First off, can you tell us about your background and your product?
Before starting StemX, myself & Diggory Simons previously ran a creative agency, so we had experience in starting a business but nothing like a software business, which was a big wake up call! Before that, I was doing IT consultancy & helping companies implement their own software.
From left to right (Diggory Simons, CDO & Co-founder, Dominic Chapman, CEO & Co-founder, Harry Weston, Customer Success Manager)
How long did it take to build your initial prototype and how did you validate it?
The initial prototype took around 3 months to build, however, it took a lot longer to validate and get paying customers. At first, we struggled to find our place in the market, also finding every single way to break the prototype!
How did you get your first paying customer and how long did it take?
Networking and just calling prospective customers. When building a Saas product, it’s key to understand what problem you are trying to solve, as well as actually finding the person whose life is going to be better off by using the product. We found out very early that Recruitment managers for both agencies and in-house teams would be better off using our product. Once we knew this, I began to go to every single networking event where our potential users may be, as well as calling up every company asking to speak to the HR & Recruitment team. Ask the questions to understand if they are having the problem, then offer them to try it out. It’s also really key to make sure that they are willing to pay for your product because it needs to be creating such an effect on them, that they will pay to use it every day.
What worked and what didn’t work when finding your first users?
At first, we found the most effective way was just reaching out via email, phone call, and LinkedIn. We are a B2B platform where we know the exact user, so it’s just getting their attention.
We went with something simple like this, as we didn’t want to come off too Sales-y but just gather interest from the right people. I think, advertising too early, before knowing your customer truly in and out and what they love about your platform is a risky move, as well as truly understanding the reason they are using your platform. We only started truly advertising 4 months in.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to onboard their first users?
Speak to as many people as you can. Simple. Call them, go to a coffee shop and ask everyone in there for feedback, stand in the street and get feedback, just be creative. We’ve done everything from email, phone call, walking into recruitment agencies and giving out presents, to sending postcards and StemX videos to prospects! And also listen, if they say no they aren’t interested, understand why they aren’t and also ask what problems they are currently facing. Your product might not be what the market wants. But, if they do want to use your product and begin using it, ask for feedback. What made you like what we are doing? Why are you still using it? What one feature is really solving your problem or you love?
And then double down on that, once you know what problem you are solving and you have paying customers using it, you can then double down on that and begin to grow.
What resources have helped you find out more?
Yena.co.uk - Ash from Yena is a great help and has a great network for starting Entrepreneurs. Find and reach out to some mentors, they can be specific to your industry or just entrepreneurs. They are invaluable There’s some great content on Medium for learning all about starting a business, from getting funding, how to acquire first customers to how to bootstrap a business. Eventbrite + Meetup. Invaluable for understanding where your potential customers are meeting.