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Launch HN: Satchel (YC S18) – Guides to the Best SaaS Tools
207 points by Fission 12 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 93 comments
Hey HN! I'm Andrew, one of the makers of Satchel. (https://satchel.com). We write SaaS buying guides. We vigorously test products in different SaaS categories, write reports about our findings, and then try to identify the best product for a typical early-stage startup. Along the way, we uncover and share info that should be obvious (but isn't), and point out any caveats and pitfalls you might encounter.

We're like The Wirecutter / Consumer Reports for SaaS, minus the affiliate links / paywall (more on this later).

There's a real information problem in B2B software. Without prior experience, it's hard to know how to evaluate a product, figure out what differentiates it, learn all relevant background, and compare against alternatives. Many times, it's difficult even to decipher what exactly a product does. As a buyer, you're often in the position of having to make a high-quality decision on something you're far from being an expert on. If you're anything like me, you often don't even know what you don't know.

There are plenty of crowd-sourced review sites out there, but they usually all end up filled with 5-star reviews that boil down to "I used X [and only X] and it was good." There is also an abundance of startup tool lists and directories, yet the problem is less about seeing what tools are out there and more about figuring out which one to use.

We're taking a different path, one that others have tended to avoid. We do hands-on testing and write in-depth long-form for each category of tools (with plenty of summaries to make it useful even when skimming), which can't be replaced with code (even though we, as engineers, sincerely wish that weren't the case). We're not reliant on vendors, so we can say what we actually think about a product, both upsides and downsides, instead of being pressured to normalize everything we say around "pretty good."

I see us as fundamentally helping you do something akin to time/information arbitrage. If lots of startups are each spending, say, ten hours doing the exact same research and testing, why doesn't someone spend 100 hours doing that research and then freely distribute the results? Everyone would save time yet get higher quality information.

Right now, we have three longform guides geared towards startups just starting out: store of money (https://satchel.com/store-of-money), incorporation service (https://satchel.com/incorporation), and web analytics (https://satchel.com/web-analytics). We have preliminary results (but not full writeups) for a lot more categories at https://satchel.com/handbook.

We don't expect to support ourselves financially in the same way as The Wirecutter (affiliate program) or Consumer Reports (paywall). Affiliate programs are mostly conflict-of-interest-free when rates are standardized across products (e.g. via Amazon for consumer goods), but are a lot harder to execute properly in a fragmented market like B2B software's. I'm also personally opposed to paywalling our work (I spent a lot of my formative years as a bio researcher, and I'd sincerely claim that open-access was a saving grace). Instead, we think there are ways we can increase the efficiency of the SaaS procurement/purchasing process, and intend to monetize there based on value-add.

We would love to hear your feedback and your experiences with B2B software. I'm personally excited to be sharing this with HN, and I'll be here to answer any and all questions you want to throw my way!

I like the concept. Yet it feels like an echo chamber when the YC saas review company only reviews other YC based web analytics products after leading off with talk from YC parter about how everyone is doing it wrong... Do you think your audience won't notice the heavy YC bias?

Actually, I totally agree with you. This is something that we thought hard about, because our initial three guides are dominated by YC companies.

I think the main explanation is that YC companies, to a much greater extent than other companies, tend to focus on early-stage startups. As our guides are currently focused on early-stage startups, we naturally see more YC companies represented in the guides.

If anything, I'd argue that we're so aware of this that we need to consciously avoid overcorrecting in the other direction.

Have you thought about collecting reviews from "real" users of the products to supplement your analysis?

There's potentially a misaligned-incentives problem with review sites which themselves do the reviews. The latest episode of the FYI podcast[0] goes through this problem with the founder of Capiche[1] (looks like a competitor of yours) and the founder was explaining how firms like Gartner basically have two sets of customers: The software buys and the software sellers. The software sellers can actually pay Gartner to get in front of an analyst and sell them on their product.

I don't know to what extent this makes Gartner's recommendations less useful, but it seems like it would make it hard for smaller companies to get on the radar. I think the fundamental problem is that the analysts are not actual users of the software.

So I like Capiche's direction, but I dislike the fact that they're a "closed" invite-only website.

[0] https://twitter.com/ARKInvest/status/1261421627717218305

[1] https://capiche.com

Thanks for mentioning Capiche! I think there's so much opportunity in this space so I'm stoked to see anyone else joining in.

At the very start, I wanted Capiche to be essentially Wirecutter for SaaS. We ended up going in a different direction, but I'm super impressed with Satchel's execution here, and as someone who spends a crazy amount of time on this stuff, I learned a bunch of new things reading through the site today.

I really don't want to hijack @fission's launch discussion, but thought I'd just reply to your comment on the invite-only thing: our site will be wide open soon-ish. Just taking our time building a community around high quality discussion (most of which has little to do with comparisons/reviews), but eventually will open it all up. Think of it like Stack Overflow's private beta...just a step in the process.

