One year after Startup Sauna Demo Day
A year ago we graduated from Startup Sauna. Our pitch on Demo Day at Slush 2015 was the final accord to an astonishing 5 weeks of learning and practicing with best VCs and acclaimed Finnish entrepreneurs. And, while preparing to Slush 2016, we decided to remember all the things happened to us within last 12 months. And which most likely wouldn’t have been possible if not Startup Sauna.
One of the biggest changes with us actually happened in the way we start talking about our service. As we joined Startup Sauna in October ’15, we thought of AppFollow as a competitive analytics tool. And as we struggled in explaining everyone what the heck is that, we felt an indispensable need to change the way we describe ourselves. So we now became app monitor for reviews, ranks, keywords, sales and downloads in real-time via Slack, email and more. May be it’s still not perfect, but definitely better than before. Of course, that influenced not only the way we talk about AppFollow, but on what we do with it, what features we implement, what we focus on and what our targets are.
(And I’m not mentioning dozens of releases, tons of new features and changes happened with the service itself after we understood what we are in a new way.)
That’s another big move we had — we not only registered a Finnish legal entity, but we moved to Helsinki and closed a seed round here. We didn’t anticipated at the time we made this decision how important it would be for us. Being a Finnish company changed not only our attitude towards operational managing but changed the way we are seen by the world. From investors point of view, we are now much more reliable and transparent. From customers point of view we are a truly international company and that brings trust in our service.
1 year ago it was only three of us. Few people started to work for us as a part-time job but we were very unconfident at that moment in our ability to secure enough revenue to afford full-time employees. As our confidence grew together with the revenue, we started hiring people full-time and now we have a team of 10 people which allows us speed up the development in order to meet our customers needs.
One of the lessons we learned from Startup Sauna coaches is how to become a global company. 1 year ago we barely had 200 customers. That was too small from any point of you. Our size influenced us a lot at that point: our decisions, our plans and our vision were small as well. After 2 weeks in Startup Sauna we’ve got our first US-based customer. May be it was just a coinsidence. But it meant a great deal to us at that moment.
We forced ourselves in huge changes, launched Free plan, changed our billing system from local solutions to a world-acclaimed brand — Stripe, set our mind to a bigger goals and perspectives. That brought us to over 5000 customers at the moment. We are proud to deliver our service to each of them.
We heard that advise (“Get a mentor”) a lot before the Sauna and we heard it here in Helsinki as well. But only here we understood how important it was to have one as we were talking to startup founders at Sauna’s events. We were very lucky to get Victor Savyuk on board. It was our new pitch we developed after graduation that helped us not only made him our mentor but our investor as well. His profound effect on what we do is immeasurable.
We deeply underestimated the importance of the metrics to a decision making process. We were absolutely confident that we know what to do and how to do. MRR, churn or CAC were more for investors then for us. But the more we grow, the more influential they became. Our monthly reports grew from 5–7 basic figures to a detailed list of 100 metrics which describe us in every detail possible.
Finland is known to be a transparent and open country. We were taught that this attitude actually helps. The more open you are to the community, the more you can gain from it and with it. It took us a while to get used to that thought and required two out of three co-founders move to Finland permanently. We not only posted our seed round data, we as well since the end of Q2'16 started to share our quarterly results with everyone interested.
Going global and becoming an international company in all the senses possible influenced our goals. 1 year ago we set quite modest and small targets which we assumed to be big enough. We tried to stick to a particular figures and, honestly, our thinking was more small-business-like, not a startup-wise. This shift happened not at once but its influence on our decisions is immense.
To mention a few targets: it’s 10x growth next year, next round in the mid Spring, and — as the most important one—shifting AppFollow service to the next level, creating a unified dashboard for mobile developers, marketing managers and even investors. We as well target to get into Y Combinator. Even though we got refused in October, it already helped us as we were forced to look for the answers to the questions we tried to avoid before.
Well, of course, that is only few things I could mention here. There are much more but I afraid going in too many details can get you bored. If you have any questions, I would be happy to dig in any of this aspects.
If you want to meet us in person, lets do it at Slush 2016.
If you are app developer, you know what to do.