Nico Botha first came on my radar as I heard about other Saas founders using his boilerplate to launch Saas products fast. Intrigued, I was even more fascinated to learn that he doesn’t even have a computer software degree but has successfully created and launched a few different Saas products.
In this conversation we discuss:
All the integrations that Shipsaas starter kit includes
the mistakes he made when launching his product (including the pricing he listed on ProductHunt)
The fun projects (including AI generated memes) that help raise awareness for his flagship business
If you’re wanting to build a Saas product faster and are not a computer software geek, then this episode is for you.
Nico Botha has witnessed a lot of companies waste time and money to design and build their MVP. So, he created a SaaS boilerplate to help startups save time and money as the most important parts of the application are already done for a fraction of the cost.
In this conversation Nico and I discuss:
Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.
Additional episodes you might enjoy:
Hey, you're listening to innovators can laugh. The fun startup podcast. I'm your host, Eric on ICO. We interview an innovative entrepreneur in the European tech startup scene. Every week, Michael is to have my guests share their wisdom or having a little fun in the process. Now let's do it. Hey ICO fans today, we're talking about how to ship products fast.
That's right. Building a SAS product with as little friction as possible. This is something that Nico bought the realized that there was a need for, and he created a solution for it. In addition to launching ship sas.com, which has a starter kit, that includes all the integrations you need to build a SAS F.
We dive into the mistakes he made when he was launching his product. Many people who saw it on product hunt actually sent him messages saying that it was too inexpensive, Nico and I also discussed how it's not necessary to have a computer software degree to run a successful SAS business. It has other fun projects that are helping to raise awareness for his flagship product.
If you're wanting to build a SAS product faster and are not a computer software. Then this episode is for you. And if you went to listen to this on YouTube, you can find my channel. Innovators can laugh and check out episode 47. Let's dive in. All right, Nico. I like to start off with the product you released, not too long ago.
Ship sacks, which is a starter kit. That includes all the integrations. You need to build a SAS at fast. You could have a complete app with a landing page login, registration and billing functionality ready and under. What compelled you to create this starter kit? The main thing that compelled me to create it was kind of scratching my own itch.
So I was always looking for a starter kit because I like most EDS. I have a lot of ideas. I want to look for one to build a lot of things. But at the time I couldn't find a kit that was built with a tech step that I was looking for. And yeah, I, I looked everywhere on the internet. Couldn't find it. And then.
Maybe it's not as difficult to build something like this myself and then I created it. And yeah, that's that's where it all started. Well, how long did it take you? Was it difficult to put together? It took about two to three weeks. So I reuse a lot of the code that operates for previous projects. And that's also what gave me the idea because every time I didn't new idea, I had to write all the.
Boilerplate code and you know, all the boring stuff that every project needs, but it's not the core problem that you're trying to solve. You have to write that from scratch all over again, every time there's something new that comes up. So then I figured I can just make it templates and then reuse those for future projects that are one of the bullets.
Yeah. Yeah. Like what, so I'm not a developer, but what are, what are some of those boiler plate things that you need when you're trying to launch a new south? Well, all apps normally have a registration page, a login page, a way to reset a password but each week and manage all your account details and settings and stuff.
And they normally have a database integration with some sorts, depending on what database you want to use a file storage solution. If you want to upload files and do false sharing and those kinds of things, which most SaaS products. And then there's also emails sending billing. SOC got a Stripe integration here.
They yeah, it makes it easier. If all that integrations are already. You can just add your config, variable keys and a bolt from the, you don't have to rock all that boiler plate called yourself. Yeah. Yeah. So how many developers are currently using ship says I've got about just over 40 plants at the moment.
Okay, cool. Cool. Cool. Now, what are some of the most frequent questions that you get before somebody asks. Purchases, the product questions that I get before purchase is mostly, or does that this kind of feature, can you do this or that? And sometimes it's also tech stack related. So this kit is built with next JS, which is a reaction is.
