From Open Source project to SaaS product

Hi Bootstrappers,

I recently launched a SaaS service and I’m looking to gain feedback before I consider my next move. I would greatly appreciate some honest feedback from this community. Here’s a bit of background:

I have been the principle resource for maintaining the System Status Dashboard open source project for the past several years. This tool provides status dashboard services similar to the well known Google App Status dashboard (Amazon’s dashboard or the SalesForce dashboard are other good examples). The dashboard essentially provides status information and alerting capabilities for any services that you offer to your customers. One of my primary motivators for building the SaaS tool was that I was getting a lot of requests for help building the open source software in different environments so I knew there was a lot of interest from people who didn’t have the technical expertise to get it working. My business website can be found here: StatusDashboard.

I now have a couple of issues that I’m hoping to discuss:

  1. The primary referral source for the SaaS product is the open source site (or resources affiliated with the open source site) so I need to start differentiating the SaaS product, without alienating the open source community. I will continue to maintain the open source tool by performing maintenance releases and supporting the forum but my focus is shifting to the paid product.

  2. I get many customers who sign up for a trial of the SaaS product and then go and build the open source tool for free. This is not entirely undesirable because customers of either product are actually good for business but I do need to start growing the SaaS customer base.
    Any suggestions on growing the business while still supporting the open source community? I do get questions like: “Why is this feature in the paid product but not in the open source version?”

  3. I’ve spent zero dollars on design resources or marketing and my budget is limited. I definitely need a designer but want to focus only on what’s important. Should I focus on the landing page until I build up the business a bit more?

Thanks for reading my post - any and all feedback welcome.

I don’t have a lot of experience in this space, but my understanding is that one of the big driver’s of revenue for an open source project turned SaaS is in the support. I didn’t see “support” listed on the pricing page (maybe I missed it?), but any commercial entity using your product would be glad to pay some money if it means there is someone to email when things are broken.

I believe on the podcast Ian and Andrey (or maybe it was one of their guests?) have also spoken about having a “priority support” email, which is basically just an email address that gets answered before the regular support email does. Make the priority support available only to a more expensive tier.

I can understand if you’re reluctant to get into the support biz, but it’s something that’s worth thinking about if you want to grow your earnings.

Priority support is a great idea but yes, as you mention, my bandwidth is limited and I think it would probably be more of a distraction than a value add at this point. I’ll definitely keep it in mind as I grow the business a bit more.

The other big driver of revenue is the licence. If you go with a business friendly licence then businesses can use and integrate your software for free. If you go with a less business friendly licence then you have a shot at selling commercial licences to anyone wanting to include your product as part of their own one.