Hey Austin, I appreciate the thoughtfulness and the kind words.

I think even though we're working in different directions, we share a lot of the same values and see similar issues with the status quo. When (I hope not if) quarantine's over, let's grab a coffee :) — my email's in my profile

Any chance we can join now?

I think there are a couple of great points here, and I'll try to break things down and address each point independently.

1. re: "real" user reviews — right now, we do do this, just in a different way vs. what I think you're thinking of. For all of our guides so far, we've conducted a lot of interviews with founders who've used each product. However, we ultimately synthesize this data, pair it up with our own findings from our testing, and draw our own conclusions.

We think this is close to the optimal way of doing things. We found that sites which rely 100% on user reviews usually hit a ceiling in terms of usefulness, as the reviews are typically on the shallower side, which compounds b/c high-level reviews typically end up talking about the same things, so they're often redundant as well. By getting founder feedback, we're able to get a lot of datapoints to guide our findings and to surface less common issues, but by testing and ultimately writing these guides ourselves, we're able to both spend the time to elaborate on important aspects in depth (e.g. caveats, background info, etc.), while also being able to present info from a bigger picture perspective (e.g. this is how X, Y, and Z compare, etc.). The main downside is that it requires a lot of additional work.

2. re: Gartner + incentives — I believe that you identified the problem correctly, but misattributed the underlying cause. Gartner's incentives are misaligned b/c vendors who pay have an edge up on those who don't, for reasons you correctly identified. Importantly, this is not isolated to Gartner — in fact, the incentives are just as misaligned for a lot of the 100% UGC review sites. For those sites, if a vendor pays, they're allowed to cherrypick their own users to invite for an "organic review." If the vendor doesn't pay, then their rating will be relatively lower b/c it becomes much harder for them to get their best users to write a review on the site.

So in general, the problem isn't caused by whether you're a UGC review site or write guides yourself — it's caused by, well, whether or not you're doing something slimy to make money.

Edit: Oh, and I just saw that you mentioned Capiche at the end. I just want to say that none of this comment is directed at them — I sincerely think that they're passionate, motivated founders who deeply care about doing good for the startup community.

I think it's possible to have a system where lesser-known products can pay to get reviewed, and have the review still be unbiased and truthful. The probably is that it's impossible to know where that stops and "pay 1x to get reviewed, pay 2x for a good review" begins, and I think the vast majority of people would be immediately distrustful of any system where I can pay for my brand new, single-customer startup to get reviewed by a giant like Gartner.

I'm not sure I follow. Presumably, more mature SaaS products have more widely available reviews, documentation, tutorials, complaints, etc. to help companies make more informed decisions.

They also seem like they might have more proven business models, which is important when you're relying on it for a core function of your business. The last thing you want is some fresh startup that craters and forces you to scramble to find and implement a replacement when they fail to close their next funding round and need to shutter things.

Would you mind elaborating on what you don't follow on? I generally agree with everything you've said, so normally it'd be A-OK, but I think there's a question here somewhere (though I'm not exactly sure what) and I want to make sure I can address it.

It's more of a comment on your previous response than a question.

1. Older companies tend to have wider footprint of real world use in various contexts thereby having a wider "body of work" for objective analysis and review.

2. There is switching cost when you get the 'thank you from the incredible journey" email or blogpost. So it is important to have companies that are self-sufficient and aren't at the risk of being acquired and shutdown which new companies are much more prone to.

PS: It is acknowledged that new companies most likely have fresher takes on old problems but you should also cater for their negatives enumerated above.

The other person who responded nailed it.

There's definitely value and opportunity that can be found in using the newest tech from the freshest companies. You can often find great value from their pricing, better UI, improved results, etc.

So my comment was in no way meant to bash using a startup. It was meant more to point out that there's a double-edged sword here by focusing on startups as there are real risks and trade-offs.

I agree this would be a problem. If I am using a review to pick a tool I want to know they’ve tried the old tool from Oracle and IBM and Microsoft and they are treating it as seriously as I would as the person that has to pay the bill.

I also agree that this is a problem. This is why we're evaluating the old-school solutions for each problem. For payroll, this is ADP + PayChex; for knowledge bases this is Confluence; for payment processors we're even dealing with Authorize.net, even though I'd think most startups would eliminate that choice based on repressed memories alone.

I believe we've also done a good job of this in our current guides: we discuss LegalZoom and lawyers in our incorporation service guide (even though bonafide startup incorporation services themselves are relatively novel), and for our store of money guide we even went so far as to stick our money into Fidelity (the definition of old school) to get a cash management comparable.

Our event-based analytics guide doesn't have any old school evaluation, but that's because event-based analytics tools, in the grand scheme of things, are really quite a recent development.

This really comes across in the choice of Brex for storing cash. I don't think most VCs would be comfortable with portfolio companies storing their millions with Brex (unless they are investors in Brex). Startup CFOs are not chasing yield with investor's money and really want the safest, most convenient option, that builds a relationship for the future if the company is successful.

