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I Built a SaaS Startup in Just 31 Hours: From Idea to First Customer

Building a SaaS Startup in 31 Hours: A Journey from Concept to Revenue

On February 13th, I embarked on an ambitious project: to build a software from the first line of code to the first customer within 31 hours of streaming.

In this article, I will share everything from how I got the idea, validated it, and used four unconventional methods to build it rapidly, which might make some developers cringe.

Finally, we’ll explore the launch strategy and how I managed to attract visitors and generate $2,000 in profit within the first week.

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Finding the Perfect SaaS Startup Idea

There are three primary ways to find startup ideas, but my favorite is to scratch your own itch.

Look around at what you do daily and see if you find any boring or annoying tasks that you could automate or delegate with a product.

This approach has allowed me to generate money from every single launch I’ve made.

My most successful product to date, Ship, has made $300,000 in just six months using this exact method.

For the SaaS startup I built in 31 hours, I was checking my Stripe account and realized I had spent $1,600 on fees to generate PDF invoices.

I decided to turn off the option, and my email was flooded with customers asking for invoices.

Just like that, a new product idea was born.

When you scratch your own itch, validating a SaaS startup idea becomes much easier because you are a user of your own product.

I also checked Twitter and noticed a recurring pattern of people complaining about Stripe invoices, indicating that I might not be alone in needing this tool.

Validating the SaaS Startup Idea

There are countless tips and advice for validating startup ideas, but my unconventional method is to ship it so fast that if it flops, it doesn’t really matter.

So, at the end of January 2024, with a pain point in my life and a SaaS startup idea to let customers generate invoices themselves, I went live on YouTube.

I built the entire startup during 31 hours of streaming, from the first line of code to the first customer.

Focusing on Revenue from Day One

Revenue is everything.

As a customer, it’s where you go on a website if you don’t fully understand what the product does.

As a business owner, it’s how you pay the rent and stay motivated over the long term.

That’s why it’s one of the first things I brainstorm when building a product.

I discovered last year that free plans don’t really work for solopreneurs because most free users never convert to paying customers.

Additionally, subscriptions are much harder to sell than one-time payments, so I usually start with the latter.

It’s easier to implement as a developer, better for users as they don’t have recurring costs, and if the product goes viral and there’s a need for a subscription, I can still grandfather the first users and start charging new users a subscription fee.

For one-time payments, I’ve found that less than $30 is usually a good price point for a “vitamin” product (a nice-to-have but not a must-have), and less than $100 is appropriate for a “painkiller” product.

For my SaaS startup, Zenvo, I priced it at $69 for a one-time payment.

I have nearly zero recurring costs, with bandwidth and email sending being extremely cheap, so it’s unlikely that a customer would cost me money.

Finally, I added a price anchor to the product at $49 for a one-time payment, giving limited access with only one Stripe account.

This is important because it’s a new type of product, and people might be unsure of its worth.

Having multiple plans helps them decide what the product is roughly worth.

Shipping Only One Feature

As a product-obsessed developer, I’ve struggled for years with the concept of shipping only one feature.

That one feature you cannot remove.

For Zenvo, it’s the ability for customers to send a link to their clients so they can generate invoices.

Anything not directly related to that core functionality was removed.

There’s no way to preview the invoice, edit invoice details, or even reset passwords.

Just one big feedback button at the top of the user dashboard allows customers to request new features.

Here’s the hard truth: most startups fail, so most of the features we build won’t be used by users.

That’s why I follow this framework of building only one feature and shipping the first version of the product with just that functionality.

Crafting a High-Converting Landing Page

Another crucial aspect often overlooked by product-obsessed developers like myself is the landing page.

90% of people will never see your product, so I spent 11 hours (30% of the total time) building the landing page.

Several components are essential for a landing page that converts.

First is the problem-agitation component, a section usually below the hero section that demonstrates your understanding of the customer’s pain points.

This shows respect, care, and familiarity with your customers.

If you speak their language, visitors are more likely to become paying customers.

The headline (H1 tag) at the top of the hero section is also critical.

It’s the promise you make to your customers, answering the question, “Why should I spend more of my precious time on this website?”

I never launch a SaaS startup without some form of social proof.

When you’re just starting, it can be challenging to get testimonials, but you can reach out to potential customers on Twitter, LinkedIn, or wherever your target audience hangs out.

Offer them a free trial in exchange for their feedback.

In a noisy online world, social proof builds trust and increases conversion rates.

Since I always launch products without a free trial, requiring payment before signing up, I usually include a short demo video explaining the product so people know what they’re buying.

