7 things I learned bootstrapping a SaaS app

What a Harvard education that was 👨🏻‍🎓.

I’ve learned more about building a SaaS app in the last two years then multiple degrees at Wharton and Yale could ever teach me.

This list is by all means not exhaustive or complete but I figured if I make it any longer you might not take the time to read it.  After all, you’re a SaaSpnr and really busy!

This list is also not in order of importance but every thing on this list is super fucking important, so let’s get started.

#1 If you build it they will come

Yes and no.  If you’ve started out your journey building a SaaS app because your solving a unique problem that more than 1,000 people suffer from then they might just fucking come after all.  But don’t count on it.

Thats the real message here.

Your going to have to do some damn marketing.

Your going to have to reach out to family and friends.

You might need to find affiliates and you’re definitely going to have to influence someone here or there.

Before I built my first real SaaS app I was an internet marketer.  I’ve always been a great writer and that helped too.

I wanted to make this point first because a lot of us (including me) are very dreamy ✨ and fall into the assumption that if we build a SaaS app then customers will just flock to us.

#2 You don’t need VC funding

You don’t need any funding really.

You need an idea… and then you need to execute on that idea.

Jeff and I bootstrapped our entire SaaS application except for a small investment from one Angel investor.

We didn’t need the money really, rather it was more of a strategic partnership, and it was well worth it.

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#3 Build quick and dirty MVPs

Don’t labor around for a year trying to build the perfect SaaS app.

I know by now you have heard this advice before but it’s worth repeating because it’s absolutely fucking true.

You have to ask your yourself this:
saas app
Are you a “tinkerer” or a software entrepreneur?

You are a tire kicker if you spend more than 4-6 months building out your MVP in my humble opinion.

If you are a non-technical founder, than hire that shit out.  If you’re a developer than get fucking busy.

The MVP needs to be ugly and quick.

Think “go kart”, not a Toyota Camry.

You have tons of ideas where you think the app will take you and what problems it should solve, but you have no damn I idea 💡 where you’re customers will take you and they are the most important.

Especially in the beginning.

You will waste months and maybe years building a perfect app that no one will use.

This is the exact reason why restaurants do “tastings” of new menu items before they commit to a new menu or a marketing campaign.

Build, test, iterate

Build, test, iterate.

Got it?

#4 Put the dreamsicle down

Before you throw a party and have everyone cheering you on as you hoist your copy of the 4 Hour Work Week over your head, you should realize this:

It took Jeff and I two fucking years to get to $26K MRR (as of July 2018) and we’re still not throwing any parties.

Jeff just quit his job at Uber just recently to develop full time for the application because we can pay him now but it took two damn long years to get there.

A lot of founders get a little taste of success and they get distracted.

Don’t do that.

Keep your eye on the prize and do not waiver.

In todays world.  Don’t take a deep breath until you get to $40K MRR.

That’s our plan.

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#5 Brace your family

If your single that’s great.

Don’t watch TV, DVR your favorite shows and watch them while you sleep (🤪).

Skip the poker nights, and the Tinder dates.

Stay focused and tell your parents to leave a voicemail and you’ll get back to them.

If you really want it you have to grind for it.

If your married, then you need to brace the family for the ride.

I worked a full time job (40+ hours a week) as a manager in the financial services industry AND worked on the night and weekends to build AccelerList.

I drove for Uber on the weekends to raise money for development help and other early on expenses.

I grinded.it.out.

My family suffered.

I feel like it was worth it however.  I hope one day they do too and can forgive me.

#6 You are your own worst enemy

You can fucking do it.

I’m not joking.

Read our founder story and I swear you’ll laugh and say to yourself:

“If they can do it, so can I”

Imposter syndrome is real and it can be paralyzing.

I have cried, I have almost lost my 💩 and I have self doubted myself the entire way.

But I broke through that.

I knew that if we just kept our head down and keep building what we set out to create, we could do it!

#7 You have no friends and they wont understand you anyways

If I had $100 for every time I told my friends and family what my app did and then got a glare back like I just grew a 3rd eye out of my head, I would be rich by now.

Most people wont understand you…those are not your people.

Surround yourself with others who understand the journey.  The IndieHackers community is a great place to start.

Occasionally you’re going to need a shoulder to cry on.

You’re going to have some fucking awesome milestone you hit and you’ll want to tell someone.

Find your tribe.  Stay in the middle of them.

What have you learned bootstrapping your application?  We want to know.  Did any of this ring true to you?  Leave a comment below and let’s discuss.


Travis R.
growth hacker | founder | husband | father
A devout Chicagoan living in Los Angeles and growth hacking his way to freedom. Pizza 🍕 is life. Know and grow, reach for the ✨ stars. Cubs win the ⚾️ World Series. Let's connect 💻 anytime.

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