Money Market funds are a good option to store cash that one needs for the immediate term, and there is a wide variety of them. However, one should evaluate each fund and their holdings to understand the risk & liquidity profiles.

My colleague just wrote this explainer detailing how money market funds work and how one should go about selecting one, in case it's helpful - https://medium.com/@mikedombrowski/are-money-market-funds-th...

Full Disclosure: I'm the founder of InterPrime (yc w19). We provide treasury management services and bring the treasury tools that big companies have been using for decades to Startups, SMBs, Non-profits & Investment Funds. Happy to chat and help anyone with questions on these topics.

This is actually a really interesting comment, because it reminds me of a meta-observation that I've made over the past few weeks.

First off though, I want to clarify that the money market fund is typically not operated by the org. The GMMF choices for SVB are managed by BlackRock, Morgan Stanley, etc., for Brex it is BNY Mellon, etc. You really only get self-operated funds for larger financial institutions, e.g. Wells Fargo or Fidelity. Therefore, many of these products act as a software layer over some existing bank/fund/etc. I believe we explain this distinction in the article. There are some caveats, but this is the general gist.

But onto the meta-observation: given the current economic climate w/ depressed treasury rates, we've recently received a lot of questions about higher-yield options, specifically re: CDs which are currently hovering around 1.5%. These are from well-known, well-respected startups who presumably don't need the cash and don't need to deal with the high overhead and illiquidity of CDs. I think that this really demonstrates the survival instincts of later-stage founders being carried forward from their early days, and the fact that startups are functionally live optimization machines, not just at a product-level, but as an entire organization. It seems to us that the best startups eke out every advantage they can — with all respect to the nature of the power law, these small differences, in aggregate, might make or break the entire company.

> There's a real information problem in B2B software. Without prior experience, it's hard to know how to evaluate a product, figure out what differentiates it, learn all relevant background, and compare against alternatives. Many times, it's difficult even to decipher what exactly a product does. As a buyer, you're often in the position of having to make a high-quality decision on something you're far from being an expert on. If you're anything like me, you often don't even know what you don't know.

Amazing copywriting here. I’m sure this deeply resonates with many people in tech. I’ll be looking forward to your service expanding its coverage on many more SaaS providers and their offerings.

Edit: I had a quick look at your site. I wonder if targeting a smaller range of reading duration could help. Right now it’s all the way from a shorter 12 minutes to a really lengthy 38 minutes, which seems like a huge variation to me. I get that some services will need far fewer words than others. I like that the summaries are all short enough, and help decide whether to read the full article or not.

Appreciate the kind comment! To be honest, I didn't really think about that paragraph too much — I just wrote down my own qualms/experiences in a list, and eventually decided to consolidate it into a paragraph. It was just something that I felt strongly about.

> I had a quick look at your site. I wonder if targeting a smaller range of reading duration could help.

This is something that we tried to deal with through the overall summaries, the rating matrices, product summaries, etc. I completely agree that it'd be overkill for everyone to read a super long guide, which is why we added those components. However, we also wanted to ensure that if a reader wanted to go in-depth into the reasoning/background/justification behind something, we would have the information right there.

Granted, it's not perfect yet (I've spent a lot of time responding to emailed questions with "actually, we discuss that in this paragraph/section/sidenote/etc.", so there's clearly room for improvement on our end), but we're working on it! Any suggestions on this front would be super helpful, actually.

Very excited! One of the most common questions within the YC community is which product should I use for X. As an avid user of Wirecutter for consumer items I think this approach is very interesting.

Oh, and I'd like to add — one of the reasons why I'm so excited about this launch is because it's been a crazy journey so far. I entered YC as a solo founder fresh out of college, working on a near-polar-opposite product (mobile 3D reconstruction; highly-technical). We worked hard on that for nearly two years, and only recently made the decision to change directions. If it's interesting, I'd be happy to give perspective on this decision and my experiences so far.

Congrats on the launch, Andrew! I'm curious to learn more about your experience in mobile 3D reconstruction. Did you publish anything? I'm curious because I'm working in the 3D reconstruction space as well.

Didn't publish anything. Mainly, we focused on making 3D reconstruction practical for B2B use cases.

It's interesting, because I personally see the idea of commercializing academic research to be well-intentioned, but a bit more difficult than it sounds.

Some more thoughts from a previous HN thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20753553

Thanks for sharing

Yeah, please do share. Congrats on the pivot and Satchel looks pretty cool, good luck (Even though I'm not sure I understand the business model, I see a lot of value in the product)

Will do. It might be a bit lengthy and take a bit of time to write, so I'll post this placeholder for now and update it throughout the day.

Would love to hear!

What missing is how these services are integrating and interconnecting with each other. I.e. "SaaS legos". + do they allow easy automation using various nocode/lowcode tools (i.e. Zapier, etc.).

