The Secret Blueprint to Build a SaaS MVP in 30 Days

If you are reading this blueprint, there is a fair chance you have a terrific idea for a new SaaS product or web app. Or you may want to develop a fantastic new tool, custom software, or mobile application for your business.

Building your own SaaS product from scratch is a thrilling and highly rewarding project. But, that said, it can also be a hazardous venture.

Typically, custom software development projects take up lots of time and money. And many a time, these projects fail to see the light of the day. But, in broad terms, designing and building a SaaS solution or software is no different than building a family home or one-time product.

Your product’s features are the result of hours of brainstorming, planning, and deciding. After that, you design, code, and test the product for months.

If you are fortunate enough not to change your mind halfway through (which would eventually lead to big delays with rewrites and redesigns), you will hopefully launch with excited users who love your product.

What’s more scary? How can you know whether your product will succeed after investing so much time and money? Is it going to be used and used by enough customers?

There is no guarantee of success in building a digital product.

What are the best ways to build your product without taking so much time and money out of your pocket?

That is an excellent question!

Startups involve a great deal of risk. Launching your product’s first version using a simple methodology drastically reduces the risk.

It’s time to reduce your scope to an initial MVP, a “minimum viable product,” instead of hiring expensive designers and developers and building a complete product that takes months.

Make sure your users find your idea valuable enough, and that they can use it in the simplest possible form.

To put it simply, develop a solution that maximizes efficiency and minimizes the amount of effort required.

You need to ask yourself:

  • Would it be possible to build an MVP version of my product within weeks rather than months?
  • Is there a core functionality I could focus on and leave all other features for a future release?
  • When it comes to your MVP, how simple should it be?
  • What is the minimum number of steps you should take to reduce your idea?
  • Does it take in excess of 30 days to launch a successful MVP?

Companies such as Intercom, Buffer, and Basecamp have all reduced their internal projects and products to those that can be shipped within six weeks. From that point onwards, recapitulate and improve the product in future versions.

Is it possible to build something in 30 days or less?

In some cases, products were built within a week. There were even some that were finished within one weekend.

The founders of all of these apps felt tempted to add more features. However, they never regret launching early and getting real customer feedback.

And you won’t either.

Following are a few examples of startups that have built functional MVPs within 30 days or less.

  • It took seven weeks for Buffer’s first version to be built. Currently, it generates $18.6 million per year
  • The first version of Egghead.io was built in two weeks. The company now generates $3.3 million a year
  • The first version of Baremetrics was built in seven days. There is now an annual run rate of $1.3 million
  • The first version of ProductHunt was built in less than a day. It was bought for $20 million.
  • WP Curve builds its first version in just one week. Later GoDaddy acquired it.

Is it really possible for your SaaS product to be built in 30 days?

Building a fully functional MVP in six weeks or less isn’t always possible.

Could it be that the problem you’re trying to solve is too complex? Or it may be that you do not have the skills or resources to build it on your own.

Nevertheless, it’s better to minimize the number of features in the first version of the product. In this way, you can hopefully get fairly binary feedback when you launch: either people love that one feature, or they don’t. Developing a single feature that people love is easier than launching a bunch of things and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

Since DFY SaaS has developed a fair share of SaaS solutions, we are familiar with this trend. Here, we’ll show you how to build an MVP for SaaS and gather user feedback as cost-effectively as possible. Furthermore, we will discuss how to evade common SaaS MVP challenges, show you how to speed up the development and explain how other companies have launched MVPs.

But where is our sense of manners? Our first step should be to introduce you to SaaS MVP.

When it comes to SaaS, what is the minimum viable product?

SaaS minimum viable products (MVPs) are simplified versions of the products you use to test your concept and collect feedback from customers. MVPs are far from final versions of your applications or even working prototypes. Instead, the purpose is to learn more about your audience and its needs based on validated research.

If that doesn’t convince you, check out these other reasons why businesses develop SaaS MVPs:

  • The effort is minimal. The focus of your SaaS team is exclusively on its critical functions. Obviously, fewer resources are required for this approach than for developing a fully functioning prototype.
  • It is a low-risk investment. This way, you can collect feedback from testers, customers, and stakeholders much more quickly. As a result, there is also less risk of losing time and money.
  • Funding is easier. MVPs can be used to demonstrate to investors the value of your future SaaS.
  • Allow more time for refinement. You can get critical information from your users by encouraging early adoption.

A SaaS MVP is a powerful tool for validating, promoting, and refining your app quickly, regardless of your budget. However, MVP development isn’t easy.

Common Challenges of Developing a SaaS MVP

A lot can go wrong when developing a SaaS MVP, but fortunately, you can avoid most of them. Here is how you can tackle the most common challenges of SaaS MVP development.

Resource management 

SaaS startups either do not have sufficient funds to hire an in-house team, lack the necessary skills for team function, or are short on resources to develop their product. As a result, many startups end up hiring freelance developers and designers using Upwork, Fiverr, or People Per Hour, only to realize that it wasn’t worth investing in freelancers.

