Meettrics launches on AppSumo Select

October 27th 2019 at 10:14PM the first commit of Meettrics was made. It recently launched on AppSumo select.

It started with my first hypothesis.

A well versed developer can compete with much larger and well funded engineering teams while drinking their morning coffee (a few hours a week).

Meettrics as you see it today is my morning coffee project. It only gets a small fraction of the time I could spend on it. Realistically, maybe it nets out to an hour a day I've been spending over this time period. I personally don't plan to spend a lot of hours on it for years on end. Other devs are waiting in the wings to take over the day to day.

It's important that Meettrics should not take investment. This may be surprising since I have worked in start-ups that have relied on investment for years. What I saw in start-ups is too much focus on business and finances and growth and less on building great products. In many ways, it feels like start-ups are drifting further and further away from a product focus. This could just be more gained experience to realize that everything simply boils down to dollars and cents.

Now if you are a well versed developer and look at Meettrics you will see a whole lot of problems. I see them too. Meettrics is not the best in any one discipline of myself, much less the top of the industry. It is the best on all the required domains to run a company I can do by myself (until recently). I must do support, marketing, sales, development, product, exec all at once in order to grow the product.

I say this because developers often come to me and try to learn how to develop to build their own companies. But building a SaaS company is only partly software. There is much more beyond software development required to build a company. In the end, software development might be one of the least important bits. If the sales, marketing, product, execs and all the other teams are on point, they will probably do well as a company. Bad products also can do well if they solve a crucial need.

Meettrics arrived here as a result of focusing a bit on all domains of a company. Product, development, sales, marketing, legal, design. In each of these area's we are in our infancy. However we have them all. Adding them into a growing company is a massive undertaking.

And so this is my second hypothesis:

A tightly integrated SaaS platform is better than bits of piped together external tooling.

This is the point that Meettrics is proving. I published a 0.1 version of the tech underlying Meettrics but it's been battle hardened in production now. This 0.1 version is the base framework called Olympus. We build with Ruby on Rails. It's a great framework for helping people build apps. Olympus goes one step higher and gives you the code needed to build companies. It doesn't customize on rails but offers all our different modules like encryption and GDPR compliance (although with Rails 7, Portunus is probably to be sunsetted or at least built to use the new Rails things under the hood, they are quite similar).

I've been around far more start ups than most people realistically get to experience. It explains the amount of gray hair that I have I think. It amazes me the amount of dollars spent building an integration like HubSpot. Over, and over and over. The same integration. Different company. The same requirements. Different company. If you've ever gotten funding, you know the deluge of emails of people that tracked you down to buy their software. The fresh smell the blood, err money, in the water. A fresh startup founder to exploit by selling unneeded solutions as the next key to unlocking the next phase of business growth. It never works. Only one thing does, focusing on your business.  

A start up today probably is going to use some sort of web host (understandable), email service provider to send transactional emails, an email service for communication, a support desk tool, a CRM tool, a sales pipeline tool (maybe same as CRM), a marketing automation tool, a social media manager, of course you need live chat support so toss that in, and don't forget company chat, and then error tracking app, logging applications, security applications (can think of 6 here). I'm not even struggling yet to come up with them.

By the time a company with less than 100 people gets this all set up, they become a wibble-wobbling ball of complexity with so much overhead they lost sight of the core business.

And so we get per seat user pricing for apps that don't use any data. Companies want 25 a month to send a few support emails. PER PERSON! This is insane pricing. A product like intercom which coordinates a few email and chat messages can cost you thousands of dollars a month if you have a large customer base. What small person can afford this? Why does it cost this.. it's not like they are Netflix streaming video. It's to support inefficiencies. Meettrics is already self sustaining simply because I didn't let expenses get out of control. Overall it's about 300 per month to run all in (infra and ops) at this point and that will last quite awhile.

Where does it go from here?

