Jan. 13, 2023

How to Refine your SaaS Product with Chris Frantz of Loops

How to Refine your SaaS Product with Chris Frantz of Loops

Episode Summary:

In this episode of SaaS Origin Stories, Phil speaks with Chris Frantz, Co-Founder and CEO of Loops, a company that helps SaaS businesses send beautiful email newsletters and one-off campaigns in a simple, easy-to-use interface. Before this, he was a founder at Snazzy AI (now Unbounce) and the Director of Digital Strategy at Curiosity Stream.

They discuss the importance of taste and curation in a SaaS business model; why simplicity is key for the user’s experience; the difference between platforms and tools; and why you should have fun with what you do before venturing into something big and serious. He also discusses why his creative marketing strategy has been so successful.

Guest at a Glance:

Name: Chris Frantz

About Chris: Chris is the Co-Founder and CEO of Loops, a company that helps SaaS businesses send beautiful email newsletters and one-off campaigns in a simple, easy-to-use interface. He believes simplicity is key to the user’s experience.

Chris on LinkedIn

Chris’ Website

Loops on LinkedIn

Topics we cover:

  • The efficiency of Loops
  • The importance of polish, taste, and curation
  • Simplicity for the user is the key
  • The difference between platforms and tools
  • Think creatively with your Marketing
  • Have fun building and programming first
  • Can publicly sharing your process help?

Key Takeaways:

The Efficiency of Loops and Why Simplicity is Key

Often, it can be difficult to send a bulk of email newsletters and campaigns to a variety of different people, but thanks to Loops, that has been made way easier. Chris drew from his own experiences using slow and antiquated software to come up with a solution.

When starting Loops, he knew he wanted it to be as simple as possible. It only takes five clicks to send a marketing email from them, whereas their competitor, Mailchimp, takes twenty-two clicks. Keep it simple; customers respond to simplicity positively and will undoubtedly come back!

Importance of Polish, Taste, and Curation 

When building a business, one of the most important aspects is making sure the brand matches your standards of taste and curation - it has to be in line with what you care about. If you get stuck working on something you don’t have any enthusiasm for, you may end up with a messy, unfinished product, or worse, your mental health will suffer.

Difference Between Platforms and Tools 

A later-stage SaaS company often describes itself as a platform, whereas an earlier-stage company describes itself as a tool. When a company transitions from one to the other, it can spin up other product categories and expand itself. The trick is not to jump the shark too quickly and go at a steady pace.

“At a later stage SaaS company, they call it a platform; in an earlier stage company, they call it a tool. When a company becomes a platform after becoming a tool, it basically means they can spin up other product categories”.

Think Creatively with Your Marketing 

According to Chris, Loops have no plans to start any traditional marketing techniques yet. Instead, they’ve been staying creative with their marketing: making boxes of cereal for first users and letting startups display their messages on billboards. This is the reason they stand out amongst the others; they’re creative.

Chris explains how plenty of people are happy to share their building process online with others, and this is a huge part of why they were so successful. Chris, however, points out that he didn’t feel comfortable doing this and would rather remain private. It’s perfectly okay for others to do this, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be successful. We all have our different methods.


I think one of the last things that will be removed from the AI human wars will be taste and curation.

I think that's so you can generate a lot of content, right?

And then but like knowing which content is good is still difficult because there's a lot of other dynamic factors that come into it like queer audiences and all of this. Welcome to SAS Origin Stories. Tune in to hear authentic conversations with founders as they share stories from the earlier days of their SAS startups. We'll cover painful challenges, early wins and actionable takeaways.

You'll hear firsthand the do's and don'ts of building and growing a SAS as well as inspirational stories to fuel you on your own SAS journey. Here is your host, Phil Alves. Today I have Chris France from Loops.

Chris, welcome to the show.

Hey, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Chris, the first question I'd like to ask our guest is, that was a little bit about your background and your backstory.

