Simon founded SnapShooter, a server and database backup company. They reached $10k MRR in January 2021 by being bootstrapped and building in public, and they keep growing every month while adding new services for their users.
Hi Simon! Who are you and what are you currently working on?
Hi there! My name is Simon Bennett. I am a 29-year-old husband, father of two from the United Kingdom.
I am the founder and CEO of SnapShooter, a server and database backup company founded in 2017. I have been responsible for all aspects of the business, from programming to support.
We run a typical SaaS model with customers paying a monthly or yearly subscription, and we also offer a free-forever plan as an additional acquisition strategy.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When I left university at 21, I followed a pretty typical developer path. I started in a junior developer role and worked my way up from there. I was a lead developer and eventually served as a CTO before leaving to go full-time to work on SnapShooter.
Towards the end of my time in the corporate world, I led a project that included moving some dedicated servers at Rackspace over to the flexible droplets at DigitalOcean. During this project, I did a deep dive into the DigitalOcean API and discovered that I could back up my projects every day for less than DigitalOcean was charging for weekly backups. This lightbulb moment was the push to start to develop the very first version of SnapShooter.
Unlike the large software projects, I had led or developed (or even some of the failed SaaS ideas I started to build and abandoned,) making the first version of SnapShooter took just two weeks from idea to working prototype.
Since the initial investment was minimal - mostly just a couple of hours every evening - it made sense to get a website together and get it out there. There wasn’t much to lose in getting users in there and start getting their feedback. I didn’t do a whole bunch of customer acquisition-type activities at first, but it’s grown from that initial launch.
Four years later, it’s been amazing to grow the platform, and it’s gone from just backing up DigitalOcean droplets to offering many types of platform, database, server and application backups, even Ubiquity cloud controllers. We’ve spent the time and effort building a fantastic backup engine that’s the core of all our services. We’re really proud of it.
How did you go from idea to product?
For SnapShooter, I didn’t follow the typical business validation and customer need steps of product development. Since the development happened so quickly, I thought it was best to get it out there and start collecting feedback and hear from people about what they needed in a backup service.
Once launched, we did some outreach. I was pretty transparent with sharing about the business, its growth, and more for several years. I’ve participated in sites like Indie Hackers and learned so much from sharing with the community there. We also launched SnapShooter on Product Hunt and had a great experience. As the business grew, I eventually stopped being so transparent, but the experience of sharing in those early years was beneficial for me (and the product!)
At first, we offered a 7-day free trial with a credit card. As time has gone on, we’ve shifted from that model to offer a free plan. Our free plan allows developers to use it to do one backup (one server or database, for example.) That model has allowed people to try the service, see its value, and then bring SnapShooter into their company or workplace to use at an enterprise level. We’re always experimenting with different plans and trials to see what connects with potential (and existing) customers.
Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
For SnapShooter, we’ve seen tremendous growth when focusing on word of mouth, referrals, and organic SEO. Over the last year, we’ve focused on writing great content and sharing lots of information about SnapShooter across our blog and social media. We plan to expand that content in the next year, covering more than just backups.
The challenge is that Google’s algorithms are constantly changing, and it takes work to keep ranking well on some of the keywords we’ve pushed to be ranked highly on.
We have also started building partnerships and relationships with service providers and hosting companies. We see this as a valuable opportunity to reach even more people and help those companies with a service that could take up a lot of their time and effort internally.
How are you doing today and what are your goals for the future?
Things are going well! I was initially unsure what it would be like to manage every part of the business, from coding to support to accounting, payment processing to developer relations, and so on. I have learned so much. SnapShooter is growing every month, and we continue to add new services for our users.
SnapShooter has been an excellent thing for my family as well. With the business earning enough now, I can fully support my family, and my wife has gone back to university, which is fantastic. I love spending time with my kids, and I love to spend time in my garage. I’ve got a classic car in there that I’m excited to get into restoring, but as with most things, it’s always a challenge to find the time. That’s a long-term goal.
For the future of SnapShooter, I want to continue our investment in the platform to help it grow. I’d like to continue to expand our content marketing efforts, grow our industry partnerships, and, most excitingly, start to plan to bring on our first developers. I’ve got an exciting roadmap ahead and will need help to do all the things I’d like to add to SnapShooter.
I want to do this while still offering excellent support to our users and making sure that the product is accessible to everyone, from enterprise users to indie developers who are just starting to build the next generation of amazing web apps.
Since starting SnapShooter, what have been your main lessons?
After failing on my first few indie projects, I’ve found that starting small is the key. For me, getting the product in front of customers was so critical to our early growth. They gave us valuable feedback and helped make sure we were on the right path. The version of SnapShooter our customers use today is very different from what it was when it first launched, and that’s good.
Second, I would say take the time, even early on, to do customer research. From surveys to customer interviews, it’s all critical data that you can use to help guide your work. Michele Hansen at Geocodio is doing a fantastic job in this space right now. Her book (and website), Deploy Empathy, is great. The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick is also an excellent book about talking to your customers.
Finally, I’ve learned so much about the legal side of the business. It doesn’t get talked about much, and I get that. It’s expensive and tedious, but it’s so critical. Once you have some product validation, it’s crucial to work with a lawyer to review your work. Everything from your terms and conditions, privacy information, and branding/trademarks are important to get right. Unfortunately, I had to issue a cease-and-desist letter to a competitor that launched a product with a very similar name to ours. What could have been a nightmare was resolved quickly thanks to ensuring all our legal ducks were in a row.
What were the biggest obstacles you overcame? What were your worst mistakes?
The biggest challenge for us, and any business, is acquiring new customers. Marketing a service like ours is challenging, and getting our product in front of a small-ish audience is hard.
We’ve tried several ways to generate those customers, such as paid acquisition and CPC campaigns. The results haven’t been great, but it’s something we continue to refine and test to find the best method of outreach.
While I’m definitely at home writing code, the marketing side has been a challenge for me. My strong dyslexia makes writing content challenging, but we’ve found some great external partners to help us with this, and it’s something I don’t have to worry so much about.
What tools & resources do you recommend?
I mentioned a few earlier, but here are a few more great books to checkout. I’ve found the audiobook versions to be particularly helpful.
I also like to learn about founders and the challenges they’ve faced. Some of my favorites:
- Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin
- Before the Exit by Dan Andrews and Ian Schoen
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
I listen to a whole host of podcasts. I like the business “mastermind” podcast genre, where people share their business and personal journeys. As a solo founder, I find myself sometimes taking notes about what worked (or didn’t) for others. Some of the podcasts I subscribe to:
- The Art of Product
- Bootstrapped Web
- Out of Beta
- Build your SaaS
- Above Board
- Rogue Startup
- Product Journey
- Software Social
Where can we go to learn more?
You can learn more about SnapShooter at Snapshooter.com, of course, but you can also follow us on Twitter at @snapshooterio. I’m also decently active on Twitter at @mrsimonbennett.
If you’re a solo founder or part of a small startup, we’ve also got a Discord channel where we talk and share development ideas, best practices, and more. DM me on Twitter for the link!