How We Developed A SaaS Partner Marketing Platform

$717K
revenue/mo
3
Founders
45
Employees
product
Everflow
from Mountain View
started May 2016
$717,000
revenue/mo
3
Founders
45
Employees
47.5K
alexa rank
273
subs
market size
$172B
avg revenue (monthly)
$253K
starting costs
$15K
gross margin
93%
time to build
7 months
average product price
$35
growth channels
Word of mouth
best tools
Twitter, HelpScout, G Suite
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
tips
6 Tips
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi! I'm Kanwar Dhaliwal. I’m COO, and one of three Everflow co-founders and seed investors. The Everflow platform is a tracking, measurement, and analytics tool for digital advertising. Our customers are anyone from DTC brands to ad networks to affiliate marketers, and almost anyone in between. If you’ve got an offer, then our solution can help you track and optimize its performance. It’s designed to aid marketers with understanding so that they can make informed strategic decisions about their ad spend.

The digital ecosystem has evolved drastically since we started, so we continue to iterate and evolve with our customers. We’ve been a bootstrapped company from the get-go in 2016, and today, our team of 45 is serving nearly 700 customers. Profitably.

how-we-developed-a-saas-partner-marketing-platform

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I grew up in India, and then moved to the US and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After college, I was free to follow my intuition which led me to Silicon Valley, where I got a job as a sales engineer and then as a product manager for a mobile technology company.

The growth that comes in a measured, sustainable way doesn’t go away overnight.

Through connections made in the breeding ground for innovation and entrepreneurship that is Silicon Valley, Moolah Media was born about eight years later. Moolah Media was an ad network focused on buying and selling ads that was founded, together with a third colleague, by myself and Sam Darawish, Everflow’s co-founder and CEO.

Our first hire was Jonathan Blais, Everflow’s third co-founder, and CTO. We built it from the ground up, including all of the technology – it was all built in-house. And, ultimately, we were acquired by a much bigger company called Opera Mediaworks.

Upon our exit, the next big idea wasn’t something we had to do much searching for. Frankly, we saw a gap in the market that we were already neck-deep in, and we went for it. Sam, Jonathan, and I were ready to shift away from the world of buying and selling ads and settle into building a technology platform company.

It was a no-brainer for us. We knew the space very well. We knew what it would take to build the tech to address that space. We knew a lot of the players in the space, so we knew we could put together a great team. So, we decided to disrupt the existing vendors by building the platform we wish we had when we were digital marketers.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Since Sam, Jonathan, and I had worked together in our previous company and had built the tech for it, we knew what needed to be done from the start. We came up with the prototype based on our first-hand, real-time knowledge of the industry. We had just sold to a company that would soon be amongst our target customers, so we were confident in knowing what our target market needed and that we knew how to go about it with the team we were pulling together.

A contractor created the UI in a matter of a few days, and although it is always a work-in-progress, the current look and feel are derived from that original version. We hired four people to join our CTO Jonathan on the tech side, and together they executed like a well-oiled machine. Having Jonathan as our guiding hand for bringing the first version of the product to life was crucial. It was very, very key.

Fortunately, we weren’t dealing with any heavily regulated segments of the market at the time, so we didn’t really have many hoops to jump through in terms of legal regulations. We were also fortunate to have the capital from our previous exit, so we’ve been a completely bootstrapped company since day one.

how-we-developed-a-saas-partner-marketing-platform

Describe the process of launching the business.

I’ve got to admit, I’m really proud of our approach because we were able to hit the ground running. By the time we were ready to launch the product, we had already pre-sold to a handful of customers that were willing to try it from the get-go. Those initial customers, namely ad networks, were graciously willing to bring to our attention the gaps we missed. And the rest is history: we continued to iterate and improve our platform based on what the market asked for. To this day, our business decisions remain primarily market-driven.

One of the keys to our success was not having to suffer from product inventory or product lag issues. When you build something that sits on a shelf, that’s inventory. It’s wasted time and effort. Product lag happens when you cannot deliver something particular within a certain time frame, leading to missed opportunities and thus, loss of potential revenue. Because we have been hyper-focused on the market since the beginning, we never built anything we had to toss out.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Aside from our commitment to building a great product, our devotion to customer success has been the greatest driver of customer retention, and ultimately of customer acquisition. The Customer Success team works nearly around the clock to answer live inquiries via live chat and hopping on calls with clients to troubleshoot issues and help navigate their various setups and reporting questions. Connecting with our customers at the level we do is what sets us apart.

