Jan. 5, 2023

How To Shoestring Your SaaS with Ajay Goel of GMass

How To Shoestring Your SaaS with Ajay Goel of GMass

Episode Summary:

In this episode of SaaS Origin Stories, Ajay Goel, Founder of GMass, joins host Phil Alves. Ajay, a twenty-four-year veteran in the SaaS space and a serial entrepreneur, shares his insights on building and scaling a SaaS business in the outbound email space.

His seven-year-old company was founded on an investment of $10,000 and has been scaled on internal accruals without investor participation. Ajay shares his insights on how low-cost and high-impact business strategies enable GMass to compete with majors like MailChimp in the email outreach space.

Guest at a Glance:

Name: Ajay Goel

What He Does: Ajay is the Founder of GMass, a SaaS stack in the email outreach space.

Connect With Ajay on LinkedIn

Connect With Ajay on Twitter

Topics we cover:

  • Ignore the media hype; most SaaS startups are bootstrapped
  • Minimize expenses during the development stage
  • Launch on established platforms to minimize marketing expense
  • Outbound marketing to scale your startup
  • Get the pricing right the first time

Key Takeaways:

Ignore Media Hype on Big-Ticket Funding 

Startups with big-ticket funding are outliers and not the norm; ignore the media hype surrounding these startups. Most sustainable SaaS companies have been bootstrapped to different degrees. These companies fly under the radar and don’t get highlighted. Funding is cyclical.

In a growth environment, the focus is on spending for growth. In an economic downturn stage, like our current environment, the emphasis is on profitability, with money selectively chasing profitable companies. 

“Basically, bootstrapped and organically grown companies are not sexy enough to make the headlines”

Keep Your Startup Costs Low

The bulk of pre-launch spending is on product development. Hence, it is essential for the founders to be able to code, develop, and test the proof of concept (POC) product with minimal expenses for outsourced coding. Once your POC is validated, don’t get tempted to throw money at marketing; instead, focus on low-cost, high-yield launch strategies. 

“It wasn’t a big concern to generate enough money to cover expenses because my expenses were super low”

Leverage Established Platforms Like Google and Apple Store

Another way to keep initial marketing costs low is to offer your product as a plug-in that works with established platforms like Chrome. Leverage the platform traffic to build your sales. A word of caution here – platforms have strict approval processes to weed out spammers and malware, but for the benefits you get, it’s worth the effort. 

Once you establish a revenue stream, you can then migrate to your website. The downside of staying exclusive to platforms is that the platform can shut you down at any time, which is an unacceptable risk. 

“So now I was getting referrals from just visibility on the Chrome store”

Outbound Marketing is Alive and Kicking

Ajay shares his insights on the value of outbound marketing for scaling a startup. He used virtual assistants to scrape reviews of his competitors on the Chrome store to make a mailing list for his outreach. He then pitched his product and USP to this audience and acquired conversions.

Email is still a viable sales channel in the SaaS space. While many old-school marketers have moved away from email, lots of success stories are built around outbound cold emails. The key to cold email campaigns is to avoid using your business domain to prevent it from getting blacklisted. 

“Six months into my launch, I started to dig into the cat-and-mouse game of avoiding spam filters and preventing the domain from getting blacklisted”

Get Your Pricing Right The First Time

Most founders are conservative when it comes to pricing their products. They will price their products at a third or one-fourth of what the market leaders are charging to try and go after volumes. This approach needs to be corrected. Not only are you leaving money on the table, but you’re also sowing seeds of doubt in the customer's mind; the customer thinks they’ll get what they pay for.

Make sure you read up on different pricing strategies and identify the one that works best for your business. 

“I read everything online on pricing and spoke to a couple of pricing consultants. There are companies that specialize in pricing consulting for SaaS companies. Speak to them”


I spent about $10,000 to get the product built, a first version. The product was free for the first year, so I didn't monetize for the first year. So I had no revenue at all for a year. Welcome to SaaS Origin Stories. Tune in to hear authentic conversations with founders as they share stories from the earlier days of their SaaS 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 SaaS, as well as inspirational stories to fuel you on your own SaaS journey. Here is your host, Phil Alves. Today I have Ajay Golal, the founder of GMass. Welcome to the show, Ajay.

Thanks, Phil.

So, Ajay, you are a seasoned entrepreneur. You build a dev company, from the dev company you build a SaaS. In the email space you exit the SaaS. So you're a very successful entrepreneur before you start GMass.

