From SaaS idea validation in one day to +150 Beta signups

Philippe Vanderstigel
28 min readDec 13, 2019

Let’s be honest: launching a business is hard. You feel lonely. You don’t know where you are going. Always questioning yourself. Overwhelmed by your ToDo list that keeps growing. Mixing your personal life with your professional one.

But it’s also a super fun and challenging adventure. You meet awesome people, learn by doing and failing, and put lots of things in perspective. Weeks and days have ups and downs.

As a founder maybe you can relate to this.

I’m writing this post to drain those feelings and to organize thoughts. And you should too 😊 Write about anything you like. Create content. Express yourself. Evacuate pressure.

It’s the first time I have ever written anything, it’s damn hard at first 😅
Let’s dive in! Hope you will enjoy it!

(Me, trying to articulate my thoughts ^^)

In this quite long post, you will discover:

  • How we’ve got the idea of RocketChart: just looking around and solving our own pain point
  • How we’ve validated our SaaS idea in 24 hours: a fake screenshot, 2 facebook posts, and 384 leads
  • How we’ve understood the problem we wanted to solve: talking with more than 300+ business founders
  • How this has ended in 150 Beta signups while we were building the product
  • What we’d changed if we had to start again
  • What are our 7 key takeaways
  • What our goals are with RocketChart

To be clear, you will not learn any Secret Growth Hacks that nobody knows or any gold bullets to get you instant media coverage for your business resulting in thousands of signups. We are just 3 random guys who are bootstrapping a business to earn a living.

This article is the first episode of our journey. Here you can have access to the full story.

We are starting our SaaS founders’ journey

We are working on RocketChart since July 2019. We’ve already learned many things. Like there are faster ways than a landing page to validate an idea. And we’ve made many mistakes. Like integrating a banking API for a month, that we can’t use for the moment because of Europeans regulations.

Each business or startup has its own story, success and fails. You can find many of them on companies’ blogs. And we enjoy to read them because we can always find a few hidden treasures, tips and how-tos we can apply to our own business 💎

It’s time to debrief and share the beginning of this journey with you. Full transparency. No bullshit.

Speaking about transparency, let’s start now.

From this series, we expect 3 outcomes:

  • Take a step back from what we are doing, put things into perspective, and capitalize on our learnings
  • Inspire other fellows and give away actionable tips
  • Hope that you would consider using RocketChart when you’ll need it 😇

Right now, I (Philippe) work full time on growth and design. Elie and Marc (full-stack software engineers) have a day job to pay their bills — they are building the product as a side project. Marc is my little brother. Elie is a friend and a former colleague. We are french hustlers 🥖🇫🇷

(This is us — Marc is the big smile to the left, Elie the little ninja in the middle, and Philippe (me) to the right)

The number one reason startups fail is that it doesn’t solve a market problem. It’s not a secret. Everyone knows it now 😖

(A well-known graph from CB insight)

With my brother Marc, we experienced it the hard way 3 years ago:
get an idea -> imagine a solution -> love money fundraising -> hire freelancers -> build the product -> then nothing.

18 months passed and ZERO clients. Zero revenue. Nada 😱 18 months to figure out we did things the wrong way. We never validated our « idea » from the start: it didn’t solve a market problem. So it’s normal if nobody gave a s**t about our product. Slap bitch! 🤦🏻

(The terrible reality behind a product not solving a problem: $0 in revenue 😢)

With RocketChart we did things differently.

How did we come up with our SaaS idea

Little hint: scratch your own itch (or a family itch in our case 🤓)

Back in July 2019, we were on family holidays in the south-west of France. Enjoying family time, surfing (we were at Hossegor héhé 🌊🏄🏻), and chilling at the beach. We had such a great time together.

But our father wasn’t enjoying at all.

He was on his spreadsheet, updating his cash flow sheet, exporting data from his bank statements, categorizing expenses, and forecasting his financial.

You know, this kind of sheet:

(Sound familiar huh?)

I looked at him like « damn! So laboriouuuus ». 2 hours later, he was still on it. The contrast was terrible: we were enjoying holidays, whereas he couldn’t. This was at this precise moment I thought: « cash flow management is a real pain in the ass for business! » 🤕

I came back to our rented house, thinking of this pain. Before doing anything else, I wanted to understand the desired outcome behind this laborious task.

According to me, people do things to reach outcomes, and during this process, obstacles occur. So if you want to solve a problem, at first you must understand WHY people are doing this task = what is their desired outcome.

