Founder’s Journey: Building a Startup from the Ground Up ●
access_time10 months ago
Last week I hit some sort of boiling point with life and work. July was an incredibly stressful month for me both, personally and with work. Just lots of extremes, and it wore me down. Every single founder is struggling with something. Maybe it's big, maybe it's not. But there's always something. Even the most successful founders deal with this stuff and don't know what to do. Everybody’s winging it.
There can be some really exciting days when you’re building a SaaS company, but the large majority are a slog. Just one foot in front of the other, slowly trudging your way up the hill in the muck. The hockey-stick growth you’ve envisioned feels laughably far away. Amazingly, you are growing every month, but it’s just…so…tedious. This, my friends, is the long, slow SaaS ramp of death. It’s perfectly normal and par for the course for the large majority of SaaS companies.
Founding a company is hard. You’ve got an infinite number of decisions to make while simultaneously trying to catch lightning in a bottle with creating something out of nothing. It’s even harder when you’re doing it alone. Being a solo founder, in many ways, stacks the deck against you. You’re left shouldering the weight of every single decision and don’t really have any one to share it with. However, there are some ways to make it easier and, in many cases, it can actually be a major pro to start a company solo. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits as well as drawbacks so you can figure out if being a solo founder is right for you. Then we’ll tackle some ways to make being a solo founder a pretty great thing.
https://baremetrics.com/blog/most-startups-are-not-crushing-it Ask any startup founder how things are going and they’ll tell you it’s “going great”. They’ll talk about some new feature they’re rolling out, or a new round of funding. Or maybe they’ll mention how much user growth they’ve had or that they just got covered in TechCrunch. All signs will point to “crushing it”. But, for better or worse, there’s a very high probability that they are, in fact, not crushing it. The exact opposite, actually.
https://blog.baremetrics.com/startups-keep-it-classy-5bba13285cc6 Every day founders have an infinite number of tiny decisions to make and it’s easy to get decision fatigue. In a moment of weakness you may do something dumb that hurts you, your team, your company, your brand or any one of a thousand other things. So here’s an easy rule of thumb to help you when making decisions: keep it classy.
https://blog.baremetrics.com/the-startup-echo-chamber-is-making-you-deaf-771eec220181 Being an entrepreneur is a lonely place, especially if you’re the founder/CEO. Sure, you may have co-founders, but the reality is, there’s a lot of weight on your shoulders, a lot of pressure (self-applied or otherwise) to not drop the ball. To combat this, we’re basically permanently in “problem solver” mode. Everything needs a solution. Which is a natural fit because most entrepreneurs are self-taught and love to learn! Yes, it’s naive, but it’s also how we were able to make something out of nothing. We just figured it out. We’re really great at just figuring it out. But here’s the thing: solutions aren’t binary. Yet, we treat business problems as if they’re all just a series of variables that we just need to find the right combination of and BOOM! You, my friend, are living in an echo chamber and you don’t realize yet, but you’re deaf.
I’m done. I’m tapping out. I’m bowing out of the startup rat race. No, we’re not shutting down Baremetrics. Very much the opposite. I’m just finished subscribing to and following the traditional startup mentality as we build our company. https://blog.baremetrics.com/getting-out-of-the-startup-rat-race-66a5a0ca3055
There may be no topic in the world of business that spurs such impassioned responses than self-serve versus manual cancellation of a subscription. Let’s just say the word “evil” gets tossed around a lot.
What feature should we build next? Ain’t that the question of the year? While that next feature won’t save your business, it’s still important to actually improve your product and create more value for your customers. And figuring out what you should tackle next may be one of the hardest decisions you make on a regular basis.
What if you could put a system in place that instantly scores and prioritizes any marketing idea you had? You could focus in on exactly the strategies that are most likely bring you a return on your effort while minimizing costs and increasing impact. https://baremetrics.com/blog/marketing-idea-scoring-system
https://baremetrics.com/blog/new-features-will-not-save-your-business As a founder, you ooze optimism. It’s a necessary coping mechanism to deal with the volatile up’s and down’s of creating something out of nothing. But that becomes problematic when you’re still finding product/market fit as it makes you believe that next feature will be the feature that solves all of your product’s problems. It won’t.
https://baremetrics.com/blog/product-launch-sequence If you launch something on the internet and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? I know. Deep. But seriously, how do you launch/release/announce/publish something and make sure people do in fact hear?
