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Ask HN: How did your startup get to $1M in annual revenue?
16 points by mijustin 2 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 2 comments
I'm especially curious about SaaS companies.

- How long did it take you to get to $1 million in ARR? - What were the key drivers for getting traction?

Took us 6 years being bootstrapped with a small team. Here is how it went for us:

- First 6 months: Lot of time spent building a duct tape shitty MVP but decent investment in Content Marketing early on which paid off a bit to get customers. It was never the product early on. It was always the Marketing.

- 1st 2 years, I had no clue what I was doing. I was very lazy though so didn't really go with an execution plan. Did it slow. Lot of trial and error. Tried to sell to whoever I could. Made lot of mistakes. Just a couple of freelancers to help.

- 3rd year. Started seeing some patterns on good/ideal vs non qualified customers. Got more serious about going with a better execution strategy. Hired first full time CTO with revenue from the company (not enough but just about to pay him). Rebuild product based on all the learnings till now. Stopped trying to sell to everyone and tried to narrow our market and focus.

- Year 4-5: Team expansion. Hired a bunch of full time people. Hired first Sales person on the team. Pivoted our Target market but finally figured out our ICP (Ideal Client Profile). Invested a bit more in Product development and Marketing/Sales.

- Year 6+: More team expansion which got us to about 15 full-time and some part time/freelancers. Invested more in Customer Success. ICP is solid and trying to grow further by setting outbound sales channels instead of just inbound so far. The "engine" is almost setup with Sales/Marketing/Technology/Customer Support etc etc and now looking for further growth.

I would say the key drivers have been:

- Figuring out WHO really should be your customers ? You cannot sell to everyone.

- Once you figure out your ideal customers, then you focus on improving Marketing and Sales around it. For SAAS companies, Content Marketing/Organic/Inbound is always the key but never discount Outbound (which I still stuck at btw).

- Customer retention and upsells are very important. We increased revenue with existing clients by upselling in many cases. Beauty of that it is a lot easier to sell to existing clients than new prospects.

- Partnerships with other professionals in the industry. We are not quite there yet formally but have built relationships with lot of industry experts who send us business from time to time.

- Understand your strengths and weaknesses compared to competitors. Double down on strength and acknowledge your weakness. Don't try to fix everything.

- Most importantly, track everything and learn from it as much as possible. It is hard early on but as you mature as a company, put systems and processes in place to measure and track everything. Then use the results to pivot/optimize/change as needed.

Good luck!!

EDIT: I am always looking for hungry and motivated people to join our team in any area (Sales, Tech, Marketing, Customer success). Hit me up if you want to chat.

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