Yeah, definitely. I probably have a slightly more non-traditional background, although it does seem like SAS kind of collects all the misfits from all the other industries somewhat. But my background is actually in content and creative. And I pivoted in my like mid-twenties into software. And at that point, I started with marketing. I'd always been interested in coding and I'd done projects my entire life that I'd generate revenue from.

I've always been a contractor on the side. I've always had a side hustle, always had a gig, even when I was a kid. So getting into SAS felt like a natural transition for me. So I was able to start in marketing and apply some of my creative skills in marketing and had some early success there. So I started as employee number five, a company called Curiosity. It's now publicly traded.

I was founded by the creator of the Discovery Channel. The intention was to become a competitor in the documentary and nonfiction space. So Discovery Channel, but streaming and got to work directly with the founder of the Discovery Channel, which was great. And we built a very cool team and I was there for a couple of years. And that's where I made my transition from creative into marketing.

The nice part about startups and SAS is you can do that. Started out at a growing team early on and you can completely transform your life. So did that for a little while. Started up at a few other SAS companies leading marketing growth. Then we built and sold our first company, my co-founder and I. That was the year before last. We sold to Unbounce. It was a copywriting company, AI powered copywriting.

We were in the very first batch of those types of companies to come out. Jasper and CopyAI and us were all in that first batch. We were able to make a very material return for ourselves very quickly off of it. So we worked with Unbounce for six months as employees integrated into their systems. It's now prominently featured as part of their site. It's called Smart Copy now under the Unbounce umbrella.

Then we left Unbounce because we got the itch to build something new. I teamed up again with my co-founder and we applied to YC with an idea. And then we got in and started building loops in early January, just last year, 2022.

Is the same co-founder building this company again?

Is the same team?

Yes, definitely. You know you can trust them when you have seven figures in a mutual bank account together. I was reading and there's a statistics that say that the same team that build a company together, if they go to build a second venture, there's a very high chance that they're going to be able to build a unicorn because they really know each other. They have a lot more experience.

So it was smart on you guys to do that.

Yeah, definitely. I couldn't imagine doing with anyone else at the time. His name is Adam. He's incredibly talented. I love working with him. That's awesome.

And so what does Loop do?

Tell me a little bit about loops.

Yeah, for sure. So in my career, I've had the pleasure, in some cases the displeasure of using most email solutions that are out there. And there are quite a few. So this industry is 40 years old or so. And some of our competitors are 10, even 20 years old. So the software feels slow, feels antiquated, flows like sending a simple email to a group of people can take a really long period of time.

And often require multiple hands on deck. So it didn't feel like the process had been rethought at all. We wanted a really large industry to compete in. There is about a dozen unicorns in this space, at least, including five or six publicly traded competitors. And we both had this pain point, my co-founder and I.

So our goal with loops is just to make it incredibly simple, fast and efficient to send email to users.

So far, we've been pretty successful during our early alpha. So last year, we started with just an idea. And by the end of the year, we hit our revenue goal. We were able to bring on Framer and a number of other companies that we haven't announced yet. But Framer is one of the largest ones to start sending their email from us.

And we're taking customers away from publicly traded competitors in less than a year. So we're feeling pretty good about where we ended up. And we think the experience is really nice. In the same way that Linear created a better product management solution to compete against Jira, we are trying to accomplish the same thing for email. That's amazing.

And again, I see it as a common team, founders that go to the second, they want to make a very, very big bet in a big industry because you already made seven figures in the first exit. Now it's about really disrupting a big industry.

Is that correct to say?

Yeah, to a certain extent. And I will also say that since then, I now have a growing family. And let me tell you, I now understand why folks continue to accumulate wealth because it never feels like there's enough. So anyways, but yes, we do want to compete in a very large industry. We think we have the chops to do it. We think we have a plan that will win.

And so far, it's bearing fruit.

How do you think your experience with everything they did before prepare you for this that you're building right now?

