How long would it take you to make a sustainable SaaS business?
It depends. Okay, okay – you want some real data!
Keep Track of My Games is now approaching 12 years old and still makes less than $50-75 per month. But this is somewhat intentional and definitely expected – from 2011 to 2021 it was a hobby project and wasn't built for making money (this is important – I had no billing infra!).
I actively worked on it last Feb to Apr to add a membership system and payment model and since then, I've let it go into maintenance mode. Luckily, it's very self-sustaining – I just restarted the database after 7 months. About 250 monthly active users still find it valuable and a few of them pay monthly (which is a Patreon-style payment system). I talk to them occassionally in a private Discord which is helpful for an indie developer – you don't need to pretend to be a company, I've found it's much better to be upfront and celebrate yourself going solo.
I want to say the majority of indie SaaS businesses that are self-funded are more like mine – tiny. You can browse IndieHackers to confirm that.
But some hit the big time (like ConvertKit) and I bet, with patience and a loooooong runway, I could probably grow KTOMG to sustainability if I kept at it. Persistence is key but so is understanding who exactly you're serving and talking to them to build something valuable. For example, I think if I were to pursue KTOMG full-time I would start pivoting toward collectors and traders who have massive collections and real expensive problems (like buying dupe games). This comes from actually talking to my paying members (I conducted about 3 interviews during the summer) and just... listening.
But enough about me – I want to give you something inspiring and data-heavy. The story of how Plausible (a privacy-first alternative to GA) got to $1MM ARR (annual recurring revenue).
Some key points:
- It was a single technical founder for about a year
- It became open source
- Then he hired a marketing co-founder
- It took 3 years (2018-2021) to achieve sustainable monthly revenue
- Then they hired 2 more team members
If I was going to take away some info here it would be that finding a co-founder for KTOMG to seriously grow it might be really helpful. It's very hard to do marketing + dev at the same time – it's juggling two very different sets of skills (and most developers don't like the idea of marketing – which I think is silly – but that's another post).
I hope it provides some insight into what it really takes to build a SaaS and to dispel any "overnight success" preconceptions you might have.