But we both agreed that for now, he should hang tight and he’s going to let me know when the things that he is working on can essentially be discussed on the show. Then I’ll have Mike back on the show like we’ve been doing for the past year or so.
The other thing I wanted to mention is that a couple of weeks ago with TinySeed, we launched our investment pieces moving forward. It’s for fun too and beyond. But the idea is that we believe investing broadly into the earliest stages of B2B SaaS companies, and specifically, it’s the B2B SaaS companies who are not necessarily reliant on traditional venture capital racket. It’s the Startups For The Rest Of Us, the MicroConf type companies. But we believe this can provide amazing returns for investors and thus allows us to raise more money and help more campiness.
There’s this huge gap in the funding market that’s why we launched TinySeed back in 2018. That’s why we’re continuing to double down in this space, as I have been for 15 years with the blog, more than a decade with the podcast, and 9 years (almost going on 10) here with MicroConf. But it’s to help more founders get there faster. Some founders get tremendous value out of a free podcast. Some get value out of a $20 book or $10 ebook. And some get value out of attending in-person events, meeting people, hearing tactics and tips, and building relationships. Others do want to take that other step of hey, here’s some funding; here’s a batch approach; and here’s a network, mentorship, and all that.
There are many different paths for folks to get there. I think about it as being bootstrapped, almost bootstrapped, or mostly bootstrapped as I’ve heard Craig Hewitt throughout on his podcast a few times. But the idea is there’s this huge gap between raising millions or tens of millions in funding and going after that unicorn exit. The companies that we talk about on this podcast and that are part of the MicroConf community of building these ambitious yet sane startups.
If you are an investor, if you’re credited, or you fit the definition of a US accredited investor—you do not have to live in the US—I encourage you to check out tinyseed.com/thesis. Because we have a bunch of data that we have crunched and spent weeks and weeks writing this massive report. It’s an investment memo that has become our investment thesis. We have essentially been proving that out with our first two batches, and we’re in the process of raising Fund 2, so that we can continue to help, support, mentor, guide, and fund hundreds and hundreds more independent SaaS companies. Again, that’s tinyseed.com/thesis.
If you decide to invest, you’ll be joining folks like Dharmesh Shah—co-founder of HubSpot, Rand Fishkin—founder of SparkToro, Steli Efti—co-founder of close.com, and Patrick McKenzie—who many of you know as patio11 on the internet.
As I mentioned earlier, today, I’m talking with Matt Wensing. He’s the founder of Summit. He’s been on the show a couple of times. I believe this is his third appearance. He is the co-host of the Out of Beta podcast. Man, I talk about a bunch of stuff about what he’s been up to in the past six, seven months since he was last on the show.
One of the topics we do dig into is why he decided to rewrite his entire codebase—whether that was worth it, things he might do differently in the future, and how he made that decision. We also cover how he’s getting growth, how he has been doing customer development. Just all kinds of stuff. It’s a great conversation. I hope you enjoy it. Let’s dive in.
Matt Wensing, thank you so much for joining me on the show again.
Matt: Mr. Walling, thanks for having me.
Rob: Absolutely, man. It’s good to have you back. As some folks may remember, you were on the podcast back in March, episode 489—15 Years to a SaaS Exit (Plus Why Forecasting is Crucial). In that episode, we talked through the building and growing Riskpulse and then selling it back in 2019 for a very nice exit. And then we talked—towards the end of that episode—about Summit, which is the SaaS app—the startup that you’ve been working on now for a year and a half?
Matt: Yeah. That’s about right.
Rob: You’re part of TinySeed Batch 1. Your h1 is tell your forecasting spreadsheet you’re never getting back together. Design your business with someone instead. You’re about forecasting. We talked in the last episode about how if you go into a Baremetrics, ChartMogul, or ProfitWell it is everything up until today. It’s your backward-looking metrics. Those are obviously very important to be looking at. Summit takes it from there, and then you’re going to extrapolate ahead using—we talked about Monte Carlo very lightly. But it’s just simulations and things like, hey, this is where you’re headed based on where you’ve come from.
