S4E7 – How MyAskAI bootstrapped with a team of 2 to $300k ARR With Michael Heap

In this episode of the “Grow Your B2B SaaS” podcast, host Joran interviews Mike Heap, the founder of MyAskAI, an AI customer support solution. Mike shares his entrepreneurial journey and how MyAskAI bootstrapped with a team of 2 to $300k ARR, the challenges he faced, and the strategies he employed to grow his company to 40,000 users and $300K ARR within one and a half years.

Early Career and Entrepreneurial Aspirations

Mike started his career in a traditional corporate setting, working at Ernst & Young and later as a product manager in product development consulting. Despite his corporate beginnings, he always had an entrepreneurial spirit, inspired by shows like “The Apprentice” and “Dragon’s Den.” His first business ventures, including selling children’s car seats, laid the foundation for his future endeavors.

Founding My Ask AI

Mike founded My Ask AI in February 2023, during the height of the AI boom. The company provides AI customer support agents for B2B SaaS businesses, helping them reduce support ticket volumes. Initially, he and his co-founder Alex experimented with various AI applications before pivoting to the current business model.

Go-to-Market Strategy and Early Challenges

Mike’s go-to-market strategy involved leveraging the AI hype by posting on AI directories, engaging with AI influencers on Twitter, and experimenting with sponsored Reddit posts. This approach helped them gain initial traction but was not sustainable in the long term. They are now focusing on more sustainable channels like SEO, Google Ads, and affiliate marketing.

The Importance of  Customer Feedback and Product Development

One of the turning points for My Ask AI was realizing the importance of customer feedback. Initially, they built a no-code model builder that allowed users to create AI models. By offering a presale for a new product feature, they validated the demand and quickly pivoted to focus on customer support solutions. This approach helped them build a more refined product.

How to Overcome Financial and Personal Challenges

Mike faced several challenges, including financial instability and the need to return to contracting work temporarily. A significant setback was losing a major enterprise contract after investing a month of effort. Despite these challenges, Mike emphasizes the importance of taking positives from setbacks and using them to improve the product.

Leveraging AI and Automation

My Ask AI extensively uses AI not only in its product but also for internal operations. They use tools like ChatGPT and AI coding assistants to streamline processes and improve efficiency. Mike aims to keep the company small and agile, leveraging automation wherever possible.

Key Learnings and Advice for Founders

Mike shares valuable lessons for other founders. He stresses the importance of finding the right distribution channels early on and leveraging existing networks or partners for growth. He also advises founders to create more hype and content around their products and to listen closely to customer feedback.

Future Goals and Scaling Challenges

Looking ahead, Mike aims to build a more recognizable brand and develop a scalable sales pipeline for enterprise customers. He acknowledges the challenges of maintaining a small team while achieving significant growth and emphasizes the need for a disciplined approach to product development and marketing.

Mike concludes by advising founders to stay focused on their vision and to avoid getting distracted by every new technological trend. He underscores the importance of doing the “boring things” consistently to achieve long-term success.

This episode offers a comprehensive look into the journey of building a successful B2B SaaS company, highlighting the importance of adaptability, customer focus, and strategic marketing.

Key Timecodes

  • (00:52): Introduction to Mike Heap and My ask AI
  • (01:17): Mike’s entrepreneurial journey and early career
  • (02:53): From corporate to startup: Mike’s transition
  • (03:28): Goals and motivations for My ask AI
  • (04:08): Overcoming challenges and rock bottom moments
  • (09:27): Go-to-market strategy and distribution channels
  • (16:14): Critical decisions and building with Bubble
  • (21:08): Managing the company and prioritizing tasks
  • (29:01): Advice for SaaS founders at different stages


[00:00:00.230] – Mike

You’re always looking to other people and seeing things working out for them and seeing things taken off. And then you’re doing very similar things, whether you’ve done it before or just after, and they’re not having the same impact. That can be really disheartening. And you’re just wondering, what is it about what we’re doing that isn’t working. Sometimes your users do know what’s best and you should build to them. But other times you think you’re Steve Jobs and you think, Oh, no, they don’t know what they want, and you try to go a bit ahead of yourself. So it’s just worth checking your ego because 99% of the time, you just build what they ask for. You’ve got the imposter syndrome of, Is my product good enough in the first place? You’re wondering if you have credibility for it. You also don’t want to ram it down people’s throat all the time. You want to do a soft sell. But as you say, if you’re not talking about it, then who else is going to talk about it?

