“5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Successful App or SAAS”, with Robert Weissgraeber of AX Semantics
With every new process introduced, you need to remove or automate a different one. Otherwise, you are held down by accumulated processes.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Weissgraeber. Robert is the chief technology officer of AX Semantics, where he heads up product development and engineering and is a managing director. Robert is an in-demand speaker and an author on topics including agile software development and natural language generation (NLG) technologies and a member of the Forbes Technology Council. He was previously chief product officer at aexea and studied chemistry at the Johannes Gutenberg University and did a research stint at Cornell University.
Thank you so much for joining us, Robert! 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?
Our story is very atypical for a software company. Years ago, we weren’t involved in technology but were simply a copywriting company that supplied writers and content to businesses. With the rise of digital technology and crowdsourcing, prices for writing plummeted, and the need for companies to scale because of Internet e-commerce went up. We decided to shift our model and develop technology that allowed businesses to automate content production. When I got on board, I realized that there was this big hidden technology that could end up changing how we write. That convinced me that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
We needed an innovation that could push the business of copywriting forward like the Gutenberg printing press, typewriter and the IBM word processor did. So, we decided to industrialize copywriting through automation — yet find a way to keep humans involved in the process.
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?
There is an Internet-famous quote: “entrepreneurship is like getting punched in the face and yelled at every day and then getting back up the next day to do it again.” That’s a good summary. Every time you solve a problem, a more significant problem pops up: sales, marketing, products, employees or finance. What kept us driven was seeing our customers talk about how our software made their job easier or increased their revenue. You always need to look at the little successes; otherwise, you just get overwhelmed by the problems.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We’ve achieved tremendous things. We turned a world-first technology into a usable product that new customers buy every week and use for their business. I’d say one area we were exceptionally resilient was forcing ourselves to look regularly at our work and then methodically making sure we continuously improve it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Believing that as soon as we had a product ready that marketing and sales would be easy. That’s just not the case, even with a lovely product. Getting people to invest time in trying out something new is always a challenge.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We never limit ourselves to small problems. While others in similar areas go for the “easy” vertical/niche product routes, we never believed that was the right path. It’s paid off. Our users now innovate on top of our tool — something that once seemed like a dream.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Assemble a team you trust to share the burden. Make sure they work well with each other. Then, let the employees tackle that shared burden in a way that suits their style and strengths.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to those who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m a fan of getting groups of people around me and bouncing ideas and opinions around. The openPM Community and their multi-city PMCamp event helped develop my business mindset a lot.
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?
AX Semantics has 500 customers worldwide, including companies like Porsche, Nestle, MyTheresa, and Roche. We own approximately 55% of the market share in our field of content generation. Here are the three steps we took to get there:
- Never limiting ourselves to a market or region. We designed software that could work across the globe for almost any type of customer.
- Believing from the get-go in the power of testing. If you don’t know how something works, try a lot of different things and make sure you can see a data point for the outcome.
- Build a pipeline, and then make the whole team focus on overcoming any clogs or obstacles.
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?
We have a subscription model, with a low fee and an on-demand fee for usage. This allows everyone to try the software and then scale into the right plan. We also have a thriving monetization ecosystem with managed service providers that helps drive our usage fees.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know to create a very successful app or a SAAS?
- Identifying your audience is critical. If you don’t know how to reach that audience, you won’t be able to spend the marketing budget to get there.
- Product/market fit is an abstract concept. We defined our market by not limiting ourselves technology-wise.
- Employee retention is key. Otherwise, you have so much brain-drain that you start doing unsuccessful stuff a year or two later because you lost the knowledge.
- With every new process introduced, you need to remove or automate a different one. Otherwise, you are held down by accumulated processes.
- Keep lists to four points, even if asked for five. Most people don’t notice, and your other four points just got 20 percent more impact.
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. 🙂
Allow everyone to automate their own jobs and then free up time for real innovation.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you for all of these great insights!
“5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Successful App or SAAS”, with Robert Weissgraeber of AX… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.