Not all startups are created equal. And neither are their problems. From the get-go, a startup is a delightfully horrible mix of issues, stress, sleepless nights and lost capital. Pizza money is still capital, right? Here’s what a startup faces each and every day until it grows into a business:
- Funding Issues
- High Maintenance/ Running Costs (depending on location)
- Human or Tech Errors
- Lack of Product-Market Fit
- And many more
Success Is Hard Work.
But It Pays Off.
The common element that seems to keep popping up when it comes to successful startups is persistence. Not necessarily the best solution, but the most driven team wins the game.
Bryan Goldberg had the guts to work through the tough times and ultimately sold his startup, Bleacher Report, for $ 200 million.
When I first read the article describing his advice towards young entrepreneurs, I felt unable to relate. I mean here I am, striving to build my own startup, working diligently and hoping it will turn out to be successful. But I’m a looong way from a $200 million deal.
I’m probably not the only one who might’ve felt that way. But he’s right. And, to prove it, I went to Dragos Badea for help and advice. He was kind enough to share some thoughts on his very own venture, YArooms, a meeting room booking SaaS developed within Neurony. YArooms is currently turning a profit. But it didn’t, at first. Read on to find out what he would’ve done differently, what their biggest mistake was and what you absolutely must do if you want to see if your startup can generate revenue. The same rules apply even if your business isn't a startup any longer. Any new project you take on faces the same risks, more or less.
YArooms’ Down To Earth Story
Tell me a bit about yourself, Dragos. What did you do before YArooms?
I am a software engineer, as background, so for a few years before building YArooms I worked for Neurony.
What led you to create YArooms? Why’d you do it?
I can’t take all of the credit for YArooms. At the same company I worked for, I met my partners with whom I tried a few business ideas until YArooms was born.
We were looking for opportunities in product development being convinced that the SaaS model represents a very good starting point as well as a scalable option for a business, and since we had a very strong technical background we were really just testing a few markets.
It happened to land in the space management market because of a frustrating event that happened at a company headquarters where the room got double booked. That is where the idea behind YArooms came from.
When did you start YArooms?
The first version was launched in October 2010 after two months of building what we initially planned to be a 3 weeks project.
As far as you remember, what was the toughest thing you’ve faced up to now?
One of the toughest things was to decide on closing YArooms a year after we have launched because it was not profitable, which we didn’t. We did not close it because we had the feeling that it wasn’t profitable due to the lack of commitment we had towards it, since we had other stuff to do and YArooms was a side project.
Because of this, we’ve learnt that the most important thing when starting a business is to do everything you can to confirm the idea because else you will always wonder if it could have worked.
This hesitation was what kept it alive for another year until we reached a critical customer base, now we are glad we did not give in to the fail quick approach.
Everybody’s a “growth hacker” nowadays. What smart move did you make to increase subscriptions/ user satisfaction?
There were a few of them over the years, here’s a few:
- Using a UserVoice forum to listen to what our users had to say about YArooms and what new features they’d like, then continuously including feature requests to our development timeline
- Hiring good sales people
- Offering the best support possible, powered by humans, not auto-responders
- Renewing the user interface to a modern web application with a responsive design to cover as many devices as possible
Let’s talk about monetization. How long until the money started coming in?
A year and two months, as in its first year, while in beta, the software was offered for free.
About YArooms: If you could go back in time and do something differently, what would that be?
I wouldn’t test the market with a free version of something. What we have learned from launching YArooms free while in beta was that there were companies interested in it, but we had a big surprise when we switched it to a paid model as no one used it anymore. We have basically tested a different market than the one we were aiming for.
Another thing I would do different is hire a sales person from day one if there’s anything to negotiate on. Currently YArooms uses a pay as you grow model, with less sales needs, but in the past it needed strong sales activity and we hired too late.
A word of advice to young entrepreneurs (like yourself) and freshly-launched startups?
Try not to force fail if there’s still a chance that your business will gain traction.
Do not launch a free product if you plan on selling it in the future, it will only cause frustration to early adopters.