Is that a pretty good assessment so far?
Matt: That is excellent.
Rob: Awesome. Folks may recognize your voice—co-host of the Out of Beta podcast with our mutual friend Peter, Suhm. I guess you’re @mattwensing on Twitter.
Matt: That’s right. You can find me there. I tweet way too much. But you can help me do that even more.
Rob: Indeed. Go follow Matt to encourage him to spend more time on Twitter and less time working on his company. Several interesting things I want to dig into today. I think we’re going to talk some point about your homepage at Summit. It’s at usesummit.com, and folks can check it out. It’s very sparse. It’s a headline, a tagline, and then buttons and that’s it. It’s not the typical SaaS homepage.
But before we dive into that, I want to go from where we left off back in March in the sense that you were in early access. You had a few customers paying you something. You did not have the traction that you wanted, but you were moving in that direction. You had people coming in, signing up for trials, and connecting their metrics. It didn’t seem like things were working in the sense that you weren’t growing month over month the way that you might expect.
People were trying it out and again, wiring up metrics, but they weren’t sticking around. Most people weren’t paying. The majority of people were not getting the value out of it. Talk to me about where you were because a lot of folks listening to this episode have been in that position or are in that position now. Where they’ve built something, and they know there is something there. It’s not just a complete failure. People are intrigued by it and they try it out, but they don’t stick around. They don’t pay. I just want to hear mentally where you were and what that looked like from your perspective as a founder.
Matt: Yeah. We can definitely relive that. It’s funny, it didn’t feel like a pain when I was there because some things were good. I was getting feedback from people that really, frankly, loved the app, but they just weren’t enough of them. Just to jump ahead to what I learned and then we could talk about how I missed it and then how I finally realized it. Maybe I got the target persona wrong. I didn’t know that I got it wrong. Actually, the target persona was actually the later stage. It’s a bit of concrete terms.
I launched the Summit as an app called SimSaaS. I was thinking, let me help the very, very early stage founder figure out how to do a forecast without the use of something like Google Sheets. I’m going to bring a load of technology to bear on it and make it just a killer app where you could just enter 20 numbers and hit a big button (literally) and get an answer. It did that. It delivered on that promise. For the users, the earliest stage founders that had nothing, nothing at all—no spreadsheet—just thoughts and ideas. It worked.
The problem was something happens as time goes by. Those founders grow up, their businesses mature, and their needs evolve—that’s one part. The other part is they get used to the app as it is, and then just like with every other app, they want more. The app as it was yesterday—even for those happy users—once they are happy, that’s great. Jeff Bezos calls it that wonderful human discontent or something. People are always coming back for what’s the new thing, how can I do more stuff with this, or can it also do that.
I was building up two things. One was this eroding usage that wasn’t going away. Even my free retention—because it was a premium product—wasn’t good. I didn’t like the direction it was going. People would have these experiences, but then they weren’t engaging frequently enough to turn them into a paying customer. But the other part was even the people that loved it had a wish list of things that would really get them excited and really push them over the line. Maybe even turn them into a paying customer.
I’m a one man team—I shouldn’t say that actually anymore. I’m a one man team currently with a handful of contractors. That just put me at a crossroads of I’ve got this codebase that I’ve been working on for a year. It’s a core and then there’s a front-end and a back-end (let’s call it that). The back-end is really unique, really hard to build, the kind of thing you hope you never have to do again. The front-end was like bootstrap and pretty basic components and tools. I tried to pick colors, but it wasn’t amazing. It was good enough.
I just hit this crossroads though. To your question, where have I gone wrong in terms of why can’t I keep these people around, and why can’t I fully satisfy their wish list? Maybe not 100% because I think that’s almost impossible. Why is it increasingly hard to build the next thing that somebody asks me for, and what does that mean for my business? Those were the questions I was facing in February and March.
Rob: It was pretty obvious to you just that people were not engaging and not paying. It’s never obvious what you do then. It’s never obvious what you build. How did you get to that point? I guess that end of the story is that you have a lot more traction now, growth has started kicking up, and people are getting value out of it. Here we are in August six months later. We know that you made a good decision. You changed the product enough that you do have traction now. How did you figure out what to build? Was it conversations with the customers or something else?
