Layoffs. That was the starting point of our easy journey
At Beautiful Code, we provided product engineering services for our clients over the past 8 years and built a profitable business. COVID19 disrupted our client’s businesses which extended to downsizing their commitments to us. This shock forced us to scale back in our operations and to limit the scale of layoffs, we went into an ideation mode that forced us to come up with options to plan for the future with urgency. Phew – those were some stressful weeks. Definitely not easy, but needed.
We’ve been building SaaS products and have been following the SaaS landscape evolution in the past decade. Needless to say, it has revolutionised how software changed form to better suit customer’s needs. One question we asked ourselves was
Strengths. Right. Reality hit us and we realized we really had only one – Engineering. And Engineering ranked 3rd in the key capabilities to build a profitable SaaS business of some significant scale. Marketing and Sales topped our list, Product Management came second and then came Engineering. Over the years, we were so deep in the Engineering space that everyone in the Co was an engineer. Engineering was our bread and butter and we enjoyed doing it to earn our living. We realized our sole strength is potentially a strong weakness in building SaaS businesses and naturally we dropped the idea.
While we knew that we are not cut out to sell, curiosity got the best of us and we were studying how others were doing it. The world of SaaS is a vast collection of adventure stories. What individuals have done in building SaaS businesses taught us small steps can go a long way if the execution is disciplined. This further piqued our interest and we started analyzing SaaS companies in terms of how they operate. This is when we had our AHA moment.
The subscription business model has fast matured from being niche product businesses to large cap companies transitioning to a more recurring revenue stream model. And in the process, the ingredients to build a SaaS business emerged – aggressive methods of customer acquisition, investor demand for explosive growth, heavy marketing spends and expensive teams to make all this happen. This naturally made SaaS a serious business with mainstream VCs driving the game. To make the equation work financially, the customer had to pay handsomely. Going back to the first principles, we asked ourselves if we can build a different SaaS business model that is both profitable and far more affordable for the customer than the current alternatives.
These were the constraints we had to work with.
- Engineering biased skillset.
- Lower the cost of building and supporting SaaS businesses.
- Give more savings to the customer and yet be profitable.
The next few weeks we wrestled with our constraints to see if we can eke out a business model. We have built SaaS products for our clients, but have not built any SaaS businesses for ourselves.
Constraints are present for everyone and surprisingly can be a source of clarity and strength. The picture that comes to my mind when I think of accomplishing something in the context of constraints is the image of a plant growing through concrete cracks. If the plant can do it, why can’t we?
(Wait! What? Is it a real thing?) We want to change our strength-turned weakness into a strength again and play the game in our own way. That was the inception of our easy journey.
At the core, we are using Engineering principles around automated processes, standardization, assembly line structuring and applying them to functions such as Product Management, Marketing and Customer Success. We believe we can accomplish a low-cost operational footprint of building and supporting SaaS products with our Playbook. The devil is in the details of our Playbook, which is basically the operating system that helps us understand customers, go through their use cases, designing the product experience, supporting their queries at scale etc… in building our metaphorical SaaS factory.
We code named our team Phoenix and started working on evaluating our resolve in going after our new goal.
No one has done it so far but it was not clear to us why it cannot be done. If we can do it, then we would have broken new ground in SaaS business models. It’s been 6 months since we started this effort and our Playbook has gone through about ten revisions and we know we are at least ten to twenty more versions away to really find the confident answer to our question.
If you are interested in how we are faring, check our ongoing journey.