Peter Peter - Founder, UserActive

How To Acquire Your First 1K SaaS Customers with Udit Goenka

SaaS Founder Interview - How To Get First 1K Customers in SaaS

In this SaaS Founder Interview, Udit shares what early stage SaaS companies need to do for a successful launch and how to acquire their first 1K-5K customers.

He’s currently building PitchGround, which helps early stage SaaS companies acquire their first 1-5K paying customers by launching their software into 3 key channels:

  1. PitchGround marketplace community
  2. Running ads to targeted ICPs
  3. Distribution through their network of software affiliates

Udit Goenka is a seasoned SaaS pro with 2 exits reaching multimillion dollar valuations, he has a SaaS community of 0.5 million members and is also running his latest SaaS, FirstSales.io.

Transcript

[00:00:03.130] – Peter

Okay, so I am here today speaking with Udit Goenka from PitchGround. Udit, would you like to give us a brief introduction about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?

[00:00:12.770] – Udit

Sure.

[00:00:13.240] – Udit

Thank you so much Peter, for having me over here. My name is Udit Goenka, and I’m the founder and CEO of India’s largest SaaS marketplace known as PitchGround. We help out early-stage SaaS companies who are looking to drive their first 1000 to 5000 users without losing equity.

[00:00:28.310] – Udit

Right.

[00:00:28.570] – Udit

You end up getting a lot of customers for your SaaS business. I’ve been into the SaaS business for almost over a decade now. I’ve sold two companies so far. One of them was SaaS. My very first company was into hosting businesses. We were building cloud clusters for SaaS. That’s how I discovered SaaS as a business.

[00:00:46.510] – Udit

And ever since then, I just fell in love with SaaS as a business model. And I’ve been helping out, got my own SaaS at the same point. And here to help out everyone who is an early stage SaaS founder.

[00:00:57.570] – Peter

Great. Yeah, it’s a really good community that you built. You have quite a large Facebook group. And I see that you take the early stage SaaS companies and you help them get their offering refined. You help them get a nice website that’s presentable and sometimes update the product. How do you get involved in these things? What’s your process like? How do you help these companies?

[00:01:22.170] – Udit

So, we are a very strong believer of three P philosophy. This generally applies to every SaaS business, be it early stage, be it mid stage or be it late stage.

[00:01:31.400] – Udit

And it starts with product, people, pricing.

[00:01:34.360] – Udit

It all starts with product. What problem are you trying to solve? Is the problem statement big enough where you can grow pretty rapidly? Or is the problem statement very niche where finding customers is going to be very challenging but at the same time your churn is going to be very low.

[00:01:49.410] – Udit

Then we focus on the people, which is how are the founders and how dedicated they are towards a project? After that, we finally focus on the pricing.

[00:01:58.190] – Udit

But when you combine these three things. That’s when there is a big likelihood of you trying to achieve  product-ed growth. Without these three things, it’s very difficult to achieve product-led growth. So we try to identify all of these things that an early stage SaaS company could generally have, and then we try to help them to achieve that product-led growth using PitchGround.

[00:02:19.700] – Udit

Where now if you come on PitchGround and you end up getting about your first 1000 to 2000 customers very quickly, very rapidly, you have a big chance of scaling up post that very very easily because you’ve really identified that you’re the core crux of problem. Now, I’ve built a community of about 2000 customers at the same time. So your journey, which would generally take about two years, will probably take just three to six months, in general, right?

[00:02:43.910] – Udit

Our biggest success has been one of the company known as Various Drive. They have done close to around over a million dollar with us so far in the last two years. And then there are close to around multiple hundreds of companies that have done over six figure launches with us. And more importantly, about 15% of those companies have ended up raising capital after that. Showing that growth reaction of like that hockey stick curve growth. They were able to raise capital pretty easily and aggressively after that. But to do that you have to have a clear understanding. So that’s where PitchGround is all about where we work with these early stage SaaS founders and we try to help them fulfil their dream.

