Here’s how we built a SaaS product from ground up, found our product/market fit and raised our first money all at breakneck speed
🚨 Transparency Alert
When we set out with Reportcard, we were hell-bent on delivering a world class platform that facilitates data-driven decision making in education. It was an imminent trend and most of all – we are really good at it. We got to validating this gap by meeting a bunch of parents, students, teachers and institutions, and then the real work started.
Despite all the glamour around starting up and venture funding; starting up still has it challenges, some known and many unknown. So here’s everything went right for us, and if you’d like to know what went wrong, well, that’s a separate but equally important conversation I’m happy to start here.
1. Find your first customer, make them your fan and do not do it for free
We were lucky to find our first customers, within days of starting up. Shannon franchised a very successful private tutoring business and she is extremely committed to delivering only the best.
We discussed problems, brainstormed together and shared ideas and within weeks we signed off on the first iteration of the solution to be delivered.
Apart from delivering what was discussed, we went above and beyond to make things happen for her. Including pitching in on her marketing creatives, sharing helpful business tools and till date we wouldn’t bat an eyelid to help her grow in anyway.
Fun fact, within months of our engagement – she paid us for the whole year despite having the option to pay monthly. Obviously she did it to support us and we can’t be grateful enough.
2. Think scale, always!
Even though what may seem to have started as an exclusive project for our first customer, we did tonnes of research on each feature right from design to development. At all times we asked – if *this* function or feature would be useful for all? If not, how can we build it to work at scale?
9 out of 10 time our hypothesis proved correct, with every customer added. And when proved otherwise, we burned the midnight oil to make alterations, measured feedback and the loop continued. Now, it’s culture at Reportcard and we are extremely proud of it.
3. Things will go south… accept it and problem solve
Issues will crop up, bugs will surface and clients will get unreasonable. Own it, this is exactly what we signed up for.
On the bright side, you gather profound feedback for product improvements. And if you want to know how to win a falling out customer grab a copy of – how to win friends and influence people.
Quick hack: (A-O-E-S-A) Acknowledge, take Ownership, Empathize, propose how you will Solve the problem and Action on it!
Result, zero churn in paying clients.
4. Iterate, Godspeed!
Competition is always sneaking up. Our biggest competitive advantage is listening (actually, active listening) to our customers. Reading between the lines, closely monitoring usability and belting out features and fixes *really-really* quickly.
5. Find your unfair advantage, and if you cannot – become it
What makes you jump off the page (still my favorite movie reference)? What makes your product special? Why should a potential customer choose you? Why should they change and pay you for it?
It okay to not have all the answers, sell yourself – first. Bring value to every customer interaction. This creates trust and people invest in you to make their business run better. And you, in your platform to make their business work better.
You, see the virtuous cycle you just created here!
6. Be the best kept non-secret secret
Talk to friends, family, basically everyone around who would vouch for you. Tell them about the exciting new thing you are building. Every interaction is an opportunity to improve your elevator pitch.
Shying away from the limelight and startup PR is not always a bad idea (reason, refer point 3). When investors interact with you, you innately become that hidden gem that they’ve been scouting for.
Honestly, that’s how we became interesting for Arzan VC. We are a quiet bunch of hardworking and passionate entrepreneurs with a working (scalable) product and client testimonials.
7. Customers, team, product, yourself… prioritize in exactly this order
– Go above and beyond for your customers, well, because word of mouth always works.
– Your team will make great things happen that you, alone, can not.
– Your product is what your customers will interface with once you scale. Anything short of a delightful experience can fail.
– And lastly, yourself. You may have to skip a few meals, sleep on a couch, say no to plans. Do it. And trust the process.
We are far from having arrived. But we have a solid plan of action and we believe the world is conspiring with us to make things happen! *Marching on…* ? 🏃♂️
Thanks for reading and don’t hesitate to try Reportcard if you have a few minutes.