Subscription-based Software (SaaS) is the Panacea for Almost Anything

It does not matter what the challenges with building a company are; software is (almost) always the solution. 

At the start of September 2020, I set out to build Zluri with 2 of my co-founders. Every time we encountered a problem statement, there was always a SaaS solution to help solve our problem. Felt like someone in the world thought ahead of us all the time. Their work helped speed ours. The best part? To use those SaaS tools, we did not have to shell out a fortune. The low cost made us favor the buy decision in the 'build vs. buy' argument. 

In less than ten weeks of company formation, we see ourselves using more than 28 software subscriptions, and we have only five employees, including three co-founders, and our product is not released yet!

Employee: Subscription Software ratio is now almost 1:6. I will be tracking how this ratio skews in the months to come as we expand the number of employees and customers.

Like my tech co-founder would say, it is time we should have a 'software hiring, on-boarding and exit' plan just like a 'talent-hiring, on-boarding and exit' plan that has been in existence for a long time :) 

Before sharing the software stack that we have deployed or about to deploy, I want to share how we make software buying decisions in the current boot-strapped stage of zluri.com,

  1. Software that follows the freemium model based on either employee size or API calls or the number of active users is our first choice. It helps us spend $ only when we scale. 

  2. Software that is part of the start-up ecosystem and offers a time-based, revenue-based, or funding-based discount is our second choice. 

  3. Software that follows a 14-day or a 30-day trial-based approach is our third choice. 

  4. Software that does not allow any trial but wants us to pay just after a demo to use it is not a choice unless we have used the software in the past, and buying decision is a no-brainer. 

From org stack to tech stack, the details are here. 

Organization Stack

  1. Communication - Slack (Freemium)

  2. Email Suite - GSuite (Previously used)

  3. Expense Management - Zoho (Freemium)

  4. Video conferencing for calls under 40 minutes - Zoom (Free tier)

Marketing and Growth Stack

  1. Inbound Marketing – Hubspot (Start-up plan) 

  2. B2B Database – ZoomInfo (Previously used) 

  3. Prospect and Talent Reach out - LinkedIn Sales Navigator (Previously used) 

  4. Keyword overview and SEO – SemRush (Previously used) 

  5. Website Analytics – Google Analytics (Free)

  6. Adwords – Google Adwords (Pay per use) 

  7. Content Management System – Netlify (Freemium)

  8. Content Correction – Grammarly (Previously used)

  9. Customer conversation – Intercom (Start-up plan)

HR Stack

  1. ATS and HRMS - Freshteams (Freemium)

  2. Centralized Document Management - Revv (Freemium)

  3. ESOP Management - Lets Venture (Freemium)

  4. Healthcare for Employees - Plum (Start-up plan)

  5. Employee On-boarding – Trello (Freemium)

Product Management Stack

  1. Product Management – ProductBoard (Free trial)

  2. Task Management – Asana (Freemium)

Tech Stack

  1. Project Management – Airtable (Freemium)

  2. Appointment Scheduling – Calendly (Freemium)

  3. Authentication – Auth0 (Start-up plan)

  4. Database – MongoDB (Freemium) 

  5. API – Postman (Previously used)

  6. Tool building – Retool (Freemium + Start-up plan)

  7. Application Monitoring – Sentry (Freemium) 

  8. Email notification – Sparkpost (Previously used) 

  9. Code review – Github (Freemium plan)

At the current stage of our growth (or should I say the inception stage?), we set up these software apps. This is not even including the sales stack, customer success stack, and the billing stack that by itself will have 15+ SaaS apps at the minimum. I can already foresee the number of software that we will be using in the next six months to one year and all the hassles that come with managing so many software on my emails and slack! 

But I got to agree on one thing. If we had not taken this approach of moving to SaaS for our product building and company building, we would have conservatively taken thrice the time to reach where we have got now.

In sum, software-first thinking to problem-solving has been empowering to us as an early-stage company, and I can only imagine how world-changing it could be for companies more prominent than ours.