So, why does my father have to manage his cash flow? Simply because cash flow is the heart of each business. It’s vital to master your financial situation. Otherwise, you cannot pay your employees, your own salary, your providers, and everything collapse 😱

Why does he spend so much time doing it? Because spreadsheets are manual and laborious to update. There are no simple tools where you can get your expenses and revenue automatically synchronized on the same dashboard, to capture your cash flow and financial situation 🤯

I like to draw and design ideas to get creative. So the same day I designed a simple dashboard to display: total expenses, total revenue, net cash flow, and recurring costs. I clearly get influenced by Baremetrics design.

(The first-ever RocketChart mockup 🔥)

It took me 3 hours and a half to design it: Yup, I’m a bit perfectionist 🙄 I used Adobe XD because it’s simple to use and free.

This was the beginning of RocketChart: provide a simple tool where founders can manage their expenses and revenue at the same place, to get a precise picture of their cash flow 🚀

The next step was clear. Remember our first venture 3 years ago? 18 months of work and then ZERO clients. Learn from past mistakes. So, I needed to know if the problem was a true pain point. I needed to validate this idea — do founders struggle to manage their cash flow? 🤔

How did we validate our SaaS idea

The most important thing in this process is to do it super fast and free. Because you don’t want to spend a damn dollars on a shitty idea that no one will ever care about 💩 You have many ways to validate ideas before building them for real. For us, it was Facebook groups.

I needed to figure out how I can reach my targets — business founders. I was part of some Facebook groups: « French Startups », « SaaS Founders and Execs », « SaaS Growth Hacks », etc. These awesome groups and communities are used by founders to share tips, ask business questions and recommendations. It was perfect to test my SaaS idea 😋

So I faked it.

(I hadn’t a SaaS “running well”, nor a real product ^^)

I posted it on “Saas Growth Hacks” (hello folks 😇) on Tuesday evening in France. I guess the timing and the day were important. Then I went to bed. Just before turning off the light, I sent a message to my brother. I asked him to like my post to get a bit of visibility.

Here is the original message:

(The next message let you imagine what happened)

Actually, my brother didn’t see my text message. Still, it was one of my worst nights ever! 😂 My phone got notifications all night long. Not because I got friends’ texts, but because a lot of people commented on the FB post. I woke up early, checked Facebook, and it was a blast.

(I’ve rarely seen a post with such numbers of comments in this group 😲)

124 comments. Nearly 100 people requested to test the product. We didn’t even have one. Damn! I was like “Ok, I guess we have something”. This was at this precise moment my brother and Elie joined me on this project.

We needed to go further. So the day after, I did the same thing on a French group called “French Startups” (hello guys 😇) 🥖

(Results were bigger than the 1st post and many folks contacted me in PM too)

The fake screenshot is different in the second post because I did some updates to make it looks better.

Here is the final number: 384 persons wanted to test the product 🤯

As this guy underlined, I guess we have a kind of painful problem to solve.

(For non-french speakers here, he says we are on a product/market fit)

At this moment, we were like “Okay, what should we do now?”. We didn’t have a product, nor a company. But we had 384 founders being interested in a fake screenshot of our fake product. And we had their Facebook.

So I decided to chat with each one of them to dig deeper into the problem and understand what our product should do. It was magic! 🤗

Talking with 300+ founders helped us build our SaaS product

Those awesome fellows built our product, literally speaking.

To be honest, we didn’t know anything about business cash flow management 😅 At that time, the only thing we knew was: it’s the heart of each business.

Some may argue that it’s better to start a business in a well-known niche and tackle a problem you’ve personally dealt with. I consider not knowing a lot about a problem encourages curiosity and brings a fresh look at it.

I began the “pain discovery process” and discussed with those folks via Facebook PM and email (some commented with their email).

The goal was to get insights on 2 things:

  • the expected outcomes
  • the solution already used to deal with cash management

At that time, we didn’t have an email domain so I used my personal email address and my facebook account. The good thing was, I didn’t have to warm up my email address to avoid ending in spam.

For the non-specialists here, if you create a fresh new email domain like and directly send emails to “random” addresses, you have a high probability to finish in spam. You should warm up your email domain before, meaning get your emails opened and answered. Check the web to find content about this if you want to dig into it 🧐

Here is the very first email I sent, hoping for an answer:

(I put numbers in front of the two questions to let people answer as quickly as possible)

I shoot this template to 20 folks to test. Each one of them answered me within 2 days. Some of them even sent recorded vocal message for convenience. Awesome! 🥳

So I personally and manually sent the 364 messages left 🥵

I should have automated this, but I wanted to keep things personal and human at this point.