When you’re building a business based on recurring revenue, what you want is predictability. The “recurring” part has a pretty strong measure of that, but getting more of that recurring payment upfront reduces churn and improves cashflow, letting you spend more money now to acquire customers faster. https://baremetrics.com/blog/annual-subscriptions-30-percent-increase
It’s easy to focus on forward momentum. Looking to the future naturally has an optimistic flair and so we spend more time thinking about it and planning it out. But if we don’t stop to reflect on the past, we’ll miss out on things we could learn. Mistakes that we could, inadvertently, be repeating and best practices that we might fail to adopt. https://baremetrics.com/blog/reflection-business-updates
When I hear the words “company culture” my gut reaction is generally to contort my face in some way that conveys “Ewwwwwwww”. It’s just one of those buzz phrases that gets thrown around without anyone knowing what it actually means. But as our team has grown and my role has changed, I’ve been able to step back and spend more time looking at the big picture. https://baremetrics.com/blog/startup-culture-manifesto
Today we’re launching the biggest update in Baremetrics history: we’re expanding our platform to support Braintree and Recurly, in addition to the Stripe support we’ve always had (with more data sources on the way!). https://baremetrics.com/blog/embiggening-mission-recurly-braintree
It’s a common startup benefit to have a “loose” or “unlimited” vacation policy. “Take all the time off you need!” “We don’t babysit you, take off whenever you need off!” But does anyone actually take off any more time than if they were working somewhere that had a “strict” or “limited” vacation policy? https://baremetrics.com/blog/unlimited-minimum-vacation
You’ve plastered your job listing on every job board and social network known to man. Now comes the fun part: sifting through the hundreds or even thousands of applications. But how? How do you narrow down a seemingly endless stream of folks who all want to be a part of your team? https://baremetrics.com/blog/remote-hiring-interview-process
There’s a lot of talk about “work/life balance” and figuring out how to find some sort of perfect equilibrium wherein your personal life is completely divided from your work building a startup. This is not about that. In fact, it’s about the opposite. It’s about accepting they can’t possibly be separated, and that perfect equilibrium doesn’t exist. https://baremetrics.com/blog/work-life-separation
Bless our little founder hearts. We’re eternal optimists who have great intentions paired with a propensity to try things that common sense would say is a bad idea. That means we try a lot of things, most of which don’t pan out. But it’s the things that do pan out that keep us motivated. https://baremetrics.com/blog/founder-mistakes
We just rolled out a change to Buffer’s very public revenue dashboard that resulted in a $25,000 increase in MRR. This provides some backstory in to how we originally calculated metrics and the transition to a greatly improved version of metric calculation we’ve been building over the past year. https://baremetrics.com/blog/changing-metrics
https://baremetrics.com/blog/saas-annual-plans We recently tried something that got us an extra $14,000 in cash in seven days. Let’s take a look at how we did it.
Three months ago, we introduced a Free plan…and it nearly brought Baremetrics to its knees. Let’s take a look at what we did, how it affected our business and how it was ultimately a failure. https://baremetrics.com/blog/freemium-saas-implode
While customer feedback is crucial to your startup, it’s also something most founders have a love/hate relationship with. How do you decide if feedback is valuable or not? How do you keep complaints from dragging you down? Where do you draw the line on letting feedback steer your company? https://baremetrics.com/blog/customer-feedback
I’ve struggled with what exactly it is that I do here. I’ve hired people who are each exponentially better at their craft than I ever could hope to be. So where does that leave me? I rarely make things anymore. Instead, I’m a manager...an enabler of sorts. Instead of making things, I enable my team to be makers, with as much efficiency as possible. https://baremetrics.com/blog/maker-manager-founder
As an entrepreneur, one of the biggest sources of stress you have with your startup is likely your competition. It’s easy to become really paranoid about each move they make, each feature they launch and each piece of content they’re publishing. Everything can feel like it’s aimed directly at burning your castle to the ground. So how do you deal with that? Or do you even deal with it at all? https://baremetrics.com/blog/startup-competition
If recurring revenue is a rainbow leading to a pot of gold, then churn is the dirty leprechaun trying to keep it all from you. I’ve written before about how to reduce churn in SaaS, so I won’t rehash that here. But what I want to talk about is how we, in the past few months, reduced churn by nearly 70%. https://baremetrics.com/blog/how-we-reduced-churn
When you’re just getting started and you’re strapped for cash, you typically do all sorts of things to pinch pennies. It’s just part of surviving, and it’s a healthy thing to do when you’re not actually making any money. The danger, however, is keeping that mindset after you’ve got a steady stream of cash flowing. It’s a danger that creeps in to a lot of startups and never goes away, causing generally sane people to do insane things in the name of not spending money. https://baremetrics.com/blog/build-it-buy-it
As a Founder, you’ve got your hand in everything imaginable, from legal paperwork to hiring to product management to support and everything in between. You’re pulled in every direction from everyone who’s got your contact info and you feel obligated to chase every rabbit you think of. But one of the hardest lessons to learn is that “busy” does not equal “productive.” https://baremetrics.com/blog/organize-startup-chaos
If there’s one thing I’ve found to be true over the past year and half of building this company, it’s that I’m completely winging it. Sure, I’ve read articles and books on how to build a company, but I've never actually done this before and I learn best by doing. So, every time I come across something that works for us, it’s a huge win for me. Doing 1-on-1’s has been one of those huge wins. https://baremetrics.com/blog/startup-guide-to-1-on-1
A few weeks back I wrote about our experience going from bootstrapped to funded as we raised a $500,000 round, why it was good for our business and some of the things we’ve learned along the way. Now, I want to give you an in-depth breakdown of why and how we spent $250,000 in the months after receiving our funding. https://baremetrics.com/blog/why-we-spent-250000
Most days now I wake up before my alarm goes off (at 5am) and I immediately hop out of bed, excited to get the day started. But that wasn’t always the case, especially when things weren’t going so well. It’s easy to be excited when the skies are blue, but what about when they’re gray? How do you stay motivated then? Or is there even such thing as “motivation”? https://baremetrics.io/blog/motivation-fallacy
In mid-January we did our first retreat as a team. Since we’re completely remote, this was the first time most of our team had met and worked with each other face-to-face. I’ll take you through how we planned and budgeted for the trip, what we did, what worked and what didn’t.
One year after Baremetrics was launched, we hit $25,000 in monthly recurring revenue. I’ve tried a lot of things to grow the company over the past year. A few things have worked well. A lot of things have flopped. We grew quickly, then stagnated for a bit, and are on the upswing now. So, what worked and what didn’t?
Last week I wrote about our experience going from bootstrapped to funded, why it was good for our business and some of the things we’ve learned along the way. I mentioned there were some big shifts for me and one of those shifts was the transition from being a solo entrepreneur to managing a team.
What’s it like going from a decade of bootstrapping to running a funded business? And what’s it like transitioning a business that started out bootstrapped to having a pile of cash at my disposal? Has it been worth it? Is VC money evil? So many questions! Let’s find some answers.