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Hi I'm Neil, we just launched our MVP (emphasis on the M...)


#1

Hi everyone,

We finally launched last our SAAS website last night!

www.simplymeetings.com

Our aim is to make internal meetings as efficient as possible, and we’re starting with a very basic meeting room calendar/booking system right now.

We’ve got lots more ideas of areas to go but we just wanted to get it into the hands of some initial test customers and get some feedback. We (my partner and I) finally got all the paperwork and payment processing done so we did a soft launch last night.

If anyone is interested in the tech stack, we’re using Rails, bootstrap (as a developer with no design skills, I love this) and Stripe for payments. We’re using Sidekiq for async background tasks and heroku for hosting. We’re also playing with intercom.io, mixpanel, grasshopper (for calls) and a few other things.

Like I said, really early days yet, we’re just getting our feet wet but we’re just happy to have something up.

Here’s how I see our task list at the moment:

  1. Get some good blog content up there. We have some great blog post ideas and a few drafts, now’s the time to get some stuff up.
  2. Start talking to our initial test users (these are friends, friends of friends that we’re giving it to free to try out).
  3. Maybe do a few small PPC campaigns to see what happens. Always be testing.

Anyway, love the podcast and this board, great to have a place to share things with likeminded people. Thanks for reading.


#2

Welcome Neil!

The product looks interesting, please keep us updated on how it goes.


#3

Hi, Neil. Nice work. I too am using Rails and Bootstrap on Heroku for my SaaS (Snip Salon Software). And my product deals a lot with scheduling like yours, but of course for different purposes.

I have some questions for you as well as some unsolicited advice. Questions:

  1. Are any of your test users using the product in a business setting? Are any of them actual owners of a business? That would of course be nice.
  2. How long did it take you to build your MVP?
  3. Is your partner also a developer or does he or she have a different role?
  4. Did you do the design? It actually looks really good, IMO.
  5. Do you have any specific sales/marketing goals (or I guess any certain goals at all)?

And for the unsolicited advice, in no particular order:

  • I wonder if your marketing plans could use some additional firming up. If you haven’t read Paul Graham’s Do Things That Don’t Scale, you might want to read that. IMO it might be a good idea to start with what I call “brute force” by doing door-to-door sales (canvassing in sales parlance) to a) build some relationships with the types of people who might use your product, b) gain firmer understanding of what exactly people are willing to pay for, and c) get paying customers. I’ve done a ton of canvassing for Snip and it’s actually pretty easy after you do it like 3 times. I have plenty of thoughts/advice on sales if you’re interested.
  • I might give some thought now - and maybe you already have - but give some thought to what people might be googling when they look for a solution to their double-booking problem. If you have a rough idea, you can use Google Keyword Planner to get some real data behind your hunches. I know I wish I would have thought about this with Snip from the very beginning. It might also be worth it to learn at least a little bit about SEO right now, even if you don’t do any significant SEO work. ([The Art of SEO][3] is good.) I wish I would have. One example of a bad mistake: I bought sniphq.com instead of, say, snipsalonsoftware.com. Having snipsalonsoftware.com would be better to rank for terms like [salon software] or [hair salon software], but I was so ignorant of anything to do with SEO that I didn’t think about this. So maybe learn just enough to avoid making any really dumb mistakes.
  • When I first started trying to sell Snip my plan was to get 10 salons using it for free at first. That didn’t go very well, but when I started charging for Snip, it got way easier to get people to use it! So I would recommend charging starting now, and I believe the internet would generally back me up on that advice. I suppose people a) perceive more value in a product that actually costs money and b) perceive you as a real business (trustworthy), not just some guy’s part-time hobby (not very trustworthy).
  • You might want to check out HARO (helpareporter.com) as a way to help get the word out about your product. They occasionally ask for tidbits from people about how to run effective meetings, etc. which would of course be subject matter relevant to your offering. I got in the Wall Street Journal via HARO.