And super base, which is a, like an all-in-one backend as a service product. And mostly the questions I get or are the next JS will supervise with it at some kind of functionality that people want. Okay. Okay. So when I saw this on product tones, I was looking at some of the questions that a lot of people were asking.
Why is it so cheap? Because I think the base price was 79 99 at the time. And you had a discounted to 49 99. Since then did you act on that feedback and is it an, is it a different cost now than the 79 99? Yes. I think that that's probably a mistake that a lot of stock bonds make is your undervalue, your own product.
I don't think people want to pay for this, or they might, might think it's too expensive. And that's exactly what the mistake I made when I first launched this. Yeah. I don't know if it's really valuable. I don't know if people would pay for this and it's actually great that people were telling me, Hey, this is too cheap.
Raise your prices. And then the interesting thing happened. I decided to raise my prices. I raised it a little bit because it's. Frightening experience. You don't know what will happen. People just stop paying is going to be too expensive and then not raising it a little bit. And then obviously some old again.
And the interesting thing that happened is oftentimes actually raised my process to what it's product. Now it's 249. I actually got a lot more sales that's actually, when I started making the bulk of my sales so far, but it's quite a frightening experience. I'll tell you that. Yeah. All right. You did that.
Everybody raise your prices. Yeah. Yeah. That's interesting. Sorry. Wait, when you hear that, like when you read blogs on India ACARS and shit, people sharing their experiences, everybody says, raise your prices, but actually doing it is squat a quite a frightening experience. So it's not, it's easier said than done.
Yeah. Yeah, of course, of course you think you're going to get a backlash, right? And actually, who are you going to get the backlash from? I guess maybe two people Curry, custom window. They wouldn't, they wouldn't be upset, but I need prospects that were thinking about it. They were on the fence, but Hey, they were going to buy it.
They would have bought it her exactly. In addition to product tones, what were some of the other ways that you were trying to grow a busted a lot on right. It's in the early. And yeah, I was also active on Twitter, but at the time that I launched ship's house at about 400 followers or something or Twitter, so it wasn't a good way to get a big audience or big impact at our regular blogs in the beginning.
So only now it's about five months down the line and I'll start seeing some, some traffic from the blog posts. So yeah, my plan is to invest multiple time in writing blog posts, because I really like. Passivity of ACR at St. Jude traffic long after you've made that investment. Oh yeah. Oh yeah, yeah. Yes, it does.
Yes, it does. So tell us about your background. What is, do you have a degree? Do you have a computer software degree? I mean, how did you get into, you know, creating different softwares, different businesses? How did you get to that point? Yeah, I'd say Auburn nonstandard it backgrounds. So. When I was at school, I had an at subject and then I had a teacher which from, she completely destroyed my interest in it because I didn't do very well in that subject.
And she, she made it to difficulty mopping it. So they not sign it off the school. I was going to study clinical. Which is a completely different software development, but I ended up completing it and it's still interesting. I still find that chemistry itself interesting. But then when I started working as a chemical engineer, the work job itself was just not what I expected.
And then I started building my own stuff onto the side because I really. I really like developing software and playing around with ideas and bullying things. And then at some stage I just, I quit my engineering job to find a job in software and that's kind of where my career started. So I've got a degree, but it's in chemical engineering and it's got nothing to do with software development.
Okay. Did you quit your job before you found a job in computer software? Yes. Yeah. That's something that I don't just end up with the oldest and dusty blondes going to a bar or small little town living there for weeks on end with yeah. It's, it's quite a different locks though. Being an engineer in such a small mining town.
Okay. So you got your, your first computer software. Right. And you're doing that full time where you also did you also start creating something else on the site, like a new, new post you went into ship, the four shifts. All the time. I've been busy with side projects ever since I've got, oh, that's what got me into software developments in the beginning.