[00:00:52.940] – Joran

In today’s episode, my guest is Mike Heep. Mike is the founder of My ask AI, an AI customer support solution. Mike started his career working at Ørsten Young, had some roles as product manager and a product development consulting company before fully going with My ask AI. Within one and a half years, they had over 40,000 users using their tool. So I would just say, let’s dive in and get to know more about this journey.

[00:01:17.830] – Mike

So welcome to the show, Mike.Thanks very much, Joran.

[00:01:19.880] – Joran

We’re doing this live in London outside, so I hope the audio is good. Let’s just dive right in. When did you start My ask AI?

[00:01:28.660] – Mike

We started in February 2023, just at the height of the AI boom. Yeah.

[00:01:35.770] – Joran

Currently, what is your ARR right now?

[00:01:38.070] – Mike

We just touched 300K ARR.

[00:01:40.600] – Joran

Yeah. How many employees do you have?

[00:01:42.570] – Mike

It’s still just the service. So it’s just me and my co-founder Alex right now.

[00:01:45.870] – Joran

Is there any separation between product and service revenue or it’s purely product?

[00:01:50.580] – Mike

We have some enterprise clients for who we build some specific custom features for. We have a little bit of development income, but I would say it’s 95% plus product income.

[00:02:02.160] – Joran

Yeah, ideal state. Yeah. In one sentence, what does my ask AI do?

[00:02:07.480] – Mike

We provide AI customer support agents to B2B SaaS businesses to help them deflect and decrease their support ticket volume. Nice.

[00:02:15.130] – Joran

Let’s dive a little bit into you. Is this your first startup?

[00:02:19.020] – Mike

It’s my first profitable startup. I’ve tried five or six other businesses prior to that, but yeah, it’s the first one that’s actually gone somewhere.

[00:02:26.830] – Joran

Nice. How old are you?

[00:02:28.710] – Mike

I’m 35.

[00:02:29.960] – Joran

Nice. Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?

[00:02:32.670] – Mike

Yeah, pretty much since I was a teenager, I was always watching The Apprentice, Dragon’s Den, UK Apprentice, that is not with Donald Trump. I never had a lemonade stand or anything like that. I think the first business I ever had was I was selling children’s car seats because there was a change in EU legislation or something. But yeah, always had that entrepreneurial spirit.

[00:02:53.210] – Joran

It’s interesting because you started as corporate as you can start. Yeah, pretty much. To go on a startup journey.

[00:02:59.850] – Mike

Yeah, it was quite interesting because I was there. I ticked all the boxes. I’m a charter accountant, did audit, financial services, all that stuff. But I always tried to find some angle to the job where I could do something a bit more entrepreneurial. I started an innovation team that used AI within the company. I founded a fintech business development team. I would always look for the angle where you could do something a bit more interesting, basically. Yeah.

[00:03:28.160] – Joran

Do you have an end goal defined with My ask AI?

[00:03:31.630] – Mike

I think we basically just want to build the best AI responses that we can. I think at the moment, we’re competing on a level with people like Intercom, Zendesk. We’ve had customers coming to us from those products. It’s an interesting one because AI levels the playing field for a lot of people. We’ve only been doing this 15 months, but we’re probably some of the most experienced people in the world when it comes to RAG, which is the technology that we use to to answer these questions. It’s one of these interesting states where we can be at the forefront despite only having 15 months experience doing it, which is quite interesting.

[00:04:08.230] – Joran

Yeah, and it’s quite nice because you’re still with the two of you, but still already with such a huge user base. Is this also What keeps you motivated? What keeps you going?

[00:04:17.470] – Mike

I think originally we wanted to solve big problems, and we were always looking for the meaning in something. But then as we developed the products and as we moved to customer support, customer support isn’t something that has a huge existential meaning to us, but it is something that is a real product problem. Both of us by background, are product managers, and we just love solving problems and trying to find ways to make better user experiences and better products. And so that’s the thing that really interested us is when we started thinking about it, we started coming up with ways that we could build these more interesting features that other people weren’t doing. And then I guess the second thing that motivates me massively is just seeing other builders around me, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, just seeing all of these different people creating things with very little resource. I think those are probably the main things.

