Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Show HN: My new SaaS side-project, after years of open source
229 points by artf 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments
Hi guys, I've created an open source web builder framework (https://grapesjs.com) years ago, which I'm still maintaining, and now I'm excited to publish a side project based on it, Grapedrop (https://grapedrop.com). It's a simple web page builder which allows you to design and publish your web pages very quickly. The project is still in beta with a lot of stuff to improve but I'd really like to share it and hear what people think about it and maybe also get some constructive feedback.

Since GrapesJS is already open source I would seriously consider pointing users to that for the free plan instead of providing free hosting. Your service provides hosting; free is a little too much as it costs you money for likely little gain.

Alternatively you could put a time limit. "Free 30 day trial" or something.

I concur. Use the open source as “proof the product is solid”. It’s a badge of honor and could allow enterprise customers to check off the “ensure we can support it ourselves if needed box”. Likely they would never do that, but they could from a risk management POV.

I like the idea of freemium for this. There are many page builders out there, and many of them have limited plans that are free or very cheap, especially the WordPress ones. Having a free plan distinguishes this, and I think the limit of 50 form submissions is enough to encourage people who should be paying for it to pay.

You should charge more :) Especially for your business plan -- any service targeted at enterprises should get you bare-minimum three figures of revenue per month, and you should look for a way to make it four or five, or have it scale up for large enterprises.

There are a few reasons for this:

1) The difference between $35 a month and $250 a month is a rounding error to most enterprises -- but for you, aggregated across all your business customers, it will make it much, much easier to grow and achieve profitability.

2) It's easy to lower your prices if you receive consistent feedback that people really want your product but think it's 30% too expensive or whatever. It's very difficult to raise your prices once people are locked in at a lower monthly rate (especially if the rate is an order of magnitude lower than what you end up really needing to charge).

3) Businesses are used to paying a lot of money for software (sometimes up to seven or eight figures annually). For large enterprises, there is a counterintuitive psychological factor: they don't trust something that costs $XX a month to reliably store their data and scale to their needs, and you'll actually close more customers at $XXX or $XXXX a month.

4) Selling to enterprises is very costly -- they will (try to) run you through procurement, legal reviews, security reviews, terms of service negotiations, and a litany of other things. Your price point needs to take that cost into account -- you simply can't make a profit from large enterprises if you have to spend a few thousand dollars of time/resources getting them closed, and then you have to make it up $35 at a time.

Also, I agree with the other comment saying you shouldn't offer a free plan, especially since your product is open source and they could self-host if they really wanted it. There's an inversion of value -- free users still expect you to support them, and users in free/cheap plans are often actually the noisiest for whatever reason. If I were you, I'd charge about $25/mo for the basic feature set (maybe without the branding and with more than 50 form submissions); $99/mo for the "premium" feature set; and "call me" for enterprises (hundreds to thousands a month depending on scale and commitment).

I agree with everything you say BUT when first starting out I see no harm in starting with lower prices. You need to build up confidence in yourself and your product at the very beginning.

Then, after you're all tested and things are working well, then raise prices (maybe after 2-4 weeks in).

Does it really matter about having high prices for those first few customers? No, they get a reward for taking a risk on you!

I know because I did exactly what you said, and I can tell you your point #2 "It's easy to lower prices" is not quite right.

It really sucks to lower prices. Here's what that looks like:


Conversely, it's easy to raise prices and grandfather the first few customers that took a risk on you.

I agree and disagree. I agree that there's not necessarily a harm to having "beta pricing" or waiting to work out your price structure until you've found some product/market fit. But I was largely responding to the "Coming soon -- business $34.90/mo" plan -- I think by the time they're ready for a business plan, they're ready to start charging "real" prices. I also think you have to be cautious with "beta pricing" because it can distort your view of the market -- the cohort who will pay $10/mo is usually drastically different than the cohort who will pay $100/mo, and it's easy to mistake the former for an indication that you've got a market fit, when you might find that the market is much different when you're charging what you actually need to grow and turn a profit.

I agree! How about this:

Start with a price that is the lowest price in the cohort/market band that you are interested in and then work your way to the top as you get settled in.

I'm a big fan of the inner game, IMHO folks should operate where they feel comfortable so they can rid themselves of impostor syndrome and get more confident over time.

But yeah, do like compete.com did move from a $49 price point over time all the way up to $1,000+! That's fine by me ;)

Yeah, I agree that is a reasonable approach, particularly since it tends to align well with product development (as you add more advanced features, you can easily justify segmenting them into a new premium plan). Though I'm a proponent of having enterprise pricing (or at least "call me" pricing) at any stage -- if a large enterprise comes knocking, you need to make sure you can get enough value for you to support their scale and procurement processes.

