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I spent all of 2014 building a SaaS for dog daycare/kennel owners. The MVP turned out beautiful. Went to a few trade shows towards the end of last year and people went crazy over the software.

0 outbound marketing yet, and already have 22 customers at $100/month. This year my goal is to scale up to 200 customers.

It's a really weird market niche where no one has built software for in 10 years. Pretty neat.




This pattern works all over the place. Get to know any kind of small business owner and you'll see they need good software that doesn't exist.

Partly that's because they can be cheap and hard to market to at scale, which discourages deeper-pocketed software companies from going after them. But if you're solo and just interested in a lifestyle business with recurring revenue, it's a very reliable path.


I've seen it before in other markets and was dissuaded because of the lack of quantity in prospective customers.

After looking into the non-veterinary pet services market I was really impressed by the consistent growth, number of businesses, and lack of offerings in the market. And I was only researching the US at the time. UK, Australia, and New Zealand also have booming pet services market.


Thiel would agree. A niche that other people ignore or say "can't be done." Can always widen it later.


A close friend of mine earns a lot of coin by pointing out to medical marijuana dispensaries that they have terrible websites. They are happy to pay him for redesigns.

I've been thinking of doing something like that, but my aim would be to find websites that I regard as sucking particularly hard.


That's interesting. Every single one of my customers has a terrible website. Every. Single. One.

We're looking to expand into a subscription service that provides a CMS w/ dog-centric themes to our customers.

Shoot me an email, we should talk. Email address on my profile.


Start with a dedicated dog-centric CMS.

Now make a dedicated cat-centric one.

Surely they will have some common elements between them. Find a way to make a pet-centric CMS.

Eventually you will have a flexibly configurable CMS that you could sell to many local businesses.

But you are better off writing a couple of hardwired, dedicated CMSs, then to try writing that flexible one from the very start.

My very first shot at Warp Life for iOS, a Conway's Game of life implementation, had a frame rate of about two per second. Now it's about 8,000 per second.

Now that I've gotten it up to 8,000 per second, I'm getting some real insight as to how to optimize it.

There are other reasons one would want a Life App than because it's fast. MY Life App is for those who care about the speed; not everyone does.


It would be quite helpful to me were you to enable me to purchase things from brick-and-mortar shops with paypal.

I can order domino's pizza with paypal but it is a PITA.

PayPal is completely convinced that I am laundering money in support of terrorism, however they are cool with my ordering pepperoni with olives.


Why did you downvote this?

It really is the case that I can't get cash out of PayPal, but PayPal does permit me to use it for online payments. A few days ago I bought a pizza with a eGift card that I bought from Newegg.

What I'd really like to do is to buy coffee and food at cafes. Starbucks once did a promotion where one could buy a prepaid card with PayPal, that they don't do that anymore. I've never heard of anyone else doing that.

If I could use my PayPal to buy coffee, or find some other ways to spend it at brick-and-mortars, there are all kinds of ways I could earn money online, then get paid via PayPal.

I use PayPal to pay for my phone. That and the pizza are all that I've been able to find that I either want or need, that I can use PayPal for.

Using it to buy coffee would enable me to work more productively. I do a lot better working at a cafe, out among the public, than at home by myself. It's not coffee that makes me productive; I buy the coffee to pay for my cable, power socket and wifi.


The cafe I goto, 'Mahtay Cafe' in St. Catharines accepts PayPal built into their pos and PayPal app Surely, all brick and mortar have this choice. It's just a matter of showing them the benefits or even building POS into their website as a complete front end and backend restaurant platform. This in my opinion should be the selling point of all payment systems and integrations with inventory tracking and customer management....why have a separate system for everything...the website should be central to everything.


There is a widespread problem I see - not particular to PayPal or Starbucks - that many companies feel they make enough money, so they don't need to do better.

I expect PayPal could promote itself to brick-and-mortars, but PayPal's marketing people don't feel that they need to, because PayPal makes plenty of money.

Most brick-and-mortars make enough money for their staff to be happy, so they don't look into how they could increase their sales by accepting other payment methods.

This might seem OK but "making enough money" is one of the factors than enables the lean and hungry to come from out of nowhere with a disruptive technology.


Hi Lee,

Do you mind me asking what the development process was like behind this? You have a landing page and a great idea for a product in a good space. Specifically, did you develop the application yourself? If so, what language did you use and what were some challenges you came across? I am looking to start developing some SaaS product and have a few basic ideas, but don't exactly know where to start.

Thanks in advance.


Hi David,

Not at all! My girlfriend originally came up with the idea in January 2014...she works at a dog daycares/veterinary office.

I used LAMP, Bootstrap 3, React.js & Redis as my stack. I've been a PHP guy for a long time now, so I usually default to it for side projects.

I am the sole developer on the project. I have 2 non-technical co-founders who are heading up sales customer support, and business development. I just like to code :P.

The biggest challenge (read: the only real challenge) is to come up with a solution that works for a variety of businesses. This market is so fragmented; every business does everything their own way. My solution is to build abstract tools and data structures whenever possible. It's worked so far.

If you ever want to chat more about this, check out my profile and email me!


Hi, did you buy a template? Can you give us some more details about your architecture, as many of us are at the beginning to learn a programming language. Many thanks! BR


What are you using Redis for?


Report and audit log caching.


Awesome thanks!


Sounds like you had success at the trade shows, I'm about to embark on that route too. Can I ask how you went getting the word out at the shows, and any tips converting to a sale? Did they mind that it was still an MVP?