I think one of the last things that will be removed from the AI human wars will be taste and curation.

I think that's so you can generate a lot of content, right?

And then like knowing which content is good is still difficult because there's a lot of other dynamic factors that come into it like queer audiences and all of this. And you can add all of that stuff into an AI. But knowing that you actually have to add those things, there's still like this level of having a bit of taste and curation.

And the reason I bring this up is because I think that starting in creative as I did kind of gave me the idea of a refined eye of knowing when something looks good and just having the level of taste and curation that I think is really important for building a polished software product today. We think of software as craft and craft is actually our lead investor. It's just a coincidence.

But we really do. We think it should be polished. It thinks incredibly fast, efficient and work everywhere in every situation. So from the get go, we built for mobile. Like you can. I don't think there's any other platform out there that's fully featured as a marketing solution like ours that you just straight up use from your phone on a bus and you can build a complex marketing flow.

And it's just as easy as a notion. So that level of taste, polish and curation we think is key to what we're doing. And I think a part of that is because I spent a couple of years in creative. That makes a lot of sense. I think like you develop and you become like a better product person.

You understand a lot about the industry and you want to build something that's very, very polished. And so you touch on investing. Let's talk a little bit more about that.

How are you guys funding this venture?

Sure. So we went through Y Combinator, which I'll refer to as YC probably during this. We began YC in 2022. We started raising funds mid February. We noticed that the market was getting a little shaky. We were potentially a little early to have a revelation.

Not early enough that I pulled out all of the stocks from our publicly traded companies, but early enough that we decided that we wanted to raise ahead of YC's demo day, which usually occurs around three months at the three month mark or so, end of three months at YC. So we raised ahead of demo day. We had tremendous interest from investors, which was great.

Part of that was due to our past success with their previous company. We had some investors that were interested after we had sold our previous company. But Kraft was our lead after chatting with a number of folks. They just got our vision right away. It was a quick conversation and our lead over there, Brian Murray, I think really understands what we're trying to accomplish and fully supports us.

And that's what we're looking for.

So how much money have you guys raised so far?

We raised a little over three million in an oversubscribed round. We ended at 3.2 and our pre-seed seed, whatever you want to call it. We're just referring to it as a first round to avoid labels for now. And we have five employees, including two co-founders. So three full-time people. That's awesome.

And how long did it take to build a product, to have the version one?

Because you didn't have a product yet two months, did you, when you were raising money?

Kind of. We think it's important to have revenue as soon as possible. Our investors agreed with that as well. So January 16th is when we got our first sale. And we started building in early January. But the first version of Loops was basically an off-the-shelf text editor. And you typed anything you wanted into it and did anything you wanted to do it. And then you hit send.

And then the background, Adam and I are polishing up your email and then sending it for you. So it was as hacky as could be. But we priced it at $99 a month flat. We got three people to sign up at that price in the first week. And then we knew we had a little bit of pull.

If people pay you $300 to type an email to a text editor and not have to worry about it, then you might have something. So that's how we started. And it made the conversation easier with VCs because just a couple weeks later, revenue had grown even further. Our product was more developed. And it was easy to show where we were headed. That's awesome. So that was the Wizard of Oz approach.

It was something at the front where you guys were doing a lot of things in the background yourself to make sure that the customer got the value that you were promising. Exactly. People tend to forget that you're solving a problem for a user. And if you can do that effectively, then sometimes the UI melts away and it's less necessary.

Also, honestly, the core of the experience should just be a text editor. We've tried to keep that as much as we can. In five clicks from start, you can send an email from Loops. Last agenda was like 22 clicks or something for MailChimp or God knows how many inside of something like HubSpot.

So that's even with all the complex stuff we now do with personalization, with deliverability, with all the cool stuff that we now have inside the app, we still kept it really simple and minimal and effective. And we're now sending millions of emails, but it's also still just as easy as it was when you first started. Yeah. And that's a good strategy for any founder building a product.

