Peter Peter - Founder, UserActive

The Growth Journey To 1M ARR As A 20-Something SaaS Founder

The Journey to 1M ARR As A 20-Something SaaS Founder

This week, we talked to Bart-Jan Leyts, the Founder of Otamiser. The 24-year-old shares the transformational journey after becoming a founder at just 21.

Check out all our SaaS Founder Interviews here on our YouTube channel.

Otamiser helps hotels to achieve top rankings on platforms like booking.com, Airbnb, and Expedia, unlocking higher booking potentials.

Bart-Jan shares with Peter:

  • How he started with entrepreneurial spirit wanting to make a little money and ended up managing a team of almost 20
  • Why he uses the “First sell it, then make it” approach
  • Plans to broaden their market and where the company will go next

Introduction

Peter Loving: Okay, so I’m here today with Bart-Jan Leyts from Otamiser but good to meet with you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are and what do you do?

Bart-Jan Leyts: Hi Peter, thanks for having me. So my name is Bart-Jan I’m the founder of Otamiser, is the first ever ranking management solution of the hospitality industry. That sounds a bit complex. But what we do in general, we optimise the rankings that the hotels have on the platform like booking.com, like Airbnb, like Expedia. So whenever a traveler searches for a certain area, we make sure that our clients are listed on top, so they’re chances of bookings increase.

Peter Loving: Okay, I also noticed one thing on your website about dynamic pricing. Do you help them adapt the pricing of their rooms according to how busy things are on seasonal changes?

Bart-Jan Leyts: Exactly. So that’s something we also do, but this is not our USP. We connected because we see that the price you ask, of course, has an impact on where you are displayed and then ranking, so we connect it. We see okay. If you want to stay high you have to go below this threshold of pricing etc. So we built a feedback loop that’s ranking is a very important aspect of dynamic pricing. Not that it’s only weather or traffic analysis, etc.

Why A Hospitality SaaS?

Peter Loving: Okay. Can you tell us a bit more about Otamiser? How did you start the business? You’re and do you have a co-founder?

Bart-Jan Leyts: Yes, so I started Otamiser two years ago, my parents bought a bed and breakfast. they were struggling a bit with, how can we make this profitable? Back then I was majoring in finance at the university. I was really intrigued by what really determines the price point of hotels? What makes a hotel ask 100 and the other one. One week further, ask 150? So you already mentioned it Peter, I discovered the world of dynamic pricing, it starts experimenting, some models based market analysis based etc, traffic based, but I stumbled and thing or open one thing like, who cares about my price if I’m not being found on booking? If I’m only on page 10 or page 12 who cares about it? It’s the same, you can draw the parallel with e-commerce. 

Bart-Jan Leyts: You can have a beautiful webshop with beautiful products, very friendly products, etc, But if you don’t do any SEO or SEA, nobody will buy because they won’t find you. This is the parallel I drew to the hospitality industry. So why I started with this idea but I didn’t have a solution yet. This is just the idea. So I founded the LLC. Just starting to, how will I do it? First was an agency model where we came in as consultants, we helped them, do everything you can imagine from their software stack. So we could raise the fence a bit to know, start to develop. And it’s since one year that you really have a very suitable MVP, that’s in the market and it’s growing.

Bart-Jan Leyts: Regarding co-founders. So I think one year, and a bit ago, one of my first clients joined actually as a co-founder because no, his profits skyrocketed. So he was so convinced that we got a really good connection from the first start. And this is, since that day we are with two.

Bootstrapping A SaaS

Peter Loving: That’s wonderful. And how did you build the business so far? Have you bootstrapped?

Bart-Jan Leyts: Yes, so until today, we are bootstrapped, but we are starting our first round of funding. Why? Because we are achieving major successes into development every day and this is going well, but as we are one of the only providers in the world right now, who provide ranking management solutions, we really want to put the money in marketing and sales as much as possible. So this is where we started crowdlending. Once a crowdlending is finished, we will utilize this crowd lending money to leverage government loans. And the fun thing will start.

Peter Loving: How much are you looking to raise in crowdfunding?

Bart-Jan Leyts: So in crowdfunding, it’s crowd lending actually. So at 100K, we can leverage the government to reach a half a million just in growth capital, which we can invest in sales and marketing. And the role of course be like threshold. Let’s go into R&D, but, every money we made you put into R&D. So we first want to sell more. If you sell more, we can put more money in R&D. So this is like the big idea.

Current Revenue

Peter Loving: Great and whereabouts are you with revenue?

Bart-Jan Leyts: So right now we are doing 78K per month. So we are working with the yearly contracts so we are doing quite okay, We started in January with 14. So, It has been fun ride since January.

Peter Loving: Growing a lot this year. Okay, so you’re around just under 1M ARR.

Bart-Jan Leyts: Something like that is.

Building a Team

Peter Loving: What kind of team size? Do you guys have? 

Bart-Jan Leyts: We have 14 people working in Belgium, certainly people working in Belgium and six people working all around the world, as digital nomads working behind their laptops. So we’re around 20. It differs a bit from 19,20.

Peter Loving: Yeah, yeah. You don’t have much kind of margin to invest in sales and marketing? It seems like a fairly big team size for your revenue? Is your overhead costs taking up, most of your revenue at the moment or you’re able to still use a little bit on sales and marketing?