[00:05:09.010] – Joran

You get motivation from other people being out there. If we go back to, you already explained a little bit, but how did you actually came up with the idea of My ask AI and how did it evolve?

[00:05:19.270] – Mike

Yeah, sure. In autumn 2022, I met Alex for the first time, my co-founder. We initially were put together by a friend to talk about contracting as product managers. And immediately we just started talking about GPT-3, the technology open AI, I released it around that time. And we started thinking of ways we could use it to build different products. And we started off by building something that would generate students’ university personal statements. And then we pivoted that to making a fine-tuned model platform, which would basically allow it to upload data and then create an AI model off the back of it. And then we got a few sales and some traction, some awareness through that. We start seeing how people are using the products, and combined with seeing how they were using it, mostly in a customer support or question answering type of way. We also saw that people on Twitter were building these products which were allowing you to talk to a podcast or talk to a book. We decided that at that point, we really need to build a platform that allowed anyone to do that without code.

[00:06:23.590] – Joran

It’s now a journey of one and a half years, something like that. Have you always known from the beginning it’s going to be such a success?

[00:06:30.250] – Mike

I think initially, when we launched this no-code model builder, initially, we got a few thousand dollars a month in revenue from that, but definitely not enough to support us both as we live in London. But the thing that really made us realize that we were on to One thing was we actually gave users of the original products an option to sign up to a presale. And so literally, it was just a fork in the process where users could select one of two use cases, how they wanted to use it. If they selected the original one, they just go through the product flow as normal. If they selected what we were proposing as the new one, it just took them to a payment page where they pay $99. We explain the product a little bit just on the page, and then we would look to see how many people signed up. Within two weeks, we got about $5,000 in revenue from that, which was more than the revenue we had from the original product from just some text on a page. That was when we realized that this is where the demand is. That’s when we went fully into building that product.

[00:07:28.650] – Joran

What did you do with the people who actually entered the credit card details and were willing to pay it? Did you grab the money?

[00:07:35.690] – Mike

Yeah. We basically committed to them that we would build it within a month. We had nothing built at the time, but we were confident we knew how to build it. It actually took Alex about two weeks, of which half of that time he was on holiday, much to his wife’s charter in. But we were able to put that together and release it. Then after two weeks, we put it out to these new users. We got some feedback from them, iterated it, and then we put it out to everyone else after that.

[00:08:03.390] – Joran

Yeah, that’s really nice idea, selling before you already have something. Would you recommend that other founders do that as well, I guess, if they want to take a new journey or take new direction?

[00:08:13.380] – Mike

Yeah, I think as long as you can succinctly describe it and as long as you’re confident you can deliver on it, at the end of the day, you can always refund it if you don’t end up building it. I’ve seen numerous products where that’s the case. But it gives you such a strong signal that it is something that you should be building. If they’re willing to buy it based on the idea of it, then you’re going to get way more sales if you actually have the thing that you can show them.

[00:08:37.780] – Joran

How did you get people to actually get to the page and actually buy it from you?

[00:08:42.220] – Mike

Yeah, so that was largely because we already had this initial product that we’d started, and we were getting maybe a couple of thousand visitors a week onto that page. Basically, it was a group of people who we knew were interested in this technology already, and so we would just fork them through that flow.

[00:08:59.630] – Joran

Yeah, Yeah, so having that user base already, having that community, it definitely helps.

[00:09:03.640] – Mike

But we only had it for a month prior to it. It wasn’t something that we had built up over the years of an audience and things.

[00:09:09.920] – Joran

You can basically do it in a short amount of time. Yeah, exactly. Okay, nice. When we look at your journey, like now always, it’s easy to say one and a half years, 40,000 plus users. What is a rock bottom moment for you, either financially or personal?

[00:09:27.380] – Mike

I think it was probably a couple. One was definitely when we were at the point where we were growing, but we weren’t quite earning enough to live off. There was a period where I had to go back to contracting while running the business. I basically had a very good friend who helped me get that contract enrolling. It was very generous of him to help me out in that way. But I realized after working for a week into that three-month contract that it was just not feasible and it wasn’t what I was enjoying. I basically had this decision where I had to go all in because if it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t have enough money to pay the rent. I wouldn’t advise people doing this, but I was just getting so down from having to go through these meetings in this company and go through this process that it wasn’t worth it. And so I just committed fully into it. I guess the second rock bottom point was because we had such a tailwind, basically, behind us with building a product in the AI space, that gave us a false sense of success in that we grew quite quickly to a good revenue number.