But I think when you start out, most people's thought out like this, you think kind of bold was awesome products and people will come and they will love, they will like it and they'll use it. But what usually ends up before you, before you finish off the project, you run out of steam because you either find something else or I need this.
Interesting anymore. You lose some motivation. So yeah, my graveyard of projects, like project is very big, but it's a me talk and you go like, like a handful or more than a handful, but it's definitely more than 20. Wow. When you look back, like, what are the ones that come to your head? Like, what was I thinking?
You know, like what the home was I thinking when I was working on that, like give us an example. All the time. Yeah. I cleaned up my guitar account the other day and there's a lot of old repositories there that we'll find ideas and stuff that I worked on. And yeah, it's quite interesting to see all the stupid ideas I had in the plus, but I mean that, that's, that's also how you grow and how you learn new things.
So yeah, I think you have to grow and go through that phase of failing and. I guess sometimes you need a stupid idea to teach you something and then you will find a better idea. Yeah. Yeah, no, I've had, I've had quite a few years to put ideas in my time that I've launched and of course they were not successful, but the key is is that, Hey, you, you, you try another one and get another idea and you tried the other one keep going from that.
So what's something that, that you're really good at and you feel like you're better at this than most other people here. I think I'm good at communicating with people. Yeah, that's definitely one of my strong points. People have this idea of software developers sitting in adult. Every day, just writing code, not speaking to everybody, not having a social life, but I think I'm different too, that a stigma.
And I really like interacting with people and chatting about stop, exploring new ideas so that I actually value the social component that the software industry as, as well. Okay. So we connected through Twitter. Is that your primary channel where you. Meeting new people and developing relationships, or is there other places, other platforms that you're using to yeah.
At the moment what is the main channel pre COVID? I used to go to a lot of meetups and conferences and stuff. Yeah. For the past three years that I've been a bit less because there is less conferences or everything's online and yeah, I attended one or two online conferences, but it doesn't have the same feeling doing it in person.
There's not the same spontaneity to it, in my opinion. Not Twitter as the main channel, then I actually enjoy interacting with people. Yeah, yeah. Me too. Me too. I've had an account for over 10 years, but I never approached it with the focus of really trying to get to know somebody until recently. And it's just really, really changed the way I look at that platform now.
Yeah. I felt like I'd developed some people, some friendships, you know, when I go to youth thread, they felt like, yeah, I've got an there to show me around or when I get to thought out like, Hey, what should I do? Right. Yeah. So what systems, cause you've got more than one software company out there, right?
What systems do you have in place to like stay on top of state? So are you, are you doing this, all of this by yourself and, and, and, you know, tell us who you're working with and what systems they're using to really, really stay on top of it. Cool. So yeah, the one product I've has shipped salts. That's a, I'm doing that all on my own, being locked in development and everything myself.
And then recently we started bullying super meme.ar, which is a lead generation tool specifically for marketing purposes. And that's on building with two other guys from India. We also met each other through Twitter. That's where we connected and started having some chats. And the vendor approached me and asked me if I want to join the team, how I manage to stay on top of things is an interesting question.
Sometimes it doesn't feel like I'm on topic as it should be, but what really works well for me is to time box all my tasks. So I tried to do planning. They all say, yeah, I need to get these four or five tasks and timing of the day. I'm going to reserve an hour for this. I'll fill this hour in the hall for this, and then actually block out all other meetings or notifications or whatever, and just focus for an hour or an hour in a hall on getting X or Y done.
That really helps me to focus on the task at hand. Get it done as soon as. Just focus deeply without instructions and then move on to the next thing. Yeah. Yeah. Focusing is is, is something that I think a lot of us struggle with, especially when you know, you get those notifications. So I actually turn on and turn off notifications on my phone.