I would like to start talking about how that helped you in that journey and what difference do you think that makes being an entrepreneur that's not your first time?

Yeah, sure. You're right about that. I've been building software companies since even before SaaS was a term. And I'm not sure that it gives me a great advantage. In the space that I'm in right now, which is the outbound email sending industry, there are competitors of mine who are first time founders who have built a great product, are very strong competitors and who frankly I occasionally lose customers to.

So I'm 45 years old. I graduated from university in 1998, started my first business right after I graduated from university. And so I've been an entrepreneur running software companies for 24 years now. And along the way I've learned like tactical skills like negotiation and recruiting. But in today's world of really competitive software vertical markets, there's nothing as important as building an impressive product for the right audience.

But I'm not sure that any amount of experience can make you better at that. There's actually a lot of data around that. Like the most successful founders, they're in their 40s. They have a lot of experience behind.

Of course, there's the outliers. There are those people that go and they're able to raise a bunch of money, went for a big college or I have interviewed some of those founders in the show. Like started a big tech company and then because they had a tech company, their resume was easy to go and raise money.

But if you think about like the majority of people that build successful companies, they're not venture back. They're bootstrap and they're built by normal people. I feel like we always look at the outliers and me personally, I'm like, I'm not an outlier.

What are the people that are not outliers doing?

You know?

So it's easy to get caught up in that world and go down that rabbit hole. Like if you read the news and if you're reading Wall Street Journal headlines in the business or technology sections or you're reading TechCrunch headlines, it's easy to believe that everyone else is doing better than you are and that their software companies are raising more money, have more customers, have more revenue.

But that's usually a pretty skewed perspective because the majority of software entrepreneurs and the majority of profitable, sustainable SaaS businesses are the ones that aren't making headlines. This is something that's always bothered me about tech coverage in the media is that the media tends to focus on big raises.

So when you've raised a hundred million dollars, that makes the news regardless of whether you've ever made a dime in your company in revenue or not. And it doesn't...

Yeah, basically bootstrapped, organically grown companies aren't sexy enough to make the headlines. And that's a frustrating thing. For sure. I agree with you. And I think now recently with all the layoffs and with less money being available for companies that want to go there.

And again, I feel like there's merits in both routes. But like you say, there's not so much people talking about the bootstrapping route. There's not so much coverage for the route. But now with so many layoffs and so many companies that are not profitable, I kind of feel like being profitable is becoming cool for the first time ever.

I see companies like Basecamp saying things like, hey, we have just as much customers as Asana and we do it with 40 people. They need 8,000 employees. And that's probably the first time in history of the tech world that being bootstrapped, it's kind of cool. Yeah. And that tends to happen with every market downturn. So this isn't the first time where I've heard people say, all right, now focus on the profitable companies.

Invest your money in the profitable companies. It's cyclical. And I agree. Now it's a hot time for guys like me. But it won't last because it's cyclical. And eventually, eventually the market will return to spend, spend, spend to grow, grow, grow.

Yeah, for sure. So I think that was a great introduction. And let's dive deeper in a guy like you.

So what is GMass?

What problem do you solve?

And how did you come up with the idea to build this product?

GMass is a software that makes it really easy to send email campaigns. And the way it works is it's a plugin for your Gmail account. So when you log into Gmail, we add some extra stuff to your Gmail screen to allow you to use Gmail as your email campaign platform.

And so our users use it for everything from sales-related cold email campaigns to e-tailers promoting sales for Black Friday to even a bunch of non-commercial uses like parents emailing teachers of a school. That's pretty cool. So walk me through the process of coding, building the product.

How was the process?

And even come up with the idea. Yeah. So I came up with the idea while I was working on another product. That product was this tool that still exists today but isn't well known that it's a human-powered email, editing, and proofreading service. So I was trying to build a business around hiring human editors to write your emails for you so that you could get through your inbox faster.

And in running that company and managing some stuff for that company, I wanted an easy way to send a small email campaign to about 20 people. And I was a big Gmail user. I kind of lived in my Gmail account. I was using, it was called G Suite at that time. Now it's called Google Workspace. And actually, it was called Google Apps. It's gone through several name changes.

And I was surprised to discover that there was not an easy way to send an email campaign from my Gmail account. And I had already had a career in the email marketing field. I had built another SaaS platform in the early 2000s called Django Mail, which had just been acquired a couple of years prior to me working on this proofreading service.