For example, I want to incorporate a C-Corp, get a linked bank account, a business credit card, get an intro to a startup law firm and accounting service, be able to use invoicing, accounting and payroll software integrating with above services, etc.

Same with the analytics, CRM and project management software - they should all play well together.

I would gladly pay a premium for this kind of integration.

I love this. Every company I've worked for (mostly startups) have made at least a few terrible decisions when selecting b2b software because founders / decision makers have to make decisions quickly to get up and running and can't necessarily spend a lot of time exploring different services and thinking about future needs. Those tools become so integrated into business processes that it's hard to switch away when you come across another, better tool. Seems like this would be a big help.

Yeah, startups are in the position of having to make high-velocity yet high-quality decisions, yet without too many resources to accomplish either. A bunch of our own decisions in the early-days mostly came down to asking some founder friends, throwing our hands up, and mentally flipping a coin.

This looks super useful. I can't count the number of times I've ended up on one of those ranking sites that feels like an affiliate scam.

One suggestion: for your "ratings matrix" it would be easier to parse if you kept the "our take" section out of it so all of the ranking icons appear close to each other. https://imgur.com/a/PmX1TLu

> I can't count the number of times I've ended up on one of those ranking sites that feels like an affiliate scam.

Totally agree. We took a close look to figure out what made some review sites slimy (and frankly not very useful). It mostly came down to what you'd expect: all reviews are normalized to be generally positive, lots and lots of recommended products, etc. That's why we made a deliberate decision to not go down that route.

> One suggestion: for your "ratings matrix" it would be easier to parse if you kept the "our take" section out of it so all of the ranking icons appear close to each other.

Appreciate the suggestion, I see what you're getting at. Most design issues come back to me, so I'll take a look at it and see if we can't make it easier to compare all ratings at once.

It might be outside the purview of your product, but it would be useful if it borrowed some from rtings.com and became an interactive rfp/selection tool.

Allow weighting of whats important and whats not, to re-sort the results.

Totally! It's something we've considered, and it wouldn't be too hard to implement. The reason why we've deferred it is because we've found that most early-stage startups are pretty homogeneous in their requirements, so a self-weighing system like you suggested is a little excessive. That said, I think it's very much something that we'll revisit when we start delving into later-stage-startup topics.

Thanks for the suggestion!

Even moreso than just a one person ranking, being able to have a team sign in, and different divisions and functional groups rank and prioritize their needs, and having it roll up into an organizational score. That is a place where you could monetize. https://www.scoutrfp.com/ and https://www.loopio.com/ play in this space.

There's also the side of vendor management once you do make a selection. Even a service that manages and negotiates for you. https://www.vendr.com/

Do you have a page planned for https://carta.com/ and the like?

Or talent sourcing? https://gocatalant.com/ https://www.hellogustav.com/ https://www.lever.co/ https://www.hellobonsai.com/best-freelance-websites

Smaller tools as well - https://www.privacytools.io/

Once you get bigger, a single page playbook of all the best choices would be great https://www.hellobonsai.com/best-freelance-tools

Looking at your "The Best Store of Money" – I'm baffled that First Republic Bank even made the list. We're in the process of switching away from them because of how broken their web interfaces are, and how hard it is to connect them to other tools which makes it hard for our accounting team to automated their work.

I think you really need to do a lot more interviews with people that have been users of these products.

Hey, thanks for the datapoint! I'd like to break your comment down into what I believe are the two main points, and address them independently.

1. On whether or not FRB should be in the list — we certainly think they should. Based on the founder surveys we sent out, we found that FRB was quite-well represented across the startup community (and I think that your datapoint adds to that finding). Our inclusion of a company/product is not an endorsement, but rather a result of what we think would be useful to test for the community. In this case, we evaluated FRB because we know a lot of founders (including yourself) have considered/are using them.

2. On whether our evaluation reflects your experience — this is the more interesting point for us. We have data from ~15 founders re: FRB, ranging from full-blown interviews to anecdotes. In general, we didn't hear anything substantially negative about their core banking service, but we aren't going to conclude that they're perfect from that data alone. That said, the founder data was informative enough to draw some directionally-accurate conclusions from, although additional data points help us both realign as well as shrink or expand our confidence interval.

If you're willing to email me about your experience with FRB, we'd very much like to look it over and take it into account when we update the guide.

On 1: this is because they've done a great job with partnerships. Cerkly's corporation set-up becomes free if you sign up with FRB – this was a YC deal we used. So this doesn't mean much.

2. I recognize that this is generally a hard job. Our original product/company was along the same lines as Wirecutter (https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/ask-suto-launch/) and it's an extremely tough path to take. I do feel that it's easier for businesses since the value-props/features are a lot more distinct in how businesses make decisions.

Very interested in seeing how you try to make a business out of this!

I spent ~3-4 hours a few weeks ago deciding what analytics products to buy and I ended up creating a cost/benefit sheet on each option. If you guys existed back then I could have just linked to you instead.