Matt: Yeah. I was thinking about this. We’re always looking, as founders, for validation. I know I am. I think most of us are. When people say things that are complementary, they just tend to really put wind in our sails (pick your metaphor). It feels great and you remember those things. There’s a bit of a bias towards the evidence that you’re on the right track. But then, as I said, there was this mounting evidence that I wasn’t on the right track like something was wrong.
I really said I’ve got to start piecing together the consistent story that I’m hearing from the users that I really want to have. Whether it’s people that are on the verge, but the app just isn’t good enough, or maybe they’re people who love the app and then fell out of love with it because it wasn’t good enough. A deep look or maybe a scary look at that evidence and that feedback and saying, what product do these people actually need?
A little bit of context is helpful, and this sounds a little counter-intuitive. I was able to raise another round of funding right around the same timeframe—February. It was based on the traction that I had with the first version of the product. Again, what investors were seeing, what I was seeing was there is clearly a demand for this. People are paying. You are getting users. They’re coming in. Something’s not quite right, but at least the kindling is there.
I think you and Einar, when you invested through TinySeed, were really betting on me as a person and a proof of concept. I think these people were saying, proof of concept has proven out, hasn’t quite figured out the customer yet—the monetization yet, but were willing to bet that Matt’s on to something. I think it’s important to say that that way in March frankly as the world was shutting down to say, wow, I’ve got 12 months plus of runway suddenly where I don’t have to worry about revenue. I’ve got a bunch of data from customers. Now is not the time to do incremental stuff. Or better said, now is an opportunity to do something big.
If I’m going to do something big now, making big changes now, and then seeing how that goes over the next 12 months is better than, oh, I’ll make incremental changes the next 9 months. Burn through a bunch of this new runway, and then find out that I needed to make big changes. I chose to flip it around and say, let me really go back to basics and build against the feedback that I’m getting from this user, this user, and these users because that’s the market I want. Those are the people I want to satisfy.
It’s just being deliberate about who I wanted to please and then being honest that it wasn’t good enough for them. The third factor—which I think is the most important in deciding to do the rewrite—was I’ve got the time. I potentially have the focus because suddenly the world shut down. If I can figure out how to work at home with four kids and a family all stuffed into this house together, then maybe I can basically chain myself to my desk for the next 60 days and do something big. Take a big risk.
Rob: It sounds like you were listening to customers. Would you say it was a job to be done? That in your head, the job of Summit is to do X. That you found that you had built it to do the wrong job? Does that metaphor work?
Matt: Yeah. Actually, I like it. I can use that as a start. I thought my hypothesis was that the job of Summit was to create a forecast for people. If you don’t have a forecast, you’re going to hit that button after putting in a few numbers and you’re going to get a forecast. In terms of a vending machine approach where you punch the Coke button and out comes a Coke. It worked.
The problem was, it would come out and people were like, oh, well, I really like Diet, I like Cherry, or I want mine with a splash of orange. I took a step back and I said, what are these people actually saying? Because you can go a little crazy as a founder when you get feedback of okay, I need to build a citrus flavor dispenser feature onto this. And then these people could be happy.
But what I found was that the things they wanted have nothing in common. What they had in common was they all wanted something else. If you think about that, the North Star became flexible. Like, oh, oh my. I have built a very inflexible vending machine. You come here, if you want A4, A5, you’re good. I can’t do anything else for you. These are your only two choices. The reason that I had to go so deep in terms of rewriting the product was I realized that I was competing against Microsoft Excel—and many of us are.
The difficult thing about competing against a spreadsheet—and probably other products like that—is that a spreadsheet is just endlessly flexible. There’s nothing you can’t do in a spreadsheet. They were coming to me with that same mentality of I’m not used to being constrained like this. I need to be able to copy this thing, add this thing, and do this thing. That need for flexibility, the job to be done was to provide them with a flexible canvas (if you will) or flexible blank space. That’s what I had to do for people.
