Share your entrepreneurial journey WHILE building your product. Grow your audience based on what you’re sharing long BEFORE launching your product.
Transform your entrepreneurial and product-building experience into educational/entertaining content people want to consume. In other words, build your SaaS company in public by sharing things such as:
📓 Build in public: Documenting and sharing the process of creating something. This something can be anything from a SaaS company to a book.
📓 Stealth Startups: Stealth startups avoid public attention. Some founders build stealth startups to hide information from competitors or — as part of a marketing strategy — to manage their public image.
Building in public will help you gather an audience around your persona, brand, and/or product. This immediate, non-intermediated access to an audience will allow you to:
Building in public will also generate secondary benefits, such as:
Founders experience a lack of marketing momentum when launching a new SaaS product. As a result:
*Note: A sequential approach to marketing may work if you’re building a side hustle or project. Since you’re keeping the operations small and your financial well-being doesn’t depend directly on your company’s growth, you can take time to launch a micro-product and then start building an audience, growing your endeavor gradually and steadily.
Why do most founders build a product first and do marketing later?
The lack of an audience will slow down a company’s growth considerably. In some cases, companies will have enough resources to build a product, yet almost nothing to invest in marketing and drive sales. This thing alone will put at risk the very existence of the entire company.
Thriving SaaS leaders, though, focus on building in public and growing an audience WHILE developing the product and long after launching it. They do that by:
► Quick note: You’ll find it easier to build in public if you’re bootstrapping. If you have investors, you may encounter a certain level of censorship, as you won’t be able to share everything you want. Or, your investors may be against building in public altogether.
👉 In 2019, Gumroad held its first open board meeting with over a hundred participants.
👉 Over the years, Sahil kept the Gumroad board meetings open. Everyone can access them via YouTube.
👉 Sahil is also writing build-in-public articles. Although it may be one article per year, these posts are extremely valuable and detailed. Sahil’s most recent article, published in January 2021, is titled “No Meetings, No Deadlines, No Full-Time Employees.” This post describes the Gumroad operations.
👉 Tally’s founders are building their company in public by:
👉 Mike is also creating YouTube vlogs about his entrepreneurial experience.
👉 People can also learn about Mike’s journey by listening to his Founder Mornings podcast.
👉 Mike is also active on Indie Hackers. He recently organized an AMA session.
👉 Mike launched another build-in-public project called Octofolio. Along with another indie bootstrapper, Mike created the newsletter “Zero to SaaS” and a YouTube channel to document the Octofolio journey.
👉 In his article “1 Year of Marketing a SaaS from $10K MRR to $27K MRR,” Jon Yongfook notes the following:
“In January 2021, I published probably the biggest “hit” I’ve had in terms of marketing up to that point. The Journey to $10K MRR post went sort of viral in our little bootstrapped SaaS world, even making it onto the Hacker News front page.”
Getting on Hacker News resulted in a big traffic spike on the Bannerbear website.
Jon also adds:
“Later in the year, I followed up with another set of lessons/thoughts in my 10K to 20K slideshow, which was also shared around and received a nice chunk of traffic.”
👉 Jon also created a newsletter called “Follow the Journey.” Jon updates his subscribers about the Bannerbear product, marketing, and business progress every two weeks. Here’s an email sample:
👉 Jon is also using Indie Hackers to increase brand awareness. One year ago, he created an AMA session.
👉 Jon is actively using Twitter as a build-in-public channel.
👉 Although lemlist has three co-founders, Guillaume Moubeche is actively growing the company in public.
👉 To share the company’s biggest milestones, Guillaume usually writes detailed blog posts. Here’s an example.
👉 Both founders are active on Twitter, sharing things such as:
👉 Apart from Twitter, the ScrapingBee founders created a page tracing their journey from 0 to $1M ARR without traditional VCs.
👉 Paul is sharing regular Net Promoter Score posts. That’s unique, as I didn’t see other building-in-public founders doing it.
👉 If you’re long enough in the SaaS industry, you’re probably associating the “build in public” movement with Alex Turnbull’s blog posts.
👉 Over the years, Alex published more than 40 articles on how he built Groove.
👉 In his build-in-public articles, Alex shares things such as:
👉 The collection page stats are impressive, to say the least:
“We shared our journey to $10MM in ARR with Groove. Today, our next journey begins - creating a self-sustaining $1MM grant to help keep other entrepreneurs in control of their business. No equity stake, no board seats, no pressure.”
Here’s the catch:
👉 If you want to learn Sabba Keynejad’s (@sab8a) step-by-step process of building a successful SaaS company, check out his Twitter account. Sabba’s Twitter is a gold mine in detailed growth explanations and recommendations.