[00:03:18.910] – Peter

That sounds really great. So you’ve got some success stories there and you have a really good approach. Imagine one of our listeners is coming to PitchGround to help them get to the next stage. What would it look like for them? What process would you take them through? How would you evaluate where they are and get them to the stage where they’re getting their first thousand to 5000 customers?

[00:03:42.390] – Udit

Great question. I think the first thing that we do is we set up a discovery call to understand what are they trying to build and what are they trying to solve.

[00:03:49.690] – Udit

A lot of times that we have observed is that founders do not really have the core understanding of the problem. They’ve just built a product because they saw some alternative product that works absolutely great and they are like crushing it right now. So they try to build an alternative product just to make it like a cheaper version of it or an affordable version of it. And generally it doesn’t work out. Right. Because to make sales you need to have a core understanding of the problem statement and if the founders doesn’t have that, we sit down and try to explain them that look, this is what you’re trying to build. It’s going to be very difficult to work things out and make sure that they have a very clear understanding of what they are building and why they are building.

[00:04:26.630] – Udit

So if they are very clear with their why, then we move to the next approach of pricing. Prior to that, we just let them know that they are not ready and they have to work a bit more on the product as well. And try to see if you can onboard about ten to 15 customers on subscription basis. Because when you serve about ten to 15 customers minimum, what generally happens is you fix all your bugs because your early stage customers is going to be very pissed off with you, right? They’ll let you know, they’ll give you the feedback. So it’s very important that when you start doing mass marketing you clear out all of those bugs and make sure your product is as stable as possible.

[00:05:03.310] – Udit

So we talk about all of those things and make sure that they are actually prepared for the launch. And if they aren’t, then we work with them during that months of period, letting them know this is required, that is required, and helping them basically prepare for the launch because once you go live, then there is no going back, right? People already know about your product, people know already what you’re doing. And at that stage, you start getting sign up.

[00:05:26.410] – Udit

So we ensure that you are ready to go, and then you start scaling up from there. So, for example, a very recent software known as vidBoard AI, they launched with us about a month and a half ago, and they have already crossed, I think, close to 140K in US dollars. It’s a very, very early stage product. It’s an alternative to Synthesia.

[00:05:42.850] – Udit

Now, when I asked the founder, Why did you build it? His answer wasn’t that I want to build a cheaper alternative to Synthesia. His problem statement was, I was trying to build a lot of videos and it was very daunting and a hard process for me to build it. So I decided to build a software with my co founder to solve this problem so that we can build personalised videos on scale we can build videos for YouTube on scale with just enough of me talking about because most of the time people care about the content and not the quality of production. Especially in B2B. That’s what he was focusing on. Building the product. On so many different levels. That’s our process. So we ensure that when you come on the platform, you will get success. That’s what we focus on, basically.

[00:06:37.580] – Peter

Great. Okay, so what are your channels for launching? Once you feel that the product is ready, the marketing ready, the message you’ve got the three P’s of your problem people and pricing. What are your channels for launching these SaaS companies?

[00:06:52.140] – Udit

So, to begin with, we have our own community. We have a very large community. We have a user base of half a million businesses that are buying software from us every single year. And that number is growing at almost 42% CAGR on year on year basis at the moment. So we’re growing pretty aggressively. So that’s our number one channel. And once we see that our own customers are buying, we identify the kind of customers that are buying, and then we start add focusing on a very similar set of customers.

[00:07:17.550] – Udit

So the first one month goes into just identifying the critical data sets of the critical ICPs. And then on the basis of that, then we start scaling up. Because if we know that this specific ICC is buying more, we exactly know where to put our money on ads. And then we start scaling up. So that way the ROI is good for everyone. And if we get a good ROI, we reinvest that money back into ads and performance marketing once again to just keep scaling up the business. So that’s how we identify. Post that we also have closure on 4500 affiliates on our platform who are working in different industries.

