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How to get your first 100 users as a SaaS startup founder? (nat.app)
40 points by nathanganser 15 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 32 comments

The person who wrote this got my email from the pioneer virtual hackathon slack channel and sent me this unsolicited email:


What a Hackathon :P I arrived on my own, found a team and went off hacking! Tbh, we were slightly too ambitious and 24h really isn't that much :) So, while we didn't make it to the finalists, it was tons of fun and I really enjoyed meeting new people!

And that's why I'm reaching out, I guess you also met cool people with whom you'd like to stay in touch.. but you know the story: You've exchanged emails, added them on Twitter, but.. unless your a social monster, it will be difficult to stay in touch.. just because we're busy and forgetful

I know about that because that's the problem my real startup (We're a Pioneer startup) is solving. We've built an algorithm that analyses your email interactions to figure out who you're losing touch with, that way you can always keep an eye on your gmail contacts and make sure to follow up with the people that matter.

You can try it out now if you want, happy to chat if you've got questions!!

Have a good one! (I'll get some rest now :P)


Not sure if they’re the person you want to go to for acquisition advice.

What type of person would you trust with acquisition advice? This is a topic I've struggled with how do you inform target users about your product without being dismisssed

Someone who has managed to acquire customers in a way that does not make me lose all respect for them.

Do you have any examples of outreach methods that you appreciate?

Obviously when something works it's not likely it will be noticed, but I'm curious if anything broke through without offending?

Also, do you pay for SaaS or are you not at all that demographic?

I personally detest every email marketing attempt that is not a curated newsletter I intentionally signed up for.

I also don't browse ad funded social media, so that's not reaching me.

And I use ad blockers.

So I guess my question is, how can someone with something that you or I would want to pay for let us know that it's available? In a way that leaves us saying "thanks for telling me"?

Hackathons and conferences are good venues for advertising this particular product, and an email/slack message is not a completely unreasonable mechanism for doing so.


1. Do it through official channels. If you want to advertise your product by mass emailing hackathon participants, then sponsor the hackathon.

2. If are not sponsoring, then at least limit your outreach to people who you actually talked to during the event. Have genuine conversations, tell them about your product during the conversation, and ask if they'd like a "tree trial of the pro membership" or whatever. Only follow-up if they are actually interested.

3. Most importantly, communicate professionally. That means a well-structured, concise, convincing, and error-free piece of text. It helps to list next steps. The message in the OP is, to be frank, a rambling mess of a narrative with middle school-level grammar errors. I would expect better written communication skills from a high schooler. Even if I met this person at the hackathon, and even if I solicited a followup, this email would probably still make me lose all interest.

Thanks, I think I understand your perspective better. It sounds like you care more about the lack of genuineness or professionalism than the act of reaching out and selling, if I'm understanding correctly.

I think the takeaway for me is to work in a space/field of genuine interest so that building relationships can be a genuine activity.

No, it's exclusively the lack of profesionalism. Business is business. I don't want a "genuine" sales/marketing person. Your product is not my baby.

The right way to do this is to 1) sponsor the event and then 2) send out a professional email/flyer/whatever pitching the product through the official mechanism.

I also want to add that he emailed me under false pretences. He conjured up an imaginary world in which we were close friends and I cared about what he did at the hackathon and what he’s doing afterwards (I’ve never met the guy). He undoubtedly wanted me to believe that he handwrote this email for me alone when its a copy-paste marketing email that he’d reused many times.

Not only is it dishonest and wastes my time, the execution is so bad I feel embarrassed for the guy (really? You “arrived” at a virtual hackathon?)

Edit: Oh my god and I almost forgot. He sent this to me at 3:21 AM!

Hey bobbyz!

I'm really surprised that this is taking so much of your mental energy :/ I remember you wrote quite an aggressive message on the Hackathon Slack that had to be removed by admins..

It seems like you took my email so much more serious that you should have!

I definitely didn't want you to feel like I was faking a friendship, this was a cold outreach done because I believed that this could add value to you.

But it's just cold emailing. I didn't mass email people without a reason :) You met people, you might not want to lose touch, that's it.

But agreed - totally a grey area - I'm not complaining, I should of course expect such reactions!

Grey area? Don't you mean technically illegal in the sender, receiver, and slack's jurisdiction?



Cool feedback! Yeah I'd probably do it that way if I was to do it again :)

Love that! I guess it's a billion dollar question.

