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Focus! For Everything Else There's SaaS

Jack O'Brien

OnePager Co-Founder

September 24th, 2021

SaaS at a Startup

About two months ago OnePager was on fire. The ability to upload images was consistently failing and image delivery was flaky. For our presentation tool that heavily relies on visuals this was a massive problem.

I hadn’t revisited this part of our stack since the original OnePager beta launch in 2020, and we needed a fix ASAP. My gut reaction was to revamp what I had originally built, but during the chaos one of my co-founders discovered FileStack, an image upload service that perfectly solved our problems. Within a few days OnePager had far superior upload UX and more reliable image delivery, and I saved days of dev work and eventual maintenance.

As a builder, I’m always inclined to make the thing myself. But on a small, fast-paced team, I’ve had to accept it’s often not worth the time and effort. Our singular goal as a startup is to discover if our new business has potential. How fast can we test our core assumptions? Can we grow? Do people even like what we’re building!? Making a more customized image uploader won’t help answer those questions, and $50 a month is a small price to pay for a reliable fix and the ability to focus.

Outside of the novel functionalities of our product, I now heavily favor using a pre-built tool or service. The hard part is figuring out what products make sense for our business and often scrambling to find them in critical moments.

The SaaS Explosion

SaaS tools for every niche problem are exploding, in part because it’s never been easier to make a software tool. Low/no code tools, developer bootcamps, and broader interest in software have all contributed to the rise. Tech unicorns with new helpful products are minted every month. Embed yourself in tech twitter for a week, and everyone has a side project. Every ex-Stripe engineer has just launched the greatest ever payment plugin. So among this information overload how do you find out what tools you should use for your company right now?

Today, the vast majority of software discovery is done via Google search. You have a problem, you ask Google how to fix it, you click a top 3 result. I do this myself building OnePager, and did it previously working at Google! It’s just the best available way to solve your problem. Alternatively you may end up on G2, a software recommendations website. G2 was founded nearly 10 years ago and provides one of the largest databases of software reviews from verified users. If you have never heard of G2, it recently raised a series D and is valued at over $1B. Software discovery is a massive problem.

Google is undeniably awesome, and I have found G2 to be helpful, but I look at the way things are today and envision a better way to organize the chaos of all these talented builders and their tools. Is there a way to make use the infinite resources at our disposal and avoid the last minute scramble? I come to a few guiding thoughts:

  • Amazing software tools exist in the world that can massively reduce the time it takes to create, test, validate, and maintain new ideas. It’s worthwhile to find them and use them early on.
  • The best tools for my business should be dictated by the state of my business right now and my vision for the future (not whoever can optimize their SEO).
  • Product reviews and ratings only matter if the reviewers resemble my company.
  • If I was recommended a complete set tools for OnePager earlier, it would have been much easier to build.

Data Driven Software Recommendations with OnePager

I believe if we can proactively recommend builders the best and most relevant tools throughout the lifecycle of their ideas, we can enable more ideas to survive and grow into sustainable businesses. As a first step to test that hypothesis, this week we launched OnePager Toolkit. As a company data platform, OnePager already uniquely understands businesses as they grow. Now, we’ve created a way to leverage that data and let companies know the best tools for their needs along the way (ideally before a core part of your product is failing in production like us). It’s a big idea that pushes us further than a next-gen improved fundraising tool, and I think it’s an incredibly exciting opportunity.

Builders are engineers, non-technical founders, teachers, managers, and artists. Anyone making things or leading a team is a builder, and builders need to be focused on their task at hand, not the peripheral stuff. In software this means picking the best plugins, niche SaaS products, and developer tools to increase your launch velocity. But, I think virtually all builders can benefit from having management, HR, finance, and advertising tools that are right for them before they waste their time or run into catastrophic problems. All to optimize builder focus.

Our matching system for OnePager Toolkit is rudimentary today (we launched this in a week!), but the possibilities to refine our model are endless. I’m excited to add more recommendation heuristics from OnePager data, import more tools into the engine, and begin to create a truly valuable feedback loop for relevant ratings and reviews. Now I have my next singular focus: match companies to the best tools at the current point in their lifecycle and determine if this matching is something our users want. And of course, if during this build cycle any peripheral issues or significant roadblocks pop up along the way, I’ll try not to reinvent the wheel and instead use a prebuilt tool.

P.S. We never share OnePager data with 3rd parties. Companies input their data into OnePager, and we put that data to work internally with OnePager Toolkit.

Next: How to use Boards to organize OnePagers and your startup community
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