Disclosure: a self-promoting plug. Have you heard about https://www.saashub.com. That's the product I'm working on. I'm trying to solve the same problem - a marketplace with as objective as possible software alternatives. The lists are based on an aggregation of articles and directory mentions from everywhere around the web. That makes it more difficult to skew the results. For example, one product might be subjectively promoted in one list; however, when you take the average of 10 lists, the best options will end up at the top.

If this is done right, this would be a fantastic asset. I read two of the articles and they seem quite well done and seemingly more objective than I'd expect on similar sites. I'm in the process of launching my own product, so all of the existing comparisons are relevant and appreciated.

One small problem: on my 10.5" iPad the table of contents are cut off and I can't even horizontal scroll them into view (despite the fact that the page does horizontal scroll). Even in landscape, the layout isn't quite right. The content itself is viewed no problem, though.


Appreciate the feedback. Our goal is really only to be useful, which naturally ends up with us covering a lot of background (e.g. for store of money: what is a cash sweep, how is yield determined, what are the underlying incentives for various startups, etc.). Plus, by holding ourselves to a standardized set of criteria, it's a lot easier to stay objective.

I'll take a look to see if we can't address formatting in the mid-range of window sizes.

What is your business model? I see the value in what you're doing, but struggling with how you'll make money and scale enough for YC to justify funding you.

This is going to be a bit of a roundabout answer, so please bear with me.

Our first task is to prove we there we can provide sufficient value through objective info, and in helping people figure out which tools to invest in.

This is a bit of a convoluted way to say that we aren't 100% sure on long-term monetization, but we do know it probably won't be wirecutter-type affiliate nor paywall. We fully subscribe to the pg thought process behind this: http://paulgraham.com/good.html. That said, if we can accomplish our goal, we believe we can make money somehow, whether by offering value-added services or something else. Keep in mind that we're software developers ourselves, so we're in a position to build something once it becomes clear where the opportunity is; we're not just review-writers. For now, we're focused on producing as much value as we can by writing useful reviews. Speaking of which, we'd really like to hear what would be most useful to you in evaluating SaaS products!

Got it. Thanks for the detailed answer. I formed a company early this year and using - ZenBusiness for incorporation, Gusto for Payroll, Bill.com for invoicing, Radius Bank for online banking, Stripe for payments, Shopify for storefront, etc. You may want to start segmenting reviews for the needs for types or applications, types of businesses, stages of endeavors (eg. early stage vs. growth), etc. One of the areas I see is for helping tech startups evaluate their cloud provider (AWS vs. Azure Vs. GCP Vs. other) options based on the product they are building. Just my 2c. Good luck!

They can monetize similarly to NerdWallet and the like. YC can benefit even if they don't since a lot of the products they recommend are from YC companies (can create a conflict of interest though).

This could be very cool, but I'm interested in your business model. I'm sure you're unbiased now, but ultimately you'll need to make money, which has a tendency to bias things. One of the reasons I've trusted The Wirecutter in the past is because they're pretty up-front about how they support themselves. Being vague about that seems like it'd make it hard for Satchel to build that same kind of trust.

Thanks! I shared some thoughts on this earlier (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23237147), but I also wanted to take some time to discuss the points you made.

Completely agree that The Wirecutter's up-front-ness and monetization is well-aligned with the end customer. Wirecutter's affiliate model works well with consumer goods b/c affiliate rates are mostly standardized (mainly by Amazon), which mostly mitigates conflicts of interest. This doesn't work as well in SaaS because vendors are so fragmented. This means that there would need to be a lot of checks and balances to avoid bias in B2B software. That's why any eventual monetization likely won't look like Wirecutter's.

Once we settle on a way to make money, we'll make it transparent. I'm just being vague right now because we don't know what exactly that is, so we're being... transparently vague :)

I think the idea for this is great, as it has the potential to save a lot of time and effort researching tools.

Some minor quibbles though.

I'm not getting any younger, and I find that the non-white background combined with the light weight of the font hard to read (Windows/Edge Chromium). I can't put my finger on it, I can't tell if it's the readability of the font itself or simply the weight. Text is a little easier to read on the purple background for the Summary section for some reason.

As a sanity check, I hopped onto the Wirecutter, which I frequent a lot, and they have a non-white background, but the serif font they use for the body text is a little heavier and much easier to read for my aging eyes.

For the Analytics article, I think adding screen grabs would help break up the monotony of long streams of text, and give people an idea of what the UI looks like for the product(s). One of the first things I look for on any SAAS landing page are screenshots, so I can see what the UI looks like. Adding screen grabs in your reviews would save some time for me.

Thank you for the comment — feedback like yours helps us continuously find ways to improve!

I'm really interested in digging in a bit deeper, as you've expressed some thoughts we haven't heard before, and I'm hoping to improve the site more.

