When you’re starting a software business from scratch, there are a ton of options for how to build it, and as with anything else, there are trends that come and go, and lots of “experts” who claim one platform or language is superior to all others (although none of them seem to agree). This makes it easy to find yourself stuck in analysis paralysis, get sucked into the excitement of learning something new, or over build too early. Acquiring and running more than 30 online businesses, we’ve learned a lot about what to do and what not to do when it comes to your SaaS tech stack.
How an Opera Singer and a Software Engineer Built a $55k/mo SaaS Ed Tech Business from the Ground Up
Back in 2017 Danielle Simpson had an unlikely bio for a SaaS founder. She was an opera singer auditioning for roles and side hustling as an online ESL teacher. That side hustle quickly turned into the startup FeedbackPanda, when she realized how inefficient and time consuming it was to track course work and feedback for dozens of students. In about a week, her boyfriend (and software engineer) Arvid Kahl built a prototype to help her create feedback templates she could reuse, and reports to track courses and students. They opened up the platform to other teachers, and let them share their templates with the whole community. In just a couple of years, they had a bootstrapped, $55k/month SaaS business. Earlier this year they made the decision to sell, and in July it became official: FeedbackPanda is the newest member of the SureSwift portfolio.
Recently we sat down with Danielle and Arvid to chat about what it was like to build their business from the ground up, how they knew it was time to sell it, and what they’re planning next.
We’re stoked to announce a new addition to our portfolio with the acquisition of FeedbackPanda, an Ed Tech SaaS business, which was founded by Danielle Simpson and Arvid Kahl in 2017.
When you talk to Mack McConnell, it’s clear that he’s a guy who was never going to have a “traditional” career trajectory. He’s traveled the world (ask him what his weekend plans are and he’ll probably say, “Actually, I’m just about to get on a flight to Morocco!”), he’s pretty much always starting a new side project or business, and he drops phrases like, “… so then I just moved to Paris.”
But if you hear those things and think he’s full of bluster or ego, you’d be 100% wrong. He’s all hustle, humility, and curiosity — qualities that helped him build his craft spirits subscription club business, Taster’s Club from an idea into six figures of MRR over the course of several years. We caught him recently between trips to exotic locales to chat a bit about how he started and grew Taster’s Club, why he ultimately decided to sell it, and what he’s up to now.
A little over four years ago, SureSwift was just a couple of co-founders with an idea. Today it’s a rapidly growing portfolio of more than 30 online businesses, managed by a fully remote team of 80 people working across 14 timezones. Hear from co-founder and CEO, Kevin McArdle, about how we got from there to here.
Spoiler alert: There’s no “recipe” for a great startup founder. And anyone who tells you that you just need 7 habits, or 10 qualities, or any other magic number of things is probably more concerned with selling ad space than mentoring founders. Great leaders come in many different forms, with different backgrounds, strengths, and areas of expertise. But some patterns do start to emerge when you look at a big sample of successful founders — especially in the bootstrapped business model. Being in the acquisition business we’ve had the distinct advantage of purchasing more than 30 companies and reviewing hundreds more from behind the scenes. These are a few things we’ve noticed along the way.
There are a lot of great businesses out there that can benefit thousands of potential future employees and customers that need some help getting off the ground. But the typical funding paths and assistance available to startups don’t work for the vast majority of founders. The majority of venture capital funds and accelerators create one successful business in 20. Sure, small business loans are available — but banks don’t offer any support or advice when it comes to running or scaling your business. That’s exactly why Earnest Capital was created: To offer a new model of startup business funding and accelerator guidance specifically for bootstrappers.
Hiring your first employee is an exciting, and potentially stressful time for any business. Expanding your team beyond the founders means your company is bringing in enough money to grow, and having help means you can work less in the business and focus more on the business from a strategic level. But if you’ve never hired or managed anyone before, how do you find the right people for your team? We’ve got all the details for you including where to post your jobs, how to filter applications, interview questions, and more.
We came up with this list of 15 of the best books for bootstrapping entrepreneurs by asking our own team of founders for their personal favorites. These are the titles that came up over and over because they’re like playbooks for running your business better. From classics to new releases (and even a little inspiration outside of the business section) we’ve got something for every entrepreneur’s reading list. Eyes blurry from staring at your screen? Relax, we have links to the audiobook versions, too.
When Tristan Gamilis and Nicholas Firth-McCoy launched their SaaS startup, Paydirt, an online time-tracking and invoicing tool for freelancers, they were also running a website and app development company. Later, they added another SaaS usability startup to their already busy lives. Eventually they faced the question many entrepreneurs will: Which business ventures to dedicate their attention to? And what to do with the rest?