First off, can you tell us about your background and your product?
I’m Mike Slaats, founder of Vindy (an online platform for home improvement in The Netherlands and Belgium where most of my revenue is coming from), Upvoty (a feedback tool for SaaS products with feature voting) and Workmappy (a website where you can discover new places to work from). I’ve founded several startups since I was at the age of 17. Some of them were successful, most of them were not. I’ve learned a lot along the way of starting and building a startup and I love to share the lessons I’ve learned, and still learn, on social media. You can find me on Instagram and YouTube. I write about it too, on my blog.
How long did it take to build your initial prototype and how did you validate it?
The initial prototype for the Vindy platform was built within 1 month and we launched pretty quick with some basic websites. We targeted our audience with ads on Google and Facebook; just to see if we could reach potential homeowners who wanted to find a local contractor via our platform. We quickly saw potential and started building.
How did you get your first paying customer and how long did it take?
We worked with a freemium model because, as a marketplace, we had the chicken and egg problem; we needed contractors to serve homeowners who placed their orders on our website. So for the first 3 months we gave it all away for free. Once we proved our value, we started to charge the first happy clients. Within 6 months, we were profitable. Right now we are doing around $50k a month.
What worked and what didn't work when finding your first users?
We hit off pretty quickly to be honest. But of course there were some things that worked and that didn’t. We tried to charge our clients with subscription models, but that didn’t work out. We’ve found out that we needed to find the win-win ratio for both ourselves aandthe clients. So, charging for leads was the solution; clients only pay when they have a valuable lead. This did 2 things for us; our revenue increased because we did get more contractors because of this new business model and because of this we could expand quicker than projected.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to onboard their first users?
Make sure there is a real win-win for both your customers and for yourself. Start with a free model so you can onboard first users asap. Because you’ll need the first users in order to validate your product. A product without users is just a product that’s out there in the wild, you’ll need real data in order to optimize. Don’t be afraid to invest in this.
What resources have helped you in the early stages?
The best resource there is, is your own mindset. Just go out there and try. Don’t over-analyze, but start from your passion and listen to your customers; what do they need? If you figure this out, you will have an audience that is willing to use and pay for your product. I can recommend 1 book that really helped me with my mindset; Rework by Basecamp founder Jason Fried. I think every founder should read it.
What are you working on now?
As Vindy is a complete automated SaaS product, I’ve started a new project; Upvoty. This is a feedback tool for feature voting. The idea came from my own needs within my other startup Vindy. As we gain more users, the amount of feedback quickly grows too. With Upvoty you can make feedback boards where you can easily manage all of your client’s feedback and with the feature voting you can see which features are hot or not. This way you’ll always know what to build next to improve customer happiness. We will launch in August 2018.
How can people reach you and find out more?
Yeah, happy to connect with like-minded people. You can connect with me on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Youtube: Startup with Mike
Blog Startup with Mike