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Generating SaaS ideas


#1

TL;DR - How do you/did you find ideas for a SaaS and or do you have a problem you’d like someone to solve? Rambling incoming, you were warned :slight_smile:

Currently I run a mobile app business that is doing decently, but I’d really like my next project to be a B2B SaaS app. There are a lot of good things about the mobile market, but there are also plenty of negatives. Having an ARPU of 70 cents can be problematic, though it isn’t the biggest problem. For me that is seasonality. Part of that is due to the nature of my apps and part of it is due to the nature of the store. Some months I make double or triple what I used to make as an employee and some months I make half. Overall it has been a great experience, but I’d like to smooth things out a bit.

I’m hoping a B2B SaaS app could help stabilize revenue a bit. Recurring revenue on the order of $50-$200 seems almost too good to be true when I currently sell things 1 time for between Free-$1.99.

Question is, how do you find the idea for a problem? Most of what I read says look at problems you have. I currently have 1 for my business (reporting), and that is solved beautifully by someone else (appfigures, that I happily pay each month).

The second suggestion I’ve seen is to go to friends, and I’ve done that as well. So far I’ve gotten 1 response that I’ve discussed quite a bit (and am considering) but I have no idea if the market is there for it. I’m just not quite sold on it yet, but if I don’t think of anything else I’m likely to try it in the next few months.

Any other ways of looking for ideas? Also, good recommendations on validating markets could be useful as well so I don’t waste time on something with a market of 1.


#2

B2B? You should get inside the business you want to sell to. I’m doing contracting, so I see the big businesses from inside. Pretty much everything is broken over there… not to say it is easy to replace it with your own good stuff though.

If I were you, I’d choose an industry I’d like to produce something for, and then spend some time reading the relevant blogs and forums. I bet you’ll read a lot of complains and problem statements.

Good luck!


#3

Find people who fit a narrow customer target. Spend time talking to them about their business.

I wrote about customer development interviews recently. It covers the stuff it would be helpful to know before starting this process, but after that you just have to start talking to people who fit a narrow customer profile.


#4

Make sure you study in detail what you’re getting into - it can get very tricky. I almost started a company that was related to real estate and i quickly realized i didn’t know enough about the business to make something successful.
Also look into the competition, these days every small niche is covered so it might be difficult to compete with established businesses (but not impossible).


#5

This is the phase I’m in right now (finding and validating saas ideas). “Find your ideal customer”, and “do what you know” everyone says. The problem for me is that I can think of 100 niches that answer those 2 questions and I could see myself building a product for (and becoming an expert in, with some work). How can you evaluate each one? I don’t think you can, not without some effort.

So I think you just have to pick one and start validating. Choose a niche and find out how to get in touch with your would-be customers and talk to them. Stick with it until you can get some good information. If you do a bunch of work, and don’t come up with any awesome “product/market fit”, move on to another one.

I’m not sure there is much more to it than trial and error. This is tough because [potential] customer development is not something I equate to building a product business, and it just feels like you are not moving forward. I’m still learning as I go, but here is my take on the process:

  1. Choose industry/market
  2. Talk to customers to find a problem.
  3. Validate the problem has customers willing to pay (or even get them to pay, as some people do)
  • If it fails, go back to #1
  1. Now you can start developing a product.

Thanks @grayj - I just skimmed your post and it looks good, definitely will come back to read it. There seems to be quite a lack of ‘how to’ info on this type of stuff.


#6

I can only speak from my experience here and I don’t think there’s any real methodology that works across the board. Most people I know sort of “fell in” to their product.

For me, finding a product that works is a huge process of constantly making things.

I’ve got a few pretty solid B2B SaaS products now, but I’ve built hundreds of other things in the process. Some small apps, some huge undertakings. Some failed miserably, some were acquired, some were sort of income-neutral (ie. they didn’t move the needle for me so they weren’t worth keeping around).

But they all played a role in figuring out not only what other people actually wanted, but what I was interested in building.