And so when I saw that there wasn't an easy way to send an email campaign from my main consumer email account, which was Gmail, I just started thinking, that's one, that's really strange.

And two, I'm the perfect guy to build it, given all of my experience in the email marketing industry.

So by being the perfect guy to build, do you mean you went and build yourself?

How was the actual process of building the product?

I built part of it myself. So I actually built the front end and I hired a contractor to write the back end. And the only reason I didn't build the whole thing myself is because I had sold my company a few years prior and I was just getting back into software development after having been out of it for a while.

So my skills just weren't up to date enough for me to write the back end. So I had to hire someone to write the back end. I wrote the front end. I merged the code together and I had the first version of the product in a couple of weeks.

And then you started using that version in your own business that you were talking about?

I did, yeah. I started using it to send campaigns to 20 or 30 people and started giving it to some friends who wanted to use it. And that's how it started. That's cool.

How long did it take until you had enough customers to pay for the operations of the SaaS product?

I never had a lot of expenses to operate the product until I started putting money into growth initiatives like SEO and paid ads and virtual assistants to help me do outreach on my own to promote the product. So I spent about $10,000 to get the product built, a first version. And the product was free for the first year. So I didn't monetize for the first year.

So I had no revenue at all for a year. And that was okay because my expenses were minimal. It was basically just me and I had one helper at the time who just helped me onboard users and answer tech support questions from users. And because the user account was growing every month, I had a lot of confidence that when I did monetize, it would be worth it.

And so a year later, I monetized and kind of told all the users that had been using it for free that they now have to pay. And we were profitable from day one. So it wasn't a big concern to generate enough money to cover expenses because my expenses were super low. And to be clear, I'm talking about under $5,000 a month.

And after I monetized, I think I was instantly at $10,000 to $20,000 a month because I had built up a year's worth of free users, not all of whom converted, but a good chunk of them did. Nice. So like your acquisition strategy was build a great product, let a good bunch of people keep using. And that didn't cost you so much money. So you say about $5,000 per month.

After a year, you have enough users, maybe a more mature product, and you thought, I'm ready to start charging. And the day you start charging, you are on the blue.

Is that how it went?

That's basically what happened. Yeah. And I do wonder if I missed out on revenue by not charging right away. Because I feel like there's been a mindset shift recently in SaaS. And there's been a shift away from the freemium model. Freemium isn't as popular and sexy as it used to be.

A lot of brand new SaaS platforms are wanting a credit card right away and are wanting you to pick a pricing plan right away before you can even demo the software. And maybe it comes with a 30-day refundable trial or something. But people want credit cards. People want payment information right away. And GMAS is still a freemium product, but that's something we think about changing all the time. Yeah.

That's definitely, you're always thinking about the pros and cons, right?

But I think with making people pay, you make sure that you can afford the servers and everything else. But because your cost was so low and you're building on top of Gmail, it looks like the freemium was a good strategy to keep bringing people in and make more of the product-led approach because there's also the popular product-led mentality nowadays where you want your user to experiment the value and then to buy.

But that costs so much money usually, but it looks like you were able to do for very little money the product-led approach. Yeah. And part of that is because I'm a software developer myself. So I didn't have to go and find a tech co-founder. I'm a sole founder and I'm a developer. So the bulk of what software entrepreneurs usually spend money on in the beginning is the development of the product.

And for me, that cost my time, but not a lot of cash. Yeah.

And then the second thing that they spend a lot of money is in marketing, right?

So how did you retain and attract customers?

You touched on that a little bit, but could you go a little bit deeper on how you got customers?

My first tranche of customers came from things that I did that were free. So Product Hunt was pretty popular at the time and GMass ended up on the product homepage and finished second or third for the day. And I remember that on the day that GMass was featured on Product Hunt, I was getting a new user sign up like every two minutes. And like that was exciting.

There was a sub-Reddit called, and I think it still exists today, called Startups. And I posted what I had built on the Startup sub-Reddit and it ended up number one on the page for about 36 hours. So that brought in a bunch of traffic and new users.

And then, so the GMass product is actually a Chrome extension. And there's a marketplace for Chrome extensions called the Chrome Store, similar to how there's the Apple App Store for iPhone apps. And as more users signed up for GMass, the visibility that GMass got on the Chrome Store also increased. So now I was getting kind of free referral traffic from just visibility on the Chrome Store.