How many clicks does it take for someone to do an action?

Yeah. And if you can keep that short, your product's going to be a better product. Walk me through the keeping developing the product and improving the product and where you guys are today. Definitely. So right now, there's this point that people like to fix on when they talk about their products in public. At a later stage SaaS company, they call it platform.

And then an earlier stage company, they call it a tool. And when a company becomes a platform after becoming a tool, it basically means that they spin up other product categories and they start spinning up verticals inside of SaaS. So for Intercom, they were a chat and then they added email and they added all of that other stuff that they do now. We're still very much in the tool stage.

We're polishing the chef's knife. We're making a very clean, beautiful product that's simple to use. So that's where we are. We're in the polishing stage. We're in the adding a new feature, making sure it works phenomenally well and it looks fantastic and it feels good as you use it before you build anything else.

How do you stay in that tool stage without getting too worried about moving too fast to the platform?

How you do that?

Because I feel like that's a challenge that many founders have and they believe that until they become the platform, they're never going to be able to compete with the big guys of the world. But if you don't stay enough in that foundation, it's a mistake. But I see that founders really struggle to stay in that stage they are right now long enough.

How you guys are pulling that off?

That's a great question because there's so many ways that you can approach it. One of them is just standing up to your investors if you are getting the pressure to become a platform because that's usually where it comes from. You demand for revenue growth and your salespeople are telling you that you've exhausted a channel so you need to build out something else.

But there's the other side of it too, which is internal. You just look at the most successful companies and you see, oh, you click on their products menu. They have a products menu. That's like the big sign. That's when you know you're a platform. You have something in your menu bar that says products and it looks like eight different things when you're Stripe and you suddenly start offering SMS.

That's when you know that they completely jumped the trick. But I guess it depends what's important to you. I think it's very difficult to have a billion dollar company just doing a single thing for very long. I think you can do it, but I think you need to talk about how you're going to become a platform. Uber did it based off of cars, but then they added everything. They added scooters.

They now offer grocery delivery. They do Uber Eats. They quickly became a platform. It's hard to think of a company that hasn't really become a platform as they've grown and they've tried to enter that unicorn status. One that kind of comes to mind actually is WordPress.

Now you could do anything with WordPress, right?

Anything you want.

It runs, let's just check, like 30% of the internet runs on WordPress. And you can literally build entire apps with it. You can do whatever you want. But what they've done is they've relied on third party integrations and apps to actually provide most of that functionality. Out of the box, it's basically just a CMS still. It's just a single tool to do one thing and it's a CMS.

But you can very quickly load it up and it can become WooCommerce, which is, well, actually I think that's owned by the Automatic Guys too. So there you go. They're a platform. I didn't even realize. But it's a separate company though. Yeah. Available as a plugin. So it's very hard. It's very hard to avoid becoming a platform, but you shouldn't try to do it too early.

You should focus and do something efficiently and well for the first year or two at the very least. Yeah. It's not going to be easy for you. It's kind of like that balancing act, but going too quick, you're not going to have anything very, very well done and it's going to be a challenge.

So how are you guys getting customers, retaining and attracting customers to the product?

Definitely. So retention is great at the moment and most of our customers come in through referrals. We haven't done any paid marketing per se. We've done some fun marketing drops. So we bought like a billboard in Times Square last year, at the beginning of the year, and we started to show their message on it and we just gave that away. We created a box of cereal. That was fun.

We sent that out to our early users. We did some other fun stuff as well. But in general, we're not really doing your traditional paid marketing and we have no plans to. It's really word of mouth. That's kind of what you want at this stage too. If people aren't referring additional customers in, if there's not that loop happening early on, you can be agile. There's nothing else to focus on.

You can work on just focusing and getting that referral loop going because you need that to grow. And if you try to fix that too late, then you're going to be in trouble. You need to fix that early. It makes sense.

And I think that's a good sign of product market fit, right?

