From solo-founder with a day job – to a million dollar software business – Alex Yumashev – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Twitter: @jitbit


Talk Recap

  • “You can teach a software engineer how to run a business, but you cannot teach an MBA how to write code” – Joel Spolsky
  • Jitbit history
    • 100% self-funded
    • 10 years; first 5 years: just me, all alone, 2 years moonlighting
    • 4 people, 100% remote
    • Flagship product: help desk software app (Really, REALLY crowded market)

The Don’ts

  • Don’t wait for an idea
    • start building before you have a product
    • tons of product-agnostic stuff:
      • website
      • blog
      • analytics
      • email list
      • payment gateway
    • less consumption, MORE creation
  • Don’t target developers
    • (At least not with your first product)
    • Hard crowd to please – don’t make it hard on yourself
  • Don’t worry about pirates
    • Software pirates never switch to paid versions – they switch to your competitor
    • We even tried “cracking” our own software and uploading it
  • Don’t worry about incorporating
    • Revenue is important, “LLP or LLC?” is not important
  • Don’t be afraid of competition
    • Don’t try to come up with some new cool innovative shit
    • competition is good news – they proof market exists
    • “Me too” products are fine – you can even clone a product
    • “First – learn to draw a horse” – Salvador Dali

The Dos

  • Charge More
    • charge from day 1
    • price for the customers you want
    • $5 customer is different from a $99 customer – $5 customer is PITA
    • add completely stripped $5 plan only to prevent disruptive competition (if threat imminent)
  • SEO
    • works on all stages of your company
  • “Always be marketing”
    • where no one expects it: 404 page, 500 page,
    • support = cheap marketing (no hard selling, but delight people for word-of-mouth)
  • “Marketing Mondays” by Mike Taber
    • whole team does nothing but marketing on mondays
  • Content Marketing
  • Log everything
    • links you build, AB-tests you run, posts you publish
    • have a “commit history” for your marketing – not just your code

Product Management 101

  • Monitor feature usage from 1st customer
    • Monitor trial/paid users separately
    • Kill the unused ones
    • Enhance the heavily used ones
    • CRO inside the product


  • SEO should be done by founder
  • Do the basics (on page, mobile, speed, Annie Cushing’s SEO checklist, Google Webmaster Tools)
  • target long-tail keywords
    • make all your internal content public – publish knowledge base, enduser docs, API docs, FAQs, installation guides, workarounds
  • Build links from pages that rank for your keyword
    • even at #218. Export the ranking URLs (, check for link opportunities
  • Build brand mentions
    • Google’s patents: “Non-linking citations are treated as implied links”
  • Competitor backlinks
  • Track rankings
    • if it drops, check the “marketing log”, check the Panguin tool
    • track top20 rankings to learn when your competitors improve their SEO –> reverse engineer

Other things we tried (Did it work or not?)

  • Remarketing ==> NO
    • people hate B2B/work-stuff on FB
  • A/B testing ==> YES
    • be prepared that 90% of tests will fail
    • Always have a hypothesis behind a test – not just “lets try X and see what happens”
    • Don’t trust your guts
    • Statistical significance (long time + high-traffic pages)
  • Email marketing ==> NO
    • at least not at the scale I hoped it would work
  • Growth hacks (“invite a friend”, “RT to extend trial”) ==> NO
    • not in B2B
  • Net Promoter Score ==> YES
    • surveying method to know customer happiness
    • delivers actionable data

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About Christoph

Christoph lives in Munich, Germany and is bootstrapping his own SaaS application as a part-time entrepreneur.

He likes to write on this blog about anything of relevance to single-founder bootstrapped software startups.


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