How do you come up with an idea for a SaaS company? I have asked myself this question multiple times and have struggled to put the answer into words. I have worked at several SaaS companies and they all seem to start in a similar way. The founder is looking for a solution to a specific problem they have. They either can’t find a solution, or they find one at a crazy price they are unwilling to pay. They decide that they could do better just to build it themselves and viola, the seed of a SaaS startup is planted. I just planted such a seed and I want to share with you the line of reasoning in case it helps inspire anyone else looking for inspirations in the world around them.
Gather round the fire, kiddos. It’s story time! Fifteen years ago I took my first programming related job. It wasn’t much, just updating the school newsfeed when the administration wanted to make announcements. The newsfeed itself was very similar to a blog, as so many of them were back then, and was really where the whole blog movement came from in my opinion. This site was so similar to modern day blogs, in fact, that it was written in PHP and driven by a MySQL backend.
Flash Forward 15 years and here we are in the modern blog space. A big chunk of the modern blogs (and a lot of other sites) are powered by WordPress, a PHP based CMS with MySQL running the backend. The last statistic I saw was from early 2016, but it showed WordPress as powering more than 26% of the web. My current employer uses it extensively to power all of our static content (i.e. blogs, documentation, etc.) With something this popular you would think it was fantastic. Except I hate it. I think it is a bloated piece of shit that has gained popularity just because it was the only option for a long time. I want a better way to publish a blog. And as much as I am enjoying using Jekyll for this site, I don’t think it is the answer at all.
So, my hatred for all things WordPress got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a SaaS company that provided the blog hosting and serving for me? It would be fantastic if all I had to worry about was the front end, and they handled the service side. I found one company that does and I am a little frustrated. (I am not going to name them to protect their feelings because they are actually pretty good.) They offer something close to what I want at a premium price. If I scale up to a reasonably sized following on a niche blog site, they will charge me $250 per month. If I wrote it myself I could run a large blog for a fraction of the cost.
Why not build a Microservice that allows customers to build their own custom front-end and takes care of the arduous task of storing and serving their content? All for a fraction of the cost of the other guys? Their API is nice enough but it is cost prohibitive for the little guy blogger (a.k.a me). Their jump from free tier to Medium traffic is so damn large I can’t fathom how to go from a blog that makes no money to one that can afford to pay $250 a month. Much less the $1000 per month of the next tier up from that! Their is a hole in the market targeting smaller bloggers that want to create their own custom blog without using WordPress and without having to rewrite all the dirty backend stuff themselves.
As the idea grows and starts to solidify I realize I don’t have a full SaaS product offering here. Instead, I have a Microservice that has a pretty niche market. The entire thing can be managed by 1-3 people with very little effort, so it doesn’t seem like a traditional startup. Instead I think I have stumbled upon what I have heard termed as a Micro-SaaS. I don’t like that term though. I prefer to think of this as Software as a MicroService (a.k.a. SaaM).
I am excited to build this thing and see what comes of it. I like coming up with these ideas and trying my hand as a Solopreneur. (Did I spell that right?) Anyway, I will post updates to this crazy journey as I make progress!