[00:10:42.410] – Mike

And then when that plateaued or when it subsided or the first day that you don’t get a say or post that, then you start questioning everything and doubts everything. It was probably a few months into that before we realized that, no, we We can’t just keep doing what we’re doing. We have to change it up. We have to look how people are using the products, and we have to build something different. But that was difficult because you’re seeing everyone else’s products all exploding in the AI space, and you’re wondering why yours isn’t.

[00:11:14.440] – Joran

I think that’s one thing you’re related also to what you said at the beginning, right? You’re following people on Twitter, you’re following their success stories. You often see success stories on social media where you think things are going really well, and your startup, it isn’t. Was it one of these cases where you saw success stories, but where you were struggling?

[00:11:31.480] – Mike

Yeah, for sure. I think you’re always looking to other people and seeing things working out for them and seeing things taken off. Then you’re doing very similar things, whether you’ve done it before or just after, and they’re not having the same impact. That can be really disheartening, and you’re just wondering, what is it about what we’re doing that isn’t working? But I think the lesson we’ve taken from that is that everyone’s journey is different, and you can’t copy and paste growth strategies, distribution strategies across products because everyone has different strengths, everyone has different ways of doing things, and everyone’s businesses are built in different ways.

[00:12:06.770] – Joran

This question was more like personal, right? You hit the rod bottom with financial, going back to contractor work. Has there been any big company challenges where it was up or down. Did it go really well or the termination of the company?

[00:12:21.440] – Mike

I can talk about recently we had probably one of our biggest enterprise contracts that we were working towards. We spent a month with them to try and answer their questions, to build features around them to make sure that they were happy with the product. And after all that, we got to a point where it came down to something that was outside of our control, why they decided not to go with us. And that was quite hard because we were on this, we were starting to get this traction with them. We were seeing more of these enterprise sales, and then to suddenly get a bit of a knockback thinking, Oh, maybe we’re not big enough. Maybe we’re not polished enough. That was quite disheartening, I think.

[00:12:59.660] – Joran

Yeah. I guess it’s recent, so how did you deal with it? Are you now working on the next enterprise supply and make sure you’ve fixed it?

[00:13:06.290] – Mike

I think it’s just about always taking the positives from it that you can. I think with that one, in some ways, it was good that there was nothing more that we could do. It meant that we gave it our all. We also took the perspective that all of the feedback that they gave us, all of the product tweaks and all the things that we could do to improve it, made the products more hardened. It made it better for any future enterprise customer that’s going to come in. They’re not going to They’re not going to have those questions. They’re not going to have those issues. And so we’re just building a stronger and stronger foundation for future businesses.

[00:13:37.160] – Joran

Yeah, that’s nice. At least taking the learnings out of it, making sure that things don’t happen again. Exactly.

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[00:14:03.160] – Joran

I guess coming back to or zooming out a little bit, so 40,000 users right now, what has been your go-to-market strategy? How did you take it from the beginning to where you are right now?

[00:14:12.450] – Mike

Yeah, it’s probably not a good lesson in entrepreneurship, but it was a bit of a spray and prey in a way, because when AI hype was at its peak in March last year, there were just so many growth hack type things. We would post our products in AI directories. That That was a good way to get initial customers. And so we’d post in all of these. We would reply to big accounts on Twitter. That was working for a while because you had all these AI influencers who were talking about all these new products, and then you would just drop your product in as a reply. We did some stuff on Reddit as well, some sponsored Reddit posts that went well. And we did all the AI newsletters when they were booming as well. And I think the lesson with all of that is that they worked, but only temporarily, very Very quickly, they get saturated. Very quickly, people see your product and then it’s gone. We’ve now started trying to move towards things which are more sustainable distribution channels. Looking more into SEO, experimenting more with Google Ads, and looking at things like affiliate marketing more.

[00:15:18.540] – Mike

They’re probably the main channels we look into.

[00:15:21.710] – Joran

If you can summarize it in a little way where we’re going to give advice to other founders, do things that don’t scale at the beginning, which you did, and they might be short-term things you’re what you’re going to do, but in the end, they work for you. You found out different ways to do it. From now, you’re going to work more towards organic or long-term growth strategies.

