My Journey Of Building A SaaS Startup in 2018 – Part One

I have a great job as a mobile software developer, I’m not rich, but I have a good, stable income, a great sister, a fantastic girlfriend and two healthy parents that are very supportive with everything that I choose to do even if they are far away from me.

Why would I want to start this journey that will disturb my life with a lot of ups and downs that will happen in the next following years?

If you guys don’t know what I’m building, please read my first post HERE

I’m not sure if this is the definition of every entrepreneur, but I will tell you “my why”.

Why I’m building Netcrumb.

It’s something that comes from inside; it’s passion, it’s the desire of building something and releasing it to the world. There isn’t a day that it passes without me thinking about having my own business.

I have a few apps on Google Play ( which are Free ), and I’m so happy when someone leaves me a review saying that it helped them a lot.

I’m so excited about creating Netcrumb that I have evenings when I go to bed and I’m not able to disconnect, and I hardly fall asleep because I think of what features I can add on top of what I’m already building.

I know it is not right, but I think that every entrepreneur has this.

When they go to a shop, because some friend told them that it has the best orange juice, they do not thoroughly enjoy their drink.

Entrepreneurs think of how much money that shop is making. Can he/she find a better way to make that orange juice? You got my idea…

Of course, everyone wants to make money, and that’s the final goal, but before that, other accomplishments make us happy.

Every entrepreneur dreams big. Even if they start with just a coffee shop, they still dream of having 100 coffee shops around the world after a few years.

I’ve always had ideas.This a nightmare for everyone. Too many ideas.

My friends can confirm the number of times I was excited about something, and then I would abandon it.

Even though I still built a few things in the past ten years. I can’t call any of them success as none is bringing in any revenue ( maybe under $100 ) and considering the amount of time I put to release those, I would say they are somewhat failures.

Now coming back to all the ideas I had in my mind, I didn’t consider any of them being the ONE.

It’s like in marriage.

When you propose your girlfriend you know that you’re going to spend the rest of your life with her.

Same with an idea. I had a lot of them, but none that would make me “marry” it. None that would make me feel what I wrote above about Netcrumb ( That’s quite a declaration. I’m sure it’s making my girlfriend jealous. )

What I want to say is that when the perfect idea comes, you will feel it, this is what happened to me last year.

How it all started

It was maybe October or November, I was browsing through different pages, and as always ideas were flowing through my mind, till one came.

All these recruiters that message me on Linkedin, they send the same messages over and over again, and I’m not sure if they have something or it is click bait.

Don’t understand me wrong, I have nothing against recruiters, and they helped me a lot through my career, and I want to thank them. But like in any industry, some people do their job better than others.

Ok, Dragos, but what all this have to do with Netcrumb?

It might sound crazy, but the idea I’m building now started from here, and I pivoted.

Right after I had those thoughts, I messaged some recruiter friends, and I’ve asked them about why they don’t make beautiful landing pages for each job they have.

While talking about this, they told me that this is not a big issue. The problem that recruiters have is with people creating their CVs.

For a few days, I had in my mind this idea of how I can help people creating their CVs, but tons of software can do that, and of course, I abandoned the idea.

At this point, I still thought that creating great landing pages for jobs is excellent even if the feedback was not the best from recruiters. I know, sometimes I’m stubborn.

A few days later after still thinking of how I can create such a service I tell myself.

“Why only recruiters? What if anyone could create a beautiful landing page for them in just a few minutes? Why it takes hours or days to build a website when most of the time the CSS and the HTML is the same, is just some colours, fonts, design and text that are different. The code is almost the same?”

Guess what? I don’t remember precisely the day, but I was doing my usual Product Hunt daily visit when I saw it. It was number one for that day, the same idea that I had and it was beautiful, the best website builder I have seen until that day.

I’m not sure if I should tell its name, as somehow it is a competitor, but in the end, it is a great tool, and I want to make my web application better. I do not care about the competition. The web application is called Launchaco.

The first thing that came to my mind “This is such a strange coincidence”.

When I thought that I found the perfect idea that I want to work on, somebody else launched it. Later I discovered that this was Launchaco’s second version and they released the product one year before.

Now what, I said? How can I build something better than this? Why should I do it? Is there a way I could do it differently?

I had all these thoughts for a few days till I realised one thing.  

What about WordPress Dragos? You’ve created a lot of websites on WordPress, and all the builders you’ve worked with are very hard to use.

What if you could make a WordPress theme generator that will create a website instantly with a beautiful responsive design rather than searching for a theme, installing it, learning to use their builder and so on.

And this is how it started.

I had the idea and everything in my mind.

What happened next?

I’ve started to look on potential competitors, check all the builders and see how they work.

None was doing what I had in mind.

