Continuously improve . Remember, SaaS is a marathon, not a sprint. SaaS models are long term and you need to make an ongoing effort to improve your product. Every week, every month — take some topic and tackle it. SaaS projects have a lot of little cogs — if you turn one of them, the others start moving in the right direction as well. That’ll help you be successful.
As part of my series about the “5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Schumacher. Tim is the co-owner of several successful SaaS and App companies including Eyeo (makers of the world’s most popular ad blocker, Adblock Plus), Ecosia, Aklamio, PiwikPro, and the SaaS.group (makers of Juicer.io, Snip.ly and DeployBot.com). Ever since selling his first company Sedo.com, he has become a serial entrepreneur and investor in startups.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Probably the best place to consider my “start” would be with Sedo.com, the domain marketplace, that a few friends and I started in University. My partners and I wanted to create something that allowed us to continue our studies, while still possibly bringing in some money along the way. I actually wrote my thesis on the project.
I was a part of Sedo for 10 years, and after lots of trial and error, learned much about building up and refining a startup. The learning process and sale of Sedo is what lead me to begin starting and investing in many other startups such as SaaS Group, the parent company of Juicer.io, Snip.ly and DeployBot.com.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
First off, I think it is important to note that our “child” companies for SaaS Group are not our inventions. Juicer, for example, was the project of its founders Amit and Ryan. Ryan actually wrote up something about the development and subsequent sale of Juicer which may be of interest to other SaaS startups: https://www.goddamnyouryan.com/blog/selling-juicer/
That being said, the stories of our child companies are a part of my real “Aha Moment” which came when my partners and I saw the potential of the idea behind SaaS Group. After all the time we spent in the startup environment, we came to realize that many developers (like us) had created some really great companies — but wanted to move on to do something else. SaaS Group was created so we could buy bootstrapped SaaS businesses with $500K up to $5M in annual recurring revenue (ARR) and build them up.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Sedo.com was made in the middle of the first big “.com bust” from the year 2000 — and for the first two years we struggled. There was no funding available. People were saying “Oh this internet thing? It’s not going to last. It’s just a fad.” We knew there was a need for Sedo as our experiences with our earlier web development customers had told us so. However, we were also to the point of seriously considering getting a stable job somewhere else to be safe. We ended up pushing through for a bit longer and finally received an investment from someone willing to take a chance on us. In retrospect, we gave almost half of our company away for next to nothing — but it still motivated us to keep going.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
I always like to say to founders that starting a company (particularly a SaaS company) is a marathon, not a sprint. Many people tend to give up after a year or so, which makes just continuing with what you’re working on almost enough to succeed. We were able to get where we needed to be with Sedo, which allowed us to move onto our next projects. Sedo is still doing well and is largely considered one of the best domain parking and marketplaces around.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When we first started Sedo, we didn’t think that anyone would want to work for us. Seriously. We were just three guys and three computers without an office. We hosted interviews and ended up hiring the first person who showed up — just because we were so happy that someone actually came. It turned out to be a bad hire which put a damper on our team.
This mistake taught me a lot about being more careful with vetting and how to better find people that fit with our culture and team. It also helped me to really see the value of working in a startup environment. Even with a small team, you can still make a great impact and product. Startups also allow for more of an individual say and better control than in a corporate environment. In the end, people do enjoy working in a startup — especially if you can add some sort of edge such as remote work or flexible time to entice them. No need to hire your first interviewee on the spot.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
With Saas Group, we operate it like a conglomerate of small projects. Each project under our company still functions like a small startup, complete with its own team and subprojects. We call it “Entrepreneurship Lite”. You have your own product, but also get a stable salary. Customers of each project still get their dedicated, focused attention. It’s a win, win.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My main tips include: Turn off your cell phone, take vacations, and remember “work is not everything”.
It’s okay to work intensely, but you need to take some time for yourself.
Breaks are important for keeping your sanity and also help you to learn how to delegate. They also help you to make better business decisions since you’ve had some time to step away.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I wouldn’t say there is one particular person that helped me along the way, and that’s because I am a big believer in teams. It would really be the collaboration with partners and founding members on each one of my projects that really lead to our success. However, I do want to give a shout out to my longtime friend Matt Bentley at CaniRank. We worked together for 7 years at Sedo. He and his team have become my lead consultants and sounding boards for SEO and Content Marketing on a number of our projects.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
It really depends on which project it is within our company. I’ll use Juicer as an example. It currently has over 60,000 regular users.
The first step to building our community was developing a product which actually works — then following it up with good content marketing and a good pricing model.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
Our monetization model for Juicer is a monthly subscription, We have thought about other models, such as using ads. But, that model would have been complicated for Juicer and would not have been user friendly — which is most important. There is value in taking a good look at your pricing model to make sure it makes sense for your particular users.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know before one wants to start an app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Know your audience and their individual needs.
You can use the Juicer social wall for multiple purposes. A basic website user, for example, probably only needs a feed which updates every hour or so. An event organizer, on the other hand, has very different demands — including a need for short term, quicker functionality. Our software allows you to modify the functions based on what works for your business.
- Make it easy to sign up and use
A potential user shouldn’t have to jump through hoops and sales calls to access your software. Offer excellent support, but allow potential customers to try and test things on their own. Don’t force them into a sale. I’m a big fan of low touch Saas Models which you can actually read about here: https://www.schumacher.me/blog/why-i-love-low-touch-saas-models.
- Don’t neglect your pricing model
Very few people think about pricing. I think having a good pricing model is an underutilized strategy. There is a lot of overpriced SaaS software out there and that can be a big turn off for customers.
- Have good content marketing practices
Good content attracts customers in your niche. Why do I stress “Good” content? Because your content must offer value. If you offer value, people will come.
- Continuously improve
Remember, SaaS is a marathon, not a sprint. SaaS models are long term and you need to make an ongoing effort to improve your product. Every week, every month — take some topic and tackle it. SaaS projects have a lot of little cogs — if you turn one of them, the others start moving in the right direction as well. That’ll help you be successful.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I wouldn’t want to start a new movement per se, because I am already a part of one that I care deeply about: Ecosia. It’s a search engine that plants trees — which appeals to two of my biggest passions: technology and ecology. It’s essentially Google, but instead of the excess advertising revenue going towards lining the pockets of shareholders, it goes towards the environment. We’ve planted over 60million trees since the start.
Here’s the story of my relationship with Ecosia: https://www.schumacher.me/blog/our-company-makes-10-million-in-revenues-today-we-re-donating-all-of-our
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
About the author:
Mitch Russo started a software company in his garage, sold it for 8 figures and then went on to work directly with Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes to build a $25M business together. Mitch wrote a book called “The Invisible Organization — How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies” and now his 2nd book called Power Tribes — “How Certification Can Explode Your Business.” Mitch helps SaaS company founders scale their own companies using his proprietary system. You can reach Mitch Directly via firstname.lastname@example.org
5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS, with Tim Schumacher and Mitch Russo was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.