Each time I got a reply, I tried to dig deeper and always ask: Why? For example, if they were talking about a feature they would love to have, I asked why they need to do this.

Curiosity paid off and we finally got a clear picture of the pain points, the weakness of current solutions (mostly Spreadsheets) and the desired outcomes 🔥 We’ve gathered absolutely huuuuge insights.

Here are some examples of incredible feedbacks among the hundreds we harvested.

(People were taking so much time for us, I’m so grateful)

Honestly, we didn’t create this product. Those awesome fellows created it 🥰 All the features are built because they mentioned them. We didn’t invent anything.

Even in the comment section of my Facebook posts, people were helping us, challenging the product and giving insights. I tried to always answer with open questions to dive deeper 🤓 I think it works well and people even replied to each other with valuable insights for us.

(Such comments helped us identify what our product should be)

In RocketChart Beta, you can directly connect your bank account. All your data are automatically synchronized and you master your financial situation in real-time. No more banking statements exports to extract and categorize expenses. This is a huge value for the user.

But guess what?

We have never considered it at the beginning. At first, we imagined a way to import CSV files with all the transactions to generate your dashboard 😅 So laborious…

But in reaction to my Facebook post, one fellow started to talk about banking APIs. We didn’t know it existed. With my brother, we were like “This is the solution we need to kill the game!”

(Thank you Kevin, you helped us to make the product way better 🔥)

Finally, all these conversations supercharged our product vision 💪🏼

The one thing to remember here is to talk to your customers even before they are your customers. You have to do it as soon as you get your SaaS idea: you will be amazed by what you’ll learn! 😉

Fun fact: we asked people to send us an export of their business bank statements. We were investigated CSV import to create cash flow dashboard, so we needed to see how those data will be organized.

We just asked (oh little fools we were …)

This reply emphasizes the majority of the answers:

(It took me a minute or two to understand 😂)

This guy was thinking we were kind of weird hackers and thieves 🤣😅

(Damn …)

Hopefully, people reacted well and I didn’t destroy our relationship, but it was closed haha 🙄

I think one lesson to remember, is to always test an idea with a sample. I just sent this message to 5 persons, so it was easy to correct after. Imagine what would have happened if I had sent this message to the whole 300+ founders… 😭

After a month, we had a good understanding of cash flow management pain. We decided to move on and define what our product should do to deliver value 🧠 It was a no-brainer thanks to all the insights we’d gathered.

As we wrote down the few features, I started to design the interface. I used Adobe XD again to do it. From past experience, we knew that we had to rely on a strong frontend framework and UI library.

A quick benchmark and we chose Ant Design: strong community, very good documentation, and lots of components.

I tried, and still today I do this, to always use components of their library to design the product. And I put the name of the components used in the mockup 🤓 So that Elie doesn’t have to search in the library and he is way faster to build the front.

Also, we decided to choose a name for our baby 👶🏼 Usually, finding a name for your product should not be your priority. But at this stage, we felt the need to name it. We didn’t know what our product would be at the end, so we set a list of “global” names.

Here is the list we considered :

(The main topic was around metrics and charts for sure)

You know which one we’ve picked 😉

Besides domain availability and easy remembering, the one thing we considered was finding something we would love to pronounce 1000 times a day, for years.

Plus, the domain was available for 1,30€/year 💰 This is the only money we’ve spent so far.

With a fresh name, a domain bought, and a precise picture of the MVP we could now focus on building the website.

How did we get 150+ business signups for the Beta

First thing first, the website.

We chose a static website for performance and SEO. And built it with the React framework Gatsby. Elie is React friendly, so this framework was well suited to him. And it has a strong community behind, with regular updates. We connected our Github to Netlify to streamline deployment.

This combination works perfectly since the beginning and was easy to set up. We strongly recommend it 👌🏼

I designed our website on Adobe XD again. Thanks to the “pain discovery process”, it was easy to describe and come up with the right wording/copy. I used terms that I heard many times while talking to founders. Then Elie just coded it in a few days ⚡

We wanted some “social proof”. I asked two fellows to get testimonials about the pain 🥺

(Thank you, Tom & Benjamin, for your support — you guys are awesome 🥰)

I think recommendations are essential for a website. Not only it brings credibility, but prospects from the same business sector identify themself easier. Don’t be afraid to ask people if you can put testimonials of them. In the worst-case, you get a “No”. So what?