[00:15:38.260] – Mike

Yeah, exactly. You’re just looking for the little things that you can do to just jumpstart the business initially. Anything that you can do that you can experiment with. This is where the growth hacks really help get you going because a lot of the time in the AI space, it is going to be the first product is going to take the lion’s share of the business. You just need to try and get traction as quickly as possible. Then once you’ve got that, you need to start really doubling down into the things that are more sustainable.

[00:16:06.790] – Joran

Have you made any critical decisions? If I haven’t done X, Y, Z, then I wouldn’t be here right now?

[00:16:14.230] – Mike

I guess two things. One would be if we didn’t act fast on the opportunity. So I think we were seeing all these Talk to your podcast, Talk to your book type products coming up on Twitter. It was inevitable that people were going to start coming out with these ideas or a platform for them, and there were a number that came at the same time as us. And so I think being able to act on that, especially using… We used a no-code platform called Bubble to build our product, which allowed us to build it super quick. It was, say, a couple of weeks, with no previous experience of building something like this. So acting fast definitely helped us. And the second one is probably the pivot towards customer support from a much broader product, which has allowed us really to refine our positioning and to really focus the products on this specific use case, where before it was a lot broader and we didn’t know exactly how to market things or which features to decide on or prioritize because there’s just so many that you could. Yeah.

[00:17:12.370] – Joran

And you said an interesting thing, you built it on Bubble. Is it still built on Bubble right now?

[00:17:16.570] – Mike

The entire of the front-end of the product is all built on Bubble. And to be honest, I can’t imagine doing another way. And I would highly recommend it, especially for an MVP, because it just allows us to respond so quickly and stay so aligned with user the feedback and requests. Because so far, we haven’t found anything that we can’t build on Bubble. We have widgets that we’ve got on other people’s sites. We have an AI-generated Insights tool. Pretty much anything that anyone else can do, we can do on Bubble, which is quite something that not many people expect, really. The back-end of the product is all Python, but all the front-end, everything you see visually is Bubble.

[00:17:54.510] – Joran

As you mentioned, it’s a good thing to start with an MVP. That’s how I see Bubble or saw Bubble. But you You guys have so many users. You already have such big usage on the app and you still are there. Are you thinking you’re switching away from it or keeping it on Bubble for now?

[00:18:08.980] – Mike

It’s something that we’ve spoke about quite a few times. Initially, our mind was always, at some point, we’ll need to switch from Bubble. But realistically, the trade-offs that you often see with it, sometimes speed is one and stability can be another. Stability can be solved by moving over to some of their enterprise tiers because you get your own servers and all that stuff. The speed actually is less of an issue for people. Actually, the biggest blocker in speed is actually OpenAI rather than Bubble. As OpenAI gets faster, then we’re just going to get better and faster. When we think about the differences between code versus no code, we can’t really see many of the advantages to code that are going to matter to our users. We’d rather just be able to keep building as a very small team, not have to do pull request reviews, debugging things. It means I can also to do things as a non-technical co-founder. I can go and make changes and investigate things as well. So I think it’s been such an advantage to us, especially in such a fast-moving field like A. N.

[00:19:14.080] – Joran

Yeah, interesting. And when we zoom out a little bit again, we talked about challenges, rock bottom moment. Did you had any big failures you made? Because you had, for example, the enterprise client where it wasn’t your fault, right? But any big failures you can share?

[00:19:30.130] – Mike

I think I still, in some way, think we’re failing at getting our product out there because when people try our products, we get a very good response to it, and we have good conversion, activation, retention, etc. So I think one of the big failures is with marketing. I still don’t think that we’ve really nailed our distribution strategy. I think we’ve done lots of little things that have worked in a little way, but we haven’t found a repeatable process and distribution channel. We know when people sign up for our products, when they use it, when they test it out, that conversion is good, activation is good, but we just can’t find that one approach that allows us to really scale and go all in on. We’ve seen other similar businesses who have found those routes. In some ways, I think our biggest failing is our ability to really market ourselves well.

[00:20:21.620] – Joran

A lot of SaaS founders say, Find one channel which works really well for you, but you haven’t found that one channel.