Once I realized that. I was like, okay, the current version of Summit is not that. I started by ripping the front off the vending machine and saying, grab whatever you need. It’s all open season. And then I just kept going. It’s like a house remodeling project. Sometimes you don’t know when to stop. You just keep going and going and going.
I remember I got to the point where I had rewritten the front-end. I live-tweeted this. I worked in public to do this piece. I rewrote the front-end, but the back-end wasn’t different. I remember pausing and asking myself, okay, the front-end is a lot more flexible. You can click a lot more things and rearrange things. It’s a dashboard tool that’s a lot more modern. Is that all that they needed?
Kind of had this moment where you’re standing at that river and I just went for it. I said, no, actually, I think they need the back-end calculations to also be much more flexible. I basically open that up as well now. With the current version of Summit, not only is the front-end a more flexible, adjustable kind of workspace. The back-end also is just endlessly customizable. That was it. That was the breakthrough that I needed, not to say it wasn’t scary.
Rob: That was the thing. I’ll say there is a rule of thumb of perhaps it’s a yellow or red flag when a developer says we need to rewrite the whole codebase. It’s always, well, of course, we always want to rewrite the whole codebase because either someone else wrote it and it’s not as good as the code that I’m going to write. Or I wrote it a year or two ago. I was learning this stuff. It’s pretty crappy. I think I feel like that about most projects that I code. I want to rewrite them. It’s like, oh, there’s all these hacks and stuff.
Even going back to probably 15, 20 years, there was an essay by Joel Spolsky on the Joel on Software blog. It’s like never rewrite your codebase and this and that. It’s not never, but I always push back. I’m 35 Angel and TinySeed investments in, and I’ve had at least 4 or 5 of the startups that I advise or interact with, say, we need to rewrite our codebase. Every time I really push on it. How do you know? Why? Oh, you got a new CTO. Yeah, not a surprise. He wants to rewrite the codebase. Oh, he wants to change frameworks too, keep the same language? Yeah, of course he does because that’s his favorite framework. It’s this and that.
Sometimes it is the right decision, but it really needs to be thought through carefully. You and I may have had that conversation. I don’t even recall, to be honest. Did you put a ton of time into thinking of do I really want to do this? Because if I recall, it was about 60 days, 70 days of effort. Did you just say, you know what, I have the time. I’m just not going to think that much about it. I’m just going to crank through and do this.
Matt: Yeah. I’ve got good friends and mentors and definitely heard that feedback. I think you might have sent me an email saying, just in general, that’s not a good idea, but I trust you. There was definitely that voice on my shoulder. What was hard for me to communicate—because I’m a 1.75 person crew, let’s just say 1 man crew—at the time is we all wear many hats as founders. Especially in the early days, you wear all the hats.
The hat I was wearing when I said I wanted to do the rewrite, I’ve got a geek in me. Don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t the inner geek saying, oh man, I want this to be faster, better, or a new framework. It wasn’t the shiny object syndrome developer in me. It really was the business strategist, the founder that said, I want a product that I can be proud of. That when I do a demo, I’m looking forward to those demos. I know people are going to be happy instead of knowing that they’re going to say, oh, well, I need these six things. I need to satisfy this need in the market that’s being expressed by these people.
It was really a lot more of—it sounds weird, but it was—the sales and marketing-driven decision to say I’m not doing this for performance’s sake to eke out another 10%. I’m not even doing this for the framework’s sake. I’m doing this so that when I do a demo with somebody, it blows them away, and they buy the thing. I’ve lived in that situation before—doing sales of things where there’s just all these shortcomings. You don’t always have to go back and rewrite things. Sometimes you just need to tell the customer, hey, sorry. It’s just not a good fit for you right now. It’s on the road map. We’ll let you know when we get to it.
But I made the executive decision—as you have the luxury of doing in the early days—to say, no, I’m the CEO and founder. There’s enough evidence here coming from my inner salesperson to say, this is not just the right product. We need to rewrite it. It was my inner CEO going, hey, developer Matt. Guess what you’re going to do. You’ve got a job to do. You better roll up your sleeves and learn Vue.js, Hasura, and a whole bunch of new tech because you’re going to want to do all these things.