👉 Apart from valuable lessons, Sabba also shares VEED wins, growth challenges, and future goals.
👉 Sarah Hum (@sarahhum) is sharing important Canny milestones on Twitter.
👉 Apart from Twitter, Sarah is publishing detailed growth articles on Canny’s blog.
👉 These articles are part of the Founder Stories collection.
👉 For more details, people can access Sarah’s Patreon page and listen to her audio diary.
👉 Dan is building four micro-SaaS to +$10k MRR. Dan is very active on Twitter, sharing entrepreneurial bits, such as:
👉 Dan also has a YouTube vlog called “Life & SaaS.”
👉 Thomas deployed an interesting tactic, using the Twitter bio to share his goals.
👉 Both Thomas and Thibault are frequently sharing business insights and milestones.
👉 Thibault also used Indie Hackers to organize business growth AMA sessions.
👉 Like some of the build-in-public founders, Tony Dinh (@tdinh_me) added a progress bar to his bio on Twitter. Update: At this moment, Tony doesn’t have a Twitter progress bar anymore.
This progress bar indicates Tony’s journey from 0 to $10K MRR.
👉 Apart from the progress bar, Tony is also offering a newsletter that includes monthly updates regarding his entrepreneurial journey, and what he built and learned. Here’s a newsletter sample:
👉 Tony is an indie hacker working on multiple micro-projects. One can learn what Tony is building by visiting his personal website.
👉 Arnaud Belinga (@ArnaudBelingaCX) added a build-in-public progress bar to his bio on Twitter. The progress bar signals Arnaud’s journey from 0 to $5K MRR.
👉 Arnaud is actively using Twitter, sharing things such as
👉 Arnaud leveraged his Twitter community efficiently to support the BreakCold Product Hunt campaign. As a result, BreakCold gained the #1 Product of the Day badge.
👉 Similar to Tony and Arnaud, Damon Chen (@damengchen) added a progress bar to his bio on Twitter. The progress bar highlights Damon’s journey from 0 to $1M ARR.
Moreover, Damon added a header photo indicating his goal (reaching $1M ARR by Oct 2024) and the time left until the deadline.
👉 Damon tweets about bootstrapping Testimonial, writing about:
👉 Damon is also sharing his journey on Testimonial’s blog. Here’s an article he recently published.
👉 The Leave Me Alone founders tweet about:
👉 Fabrizio’s personal page includes the updated $MRR for both products.
👉 Francesco’s personal page includes a wide variety of articles (tweet threads) on business growth, team management, challenges & lessons, and more.
👉 Here’s an example about Typefully achieving net negative MRR churn.
👉 Here’s another example of transitioning from Notion to Basecamp.
👉 Both Francesco and Fabrizio use Twitter to share their entrepreneurial journey. Here’s an interesting result the founders achieved by building in public:
👉 Noah Bragg (@noahwbragg) has a Twitter bio progress bar highlighting his journey from 0 to $5K MRR.
👉 Over the years, Noah shared things such as:
👉 Noah is also documenting his journey by creating YouTube videos.
👉 Like many other founders, Noah has a personal blog.
👉 Finally, Noah collaborates with Ben Mann (another SaaS founder) on hosting the Product Journey podcast. As the podcast page indicates:
“Every week, we get together and talk about building our online businesses, what’s been going on and what we’re struggling with at the moment. Join us on our journey and listen as we build, work through failure, and hopefully succeed in creating a profitable business.”
👉 Stefan Vetter (@stefanvetter) shares his journey to bootstrapping Friendly on Twitter, talking about:
👉 People can stay updated with Stefan’s bootstrapping journey by subscribing to his newsletter.
👉 Peter is writing about:
👉 Simple.Ink is a Notion website builder created by Ch Daniel.
👉 Ch Daniel also launched a newsletter called “The Road To $1,000,000+ ARR.” He has almost 6,000 subscribers. However, he didn’t publish any email issues yet.
👉 If you want to learn more about building your SaaS in public, you can check out this Cheatsheet created by Ch Daniel.
👉 Diederik and Wim publish daily articles describing their progress, from validating their SaaS idea to defining the product pricing.
👉 As their 80-day Startup page highlights:
“We want to show people the entire process of creating a new product from scratch. In just 80 days, we’ll try to make and market something people want and are willing to pay for.”
👉 People can subscribe to their 80-day Startup newsletter to receive a weekly recap email.
👉 Apart from the 80-day Startup page, Diederik and Wim use Twitter to share their build-in-public journey.
👉 Although the founders didn’t launch Thymer yet, they offer a private beta. People can sign up and get on the early access launch list. The waiting lists are great for capturing website visitors while the product is not ready yet.