We are using a form to capture leads. In the beginning, it was just connected to a GSheet through Zapier.

(Nothing astonishing here)

Then, we set up Hotjar and Crisp. And RocketChart website was ready!

Everything was tested. It was time to bring some traffic 👌🏽

Progressively, I sent a personal message to each people I talked to: on FB messenger, email and Facebook comments.

(I commented each message with a link to our fresh new website)

I started slowly, sending only a few messages. Remember: always test what you are doing with a sample, and then scale.

Folks were visiting our site. I recorded visitors’ sessions thanks to Hotjar. It’s a wonderful tool to analyze behaviors on the site. And boom! 💥 I watched a recording of someone who signed up. I was going crazy!

I immediately jumped on the Google Sheet to review his information. Who can it be? What company is it? I was so stressed and crazy at the same time. My body was shaking of happiness.

And surprise! Nothing. Not a damn raw. WTF! 😱 I investigated everywhere, asking Elie and Marc what had just happened.

Elie found out.

Zapier was off 😤

Why? Because we were on a free trial at this moment and we had access to all premium features of Zapier. We set up the Zap with one of those premium features. The day before launching, our free trial ended. We didn’t check our inbox. The Zap was turned off. End of the game 💩

(True failed-story ^^)

This is the story of how we lost our first ever beta signups… 😅

Previously in this article: “One lesson to remember I think is to always test an idea with a sample. I just sent this message to 5 persons, so it was easy to correct after. Imagine what would have happened if I had sent this message to the whole 300+ founders… 😭”

This fail emphasizes this sentence: always test, test, test, and test.

The day after, everything was fixed and tested again. I was sending messages, watching recordings, analyzing behaviors. And (re)boom! The best ever notification we have received since the beginning of RochetChart.

(This is the first of our 149 signups 🔥)

Such a great feeling.

In September, I met Guillaume from Lemlist. He advised us to set a referral system to spread the word out. Indeed, we had a kind of viral product (regarding the buzz around the Facebook posts). People will undoubtedly share it.

Luckily, Marc had already developed one for a previous project. After some adjustments and 3 hours, we had our own referral system ready to be used (Marc will share how he built it in another article 😘).

Once people signed up, they were redirected to a new page where we asked them to refer friends to get access to the Beta. Nowadays, many product launches are using this strategy. The most famous one was the Hotjar waiting list.

Here is the page we used after people signed up:

(This is what we set up at first)

Actually, it didn’t work very well for us. 75% of referrals were useless. To get access early, people were using fake emails and coworkers’ emails in most cases.

Plus, we received some emails asking to delete accounts because of this referral program 😔 Of course, people want to test a product before referring to friends!

(Hopefully, it ended well with this fellow because I explained why we used this system)

I think people didn’t like this kind of viral thing anymore and are fully aware of how it works. And it wasn’t us. We didn’t want to push people to share RocketChart. We think referral has to be natural 😃 So we change the message this way.

(We’ll see in the next months how it performs)

Still, this referral system has brought us some real new beta testers. A cool guy even shared his unique URL in an Egyptian Facebook group, resulting in 4 or 5 new signups for us.

We plan to implement it inside the app to spread word of mouth. So it isn’t useless at all 😊

(Thanks again Ahmed! 😍)

Once a folk signed up to get early access to the Beta, we auto-trigger an email to welcome him and to engage conversation. We took inspiration from the Groove onboarding email for this.

The goal is to create a first contact with the potential user, besides asking for referrals. But most importantly, this email asks the fundamental question: why do you specifically need RocketChart? 🤔

(Our welcome email, send from my inbox)

Even if the cash flow pain is way clearer for us now, this email was a great way to capture more insights about the desired outcomes and the pain we are tackling with RocktChart. We have been able to adapt our communication on the website and complete the product roadmap thanks to awesome feedbacks 🔥 Also, we’ve been able to build deeper relationships replying and chatting with those fellows.

(This is an example of one of the many awesome feedbacks we got, thank you Jakub)

Previously, I wrote about human and personal touch. It defines our work ethic and is part of our DNA at RocketChart.

To pursue this, I decided to add each new Beta signed up on LinkedIn to send him a welcome message (thanks to Guillaume for the idea 😘).

