How I Built A $300K/Month QR Code Management Platform As A Former Architect

Published: April 21st, 2023
Benjamin Claeys
Founder, QR TIGER
$300K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
48
Employees
QR TIGER
from New York, NY, USA
started April 2018
$300,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
48
Employees
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Benjamin Claeys. I’m the Founder and CEO of QR TIGER. We started a QR code management platform that allows people to create static and dynamic QR codes.

Dynamic QR codes allow people to track data, and also edit the content behind them even after the code has been posted.

I previously worked as an architect but I’ve always had a deep passion for technology.

Then I finally pursued that nagging dream and that’s when I ventured into my first startup which failed, and later with a friend and we created QR TIGER.

Today I have a strong team of different players with different experiences. Our company is quite profitable because we continue to grow month on month.

qrcode-tiger

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

When I was working as an architect, I went to Asia and worked on big-scale architectural projects which were in China and Singapore.

While doing this, I was kind of disappointed a little bit in the architectural industry. So I switched to technology, as I had an idea and I thought it would be great to execute something different. I’m not necessarily a tech guy, I’m more of a creative person who loves to think with creative projects and see how we can execute them and make them to reality.

So that’s a little bit of how I get into things. I’m more excited about having the idea and how we can make it work.

I would not say that I was burnt out from [being an architect], but when I was working on these big-scale projects, I ended up with some less interesting projects. They were not creative things anymore and were not the things that I would stand for.

As an architect, my financial situation was pretty stable. I was doing good. But the moment I switched to tech was where it all changed. Then of course we had to do our first startup, which eventually failed.

At that moment my financial status went a little bit down because we didn't have a working business model. I’ll be discussing more this later, as new entrepreneurs mustn’t make the same mistakes as I did.

So in the first startup, we had users, because everybody loved the free stuff that the game brought, but we didn't have a good business model. From then on, I realized how important it is to focus on revenue from day one.

The first startup was a fun idea. It was something interesting and we got a lot of attention from it. But then again it’s the big difference between a good idea and the execution of how to make it profitable. It’s a very different thing, and we failed to focus on the latter.

How did you know this was the right idea to work on? Was there an “aha” moment? How was this different from other business ideas you had?

By the time we started QR TIGER, we had no money anymore. Everybody left after the first startup tanked, and I was in debt. I only had one developer who asked me, “What are we gonna do next?” So I was like, “Yeah, what are we gonna do next?”

This was in 2018, and I saw that QR codes became more important. I looked around a little bit around and started to study the market. In hindsight, it was crazy to go from a failed startup into a new one, with a huge risk of being in even bigger financial trouble.

If you do business for a specific niche, you need to start owning that space. You need to know the product better than anybody else.

But I was crazy enough to do it, and I went into the QR code space. After building our first website, we got a little bit of traction from our first paying customers.

I started to focus more on building more features, and listening to what customers needed and built our website from there. Until now that’s still one of the key values in QR TIGER—being customer-centric. At that moment, it was just the two devs and me.

And so we did it all together, and it became more and more successful, then we started to realize that it was a working business model. We just had to learn more about SaaS (Software as a Service).

We followed experts, went to learn more, and started growing the team. I went looking for people who were competent and were able to do their jobs well. And we all did it even without investment to this day.

Another company looked to get investment for us. Back when we set QR codes in 2018, people were like, “Yeah, we don't wanna invest in such things.” No one was interested. QR codes were such a new thing. It was only during the pandemic that QR codes exploded worldwide, and now investors are suddenly knocking on our door because they realized that we have something that works. It gets a lot of traffic and also makes good revenue. But I’m very proud that we did it so far without any investment.

The pandemic was not a confirmation that I was on the right track business-wise. It was more of a thing that made QR codes breakthrough in the world. People started to know what a QR code was. And that’s the thing that made the shift. Before that, QR codes were seen as this geeky thing.

COVID made the market ready and they knew what it was, and how to scan it. And that's the success that came out of the last few years. That if you ask people, they now know what a QR code is and what to do with it. QR code uses were normalized in our daily lives.

That’s something that the pandemic changed. QR codes were already being used before COVID, but it made its breakthrough in the market. It was the thing that made people adapt to it.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

The first version of QR TIGER was just the URL QR code and data tracking feature. We built the first version which was extremely simple but it did its job, and we were able to get traction with it because we were an early player when the market broke through.

