Dr Rob Rawson, CEO and Founder of Time Doctor, built his business to revenues of over $10 million with more than 8,000 customers. His business has experienced growth of over 100% in the last 12 months, where many businesses are suffering tremendously due to the pandemic.
And he’s done it all without external investment.
That’s damn impressive.
How to bootstrap your SaaS business
Let’s talk about funding
- Use your own funds
Rob dives straight in. “For our business, which is a SaaS business (software as a service), in today’s environment, I’d say if you’re a non-technical founder, you need some funding. So although I didn’t have external funding, I spent close to a million dollars… or maybe $600,000, not including some domain names and other things. It’s quite a significant chunk of money. So I have that money already that I had from previous businesses.”
According to Rob, however, this is still a low amount. “Most companies that are doing over $10 million revenue – a lot of the VC-backed ones – have probably raised like $40 million by now.”
- Capital efficiency
The reason Rob was able to achieve his success with this low amount is due to his capital efficiency. “We did a couple of things,” explains Rob. “One is hiring at a low salary point in the beginning, and my co-founder and I didn’t have to take salaries in the beginning. So it was being very scrappy on that.”
Cutting costs and living the ‘scrappy’ life is pretty much at the centre of bootstrapping a business, so keep this aspect in mind when thinking about forgoing external investment (of course, we recognise that this isn’t a feasible choice for many).
- SEO strategies
Marketing is another important step that you can learn to DIY. “SEO is really powerful because you are not requiring any ad spend, and it builds up over time. So we really have a lot of focus on the search engine optimisation of building content,” says Rob.
Hire the right tech people
How do you find and recognise talent for your business, especially as a non-technical founder? Rob had a personalised test created specifically for his company. “It’s an actual coding exam where they go in and they code a solution,” Rob explains. “It’s sort of like one of these coding competitions…it just evaluates a degree of intelligence – that they can overcome a really difficult coding challenge.”
Here at Nona, we employ a similar approach as part of our process of finding top tech talent. We use a system called Codility, which is a coding assessment. This method has proven useful in weeding out ill-suited candidates before they’ve even attempted the test. “We’ve had a number of supposed true seniors apply,” explains Mike. “And when we send them the test, they go, Oh, I’m not gonna do this. You either wanna hire me or you don’t. And I mean, obviously, that’s a major red flag when that happens.”
Another (perhaps more accessible) option is to hire a technical right-hand person you can trust, which is a step Rob takes as well. “We have our top technical person who does the interview and so on.”
As a SaaS business, the idea of outsourcing to another software development company may sound insane. However, if you, like Rob, are a non-technical founder, or just need extra support, outsourcing to a trusted partner can be extremely helpful.
“It’s quite okay to get an external team to help you, but not to completely rely on the team.” Rob elaborates further, “So even if you have an external team and you have your own internal person as well, and you sort of mix them together, I personally think that’s better than just having only an external team at one other company that you’re depending on – but it’s not your company. I think that is a little bit dangerous for a technology company.”
It’s sound advice. In fact, we often suggest that if you’re not technically capable yourself, you should get someone on your team that is, even if you do plan to outsource your build. That way, you aren’t totally in the dark about what’s going on with your product.
So, to bootstrap your SaaS business you need funds, the right tech people, and to outsource some helping hands. While we can’t offer funding, we can offer an expert team of the right tech people for you to partner with.
Nona Digital designs and builds intuitive software for Fintech companies. We’ve helped dozens of funded founders just like you deliver scalable, beautiful software all over the world. If you’d like to discuss your project, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.