Continuing the case-study on pivots…
Finding Their Inner SaaS
Building on YUPIQ’s concept, the new product, Referral SaaSquatch, aimed to solve the problem: How do we get your audience to share your content?
Much of the original YUPIQ code and logic was used to develop the new product. Keeping the things that worked, and leaving behind the things that didn’t was core to the pivot. Realizing that being dependent on other platforms such as Facebook was a risky endeavor, so the team built the whole product from scratch, focusing on the SaaS market. Taking into account that a complete referral loop was different than a promotional loop because of the channels required to communicate offers, SaaSquatch incorporated customizable aspects into their product.
“After going through it and getting some insights it was nice to be able to say ‘here’s the things we liked about it, here’s the things that we didn’t like about it. We’re gonna take these things that we liked going forward, but we’re going to make a pretty major change and start fresh.” -Eric Mason, YUPIQ developer/Senior developer at Referral SaaSquatch
Focusing on SaaS allowed the team to solve the problems that YUPIQ had faced with customer retention. The solutions also opened the door to a market that was ready for a product like Referral SaaSquatch. In doing their Due Diligence, the team had heard three storylines repeated by potential customers when asked for insights into referral programs. They interviewees had either taken the time and resources to build a solution themselves, and then hated it; Or, they wanted a referral system, but could not or would not build it themselves; Or, they were already sold on the idea, and just wanted a solution.
“We learned how to focus properly. We focused on a niche group and then started to build up after we’d established a niche for ourselves.” -Valerie Keys
As first-time entrepreneurs with a team made up entirely of young graduates, the pressure was high. The fact that they were able to make the decision to reposition, agree on a proposed approach, and carry out that plan effectively and thoroughly gave the team a level of confidence in themselves and their skills that they really needed. While still actively seeking advice from Alacrity, they were also became more independent, and better equipped to do more things on their own.
“SaaSquatch was the first time that we got to set our own identity and our own plans and we owned it entirely.” -Logan
“We learned a lot more about how to run the business ourselves.” -Torben
Going through a pivot with the first team adopted into the Alacrity organization was a learning experience for everyone. Completing it more clearly defined what fledgling entrepreneurs and companies needed. The challenges that YUPIQ faced was a critical aspect of that.
“One of our downfalls was chasing the mentorship too much. I think that us taking a bit more direct responsibility and not trying to latch onto the mentorship as much has really helped.” -Torben
“Alacrity was very patient and very supportive and because they survived that pivot, life is good.” –Logan
A Team That Struggles Together…
One of the biggest advantages that SaaSquatch has acquired in emerging from the pivot is the experience of a team that morphed and still moved forward together. Almost all of the original team members that started in a cramped office space at UVic are still part of the team today.
“We had a mature team that was already working well together. We always thought of our team as being one of our strongest aspects.” -Torben
The open culture that was created at YUPIQ by the team members, and with the influence of Owen and Alacrity, remains one of its strongest assets.
“It felt like we were all equals. Everyone was thinking ‘well, this isn’t working’ and we decided to figure out what we were going to do together.” -Mike
“We were all there together and it was a group effort.” -Valerie
The self-assessments and collaboration process meant that each team member was able to learn valuable lessons in their own area of expertise, as well as about the business as a whole, and that meant they could help each other make the transition be much more seamless. Using the lessons they’d learned from YUPIQ, Referral SaaSquatch hit the ground running.
In the span of two months, the team went from having the initial conversation that raised the warning flag to launching a brand new product. On March 1st, 2013, YUPIQ’s two year anniversary, Referral SaaSquatch was officially launched. With a new product in the hands of a much more experienced team, they were ready for the new entrepreneurial adventure to start.
The steep learning curve that these first-time entrepreneurs went through taught them a lot of things, including how to build and manage a product, how to stay accountable to stakeholders, and how to embrace change and learn from curveballs.
The most important lesson that they carried forward when it came to their product was to not buy into the old adage, “build it and they will come.” They learned that they should sell customers what they were asking for instead of trying to out-think themselves and trying to sell customers what they thought they should be asking for. They learned that partnerships were great, but only once a product had organic traction to build upon. They found a market that presented them with their ideal customer, reducing their churn rate drastically and helping them create a product that people bought and continued to use in the long term. They also learned what it really meant that “being successful means failing often, failing fast, learning from those failures, and then taking the necessary steps to incorporate those lessons into making it succeed.”
“We were building products for customers rather than having customers come in and tell us what they need and then building the products around the customers. We were building for a market that didn’t necessarily exist with the expectation that it would exist.” -Eric
“The biggest problem about YUPIQ was that we weren’t focused on customers and revenue, we were focused on product and ideas.” -Logan
Through all of the ups and downs, the team stayed united, worked together, and contributed to their own success.
“We were really open-minded about it, fortunately.” –Torben
The Future of Referral SaaSquatch
The Referral SaaSquatch team has grown to thirteen full-time employees, and is constantly on the look-out for new additions that fit into their company culture. With a constant stream of new customer leads, their strong reputation precedes them in the world of referral marketing.
With the help and support of Alacrity and its investment partners, SaaSquatch has already been able to accomplish a lot.
“The patience to stick with a group of people and incubate not really a company, but a team is something that the Alacrity Foundation has done really well and I think that a lot of the successes come from that patience and a people-first approach and not a product-first approach. If it was a product-first approach, we would have been done in 3 months.” -Logan
“Alacrity’s given us the tools we need, but has stayed out of the areas we have under control. They’re here when we need it, they have a lot of resources, they have networks, but they’re not going to force their vision onto us when they’re not in the business. That’s key.” -Torben
The founders, employees, and investors are all pleased with the company’s wins so far. As a success story, both in terms of creating a viable product, and in accomplishing what is described as among the most difficult thing a startup often goes through: a pivot.
Today, their potential is limitless.