I can share my approach:

My startup is targeting early founders. We're building an app to help you stay in touch with users through a Segment.com integration. So here's how I cold email:

I get emails from founders on Indiehacker that have some revenue, are web based and make revenue through subscription. https://www.indiehackers.com/products lets you target really well.

Then, I use Clearbit to figure out if they're using Segment.

And if they are, I shoot them an email to briefly explain what we do and that they can give us a try and get set up in a few seconds because they are already using Segment.

It's the same email for everyone but already pretty personal due to the initial research.

Would love your thoughts on this!

His next blog post should be “how to ruin your reputation in less than 50 lines of python”

What exactly does that mean? What is it that put you off in his approach? Was it the cold outreach? If so, how would you have liked to be approached for his type of service/product?

Implicit assumption error at line 1: User did not want to be approached at all.


My general life philosophy is that you should give things a try. It will not work in most cases, but who knows, it might!

In this case, it clearly didn't. But it's not the end of the world :)

If this is your first spam attempt, how do you explain the intro in which you said you arrived at a virtual hackathon?

Definitely hard. I've tried different cold emailing approaches and the key differentiating factor was follow-ups.

Lot of people ignore the first cold email, even if it's personal. But when you follow up, they appreciate the hustle and give you a chance :)

Didn't you just say you were just giving spam emails a try in an earlier comment? And now you say you've tried many cold email approaches? I'm having trouble keeping track...

I'm working on a B2B SaaS solution that lets you reuse your Postman and Selenium tests for load testing. I get stuck on the first 5 or 10, more than 100. How do you convince an enterprise to trust you when you are tiny and new?

I don’t think you sell to the enterprise at this stage. You sell to a manager of a department, and keep the deal size small enough that approvals are contained at that level.

Then expand the account later when you’ve gained traction and can go through an enterprise sales process.

Exactly. Unless you already have an established connection to a potential enterprise customer with the influence to get you in, you're probably not going to be playing at that level for at least several years.

Fortunately, you also probably don't want to be, because it would mean investing many resources in a months-long sales process with no guarantee of getting anything out of it at the end. Unless you have huge amounts of funding to burn through, your money is probably better spent on activities that generate revenue more quickly and build up a sustainable cash flow in the early days.

I tried to build something like this but targeted at specifically Jira. We already had contacts at huge enterprises that were on board with using it. What we found was that:

1. Very few companies have budget for load testing unless they're having load related problems in that very moment (pain driven purchasing)

2. Getting the UX good enough that users could deploy the solution without significant support overhead for us was very hard.

Best of luck with your attempt!

In the B2B world, 5 users is probably worth 500 B2C users :) Great job on getting those already! What was your approach?

Some interesting links for new entrepreneurs who weren't already aware of them.

Definitely not a fan of buying and spamming an email list.

Agreed, buying a 100k email list and sending a generic email about a great new IOS application is silly.

But that's not what I mean by buying and sending emails! The other way works like this: 1. Buy a super targeted email list (lets say early businesses that generate revenue through ads, if you're an ad network company) 2. Have a quick look at their website to double check they actually might be interested and gather some information to add to the email. 3. Use a tool like Gmass to send them a personal email like: "Hey {name},

{personal message}

I'd love to show you a short demo.. book a slot here..we help ad-based business like yourself to... blabla"

I'd personally be ok to get such an email - what do you think?

> Advertising

> It will cost you too much. Just don't think about it. In the early days, ads are not the way to go.

This is downright self-mutilating!

If you are not considering things like targeted advertising as one of your GTM I doubt you are building a serious product here.

It just makes no sense to me if you are willing to miss all the valuable insights you can gain from advertising your product to an actual audience in the real world (vs in a bubble/hype community, etc) just because you want to save some bucks.

To find your PMF you need to try everything.

Also, I won't call getting your first 100 users a "growth hack", esp when they are not even paying customers.

Interesting! I'm really basing this upon my own experience with ads.

Were you able to get ROI positive ads? Would love to hear your experience!

The closest we got to it was while targeting super niche keywords on Google Ads.

I found personalized cold emailing to be much more effective :)

Depending on your product, you can setup premade demos and try to get and opportunity to show it to the potential customer.

Loom.io is great for this!

> You've got to start somewhere right.

Am I starting somewhere wrong?

My first ever submission on HN :)

I'm part of Pioneer.app, a startup accelerator, and many founders ask about this. They have their first MVP but literally 0 visitors to their website.

Hope this can help! I'd really love it if other founders could suggest additional actions that early founders can take to get them over the 100 user mark! I'll add them to the article (with your permission).

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