After reading Nick D’s latest newsletter ‘Why I work in Public’ I feel compelled to write about exactly what I’m doing right now.
A couple years ago I decided that the way to be the most happy for the rest of my life would be to someday run a saas business with recurring revenue instead of being an employee somewhere. I want to optimize my life to have more time to spend with people I care about and be healthy.
I’ve been squirrelling away every spare hour I have to work on an application to help people run online radio stations. I am using my own radio station datafruits as a model and have been using the application to run my station for a little over a year now.
Progress is definitely happening. I’ve made nearly 1000 commits to the codebase and I’ve recruited an amazing designer and generally awesome guy from New York to help out. However, the ship date still feels far away. Its not always easy but I know the key is to just consistently put in the work. It’s all about brick stacking.
The audience for this product is online radio station owners that run a 24/7 streaming station and would like to increase their listenership and reduce work involved in running their station. I’m going to offer a lot of tools that will make everything hard about running a station easy.
Even that definition seems too broad to me. I need to narrow down that niche even further but I’m not sure how to do that yet.
But what about competitors, you ask? There are already many existing solutions. Well, since I’ve been following the bootstrapper community I’ve been convinced that this is not a problem.
For some reason, people think that running a business in a space is all our nothing. You either dominate the competition or you fail. There is so much evidence to support the contrary. There are even competitors to github and large companies that are doing very well. Freckle is in an extremely crowded space and is doing quite well. Maybe I should even be worried that there are not enough competitors. Competitors are a good sign that your business idea is viable.
Although I have lots of feature ideas that I am really excited about, I don’t think you can really differentiate your business on features. Every good idea will eventually be copied and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
It makes me think of Ember.js. React and other frameworks may have had more features first but in my opinion none of them have the community and philosophy of ember that I think is going to make ember last longer than any of the competitors. At least that’s why they’ve won me over. They are playing the long game, much like bootstrapped saas.
So should you worry about competition? To me, the presence of competition signifies that the market exists. There are many types of people out there and not all of them are going to choose the dominant competitor. There are reasons that not everyone chooses github. For example , some might prefer the close customer support of an organization like beanstalk. Some might prefer the open source nature of GitLab. BitBucket integrates more closely with other Atlassian products like Jira and that may be a deal breaker for some people.
Even though it seems like these companies are all doing the same thing, I believe the reality is their audiences are in fact distinct. They have all managed to differentiate themselves from competitors in some way.
I know that running a saas is realistically going to be about 5% coding and 95% all the other things that come with running a business. So I’ve got to finish up coding the minimum features required to ship so I can shift most of my focus towards marketing. That’s when the real work will start.
Hopefully I can market through blogging and producing educational content like ebooks or courses. I admit, that seems to be a lot of what the competitors are doing.
In business you should use every advantage at your disposal. I frankly do have a lot of connections to musicians, DJs, and net labels. Would these be ideal customers or could I find ideal customers through them? Defining your ideal customer is really important. A customer that is unsuited for your service will cause numerous support issues and you will be unable to help them effectively. Patio11 has said an awful lot about the downsides of pricing saas below $20 a month and I am honestly pretty concerned about it.
If I keep trying I’m sure I will learn something. And the next business I start will be even better, even if this one fails.
I’ll keep blogging here about my progress as well as on the streampusher blog.