Bootstrapping to 2k MRR with Mike Slaats from Upvoty

Mike Slaats from Upvoty talks about his journey to $2k MRR and how you can do it too!

Bootstrapping to 2k MRR with Mike Slaats from Upvoty

Hey there! My name is Mike. I’m 33 years old, I live in The Netherlands, and I am the founder of user feedback tool Upvoty. I started my first business when I was 19 years old: an online marketplace for home improvement. I grew that business into a 7-figure business and I’m now building my first SaaS.

What are your stats as of today?

We’ve launched publicly in February ‘19. Within 6 months we hit $1,000 MRR. Right now we’re at $2,500 MRR and with this speed, I’m projecting an MRR of around $10,000 before the end of the year.

Congrats on the 2k MRR! How’s the journey been?!

Woohoo! Thanks! The journey has been great. Upvoty started out as a side-project but when we hit $1,000 MRR, within just a short period of time, we knew we were on to something. Hitting $2,000 MRR feels amazing and is another validation of our product.

Tell us a little about Upvoty!

Upvoty is a user feedback tool. With our embeddable widgets, you can integrate a product roadmap and/or feedback boards seamlessly into your product. This way you can collect and manage feedback in the most efficient way. You can communicate the progress on feedback and update new features with just 1 click to all of your users.

How’d the idea for Upvoty come to mind?

When we were working on our previous product, an online market place for home improvement, we grew to over 15,000 users. With a lot of users, your user feedback quickly grows as well. We needed to find a way to collect and manage user feedback in a proper and efficient way. When I did some research on existing tools, I really couldn’t find one that was either affordable or nice-looking. So, one day, we decided to build one of our own. I guess this is your typical “scratching my own itch” story here.

How’d you validate Upvoty and get those initial customers?

Based on my previous experience, I knew that an idea is just an idea in your own head. I know how important it is to validate the idea first. So, to see if our new product was a viable product for other businesses as well, we put up a landings page, I created a fun little character (just so our product would immediately stand out) and made an animation video.

Animation video for Upvoty

Below the video, there was an email subscription box. We launched on BetaList and a couple of other websites. Within 3 months we had more than 300 sign-ups.

It was then when we started to work on the tool. Before we wrote any line of code, the idea was validated by the market.

We launched a really basic prototype in November ‘19 in private beta. Around 30 companies participated in the trial, which they could use for free for 3 months. In this period we learned a ton about who our ideal customer was and which features we needed to build (of course we used our own product to collect feedback 😎). This helped us launch successfully in February ‘20. We opened our first month with $200 MRR immediately.

Let’s talk about your marketing strategy -- how do you market Upvoty and grow the service?

In our first year, we learned a lot about our customers. Who they are, what they were looking for, and how we could reach them. While we mainly focus on building a better version of our product, we tend to focus on 2 things in particular to grow our customer base:

  1. Content marketing: We write a lot of blog posts, guests posts, interviews, and more on relevant topics and websites
  2. Marketplaces: We see a lot of traffic and sign-ups coming from marketplaces of other relevant tools like Slack, Intercom, and Zapier. Since we’ve launched our extensions and integrations on their marketplaces, our ICPs tend to find us much easier. The thing is: Your product can be as good as you think it is, but if it doesn’t fit in your customer’s workflow, they won’t use it. These integrations are crucial.

One big tip I can add to this: Add a ‘book a demo’ button to your website. We signed our first enterprise because of this. We don’t do any outreach at the moment, but bigger companies are more likely to use our product if they can book a demo and see the product first themselves.

What are the biggest obstacles you’ve faced when founding and bootstrapping Upvoty?

Coding the product and dividing my time between Upvoty and my other business.

I can’t code myself so firstly I needed a developer who was capable of making such a product. Luckily, we now have a team of developers who are fully committed and making it all work out.

You’re a very busy person - what’s your workflow like for Upvoty?

If you follow me on Instagram, you could think I’m a busy person. In a way that’s true, but most of the hard work is done by other people. I can’t code, I can’t write really awesome blog posts, I can’t design, but what I do can is mapping out a vision and validating each stage of the product in order to make it better and more valuable for our users. Over the years I managed to build a great team around me and I know how to communicate my vision on the product with them.

My workflow: I work with Upvoty (duh!) to collect user feedback about the product. I use Asana to map out all the projects, and I write them down in detail in a Google doc for our development team.

What are your plans for it in the future?

I want to sell my other business in order to focus even more on Upvoty. I believe we can make this the best user feedback tool out there and I enjoy working on Upvoty the most. It’s already a great product, with great customers, but we can do so much more. There’s so much potential and it’s just that what gets me up in the morning these days.

What have been the biggest takeaways from your experience as a maker? What are the biggest lessons?

The 2 biggest lessons I’ve learned in more than 10 years of entrepreneurship: always validate every aspect of your business and narrow down your target audience.

I love this quote: “If you’re selling to everyone, you’re selling to no one”.

This is so true. Especially when you’re starting out. Go figure out who your target audience is. Then narrow it down. Even narrow it down some more. A specific target audience is going to help you figure out what your product needs, what the potential is, and it will help you do marketing and sales a lot easier because you know exactly what to say and to whom.

By validating each stage of your product, from the idea to the first launch or your newest feature release, you’re working with real data. Don’t just build a feature you might think will work. Ask your user! And - more importantly -  ask them why they need it. Understand their needs and problems. Upvoty is a great way to do that by the way 😉.

Well, slightly off topic, but as tradition we ask makers to share the music genre or playlist that motivates them.

When I need motivation I always play ‘Lil Keed - Nameless’. I will shamelessly sing the part “Let’s go, Let’s go” in the office aloud. When I need to focus I love game music. It’s created to let you focus on the game itself, so it’s actually the perfect music to listen to when you need to focus on your work. I created my own playlist with my favorite tracks on Spotify: ‘Just focus’.

As always, closing question: What advice would you give other makers out there?

Validate your idea and throw it out there in the world. I see too many makers just making, but in the end, it’s about shipping. I saw this quote the other day on Makerlog: "The only people who never fail are those who never try." I think it should be a permanent quote in the header of the site. It’s really that important.

Closing remarks

Follow me on Makerlog, Instagram, and Twitter. I share my lessons learned and behind the scenes almost on a daily basis.

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