[00:20:26.560] – Mike

We get lots of things from lots of places, and some are showing a bit more promise now, but also it takes quite a while sometimes to see what is going to work. Seo, you’re not going to find in a month. You have to do it six months, 12 months, etc, to see if it works. Same with affiliate, you need to really invest in that as a channel to see if you are going to get the returns from it. I think it’s just a question of when do you stop one channel and then double down on another? That’s been a big debate point for us.

[00:20:55.830] – Joran

When you look at how you grow the company because you’re still with the two of you, big user base, growing the ARR, are you using any processes, frameworks? How do you manage your company right now?

[00:21:08.320] – Mike

Yeah, we basically communicate all through Slack, even just the two of us. We only meet up actually once a week. We meet up for a lunch and a half day session where we’ll go through the bigger decisions and the bigger points that we need to discuss. But the rest of that is all just Slack, where we go through things asynchronously. We both work pretty core hours of, say, eight, half eight or half six. Then we will obviously work outside of those hours if we want to or if a big issue comes up or something. I think that’s how we use Slack. We then are probably the other biggest tool that we use is like Notion. We have a very basic roadmap in Notion, which is like, here’s a big long list of all the things we want to build. They go in one place. And then we have our starting soon, next, bugs testing, etc. And that just gives us more discipline. It’s not over-engineered in any way. We don’t go through any strict prioritization frameworks or anything like that, but it’s just a way that knows what is the most important thing that we need to be working on that’s going to move the needle for the business, basically.

[00:22:13.490] – Mike

I think that’s what you have to constantly We’re going to re-assess. It’s like, Okay, over this next week, am I doing the things that are going to make a real difference? Because it’s really easy to just get into the weeds quickly.

[00:22:24.890] – Joran

When you say move the needle, make a difference, does it mean what is going to get us the most or new big clients coming in? What do you look at?

[00:22:33.350] – Mike

Yeah, so at the moment, as I mentioned, marketing is one of our weakest areas. And so realistically, we’re confident that all the other areas of the products, while they can be improved, they’re We’re not getting enough right now. And so for us, it’s just about building awareness of the products and trying to be seen by more people. Because as I say, I think our conversion we can work on, but it’s good enough. But we’re just not getting enough people through the door in the first place. For us, that’s our main priority right now.

[00:23:03.370] – Joran

How do you leverage new technologies like AI? My ask AI, it answers the question, but how deep is it embedded? Because you are running on OpenAI, right?

[00:23:13.430] – Mike

Yeah. We use GPT-4.0, the newest model from OpenAI. So all of our products uses it. We use it in loads of different ways. We use it to answer questions. We use it to create insights from these conversations. We use it to summarize conversations when they’re handed over to a person as So we use it in lots of different ways within our products. Then operationally, we also use it in quite a few ways. We use it to do some categorisation of leads as they’re coming in. We use it, obviously, to… Alex uses CURSER AI, which is like an AI coding tool that he swears by now. And we use ChatGPT on the regular for little questions or tweaks or writing little bits of code or anything like that. Yeah, wherever we can, we look to use it. And I think really we want to try and stay as a two-person business. We’re always looking for the ways in which rather than hire someone, we can just automate first.

[00:24:07.710] – Joran

I think that’s an interesting challenge. We’ve been looking into it as well, but it’s hard. I guess some things you need a person to do certain things, or you need to set up the processes where you need a person to actually do it. I guess, how do you manage that? How do you look at things? You look at a certain challenge or we want to do X, how can we automate it using AI or any other way?

[00:24:30.400] – Mike

We start by trying to bring in some experts for processes. For example, we want to do more SEO stuff, and so we bring in agencies to help us understand and learn. They’re going to create the blog posts, they’re going to tell us what things we need to look for. Oh, should we pay for this guest blog post? Or something like that. We look at all those things and learn from them first. Then once we feel we’ve got the 80% or so of that knowledge, then we might look to say, Okay, is this something that we could do ourselves? Similar with Google Ads, we hired an agency for a little while and we found that there wasn’t really anything that they were doing that we weren’t capable of doing. And given how we know our products as well as anyone, there’s always going to be that mismatching in communication with them. In the end, what we’ve done is we’ve gone from agency to doing it ourselves with a once quarterly review or once monthly review by an external party just to check we’re on track. And then once we’ve got a good method for that down, then we would love to automate That’s it.

