Small Tech Business #5 - Early customer growth, Cheaper Heroku alternative, Mental health of founders

Week of 9/27/2020

Small Tech Business is a weekly newsletter for people looking for inspiration and learning around starting their own small internet or technology business.

Content of the Week:

1) Early B2B SaaS growth: How to go from 10 to 100 customers

by Steli Efti - Blog Post 📰 (5 min)

Building a B2B SaaS business is a great fit for someone trying to start their own small tech business. It allows you to target a small, niche market and allows you to focus on your early customers. Businesses are much more willing to pay more per month for a product as long as it helps them make money, this allows you to charge more and go the extra mile with customer support.

The author breaks down some easy to digest steps around sales strategy for early stage businesses. Topics covered include: identifying your best customers, short-term vs long-term sale tactics.

Most new businesses use short-term sales tactics to get their first 10 customers. That’s great at the start but terrible for sustainable growth. Transition to more long-term plans as you grow.

2) How We Failed Our Way to a Day on the Front Page of Hacker News

by Alex Turnbull - Blog Post 📰 (6 min)

Knowing how to make the most of potential free sources of traffic and marketing is crucial for many small tech businesses. The first step is doing research and finding the right online community for your product (an easy example: Hacker News is the perfect community to share content that adds clear value to developers). In this post, Alex covers avoiding key mistakes that many fall into. Some great general learnings for someone hoping to share something online.

Here’s the best part: of the 96 free trial signups, 12 converted to paid accounts after their 14-day free trial. A 12.5% conversion rate. Certainly not a statistically significant data set, but it does get me excited to do more testing.

3) Pricing low-touch SaaS

by Patrick McKenzie - Article 📰 (12+ min)

Patrick McKenzie has been a thought leader for the indie founder community for some time now, you may know him via his excellent posts from his blog, In this article, he does a deep dive around how to properly price your low-touch SaaS application. By “low-touch”, he means software that doesn’t require a heavy sales process or funnel to convert customers. This category of SaaS is well suited for small tech businesses. He covers general pricing strategies as well as more specific strategies based on your target customer.

I’d encourage you to experiment often and boldly with pricing, as it is the easiest needle to move in your company. (The tendency of most SaaS companies is to set prices without much consideration and leave them alone for years at a time. I’d encourage you to revisit them quarterly.)

4) The Command Line Comeback

by Gaby Goldberg - Article 📰 (6 min)

Another excellent piece by Gaby Goldberg that dives into a growing trend where command line-like functionality is finding its way back into products like Notion and Slack. Great insights that might help guide the feature-set for your own product.

The transition from the CLI to the GUI abstracted away the laborious verbal communication between humans and computers and replaced it with visually appealing, expensively designed interfaces.

At its core, the UI pattern of the command line is fast, learnable, and empowering, making even non-developers feel like next-generation hackers.

5) Discover a new podcast aimed at indie founders

by Courtland Allen via Indie Hackers - Indie Hackers Thread 🌐

If you are a fan of the Indie Hackers Podcast and you want to find more podcasts that also focus on indie hacking, then this thread is a great way to discover some up and coming podcasts.

6) Render, much cheaper alternative to Heroku

by Anurag Goel - Product 📦

Heroku is a tool that many small tech businesses use to deploy their applications. It's super easy to get started with, but it can become quite expensive once your application needs to scale. Render aims to provide the same service at an over 50% discount. Render achieves this by avoiding the costs of offering a free tier and instead just charging a more reasonable margin with each instance. Keeping costs low is crucial for many early stage small tech businesses.

In the News:

From the Archives:

The Psychological Challenges of Being a Founder with Dr. Sherry Walling of Zen Founder

by Courtland Allen via the Indie Hackers Podcast - Podcast 🎧 (1 hr 2 min)

Mental health is already something that we as a society don’t address enough, but as a founder there are some unique challenges that are really important to be aware of. This podcast episode dives into important topics that are often ignored when talking about starting a business.

It’s such an important conversation to have, to recognize the deep entanglement between who you are as an individual and who your business is as an entity. For most founders, those things are not easily separated. That means that as your business rises and falls, as there are highs and lows, so goes your emotional life. So goes your sense of your self and your identity.

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Written and curated by Justin Chu (@jstnchu)