So that was how I got users in the beginning. That was how we got users before I started learning about SEO and affiliate programs and podcasts and all the other channels that I use now. That's amazing.

And I think the big lesson here is that you leverage your platform, right?

Because when you think about starting a SaaS product, you can do a vertical, you can do a horizontal, or you can do a platform like you did, like on the top of an app store, like for example, Shopify plugin, a WordPress plugin, a Google Chrome plugin.

And if you go there, you have risks and you can touch on the risks, but you also have all the benefit of that big platform helping you and give you the headwind for your product, right?

Yes, yes. So that was a big help at the time. And it's interesting because GMass is now seven years old. And when I launched GMass on the Chrome Store seven years ago, the rules around the Chrome Store were wildly different than they are today.

So if I were starting a company today and I had my choice of, you know, you can build a web-based product, you can build a mobile phone app, you can build a Chrome extension, I probably would not choose to build a Chrome extension. It's a lot more restrictive today than it was when I launched.

When I launched, any software developer could write a Chrome extension, upload it to the Chrome Store, have it published instantly and start getting installs of your product right away. Now there's, there was a lot of like malware and scams and just nefarious Chrome extensions. And so Google started to clamp down on the whole ecosystem.

So now there's a lengthy review process and security audits and all sorts of stuff you go through to get published. But I did feel like I kind of got into the ecosystem as Chrome extensions were starting to take off. And so the momentum just behind Chrome extensions in general helped GMass a lot.

Yeah, I think that's for sure a huge insight you have in those App Store ecosystem.

You have to be at the right moment, right?

Think about people that built even iPhone apps back in the day, because Apple want to promote you, they want to help you and they will make everyone download it. When Google want to promote and when everyone to use the Chrome Store, it wasn't popular yet. That's probably when you start, they want to promote. I feel like Notion is probably a place today that I see people building tools for that's working well.

But it has to be the right moment. Like Shopify was great a couple years ago, it's a little bit harder. As the year goes, it becomes a little bit harder and also it becomes hard to depend on the platform.

So what have you done?

Like you already mentioned, it's a little bit harder seven years later.

What have you done to don't depend so much on the platform?

Well, the main thing we've done is we've started to build our product outside of the Chrome extension itself. So now we do have a whole web-based portal and platform to manage your account and manage your campaigns.

Although the core functionality is still tied to the Chrome extension, that's something I'm working on changing because it's getting to the point where GMAS has grown to a certain size where it is now uncomfortable that the entire business is dependent on the Chrome extension being in the Chrome Store because Google could pull that plug at any moment. And they have threatened to at times because of various things that have come up.

And pretty much the one unregulated place where you can not worry about someone pulling the rug out from underneath you is a website. It would be very hard for someone to say, I'm closing down your website and you not being able to instantly get back up and running somewhere. But if Google decided to shut down your Chrome extension, they can do that.

If Apple decides to shut down your app, they can do that. If you mentioned Notion, if Notion has a marketplace and they decide to pull your product from their plug-in marketplace, they can do that and then you're dead. So the way to protect against that is to build in an environment where you have control. I think you can still leverage all those environments, but you can't be naive.

You have to be ahead of the curve like you are being.

Okay, I brought my first customers, they helped me a lot, but what can I do?

So I'm not so reliant on that one single channel. And I think that works for the channel where your product is, but also for marketing channels. You can't depend on one marketing channel. Let's say if you're doing SEO and there's an update, then all your traffic can be gone. So you have to always, you choose a channel, you build it, and then you diversify. I feel like that's a great strategy. Yeah.

Speaking of SEO, I feel like that just happened to a lot of software companies where this was just a few weeks ago, Google launched an SEO update that was meant to punish all the people that had been buying links or I think, yeah, yeah, they clamped down on paid links and that's a lot of what, it's ironic because that's a lot of what our customers are using our product and other cold email tools for is link building.

So it'll be interesting to see how that segment of the market is affected when there are users of like GMass and MailShake and Lemlist and other outbound email tools that are specifically using it for SEO, but now Google has said that that's not going to work anymore. I feel like they have been saying that for years though. We just have to keep increasing the quality of the site where you're supposed to.

So talking about those channels like outbound, how do you see outbound as a way to promote SaaS business?

Have you used to promote your own business?

