Denis Shatalin

Getting first users for SaaS startup

I’ve just finished a call with a founder who’s scaling a SaaS that simplifies payments for online schools. We spent a week reaching out to first users but only sent three messages. This is wrong.


It doesn’t matter that we have the best ice cream in the world if we are the only ones who know about it. Product growth is impossible without 2 key factors: traffic, and offer. Run 100 thousand people into a bad offer, and we’ll have zero output. Sell Rolls-Royce to Toyota fans, and we’ll shut down our business.


When we aim to get our first 100 customers, we don’t know who’ll make a purchase. Once I was selling my platform that helped founders overcome obstacles. My ideal customer profile was a first-time solo SaaS founder. I spent days trying to find such people and nearly gave up on the idea. I realized I don’t lose anything by reaching out to non-ideal buyers and sending the first messages. I made my first presale after 23 calls. I asked questions, showed the demo, and was about to finish the call. Suddenly, the man said he wants to purchase lifetime access. I couldn’t believe my ears. He was a 4x startup founder mentoring at 500 Startups accelerator. Nothing to do with the buyer persona I had in mind.


We know nothing about our product until it hits 50 paying users. Our core aim is the number of conversations with potential customers, not quality. Quantity builds our momentum, quality gets us into procrastination. When we are at $0 MRR, I choose to spend 60 minutes on outreach and 6 seconds on sending the message. 30% of them don’t reach the reader anyway.