1. Not clear why you think this is a solution for enterprises. Business <> Enterprise. Not many large enterprises are going to take a chance on a small company given the large number of CMS systems available. If I were an enterprise looking for a CMS, I'd either being looking for something like Adobe or go the opposite way and go with an open source solution that is well adopted.

2. While you may be right that you can raise prices, you have to remember the competition - I'd compare this to, say, Wix or Wordpress or Squarespace. It may be 200% better than those tools but price matters to the people buying and they will be comparing them.

You have some great feedback. Thanks for taking the time to be so thorough. I’m not the OP, but I still think your comments are valuable in general, not just this one case.

Glad you found it helpful :) I recommend following patio11 on Twitter -- this is one of his regular drums to beat, and it helps having a frequent reminder of how enterprises work and that left to your own devices you will almost always undervalue your own product.

I often see “enterprise” options with “call us” pricing on saas products. However often there are no enterprise features listed. I presume that is because those extra features a customized per large customer.

Do you (or anyone else reading) have examples of some of those type of features enterprise customers might want? I know this is a pretty open ended question. So if helpful, you could limit them to the context of a saas like this one.

Sure, here's the pricing model for the SaaS startup I work for: https://www.aha.io/product/pricing

Our Enterprise+ plan is the one for our largest enterprise customers -- the extra features are:

- Antivirus scanning for attachments

- IP access controls

- Custom tables (an advanced feature where you can create your own record schema and link the records to canonical records in our product -- for example you can create a table of "customers" and link each feature to the customers that want it)

- Account backup (obviously we do our own backups, but this feature lets you easily dump your whole account to JSON so you can do your own backups too)

- Some advanced features around managing licenses within your organization

- Our concierge service (which includes support for security/operational reviews plus some sessions to guide you in rolling out our product within your organization)

Great examples! Thanks.

I presume these services are priced at a level that make it worth your time to develop them. Do you find you have a lot of feature creep as each potential enterprise customer asks for certain extra features?

Not really, but a lot of that is related to how we prioritize features. We set out goals and initiatives each half-year (using Aha! internally) and ensure that the things we prioritize and build are aligned with our initiatives and will broadly benefit our customers.

Your subheading text "Build and publish instantly your projects online" reads a little strangely to me. I'd recommend re-wording that to "Build and instantly publish your projects online".

Looks neat, though!

I reckon "Build online. Publish instantly" has a nice ring to it.

How about "Instantly build and publish your projects online" ?

Or better yet, "Build your projects and instantly publish them online", for ease of parsing.

How about "Build your projects online and publish them instantly"?

Thanks to everyone for the advice, what do you think about "Build your projects and publish them instantly online"?

1. Your homepage should give me a better sales pitch about what I can do with your product and why I need it, not just how I do it. Explain your value.

2. All content is focused at English audience except the pricing details. Use a dot decimal sign $12.34 not $12,34

3. I would make the connection to your open source project explicit. It’s an asset. Sentry.io does this well

Congrats on shipping!

Great feedback. I was just about to write a comment regarding 1. above - it feels like you might have brought a bit too much of your open source roots into the presentation and too little of your business oriented foundation.

Of course this depends also on who you want to target as potential customers - who do you want to target?

My main target, at the moment, should be "small businesses", so from freelancers to startups. Not sure if I'm doing that right, but I'm willing to learn

What value could they create from using your setup?

Just to point few of them: 1. Quick deploy of the site (I mean you don't need to deal with servers, installations, and stuff) 2. They can start collecting leads easily

What separates you from Squarespace or Wix? Answer that question and make the answer prominent on your page.

I was just about to ask this. “Why does the world need another web site publisher” is a general version of that question. I think you should answer both.

FYI build some alternate landing pages that are SEO’ed for “square space alternative”, etc.

Thanks for such a good feedback. Honestly, I'm a still bit confused how exactly to proceed with the point 1 but I'll try to figure that out. Thanks

If you want I can forward you the contact of a person that does exactly what you need. Just throw me an email and I'll set you up.

Looking in you niche, carrd And instapage do this pretty well.

Grapesjs is awesome software thanks for making it! I've been looking for a chance to use grapesjs in some projects but haven't had the chance to yet but it looks fantastic -- it's been bookmarked for a long time :).

I think it might be a good idea to further limit your free tier to a time trial (a week?) maybe rather than # of projects, and maybe adding a cheaper tier -- the ability to make a website with only drag and drop.

Some that you might consider competitors:

- https://www.launchaco.com/

- http://macaw.co/ (not really)

- https://landingi.com/pricing

Also, I'm not sure who your main audience is, but using ',' for a decimal point is not commonplace in the USA. I doubt any worthwhile customer would think it was $1,490 a month, but just saying.