It’s extremely difficult and risky to just sort of pick a problem out of thin air.

What’s less risky, and the path I take (and recommend) is to try to find a flow that’s a bit more natural. Look for smaller problems around you. Frustrations you’ve had. Frustrations your friends have had. Things that are time and money drains. Then figure out ways to alleviate those frustrations and save time and money. Boom. You’ve got a business. Because if there’s anything other businesses pay for it, it’s solutions that save them time and money.

Your first idea may be bad or you may do a bad job of executing it, but that’s 100% okay (and is honestly the likely outcome). But the more you build and the more you explore this stuff, the more ideas will pop out and the better you’ll get at working with businesses and solving their problems.

So, final take away here is this: make stuff.


#7

I’ve not shipped a saas product (only 1 small mobile app), so take this with a grain of salt. Just sharing some of my thoughts related to the things I’m learning.

There’s some good advice in this thread. And, believe me, my dream is to have saas products too.

But, I’m curious if you’ve thought about other options that could also smooth out your app sales revenue?

For example, given your success in the mobile market, I’d bet you could build a lot of trust within the mobile developer audience. See if they have pains that can be solved with non-saas offerings like templates, ebooks, workshops, etc. These won’t have the uptime or maintenance pressure of a saas product (sure you need to keep them up to date, but seems less stressful).

As others have said, I think the most successful ideas will come from observing your target audience and offering them a pain-killer, be it a saas product, or something else.

For me, I struggle with actually choosing an audience/domain… that’s my focus right now.


#8

I have thought about several other ways of smoothing the app revenue, and I’ve actually been working on them this year. I’ve just finished one productivity app, and I have a game and utility app coming out in the next month or so. I’m hoping these apps that aren’t seasonal will help a bit in the fall and winter. I’m also working on an ebook that is close to being done. Hopefully these will help, but none of them get to the heart of the matter, and that is recurring revenue. I’d like to have at least some sort of idea of how much I’m going to make next month, or at least that I’m going to make something. Starting every month with 0 in sales can be scary at times.

Thanks to everyone for the replies and ideas. I guess choosing the industry/market is the move I have to make next. The area I know the most about is small enterprise software companies, and that is where the idea I currently have resides. Anyone here run a small enterprise software company and want to chat about your problems?


#9

I don’t think you have to evaluate all of them. For starters, you can probably eliminate half or more by simply asking yourself, “Do I give a crap?” I’m not going to jump on the “find your passion” bandwagon but I will say that if you don’t at least care on some level about making your prospective customer’s world easier with the product you create it will be difficult to see it through to the end and even harder to survive having to maintain and support it.

Ideally, I like to take on projects that make me feel like a hero - even if being a hero simply means building something you can code in your sleep - so long as it’s for someone who’s daily living will be made notably better than it was before I came along. (High standards, yes, but it keeps me from building “yet another [INSERT STANDARD APP TYPE HERE].”)

I suspect now that you are seriously looking for an idea you’ll start to pick up on things you may have blown off in the past. For example, my 20th wedding anniversary is coming up soon and I was calling around inquiring about reservations for a weekend getaway. At one place in particular, the woman answering my questions seemed a bit frustrated and kept apologizing saying, “we’re still on paper” meaning all their reservations were hand written for each of their cottages.

My first thought was, “I can fix that for you!” and had I been at a point where I was ready to take on a new project you can bet I would have learned more about their situation. This goes for lining up client gigs as well as product ideas. The line of questioning is just different.

Start listening for keywords in conversations that suggest that something you have the power to build can make someone else’s shoulders come down. Only then would I recommend interviewing scores of people for validation.


#10

For me all my ideas come from being the new kid on the block in antiquated sectors. Find a sector that has gotten bloated and/or locked in and offer a personal artisan solution that flashes all the cool new gadget support.

A new product I am looking at developing is in a space where a potential client literally just bought a $30k competitor and said he would switch to new laptops and tablets (the software is enterprise XP only…)