Yeah, I mean, we've used, I've had my own techniques. One of the things that I did in the early days of growing GMass is we had a few competitors on the Chrome store and a couple of our competitors had like thousands of reviews and in a review, you could see the name of the person that left the review, the number of stars they left and then their comments.

I would hire virtual assistants to scrape those pages of reviews and then try to identify who that person was, get an email address for them and then I would email them and pitch my own product. So I've definitely used email as a channel to grow GMass in various ways over the last seven years. I feel like in my experience, outbound is one of the most powerful way to build SaaS products.

That story that you told made me remind of one story of my own customer. So what they did, they used Buildwith to see all the websites that were using the competition for their own product. It was kind of like a widget, a chatbot widget that you put in other sites. So they used Buildwith to go and figure out everyone that was using the competition.

Then they used code email to reach out to everybody and they were able to get so many customers and they even were able to raise Series A right after. And then after they raised Series A, they start to invest heavily in inbound. But the reality is they went out of the way from zero to Series A only with outbound.

I remember because we were building their product and I was like, these people keep growing and their site's like one page, ranks for nothing. They don't have any Google Ads behind, but they were just relying a lot on outbound.

And again, it has to be the right market because there's so many people doing code email, the right messaging, but such a powerful channel.

And again, a channel you control 100 percent, right?


I mean, email is the original Internet marketing channel, really. And there's kind of two sides of the argument. There's a lot of people in the a lot of old school Internet marketers that say email is dead and email is dying. But then if you talk to like anybody that has had any success with outbound cold email, they will tell you otherwise. I know so many successful business built on dead stuff.

SEO is dead. PHP is dead. Gmail is dead. Code email is dead. And there's like so many successful business on top of that.

What is the first oh shit moment that come to mind from the early days of GMass?

The first oh shit moment was when my domain got blacklisted by somebody. And then the way we used to do tracking, like open tracking and click tracking, and I used to use our main company domain is GMass.co. And we used to use that domain in customers' emails to do open tracking and click tracking.

And then one day I got an email from a customer saying, hey, I think your domain is blacklisted because my emails are bouncing back. So that was like that was maybe six months into launch, and that's when I started to dig into this whole cat and mouse game of spam filters and trying to do some stuff under the radar and try to avoid being blacklisted.

And that has been an ongoing battle for seven years now.

Is there any strategy that you could share for people trying to avoid getting blacklisted?

Do you feel like they should never use their main domain?

What are some strategies that you feel like?

Yeah, I mean, if you're a cold emailer, it's pretty well known that you shouldn't use your main corporate domain, that you should register another domain. But that doesn't apply to everybody.

I mean, if you're sending legitimately opt-in email to a list of people that expect to hear from you, then you can use your main domain and you're probably going to be fine.

I mean, cold email treads the fine line of what's considered spam versus legitimate bulk email. And technically, by most people's definition of spam, cold email is spam. And so you do run a risk of being blacklisted. But because it used to be in the old days of email marketing, you were sending emails from your own IP addresses. So you had to take this risk of your IP addresses being blacklisted.

But now what people are doing is they're using consumer email services like Gmail and Google Workspace and GoDaddy to send their cold email campaigns where they're not putting their own IPs at risk, they're putting Google's IPs at risk. And that's how cold emailers generally get around the risk of being blacklisted. Makes sense. And they register lots of domains so that they can rotate domains in their emails.

There's a whole evasive system of getting cold email delivered without getting in trouble.

Yeah, it's definitely an art in there because it's a complex thing to do. Even though I see so many companies doing very successfully, I don't do it in my own company because I know how complex it is. I'm building a SaaS product right now and I probably might do when I'm ready to scale the SaaS product. But it is definitely, there's an art to figuring out how to do it.

Yeah, I was on your LinkedIn. I'm familiar with your SaaS product.

Yeah, I could talk a little bit more offline about it. Today's about your product.

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

You want an example of a smart decision I made?

Yes. Geez. It's a lot easier to think of dumb decisions, but to think of a smart decision. That's going to be my follow up question. I launched an affiliate program and I didn't think that it would do very well because Gmask was a product that cost at the time $10 a month or $20 a month.

And so I didn't think affiliate marketers would be that interested in trying to sell subscriptions when they could only make a few bucks a month. But surprisingly, it really took off and a lot of our user base has been built, has grown from affiliate marketers. That's a great insight. So we've been running an affiliate program for five years now. Yeah.

Who would think that affiliate program would work on $10 per month product?