Of course, I let myself have fun. Don’t get me wrong. It was a blast. I really felt like I was hiring my developer self to do a job. Not my developer was like, oh, I have an idea. We should do this. I think that just comes through experience. Not to say I’m perfect, but you got to be really honest with yourself about where your motivation is coming from to do something like that.
Rob: That’s a really good point for folks to think about. If you’re a single founder, a two-founder team and you are thinking about rewriting, put on your sales and marketing hat, put on your CEO hat, not your CTO or developer hat. Not that there’s never a reason. You can have a code that is so bad that you can’t add features and it takes you a month to do a day’s worth of work or whatever. Of course, that happens, but it’s a lot less frequent than developers tend to make it out to be. Knowing that it came from that sales and marketing perspective. It truly was almost needed to be a different product. Summit 2.0 is really, really different from Summit 1.0.
Matt: Yeah, completely. You can actually build Summit 1.0 using Summit 2.0. If that doesn’t bend people’s minds. Summit 1.0 was just one template now in the new world. One other thing is that the CTO did speak up a little bit in that time. The one thing I told Peter this on the podcast was, I want to build this in a way where if it is successful, I can hire developers to help me get it on the next level and the next level. Because the first version was one of those things where I got to build this thing by hook or crook. It doesn’t matter what the code looks like. Just get the date on the screen, try to sell some subscriptions, and test the interest.
With this one, I said, I have a pretty good feeling this is going to be well-received. Let me take a little bit longer, maybe two, three, four, five weeks longer. Which is, again, doubling the timeframe but I’ve got the time. Let me make sure that what I come out with is something where I can at least turn to a skilled dev and say, hey, the market likes this. Can you take over these parts now? Because this is the foundation. This is not a throwaway, basically. That was maybe a concise way to say. My inner CTO was like, don’t have it be thrown away. If we’re going to do this, at least do it in a way where we don’t have to scrap it again because we don’t want to do this again.
I did follow that. I think that’s worked out pretty well, fortunately. I’ve had other developers contribute since then. It’s moving faster now because of that.
Rob: That’s really nice. How long did the rewrite take you?
Matt: I think 70 days of coding. Essentially with the commit and push every day.
Rob: Oh wow. That’s a great way to do it.
Matt: Yeah. It was very consistent. Actually, that was fun. You can look at my GitHub or I can at least look at my GitHub repost. You can see where my consistent deployments or pushes died off and I became very sporadic in terms of my product progress with the first version. Because I was hitting these walls to do the next feature. It just required a bigger effort, a bigger effort, and a bigger effort.
I was like, okay, time to brew the coffee and crank out this feature. It’s going to be super hard to do, and I would get these bursts of productivity. With the new one, it’s actually nice to see a quantitative self. You can see, hey, look at that. Every day, something new—a little bit better, a little bit better. That also helped me know that I was on the right track. It wasn’t halfway across, but still, nothing delivered that kind of project.
Rob: I’m looking at your revenue graph. As I mentioned earlier, you’re a TinySeed batch one company, so I have access to that kind of stuff. There is a really noticeable uptick in your MRR. Of course, I’m trying to scroll through it now. It looks like from June to July, your revenue ticked up. You’re still early stage (so folks know). But there was a doubling or something of MRR, and then it went up another whatever. Is that because of V2? Is this rewrite instantly resonated with people that noticeably?
Matt: Yeah. I think the short answer is yes, but I’ll qualify that by saying, I took it then to the customers that I was essentially targeting with this rewrite. I took it to them basically as soon as it was ready and I said, aha. Here is the flexibility you’ve been asking for. Here is the tool. I know it’s not done yet, it’s not 100%, so I want your list. But if you agree this is on the right track, I would love your support. I would love you to buy into it because I think this is what you’ve been looking for. I was successful in those sales, which felt great. Obviously, that was a huge validation.
