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Interview with a Successful Startup Founder

Pivoting and Growing a Remote Client Portal SaaS for Agencies

Robin Vander Heyden
Robin Vander Heyden
September 7, 2021
Category of startup
Software & Hardware
Country of startup
Remote
Revenue of startups
No Data
Interview with a Failed Startup Founder

Pivoting and Growing a Remote Client Portal SaaS for Agencies

Robin Vander Heyden
Robin Vander Heyden
September 7, 2021
Category of startup
Software & Hardware
Country of startup
Remote
Cause of failure of the startup

Robin co-founded ManyRequests, a client portal and help desk software for agencies. They help agencies get organized so they can grow their business. Today they are already profitable, growing, and fully remote since its inception.

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Hi Robin! Who are you and what are you currently working on?

My name is Robin, I am 29 and I am working on ManyRequests. Our team is spread across South-East Asia and Latin America, where most of our developers are located.

ManyRequests is a client portal and help desk software for agencies.

In short: We help agencies get organized so they can grow their business. From payments to client onboarding to handling client requests, files, reports, and automations and smart workflows.

Our business model is subscription-based; agencies pay us a subscription fee (between $79/mo and $299/mo currently).


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Before ManyRequests, I built two other companies. During my law studies, I started an apartment rental service for international students and expats. After that, I co-founded a design outsourcing service that is still going strong with a university friend.

I have always had a passion for entrepreneurship. Starting and growing something from scratch gives me immense satisfaction.

The idea from ManyRequests came during my last business. Back then, we managed 30 designers and hundreds of clients, and the project management or help desk software available was not suited for that type of business.

In addition, around 2018, I started relating my entrepreneurial journey online, mainly through a Facebook group called Productize.Community where I matched other service-based entrepreneurs.

The combination of scratching my own itch and connecting with other entrepreneurs who experienced the same problem made me decide to start ManyRequests.


How did you go from idea to product?

The prototype was launched in late 2019, with some members of our community as early adopters.

To be honest, it didn’t meet my co-founder and my expectations. It was our first time building a product, and we had like 5 customers.

But we didn’t give up. We decided to rewrite the product thoroughly and completely revamped the UI. Customers loved it, and we relaunched around July 2020 the current version.

In the early days, we spent a lot of time talking to our customers. We tried knowing their “Job-to-be-Done” with our product and even asked them if we could record calls we had with them to build exactly what was needed.

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Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?

I would say it was a mix. Early on, it was our community and some outreach. Now, we’re primarily focusing on SEO, and we might tap into other channels later.

Traction for a SaaS is slow at the beginning. But again, don’t give up! SaaS revenue compounds.

If you see you have 10 customers, you can probably get 10 more, then 20 more, etc.

In the beginning, focus on positioning and on refining your value proposition. We repositioned 2-3 times since we launched and did many customer interviews to ensure the customers we were after were a good fit for our business.

ManyRequests Landing Page

I like to approach marketing as building a product: Marketing should solve problems for your users. So we create content that conveys the messaging on how our product can solve the problems of our target users. Educational blog posts, tips, and tricks in our community, etc.

In addition, I think it’s essential to choose a channel where the unit economics make sense for your business. If your SaaS is $10/month, it’s mostly going to be self-serve and product-led growth and SEO. However, if you’re selling a $1,000/month B2B service or productized service, you can probably invest in outreach.

Lastly, knowing our SaaS numbers early on can help you with decision making.

Next to marketing, our key priority is retention.

In August 2021, we got negative net churn for the first time, which was an incredible feeling.

So we are focusing on two things:

  • Onboarding: Product onboarding and customer success
  • Expansion revenue: How can we build more features for our power users.


How are you doing today and what are your goals for the future?

Today we are profitable, growing steadily, and are fully remote, which is a position we are incredibly thankful for.

We will be hiring a couple of roles this year, starting with one additional software engineer. We don’t share revenue/profits -- at least for now.

Our goal for the future is to continue growing the business steadily.

Since starting ManyRequests, what have been your main lessons?

Since I started my entrepreneurial journey, one of my biggest lessons is to create a service-based business or an agency.

The main reason is that it’s not capital intensive, and you learn how to deal with clients (client onboarding and client service), which is key to building any business. Starting two agencies before my SaaS has been my “MBA” and provided me with a financial cushion to attempt riskier ventures like SaaS.

ManyRequests Dashboard

When it comes to starting an idea, pick a niche where you have a specific “insight”.

To take the example of my first business, I started my studies abroad. I knew how hard it was to rent a place. I wished real estate agents would offer video viewings, websites in English, and high-quality photos. That “insight” was my competitive edge (+ the fact that I was way hungrier for money than real estate agents who had been doing that for years).

Now you might think: But how do I get insights? The best way is to start working for someone or hang out in different communities or take a bet on yourself and go abroad. It sounds cliche to say, but the dots may connect later.

Today, I am mostly trying to self-improve. Raising funds from Calm Capital was for a financial reason and I also wanted to access their community of entrepreneurs, which are a few steps ahead of me. Twitter (and especially B2B SaaS and Productized services founders) is the way.


What were the biggest obstacles you overcame? What were your worst mistakes?

The biggest obstacle to starting a SaaS in our industry is competition. There are already tens of tremendous VC-backed competitors in niches related to ours: Project management tools, collaboration and productivity software, as well as help desk tools.

To do this, finding a niche and working on positioning helped. Positioning our product as “Made for agencies” and tweaking features to solve their exact needs was a way to differentiate ourselves from the competition. In addition, building our distribution channels (our Facebook community and content) before making the product was helpful to get the initial traction.

Our biggest mistake was to focus on “starters”.  Initially, we had decided to go for productized services and wanted to help anyone start a productized service.

However, this was a mistake because those customers didn’t have a business yet and didn’t need most of the features our software offered. They also churned fast as they didn’t generate income yet to pay for our software.


What tools & resources do you recommend?

I highly recommend the following books: Obviously Awesome by April Dunford and Traction by Gino Wickman. In addition, I am very active on Twitter, where I follow other SaaS and B2B service entrepreneurs.

Where can we go to learn more?

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