Thank you very much, really appreciate your kind words. BTW I'd rather prefer to keep the "forever free" tier, there you have to use the subdomain and there also "Made with Grapedrop" label, so more people will use the free tier more visibility I gain, at least this is what I think.

ps. the price format should be solved :)

Forever is a very long time. You should really consider changing that from 'free forever' to just 'free'. It's great that your plan is for it to be free forever, but as the saying goes life is what happens while you're busy making plans. (i.e. things could change and you don't want the backlash of having burned the 'forever' part in people's minds) Under promise, over deliver.

Yeah I think I got the point, it sounds good but it's pointless

Totally reasonable! All the power to you for keeping the free tier! The free advertising is indeed a good addition.

Thank you very much for making such cool tools, best of luck with the product

FYI I got a "Suspicious link" popup from google when I clicked verify my email address.

"Malicious emails often link to this site. Are you sure you want to proceed to go.sparkpostmail1.com?"

I use Sparkpost to send emails, seems just like their links got a bad reputation, so in this case, it's just a false positive. I submitted a ticket

I use them as well. You can avoid this issue entirely by creating a "click" domain. All you have to do is set a CNAME and then your links go to your own domain instead of go.sparkpostmail1.com

Yeah thanks, this is exactly what I've done :)

Should be fixed now

Yay for upfront pricing!!! Reminds me of how much I HATE it when I arrive at a site only for them to be super coy about their pricing model. You did it the way I wish everyone did.

Thank you, now I know what I should not change :)

Unfortunately, you might end up changing that if it increases your conversions...

Regarding the "number 1" value proposition, and given your audience is the small-business type, creating the "why" from the "what" is normally a small step.

For example, the "what" is "free forever", so the "why" is "save money and not increase monthly software subscription fees, keep my budget in line with the size of my business, grow with you, etc." Just change the point of view, and you'll get your why.

The "what": super cool features that provide enough flexibility for the credit, but simple interface. The "why": because small business is about ideas, and ideas need a voice and a face. And sometimes the idea is a quick one and I only have a few hours this weekend and the site needs to be done ASAP. Hope this helps you get the wheels turning.

My other feedback is styling: make the text not be aligned or sized so one word is left hanging below a full line. Check different phone screen layouts maybe? Just bugs me to look at. But I do like the overall color a lot. Nice!

Thanks for your feedback, especially for the what/why approach, it's somehow natural to think about it but showing it more explicitly might be a great point for the potential customer

This looks amazing! This is how a side-project should look like!

Thank you :)

One quick bit of feedback - i'm not as likely to try it out if i have to register first. Create a demo area where i can play, but not save and use that as bait for registration.

I was always pretty proud of my now defunct side project's flow. You could build the whole page right from the homepage, but to save it you had to register (otherwise who would the page belong to). It had a really great conversion rate from click to account, but a poor rate from account to paid customer hence why it didn't work out.

Thanks for sharing, did you figure out the reasons for such a poor rate?

My paid feature tiers really targeted commercial and heavy traffic users and I simply never had any of them sign up because the actual platform functionality targeted individual free users.

There are some hard to answer questions around the type of users that need dynamic pagebuilders, and you need your paid tier to target the specific pain points of people who would pay, not just arbitrary limits on free feature usage. I built the platform for free users so that's all I ever attracted.

If I did it again, I would focus on things businesses need like product widgets, contact forms, store maps, opening hours, social integration and so on.

I put it on my to-do list :) Thanks

Same opinion here. Was going to try it out, but got scared away by the registration form

Is it your general feeling about registration forms or there is something particularly wrong with my form? Thanks

Not the original commenter but I rarely sign up for things just to try out a product unless I'm already sure it's going to solve my problem.

I don't know how they're going to use my email. Are they going to send me useless emails in the future even if I decide that I'm not interested in the product? Are they going to make me confirm my email instead of letting me right in to try it? If I don't like the product can I delete my account or do I just have to forget about it?

I like when I can try out a product with as little friction as possible. To be completely honest when this happens it can sway my decision to use the product.

I've used it to build a very small landing page for a project, and here is the gist:

1. Very nice, fluid, rich way to edit.

2. When using Command + <- (back arrow) on mac, equivalent to Alt Back Arrow, you should ask if you want to leave project, regardless if it was saved. First time users wont understand at first that you need to click many times in a text box to select THEN edit it, therefore they will not go to top of word/sentence but instead they will leave the current project and go back to project creation or dashboardm, therefore creating frustation.