[00:07:52.440] – Udit

So if they find that the product is fit for their audience, though, they keep promoting those products within their community. So those are the three core channels that we focus on to try and achieve a six figure USD launch for as many SaaS as possible.

[00:08:06.680] – Peter

So you launch on your community and then once you get an idea of who the ICP is, you do an ad campaign.

[00:08:13.640] – Udit

Correct.

[00:08:14.510] – Peter

And then also you do some targeted marketing activities.

[00:08:19.260] – Udit

We specifically reach out to our ever growing partners affiliate community, and we know what are they selling. So we have built a complete segmentation of the list. So we only reach out to them specifically letting them know that, hey, this is the right product for your audience. Why don’t you start pushing them up to your audience? So at that stage, there’s another further funnel that comes in. And once that user comes on the website, there’s always that performance marketing and retargeting going on as well. So then the conversion kind of like happens. So those are three core channels that we are using for every single launch. And we’ve been using these three channels for ever since we started four and half years ago.

[00:08:54.510] – Peter

That’s great. So it’s similar to the kind of model that AppSumo might have, where you have a marketplace and you’ve built a great big audience, and then once you launch, there’s a lot of exposure to this audience. Do you launch with things like lifetime deals or offers in the first launch?

[00:09:15.660] – Udit

So our model is very different, even though our positioning is similar. But our model is very different because we don’t focus on mass launches. We just focus on high quality one to three launches a month.

[00:09:28.720] – Udit

So we work on project to project basis because every SaaS is a unique challenge. You cannot do that if you end up launching 10, 15, 20, 30 SaaS per week. You cannot help every company out at that particular scale, even if you end up hiring a lot of people. It’s just impossible. So our focus is very particular that we focus on case to case basis so that we know for the fact that we’re able to drive results for them. And if we aren’t sure about driving results, then we straight up tell them no, that we won’t be able to help out and we drop them. We are very honest with them that, look, we won’t be able to help you out. A very complicated product. Our niche doesn’t support it.

[00:10:05.740] – Udit

So, for example, if you end up launching a CRM for lawyers, we probably have like maybe a few hundred lawyers in our community, right? So to sell them that particular product, it becomes very niche. So at that stage, we are very upfront with them, that you might have a better chance of selling this if you find a community where a community is run for lawyers, you want to have a bigger chance of having that GTM to get success versus reaching out to them. So we always try to guide them in the right direction and then focus towards that.

[00:10:39.350] – Udit

Now, initially, we begin with a lifetime deal, which is selling like a one time thing to get the initial modelling going on, because that also helps to understand what people truly want. And these users, they love giving feedback and that’s what an early stage SaaS founders wants. No one wants to start making money on day one. What people really want is they eventually want to get towards building up subscriptions from enterprises.

[00:11:05.220] – Udit

So this is what I tell to every SaaS founders. Small businesses will drive your brand, but enterprise will drive your revenue, but you have to build that brand. It takes time before you go and approach to Enterprise. If small businesses are not buying from you, there’s a big chance enterprise might not buy from you as well. So build that brand using small businesses. Let them talk about you, let them give you reviews, build an entire community with them. And then when you approach an enterprise, they would see, oh, you have so many reviews on Captera, fantastic. You have so many reviews on G2. I think you might be the right solution, let’s talk.

[00:11:39.580] – Udit

Because ultimately, these feedbacks are very critical. People look into all of these things so that you don’t have any sales objections and you end up wanting to work with that particular SaaS. So that’s how we work things out, to help them, to educate them. And most of the SaaS that we have worked with have done extremely well over a long period of time. Yeah, definitely. There is going to be failures, right? Because it’s as hard as running a pizza store. If you’re going to stop producing pizzas, you’re going to stop making money. Similarly, if you’re going to stop pushing up new features, you’re going to stop marketing, you’re going to stop selling, you’re going to stop filling up your pipeline, you’re going to stop selling. It’s as simple as that, right? So running a pizza store and running a SaaS business is equally hard.