When people are bringing their friends and stuff to your product. So now you are a VC-funded company or like not VC yet. You raised some money, but the market's very different. Now everyone is talking about become profitable as soon as you can.

So how do you see the market in 2023 for companies that raise money and what are you doing different about profitability?

Definitely. So we don't have a lot of fat to trim. I'm very frifty in general. I've always kind of had that and we've imbued that into the company's DNA.

So for us, there wasn't a lot to cut and we haven't really made much in the way of cuts. We're running very lean and we have years of runway. So we're feeling pretty good about that right now in terms of getting the profitability. We have a plan to do that by the end of this year. And that's our goal. Nice.

So that's a lot faster than companies used to do on the time when there was a lot of money.

So do you plan to get to profitability before you raise another round or you think you're going to raise another round before profitability?

Yeah, that's a good question. It's not something we finalized yet. My intention is to not need to raise a round, but to be in a place where raising around enables us to do more things.

So if we can get not only into profitability, but to 1 million ARR by the end of this year, which we're very much on track to do, then we'll be in very good shape to get to where we need to be in order to either coast and not need another round or raise a substantial round to further grow the business. Makes sense.

So Chris, what's kind of like the first old shit moment that comes to mind from the early days of this company?

We've had a couple of them. Email is quote unquote solved, but it's also a little sketch if you suddenly start sending millions of emails. So we grew rapidly. We brought on some larger customers and some of those customers have tested the limits of our system a couple of times.

And every time it's literally almost like fire extinguisher putting it out because if they take down sending our mail servers because they're sending such a high volume that it impacts all of our customers. Fortunately, we put in a bunch of safeguards to prevent that and we've never had any downtime attributed to it. But we've definitely gotten to the point where we're like, whoa, that was close.

Thankfully, once you navigate out at the early stage and you become more mature, you can put those safeguards in place. We're less worried about some of those things, but we've definitely had a few moments. That's interesting. That's a good old shit moment where we're like, oh, whoa, this is really using our software. Good fires.

Yeah, absolutely.

Yeah, good fires to put off and what can we make sure.

And so how is your product built in the back end?

What kind of technology guys are using with such as Malt team, five people?

How can you handle all that traffic?

Yeah, definitely. So we're built on React and Next. We also use Prisma and TypeScript along with React and it's been working pretty well. We're also in private alpha for the past year.

So for us, traffic is and we're mostly B2B focused.

So for us, traffic is still relatively small in terms of users actually using the app. So we haven't had any real issue with that. It's all around the sending email. That's where the real burden is.

How do you run your private alpha?

It's kind of invite only.

How have you been doing that?

Definitely. So right now we have a wait list. Folks can email me off of the wait list. There's no email that goes out and says, hey, if you'd like early access, just respond. If they do that, I'll take a look. And if it seems like they're a good fit.

So for us, good fit means early to mid stage B2B staffs. I'll reach out to them, getting a better idea of their qualifications and then onboard them. All last year I onboarded users individually. So I did hundreds of user onboarding calls. They're 20 minutes a piece, typically 10 minutes of a demo, five minutes of qualifying at the beginning and then five minutes of questions that they might have at the end.

Every single one of those users also got a Slack Connect channel. So now we have hundreds of Slack Connect channels in our Slack. We're continuing our conversation. So I think that's really important with the early stage alpha. We have direct connections with all of our users.

And I think it's very important to be selective, right?

Because if you get the customer that's not your right ICP, then they're asking things that it's not the right things for you, giving the wrong feedback. So it's very important to be selective and qualify to only getting the customers that you believe are the right customers. Exactly.

And did you have any problem with someone that you weren't bored and it wasn't such a great fit and then you guys had to do something?

Not at this stage. We've been very selective with it. So that's going to be a future problem, I'm sure. We're opening our beta. Hopefully at the end of this month, we'll start opening the beta and do it in ways for users from our wait list.

