Prayetic Founder, Donnell Wyche, shares how he’s built a SaaS using AI to streamline his process and have a big impact, fast. Prayetic is a prayer meditation tool that leverages the power of AI.
Donnell shares interesting insights for his fellow SaaS founders on:
- Starting by securing grants from OpenAI and Microsoft startups
- What he focused on to build his MVP
- Getting his first paying customers
- His marketing focus (including content & SEO)
- What his biggest struggle is
Grab a coffee, take a 15-minute break and enjoy this interesting chat about SaaS.
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Introduction and Professional Background
Peter Loving: Okay, so I’m here today live with Donnell Wyche, Donnell is the founder of Prayetic, Donnell. Can you introduce yourself? Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.
Donnell Wyche: Sure, like you said, my name is Donnell Wyche. I am a software engineer, a community organizer. I’m also a pastor and I connected with you over Facebook, and I’m happy to be here to talk a little bit about sort of my SaaS journey and how I enjoy building tools for folks, and learning along the way.
So I have a traditional background in computer science. I worked in corporate America for IBM for about five years. At our local community college, I taught web design and web databases. I’ve had several small sort of boutique shops where we built custom based applications for insurance companies or websites, for universities, and small businesses.
Then I really stayed in the nonprofit space really helping nonprofits, leverage technology to maximize their impact for their communities. And yeah that’s a little bit about me.
Product Concept & Features
Peter Loving: You have a really good web and tech background which shows because your Prayetic site looks lovely. And the product looks great, too. So can you tell us a bit about the product? And what does it do?
Donnell Wyche: So, I’ve been really struck by AI and I was sitting and thinking, I was like, what could I build that leverages But is in my sort of expertise space. Back in the late 1990s, I met up with a religious editor, who created a set of fixed hour prayers and we fix hour prayers from their book format, converted them and built an online version. So that people could pray those prayers at any time across the world.
So, that was a real key activity that I did. It draws some two to 3000 people a day to our church’s website where they pray our fixed hour prayers. And I was like those prayers are here. They’re not moving. I wonder if there’s a way for us to leverage those fixed hour prayers to help people with meditation, reducing their stress, being more present in their everyday life. And so the idea came to me and it was Prayetic so prayer and proletree, that’s the origin of the name. Just merging those things together.
Along the way, I apply for a grant from Open AI and Microsoft startups, and got the grant. And so, I was like, All right, I have some free money, or at least credits and I can use those credits to try to build an application.
So what I did, as I took the fixed hour prayers, as a seed, I wrote a template out for a prayer meditation, based on those fixed hour prayers, and then I fed that into the AI and asked the AI to create a meditation based on the hour prayers, using my template for every day of the year and that’s at it. Then I realized gosh, I got a market this thing. I got to get it in front of people. How am I going to do that?
Building a SaaS Using AI
Donnell Wyche: Then it occurred to me. Midjourney. Another AI tool for image generation. So I took the prayer in the meditation, fed it back into the AI and asked for an image creation prompt. Then I would take that image creation prompt and pass it into Midjourney to create an image to go along with the meditation. And then I would take a quote from either the prayer or the meditation and put that created an Instagram account and start it. Single daily images to go with the meditation. So, Prayetic is fixed hour prayers. It’s a daily meditation and it’s a daily inspiration image.
Peter Loving: Okay, so you have that automated. So AI is generating the daily images automatically?
Donnell Wyche: I wish! So in Midjourney, you’re not supposed to use automated tools. It’s actually a violation of their terms to services. I’m being a good citizen by going in daily or trying to cue them up. I might create seven at a time and then cue them up. So that’s the only thing that I haven’t automated.
Peter Loving: Right.
Donnell Wyche: Everything else is automated but the Midjourney you’re supposed to do it manually and I’m being a good citizen.
Peter Loving: Yeah, So Donnell, you have built some products before, so you’ve built a CRM.
Donnell Wyche: Yeah.
Key Learnings from Past SaaS Launches
Peter Loving: But this particular product is your most successful launch, So it sounds like you’ve learned a few things along the way and…
Peter Loving: this one, you’ve applied, some of the linings. What are the key things that you learned in launching SaaS products?
Donnell Wyche: So right away especially if you’re a build simpler, especially if you’re a developer, build simpler than you think is necessary. I have been really, really surprised and validated by the number of users who have engaged, what I’ve done and how it has impacted them and it really only has three things in it and it’s a web-based application. So I’m using my preferred development environment which allows me to rapidly get things online and I decided in this case, I was going to write down all my ideas in my Notion journal, but not try to implement them until customers ask for them.
So I built the core or the minimum viable product and launched that in five days and I recruited 12 to 20 users and said, Hey, take a look at this. Tell me what you hate. They did. And then after getting their feedback, in 14 days, launched it on my Facebook and got my first 80 customers including that day. Now that I remember that day that I launched. I got my first paying customer.
Donnell Wyche: I was blown away because I was just like, you got a free trial. Why are you paying? Wait for your trial. But that was really validating because the person saw the value, they shared it with their friends and then they paid for it just like that.