#4

Hi Jason,

Thanks for your responses! I’ll start from the top :smile:

  1. 1 of our test users is the founder of a startup, the other is a C-level in another startup. They’re starting in earnest next week. So fingers crossed we get some good feedback!
  2. I built the MVP in about 3 months. I hadn’t done a rails app for a while. I think I could have done it in a month or so now. This was just evening and weekends though.
  3. No my partner (my girlfriend) is head of business development and sales at yet another startup! It should hopefully be a great combination for us. Time will tell :smile:
  4. Yes I did the ‘design’. Thanks for the compliment but bootstrap should really take all the credit!
  5. At the moment we’re viewing this entire process as a learning experience. We hope this will be the start of doing a few different applications but for now we’ll be happy to get some paying customers that are happy with the application. We originally talked about something to pay the rent, so I guess that’s our vague sales goal for this application!

Thanks for taking the time to provide some advice, here’s a few thoughts.

I totally agree on the door-to-door sales technique. Getting to know our intitial customers intimately is definitely something we’re planning on. This is where my partner will come into her own, she’s very happy with that sort of technique so she’s going to run with that. Always happy to hear your thoughs and advice though!

Keyword planner has been very useful, I’ve played with a few long-tail and low cost keywords just to see what happened. We’ve had a few tens of people on the site (with no sign-ups) but a very high conversion rate from landing page->plans page. For the SEO we’re hoping our blog will give us some organic ranking terms. We have a list of blog posts we’d like to write about meetings and business so we’re hoping they’ll be useful and help people find us.

Totally agreed on the ‘perception of value’ from the price that you set. That’s one of the reasons why we set our prices higher than we initially were discussing. Time will tell. We are giving the two initial testers it for free but they are friends of ours. For everyone else we have no plans to give free plans.

I’ve heard someone else talk about HARO too. I did have a quick glance but I’ll have another closer look into it. Wall Street Journal is a good feat, well done!

Good luck with Snip. I look forward to reading more about how it progresses!


#5

Hi, Neil. The product looks simple and elegant!

My question is: I’m just wondering how you see this product being used within companies that typically have systems like Outlook that handle this exact problem, but within the overall Office ecosystem.

Please note that I don’t intend to discourage you or anything, it’s just one of these things that stick in my head when I see products like this (“why would someone abandon X for Y?”), but that is completely unrelated to actual business success. :smile:


#6

Hey Roy, thanks for getting in touch!

Totally understand what you’re saying. There are a lot of companies out there that are happy with their outlook/exchange installation and have this working really well. However, there are a lot (we think!) of smaller companies who don’t perhaps have the full IT dept required to run something like this or don’t use the Office eco-system at all.

We’ve talked to quite a few friends/family etc. about how they go about this sort of thing at their jobs and surprisingly few of them use Outlook for it.

I guess our initial target audience is not to try and convince people to move away from Outlook, it’s to try and convince people who don’t have a system in place to use our simpler service than going down the Office route.

Thanks again for getting in touch, hope that let you know our thought process on this.


#7

Hi Neil, that makes total sense. For me Outlook is pretty ingrained into corporate structures, but for anyone running a smaller team that is probably not the case.

Have you also looked at making it a general meeting application (e.g. just getting friends all in one place), or would you consider this out of scope?


#8

Hi,

Yeah that’s what we think too.

As far as making the app more of a general application. We really wanted to start with something very specific. This would make it, hopefully, easier to market as we could say exactly what the product is going to do for our prospective customer. However, we’re more than willing to listen to whatever our customers want in terms of new features and we’d move wherever it seems like the need is.

Right now, we’re not sure what we’ll end up with, but at the moment we can at least pick out the specific (small) feature set in our marketing and communications.

Hope that makes sense.


#9

In my experience the more specific the problem you solve and the better defined the customer, the easier it is to market effectively.


#10

Hi Neil

This product looks like a great starting point and it’s good to see Bootstrap being used for something decent (rather than quickly thrown together affiliate sites et al!). If there is one thing I would comment on at this stage it would be your pricing - how much research has gone into the value of this product? I guess you’re targeting corporates rather than small businesses, given the fact that small businesses would probably not need to hire meeting rooms. Having said that you could sell this into offices where meeting room booking goes through reception (I’m sure you’ve thought of this!).

I’m working on my first application at the moment and looking forward to releasing the MVP in the coming months.

Good luck, and keep us updated!