► Quick note: On day 33, Diederik and Wim got 104 newsletter subscribers and 40 private beta waiting list signups. However, on day 67, the founders decided to take a break from building Thymer in public. There’s not much talk about it, but building in public while developing a product from scratch means extra work and pressure. So founders need to find a balance.
Moreover, Wim recently became a father. As life circumstances are changing, it’s always important to re-prioritize. Finally, as Wim writes, “Whenever one of us takes a break, we’ll just pause the project/blogging here, as we’re also running our existing business in parallel with this project. We’ll be back soon to continue with daily updates on the work towards finishing the MVP and the launch for Thymer!”
👉 Messaging. When building in public, founders will construct their narrative having in mind one or several goals, such as to:
👉 Platform(s). Founders have a wide variety of platforms to choose from:
👉 Format. Founders can build in public by:
👉 Frequency. Consistency is the main element sustaining the build-in-public impact. It doesn’t matter whether founders publish daily build-in-public content. What matters, though, is the need to keep a certain frequency that creates anticipation:
👉 Scope. The SaaS leaders have absolute control over the build-in-public topics they want to talk about. Some may feel comfortable sharing their monthly revenue stats, while others feel good writing about a new strategy they’ve deployed. Founders have a wide variety of build-in-public topics to choose from:
Founders may focus on a specific topic only or combine multiple topics. It all depends on how comfortable they are with sharing certain aspects of their business growth. Also, it depends on the message and the goal they want to achieve.
Moreover, it’s never too late to start building in public. You can build in public before or/and after launching your product. Don’t forget that building in public is not about igniting marketing momentum only but also maintaining it. Building in public is a powerful marketing strategy you can leverage after launching the product.
✅ You don’t need a personal website to get started with building your SaaS in public. Use Twitter to get started today. There are two things to consider, though:
✅ For an extra level of antifragility, you can create a website, YouTube channel, or podcast around your build-in-public efforts. Also, don’t forget that you can use your company’s blog to publish detailed growth and process articles.
✅ Work on developing an extra layer of self-awareness.
To “Build in public,” you’ll have to become aware of your process, which can be tricky. Most people do things without analyzing them.
For example, you can write an article without acknowledging your process. You may be completely unaware of how you choose a topic, research the subject, structure your narrative, develop your arguments, and more.
The same is true for creating a SaaS product, building a SaaS company, designing a marketing strategy, or leading a solid team. You go with the motion, doing your thing, without overthinking it. To build something in public, you need to be aware of your process, understand why you’re doing certain things, and how you’re executing.
This extra layer of consciousness is crucial for capturing and documenting your entrepreneurial journey. But how can you develop it? By being consistent and asking yourself questions such as:
Building the habit of asking yourself all these questions will help you gain awareness and be more careful with your process. It will also help you capture valuable information and insights you can share with your audience.
✅ Remember that there’s no wrong or right way to build your SaaS in public. What’s important, though, is to identify those topics you feel comfortable sharing. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your monthly or yearly business stats, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build in public. Change the angle and focus on sharing small experiments and insights instead.
✅ Also, it’s normal to change your build-in-public strategy. If you feel that you can’t share growth strategy details anymore because of the growing competition, stop and focus on sharing something else.
✅ If you feel overwhelmed, start small. It can be as small as a weekly tweet update on what you’ve worked on.
✅ Consistency is key to building in public. You can’t just post something once in a while. Choose a frequency (daily, weekly or monthly) and stick to it. Otherwise, you won’t be able to build momentum and create the feeling of anticipation.
💥 To remember: SaaS verticals, horizontals, and niches are becoming overcrowded and over-competitive by day. Grabbing/maintaining people’s attention and building an audience is getting harder, requiring more effort and resources. Leaving marketing for the last moment can be detrimental to your business growth. You need a consistent strategy to promote your product long before its launch and keep building momentum after you’ve released it. Without having access to an already existing audience, you’ll keep guessing whether people need your product or not. Also, you won’t have the easiness of getting immediate feedback from people.
SaaS buyers care more and more about seeing and interacting with real people and not faceless corporations. According to the #BrandsGetReal report by Social Sprout:
“70% of people want CEOs to have a personal presence on social media, and 63% of people say CEOs who have their own social profiles are better representatives for their companies than CEOs who do not.”
Nowadays, you can’t expect to increase brand awareness and build an audience without putting yourself out there. You will limit your pre-launch and post-launch marketing opportunities without building in public. Industry leaders and gatekeepers won’t see you, mention you in their posts/articles, or invite you as podcast/event guests. More and more founders and SaaS leaders start building in public. This practice is still underused, but building in public and sharing processes will soon become a standard SaaS marketing strategy.