Finally, your product name is crucial because it’s what people will remember and share with others if they find it relevant.

Unconventional Development Practices

Software engineers might cringe at this next part.

I don’t use TypeScript, Git branches, or test my code.

I’ve kept the same tech stack for the past two years, still using MongoDB, and I love it.

These practices can be time-consuming, creating constraints that slow you down when you want to move fast and break things.

Since most startups fail, I don’t spend too much time on the marketing side of things.

Instead, I focus on the launch.

If I launch well, I’ll gather enough data and visitors to determine if it’s worth investing more time in marketing and growing the product later.

Launching the SaaS Startup

After 28 hours of streaming, Zenvo was complete.

I’ll now cover the four places I launched the SaaS startup to attract the first visitors and customers.

First, I always schedule a launch on Product Hunt.

Many people browse the site daily, bringing traffic to your product and providing an initial boost.

Later, if things go well, you might be featured in newsletters and media that source content from Product Hunt, leading to future traffic spikes.

I also launched on Twitter, using it as a bumper to promote my Product Hunt launch.

People on Twitter enjoy new things, so if you have a trendy product or use a compelling headline, you can easily attract traffic even if you’re just starting.

Another platform I love and always launch on is Hacker News.

It’s more unpredictable than Twitter and Product Hunt, but if you craft a good headline, your product can go viral.

This happened with my first product, bringing in around 10,000 visitors within the first 24 hours, despite having no audience or track record.

Finally, the subreddit r/SideProject is still active and has a decent number of people who can bring a couple hundred visitors to your product.

Overall, it’s a good place to launch a SaaS startup.

I launched on all four platforms within a 2-3 hour timeframe.

24 hours later, Zenvo had about 4,000 visitors and made $800.

By the end of the first week, it had generated $2,000 in profit.

I also received messages from customers who were happy to finally have a solution for Stripe invoicing, which is promising for the future.

Evaluating the SaaS Startup’s Success

I’m still unsure if I will focus on Zenvo or let it run on its own.

I plan to wait until the site reaches at least 10,000 visitors to assess the dollars earned per visitor metric, which is the only metric I track.

To give you a reference, my best-performing website, Ship, earns almost $1 per visitor in revenue.

So, for every 100 visitors, I can expect around $100 in revenue.

My worst-performing product earned $0.06 per visitor.

It’s a simplified approach, but I’ve found it very useful in determining if there’s a market fit.

If I get somewhere above $0.50 per visitor, I consider it a product worth focusing on.

Otherwise, it’s best to let it run on its own, fix bugs, provide customer support when needed, and move on to the next project until you find a product that hits it big.

Embracing Speed in SaaS Startup Development

In the last two years, I started shipping my SaaS startups in days or weeks instead of months.

As a result, my revenue increased from $1,000-$2,000 per month to around $40,000-$50,000 per month.

I believe speed is an entrepreneur’s best friend, and this article summarizes everything I do to ship fast.

By focusing on rapid development, launching quickly, and iterating based on user feedback, you can dramatically increase your chances of success in the competitive world of SaaS startups.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a SaaS startup?

A SaaS (Software as a Service) startup is a company that develops and offers software applications to customers over the internet on a subscription basis. Instead of installing software on their own computers, users can access the application through a web browser, while the SaaS startup manages the infrastructure, security, and performance of the application.

Is Netflix a SaaS company?

While Netflix is often considered a SaaS company, it is more accurately classified as a streaming service or an entertainment platform. SaaS typically refers to software applications used by businesses for various functions such as project management, customer relationship management, or accounting. Netflix, on the other hand, provides video content to consumers for entertainment purposes.

How to start your own SaaS?

Starting your own SaaS involves several key steps:

  1. Identify a problem or need in the market that your software can address.
  2. Validate your idea by conducting market research and gathering feedback from potential customers.
  3. Define your minimum viable product (MVP) and its core features.
  4. Choose the appropriate technology stack for developing your application.
  5. Build and test your MVP.
  6. Create a compelling landing page and marketing strategy to attract users.
  7. Launch your SaaS and gather user feedback for continuous improvement.
  8. Focus on customer acquisition, retention, and scaling your business.

What does SaaS stand for?

SaaS stands for “Software as a Service.” It is a software distribution model in which a third-party provider hosts applications and makes them available to customers over the internet. This eliminates the need for users to install and maintain the software on their own computers, as they can access it through a web browser. SaaS has become increasingly popular due to its scalability, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness compared to traditional software distribution models.

We strongly recommend that you check out our guide on how to take advantage of AI in today’s passive income economy.