Peter Loving: That’s really great. And then fast forward a few months and How are things going now? How many subscribers have you been able to get? And how do you feel about the validation of the product over the past few months?
Donnell Wyche: Yeah, so from the early launch to today, I think we have about a hundred and seventy six customers. My watch just said someone just signed up while talking so I don’t know if it’s someone that’s listening…Shout out to Tom if that’s you! Thanks! So, 176 customers with about a 15% conversion, or sign ups with a 15% conversion to subscription.
And right now, I think I’m still struggling with pricing, so I have a monthly and annual and then a lifetime subscription. Most people are taking the lifetime and we can talk about why I did those three. But getting folks to both sign up and then pay has been better than I thought. And so with somewhere between eight and 15% conversion, I feel like I’m in the right number threshold, I think I’m still struggling with finding my audience.
Donnell Wyche: So we could talk about that. I have some ideas about that. I’m still learning about how to find the right audience and so my dream is to continue to get this in front of thousands of people who would be interested, but maintaining that sort of eight to 15% conversion. So that’s where we are today 176, or 177 with Tom subscribers and about 20 or 15% paying subscribers.
Advice for SaaS Founders
Peter Loving: Great! Okay, so, what would be some of your tips for founders launching their SaaS now to help them, have the kind of results you’ve had in such a little time?
Donnell Wyche: I think I did three or four things that I’ve never done that worked, and I love to share that.
So, number one is, I built three sites. I built the marketing site and that’s being hosted on Vercel. So it’s a next JS application and I’m using a Tailwind template, so I’m not a designer by training. I’m really back of office, that type of thing. I can’t tell you how many pixels things need to have between those kinds of things. So I want to buy a template
Donnell Wyche: And then mock up that template and I think as a designer, my first SaaS, I spent $15,000 building the custom interface. The CSS, I had a user usability expert, walkthrough every part of the application, I would never do that again.
That was a monumental waste of money that I could have invested in getting the application where it needed to solve my customers needs. So, number one, I would say use a template, customize the template and get it up. A lot of people don’t spend a lot of time rating your landing page. I know that’s the thing in the SaaS marketplace, where you want to have the best landing page. If you have enough of the information in it, it should be able to convert and that’s what I’m seeing. So that’s number one.
Number two, creating a blog, you’ve got to get SEO. That is something that takes a lot of time. And I think that’s been my biggest learning curve in this development because I’m going into a completely saturated market with meditation applications. There are hundreds of meditation applications that are there, including some big hitters like, Calm, that’s where they go, if they want to do medication. So how do I break into that?
SEO & Blogging
Donnell Wyche: I did that with a blog. And so, I use GHOST.ORG itself hosted, they have great templates, you can get up, you can get running, and then I’m using Mid Journey and AI to help me with some of the content generation there. And I’ve gotten my domain to rank. I’ve gotten over 18 of my keywords to show up in searches on Google. I’ve done that in 60 to 70 days, including one of my keywords, which is daily meditation showing up in the first 30 results on Google going from no content to 60 days later. Having it rank in Google.
So that has been huge for me and I’m not an SEO expert. I have not watched every video. I haven’t followed every Twitter account about it. I’ve just been writing authentically about this space and then having the application be there accessible and ready to go and then using built tools so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time making everything work.
I bought a payment application and then integrated it into my application so that it’s just configuring it as opposed to writing it, but you can do that faster with Stripe and just doing payment links. So I think I learned a lot over that time to get to this quick launch, as well as leveraging my own networks. So I had about 2,500 followers on Facebook and that’s where pretty much my first 10 paying customers came from, was from that network or friends of that network.
Future Plans for the Product
Peter Loving: Great! Okay. There’s some really great tips in there about your approach that make it really interesting and some great results there. Thank you so much for sharing with us your journey with Prayetic so far. What are your plans for the product? Are you going to keep it Kind of as a personal business for yourself? Would you have bigger plans to grow the product? What would be your vision?
Donnell Wyche: I think my next step is probably like a cold email approach. Trying to find a curated list of either pastors or people who are in this space so that I could start an automated process of just sort of introducing the product to them to do conversion. Because I think when people see it, they like it and then they’re using it, which I think is really validating. I just need to figure out how to get in front of more people. So that’s my journey because I’m a serial developer.
Donnell Wyche: I have already started working on my next project. And so I’ve partnered with an instructor who does spiritual direction and he teaches about three to four hundred spiritual directors a year. So we’re building a custom application like a CRM for spiritual directors. And so we’re at the first stage of all of that. I’ve built the landing page…
Donnell Wyche: I’ve built the blog, I have the rapid developed application, and our next phase is to start acquiring clients and then having them use it as we build it out.
Peter Loving: On to the next one. Awesome. Hey Donnell…
Peter Loving: thanks so much for talking with us today. It’s been great to connect with you and listening to hear about Prayetic all the best for it.
Donnell Wyche: Thank you so much Peter.
Peter Loving: Okay. Thank you.
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