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?
It’s tempting to think you can do it all, but early-stage SaaS startups take a lot of focus, and having too many ventures that require a high-level of dedication is a quick path to burnout.
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That skill is apparent in how Tristan and Nick have been able to rapidly grow UsabilityHub into not only a full-time gig, but a growing company with customers like Amazon, Google, and Asana.
Selling Paydirt allowed Tristan and Nick to fully focus on that amazing business growth, and Paydirt now has a team at SureSwift fully focused on its growth. It’s a true win-win.
Recently we chatted with Tristan and Nick about what it was like to start and run Paydirt, when they knew it was time to sell it, plus how things are going at UsabilityHub.
An Interview with Entrepreneurs, and Paydirt Founders, Tristan Gamilis and Nicholas Firth-McCoy
What was the number one reason you decided to start your own business?
We started Paydirt as a side hustle while doing contract website and web app development together. We’d always wanted to build a product. We knew we’d learn a lot about design, development, product, marketing, sales, support, and running a company.
We also wanted to build a recurring source of income, and be able to focus on a single product for an extensive period of time, rather than shipping a web app that we’d been contracted to build for a customer, then moving on to the next thing.
When you were deciding on the tools that you were going to use to run Paydirt, how did you pick those? We’d love to hear more about this.
Most of the tools we used to run Paydirt were ones that we’d used previously when doing contract web app development. Cost was definitely a consideration, but we were also looking for tools and services that were easy to use, well known, and reliable.
Paydirt was built with Heroku, Stripe, Ruby on Rails, Backbone JS, and later React JS.
Once you had money coming in and you knew this product just might work, what was your goal? Was it hitting certain MRR number was it selling it? Tell me a little about what your plans were once you saw that Paydirt could generate real revenue.
Our initial goal was to grow MRR to a point where it could provide us with a stable income source, and allow us to stop doing contract work to supplement our income. We wanted to be able to focus on Paydirt full-time.
When did you know it was time to sell Paydirt?
Our other product, UsabilityHub, was needing more and more of our attention every day. We had a third co-founder working with us full-time on that project, and a full-time employee, and it got difficult juggling both products.
As a result, we ended up neglecting Paydirt for over six months. We were still handling customer support, but we didn’t have the bandwidth to do anything more than that. We didn’t want to leave the product to stagnate, so we decided to pass it over to someone who could give it the time and attention it needed.
Tell me a bit about the selling process, what were you looking for? How did you know who to trust?
The selling process was extremely straightforward. We’d set the business up so that it would be as easy as possible to sell and hand over. All the books were in order, the tech we were using was pretty standard, and our back-end architecture was very simple.
We worked with a business broker (Joe Valley from Quiet Light Brokerage) to find potential buyers, and he facilitated the sale to SureSwift. The SureSwift team handled the due diligence and handover very professionally, and everything went extremely smoothly.
We assisted with answering the team’s questions for the first couple months, but there was really very little involvement from us, which meant we were able to focus on UsabilityHub fully pretty soon after the sale.
We’d expected that finding a buyer, doing due diligence, and handing over the day-to-day operations was going to be very difficult. If we’d known it would be as simple as it turned out to be, we probably would have started the process of selling Paydirt sooner than we did!
When Paydirt found a new home with SureSwift, what were you hoping for its future?
We were looking for someone who would take care of our customers and grow the business, while taking the technology to the next level. Through those two things, we hoped to see it really become a leader in the freelancer market.
Really, we were looking for someone to pick up where we’d left off, and continue to grow and improve the business. We knew that Paydirt had a lot of potential, but we just weren’t able to take advantage of that ourselves as we lacked experience in key areas (marketing and sales), and couldn’t justify taking our attention away from UsabilityHub. We didn’t want to continue neglecting our existing customer base.
It’s great to know that the team at SureSwift has been taking care of both the business and customers, and keeping things ticking along nicely.
What are you working on now?
We’re fully focused on UsabilityHub, an online user experience research platform that helps designers, product teams, and marketers learn more about their customers and validate their decisions. We’re currently expanding our product team, and have an exciting roadmap lined up for the next iteration of the product.