Right. That's super cool.

And how about a dumb decision that you made in the early days?

Well, you know, I talked about that blacklisting. So a dumb decision was just to use our main domain and all of our customers' emails.

I mean, I could have avoided some headaches had I not done that. But let me try to think of another example just to make it more interesting. So for the first few years, Gmask was priced too low. And I've only realized that by looking back retrospectively and seeing and reading about the numbers of my competitors who were charging three to four times what Gmask was charging.

And so the dumb thing I did was just not paying attention to pricing and not investing enough of my own time in understanding pricing psychology and how to price a product.

So yeah, Gmask was priced too low. Pricing is such a complex topic. And I see that with a lot of founders. They're like, no, I'm going to go build the product. I'm not going to improve the product because you're always afraid that you could pick the wrong price and conversion is going to go lower. So that's not only your mistake.

I see and I hear that over and over again from many founders that I know.

But how did you overcome and how did you learn about pricing strategy?

I just started reading everything I could online.

I mean, there's a couple of pricing consultants that I talked to. I watched a couple of YouTube videos. There are companies that specialize in pricing consulting for SaaS companies. So I talked to them. I just started absorbing as much information as I could. And then we launched our first ever price increase about 18 months ago. And it doubled our revenue instantly. That's amazing.

Did you end up hiring a consultant or you just learned from that and did by yourself?

I hired I had a one hour coaching session with a pricing consultant, which cost about 500 bucks. That was the only paid consulting that I used. Everything else was just free resources that I found on the web. That's amazing. You double your revenue with the correct price.

Yeah, SaaS founders listening to the show, go look at your pricing. I do want to add that I've seen there's a I kind of live in this like SaaS echo chamber on Twitter. And there's often a lot of talk about just increase your pricing, increase your pricing, everyone's price to increase your pricing. And it's really not that simple because my conversion rate has dropped significantly since since increasing our pricing.

And the company is still better off for it, but but the mentality that I see online of just increased pricing without regard to the consequences, it seems a little haphazard with with just how I see SaaS entrepreneurs talking about it and promoting price increases. I agree because there's definitely a sweet spot.

And again, I have hundreds of SaaS products and I saw prices that are too high and get zero conversion. It's a challenge. It's not as easy as raise the price. It's a risk for your business when you try to play with prices. But we have to be very careful because what we listen to people talking about, maybe it's not even what they're doing and what it's actually working.

It's not like people they're talking about what's working, right?

I feel like if everyone is talking about it, it might be too late for you to do that.

Yeah, sure. That's my take. And just on social media in general, rarely do people talk about how something failed.

I mean, it's easy to think that everybody is just winning, winning, winning all the time and growing, growing, growing all the time.

Yeah, for sure.

And so when did you know you build a business that would last?

I still don't know that. I still have a fear of going out of business that strikes at least once a day.

So is GMass going to last?

I don't know. I hope it does. I'm trying to make it last. We're working hard to keep the platform stable and to grow it and attract new segments of users. But I have never been the guy that has the confidence that I've built something that's going to be around forever. I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs are like that. I'm like that myself. I run my own consulting firm with over 100 people.

And sometimes I'm like, what if I disappear tomorrow?

But it's kind of unlikely.

But we're always thinking like that, right?

Yeah. And I mean, I think that's just how I internalize risk management. And I think I've always personally leaned towards the side of being extra cautious and more prone to thinking disaster is right around the corner. And that probably shapes how I do things on a day to day in the business. The heavy measures that we've put in and just backup plans and disaster recovery plans.

And there's always this fear that there's always this thinking about like, what's one thing that could happen that would shut the business down right now?

And I often make notes about that. And I'll list out our weaknesses and the threats that exist that could shut us down. I think that comes from being an engineer.

People that have a background, engineers like we are, they're always thinking like, what could go wrong?

And you always think about everything that could go wrong because that's how you are taught to build products. That's how you're, when you're engineering something, you're thinking about everything that could go wrong. You're doing test driven. And I think that might be part of why founders that have the engineer background, things like that.

Yeah, you're probably right.

So if you could go back in time and meet yourself from 2015 when you started this company, what would you tell yourself?

You have an hour with yourself. That sounds like a boring conversation. I'd tell myself to hire more people faster. I've been very slow at growing the human resources portion of the company. And as a result, a lot of work has fallen on me. And so I've always been bad at delegating. So I would have, I would have, I would tell myself to delegate earlier and faster.