> I'm not getting any younger, and I find that the non-white background combined with the light weight of the font hard to read

This is interesting. The text color is #000, and the background color is #fafafa. This is a higher contrast ratio than the wirecutter, hn, etc. Since the purple background is easier to read on, it might be that the text is actually too high-contrast. It probably doesn't help that our font is a bit on the narrow side. I have a couple of ideas on how to fix it, but don't have a great idea on how to test it.

> I think adding screen grabs would help break up the monotony of long streams of text, and give people an idea of what the UI looks like for the product(s). One of the first things I look for on any SAAS landing page are screenshots, so I can see what the UI looks like. Adding screen grabs in your reviews would save some time for me.

This is particularly interesting for me to hear. Would you be willing to elaborate a bit more on how exactly you use screengrabs in your decisions? In my personal experience (emphasis on personal), screengrabs don't provide much value because they're mainly used as feature demonstrations.

We try to take an approach where we don't focus on the features, but rather the overall impact in aggregate (e.g. we won't focus on who has the best funnel analysis, but will ask who has the best core analytics functionality). We strongly believe that this synthesis approach is more useful, but it also means that features overviews are lower priority.

However, I'd be curious to know how you use them, as it sounds like you get value from them beyond just feature understanding. With a better understanding of how you use them, we can go back and get screenshots that best fit the kind of value that you get from them.

For the fonts:

I think the stroke of the font is just too thin, or maybe it's the font's letterspacing as well. As far as sites go in general, my eyes struggle with reading the text on Satchel in particular. It could also be Windows' rendering of the font. I see that you're using Avenir Next? For what it's worth, it looks a little bit better on Firefox for Windows. Edge Chromium and Chrome look the same. I opened up the inspector and changed the body color to #fff and it is an improvement.

The contrast in numbers might be better than HN or the Wirecutter, but I find that HN's font and the Wirecutter's font easier to read. In short spurts, the font is somewhat fine, but because reviews are so text heavy, it becomes harder to read.

Keep in mind that all of this is highly subjective and based on my personal vision.

For the screenshots:

It's hard to explain, but I want to see how stuff is organized on the screen, etc. And while I would like to say looks aren't important, I'd be lying if I said that stuff didn't matter. If you are reviewing multiple products, I definitely want to see comparative screenshots for the same function. What would be even better would be short animated gifs showing how navigation work between apps.

Oh, another thing I noticed. Your Consumer Reports style icons in the Ratings Matrix are great, but when I hover over them, I don't get a tip as to what they mean. IIRC, CR puts a legend for the icon on top of the pages that use those icons.

re: fonts — I booted up my windows machine, and you're right, it renders abnormally narrow and is hard to see. No CSS rendering options could fix it, so I think it just comes down to how Windows handles the font. We'll try to swap it out for something more legible, but big thanks to you for bringing this up either way.

re: screenshots — I think I see the point you're trying to make. We'll get something up and running and see how it works.

re: tooltips — just pushed something to add them

Ethical considerations are a significant factor in my SaaS (and stack) selections, and seem to have been entirely omitted from these analyses. If it helps guide your content direction any, I give a great many shits about a) user privacy (super relevant to analytics), and b) socially responsible investment (again, but for capital holding) and so forth.

It tends to be a binary consideration. For example, I said no to React; not because viable alternatives exist, but ruled out of contention entirely because the vendor is the Philip Morris of tech.

Just as the rag trade can get by with excluding sweatshops from their supply chain, I think it’s incumbent on those of us privileged enough to be able to start/run a tech company to navigate our preferences as much by a moral compass as any other. So I’d value the opportunity to make better informed decisions in that dimension.

Note to self, for future reference: the comment above was upvoted during European daytime and downvoted during US daytime.

I love this, I've spent time researching a lot of these topics before and I'm looking forward to saving time in the future.

One small feedback is to visually highlight the top pick more. My workflow with reviewers like The Wirecutter is to scroll straight to the "our pick" section. This assumes I have some level of trust in the reputation of the reviewer as being thoughtful.


- The top pick is noted in the summary but it's always one of many bullet points.

- It's also the first row of the summary matrix, but that wasn't immediately obvious to me.

- I may be more of a skimmer than your target user.

Really like this idea. As a consultant I often get asked “what is the best payment processor/analytics/hosting/etc”. I often feel a little dirty saying “Stripe/Google/Azure or AwS” because I haven’t _really_ evaluated them all and determined which is “best” by any measure other than “it’s what I know”. Googling “best payment provider” just reveals sales pitches. Definitely a market for exhaustive analysis on this stuff. One thought: it changes by the month. Keep it current testing new features and services.

I know someone who reviews website builders and do 44k $ /m with affiliates, I'm curious on these business models ! You did a very good job guys ! Good luck and I'm sure it will succeed.


1. I like the idea and like people have said, it would be good to go beyond the YC "echo chamber".

2. It is important to have some fairly establish (boring) players but there are good reasons why. Longevity amongst others. See:(https://news.ycombinator.com/edit?id=23244624)

3. It would be a good idea to have an open source option in each category.

As a fan of Wirecutter, this looks really useful.