(The LinkedIn message manually sent by me)

I do it manually each time we’ve got a new sign up. It takes time and we can automate it. This message is a great way to get huge insights for us. But for the moment, Marc and Elie are focussed on the product so we don’t have tech resources time to do it.

As humans make mistakes, I twisted names sometimes. I let you imagine how hard it is to explain that it’s 100% manual 😅 Hopefully it only happened once…

(Anyway, Denis is ready to onboard and test the Beta)

This friendly message is a great way for us to engage with our Beta testers on a platform they didn’t expect. I started long conversations with some of them, giving us huge insights on their current solutions and why they need RocketChart.

Some cool guys even proposed meetings to show me how they manage their cash flow: the Holy Grail! 😍

(Taking a coffee with a beta tester to dig deeper in the pain is the best way to get huge insights!)

Also, adding those potential clients to my network is part of our marketing strategy. As we plan to leverage LinkedIn in our marketing strategy, I’m building it now. The bigger the network the bigger the results for this strategy. Let see in the future if it works well 😄

Up to today, we have 149 beta signups. It is way enough for us to test the Beta and iterate on it based on users’ feedbacks.

During all this time, Marc and Elie have worked hard on the product. And we are proud to say: RocketChart Beta is ready!! 🚀🔥

(This is the real dashboard with real data!)

It is already tested by a dozen companies in France. We plan to expand the user base slowly to take the time to improve on feedback. All the process will be detailed in my next post, stay tuned ;)

What could have been done differently?

If we had the opportunity to restart, here are a few things we would have changed. But don’t forget that each business story is different. Just pick the hidden tips in this post 💎

Be extremely organized

During the “pain discovery process”, I had many ways to contact people after they commented on Facebook posts: emails, Facebook Messenger, Facebook comments and LinkedIn (some fellows added me). It was really hard to manage all the feedbacks and follow-ups because of all these communication channels 🥵

Facebook Messenger brings a lot of proximity and personal touch, but writing emails let people organize their thoughts. In the end, I think we did things right: letting our leads to choose. It is just hard to follow up with all the discussions and insights 😅 You have to be rigorous and organized.

Be more reactive and faster to answer to people

People were hot leads at the moment they commented on Facebook posts. Sometimes I could only contact them after 4 or 5 days, sometimes even more because of the quantity 😕

I guess I would have had more precious feedbacks and built more relationships if I would have exchanged right away after people commented. Folks were on Facebook at this moment, I mean they were not working, so it wouldn’t have bothered them to chat with me. But honestly, I don’t know how I could have done it 🤔

Maybe using Calendly to let people book a call on my calendar. The flow would have been:

  • The person commented on the post
  • I send him a Calendly link to book a call
  • Then do the call with a batch of questions to understand the pains and values in the cash flow management

Qualify and categorize our leads

We get huge amounts of insights during the pain discovery process. From SaaS business founders, COO of startups, hardware startups’ founders, director of agencies, and even freelancers. Who should we listen to? Which insights should we prioritize? 🧐

You can’t satisfy anyone with one unique solution. An agency hasn’t the same problems as a SaaS founder. You have to identify what the key specificities are.

In the beginning, we weren’t able to differentiate the needs of different businesses because we mixed all the insights. We should have qualify and categorize our leads to better organize feedbacks. Thus, it would have been easy to know how to deliver value to each one of them.

Don’t think BIG immediately and take a step back

During summer, we get folks from around the world that needed our tool. We thought: “Awesome, we will launch worldwide, without boundaries!”. Plus, we found a banking API which covers 28 countries. So we rushed headlong on the integration 🤖

After a month of work (integrating the API, reviewing the contract, etc.) we discovered that we couldn’t use this API in Europe because of European Regulations (PSD2 and Open Banking Licence). Plus the API was buggy for European banks. Damn! 65% of our signups were from European countries, and they won’t be able to test RocketChart? No way!

We took a step back and realized we wanted to go BIG too fast. The market is already huge in France. We’ve reviewed our strategy since: we’ll focus on France and Belgium, and we’ll try to deliver the best in class product for those markets, relying on a very good and robust french APIs 🤘🏽

Supercharge our waiting list

Hotjar grew its waitlist up to 60,000 beta testers for 6 months while they were building the product. Their referral program brought them thousands of people. David, the CEO, delivered weekly newsletters to retain the community 😲 I think we missed something.