And at that stage, we'll be just be relying on users to self-select out based on our terms of service and updates, because there are some things that you really shouldn't be emailing people about using our servers and you shouldn't be sending sales spam and stuff like that. So those are future fires to put out and I will let future Chris worry about them. Makes sense.

And even though you're in alpha, it looks like you're charging everybody from day one. Everyone is paying you from day one.

Yes, everyone's paying from day one. We do so students, we love for usage, very early stage startups that didn't have funding or revenue. We love for usage and we've recently switched to a freemium plan going forward. So all the users are free up to a certain period of usage, at which point they turn into paid. Makes sense.

So could you share like a very smart decision that you made in the early days?

Man, I don't know. It's hard to say how smart it even was. It lasted me a decade. I'll let you know if anyone were actually impactful. I can say from a self-sufficiency standpoint, reading the market and not waiting to YC's demo day to raise funds, which is when the rest of our cohort did, ended up being the right thing to do.

We were able to raise pretty much at the peak of the market right before the crash. So we were able to get very favorable terms that will serve us hopefully in the future, as well as the secure runway, you know, 3.2 mil, which will last the team of five considerable amount of time. That's definitely a great decision.

How was the process of making that decision?

How you guys are like, we have to do it right now. We had a lot of inbound interest and I wanted to do it quickly. So we decided to capitalize on the combination of interest after selling our company, as well as getting into YC. So what we did was we went with angels and we did referrals through like a little mini angel network that we ended up creating.

Angels referred us to other angels who then made warm introductions with VC firms that we were interested in working with. We also had a lot of inbound through VC firms. We had 48 fundraising calls over two and a half weeks. Whoa. Yeah. Which is a lot. So we were a team of two at that point. So basically, Adam was on half of them and the other half was building the product.

I was on all of them as the CEO. So but at that point, you know, product basically stopped. I was doing all the designs for the app also, some of the front ends. So it's very hard to continue building a product while you do that. And we were lucky that our fundraising process was that efficient for a lot of people. It's not.

Did some of the investors they invest if you guys right now invest in the previous company too or no previous company was bootstrapped.

Well, bootstrap.

Oh, that's nice. So now you're doing different. So first you bootstrap. So now you're going the VC route to learn a little bit how the world works. Yes. Yes. Unfortunately, I'm in a place where I no longer have to be as thrifty as I was on a personal level, which has released a lot of stress for me for my personal life after after the results of our company previously.

And then the VC part of it has made it easier for us to hire good people quickly and quickly build a product that we need to without having to struggle much before we're ready in the same ways that potentially we had to when we were bootstrapped. We definitely had to when we were bootstrapped.

How do you think that makes you a better CEO to have that cushion to know that you're going to your family is going to be OK even if you have maybe the greater lifestyle, are you going to be OK?

How does that make you a better CEO?

Yeah, it does make you a better CEO because you can leverage resources. And that's a big part of what being a CEO ends up being. I still spend time to code and sometimes design usually now in the browser almost every day. But it's between the hours of maybe like 1030 to midnight. During the day, I'm pretty much in email and in Slack and linear.

This is like the three places I live with a little bit of Twitter, I guess, as well. And being able to tell your resources and move things around and unblock people and allocate folks and hire people like all of that stuff is so much more important when you're trying to build a billion dollar company. Our previous company, we weren't necessarily going for the billion dollar company.

We bootstrapped something cool that we liked. It's great technology. We had a lot of fun building it and we sold it for material gain on our part. So we were able to just be in their building all the time with this. It's a different ballgame. We're shooting for the stars. We're headed for a very material acquisition in a decade or an IPO earlier. Our focus is on building for growth long term.

And it's a very different focus from what you're trying.

Would you recommend that approach for other founders like to do something a little bit easier first and then go to do something that's harder?

Like you have a lot of experience now.

So what do you think if you can then make it?

It depends. It depends on where you are, what your network looks like. If you can easily raise funds, then you should probably raise funds. It provides you a lot more flexibility. You can pivot a couple of times until you find your right idea.

