Successfully bootstrapped a product, then what?

Philippe Lehoux
Jan 11, 2016 · 4 min read

In 2013, Etienne, Tristan, Rafael and I got together to bootstrap a product called Conference Badge . We documented the first months in a blog post, ~7k Monthly Revenue: the Fact Sheet. Since then, the product started to generate enough revenue to sustain ourselves full time.

The first couple of months were risky; cash flow was tight. Eventually, we were able to raise our individual monthly dividend to CAD$2.5K/month[1] and save a big chunk of the profits to the company’s bank account.

With our new found time we started exploring new ideas. Why not focus all our energy on our profitable and growing product? We felt that Conference Badge[2] was appealing enough for small event organizers and we were not interested in going after bigger events where competition is plenty and margins low. It might seem like a weird choice for many but felt just right to us.

We did continue to work on Conference Badge, but didn’t build any new feature. We automated many business processes to run the company more efficiently [3] and continued to give stellar customer support.

What did we do with the rest of our time? We launched three more products: Medali.st, LeanTicket and Missive.

Medali.st

Medali.st was the brainchild of our friend Antoine Meunier, a world class canoe athlete and entrepreneur. We met him at the coworking space we all worked from. One day he pitched us with an idea: a website builder for athletes. He sold us on the project with the romantic idea of a coding retreat in the countryside and had already signed ($$$) twelve Canadian athletes from various Olympic disciplines. Why not. In under a month we had a beta version and we launched the polished product in January 2014. Antoine took it from there and brought hundreds of athletes onboard.

LeanTicket

LeanTicket was a direct request from Eventbrite[3]. They asked us if we could adapt the Conference Badge app to design, print and ship tickets. They used to offer this service and process it in-house, but were glad to offload it to us. Having guaranteed revenue from Eventbrite referrals, why not? The app launched in summer 2014.

Missive

Missive’s initial idea came from Etienne while doing support work; he wanted a way to collaborate on email drafts. He developed an HTML prototype and showed it off… it took a while to grow on us. Until one day, I made yet another stupid typo (I do a lot) in a support mail, we all laughed and then realized how incredible it would be to proofread my drafts. Building an email client is hard, the amount of learning you need to get started is massive. Adding live collaboration to the mix makes it even harder. It took around a year and a half to get to the point where we used the app ourselves. We launched the closed beta last October; you can request your invite here.

85% of our time is now spent developing and growing Missive; the rest is allocated between Conference Badge & LeanTicket. This setup gives us the freedom to iterate, without worrying too much about our runaway.

Since our most precious asset is the amount of time we can iterate on novel ideas we will keep shielding ourselves from distractions.

Here are a few takeaways from our past three years:

  • Keep business expenses low
  • Find great partners
  • Be conservative on your pay
  • Optimize your business processes
  • Give awesome customer support
  • Don’t shy away from new opportunities

NOTES

  1. The cost of living in Quebec is way cheaper than San Francisco.
  2. Conference Badge offers two products: printed badges and PDF badges. Customers import and design the badges themselves in the app.
  3. e.g. We used to receive many requests a day from customers asking for quotes; each one took a few minutes to produce and send. To optimize this, we created a /quote page that automatically generates one for the customer. It might seem trivial, but it adds up, the support time / revenue ratio has constantly decreased.
  4. Eventbrite has been a Conference Badge partner from day one. @Colleran spotted us while we were doing development stuff with Eventbrite’s API.

Missive App

The one app for team email and chat

Philippe Lehoux

Written by

Lover. Dad. Co-Founder @missiveapp, @confbadge & @leanticket

Missive App

The one app for team email and chat