I started talking with people, and they shared the same idea regarding how you can build WordPress websites: you can buy a theme, install and try to customise it ( you need some design skills too ) or you can hire a developer that will do everything for you.

The difference in the budget is significant.

The first way is cheap, maybe $100-$200 plus hosting and domain and the second one is expensive, maybe over $1000 for a simple WordPress website.

I knew my idea would work and the next thing I wondered: “Can I validate it?”

What would be the minimum viable product that I need to launch so I can test all the assumptions that I have, and which other users confirmed?

The answer came pretty fast. I’m joking. It took me a few days.

I decided to build a web application that will prove everything that I have in my head.

Of course, the first release will not have all the features available, and it will be far from perfect, but I want it to bring value. The feedback from my future customers will make it stunning.

Now that I had an idea and a decision I needed to start working on the actual product.

What were my options?

Building it myself or paying some guys to do it.

I’m an Android mobile developer, which means that my skills are with Java – Android, but these two wouldn’t be the ones I need to build the project.

Can I learn all the other programming languages that I need to build Netcrumb ( Javascript and PHP )? Of course, I could, but how much time it would take? Maybe 1-2 years and I would still not be good enough to make such an application.

So I went for the second choice. Hiring some other guys to do it and I will help them where I can, and I know.

The decision was easy, but I didn’t have all the money I needed for such an app.

I started to calculate how much it will cost a first version of the product.

First I thought about the number of hours needed and then the hourly rates available on the market.

I calculated that if I find some developers that will work for $40-$50 per hour, then it will cost me a maximum of $30,000.

What did I do to get the money

I’ve looked into getting a loan, and I found Virgin Start-up. They offer up to 25,000 GBP for 6.2% fix interest, you owe 100% of the company, but you have to pay monthly repayments. This loan is only for United Kingdom startups, and it comes with free mentoring support and other significant benefits. It is a good option, but the idea of getting 25k and then paying every month around 500 GBP was a bit too risky. I thought that this will be considered my last choice.

Next thing I did, I applied for an accelerator. I found it by mistake, and it was for Romanian entrepreneurs. The only thing I had was just an idea, but they said that they would fund ideas and existing businesses. If they had chosen you they would give 25k EUR for 7% of the company and next; they could offer you up to another 100k EUR for another % of the company.

I prepared my application for a few days, but apparently, they didn’t choose me. They decided to pick only existing businesses.

While all this happened, I spoke with my sister with excitement about what I want to create. I was telling her how I want to do it and what problem I’m solving. She probably saw the passion in my eyes, because after one month she said to me that she wants to help me build this thing for a percentage of the company ( 10% ) and to refund her money once I can.

Great news. I knew I have to find some developers.

How did I find the team that is helping me build my startup

I’m a developer myself, and I never thought that it is that hard to find an agency or some developers to make you a web application. I imagine how difficult it is for someone with no knowledge in the field.

What did I do?

First I wanted to hire separate developers to do bits from the app, and in the end, I would connect it, but this was a bad idea.

I needed a small agency, that doesn’t have huge rates and can help me build my MVP.

I started looking on Upwork because if I would work through Upwork then they will try to do an excellent job as nobody wants terrible reviews and I’ve looked and looked and found agencies from Ukraine and Russia with the rates I wanted.

Found a few agencies and I searched for them on Google so that I can contact them directly, but in the end, work through Upwork.

I got a few emails back, and even Skype calls, but most of them didn’t understand what I want to build or their quotes were huge for what I explained I wanted. I got even estimations of 200-300k GBP.

A lot of them stopped answering my emails, they probably didn’t think I was serious, but this is life.

While I was doing all these things, a great Romanian developer invited me on Facebook to like a new page. It was a new development agency he had with another great guy.

I met him right before he moved to Dublin for about two years to work as a software developer, but now he was back in Bucharest.

I sent him a message on Facebook, and we discussed. I told him about my idea, and then I had a few calls with him and his partner on Skype, and they understood my plan precisely. They knew what I wanted to build and in the following days, they gave me an estimation of around 19,000 EUR.

Later on, we signed the contract on 30th of March, but actually for 16,000 EUR as I removed some features from the first version of the product.

I know it’s not much and I know that in London or San Francisco it could have cost me 100k or more, but it’s just a start, and I’m pretty sure that if they will help me build the product that I want, I will bring them more work and more revenue.

I don’t want to disclose their company name for the moment, but if they do an excellent job for me, then you will find it out.  

We signed the contract for three months, but I know that it will take 4-5 months to release the BETA version.

If you want to follow me along while I’m building my SaaS startup and being the first one to know when Netcrumb releases the first version, then subscribe in the form below.

In the next part, I’m going to write about what we did in the first month.  

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