Small nit: dashes over underscores on URLs and looks like you don't have metatags properly set (Facebook, Twitter etc)

Appreciate the suggestions. You're right about dashes, will look to fix. Lack of metatags comes down to the lack of any social media accounts.

Done, thanks again for the suggestion. It'll break the links in the main post temporarily, but hopefully dang can rescue it.

Edit: decided to throw in some redirects instead, should work well.

Another nit: Page titles are all just Satchel. The tab name (or when I hover over a tab, the tooltip) should tell me what page I have open.

Pushed! Thank you for the suggestion — completely forgot about some meta tags.

Super confused (YC S20) is about to start, Satchel posted three reviews for all YC companies, and were part of (YC S18) — how is this company related to YC? Maybe it’s me, but if the company you pitch on demo day does not make it, appending YC batch to the startup regardless of if the founders were part of a prior batch to me feels like well I don’t know, but at the very least am curious what is going on.

It definitely is a bit confusing, I'd agree with you there — I'll try to explain it:

Put shortly, this is the exact same company that YC invested in back in S18. The product may be different, but the underlying company (in the legal sense) is the same.

When a startup pivots, they usually have two options: 1. shut down the company, return money to investors, and start afresh; or 2. continue with the same company, just with a different product. You'll hear varying opinions on the "right" way to approach it, but in general, YC startups usually take the latter option as YC is generally of the mindset of investing in the founders rather than the idea.

This is why Retool, Brex, Segment, GOAT, etc. are considered YC companies, despite completely changing what they were working on (the latter two substantially after demo day).

Congrats on the launch! Are you specifically focusing on startup software or will you be eventually expanding to other verticals like e-commerce?

Thanks. Focused on info for the earliest stages of a startup for now, but we're continuously progressing towards later-stage topics.

What's missing for me is your business model. If I don't know how you (plan to) make money, how can I trust your judgement?

Hey! Love this idea, how can we get Blook.io added to the incorporation services? We are a stripe atlas / gust alternative :)

We'll take a look.

On a side note, and no pun intended, I find it interesting that you find the need to mention that you are a ex-YC company to draw attention towards your offering. I'm curious to know how many upvotes this launch would have have gathered once you take that out. Just saying.

Founder of Satchel explained why (YC S18) is in the title here:


We’re on HN. Mentioning your company’s YC class is less like “free attention” and more like “full disclosure”.

Not sure I agree. I've seen many repeat founders showcase their product without mentioning their credentials. Here are the D3js founders showcasing ObservableHQ, and commenters discovering the team post a background check, no mention of their background anywhere: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16274686

This is super well done! One thought: big companies that make a lot of purchasing decisions would probably pay for a special tier of access, perhaps one that includes phone calls with your team that have actually done the reviews (reminds me of what GLG does).

Hey thanks, appreciate the kind words! It's definitely something that we thought about (and are continuing to think through). There is also the question of service vs. product businesses, although there are certainly a lot of comparables for the former.

For now, however, we're mainly focused on making ourselves useful for early-stage companies. Certainly something we're thinking about however!

This is really awesome! I've personally experienced optional paralysis multiple times when trying to evaluate different SaaS products. I will be keeping an eye on all of your recommendations!

Thank you, appreciate the feedback! Would you be willing to go into some more detail into how these decisions played out for you in the past?

Sure! I've mainly struggled with decisions for live chat, project management, product analytics, and bookkeeping.

For live chat, I started on Drift, and then I got really tired of their buggy iOS app. I saw that you also mentioned their history of engineering issues in the handbook, and I've personally experienced a lot of these issues. I switched to Intercom, and they've been much better. However, I'm still very disappointed in the iOS app, because I can't tag any messages. This is a critical part of my workflow, because I use a new tool called Savio (http://savio.io) for tracking feature requests and customer feedback, and they have an integration with Intercom that relies on message tagging. Otherwise, Intercom has been great on desktop. (Except for a really annoying issue with Turbolinks, because the Intercom widget "bounces" on each page load. I've reached out to their customer support about this.)

For project management, I was originally using Trello. Then I briefly tried to use Airtable, but that didn't work very well after a while. Then I had a great product management consultation with the founder of Savio (Kareem Mayan - highly recommended by the way! https://www.reemer.com/). He helped me get set up on Clubhouse.io, which has been awesome. I've also really enjoyed having a "feedback triage" layer in Savio, so that I'm not just adding every idea directly into my todo list. My only issue with Clubhouse is that I wish there was an easier way to add a new task directly from each column in the kanban view, similar to Trello's "+ Add another card" button.