The trade shows were a great start. We signed up a few folks right away, and people are still calling us 2 months later.

It was a really interesting story though...

My co-founder and I had the smallest possible booth in the very back corner of the room. Our biggest competitor had a triple sized booth manned with 4 people and 2 42-inch TVs in the center of the room.

We had 5 competitors within a 6 booth radius. Everyone else had a giveaway, huge screens, backdrops, lighting... the works. We had a 60" wide banner, a 24-inch monitor, 2 iPads, flyers and our phones.

These competitors had a decade of experience selling their product and had been to all these trade shows many times. This was our first trade show ever and only had 4 customers.

The first day was OK. Generated some buzz around the hall and had a few people really spend some time chatting.

In the afternoon, I branched out (co-founder stayed at the booth). I went around and introduced myself to about 1/2 of the other vendors. Then, I started walking up to folks randomly around the conference hall. I introduced myself, smiled and told them I was with Gingr. I then asked if they had a minute to chat about their problems with software. About 80% said yes.

I learned that just going out on a limb, smiling, being polite and asking people about their problems really worked. It makes sense IMHO ... everyone wants someone to listen to their problems.

Some were concerned that we were so new and small. I had practiced my spiel for that a hundred times by then. I managed to persuade most. A few had their "IT" person call me the next week. For the most part though, if you understand someone's problem and do have a solution, being new and small small wouldn't be a "deal breaker".

As far as closing a sale goes...don't treat it like a sale! I approached every conversation as just that.


Thanks for sharing.

> I had practiced my spiel for that a hundred times by then.

Mind sharing what that was?


Can you share a link to your service? One of my new clients (I provide managed IT services) is in this exact market with 10 locations and more coming.


Cool!

URL is: gingrapp.com Company Phone: +1-877-324-7759

I'm Lee, few free to call anytime!


Link please. My wife's a groomer and recently evaluated the available software there, not many options - would like to see the similarities.


URL: gingrapp.com Company Phone: +1 877-324-7759

We're currently building out our "Additional Services" tool, which are services that get applied on top of a reservation. I'm currently working with a couple of groomers to build in some tools that could help fit their needs. Could use all the feedback possible.


Could you introduce your service better? Your landing page says what the purpose, not what it is...


Thanks for your advice!

My co-founder is currently working on a true marketing site. I'll be sure to pass this along.


Hi Lee. I have questions if you don't mind. Did you get all customers from trade shows or did you also use other methods? Did you cold call?

With the trade show did you just go and talk to people, or did you have a stall set up?


Howdy!

To date I've done 0 outbound sales/marketing. Just face-to-face interactions with folks at trade shows and our referral program. About 30% of our customers are referrals.

It's possible my co-founder are just so likable that our customers rave about us on private Facebook groups with their peers (our target demographic).

In this little niche, just being new and "not those guys" goes a long way. Add in a smile and an ear that really listens and you've got a pretty good initial sales strategy.


G'day! (From Australia!)

That is very cool, thanks for the information and being so open about your business. With so many good stories on HN I am considering writing a short book of interviews of people who have set up businesses of the bootstrap/lifestyle genre. Would you be interesting in being a case study?


Any specific reason for it being dog only - we put our cats in a cattery fairly often when we travel and I'd love to be able to use an online system to book things.


Awesome question! The software has completely customizable "reservation types" and "breeds", which allows for all kinds of animals. We actually don't say the word "dog" once in the app.

Not only can you manage your reservations online, we also feature photo/video report cards over SMS :). That's my personal favorite feature...love getting a video of my 2 dogs wrestling at daycare.

We have a pretty generous referral program, get in touch if you have a business you'd like to refer.


Very cool site. There seems to be a ton of software out there for dog daycares, is there anything different yours does?


Thanks!

We offer the fastest, most intuitive SaaS platform for Dog Daycares with world class support.

Currently there are 2 direct competitors, one has a slow product with poor support and the other has a decade old product that's inexplicably convoluted. I wouldn't consider anyone else on the market a true competitor (and our customers agree).

A couple of our favorite features are photo/video report cards over SMS, 1-click check-in/out with payments, and the customer app where they can request reservations.

If you're interested in a personal demo, shoot me an email and let's set something up! Email address on my profile.


Do you have plans to try to scale nationally? How many doggy daycares exist in the US?

Do you think this type of software would extend into similar markets well? Maybe vets, or actual child daycare?


We're currently in 14 states and Ontario. I have lofty international dreams, though :).

According to IBIS, there are ~11,000 dog kennels and daycares in the US alone. Self-performed research indicates ~12,000 similar facilities in Canada/UK/Australia.

I've looked into the veterinary world and beta tested our product at one practice. Turns out, there's tons of stuff vets need to keep track of that kennels don't. The basic premise is similar, though. We might fork the codebase one day.

Child daycares is a tough market. There are actually good products out there with medium-level investors. To be honest, I haven't spent much time looking into the market.


Hi - how did you determine pricing for a niche?


In my niche, there are 2 legit SaaS providers.

-One charges $85/month, has decent support but a disliked and old product.

-The other charges $60/month, has poor support and a very slow product (~30 sec. page load time)

I knew that I had a superior product (months of real-world testing) and that our business wanted to make support a priority.

In the end, we priced at $100/mo or $1000/yr. It's higher than everyone else which implies a better product (kinda). I haven't run into sticker shock yet for anyone with an existing business.

We're planning on raising the price >20% for new customers within 6 months.


That's awesome! Congrats on your success.


Very cool, Lee! Congratulations!




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