It wasn’t really the numbers, so much as saying, wow, out of these three or four companies or founders that are in my sweet spot—the ones I really want to please—they bought. That was huge. Who knows? With the old version, I’m sure I would’ve sold some subscriptions as well. But again, back to the personas, it would have been to these people. It would have been to those other people. That was not what I ultimately wanted to do.
Rob: Right. Now, I logged into a brand-new Summit account. The first thing that pops up, it says, welcome to Summit, the software to replace your financial spreadsheet. And then you have three different pre-built models. You have self-service SaaS, early-stage SaaS, sales-driven SaaS, and then you have upload your own model.
I’m guessing that in Summit V1, one of these models was the default and you were limited with assumptions in there versus this is a meta-level where it’s a much more of an Excel. I can build whatever I want.
Matt: Yeah. It really is. It’s more like maybe a Lego bucket at this point where you can build a model, build your house. Here are all the pieces. Here’re the building blocks. The first version was more like, here’s a Lego kit. It only builds this kind of house. I hope that you live in a ranch home, and you can adjust a few things about it. How big is your garage, and how big is this. You can make some changes, but it wasn’t the kind of thing like, here’s a bucket of parts. That bucket of parts approach is where what the screen you’re looking at right now is essentially saying, here are five kits. You can pick one or three kits and you can pick one.
That’s nice too because you gave me some really good feedback. That wasn’t always there. That wasn’t actually there at the very beginning of the relaunch. What you said, and I think it ran through is, oh man, a blank slate is just really tough. This is interesting to go through. I pushed back on that at first. I remembered getting your email and thinking, I don’t know if he gets it yet. There’s all this flexibility now. I don’t want to preload stuff. That takes it away.
A lot of people face this blank slate problem with the SaaS app is what do I fill it with? I was worried that if I automatically put in a bunch of building blocks, you would come to that same conclusion of like, oh, look at that. This isn’t for me because this is assuming that I’ve got a sales team, or this is assuming that I’m self-service or whatever.
It’s really silly. But I just remembered back to Microsoft Excel, for example, or Microsoft Word, and what happens when you load up those applications? You get hit with this screen and it says, are you trying to do an invoice? Are you trying to do a short story or an essay? It has all these templates.
I just had this mental breakthrough of like, oh yeah, duh. I can just show them a list of options and they can pick one. That then gives me the best of both worlds. If you want a blank slate, man, you can have it. But if you’re an early-stage founder, and you see early-stage SaaS in there, you can just click it. Then, hopefully, that gets you started faster.
Rob: The beauty of that is not even that you have to use it as is, but when you click it, it prepopulates a bunch of stuff and I then I can go tweak it. That’s what we learned when we’re building Drip was you have this workflow builder. Which is this visual designer and you can do if then else statements. It’s […] complete language in this visual builder for email. People were the experts, the power users, the Bren and Duns loved it.
Everyone below that level—even mid-level marketers—were like, I don’t know what to do first. What should I do? It wasn’t until we got the blueprints built and you could just one-click import a blueprint that we really started getting the mid-level and lower end marketers. I think that’s probably where my feedback came from is having built a similar engine that Derrick and I knew the workflow builder is incredibly powerful. So cool when we launched it. Quickly, all those questions of oh, what should I do? It was like, I guess we got to show you some guidance.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. That’s my job now. This is kind of a retrospective. There is a group of users of the first product that I essentially alienated. They came to the new one and basically said, what have you done? You took away the one I liked, and you replaced it with this power tool. I don’t know what to do. It was pretty painful to hear. It’s nothing more satisfying as a product person and to hear that somebody loved the thing you made. But I wasn’t going to keep that around.
What I’m trying to do now is through Looms, education, those templates, and blueprints, I’m just building up a community. I really do want to work backward now and say, you can still use this. There’s going to be some learning. This is now more like a Drip or that kind of power tool. You have to decide that you want to be good at this and learn a new skill to an extent, but it’s still better than Excel. You’re going to like it more than Excel, but there is a learning curve. That’s fine. That appeals to me. Frankly, I really enjoy the subject so much that I enjoy teaching people how to use it.