For product analytics - This is a bit embarrassing, but the option paralysis has been so bad so that I just didn't make any decision at all. I was just using Google Analytics on every page and tracking a few events, but "Evaluate Heap vs Mixpanel vs Amplitude" has been on my roadmap forever, and I would read Quora answers and try to figure out which one I should be using, but then I would just give up. Also everything is extremely expensive! But anyway, thanks to your article, I finally set up Heap analytics! But here's one thing I couldn't find any answers for - should I be adding Heap to all of my pages (including landing page, documentation site, blog, etc.). Or should I just add it inside the application, only for signed-in users? I was thinking that it would be nice to get more visibility into how people are reading the docs, because I'm working on a developer tool where the documentation is a critical part of the onboarding process. And I definitely want to know if someone signs up after reading through the docs. But on the other hand, maybe I don't want to track all anonymous users, because if I blow past their free plan limit then $500/mo is extremely expensive. Oh, so maybe I actually want to use Amplitude!

I already ran into a free plan limit with FullStory recently. I wanted to start tracking a page that was getting a lot of traffic, because there was a bug that was really hard to reproduce. I accidentally blew past the free plan limit and couldn't use them for the rest of the month, because their paid plan started at 5 figures per year.

I started on Bench.co for bookkeeping, and they were great for a year, but I could start to tell that they weren't the best choice for a SaaS business. They also referred me to an accounting service that hasn't been very good. (It's been very hard to get a response from them, and I actually still have no idea if they've even filed my taxes for 2019. I think I might need to sue them soon if I don't hear anything.)

So I moved to Pilot.com this year, and they've been awesome! It's so much nicer to have my books in Quickbooks Online. I'm planning to start using Flightpath Finance at some point (https://www.flightpathfinance.com). I had an initial call with them, and they talked about all the reasons why Bench.co wasn't a great choice, I should be using accrual accounting vs cash accounting, and having my books in Quickbooks makes it much easier to work with accountants and other services, etc. I think I might even fire my current accountant and just use Pilot's tax services this year.

I think that's about it for now, and would be happy to answer any questions!

P.S. I searched everywhere to see if I could find Satchel on Twitter. I think Twitter would be a perfect marketing channel for Satchel, because I would definitely follow an account that regularly tweeted about this topic and shared links to your reviews.

Nathan, did you check Countly? (which is at the top 10 analytics platforms on Google Play, according to Appfigures), and is not prohibitely expensive. Thought you may give it a try. (shameless plug: I am one of the cofounders).

What is your process/disclosure when signing up for these services? When they look at onboarding you as marketing instead of sales, does that affect things?

Insofar we haven't outed ourselves as doing reviews, so we mainly used our own accounts or some burner accounts (we've got a few email addresses that will remain private). This allows us to get the actual customer experience.

This is very interesting! Tiny issue report: the link for Amplitude in the handbook, under the web analytics section, is broken (it points to Mercury).

Feedback on the tables: the vertical table headers are hard to read. Consider tilting them at an angle, or just switching to horizontal.

Appreciate the suggestions. To be honest, we spent a decent amount of time on table formatting, but we'll take another look. We think horizontal headings are out of the question though, b/c we don't see a way to preserve the table format going that route.

Actually really like this. Those other review sites are too heavily gamed but this is a great approach.

I view this as more akin to a Gartner/Forrester style analyst service coming "down" to the general SAAS market than coming "up" from the Wirecutter B2C arena.

Gartner, etc are all very much the paywalled exclusive access and strict control of reports that OP mentions.

What's not mentioned is that even with their incredible amounts of funding how difficult it is to do an evenhanded analysis of these truly complicated systems.

It's honestly just tough categorizing these things properly so you can get decent comparisons. Case in point Notion is on the front page today, their big selling point is that they can more or less do what would take half a dozen other more specialized SAAS to do. How do you slot them in against those?

Edit: case in point about categorization being hard: the 'web analytics' list is really about 'event analytics' (per the article) - which is fine but you still need web analytics services as well.

The web analytics guide is questionable as the author/s repeatedly state in the preface that Google Analytics can only be used for page views not even tracking, which is false.

We actually have a sidenote that mentions that GA can be used for event-based tracking, but we've decided to skip over it in v1 of the guide because it's missing some critical analytics functionality. We're focused on the big three event-based analytics tools for now, but are going to add more info on tools that can be used for event-based analytics, but aren't primarily designed for that purpose, e.g. Pendo, GA, etc.

Also, there's no mention at all of GA App+Web (launched August 2019) - which is clearly the future of Google Analytics and uses an event-based model.

Thanks for bringing this up. Just to clarify, the base version of GA provides an event-based model. GA App+Web is a feature of GA that's aimed at sharing/consolidating info between websites and mobile devices. We're focused on the web side of things, as we've insofar only written a web analytics article. We suspect GA becomes a bigger player when we take a look at mobile analytics, but we haven't fully delved into that yet.

Well if you was actually aware of that, you've purposefully put out repeated mis-information in what's supposed to be a trustworthy, reliable guide.

How do I now trust your analysis on the "big three" tools when you haven't nailed the basics of the OG Google Analytics?

I love it!

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