The next phase of Meettrics is developing what become to be known internally as 'SaaS Engine'. I love how product ebbs and flows. Olympus Framework is the core product of the first phase of Meettrics. That phase is ending and the learnings delivered. Olympus on its own is extremely valuable. It can turn a single dev into someone that can compete against bigger companies.

But it's still not enough. While bringing on some other fellow bootstrappers, I'm finding that Olympus still requires too much industry domain knowledge to utilize effectively. I find the hardest challenge is figuring out what you don't know about it. How does one even figure out what they don't know? Sure, as soon as you see what you're missing it's the most obvious thing in the world. But until then, you're searching in the dark.

And so the next phase is establishing SaaS Engine. Because after all these years, I realize that SaaS is simply a machine. One that runs on mathematical rules and principles. The great people in SaaS are the best at building these machines. Maybe they don't quite realize that they are a part of it or even building it. It's easy as any individual contributor in a company to never get a complete enough picture to see the boundaries of the machine.

I can't predict how much money your machine will make. That depends a lot on what you build and the market. But I can compare with other similar ones that have done similar things and predict pretty well the outcomes.

And so now that the launch is in the past, the next step begins. Sales and marketing automation. By the end of this year I just want to have the equivalent maintenance level of topping the machine off with gas every now and then. And the metric we will work to keep improving is the gas mileage (conversion rates). Every bit of gas (effort) we put in goes further and further (efficiency of conversions) as we build out more of SaaS Engine and optimize it further.

My current train of thought has coalesced around this final hypothesis for you:

The difference between a high performer and a low performer in any industry and position can always be measured in efficiency.

A supplemental anecdote here could be

Amateurs practice until they can do something, professionals practice until they can't get it wrong.

If you are producing a piece of clay pottery in the wheel, given enough attempts you could create a masterpiece. Learning through copying more or less. But you will also mess up a lot. And to do more than copy will also take a lot of errors. These errors are 'waste' or inefficiency. In software we don't have material costs. Companies with material costs that show visible waste understand this more. But metal is quite cheap compared to software development salaries. The waste in time in the tech industry is something I can't even begin to comprehend a measurement around.

One becomes a master by rarely messing up. Or at least, messing up at a normal rate in a harder scenario (professional sports perhaps). Mastery can always be measured in some way. This might be a bit that many disagree with, perhaps even you. While I note some merits to these arguments, I pose this question: Is one afraid to measure themselves because it exposes that they aren't the expert they see themselves as? Generally the first blocker of any startup founder tends to be getting past their insecurities. It takes a lot for a leader of a company to admit they are wandering around. And so the whole company wanders. The great leaders can admit they are lost and leverage all their resources to get not lost. What's pride when you won't make it out of the woods? This sentiment is reflected back in agile in the mentality that 'great ideas come from anywhere and anyone'.  

To conclude

I am by nature an extremely competitive person. But I want to know I won without cheating, or deception. To me, that's a loss since there is still someone performing better. I want to compete against other SaaS companies that are executing at their best. Let ideas and products win and lose once more. Not who can afford developers and who can't. Why can't developers make their own software? Let's make it easy for devs to build a SaaS company. You don't see oil painters or glass blowers or bakers bring in investment typically for working on their hobbies. Why do devs? By making development cheaper and more accessible for all, we hope we can help foster more innovation and products.

We're committed to sharing everything about how we work. Our process works for us. But it's not the normal process. In many ways it's an anti-establishment process. Many of the common start-up sayings are non-starters here. No endless annoying tech-debt discussions. Take a look, see what you like, see what things help you and use those. There's a lot that won't map to a larger company or a company that skews towards junior level. These are the processes of high efficiency. Sometimes it takes executing at a pretty high level of efficiency previously to understand them. But if you try out and understanding why we do some things the way we do, you may be a bit surprised at the results.

I hope by this time in a year we can be a sound alternative to other industry leaders in this space. Come follow along and let us know your thoughts. We love to help others build products. We aim to give everyone the generic tools we develop at no cost. Education should remain always free. And so, build on 🚀!

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