If you can't raise funds or you don't have any desire to do that and you just want to code and hack, then you should probably just release a bunch of products, have fun building them, optimize and try to improve them on every new product that you built.

And then if you find one that gets traction, that also seems like it's going to have a market, that's the magic second part that people tend to forget about, then just keep building and building. And bootstrapping is great, but I think it would be very difficult to build a company for the long term in this environment competing against VC funding companies. For sure.

So and how about like a big mistake that you made in the early days of this company?

Yeah, none of those. A big mistake that I made.

Well thankfully we're still in the early days, right?

So I'm not 100% sure that I have any crippling mistakes at this point. I would probably want to share more about the building process with people. I'm not great about that. I love having users use the product. I'm less about sharing my company in an open way publicly, like the screenshots and all of that stuff.

It's just, I mean, I just don't enjoy spending time doing it. And the reason I say it might be a big mistake is because of the time we were competing with a company called Copy AI with our previous company. And we were actually developing along the same standpoint. We had a ton of users, tens of thousands of users every month. We were also premium, our tech was better, everything was better.

But he was building in public on Twitter and I was not. And he was growing rapidly because of that. And I just never, I could never get myself to do it. It just didn't feel like my personality. It didn't feel like a good fit. It felt like bragging. It just didn't feel good to me. And he grew rapidly and has continued to grow so with this company.

And I always wondered if that was a potentially a mistake. And it's something I'm less worried about now because the average customer value is much higher and frankly people are less excited about email as a product. So I think there'd be less Twitter app in general. But I do wonder still if I should be spending more time building in public.

And that question will be answered very shortly once we exit our alpha. Makes sense.

And so you're still kind of like making, should I go try to build this in public or not?

Because there's a huge advantage to doing that. At least how we see other founders that have done. Potentially. But then you wonder how much time people are spending doing that as well. When you could be spending 10 billion products and improving it and growing it. Yeah.

For me, like it's funny because I see all those people building in public and they tell their numbers and everything. And then I look at my own business and I'm like, well, I'm much bigger. Not doing anything in public. Yeah. I think it's just like a personality type. You get a lot of competitors that way. But I don't know. We'll see how it shakes out.

I have no desire to share revenue numbers, but I do need to share more about like my design process. Maybe some of the development stuff. I think that could be cool to have an engineering blog soon. We do some cool stuff on that side of things that might make hiring candidates easier as well from a technical perspective. Yeah.

And I think too, talking about how you guys are doing this with such a small team would be very interesting because we see a lot of companies being built with a very big team.

And again, I think now as things are switching and you're about being more nimble, people are going to be thinking about how can we make more with less and how can we go that route. So that's very interesting that you guys are doing that. Yeah. I think a lot of folks are taking the outsourcing route is what I would say. What I've seen some early stage folks doing.

We're trying to do it right. And we're paying folks in the US full-time salaries with health insurance and equity. That's awesome.

And so how does the company look like today and what do you think the future looks like?

We'll talk a little bit about that, but what more could you share about the stage of the company?

Yeah. So this year we're building the best email product that exists and we are entirely focused on building just this excellent tool. What it looks like at the end of next year, I'm not 100% sure yet. I think there's a lot of directions we can go.

It's interesting being in this space because we've kind of realized that we have user properties, we have event data coming in through a stream and we have actions that you can do like send emails.

So I think there is a world where we combine the data stream and the user properties and the actions that you can do and provide really interesting metrics and insights on your app, as well as ways to actually impact them using the actions we provide like email. So I'm still not 100% sure what that's going to look like, but it's certainly something that we're thinking about for the future.

We don't think there's a great app that lets you do your top down view of what your SaaS business looks like and then also make changes that impact it materially like increasing conversion rate, reducing churn, stuff like that. Makes sense. And you want to kind of like go in that route.

And Chris, what book do you recommend for SaaS founders they think is a great book that everyone should read?