If you do the same thing, do you like pause your notifications and try to just focus on that one window? That wind tab? Yeah, yeah, yeah. They also do that. And when, when do you feel like you do your best work? Are you doing this way at night, in the evening or what's your work day look like? Yeah, definitely in the morning I get up early and then have a coffee just to wake up a bit and then start working in my opinion, the more work I get done before 12 in the afternoon, the better, because normally in the afternoon, I'd like to have the meetings or yeah.
Do some more social stuff, which doesn't require that much focus. So I find it more productive to do the deep focus work in the morning when it was all fresh and then late in the afternoon or the go to the gym and going to exercise or, yeah. Okay. What's one of the most interesting projects that you're working on right now, Nico.
Well, let's say definitely super mean.ai. If you had told me, if you told me a year ago that I would build a tool that generates your names using, I have been, I would lost it. You know, I'm still laughing, but just at the memes that we generated. Yeah, no, it's 10 means. I mean, within a split second, you read it the quick caption, you see the picture and you'll laugh your ass off and they.
They cut through the glass. You know what I mean? They just really, really captivate and it's so easy to convey your message, but then it's also a really fun and interesting way to build conduction. That's definitely what I go has done with his business with local ecology. And he's had a phenomenal success with means I'm actually going to try to create my first mean using super meme.ai today.
So I'm excited about that. I've got a couple of viruses. Yeah. So like if somebody like go from the platform for the first time, what do they need to do? I've already been there. I kinda know, but just share, you know, the staff, so what they have to do to use the tool. So the idea is to help people that needs to generate or create memes on a bit bigger scale.
Sometimes you just lack some creativity in either know what you want to say. W what joke to make. So if you go to the platform, you are left two options, you can pick. St gluts. So we've bought a lot of mean templates, which is just the pictures, or you can upload your own. So if you take in your own picture of yourself, maybe, or of your coordinates or whatever, you can upload that.
And then you select the theme. Now we've got a lot of themes at the moment. It's a lot like startup sales scripts. Yeah. So whole bunch of themes that you can select from, and then based on the theme and the selected. We generate a caption for that mean, and it's within the context of your selected theme.
So if you want to make, I mean, about crypto, for instance, then we will generate something about crypto based on the image that. And then we'll say, if you're not happy with it, AI generated caption, you can just change it and add your own caption. Yeah. Yeah. That's so cool. And then, okay, so there's this super neat part, but then you've got another little SAS product out there, like what to build or something like that.
And it's like, Hey dude, trying to find a new status. And I was playing around with it and it's so cool because he could just click a button and it gives you a pretty good idea of something that I don't know if it exists or not, even if it does exist and hasn't been scale. And so it kind of gives you an idea of something that you can actually go and work on.
How did that, how did you come up with that idea? Yeah, so my idea around that was to kind of be an extra site that can St track beak, the ship sauce, because most people late. They want to make money or they want to build a business, but you don't always have that idea. Well, that starting point, you know, what, what to create.
So I figured let's at this, this also an AI backed idea generation tool, and you just click it, click the button and you get an idea generated by and I'll give you the starting points of what to build. And I have the kits already to get started and save you a lot of time. So that. You can just get started in both your million dollar idea.
Okay, man, 11, Nico. So, you know, from, from our conversation, you don't have a computer software degree, but you've already got like a few different, you know, companies out there that you're working on. It seems like you're having a lot of fun. Eh, you know, who do you get advice from? Are there mentors that you have, do you take advice from anybody in that community?
I'm just trying to get an idea. Where do you get your inspiration, if at all, you know, where does that come from? Yeah, I get a lot of my inspiration from my wife because she is not very tech literate. And I say that with a lot of respect. So in, in S in a lot of ways that she opens my eyes to bad experiences or bad things.
People think all the good way to do things on the way, but I'll actually, this is what happens most of the time. If you are a developer, you understand certain things off how an app is boat. So you also at this underlying knowledge of what is possible and what's not possible. But then when somebody with very little technology, let's send it across to use it.
