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My saas story - from IT outsourcing to saas

Robert Matyszewski


My saas story - from IT outsourcing to saas


Hi, I’m Robert - entrepreneur based in Poland. Last seven years I’ve spent working in software development business. Last year I made a transition from the service business to saas. In this article I’ll cover short story, mostly focusing on last year and how we got our first traction. Check more articles and updates on “My saas story.”

First business.

Just after graduating University in 2011 I’ve started marketing agency with my best friend (lemontea.pl). I wasn’t doing very good since we didn’t have any business experience and decent idea what we want to do. After two years the company made almost no profit, a friend decided to leave the company just for me, and I was there with three developers on the payroll with no proper plan. I’ve decided to focus and brand the team as javascript consulting experts. It took a year to do so but it worked, we were quickly able to win new customers and won prestigious awards for advanced & animated front end of one project. We were overselling and since I had no experience in it business and project management I’ve decided to sell the company.

Selling the child.

I did it after 3,5 years from starting my company. It was straightforward because we had a good brand and few enterprise customers waiting to deliver orders. It gave me a massive advantage in negotiations with potential buyers showing them what type of customers I’m able to win. I’ve decided to go with www.tenderhut.com. New owner offered me a decent proposition and a VP of sales position, so I’ve joined the team. It was a newly formed company (30 people), but the founders had many years of experience in the one prominent software development company in Central Europe. Their previous company (SMT Software) has sold for $40M USD. I’ve spent nearly two years there developing sales & marketing department from scratch to more than ten people on board. The company itself tripled the size concerning headcount and revenue. My new founders wanted to replicate the success of their past employer.

Need to change.

But I wanted to change. I didn’t want to do just outsourcing. I felt I’d like to do some more than only selling skilled developers by days. I wanted to focus more on marketing because it was also something I was passionate about over the years. I’ve decided to change and leave the company and search for exciting ideas. I’ve started working as a freelancer for tech companies helping them develop sales departments. Also, I’ve started talking with my colleague - Artur from Aexol. I thought it could be good to do something together, cause he had considerable experience developing his products - mostly simple mobile apps. I knew that to grow a great product I need a product experienced co-founder.

Saas ideas.

Before focusing on our final project, we started working on three other ideas. Those projects were cute, but their vision and market were local. We wanted a big hairy audacious goal! The third project was the thing - Artur showed me the idea of visual node designer called slothking I thought - funny name and a crazy idea, let’s do it! That time he had a beta version of the app and his developers were using it to speed up the development process. It was a proper MVP with internal users. It was a great idea to start. It was a side project, and I was sharing it with my part-time freelance consulting . That time we didn’t discuss shares or positions. We wanted to deliver excellent value, focus on pure work and stay lean on the money. That time I’ve watched a few YC videos on product market fit, and we started looking for traction

Searching for market fit.

Working on my new startup gave me huge motivation and a lot of fun. In a few hours, we made the ugliest landing page that we could and started talking with customers. We got a little bit of response, but it wasn’t a thing described in YC videos. We didn’t get that feeling. So we made a better quality version of our landing page. It also didn’t work so well. That time I thought - we need great advisors. It’s my fourth business, and I don’t want to do it myself. I’ve checked my LinkedIn and tried to find someone who I know and might be a great fit. I was looking for someone who has success experience in dev products, saas or high growth companies. I got in touch with Tomasz Karwatka from Divante.co - a global e-commerce software company. He and his brother had launched open source vue store front which had nearly 3k stars on GitHub. That was the team that I was looking for. They agreed to help for small % of shares after hearing about our idea.

Finding product market fit?

We decided to meet with guys from Divante online a few times and then set up a meeting in Wroclaw. It was hard to catch up with guys cause they are full time in travel. After our 3 hour meeting, we decided to make a pivot. Our original idea slothking was to create an entirely new core system and then prepare it for all programming languages. It was a downside of this idea where we had to customise our tool for every different language. At the meeting, we found that there’s new technology - a GraphQL query language that’s gaining popularity in opposite to REST API. We thought if we could make and GraphQL Visual Editor than add to that fake backend, database and cloud deployment we would achieve our initial idea of Visual Node / Backend Designer. The new plan was born. Next week we had a demo since we were able to re-use our javascript diagram tool. We made nicely looking GitHub repo and posted it on hacker news. That was the thing. We posted it on Saturday 22nd Sept and in one week we had 20k views (12k unique), and 2300 GitHub starts. Till that day we didn’t spend any money.

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