[00:25:31.100] – Mike

But yeah, I think there’s so many tools out there as well at the moment. If you look in AI directories, I did something the other day where I had to… I was meant to be typing in a load of different values into some field in the product, and it would have taken me like 10 minutes. I looked online, found a little workflow tool with AI that allowed me to click a button, and it just filled them in automatically. I think sometimes it’s just a case of looking for these things because there’s not much that AI can’t do, and if you can find the right tools to do it.

[00:25:59.850] – Joran

Guys, I think one interesting thing you said, you will look for consultants or you will look for agencies who can actually already have the knowledge, educate you on the topic, and then from there you take it forward, either yourself or using AI. I think that’s really important because you can always look for a tool which can do it for you. But in the end, I would also say you need expert knowledge to actually get the things set up, and then after that, you can take over yourself.

[00:26:25.550] – Mike

For sure. Otherwise, you’re just going to spend ages trying to figure out what’s the advice you should to or not.

[00:26:30.680] – Joran

Yeah, exactly. If you could do it again from the start, what would you do differently?

[00:26:37.570] – Mike

I’d definitely go harder on content and trying to create more hype around the products because at the time when we launched, all products were getting traction based on videos, based on hype and all that stuff. I think we didn’t do enough to lean into that. I think we should have created more video content. That’s obviously massive in gaining more and more traction now. I just don’t think we really shouted about what we were doing enough. I think we put something out that we thought was very impressive and thought that it would… We did some bits, but we thought it would get more traction on its own. I think the other thing is we wouldn’t want to make calls that go against our own opinions, and that really held us back. For a while, we had the products where you could just ask one question, and that was it, when everyone was crying out for a chat product, and we just didn’t like the pattern of chat. Where we stayed away from it when really we should have just left our ego at the door and just built that because it was going to be the predominant UX pattern, basically.

[00:27:39.000] – Joran

Yeah. I guess the lesson here is also listen to your customers, what they’re asking.

[00:27:43.340] – Mike

Yeah. That’s the thing. Sometimes your users do know what’s best and you should build to them. But other times you think you’re Steve Jobs and you think, Oh, no, they don’t know what they want, and you try to go a bit ahead of yourself. It’s just worth checking your ego because 99% of the time, you just build what they ask for.

[00:28:01.090] – Joran

Yeah. And regarding the first thing you said, creating more hype, creating more content, I think this is something I personally struggle, and I think a lot of SaaS founders struggle as well. You want to provide a lot of value, and I don’t talk that much about the product, but ideally, you do need to talk more about the product. You need to get it out there because you’re the only one selling it.

[00:28:20.060] – Mike

Exactly. And it’s difficult because you’ve got the imposter syndrome of, Is my product good enough in the first place? You’re wondering if you have credibility for it. You also don’t want to ram it down people It goes through all the time. You want to do a soft sell. But as you say, if you’re not talking about it, then who else is going to talk about it? You might get a few customers who are very vocal about it, and that’s great. But I think it still needs to predominantly come from the founder. And you just need to find ways to tell a great story around your product.

[00:28:48.320] – Joran

If we go to the end question, so practical advice for founders who are in a certain revenue milestone. What advice would you give SaaS founders who’s just starting out and to 10K monthly recurring revenue?

[00:29:01.900] – Mike

I’d probably say to look for your distribution channels first. I think that’s the hardest part. Building products now is super easy. There’s so many resources, there’s so many tools that you can build an MVP of something really quickly. The really tough thing is finding what the distribution channel is going to be. I think now, if I were starting something else that I wanted to really grow, I would probably look for a distribution partner who is really to be already influential in that field. It’s some advice I heard from another podcast. I think it’s so relevant now because products grow so quickly that if you don’t immediately have the distribution, then you just get flood over with copycats and it just becomes hyper competitive. Whereas if you’ve got that partner, they’re basically worth their weight in gold or equity because they already have that reach and it’s going to massively increase your chances of actually making something work.

[00:30:00.830] – Joran

I do see a challenge here because we’re an affiliate marketing tool which does the same thing, where you ask somebody else to promote you. But I think it’s always hard. What you mentioned equity or being more involved, that has to be almost in place because otherwise, how can you ask somebody else to promote your product if it’s just out there?They.

[00:30:20.320] – Mike

Have to believe in it.It has to be an incentive.

[00:30:22.370] – Joran

I think that’s going to be a really important one. Do we grow the 10K MRR on your journey yourself right now? This is going to be a big step towards 10 million ARR. I guess what things would you maybe even advise yourself on how to get there?