We tried the referral program, but as you’ve noticed it didn’t work so well. Also, once users signup for early access to the Beta, they receive one welcome email from me and a LinkedIn invitation. But that’s all. One email. One invitation. And then nothing. They trusted us by signing up, but have no news about the product release or updates.

So I decided to create a kind of newsletter to keep our folks posted on. I only sent 2 emails in 9 weeks. What a shame… It didn’t work because I didn’t know what to put in it, and I didn’t want to spam 🤐 If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would definitely put more focus on this to create even more proximity with our beta testers and get more signups.

7 Key Takeaways

Define early on what type of company you want to build

Building a bootstrap company is completely different from a VCs backed one. Depending on this choice, the growth mindset, the speed of execution, work pressure and the relationship to money would be radically divergent 💸

But the type of company also concerns hiring, spendings, remote or not, human touch, dedication, and expectations. You have to draw the line of what you want in life and align it with your business. Because your business will become part of your life. I guess there are some counter-examples of founders, but it will definitely impact your way of life.

Scratch your own itch to find a problem worth solving

If you are looking for SaaS ideas, the best advice is: try to solve your own problems. If you can’t identify problems (yes, sometimes people have a great life without problems 🤨), take a closer look at what people are doing in your company: what tasks are repetitive, what do they complain the most about 🤯 And I’m sure you’ll find hundreds of ideas!

Hey, pssst! A little help: when people are using spreadsheets, there is often something to do here 🙃

Don’t forget not knowing a subject shouldn’t stop you. Indeed, it raises curiosity, will force you to dig into the core problem and have a fresh perspective. The important thing is to fall in love with the problem you are solving 🥰 Honestly, I love talking about cash flow with fellows. I don’t know why, but it is.

Before going forward, V-A-L-I-D-A-T-E the pain

As soon as you get an idea or identify a pain point, validate the market need! The critical part is to do it fast, and for free if possible. Facebook groups was very efficient for us, but it depends on your targeted niche. You have to find out where your typical customers are used to hang around. And go talk to them. I mean for real.

You often can read this: build a landing page, capture emails, use paid ads to drive traffic, look at the conversion rates. I think it’s not the right thing to do at first 😲 Because you will use the wrong words to describe the pain and the solution, and your writing copy will be weak.

You should talk to people for real first. Don’t hide behind your screen. Go find people who are experiencing the pain point. Get to know in which context do they encounter the pain, when in their customer journey, how they try to solve it, and what are their desired outcomes.

Once you can draw a persona of your customers and deeply understand the pain point, then you can create a landing page 🤠 Use the same words they used and how they described the pain. This will be way more effective.

How can I talk to people in real? If you target restaurant managers, go in the street and meet them at their restaurant. If you target car washers, go in the street and find them. If you target SaaS founders, join LinkedIn related groups and start to post.

Find your early adopters

You need early users (beta testers) of your product to guide you in delivering a high-value product. They have to be ready to test a buggy version of the product 🥴 A pool between 20–40 early users is good enough to get great product feedbacks.

Finding beta testers is quite hard because you don’t know who and how to target them. It requires a lot of time and energy. According to me, talking to potential customers even before you get a product, building trust and relationship, not selling but just understanding the pain point as we did, is the best way to get early adopters 😊

I think you should have a large scope of early users to understand which niche perceives the most value from your product. For now, we are targeting tech startups founders, startups COO, director of digital agencies and director of little retail stores. Then we will narrow down the scope to focus on our best-fit customers amoung them.

Identify your strengths to double down on it

Focus on your strengths. For us, the design played a major role at the beginning of RocketChart. I’m pretty sure that if the first dashboard was ugly, we wouldn’t have so much buzz around.

Elie and I are particularly sensitive to design. We identified this early on. So we decided to rely on this particularity and we are trying to continuously deliver well-designed interface: we think our website is good looking and so does the product.

Divide the workload to move faster

To go fast and be reactive, we split the work. Each one of us is responsible for a part of RocketChart. Especially as we are in remote, working asynchronously and part-time, it helps a lot.

Marc is doing the backend and banking APIs integration because he is less sensitive to design than Elie, and at ease with backend tasks. This what he likes the most.

Elie is a powerful full-stack software engineer. He could do the frontend and the backend. But to be faster, he is only building all the front interface (webApp + website). It is already a huge workload to deal with.

I do design and growth because I like this and I don’t code. As I’m full-time on RocketChart, I try to filter everything for Marc and Elie. So that they can focus on what really matters: building the product as fast as possible.