We started with almost zero budget. I had borrowed some money as we started with no cash behind it. Because of this, we had to be extremely lean with how we spend every penny that we have.

We are still lean today, as it’s one of the key elements in our company to make sure we are successful and that we keep focused on that. It can quickly derail your business if you spend so much money.

When did you start looking for investors?

In 2019, we had more customers and I started looking for investments. But then nobody was interested. It was still early and we had traction, but many investors were not convinced that QR codes would break through.

This made me realize I had to focus 100% on revenue if we wanted to be successful. I had no other choice. Plus the fact I still had debts I needed to pay off.

So in the beginning all the revenue we had went back to the company to keep it growing. It was only later on that I had a little bit more salary, and with that salary, I was able to pay off some debts which I’m now totally clear of.

Would you say that with investors declining QR TIGER, it was for the best?

Well, I think most success stories always come with failure and people don’t get many investors. I think they are the best startups because they have learned the basics of a startup well, and they don't lose those basic values. They have a much stronger foundation that way.

Once you have those basics in mind and you’ve been in financial trouble, then you know how to pivot and keep your company steady and sustainable.

Describe the process of launching the business.

We first focused on creating a lot of quality content. That’s the first thing I’d say that made us different and successful. We focused on articles, videos, and distributed that content on social media in a successful way. So I think that was half the success. We were focused on offering value and understanding the needs of our customers.

I also did customer support for the first 2-3 years full-time—just me. That’s how I quickly learned what the market wants. Because it’s not the competitors that pay you, it’s the customers that do. So listening to them and following their needs gives you a huge advantage to growing the company in the right direction.

Amazon also started by being customer-centric and focused on what the customers needed. I think that startups that listen to customers this way are the ones that end up developing a good product because they address the needs of many customers.

I’m still doing QR TIGER customer support now only if there’s a difficult question that’s coming. I no longer have the bandwidth to do full-time customer support. But I still make sure that our CSR is focusing on it, so even if I don’t do it, they're there to do it right. I trained them firsthand.

I didn’t use a credit card or loan. I was not unable to pay anything, but I did borrow some money from friends and family. We were extremely lean so I didn’t have to borrow much and I was able to pay them back in the first year.

In the beginning, we started the company with less than $10,000. Most of these expenses went to the developers. And then we did smart marketing by not spending too much. We didn’t do Google Ads, but we were spending on organic and creating good content. Those were the first things that we focused on.

As for the biggest lessons learned from starting a business… you don’t need much of a product to start, but always make sure that it gets traction. Being lean is extremely important. Being customer-centric is also very important. If you don’t listen to your customers, then you will never succeed. Listen early to your customers. Ask them whatever they think, even if you can't fulfill it yet. Make sure you create quality content, one that adds value and answers to the specific needs of your customers.

Doing a good business is not about having money. It’s about trying to make money.

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

To increase traffic and sales, we’re working on SEO, Content, and Social Media, and focusing on creating a brand identity.

Growth advice: if you do something, you need to be consistent. If you lose momentum, that’s already a big mistake. If you do business for a specific niche, you need to start owning that space. You need to know the product better than anybody else.

Go the extra mile, and do an effort for the customers to make them feel like you’re taking care of them. That’s the most important thing. It’s trying to see opportunities online where you can say, how can you move the needle by making people know that we are better than our competitors?

We use all kinds of digital media to reach marketers and help them make full use of the low-cost and effective power of QR code-based marketing.

We have a strong team of experts that focus on what they do best. We don’t want individuals overwhelmed by so many tasks all at once. Marketing is all about hiring experts and getting them to focus on what they do best.

That’s how you can get the boat to sail smoothly in the direction that you want.

What were other things you did to increase traffic and sales?

We started to build an Enterprise version later on, in 2022. We realized that customers needed more than just a QR code solution. There was a demand for Enterprise, so we focused on building that as well.

Another thing we did was to answer the need for Menu QR code. We made a new, separate software for that where people can order and pay through the software. So that’s one example of how we followed the trends and needs of customers in the market.

We also latched on to trends, and always make sure we are the first to post this.

We also focused on creating quality, optimized content that people can use as guides. We continue to write QR code statistics and data about the industry to build authority.

The nature of the product expires, so people have to continue their subscription if they want their QR codes to continue working, and so they can keep editing and tracking them.