If you are building a tool, I guess that's the distinction, tool versus platform. If you're building a tool and you want to create a beautiful tool, best in class, then you should read Creative Selection. I also just finished it, so I guess I'm more likely to say it's the book you should read. But it's great. It's about the story of, oh man, I think it's Ken Savage. I don't know.

I might have the author's name wrong.

Hey, nice guy. I actually had DMed him on Twitter after it was done. I'm reading it and I chat with him for a second. So it's a story of how he built the iPhone keyboard. And previously, Apple had the Apple Newton, which had writing detection with the signature with the stylus. And it was hated. And they think that's what tanked Newton's sales back then.

So he was tasked with coming up with how the iPhone keyboard would work. And we take it for granted today, but there wasn't a great construct for what that should look like. And it's a couple hundred pages on all of his design decisions, thought decisions, development decisions, demos, what didn't work, what could have worked, how autocorrect works.

And it was just really focusing on the minutia of one specific thing that's actually incredibly impactful. And it's really cool seeing his first principles thinking around the iPhone keyboard resulted in a very similar device that we're still using today. His original designs and work that he did on that is very similar. So anyways, I think it's incredibly underrated. Everyone should go read it. It's called Creative Selection. Nice.

Thank you for the recommendation.

And again, I think of everything that we talked today, the huge insight is like knowing where you are.

Are you a tool or a platform?

And maybe really, if you are in the early stage, building that amazing tool, I believe is the thing you should be doing before you go and become a platform. Exactly. You want to do one thing really well. And I think you can even take that tool to being profitable before you try to scale and then go to other routes. Yeah. In this environment, I think it's necessary. Yeah.

Or you're not going to survive. That's just the reality. Very likely. But we'll see.

Who knows?

I'll try with founders like yourself that have an exit before and they have an amazing resume. And for founders like yourself, you can go and you can raise a little bit more money. And if you are one of those, you might be okay. You might get money to do more stuff because you have a track record.

But if you're not, it's even harder and you have to think about how can I make this profitable ASAP?

Because it's not everybody that has the track record.

And also, I think it's amazing that people like you are doing it again because so many times after you have one exit, you go and you become an investor and you don't want to get back into the game. Yeah.

Well, I did make six angel investments this year also. Yeah. It's the normal thing to do. I had an exit, now I'm going to make investments. But you are working too because I believe that's where founders and especially young like you are, it's where you give more back to the world because you build that skill set that is very hard to build and it takes years to build.

And so there's not a lot of people like you that can build a product like you're building. That's just the reality. Thank you. That's great.

Could you tell my grandparents that?

We'll just play this part of the podcast for them.

Well, I think sometimes we forget that when you're thinking about building products, like being a founder, it is a skill and that skill takes years to develop. And like when you get a founder that build that skill and then he had an exit, if he doesn't get back in the game, the community as a whole lose a lot because that person he just is one of the few that can keep doing.

And even in this market that's so complicated right now, we need more experienced founders building companies. That's how I feel.

Oh, yeah. I agree. And I think we need them in spaces too. So it's interesting. I think there's other spaces outside of AI, certainly outside of email that need better founders. Climate is one of them. I think privacy is another space.

I mentioned climate and privacy because those were the other two ideas that we had besides email that we also applied to YC with and we ended up going in the email direction. But I think just because we didn't have the backgrounds for either one of those other two companies to actually make it work long term.

But I think if founders are listening and they are in that space, I think privacy and climate are two of the most important things that we could spend time working on. For sure.

Chris, thank you very much for your time today.

Do people want to follow you, learning more about you and your company, where they should go?


Yeah, I'm on Twitter at francefries, LinkedIn. I don't know how you find anybody on LinkedIn. Just type my name in there, I guess. And then my website is chrisfrance.com. Awesome. Thank you very much for your time today. All right. Take care. See you. SaaS Origin Stories is brought to you by Dev Squad.

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