Starting a product based on personal pain is common advice for new founders.
Paul Graham wrote about it in his famous essay Organic Startup Ideas.
When I started thinking about turning my personal pain into a product, lots of questions popped up:
- Does anyone else care about this problem?
- Would I enjoy building the product?
- How will I find users that will use my product?
- Will people pay for it?
I previously started 2 SaaS products, the 1st never made any money and the 2nd one grew to $250K ARR.
I am about to start my 3rd SaaS product, and I am exploring whether any of my personal pains would be a good fit for a SaaS product.
Here is how I am thinking about it at the moment, along with some examples from my own journey.
My checklist for a good SaaS product idea
Do I like spending time with my potential customers?
This is the most obvious one. If I enjoy spending time with my potential customers, I would be curious to find out more about their lives and challenges, way beyond the scope of my product.
Lately people have started calling this Founder-Market fit. Here is a great post that helped me assess my founder-market fit.
I have always been curious about helping entrepreneurs of all sorts, SaaS founders, Small business owners, etc.
I thought about creating "a platform for doctors to provide online video consultations". As soon as I found there was competition, I immediately dropped it. I just wasn't passionate enough building for that market.
Would I enjoy building the product?
Everyone has a bias towards solving problems that they are good at solving. It is just more fun.
Some people will need more of a tech challenge while others will need more human touch.
I love working on the intersection of product and design. Many of my ideas are about enabling simple ways to create good design .
One idea that I was thinking about was "an online editor of Ghost blog themes for SaaS companies". I struggled with this a lot when trying to create a branded blog for my previous SaaS.
Another idea that I had lately is "Online product gifs creator for SaaS landing pages". In my previous SaaS I spent hours trying to tweak our app to get good screenshots.
Thinking about these ideas really gets me excited.
How will I find users that will use my product?
Being active in communities tends to be the recommended approach to find early users nowadays. Especially for bootstrapped founders that have limited marketing budgets. I invested a lot in communities in my previous SaaS product, and I am a big fan.
The idea is that you get involved in the community and slowly start building your reputation by being helpful. Building your reputation will make it easier to ask other community members to try out your product and give you feedback.
Sahil Lavingia, the founder of Gumroad, advocated for communities as the main way to find customers early on in his recent book The minimalist entrepreneur. Being involved in communities is also the recommended approach in the course I am taking at the moment, 30x500.
I try to evaluate demand for my ideas through these communities.
When I searched for posts with the word "blog", I found:
- Few posts that discuss the platform choice (e.g Wordpress / Ghost / Webflow / etc)
- Few discussions on how to generate content.
- Very few conversations on blog design and branding. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed.
On the flipside, when I searched for "Product gifs" in these communities, I immediately saw very relevant posts with many comments, for example this post. I know that people are actively looking for a solution.
SEO potential is another great way to evaluate if a personal pain is a good product idea. While communities are great to start with, they usually dry out after a while.
If people are actively searching for a solution for your personal pain, that's a great sign. If you can find specific niche keywords that have little competition, you have hit the jackpot.
Ahrefs is a great free tool to evaluate it.
For my first idea, "Online editor for Ghost blog themes", I couldn't find a good combination of keywords that had enough volume. For example, I tried "custom ghost theme". I got zero volume.
I did find broader keywords, for example "saas blog" or "b2b blog", but it is likely that very few people who search for "saas blog" will actually host their blog on Ghost.
For my second idea, I immediately found a great keyword combination. The volume is not huge, but is enough to get started, and the Keyword Difficulty is 0. Amazing! :)
Will people pay for it?
Do my users spend money on tools?
My users are early stage SaaS founders. I picked that market, because I love spending time with these users.
Early stage SaaS founders tend to spend money on things that are essential to testing out their ideas. I won't lie, early stage SaaS founders don't have deep pockets, and will not pay for things that are "nice to have". It is not the easiest market to start a business, but it is possible.
How do I know if my "product gifs" idea would be essential to these types of customers? This is something I will need to explore. I know that there are a few people who are looking for a solution in my communities, so I can start by reaching out to them.
How often would users use my product?
Going back to the "Online editor for Ghost blog themes" idea, I would assume that most people don't edit their blog design every day. Probably not every month either. Maybe every year.
The downside is that it will be hard to make a monthly recurring business out of it. It could still make money, but I would need to find a larger set of users and charge them more to make a business out of it.
For the "product gifs" idea, people do tend to update their landing pages and social media channels with new screenshots and gifs every month. It has a good potential to turn into a recurring monthly subscription business.
Want to try the checklist on your personal pain?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you like spending time with your target customers?
- Would you enjoy building the product? Do you think that you will be good at solving this problem?
- How will you find users? Are people in your communities talking about the problem? Can you find good search keywords with enough volume and relatively low competition?
- Would people pay for your product? Do your users spend money on tools? How often would they be using the product?
I would be curious to hear how you evaluate whether your personal pains are good SaaS ideas. Feel free to start a conversation on Twitter @nirshub.