Meet other fellows to share and learn

This is one of the best things I’ve ever understood.

Chatting on LinkedIn. Meeting people. Not to convert them as clients. But to share and learn. It feels good to talk with people that are on a similar boat as yours. You don’t feel lonely.

I didn’t know anything about SEO 6 months ago. A random day, I listened to a growth hackers podcast: Grégoire, from Wisepops, was giving an interview. At the end of the podcast, I still had many questions about SEO. So I just added Grégoire on LinkedIn to schedule a call if he was available. Of course, he was available to help. It was one of the best calls I ever had. Because during this 45min call, I learned more in SEO than the 3 last years of my life! Thanks again Grégoire, I really mean it 🤗 I try to always keep this example in my head: people want to help you, just ask.

Guillaume from Lemlist organized an event in Station F, to share the story of bootstrapped companies. Moritz was one of the speakers. He founded and sold 2 SaaS companies. I was pretty impressed. But I had plenty of questions after the talk, especially because he is now launching So I just added him on LinkedIn and asked if we could meet to chat. Of course, he was also available to help. I learned many things during our 1-hour meeting 🤯 Moritz advised me to identify our strengths and focus on it. This is what we are currently doing. Also, to think about the vision of your company and align it with what you want to create: this is precisely why Elie and I killed our last product after 8 months working on it.

These are just 2 examples among all the amazing meetings I had the chance to have. Seriously, if you still didn’t meet your fellows, go now! This will be a huge mistake.

What is our goal with RocketChart?

We are sure there is a true opportunity to build a powerful product and a sustainable company. But what kind of company do we want to build? 🤔

Before joining forces and agreeing to work together, the 3 of us have ensured a common shared vision for the company. It’s critical to align expectations between all stakeholders.

For us, it was simple and fast because we share the same values and goals.

First, we want to bootstrap RocketChart from scratch 🚀 Meaning no outside cash or other supports. So we have to quickly get clients to survive. We are not closed for discussion with VCs, because you never know what tomorrow will bring. But for now, bootstrapped-mood is on.

This is a real motivation. But this decision comes with constraints. Elie and Marc have a day job to live. They can only work on RocketChart during evenings and weekends. We are not as agile/fast as we want. Our choices regarding features have to be the right one. The Pareto (80/20) principle is applied day-to-day to ensure our effort brings the maximum impact.

Also, I don’t have a day job. I survive with my savings, but I’m running out of cash. So I will soon have to work in Freelance to get some fresh cash. This is the price to bootstrap a company.

Secondly, this will be a remote company. We started remotely because my brother works in Berlin. Having the liberty to work from anywhere is what we want 🌍 And we don’t want to pay rent for an office.

It’s hard to build a company culture while being in remote at the beginning. As we are sharing the exact same vision for RocketChart, we don’t feel this will be a trouble in the future. I guess we’ll see 😃

(Recent trip to Puerto Escondido, Mexico, in November 2019)

Thirdly, we want to build RocketChart the 3 of us for the moment. Hiring is not our priority. We are working very well together. If we can reach our goal being just 3, it’s all good. We’ll not hire for the sake of hiring.

In the end, our ultimate goal is to get to $10k in Monthly Recurring Revenue within a year. Why $10k? Simple: as a team of 3, it’s enough to pay us a bit. And as a self-funded company, you can’t expect quick growth. So let’s be honest, $10k is good enough.


If you are still with me after this 28min lecture and 7000 words post, I’d like to say a big thank you for reading this first post. I hope you’ve enjoyed it 🙂

More posts will come, to share our journey. We are starting the Beta test: lots of cool things will happen. I’ll try to find the time to write about it.

🎉 EDIT (2022) : we’ve been acquired 🥳 Read the whole story here

For those of you who have already bootstrapped a successful business, I would love to hear from you: just add me on LinkedIn to chat. For those of you who want to start your business, I hope you’ve found some inspiration and something applicable to your business. For those of you who came here by a mystic or divine intervention, I hope you enjoyed this journey and I’ll be happy to answer questions if you have some. Let’s chat on LinkedIn 😉

Wish you the best,

➡️ Go to Part 2 : From SaaS Beta launch, to 10 users, and then … Covid 19
➡️ Go to Part 3 : From 0 to Exit Within 2 Years — bootstrapped



Philippe Vanderstigel

Founder | 🚀 — Cash flow management & forecasting software for startups