3. I had a very bad UX case: I went back to dashboard, and came back to upload logo, just to find that my text had been erased and replaced by the original LOREM IPSUM text (effectively, I LOST my write-up work). I believe this is a history navigation issue, but the result is that I lost my page. I could get around this and correct the damage because I had published the evolved version earlier and did not refresh my published page, but you need to check this as this is a deal-breaker when you're authoring.

This is a great tool and if you keep the excellent look and feel, reliability both in UX and hosting if you get it is going to be the make or break part of the equation.

Good luck, and count me in if you need debug and assistance.

Thanks for the great feedback, I'll try to fix issues you mentioned and make it more reliable

This is beautiful, and love the concept. Of course, the sales pitch and the product design could be improved.

Might want to add them here: https://hellonext.co

Nice work. But the font on Chrome is painful to read. Font-weight 500 instead of 200 and 16.5px font-size (for example) would be an improvement.

Also a example page showing the awesome stuff people can build would be nice.

Great product. I love the fact it's free and open source. Thank you!

*I love the fact you're offering GrapeJS as a free and open source project

I really like the website and the concept. All the best for it.

Just one feedback. The font on the pricing section is too blurred and not readable.

Thank you very much. About the font, can you share what browser/device/OS do you use?

I think it might be a good idea to increase your business/enterprise pricing. As it is, it feels to cheap (e.g. too close to the first paid plan) to be any good.

Besides, business users going for the business instead of premium plan are going to be mostly price insensitive anyway (who needs more than 50 websites?!)

Good job and good luck, mate! I've submitted it to SaaSHub. Who would you name as your top competitors?

There are tons of quick site makers.

Wix, Wordpress, Mendix, Microsoft Dynamics, etc

Also Webflow, Duda, Mozello.

Awesome, congratulations. Really like what you've done with grapesjs - thanks for all the hard work!!!

Thank you very much, glad to hear that :)

Following up on the comments of many people about not offering a free tier, would it be possible to make your system easy to clone on github AND run from a GitHub hosted site? If so, this could solve the question of you paying to host free accounts.

This looks awesome, I actually used grapesjs in a project earlier this year and it was really cool.

However I don't understand what this is? What's the output? A hosted website or some html? What would I use this for?

I dread releasing my next project and having these questions asked.

It should be simple but it’s so hard for the developer to see they have not explained the basics.

And if your project don’t explain the basics fast, people leave in seconds.

pretty cool though, within a few hours he's got a ton of advice and has some reasonably big plot holes in his messaging highlighted.

A good reason to start share your stuff as soon as possible :)

You build your webpage (like you'd do it in grapesjs), which might be even your personal page, then you can decide to export it or just assign a subdomain (custom domains are not available in free accounts) and view it online

You should make it clear that you can host it on there. Just something really simple 2 steps with big icons and text under them:

1. Design your page using our simple page builder 2. We host it for you in one click (or you can choose to export it and host yourself)

Thank you very much for the advice, I'll try to make it more clear

Looks great, I love the demo of using it for building email newsletters. Perhaps that could be a nice use to target in your marketing, maybe even integrate with some other email tools (i.e. Litmus).

I remember when I was learning web development and bootstrap particularly, I always used to dream about building something like this.

IMO the font choices on the sites include some that are way too narrow/faint. Hard to read on both Chrome and Firefox.

Looks really cool. Will have to check out when I'm not on mobile but at first glance seems like a great prototyping too as well

Thank you, let me know then

hi, i would just want to ask a few questions if that's ok.

i see you use ck editor, how was integrating it with page builder? because i was making something similar some time ago and it was a pain to find a solution for inline editor. and how do you host users projects ? i mean is it all in one one virtual machine or something?

> i see you use ck editor, how was integrating it with page builder?

I made a plugin for the editor and is open source https://github.com/artf/grapesjs-plugin-ckeditor so try to check it out

> how do you host users projects ? i mean is it all in one one virtual machine or something?

Yeah, kind of

I have used GrapeJs, it is a very well architected tool. Your new project will sure be more successful!

Our corporate firewall blocks your url as "porn"

The fact that your ssl cert is not working is also a concern

Probably your firewall regexes “rape”

Ah, the old Scunthorpe problem. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scunthorpe_problem

That was an amazing read.

So I guess even https://analytics.google.com/ would be a problem there

See also:


There's a link to submit a review on that page.

Thank you very much, I'm submitting right now

I really have no idea... The cert is issued by Let's Encrypt and so far it works pretty well (but maybe that might be an issue for that firewall)

Your domain name might just be triggering a word blocklist.

Better change the name now then rather than later. Such a shame that firewalls would do that though.

I really like grapesjs, using it as a newsletter builder. Good luck on grapedrop.

looks great - keep up the solid work.

Nice! But why is free without tls? :|

With the free account, you can choose any subdomain and you have automatically the HTTPS enabled

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact