Mike founded Upvoty, a user feedback SaaS tool. He launched it in 2019 and reached $1,000 MRR in 2 months. He's now working along with a fully remote team of 8, which managed to grow Upvoty organically to $20,000 MRR (and growing over $1,000 MRR per month).
Hi Mike! Who are you and what are you currently working on?
I started working on Upvoty 3 years ago after I saw an opportunity to create a user feedback tool. After hiring a small team of devs and marketers, we launched the first beta version in August 2018, and during the beta, we immediately noticed that our product had the potential to become a successful SaaS product. We launched in February 2019, and within a couple of months, we reached $1,000 MRR.
Right now, fast forward to 2021, we’re at $20,000 MRR, and we’re growing with over $1,000s a month.
Since I’m not a developer myself, I have outsourced almost all of the tasks regarding Upvoty. I have developers working on the software, marketers working on marketing activities such as our "Upvoty on Product" blog, and this leaves room for me to work on my vlog and podcast.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
So, back in early 2018, my team and I were growing with a previous SaaS product. That SaaS startup was doing over $1,000,000 ARR. And with that growth in users, the amount of feedback was increasing as well. Back then, we were documenting feedback in a spreadsheet, but at one point, this wasn’t sustainable anymore.
When researching other user feedback tools, I quickly noticed an opportunity to build one of my own. I thought of making a new product instead of using existing ones because I wasn’t fulfilled anymore working on the product we were working on. Although we had created a fantastic product, I wasn’t passionate enough about the market we were serving and decided to sell it. This also became one of my biggest lessons learned: If you’re not passionate enough about solving your customer’s problems, it’s not going to work in the long run.
How did you go from idea to product?
We launched a landing page with an explainer video and a signup form, and we asked people to sign up if they were interested in such a product like Upvoty. That product validation was straightforward and something I’ve learned from the Dropbox story.
Within 2 months, we had over 300 sign-ups and, mainly because we also wanted to build the product for our own, we decided to work on it. Most of those signups came from communities such as Indie Hackers, Product Hunt, Makerlog, and platforms such as BetaList. Besides that, we launched a couple of eBooks, went all-in on content marketing (blog), and did a lot of interviews (which not only boosted our brand, but also our SEO rankings). I also shared it within my network (back then I had a pretty big following base on both Instagram and YouTube), and I participated in FB groups a lot, just to attract some first beta users.
Within 3 months, we built a first version, which was a very slim and basic version of what the product is today, but it had everything we needed to go to the next validation stage: How will our customers use it.
The actual validation came soon after our first public launch: Paying customers! From that moment on, we kept listening to our customers (of course by using our software) and started building features based on their needs and pain points.
Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
From the start, we focused on content marketing. Our ICPs (ideal customer profiles) consist mainly of early staged founders or product managers. Both are keen on learning new things. So by providing content that could help them build a better product, we could convince them to use a tool like Upvoty because, as we experienced first hand, manually documenting all the feedback and requests isn’t sustainable and requires a lot of time and work.
We also launched a couple of ebooks, did a lot of interviews, sponsored some podcast shows, and of course, I promoted Upvoty to my audience on YouTube.
But, the best marketing strategy was our product. Not because it’s a fantastic product (at least, we think so), but because we’ve added a ‘Powered by Upvoty’ mention and link in our feedback portal. We get referrals from our own product because the customers of our customers also want to use such feedback software. Every time our customers share their Upvoty feedback portal or boards, new potential customers see our name. If they need a feedback tool themselves, they will click through, sign up for a trial, and stick around.
How are you doing today and what are your goals for the future?
We’re working with a fully remote team of 8, and we managed to grow organically to now $20,000 MRR. We are looking to hire new team members, especially customer support since we’re growing in users (over 500 companies are using our software right now).
Next year, we want to achieve an MRR of over $50,000, which sounds ambitious, but our strategy is to go all-in on sales and advertising.
Personally, my goal is to grow my YouTube channel by vlogging even more. I’m not yet at 11,000 subscribers; let’s go and get that silver play button ;).
Since starting Upvoty, what have been your main lessons?
Like I mentioned earlier, the biggest lesson is to work on something you’re passionate about. Otherwise, it will kill you in the long run.
Another thing I’ve learned from launching over 5 products is: Narrow down your target audience, especially when you’re just starting out.
I always like to say: Dream big, start small. Make sure your product is helping a couple of customers in the best way possible and expand later on.
What were the biggest obstacles you overcame? What were your worst mistakes?
With Upvoty, we - luckily - didn’t have any significant obstacles yet. But I’m sure they’ll come because it’s inevitable when you’re building a business. But, like Ryan Holiday stated in his book: "The Obstacle is the way". And this is something I always keep in mind. I never see things as an obstacle or as a bad thing.
What tools & resources do you recommend?
My personal and business life entirely runs on Asana. So, I can recommend using a project management or task manager app such as Asana. I just store every task, future to-do, or idea in the app. This helps me clear my mind, and it also enables me to focus on what I have to do right now without worrying about all the things after.
One book I can recommend, especially when you’re building a SaaS, is Intercom on Starting Up. It helped me with every aspect of building a product from scratch.