They actually have a completely different mindset. Using sec. And yeah, that has actually opened my eyes in a lot of ways to always be aware that people that I've never taken on. Actually use and enjoy things differently than people with that knowledge. It's also very important to get those people involved when building a product, you can't build a product for everyone and just have a lot of tech people working on it.
Yeah, absolutely. I I've made the mistake where in the past we built a product and we thought, well, if I was a user, this is how I would take the problem that you're probably representing like 50% of the users, right. You're missing really token is the product, you know, but because you're in it, you've done this before you feel like you've got a good grasp of what everybody's going to be concerned out.
They had a great thing that we're doing right now. We're releasing. A new product on Juro, but instead of just releasing it to all of our customers, we have it in beta and we're doing it in phases again, feedback. And we missed so much that our customers saw. And it's been a great experience, you know, there's like, you want to ship things out fast, but then at the same time you could do that.
But it's probably not going to be a good experience. So lessons learned. Definitely. Okay. Okay. So before we go quick question for you. What work question before we get into the fun questions, you know, what's something what's an important truth when it comes to developing new software that people might disagree with.
And that development can be like, you know, the time it takes to develop a new, a new sauce you know, product or service that's out there, or maybe what you believe that's important about growth, because obviously you're pretty creative when it comes to like driving traffic to your product, by using another idea, another website that helps generate ideas, but that flows traffic back into ships.
But, you know, what's, what's something that you probably disagree with with most people. So there's this spa knowledge that's being shared quite a lot of just ship it. So just build something and launch it and then move. I agree with that, but to a certain extent. So the first impression of your product is always the most important one.
When you just ship something with a lot of bugs and that's a bit bug buggy and shitty, that's the push new patient that people see and what happens most of the time is people say, Not that great. And they leave and then come back. So I agree with the wisdom of just ship it, but make sure that the first impression of your product is at least good enough to keep people captivated.
You can always improve from your first version. Definitely. But your first version needs to be good enough to keep people coming back. Okay. Gotcha. Gotcha. Thanks so much Nico, some fun questions. So the audience can get to know about you and your personality a little bit. Can you tell me what city do you think you would like to live in?
Well, that's an interesting question. I don't think I would like to live in a city. Ideally. I like the quiet and peace of countryside. So a small little town with a lot of mountains is your place. Wow. Okay. All right. Right. Okay. Other questions for you at time that you were somebody's hero. What did you do a time?
You were somebody's hero. Nico. Recently, we went to a river opting back two weeks ago on the. And then I talked to that, our boat tips, which was quite a frightening experience. We all had a good Friday. I think the one thing that made me the year of the day I'd have treats on, we stopped out of the water on your stop, this on the water.
Yeah. But a sleeping bag. So.
Yeah. Okay. All right. Well, Nico, thank you so much for being on the innovators can laugh. They enjoyed having you here, everybody listening where Nico, where can they learn more about I'm most active on Twitter? It's in w. Awkward thing to pronounce when you're not Afrikaans, but I assume the link will be on your side.
Yeah. Hope you have the show notes along with links to shifts in super me as well. Alright, thanks so much for joining us and everybody listening. You liked the episode. Feel free to tell other people about it. You and does subscribe to the show, right? Thanks for having me. Absolutely. What a fun conversation with Nico there's much here you can benefit from when it comes to focusing and building SAS products.
My favorite takeaways are that you don't need a computer software background to build a SaaS product. Don't try to do everything yourself and think creatively when it comes to marketing your product. This is something Nico did with creating the site. What to chip.com. Which gives developers in entrepreneurs, ideas on what to build a lot of visitors to that site learn about and visit ship ass.com.
This is a very creative way to generate more leads and raise awareness for your product. I've included links from this. On the ICO website and newsletter it's number 47. If you forgot. And if you enjoy this topic, feel free to give us a review and tell your friends about it as always. Thank you for listening.
Keep hustling out there. This is Eric signing off.
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