Hello! I am so glad to have stumbled across this forum. It seems like a great place especially for people like me who envy the participants of Joel Spolsky’s The Business of Software. I heard a lot of great things about that forum. I guess this is version 2 of The Business of Software and hopefully some great startups emerge from this forum as well.
I’ll start with a little back story : I started writing programming related blog posts around 9 months ago and managed to build up traffic to a few hundred hits every day. It might not seem like much, but it was and still is a big deal to me. Readers used to leave comments with suggestions for improvements, questions or just to say that they appreciate a particular post. Comments were powered by Disqus and all was well. One day I received an email notification from Disqus informing me that someone had left a comment on my blog. A pretty routine notification, so I opened the post and scrolled down to the comments section and noticed…six shady ads with images to accompany them. Without any warning, Disqus enabled ads on my site. Until then I never really bothered with what Disqus was doing in the background, but the ads incident made me curious. I inspected the requests that Disqus was making and it turns out that 100+ http requests, sending tracking data to 10+ external advertisers and 2MB of data transfer was required to display a comments section with 5 comments! That was my breaking point and so I promptly removed Disqus from my blog and deleted my account as well.
I did not spend time looking for an alternative until a week ago. I missed the engagement with readers, so I started searching for an alternative commenting platform. My search for an alternative turned up mainly ad supported Disqus clones or open source self hosted options which were hard to work with. The search for an alternative also made me realize that people were frustrated with Disqus and didn’t want to take the trouble of self hosting and managing an open source alternative. Some were even ready to pay for an alternative. I sense a gap in the market! So I decided to build a Disqus alternative which will be as easy to use as Disqus but without any ads or tracking scripts. I also made a note of all the people who were ready to pay for an alternative and will begin emailing them to see if my product fits their use case.
Excited by the idea of building my first SaaS product, I decided to draw up a pricing table for the SaaS.
$29/month for 200,000 pageviews
$149/month for 2,000,000 pageviews
A Custom plan for sites with greater requirements.
If there’s one piece of advice that all SaaS owners agree upon , it’s : charge more. That’s reflected in the pricing table. It’s hard to build a sustainable business on $5/month plans if you’re bootstrapped.
Great, I have a pricing table, but how do I charge users? To start with I will use Paypal and handle the subscriptions manually by generating and sending invoices manually, so it won’t be built into the web app. Why? To keep the MVP barebones. If this project shows any signs of life, I will move to Stripe and build the payments flow into the website.
Don’t worry, I did not just bore you with an idea for a SaaS with nothing to show for it. So far I have built the user registration/login flow, the landing page and I am pretty close to completing the actual commenting system itself. There’s also a little secret that I have to tell you : I reused the commenting engine that I built for a previous project. You can see the commenting engine of my previous project in action here. So I have an unfair advantage : I already built a commenting system that I just need to optimize.
Here are some screenshots:
Fast forward to today, I came across another member of this forum building a similar SaaS. Here’s the link to the discussion. In a span of five minutes, I went from “I can do this” to “I am rekt” to “huh, I should at least see this project through”. That’s my current status : a few days away from launching, but as confused as ever.
Why did I write this post? Primarily to document the process of going from an idea to actually building something that I can charge for and simultaneously get feedback as I make progress. This is the very first step. I will make a follow up post when I launch the SaaS and share the path from this point to the launch. For all you know, this could be another dud of a project which goes nowhere or it can become a meaningful SaaS in the market, or something in between. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but at the very least my journey can be useful to fellow bootstrappers!
Would love to hear any thoughts or suggestions!
Edit : It looks like new users can’t use links in posts. Is it possible for the mods to lift this restriction? Temporary links : dpaste [dot] de/a5Vq
Edit 2: New user restrictions have been lifted.