[00:12:18.520] – Peter

Yeah, and they’re also quite competitive too, because SaaS got pretty competitive. A lot of products, similar products, and the barrier to entry is a bit lower now. But what I like about your model is that where you have the marketplaces like AppSumo, they have many offers at any time, there’s like 30 to 50 offers of SaaS products. There’s quite a lot going on. It seems like you work in a much more tailored way, you have much more involvement with the SaaS company. You actually help them, guide them and collaborate with them and help work with them to get product and marketing to the stage where they’re ready to launch. So then you’re more selective with who you work with, you have more involvement and that means you only launch maybe one or two products a week on the platform.

[00:13:01.570] – Udit

It’s actually one to three a month. We’re not focusing on volume game, we are focusing on quality game. Because, like I said, every size that we onboard, it’s our responsibility to work with them and get them results. So it’s better to be sure that the results can actually be driven versus not. And if not, then again, we are upfront with the founders that, look, let’s experiment this, we would not know it will work out till the time you actually work on it because there might not be a demand.

[00:13:28.610] – Udit

Sometimes what I’ve also seen is that some of the products are just in the so early stage of their life that people are not ready to adopt to that product yet.

[00:13:39.520] – Udit

That’s another challenge that we have seen, that sometimes some products just say it’s time to sell because the market is not mature, not that the product is not mature. That is something that we have seen as well, that some of the founders, they might have not got a lot of initial traction, but then after two years, because of the mass adoption that is happening for that particular software, the sales kind of like skyrocket during that stage so a lot of things happen. Right?

[00:14:04.290] – Udit

But the founders would only get to know if they go out there and actively push their product through every single channel. That’s when you get to know about it. Because ultimately your end goal should be to acquire initial users, initial beta users, initial users, to get the feedback to truly understand what I really want to build. Because I might have a million dollar idea, but I might not have a million dollar customers to buy. There’s a difference in both of them. I could build the most spectacular product in the world, but if no one is interested in buying that product, and if there is no demand for that product, no one is going to buy.

[00:14:36.900] – Udit

And I often tell to every SaaS founder that the S at the end of SaaS stands for Services and not solution. Start selling SaaS as a service, not as a solution. Because the moment you change that thought process, you would realise that you’re now selling a productised services, which is what SaaS all stands about. But the recent psychology of past growth, blitzscaling growth has come down to a position where people are now focusing so aggressively on just selling product. That’s not how you build, that’s not how you sell SaaS, right? So once that thought process changed, when we talk about all of these things with SaaS founders, they’re quite amazed with this is how the industry works. And once that happens, they are likelihood to get a lot more success, in general, which otherwise is very difficult.

[00:15:23.170] – Udit

It’s great. So, hey, thanks for talking with us. It’s been really cool to learn a lot more about PitchGround and about you. Sounds like you’ve got a tonne of knowledge in SaaS. I know you’ve had a few exits, and you’ve got SaaS company yourself. For early stage founders that are looking for help. How can they join PitchGround and work with you guys to launch their product?

[00:15:41.790] – Udit

They can go to PitchGround.

[00:15:44.690] – Udit

There’s something known as submit your SaaS or you can go to partnerships. Partnership.PitchGround.com, just head over there, submit your SaaS. Happy to get on a call, happy to help out, happy to help the next SaaS going through. And hopefully I’m an investor myself, invested in about 34 startups so far. So, yeah, if something comes in, I have a whole VC network with me, so I can always help them connect with those as well. So, again, build something amazing, build something with passion, build something with love. But more importantly, focus on value creation and take care of your customers. As long as you do that, you will always grow your SaaS business.

[00:16:20.690] – Peter

That’s great. Hey, thanks for chatting with me today. I really appreciate your time.

[00:16:24.460] – Udit

Thank you so much for having me. Peter, it was lovely speaking with you. Thank you so much, everyone. And, yeah, look forward to being engaged in the community.

[00:16:31.660] – Udit

Great.

[00:16:32.230] – Peter

Okay, see you.

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