Gaurav is the founder of SaaS Labs, a 60-people company building SaaS businesses. One of their three products is Helpwise. It started as an internal email tool and, with a small budget of $20k, has grown to become a separated SaaS making almost $100k/year.
Hey, I’m 31 years old & currently based out of New Delhi, India. I’m a chemical engineer by education, the only job that I ever took (& left after 3 months) was into investment banking.
But, I always loved programming and built my first tech business when I was around 16 yrs old. In the last 10 years, I have built 4 businesses, of which 2 got acquired (last one by New York Times), 1 failed and 1 is currently running & growing.
Currently, I’m running a digital products company called SaaS Labs. We’re a 60 people team working remotely across India, Philippines, and the US. Bootstrapped & profitable, we were the 5th Fastest Growing Company in Deloitte India Tech Fast50 & 54th fastest growing in APAC last year.
We have 3 products - 1) JustCall - a cloud phone system for sales, support and remote teams 2) CallRoot - inbound call tracking for marketers 3) Helpwise (our latest product) - a shared inbox for email, SMS, and WhatsApp.
When I started my current company SaaS Labs, the thesis of the business was (& still remains) that we are big-time bullish on 3 major themes:
In late 2017, as the JustCall (a cloud phone system; https://justcall.io) team started to grow, we felt a need for shared inbox software to handle our help@, sales@, etc email addresses. For the next 12-15 months, we tried all the available products in the market. But, all these products were either too expensive or too complex. So, we decided to build our own shared inbox for our own team, for our own use only. Our managers helped us build analytics on top of it to track KPIs.
During a team offsite, when we were planning our annual revenue growth and goals, someone suggested launching our in-house team email software as a product in the market. This product satisfies all the points which are part of our thesis so we decided to go ahead and launch this as Helpwise.
Basically, this product came out of our own necessity. On 2nd Dec 2019, we launched Helpwise on Product Hunt & got featured. The current product is 5-10x better & powerful than the first version.
We run an interesting Seed Funding program in our company. It is something like Y Combinator. When we decide to build a new product or give a shot to an idea, we give a $20,000 budget and 3 months to a team of 3-4 people to build and launch the product.
This budget can be spent on anything - hiring & team building, marketing, technology, consulting fees.
So, Helpwise got $20,000, 2 young engineers (Vibhor & Rishabh), 1 Engineering Manager (Prabhat), and 3 months’ time. By August, our MVP was ready and we started inviting beta users (mostly our customers of our other products and our friends at other startups).
Deciding how to price your product is one of the most important early decisions that you have to take. And, interestingly, the least amount of time is given to that. Learning from this mistake from my previous experience, we spent a good amount of time discussing and testing different pricing models and plans.
Finally, two important factors influenced our decision:
So, our final pricing plans came out to be:
At SaaS Labs, as we build and launch so many products on a regular basis, we have a playbook for our product launches. I’m going to share that here with everyone.
All in all, we signed up over 1700-2000 folks in a short time. And, 55 converted to a paid subscription within weeks of launch.
SEO & Integrations worked the best. Paid ds did a good job & Product Hunt didn’t get us many customers but definitely helped us pick the momentum.
We’re growing organically at a healthy rate month on month.
For SaaS Labs, we are aiming for $10 million annual recurring revenue by the end of 2021. In Helpwise, we were on the path to reach $1 million ARR by November this year but we are now expecting to reach that figure by mid-next year.
We are currently 60+ team members (more than doubled since Jan 2020). And, we are profitable.
Coming to the Helpwise product, we are really excited about our upcoming feature Chat Platform. Our customers will be able to add a chat widget on their sites. This chat widget will not only work as a normal customer chat feature but it will also allow us to integrate with other customer support chat, conversational marketing and chatbot products. So, from a single screen, our customers will be able to manage email, SMS, Whatsapp, and chat (coming via our own chat widget or Intercom/Drift, etc).
Shared inbox is critical software for any business as your business runs on it. So, the biggest challenge for us was to provide 24 hr support to our customers. Also, given our team’s location (India), the time zone difference made things even more challenging.
So, to overcome this, we firstly worked in shifts ourselves. And, then use Upwork to hire a support agent in PST timezone.
Timezone difference b/w our key market and our team’s location is definitely a big disadvantage.
But, the bigger challenge is that the shared inbox market is still pretty small in comparison to some of the other SaaS domains like CRM, cloud telephony, digital signature, etc.
I’m not saying that the market is tiny but it’s not big enough to create enough organic growth to sustain & grow. So, it will require a lot of effort and capital to create a mini-brand and reach the first million. Please note that I’m talking about market size in relative terms (i.e. in relation to markets our other products are in).
I feel that the worst mistakes that we have made as a team are:
I’ll definitely launch the product a bit earlier. Also, having marketing expertise early on is something we are going to seriously consider for any future new product. We did well to spread the word and get early customers but that was not predictable at all.
Three books that I highly recommend:
3 podcasts/Youtube channels: