Get your head down and graft for the first two years. After that, it gets easier. If you keep that in mind, you’ll accept a bit of burnout from time to time.

As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Fraser Hamilton. Fraser is from Scotland. He studied in the University of Strathclyde and spent time working as a web developer and marketing consultant, before moving into the world of insolvency and founding HubSolv.

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?

My business partner and I have always had an interest in entrepreneurship. After leaving university we started our first business from my mum and dad’s kitchen, focusing on offering websites to local businesses (this was back in 2008 before the advent of SquareSpace). We saw it as a way to strengthen our technical ability while making a bit of money. It was completely unscalable and we were terrible at sales, so decided to fold it after about a year and pursue some professional experience. Eventually, I found myself working for a start up in the Debt Advice space, and quickly discovered how archaic the software being used by companies in the industry was. Back then, Lewis and I were sharing a flat that we renovated at the time, to eventually give us enough money to get a foot on the property ladder. We chatted most nights about business ideas (including starting a burger restaurant) and started talking in length about how terrible the software was in the industry I worked in. Lewis, (by far the more technically capable of us both) got to work on an MVP and we launched it around 9 months later. Firstly, knocking on doors of contacts I had made while working in the industry. I think we had 3 customers when I decided to leave my job and go full time with HubSolv. I had to focus on getting new customers in while Lewis worked on making the product better. The first year was scary, but I think I can speak for both Lewis and myself when I say it was the best decision we ever made.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

The idea came from me working at an insolvency firm and noticing how poor the software being used was. It is an extremely niche market, and the software providers had no competition or innovation in around 15 years.

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?

The first couple of years were tough, because we didn’t have a solid client base. Any company that stopped using HubSolv felt like a massive punch in the stomach and usually had a significant impact on revenue. However, we subsidized initial income with some consultancy work. Lewis focused on bespoke development while I was doing marketing consultancy for a large firm; this helped keep the lights on in the early days. Around year 2, we also saw the rise of copycats and our customers would often be convinced into switching to them because they were cheaper. Luckily, our product was getting better each month, and those that left often came back to us, which gave us motivation to kick on to the next level. I genuinely can’t remember either of us ever wanting to give up at any stage. It wasn’t really an option.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

It’s going well. We are still 100% bootstrapped, have over 100 businesses using the software, revenue is growing steadily, we have 17 staff and have just secured a larger office to expand further. We are also a lot clearer on the direction for the company and have some exciting plans ahead. I feel like we are just getting started, even though this is our 6th year of trading.

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?

A couple of years in, we embarked on a partnership integration that involved us making data available to HubSolv users. It was a pretty lengthy process that involved auditing and lengthy legal procedures. I was immensely motivated to get this up and running as quickly as possible, because the revenue opportunity was pretty exciting. The blur of my excitement and eagerness to get it over the line led to some contractual oversights on my part that left us staring down the barrel of a £30k invoice. This was almost all the money we had in the bank at the time and would have had a devastating impact if it was enforced. I managed to get out of the situation with some great legal advice, but it certainly taught me to read and consider contracts carefully — before signing anything. It also taught me the value of a good lawyer!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The product. There are a number of things we do well across the company, including a strong focus on hands-on support and high customer service standards — but ultimately, we’ve created a product that is simply better than the competition.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Get your head down and graft for the first two years. After that, it gets easier. If you keep that in mind, you’ll accept a bit of burnout from time to time.

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?

My business partner, Lewis. Before we started HubSolv, almost everyone we spoke to said we shouldn’t bother. I’m glad we didn’t listen to them. In the early days, I was particularly affected when we lost business, so I’m grateful for having a positive business partner, who had the drive to motor on even when things weren’t going according to plan.

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?

Embarrassingly, we don’t track individual users, but it’s in the region of 1,000 active users per month. We have 100 businesses onboard, which are currently paying for a monthly subscription. Our strategy for acquiring new customers probably won’t work for most others, due to the nicheness of the industry we operate in. Ultimately, we knocked on doors and demoed face to face. Eventually, word of mouth became the biggest marketing channel for us.

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 model consists of monthly license fees, based on users. We also charge separately for SMS usage, credit search and Open Banking credits.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.

  • Find out what your customers need
  • Create a product that people use every day
  • Focus on support and onboarding
  • Price competitively
  • Don’t scrimp on product development

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. 🙂

This sounds too hippy for me. I guess being carbon neutral is in vogue at the moment, so I’d aim to be the Scottish Greta Thunberg.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SAAS with Fraser Hamilton of HubSolv was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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