How I plan to go from 0 to $2k MRR in <4 months

March 21, 2020

Some exciting personal news: my wife and I are expecting our first child in July. And yes, I can tell you what the gender is, but then I’d have to kill you.

This life event has radically changed my thinking about launching a SaaS. I’ve realized that I no longer have an abstract, seemingly endless amount of time in which to launch something and get some MRR going.

Nope. As of today, I have three months and three weeks to reach $2k MRR. From nothing.

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I’ve been talking to my wife (my soundboard for all of my ideas, and the only reason I’m still sane) for a while about launching something I’ve been referring to as The Grand Experiment, and which I am hereby rebranding as The SaaS Adventure.

The SaaS Adventure will be a series of blog posts where I document my experiences and learnings while building a successful SaaS from nothing to $2k MRR and beyond. It’s an exercise in learning in public.

In The SaaS Adventure, there is only one rule: do not end the week with nothing. I’ll write and share about all of my progress (both mentally and financially), both to help other people and to help myself through building an audience.

I’m starting The SaaS Adventure today, since Seven Day SaaS is starting this weekend, and I’m breaking ground on a new SaaS. The timing is right.

Hence, this post. Here’s a quick summary / table of contents / outline:

  • My current situation and what I’m working on right now
  • Long-term goals: why I want to launch a SaaS
  • Short-term goals: the path to MRR
  • Actions I’m taking in order to achieve this short term goal
  • Summary

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My current situation and what I’m working on right now

I think the first thing to cover is what my current situation is and all of the different things that I’m working on right now, kind of in the vein of this post.

Here’s what I’ve got going on in terms of revenue-generating activities, whether they generate revenue now or revenue in the future:

Most bigly, I’m a full-time (40hrs/week) contractor for Zipcar in Boston (hi Doug [my manager, for non-Doug people], if you’re reading this! 👋).

I’m running the experiment called Seven Day SaaS that I mentioned above, creating and posting some content for it on a weekly basis as well as running the Slack group and moderating the subreddit for it.

I’m also running a monthly meetup for React developers called ReactRI (though this will probably be on hold for the next couple of months due to COVID-19).

I give talks at each of these meetups, and have been uploading them to YouTube.

Finally, I’m posting regularly to this blog.

All told, I’m making 100% of my revenue on an hourly basis at the moment, and doing an awful lot of work for free.

Long-term goals: why I want to launch a SaaS

So that’s where I am right now. What are my long term goals? What is my motivation for reaching MRR?

My biggest long term goal is simply this: achieving freedom to work on the things I think are important:

  • Homeschooling my kids (I was homeschooled and I plan on homeschooling: I believe it’s the best way to prepare children for success in the real world)
  • Writing novels
  • Studying philosophy, literature, history, and theology (partly to improve on the former)
  • Writing technoclassical music

These are the things that matter to me.

The only way to find the time I need to spend on them is to unlock 🔓 the time I spend working from how much I make.

As Warren Buffet said:

If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.

The path to making money while you sleep has a beautiful acronym, and it is this: MRR.

Short-term goals: the path to MRR

My first goal, which I admit is somewhat arbitrarily chosen, is to reach $2,000 MRR before my child is born.

They’re due roughly around the middle to end of July, so that gives me roughly three months and three weeks from today.

I’ve seen a fair amount of successful SaaS timelines, and this seems pretty aggressive, especially given that I’m currently working 40 hours a week. However, that’s actually pretty common: many successful SaaS applications were launched on extremely aggressive timelines (from nothing to first payment in anywhere from two days to three weeks – though some of course took much longer).

I plan on putting three hours a day into this work in the morning, from 6:00am to 9:00am. I’ll also try to put in more time on Saturdays, anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. That gives me an average of 19 hours a week.

If you do the math, I have 17 weeks before B-day. That gives me 323 hours within which to succeed. That’s not a lot of time when you look at it all laid out.

After all, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to launching a successful SaaS.

Luckily, I’ve learned many lessons the hard way already. This will be my fifth startup. Of the previous four, three were financially profitable to varying degrees. Ultimately, none of them worked out, though, and here we are.

Actions I’m taking in order to achieve this short term goal

Operating on the assumption that there are no good SaaS “ideas”, only good problems with associated solution hypotheses, I’m planning on working on two projects to start, both of which I’ve already initiated.

The first idea is a SaaS app for data engineers working in the business intelligence field. This problem was presented to me by my dad, whom I’ve collaborated with before. He’s a UX manager at a large business intelligence consulting startup.

He shared with me a problem that constrains many of the projects that he’s on, at a high level (avoiding IP issues neatly), and presented a solution he really believes in.

We’ve had a couple of calls about that already, including one today that lasted two and a half hours where we were able to define the initial POC.

This is the first idea, and the one that I’ll be working on for Seven Day SaaS.

The goal here is to build a POC that he’ll be able to show to his colleagues within the next week. He’s going to be building a pitch deck concurrently to help sell the idea. At the end of this coming week, he’ll share the work we’ve done at his company.

Over the next two weeks after that, I will also be reaching out to 200-400 data engineers on LinkedIn to get some more feedback on the tool and validate whether or not it has any legs.

My other project actually comes from a previous client of mine from back in my digital marketing days. He runs a moving business, and is suffering from an issue of importing the transactions that are sent to Stripe by his payment processor into QuickBooks for accounting purposes.

We’ve also discussed his problem, and I think that I could build a solution for him within two weeks with a combination of existing solutions and building some sort of API integration between the two.

He’s willing to pay me somewhere between $1,500 and $3,000 to build a solution for him up front, in exchange for having free access to the software.

The fact that he’s willing to pay up front is very exciting. Another thing I’ve learned is that there are a lot of tire kickers in this world, and that they’ll happily talk you to death but never pull out a wallet.

More exciting than the fact that he’s willing to pay up front however, is that he’s on the advisory board for the payment processor he uses. They work with over twenty other moving companies already, all of whom are likely suffering from the same accounting issue.

If I build a POC solution for him, there’s a good chance he’ll promote it amongst the other movers with very little effort on my part, so boom: a built in audience.

Summary

In the pursuit of $2k MRR, both of these projects seem like good directions to go. I’ve vetted them against a lot of things which I’ve learned over the last couple of years of studying how to create a successful SaaS startup.

My goal is to have validated and chosen one of these two solutions to continue working on within three weeks. I’ll put the other on the back burner and focus. If neither idea turns out to have legs, I’ll do some more ideation and talk to more people until I come up with another problem that I’d enjoy solving.

Of course, I’ll also report back here as often as I’m able, which means at least once a week (following Patrick McKenzie’s maxim of never ending the week without progress).

I think that’s everything for now. Will be posting more updates here within the next couple of days, so keep an eye out!

All the best,

Elliot

P.S. Weird flex: I wrote this post in Vim.