Through no effort of our own, the dedication to customer success has turned our customers into evangelists of sorts. They refer their peers to us all the time. The growth we’ve seen through word-of-mouth and referrals is just incredible. This industry is vast, but it’s also tightly knit. If someone is not thrilled with a legacy competitor, they don’t typically keep to themselves about it. People talk, and it seems that our customers are happy to sing our praises in those conversations.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

The company became profitable after about 1.5 years in business and has been moving up and to the right ever since. In the beginning, 100% of our customers were ad networks whereas only about 15% are today. The rest of the distribution is split between about 60% direct brands and 25% agencies.

We have significant expansion opportunities with the current product, so we’re going to stay disciplined and focus on investing in it. In the long term, I'd like to be giving a heck of a lot more back to both society and our ecosystem, than taking from it. This has been something that’s been a part of my philosophy for a long time, and I think it’s part of why we’ve been so successful.

Today, we are a group of 45 full-time employees spread quite far and wide. Our tech team is based in Montreal with Jonathan and works together in the only physical office space we have. Obviously, that has been a little bit different over the past year or so, but the rest of us have always worked remotely.

Our phenomenal customer success managers are based across the US, the Netherlands, and Singapore. Our sales team is spread throughout the US and Europe, while the marketing team and other operations are also spread across the US. Typically, we get the whole gang together a couple of times per year for an offsite event, so we are really looking forward to being able to do that again!

how-we-developed-a-saas-partner-marketing-platform

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Staying true to our values has been critical to our growth. We decided from the beginning that we’d be about quality, sustainability, scalability, and reliability and that we’d prioritize positive outcomes for all stakeholders, including customers and employees. And since we don’t have external investors, we’ve been able to stay incredibly close to those cultural drivers.

It's about taking less than what you put in. This concept has a multiplier effect. If you put 100 units of XYZ into something and only take out 80, then that remaining 20 can be applied to producing more of what you want, which continues to snowball. We have not grown with a mindset to throw a bunch of money this way and see what works. We’ve made something work, focused on pain points that need addressing, and grown from there in a very meaningful, measurable way. The growth that comes in a measured, sustainable way doesn’t go away overnight. This is a concept that’s been tested and has held across the digital landscape.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

So, Everflow was launched on the Google Cloud Platform, which has been a foundational decision that has served us really well. It was a cost-effective way to build a scalable, low-maintenance infrastructure. Since we don’t have to manage our own databases, it’s literally just a matter of upgrading to more cloud space whenever it’s time to scale.

Google Cloud’s BigQuery is another foundational pillar that holds up a significant part of our platform. It’s a fully managed warehouse for analytics that lives in the cloud, again, so we don’t have to manage it and our customers get the benefit of hyper-fast response times for multi-dimensional analytics and big data insights. Every customer has their own preferences for displaying analytics, and BigQuery allows for sophisticated levels of customization.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite books. It’s a great read on risk-taking. It’s about conceptualizing how the world works: how certain people and institutions and entities succeed and others don’t. Another good one was An Autobiography: Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson, which is obviously an incredible story of great success.

Oh, and last, but certainly not least is Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. It’s a tough, long read, but definitely worth it. Clearly, I’m more of a non-fiction guy. I love how books can often distill simple but not obvious concepts and call your attention to subtle truths that we innately already know.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

Making mistakes is part of the journey. I've made plenty of them. The very first company I started completely failed because I was hyper-focused on things like logos and websites, barely noticing that I didn’t have a genuinely compelling product that gives more than it takes. If you have that baseline covered, you can get away with sub-par aesthetics like that (to an extent). Focus on the basics.

Be fair, reasonable, and good. People like working with people who are fair, reasonable, and good. And what they remember is how you made them feel. They’ll forget details, so just try to remember that. Try to put in more than what you take out.

I think the idea of an unpleasant, dictatorial leader is not as commonly true as one might think. Even the most demanding and tough leaders are fundamentally fair and good people who can motivate their teams to achieve great outcomes.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We have several positions we’re looking to fill. You can find the full list of open positions here.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Kanwar Dhaliwal,   Co-Founder of Everflow
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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