And I think that could have, that could have put the company on an even better growth trajectory had I done that. That makes a lot of sense.

So how big is your team today?

About 15 people.

What you were able to delegate already and what's still your responsibility?

So I'm still the main developer of the product and the product manager. I still do a lot of work on content and strategy and systems administration. I've started to hire some of that out. So I do have a content person and a strategist now. But it would be great. So here are my open roles. Here are people that I would love to hire.

A systems administrator, a product manager, and a lead developer. If I could do that, then it would be transformative for my life.

Why you think it has been so hard to do and you haven't done it yet?

I just don't like anybody. I get resumes and applications all the time and it's just really hard for me to feel comfortable hiring somebody.

Yeah, I can relate to that. It's actually hard to figure out how to hire the right person and how to make sure they're going to take care of your baby, especially again when you're the engineer yourself.

So how is the product doing today and how does the future look like?

The product is doing fine. We've had a steady year. We haven't had a year of growth. We've had a steady year. There's been a lot of competition. The novelty that existed around GMAS and what it did when I launched it seven years ago has kind of worn off. The industry has matured. People know who the players are in the email, in the outbound email space.

So SEO isn't quite as valuable as it used to be because people aren't searching for the right tool anymore. They already know what the array of tools are. They're trying them all out to see what they like best. So GMAS is doing fine. It's a profitable company and we get new users every day.

The big talk in terms of the future is how AI is going to change the game of outbound email and just email productivity in general. So you've probably heard of chat GPT. It's been all the rage over the last month. And if you recall, I was talking about the business I was working on when the idea for GMAS was born, this idea of having editors, human editors write your emails for you.

Well, now there's this new generation of software products which are using chat GPT's API to write emails for you. And I can see that being applied to the email marketing outbound email space, both in writing content for email campaigns, but also in handling replies and then replying to the replies that you get after you send an email campaign out.

So that is what I'm most interested to see for next year, how that shapes out.

Yeah, that's definitely exciting.

So are you already implementing those features in your own product?

So I cannot claim to have incorporated any real AI into GMAS yet. But it's something I've been thinking about a lot. But here's an idea. That's where you bring the developer, make sure he does a good job. And if he does it, he becomes your lead developer. If he doesn't, you let him go.

Yeah, well, I believe that's your specialty, isn't it?

To a point, yeah, to a point. We have built a lot of SaaS products. And then after we build, we transition over to their own in-house team. And then we help them bring their in-house team. We usually build version one and transition. Because when we are building, we like to have control over everything from the whole team. So it's not like we work together with other people.

So what books do you recommend for other SaaS founders and why?

Boy, that's a tough question for me to answer, because I have not read a book cover to cover in many years. I read a lot of short form stories. I read theinformation.com. I read TechCrunch Plus. I read the Wall Street Journal. And I'm on Twitter all day long. The one book that I started to read in the last year that I haven't finished is called Traction, which is a popular book.

But it teaches a system of operating your business called EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System. And I've started to incorporate elements of that into my business. But I have not completed the book. I think I've read enough of it that I can recommend it. That's definitely a great book. I run my own consulting business on EOS. We meet with a EOS coach every three months.

I better be careful what I say, because I can't BS you if you're an expert. No expert. I just implemented. And it's been helpful for us. I tried to do by myself, but it was kind of hard. So we hire a consultant. And then she meets with us and then help us have everything in place. EOS is a great system to a certain size business.

I like because it's to run a small business, not to run big business. So it's light and it works very well.

Joel, thank you.

AJ, thank you very much for your time today. I love the idea. I want to keep this kind of short, kind of like TED Talk style. I think there was a lot of perils here that we dropped for our listeners.

If people want to follow you and learn more about what you have been doing, what's the best way?

You can follow me on Twitter. I'm part-time snob on Twitter. You can email me. My first name AJAY at gmass.co. I'm easy to find online, LinkedIn, Twitter, email. Sounds good. I would strongly recommend that you guys follow AJ.

AJ, thank you very much for your time today.

Thanks, Phil. SAS Origin Stories is brought to you by Dev Squad. To find out more about how we help entrepreneurs launch new products and help larger businesses plug in a ready-to-go development team, visit devsquad.com. Add us to your rotation by searching for SAS Origin Stories in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else podcasts are found. Make sure to click Follow so you don't miss any future episodes. Thanks for listening.

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