Bart-Jan Leyts: Right now employee cost is our biggest cost. It’s normal because we have an IT team which is doing the R&D and we have a Belgian sales team as well, which is covering the Belgian market and the Netherlands. With everything we have left. As I said, we put in R&D and every time we have something left, we hire some more sales. So this is how we do it.

Biggest Learning

Peter Loving: Yeah. Yeah. Sounds and Bart-Jan. What has been the biggest learning that you’ve personally experienced? Since you started this business two years ago?

Bart-Jan Leyts: I think it’s facing yourself and being honest yourself that you have to delegate, at the right time at the right moment, to the right kind of people. So it’s first of all, finding the right people, trusting them, trusting your little baby with them, also and then delegating and giving them a key responsibility in growing your business. Because if you really want a business that keeps on growing, you cannot do it by a one-man show. So you have to rely on certain people. I think that there are young entrepreneurs listening and it may be unconventional but first sell it, then make it it was my biggest credo over the years and it’s turning okay.

Peter Loving: That’s great. What has helped you? Is there any kind of tactic or system or tool that’s really helped you to master the delegating aspect of what you’ve been having to do to adapt?

Bart-Jan Leyts: It’s not a tool but it’s a scene. The first year of our company. We were all remote, everyone around the world. So there was only essential communication about the job, but then we shifted to some physical offices. So we have one in Ghent, one in Bruge and this is where it shifted. People go together. People start to discuss things between sales and IT side, so everyone started to have more understanding of the business. So this is where it felt more comfortable for me to delegate because I saw people getting really hyped about the business because they were talking with peers of other divisions. So for us, it was not a tool but it was the shift of moving into an office.

Peter Loving: I see. So then you’re having much more contact, one-to-one contact, and you’re able to oversee that delegating process a little bit more closely right?

Bart-Jan Leyts: Exactly.

Bart-Jan Leyts: Exactly.

Biggest Breakthrough

Peter Loving: What have been the biggest breakthroughs for you since starting Otamiser?

Bart-Jan Leyts: The biggest breakthrough? I think it’s admitting to yourself that you need to grow as well. I was a very young founder. I was 21 at the time, and right now, 24. So you start, as an entrepreneur who wants to make a little money and you have to evolve into really, a manager, you have to really manage everything but also tap in those parts of your existence that the entrepreneurial spirit that moves your business to the next show, it’s like, admitting to yourself that you need to grow as well for your company. 

Peter Loving: Yeah.

Bart-Jan Leyts: Not the other way around that, your company has to grow for you.

Peter Loving: So you are making personal growth and personal development able to take the company to the next level.

Bart-Jan Leyts: Exactly, exactly.

Co-Founder Roles

Peter Loving: Yeah. have you divided up roles between yourself and your co-founder?

Bart-Jan Leyts: Yes, so I’m running everything relating to product. We have a big bunch of the dynamic pricing. As I said, just a general company, like everything that has that comes with the role of CEO. Also, the not fun part, and my co-founder is really all about the commercial side of things. He’s making sure we got to go to market strategy for the right market. This is his focus. Why? We did this because then we can have someone who’s working on sales, which is growth of the company and me who is really working and making sure that company can grow. So it’s like, a nice combination.

Peter Loving: Great. What are your next steps with the business? What are you, kind of, currently working on? So it looks like you’re going to raise some kind of fund and crowdlending to fund sales and marketing activity. So is your biggest project at the moment working on your route to market?

Go-to-Market Strategy

Bart-Jan Leyts: So right now, we have test cases running in the US in Dubai in England, to really broaden our market. So whenever those test cases are positive, we will really roll out our go-to-market strategy. We have for those of course, with hopefully, the funding. So that we have, maybe, a local sales team there. We can expand from there.

Peter Loving: Okay, that’s awesome. And what is your go-to-market strategy at the moment? Do you do outbound sales? Is it kind of outbound email campaigns and then you’re looking to book calls? How do you currently work on it?

Bart-Jan Leyts: Yes, so we have a big collaboration between marketing and sales. First of all, marketing introduces us to a region and most of the time we find one customer, we do a founder sales. Wherever I do with myself or my co-founder does it, we sell it one, we let it run for three months. If it’s a positive test case we utilize this test case and send it In an email, ‘Hey, we’re in this company from Belgium. We successfully increased revenue of this hotel with 30%. Look how we did it…’ A little block city and then from there we start. If all the people who engage they get a phone call, all of them who are not engaging, to get a follow-up. 

So, this is where we are simultaneously putting attention to ourselves in the market on a cheap matter and from there we go. How much is it costing to cover this market will hire someone from there or not? So we just look at what’s the demand in that market?

Connect with Bart-Jan and Otamiser

Peter Loving: That sounds great. Hey Bart-Jan thanks so much for joining me. It’s been great to hear about Otamiser and your growth so far, congrats on the business and I wish you the success with your crowdlending campaign. How can people follow you or get in touch, or check out what you’re doing with Otamiser?

Bart-Jan Leyts: Thanks Peter. What they can do is, I’m most reachable via LinkedIn so they can add me on LinkedIn. It’s just my name or they can follow the company on LinkedIn as well. It’s called Otamiser and there. You can follow all our updates and stay tuned with everything that’s coming.

Peter Loving: Okay, thanks Bart and Great to speak with you.

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