How I Grew My SaaS 5x In Just One Year [Solo Founder]

Ali Salah
Founder, Instatus
$10K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
2
Employees
Instatus
from Cairo, Egypt
started June 2019
$10,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
2
Employees
388K
alexa rank
1
followers
891
followers
33
subs
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

I’m Ali Salah, a 29 y/o developer from Egypt. I quit my job and created Instatus, and it was featured on StarterStory a year ago. It’s lovely to see how much Instatus has grown since!

Instatus helps you create a status page to share your current status with customers and notify them about your outages. Early communication helps you avoid customer frustration and build customer trust.

Instatus is currently making ~10K MRR and growing around $500/mo. You can always follow my progress.

instatus

Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

Instatus has grown 5x since we last talked!

We’re now 10K MRR, 350+ paid customers, and 16K+ total users!

To fuel this growth, we released a new Business plan ($300), and slowly started adding features for business and enterprise customers that are exclusive to higher tiers.

instatus

We also started showing options for bigger customers to contact us, get a demo and initiate a sales process. Also working on security and policy requirements of these bigger companies. Hired a 3rd party testing agency to get an independent report about our security, and will start working on acquiring SOC II security certificates.

instatus

We started investing much more into content marketing with embarque.io. Search engines are the second top source of traffic and we’re working to make it first!

instatus

We took an investment from Calm Fund, and slowly expanding our team (currently 2 full-time employees and 2 part-time) It’s important to note that I’m not depending on funding for team growth, but I treat it more like a safety net. Making us able to be a bit bolder in spending and growth, but still mainly dependent on revenue.

The team is helping me build new features, customer support, as well as new adjacent products like incident response and monitoring. This will make us available for many more types of audiences, and we’ll be able to help current customers with more things and be able to provide more value.

I stopped investing in any ads (was doing Google Ads). I think long-term, it’s better for us to invest in building a better and more fully-featured product + content marketing that lasts in the future.

We just released an affiliate program, a startup offer, and working on a new traffic source (Instatus Now).

instatus
Instatus Now

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Instatus Affiliates

These are too early to contribute results, so I’ll report on them later! (Maybe with the next StarterStory update?

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

The main challenge is working on things that I don’t particularly enjoy, like replying to customer support requests, hiring people, doing demos, managing an email that’s getting bigger, writing documentation, and working on boring bugs and issues.

I was talking to my investor’s representative, and he suggested hiring customer success people, and I did, and it’s working!

I still do a lot of that stuff, but in much lower quantities, which makes my work and life more enjoyable.

Start with a simple project. Build a muscle of shipping. Then work on bigger ones.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

My biggest learning is to hire slowly and fire quickly.

I didn’t the courage to do my first fire! It was a terrible struggle experience, but I had to do it because we weren’t a good fit. I consider it my fault though. I wasn’t able to choose the right person for the position because I didn’t have any experience in hiring.

Since then I started making the interview process much more lengthy with more objective quantitative tests. It’s now 4 steps: An online exam, then a zoom interview to talk about their experience and CV, then a programming task, then a pair programming session in which they add a feature to their task.

Maybe I’m overdoing it, but I don’t want to have to fire another person. At least I want to make sure that I did my best in choosing the person.

Another learning is to try to release stuff with higher quality that has no loose ends. Ship features like you’re not going back to improve it later. Because there are too many things to work on and you’re probably really not going back!

It’s ok to save time by releasing smaller features. Just make sure that it’s a high-quality user experience with no bugs.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

The mission of Instatus is to help developers build great things without breaking things.

We want to be the place that helps developers discover when there’s an issue, help them fix that issue, and communicate it with their customers.

Upcoming year:

  • Release monitoring and incident response (two adjacent markets)
  • Release a new secret separate product

Next 5 years:

  • Best the best and most popular product in the three categories

What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

How to make your business ready for bigger customers:

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

Stop consuming and reading stuff, and start experimenting and building.

Start with a simple project. Build a muscle of shipping. Then work on bigger ones.

You don’t have to build an exciting new idea. Stripe, Figma, and Superhuman are all boring ideas. What makes a product exciting isn’t the idea, it’s you!

Be open-minded and don’t stick to a route. Choose bootstrapped or VC backed based on opportunities and on what you and your product need.

As you grow your team, try to avoid focusing on your output, and instead focus on making good choices, clearing roadblocks, and creating a clear direction for them.

Where can we go to learn more?

-  
Ali Salah, Founder of Instatus
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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