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

Today I have a strong team of different players with different experiences. Our company is quite profitable because we continue to grow month on month.

We are growing steadily, and right now I believe QR codes are here to stay for the next ten years because people have adapted to them. And even if new technologies will come, it will still take time for people to adapt to new technologies.

Our future looks bright because we have a strong position in the market with our software, and we are one of the most advanced QR code generators for the most affordable price on the market.

Our content distribution strategies are mostly organic, but we also get leads via Google Ads. We only started with the latter three years ago, only because we already had the money to spend on ads.

As for operations, we have different people on growth, marketing, customer support, and developers. These are the main people in our operations. These are people that are doing different things, that focus on different elements.

We work with people with different expertise, but we also try to be creative and do new things and that I think is where we also stand out. We’re not afraid to try new things and see how they can help us grow.

Our goal for the short term is to keep growing the company. The long term is to build a strong ecosystem of software that all benefits within the same space of QR codes.

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

Prioritize sorting out your legal things right from the start.

It was also important for me that along the way, my intuition has been sharpened. I’ve never had to deal with any funny business or shady deals.

One of the best decisions we’ve made is in creating strategic partnerships. We always focus on being the first to come up with trending content related to the industry.

Timing is crucial. When starting a business, it’s also important to make sure that the market is ready. The luck to be exactly at the right time when the market became mature for QR codes—that's half of our success. If we would’ve done the same business earlier, say in 2015, we would not have been as successful as we are today.

We also found our market fit early. New entrepreneurs focus on products, while serial entrepreneurs focus on markets. That’s the difference. A serial entrepreneur is one who understands if the market is ready for a new product, and they focus on that.

Helpful habits as an entrepreneur would be good intuition, quick decision-making, and low hire within the company. We’re not wasting too much time on meetings, and are focusing on data. I’m also very hands-on. I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty. I know every part of the company, and I always try to dig deeper.

For instance, working as CSR day and night greatly helped us succeed in developing the product better.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Ahrefs, SEMRush, Hotjar, and for emails MailChimp and Unlayer.

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

I liked Cashvertising, as it had a lot of practical insights on how to sell your product. It also made me realize that now, marketers have it so much easier with the use of QR codes. They can now easily track their campaigns, even if it’s offline. You can just add a QR code there which can lead people to your website or sales page, and get them engaged right then and there. You can then easily track if the offline ad you posted was actually gaining some traction, and how many people have scanned it so far.

Back then, companies spent millions on TV ads only to create brand recall by repeating it on prime time. Now, the likes of Superbowl popularized the use of QR codes by getting people to take their phones out in the middle of a commercial, and scan the QR code.

Right then and there, you’ve created a digital funnel to get more leads and conversions. That’s the magic of adding QR codes in traditional media. It’s low-cost, but it gets more people engaged in your ads, be it online or offline.

I also like TK Kader specifically for SaaS. He is on social media and has podcasts and videos on YouTube. I also learn from different founders by collecting all the good advice I can get. This is advice from different Founders and CEOs who have been through it all. For me, these are Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Neil Patel, among others.

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

Listen to your customers well. Don’t be afraid to be more hands-on and get your hands dirty. Try to do as many roles as you can in the beginning, so you can really understand what’s happening and you know your customers’ problems. The more roles that you play within the company, the more that you will understand when other people are taking over that role. You will learn the troubles that they face and anticipate their problems early on. You need to be a generalist and understand things as much as you can.

You often see the following mistakes that businesses make: Not focusing on 4 types of market fits: market, product, channel, and model fit. The latter is how much people want to pay.

These 4 fits are really important for a startup. Most entrepreneurs only focus on product fit. They don’t focus on market fit or any of these other branches to form a solid foundation in their business.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We’re always hiring. But at the moment we’ve recently filled certain important positions in graphics design and content writing. We’re always hiring good writers, graphic designers, and video editors. Follow QR TIGER on LinkedIn to stay updated with our job openings.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can learn more about specific best use cases of QR codes on our QR TIGER blog. It’s all there, from how to make full use of QR codes for TV, logistics, education, government, and more.

Scan our social media QR code below and feel free to follow us on any of our social media channels. We’ve also recently launched our Stay QRious podcast as a crash course to anyone who wants to learn more about QR code marketing insights in their specific industries.

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

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