Rob: That makes a lot of sense. We talked last time about the value of forecasting in SaaS in terms of when to use cases, fundraising, to see when your money’s going to run out. But if you’re a bootstrapper—which you most likely are listening to this—show hiring is a big one. Ad budgets, like, hey, ads are starting to work. Can I throw $5,000, $10,000 a month at it? Or will I run out of cash just because of my LTV pans out? If it takes me six months to get paid back, I need X amount of cash.
Yeah, you could model that in Excel, but this is going to take everything into account. There’s ad spend, there’s any of those big decisions around spending money in a way that is complicated and can put you in a cash crunch.
Matt: Yeah. What’s nice about a model approach instead of a spreadsheet is you set a founder in front of a spreadsheet and you say, put your business in here. There’s an immediate thought of okay, I need a revenue row, I guess, and I also need an expenses row. And then I need this, I need that. They start to fill out that classic spreadsheet template view of the month over a month like what you see in QuickBooks.
What’s interesting about this, and I’m still flushing this out, but I’m really just asking you to tell me about your business. Tell me what your revenue plans are, what your acquisitions channels are, and what your team looks like. Founders are really good at that. You can just ask a founder like, how do you acquire your customers? Oh, we have Google Ads spent. Cool, let me capture that real quick, done.
The hope is that it’s really a more natural way to capture business is this model. Where to sketch your home on a piece of paper on a napkin is easier than necessarily going through and saying what are all the dimensions and all these different things. Which people can seize up. That’s the test right now is to see how many folks can come to this and essentially describe their businesses and get out something that is really useful in making decisions.
Rob: As we move towards wrapping up, we got to talk about this homepage because it is one of the most compact, sparse. I think there is a total of 15, 16 words on it, not including your copyright at the bottom. It’s your logo. It’s a picture of a hummingbird, which is pretty cool. Then it’s, tell your forecasting spreadsheet you’re never getting back together. Design your business with Summit instead. There’s a button to create a free account. There’s a button to sign in.
I have seen creative SaaS homepages. Obviously, the standard one with pricing on it, or maybe that’s another link. There’s a top nav, which you don’t have. You have no footer. I once did a long-form sales page. The Drip homepage was a long-form sales page for quite some time, but I’m not sure that I have seen one like this. I’m curious if you have inspiration, or if you just did it on a whim. The real question is, is it working, or do you know yet?
Matt: Yeah. That was definitely done because I needed a homepage. I was launching a new thing. It was a complete rewriting, including the marketing site. I just needed to get something out there that had those buttons. To be perfectly honest, what’s the minimum? It’s probably an h1, h2, login, and sign up buttons. That’s what it is. I have not prioritized adding to that for a couple of reasons.
One is, I’m still figuring out what Summit is. Not to be totally metaphysical, but what is this thing? I have a little bit of a concern that if I flush that out with a lot of words, first of all, that’s changing. I’m still figuring it out. Second of all, I got to update and maintain that stuff. There’s a bit of a liability that goes along with adding more words to that homepage.
The second part of it, which I will defend for different reasons. Maybe I’m just defending past actions because I have convenient data. But it’s working well enough. Through that homepage, it depends on the day, but I’m getting anywhere from—on a very, very slow day, maybe it’s a Sunday holiday or something like that—2-3 sign-ups. On a busy day, 10, 12, 15, 20 sign-ups through that page. That tells me something. It tells me that those are high intent people. They just wanted to get in and check it out.
I think, for now, honestly, I don’t feel ready to convince more people—people that are on the fence where they’re like, I don’t know if I need to tell my forecasting spreadsheet goodbye. I’m pretty happy with it, I don’t have a forecasting spreadsheet, or I don’t have any context. Those people, I’ll lure them in, I’ll bring them in, and tractor beam them in eventually. But for now, I like knowing that the people that get into the product are there because they’re motivated, what they did see resonated with them, or they heard about it some other way. That’s good enough for now because the feedback I get from those 5, 6, or 10 sign-ups per day is a good signal.
