It’s been just over a year since my last Storemapper update. Sorry! In early 2015 I set out two priorities: hire two great people to take the lead on product development and customer support and to scale back my required hours towards a 4 Hour Work Week type of business. The plan was to build a team that could keep the product evolving and customers happy without me being involved every single day. Both efforts went pretty well, with a few big caveats, and I’m excited about where Storemapper is today and where things are headed.
First, the metrics update. Sadly I had to take down our public metrics dashboard (more about that here) but I’ll try to make regular detailed updates here in the blog. Storemapper’s current monthly recurring revenue is just shy of $18,000/month (MRR) or about $215,000 in annual recurring revenue (ARR). That’s just a bit over doubling in a year. Not a hockey stick, but really not bad at all for a Micro-SaaS or “internet small business” as a I sometimes describe it.
Churn has stayed nice and low at right around 1.0%. In general our customers tend to stick around once they have their store locator setup the way they like. This stickiness computes into a healthy lifetime value (LTV) of over $1,500.
MRR growth has been pretty linear over the year with on average an increase of $500-600 in net new MRR per month. About $100-150 of that comes from Expansion MRR (existing customers upgrading their plan levels). Even though churn has been low the SaaS Plateau is real. Growth tends to be linear (+$X/mo) and churn a percentage function (-X% of total $) so that eventually your net month-over-month growth starts to slow. Storemapper is certainly feeling that effect, but since we are not venture-backed and already over break-even it’s more of an exciting opportunity to tackle rather than a crisis.
What other metrics do you want to know about? Drop a comment below.
Expanding the Team
My biggest priority for 2015 was to increase the team from basically just me. At the moment we have an awesome Rails developer (Hi Taufiq) and excellent tech support engineer (Hey Iris). We all work completely remotely from all over the world and do most of our collaboration asynchronously with Asana, Slack and Github. I won’t say the process of expanding the team was entirely easy. I learned a lot about the process of hiring (both for coding and support) and onboarding new team members. There were a few tough lessons including a letter from the State of New York with a fine for $2,500 (ouch!). I will be writing a lot more detail about what worked in hiring, onboarding and collaborating in the newest chapters of the Micro-SaaS Ebook. Some highlights are: invest time to build hiring tests, do multiple trial hires for the same job, have a detailed onboarding handbook, use your collaboration tools to interview (don’t Skype you’re mostly gonna Slack) and hire people whose personal life situation matches well with the company and team.
I hired slowly and only after the business had the cashflow to support it. Even after growing the team the business remains very profitable.
Reducing Time Requirements
Getting Storemapper to $100k in revenue was mostly a solo effort. I got some great advice, and hired a few freelancers but it took a lot of personal time investment. After reaching a point where I could draw a health salary from Storemapper last year, my goal was to use incremental revenue to hire a team and start yielding a “time dividend.” This was largely successful last year. From July to May of this year my girlfriend and I traveled around the world. We spent three incredible months in Africa with generally terrible internet and the business was fine. We spent huge lengths of time traveling and doing road trips where I was able to be almost completely out of the business. Work on your business not in your business, as they say. We would often recuperate for a few weeks in places like Cape Town, Bali, Tokyo and Wellington to catch up on accumulated work. But the combination of a great team, good internal systems and documentation, and lots of automation allowed me to substantially dial back my hourly work while growing the business and keeping our customers happy.
What’s Next for This Year
First, I’m ditching some of the gains I made on “dialing back my time” a little. Storemapper is clearly meeting a need and there are lots of interesting opportunities to grow the business and learn, so we’re slowing down the travel and I’m getting more focused on really expanding marketing efforts.
The Storemapper Blog & Interview Series
You are likely reading this on the fresh-off-the-presses Storemapper Blog. Until now, Storemapper itself hasn’t had a blog because we frankly weren’t producing any content that our market, e-commerce merchants, would be interested in. But that is about to change. We’re going to launch a series that I’m really excited about. We currently have over 1,500 active customers and I can tell you from chatting with many of them that they are a big batch of really fascinating entrepreneurs and businesses. Several of them have been on Shark Tank. One or two have won the Shopify Build-A-Business contest, and been mentored by Richard Branson, Tim Ferris, Seth Godin and so on. Some of them are in such incredible niches you wouldn’t believe they could actually be businesses at all, much less large profitable businesses. We’re going to start the interview series very soon. It won’t be limited to just our customers. If you run, or know someone who runs, an interesting e-commerce business, we want to talk to you.
Paid Customer Acquisition
Second, I’m going to experiment with paid marketing and customer acquisition. I’m looking at Adwords and re-targeting, content marketing, affiliate and referral programs… everything is on the table. To date we have spent literally zero dollars on marketing but we have a great funnel in place, excellent onboarding and solid LTV numbers so the time is right to find some channels that convert. If you are an expert in any of these and want to work with us. Give me a shout directly.
Product Road Map
We already launched my top new feature for the year in beta: Data Automations. One of the biggest challenges for our customers is getting the data from where they have it to cleaned, geocoded and in our database. We’ve built out an API and can set up free custom integrations from hundreds of apps that will automatically format and import data. This is a huge win for our customers and for some customers makes our entire product workflow set it and forget it. Ultimately that is the goal here. We know we’re not curing cancer, but we can help you get something you (our customers) know you need, that creates value for you, in the simplest and most hassle-free way possible. We have a few other things in the queue but something we would LOVE LOVE LOVE to do would be real-time inventory. So not only can you see where you can buy a particular brand, but you can see which products are actually in stock before you drive over there. Here’s the catch, the small business POS/inventory app market is unbelievably fragmented and crappy. No inventory management app that I know of has (1) decent enough market penetration and (2) a public API that we could query to pull in the data. If you know of, or better yet if you are capitalizing on the opportunity and building, an inventory app like this, please please let me know on Twitter. That’s it for this update folks. I’ll be back sooner than a year from now with more. If you liked it, click on of these Twitter buttons below. Thanks!