SaaS success stories: $0 to $20K MRR

🏆 Our SaaS success stories

I guess we could have started telling our SaaS success stories along time ago… but to be honest, we were too damn busy.  We literally have had our heads down, night and day, growth and dev hacking our way to success.

And if I was really being honest, I had a bit of “imposter syndrome” going on too.  Jeff probably didn’t, but I did.

But that’s gone now.

We’re ready to tell our story.  Not because we want to brag (we have so much farther to go) but we really want to inspire the SaaSpnr who is starting their journey today from ground zero.

No matter when you’re reading this article, it will resonate with you if your trying to build a SaaS application.  You are a SaaSpnr.

👨🏽 I’m just a regular guy like you…

Around the spring of 2016 I was living in Los Angeles and grinding it out🏆 at my day job.  A 9-to-5 gig in the financial services industry.  Not too exciting, not too fulfilling.

Can you relate yet?

I was writing articles and curating content for a food truck blog on the side and was dreaming of being acquired by EaterLA.  Just saying that out loud makes me cringe and a laugh at the same time.

How audacious was I to think I could start a blog and then be bought out by some super successful publication not too long afterwards.

Dream big buddy.

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I had many paths to monetization for my blog and I started getting some decent traffic.  I was up to about 20K a month I believe when I shut it down.  I was making around $100 a month on Google Adwords and was getting offers for sponsored posts which was a nice ego stroke.

But I knew it wasn’t a business.  I knew that so much that it blinded me.

It literally felt more comfortable to lie to myself and keep dreaming of ways to “make it big” with the blog then it was to hunker down and make the hard decision to pull the plug.

OMG. I think about it now and I experience a range of emotions from wanting to punch myself in the face for being so naive to breaking down an crying to taking a big gulping sigh of relief knowing I got out without wasting too much money.

Want to know how much I wasted on that stupid blog?

 

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How about $10,000 over the 3-4 years I ran it…. with little to no return on it.

What a nightmare.  What a let down.

BUT…nothing ventured nothing gained and I always try to remind myself of that.  Every seasoned entrepreneur knows that you’ll need 1000 “at bats” before you ever hit your home run.  I just wish that one wasn’t so painful and didn’t suck so much of my life away.

I made personal and family sacrifices for that blog.  Never again.

So I licked my wounds and went back to the batting cage as it were.

🎵 Welcome to the jungle…

I started looking around for other ways to hustle on the side and I quickly got turned on to Amazon.  There was this huge and growing community of side hustlers out there who were all doing retail arbitrage each month and making some serious money.

So I jumped right in with both feet.

I went out and sourced every product I could and bought it low and sold it high.

At one point I was netting $4,000 a month hustling part time after work and on the weekends.

But I wasn’t happy.

I was tinkerer.  I was a marketer. I was a creator.

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Part of the frustration was that there wasn’t a fast enough tool out there for me to process all of the items I was buying to flip on Amazon.  There was just one brand winner in the niche and then a handful of fly-by-night apps that made a weak attempt to provide solutions.

I had an itch and I wanted to scratch it.

I needed to scratch it.  If I was going to streamline my process I needed a better tool.

📰 An unlikely encounter on Craigslist…

But I needed a developer

Not even thinking about leveraging Upwork at the time, I made a simple little Craigslist ad that went something like this:

“Hello,

Looking for an expert developer who can take this application (www.competitor.com) and mimic it’s features and capabilities and make it work in any web browser.”

It was that simple.  I sent it out on the Los Angeles Craigslist and waited for some responses.

To my surprise I got quite a few.  I wasn’t entirely sure if Criagslist was the best marketplace to be looking for a developer but I sent it out anyways.

Around the same time, Jeff was finishing up his senior year at Berkeley and had written a little script to scrape Craigslist ads for efficiency and look for jobs just like this.

He decided to give me a ring.

I’ll never forget that day because I was at work and I stepped outside the office to take the call.  It was a beautiful sunny day in Los Angeles and I was excited to get the project started.

I actually didn’t have enough money to pay for the app to be developed but I knew I could ask to have the project broken down in phases and make payments.  After all, I wasn’t going to give anyone 100% of the project costs upfront.

🤝 Salesmanship 101

I answered the call and introduced myself and told Jeff a little about my side hustle on Amazon and how big the market was and he did the same.  We both bragged about our lives and tried to sound as important as possible.

But really, we were just blowing smoke up each other’s asses.

In reality, he was a great developer but still wet behind the ears and this project was ambitious and I didn’t immediately have all the money to pay for it but I figured I would figure it out down the road.

The lesson here is that sometimes you have to fake it till you make it and you better get comfortable with sales because you always have to be selling something.

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Luckily for me, Jeff was young and ambitious.

I told him about the niche and how there was really only one main competitor in it and they were doing close to $200K a month in revenue with almost ZERO competitors.  The field was ripe for a shakeup.

He listened intently and like any good salesman I started picking up “buying” signals from him.

He said things like “interesting“, “I see your point” and “wow…there is room for a competitor here, huh?”

 

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Now I’m not saying I had him right where I wanted him.  I’m not saying I had him up against the ropes.  Jeff would later go one to tell me he was going to charge the hell out of me and make a quick $10,000 or so off the project.

But something great happened in that conversation.

A young ambitious kid and an much older hustler saw an opportunity.

And we fucking went for it.

saas success stories

⏳ Long hours and no money…

As you might have guessed.  Fist bumps and grandiose thoughts of buying yachts and being in our first rap video faded really, really quickly.

Jeff was still grinding out final term papers at Berkeley and I was still helping cranky clients in my day gig.

What Jeff thought was going to be a quick and easy project (maybe I over sold him?) turned out to be much more difficult and we still had that big competitor we were up against.

We were also both just so damn busy.  I had to lower my expectations for a bit.

But we kept grinding it out.  Checking in with each other on Facebook, setting up Slack channels and laying the marketing groundwork for a big launch.

In addition to the obstacles we had, there was also a lack of domain knowledge for Jeff with Amazon and he had to get ramped up quickly.

Our domain knowledge of Amazon now is the most important and valuable thing we possess I feel.

About 45 days later we had a working MVP.  And that is saying a lot.

📍Fast forward to 2018…

We went from MVP in 2016 to $20,000 in gross monthly revenue in 2018.  We’re currently on pace to hit $40K MRR before year end and we’re shipping two additional SaaS applications this year.  We’re able to do this because we’ve built a remote staff of experts to help us scale quickly and smart.  And guess what?  You can do it too!

saas success stories

I hope this little story has inspired you, but we’re not finished.

We would like to invite you to sign up for our story list as we breakdown down our journey further and chronicle our path all the way up to $100K MRR.  We promise you you’ll get smart and actionable tips and inspiring stories to help you along your journey.

Remember, you are a SaaSpnr!

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.