For what it’s worth, I actually think that’s about to end. I’m not hearing a lot of new things these days from these sign-ups. I think it’s really natural to go back to that homepage and say, jeez, Matt. You could probably widen your funnel here if you just helped a few more people realize that oh, that’s what this does. I see this as an opportunity. I haven’t prioritized widening the top of the funnel yet. But I will. I definitely will.
I’m actually investing a pretty good amount of time in business development and partnerships for Q3 and Q4 to give a lot more people to that homepage. I fully intend to give them a little bit more insight into what it is.
Rob: No. That makes sense. I think there is a certain benefit to simplicity, especially in the short term. That’s cool to hear that’s your thought process and that is what you’re experiencing. I certainly can attest to I had a tool. I ran a SaaS up before Drip called HitTail, and it’s a long tail SEO keyword tool that plugged into your Google webmaster tool or something. And it pulled out the search console—they kept changing the name of it. But it would pull out keywords that you should rank high for based on your content and based on how people are finding you. But you weren’t ranking high enough. You were on the second page of Google. It would suggest them as things to beef up to get to the first page.
The way that I sold it, and I found that it really resonated, was a curiosity headline of how the tool works. It’s analyzed over a billion keywords in its lifetime across thousands and thousands of websites. It will suggest the keywords that you should be ranking for but aren’t. It didn’t go into how it did it. Once you got in the tool, you can figure out what it was doing. But it was really a curiosity play of this is the job it does, these are the testimonials, and these people are saying it works.
When you first arrived at the site, people would have skepticism. Does this thing actually work? Is it worth the money? Is it going to waste my time and all that? But that curiosity play was enough to get a lot of sign-ups—really high trials to paid conversion rate. I can imagine with you this headline, like you said, if someone came here totally cold, and they don’t really know what this is, or they don’t have the context in, I’m not sure it’s enough to draw them in. As you said, if you’re into forecasting and you really don’t like the spreadsheet, the headline captures it, and that’s enough. That is an interesting approach in this early stage.
Matt: Yeah. I felt a little bit more justified when Hiten Shah, who’s a TinySeed mentor, came and shared with the group. He’s now running usefyi.com or FYI. That was my inspiration for this. If he can get away with it, and it’s literally just an h1 and then a button. I don’t know how that’s going for him, what his plans are, I’m not speaking to that. But I saw it and said, okay, here’s a guy who knows a thing or two about heatmaps, homepages, and actions.
The one thing that resonated with me or I took away from that was what’s the thing you want them to do when they’re here? With his, it’s sign in with Google. With mine, it’s I want you to create an account. It was just a great point of man, if you know the next action you want them to take, maybe it’s okay to just start by focusing on that.
Rob: All right. Before you launch an app, if you put up a landing page and drive traffic to where, or whatever, it’s very simple that landing page. Typically, it’s a headline, a short description, and an email caption format. That’s the standard format of it. You can get those to convert really high—10%, 20%, 30% of visitors. If they’re targeted, you have a good headline, and good curiosity created out of that, you can land a lot of folks.
I think there is something to that simplicity. My guess is with Hiten’s, he’s not doing something if it’s not working. I’m guessing that’s a pretty, pretty decent approach. Sir, thank you so much for coming back on Startups For The Rest Of Us. As I said at the top of the show, you are @mattwensing on Twitter and usesummit.com if folks want to check out what you’ve been up to and potentially forecast their SaaS with V2.
Matt: Awesome. Thanks for having me on, Rob.
Rob: Absolutely, man. Thanks. Thanks again to Matt for coming back on the show. If you enjoyed this episode, I really appreciate it if you would check the Startups pod Twitter feed, and you can @ reply because Matt and I both have been mentioned in the tweet that came out this morning or retweet, or whatever. Just let us know any piece of that conversation that you enjoyed or get value out of, and you feel like you’ll take with you as you go ahead in the coming weeks. Thank you so much for listening, and I’ll talk to you again next Tuesday morning.
Mike kicked out of his own podcast 🙁