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Retrospective - Mar 2024

·6 mins

This is my 2nd month’s retro and the 7th month overall of writing every month about building and running a bootstrapped SaaS business.

Previous month’s retro

Last month’s goals #

  • Update the marketing pages to make language consistent and clear
    • This one is officially done. I’ve updated marketing copies, added benefit sections to better communicate the product’s functionalities and added a few Usecases pages as examples.
  • Pricing changes - Reduce the Trial period and make pricing less confusing
    • Reduced the Trial from 21 days to 14 days. The 21-day trial was initially set by me when I discontinued the free plan to make the transition easier. But for a product of RosterBird’s size, I think 2 weeks is enough time to see the value of it.
  • Gather testimonials from my existing customers
    • Yeah, this went poorly. I got a whole of 3 testimonials. I have accepted that this is more of a continuous process than a one-shot campaign. So, going to be a recurring task for me every month.

Highlights #

  • Sold XCalSync
  • Learnt the benefits of Planning
  • TinySeed didn’t work out

Sold XCalSync #

The first highlight of this month is selling XCalSync.

History #

XCalSync lets users sync events between their calendars. This is especially useful for professionals who handle multiple calendars and service providers who heavily use calendars for appointments.

This idea initially germinated a couple of years ago. When I was working as a consultant, I had multiple calendars for different clients and then one for our company as well. I as a person, had a single view for all my calendars, but not for the other parties (rightfully so). This leads to someone booking an appointment using the “Find a Time” feature, but often it ends up conflicting with my appointments in other calendars.

Initially, it was a mild annoyance I just put up with dedicated block times, but before it got painful to manage I left the job and the problem went away. I just noted down the idea and moved on.

And last year, when I was looking for an idea to build I revisited this one and decided to give it a try. I built the initial version in a month, then, awaiting Google’s approval, polished it for another month.

Aside, This was the first product I was building with the new Hotwire Stack in RoR 7 and what a joy it was.

I had fun building it and learnt a ton with the calendar APIs and the iCalendar spec. Also, this is the first product I followed the oft-prescribed method of launching a product. Build a landing page -> Drive users to it -> Launch.

Or As Rob Walling puts it I started marketing the day I started coding

I “launched” (PH, HN, what have you) it a month after. After a while though, characteristic of the loop I was in the first 7 months, I got pulled into an inbound job opportunity and started entertaining them. When I figured out there wasn’t an alignment, the process had already taken a few weeks and, I lost motivation to work on XCalSync further. My reasons were that it is a) low priced product, b) it’s b2c and, c) opportunity cost of working on something big. In short, I was in “that loop”.

But, to my surprise, it got a steady stream of signups all from the few blog posts I wrote (this is my first attempt at “Marketing”), so it is a personal testament to the advice I’ve heard all those years about why you should market. Users also started paying for them and I received unprompted appreciation emails, which was a rarity in the b2b space I’ve worked with.

Selling #

As mentioned in the last retro, it was my time to “clarify” things and focus on one thing at a time. As a result, I had already stopped working on the new product idea to focus fully on RosterBird. But XCalSync was a red herring, as in, I couldn’t exactly stop working as there are always incoming customer requests or bug reports. I’ve thought about shutting it down, but then I felt guilty to do so as my users have invested time and effort to set up something. I’ve tried putting it on maintenance mode and ignoring feature requests, but it’s that guilty feeling again as it’s hard to say no to customers who have trusted your work enough to pay for it.

I even tried to get any of my friends interested in it to take over and run it, but no dice.

The only options left for me were either to work on it or hand it over to someone interested. I couldn’t work on it as RosterBird was more exciting and offered better opportunities for me at present. So, I decided to sell it.

I put it for sale on acquire, but they’ve rejected the listing as they seem to have gone upmarket and accept only products more than $25k TTM. My only gripe was they could’ve made it clear at the listing preparation stage itself, instead of me spending time preparing the listing, connecting the metrics, uploading my passport for identity, and waiting 2 days for the “manual review” and then rejecting it.

I had earlier posted it on Microconf Connect, seeking advice on the selling price and I got a few requests from them. I was mainly looking for a quick sale as the product wasn’t that big to do the whole diligence dance. One of the buyers was interested in a quick transaction as well and we just finished everything in Slack messages and handed over the product that day. The whole thing took like 24 hours max.

And it turned out to be a good decision as they’ve already started releasing some improvements to the product and I’m very happy to see the progress.

Started planning diligently #

Having worked 10+ years and almost all of them in agile teams, I’ve seen the process mostly used to keep the team in sync rather than for planning per se, and I’ve come to accept that working in sprints would be a waste of time as I’m working individually. I can always pick stuff from “the list” then and when I want.

But turns out they were incredibly useful even for a team of 1.

I started experimenting with 1-week sprints this month to box the stuff I wanted to work on. This not only helps me plan my week but mainly prevents me from going astray with new ideas/features.

So, I have the monthly plan in the form of this retro right here. I’ve added quarterly planning and weekly planning into the mix now. I’ve also started estimating the tickets and working with them to better prepare.

It is already helping me to keep a routine and I’m able to better communicate to my users when they can expect the requested features. I’ll continue tinkering with it to suit my needs, but so far so good.

TinySeed #

There isn’t much of an update to this as I wasn’t expecting to go through myself. RosterBird doesn’t exactly fit into the type of companies they fund. It has platform risk, I haven’t identified the ICP and it might be in too narrow of a niche for them.

I got a feedback email exactly with the 2nd point about the ICP as a reason. But I’m glad the whole thing happened as that finally spurred me into the current trajectory.

Goals for April #

  • Engineering upgrades (Increase test coverage, Upgrade ruby & rails)
  • Reducing friction for new customers