[00:30:36.620] – Mike

I think we’re going to have to create more content and create more of a brand around the products. I still don’t think that if you covered up the name of our products, people will be I don’t think I’m able to tell you that it’s my ask AI. I don’t think if you have to look at our copy, people will be able to say that. I think that is something that is very important as you get towards those numbers. I think the other thing is coming up with a good way of generating a sales pipeline, specifically for enterprise customers, like coming up with good playbooks and practices of how are you going to do that. At the moment, we have quite an ad hoc approach. We’ll do some outreach, we’ll get some inbound follow-up on them. And we’re quite good at working closely to close them. But I think coming up with a scalable approach to doing that is going to be the only way that we get to that scale.

[00:31:22.320] – Joran

Yeah, and especially if you want to stay with two people.

[00:31:25.410] – Mike

Yeah, exactly.

[00:31:25.870] – Joran

You have success with the manual outreach right now.

[00:31:29.030] – Mike

Yeah, That’s the thing Sam Altman was saying. There’s going to be a billion-dollar one-person company. That means we need to make a $2 billion two-person company. So that’s the goal. And we’re always thinking, what are the restraining factors that are preventing us from doing something like that? And we just want to keep trying to find ways. And I imagine as we do that, we’ll also probably build tools ourselves that help us. Ask AI in the first place, was partly built because we couldn’t handle our own customer support. And so we put it in place to solve our own problem first, and that gave us a lot of learnings as well.

[00:32:03.130] – Joran

Nice. If you can give one last piece of advice to other SaaS founders, what would you advise them to do or maybe to avoid?

[00:32:11.590] – Mike

Don’t build another AI customer support agent. There are enough of them, and we have enough competition.

[00:32:17.410] – Joran

Keep believing in your vision.

[00:32:18.970] – Mike

I think for us, it’s very easy, especially in AI, to get attracted by the shiny new thing, to see a new tool or technology and try to apply it into your product, and you end up with these Frankenstein products when really you should listen to and look at all these announcements, but then you should decide whether it’s actually going to meaningfully benefit your customers. There’s a number of new AI releases from OpenAI that we haven’t incorporated into the products just because we don’t see the value in them. Whereas the ones that we do, we will jump on immediately and incorporate. I think being able to do that over a long time, and even though we’ve only been going 15 months, there’s been so much hype that we could have gone in 10 different directions or sold the product a few times. But I think the people who are going to succeed are the ones that just do the boring things day after day. They’re going to be the ones who come out on top.

[00:33:16.470] – Joran

Nice. If you want to get in contact with you, how can they do that?

[00:33:20.810] – Mike

Yes, so you can find me on Twitter at Mike_heep_catchy. I’m on LinkedIn as Mike Heep, and you can email me at Mike@myaskai. Com.

[00:33:33.370] – Joran

Cool. Thank you for coming on. I guess for people listening, we’re going to have another poll at this one, and we’re going to add a question to this show, so make sure you check those out if you’re listening on Spotify. We want to hear your feedback. We’re live from SaaS to London. Mikey, thank you for coming on. We’ll add the links to your Twitter and LinkedIn so people can reach out.Thanks.

[00:33:53.030] – Mike

For coming on today.Awesome.Thanks. Pleasure.cheers.cheers..

[00:33:55.570] – Joran

Thank you for watching this show of the Grow Your BDB SaaS podcast. You made it till the end, so I think we can assume you like this content. If you did, give us a thumbs up, subscribe to the channel. If you like this content, feel free to reach out if you want to sponsor the show. If you have a specific guest in mind, if you have a specific topic you want us to cover, reach out to me on LinkedIn. More than happy to take a look at it. If you want to know more about Reddit, feel free to reach out as well. But for now, have a great day and good luck growing your B2B SaaS.

Joran Hofman
Meet the author
Joran Hofman
Back in 2020 I was an affiliate for 80+ SaaS tools and I was generating an average of 30k in organic visits each month with my site. Due to the issues I experienced with the current affiliate management software tools, it never resulted in the passive income I was hoping for. Many clunky affiliate management tools lost me probably more than $20,000+ in affiliate revenue. So I decided to build my own software with a high focus on the affiliates, as in the end, they generate more money for SaaS companies.
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