  • Strained relation between designer & developer:

    Freelance designers and developers rarely get along too well. That’s because they come from two different backgrounds and have different mindsets and approaches to work. Since they have never worked together, each tries to impose their ideas or concepts that the other struggles to accept. So, rather than creating a seamless user experience, the duo end up completely deteriorating it.

  • Opting for the wrong tech stack:

    Using outdated or unproven technology means having an insecure solution with several security vulnerabilities. Non-technical founders often fall prey to this as they leave this crucial decision in the hands of the freelance developer working on their project. To make more money in less time, freelance developers either use ready-made/built-in solutions or leverage unproven technology. Unfortunately, it exposes your startup to threats like data leaks, poor user experience, and bugs. The worst part is you don’t know which code string is bombarding your application with bugs. People are unforgiving regarding user experience, so if your app fails to meet their expectations, it can badly hurt your reputation and sales.

  • Scalability is another issue:

    The scalability of a web app greatly depends on its tech stack. Thus, your tech must support the app as you scale. Unfortunately, when entrepreneurs choose to go with cheaper alternatives, which make sense to them at earlier stages, they splurge more money later. Either their development team has to rewrite the code to implement new features or build the app from scratch to make adding new functionalities possible.

  • It takes more than two to tango:

    You don’t just need a UI/UX designer and developer to build a SaaS MVP. You need more resources to deliver a seamless user experience and bug-free app. Depending on the nature of your MVP, the development team can vary. But typically, you need a frontend developer, backend developer, UI and UX designer, QA, and dedicated project manager to deliver a market-tested scalable product.

  • No ongoing support:

    Hiring freelancers means you won’t get ongoing support which is crucial to the long-term success of any SaaS solution. Sure, it’s a common practice among freelancers that no ongoing support is provided, but it kills your efforts to keep the users after launch.     

  • Slow time to market:

    When launching an MVP, timing is everything. You have spent an ample amount of time and resources validating an idea. Nailing the launch date, therefore, is crucial. Unfortunately, you will have bottlenecks without a professional remote software development team, which means product launch delays. In other words, a delay in the launch will narrow the window to sell your product at a peak price. This setback could be the direct result of frequent changes in the app or failure to allocate enough time to build the app.

On the other hand, a reliable and professional development agency like DFY SaaS helps its clients:

  • Help onboard a single specialist or a team of experts.
  • Get a complete project development roadmap.
  • Speed up product development.
  • Reduce overall project costs.
  • Gain more flexibility in terms of resources.
  • Improve the quality of the final product.
  • Leverage tech expertise that you don’t have.
  • Set accurate deadlines.
  • Ensure the availability of resources.
  • Monitor performances and ask for feedback frequently.

Another benefit of collaborating with DFY SaaS is that we offer on-demand engagement models, which means you can expand or reduce your team at any time. This way, you can enhance your product development team quickly and efficiently.

Feedback loops that don’t work

Based on the feedback, you may rework or drastically change your SaaS app. MVPs are often iterated several times before full development begins. However, it remains true that some companies cannot gather accurate feedback from their audiences.

You can collect data most effectively by creating a community for your early adopters. You can then learn more about them using various communication methods, such as forums, social media, email forms, surveys, and exploratory interviews. As you assess their experience, consider qualitative (user-friendliness) as well as quantitative (difficulty of the task).

Inept development methodologies 

When software is developed without following a set methodology, productivity can suffer, and costs can rise. Instead, companies can make the most of their resources by adopting iterative practices such as Agile.

During production, two-thirds of Agile adopters reported improved management, visibility, and goal alignment, according to the 2021 State of Agile report. As a result of implementing Agile, respondents also saw improvements in time-to-market (64% of respondents), team productivity and morale (60%), software quality (45%), and cost reduction (23%).

Several companies have also improved productivity by incorporating DevOps – practices emphasizing automation and continuous feedback. As per the State of DevOps Report released in 2021, adopters of high-performing DevOps have reduced change failure rates by three times and improved code deployments by 973 times. Approximately 75% of practitioners believe that DevOps is crucial to their organizations.

Security is not a priority

The SaaS application you are developing will likely collect personal information about your customers. Consequently, even a minor data leak can destroy your startup. Therefore, you should test external and internal risks in the MVP stage by implementing security solutions.

Maintaining protected data management systems requires following ISO/IEC 27001 security policies and frameworks. Furthermore, multifactor authentication, dynamic passwords, encryption, and role-based access control must be implemented. To make cybersecurity a part of SaaS development, experienced companies can use the DevSecOps methodology.

Challenges in scaling

If your cloud infrastructure isn’t scalable enough, too many concurrent users may cause performance issues. You must choose the right SaaS architecture to ensure your app can handle the demand.

Cost-effective infrastructures are available for SaaS apps through Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. With these platforms, you can scale resources as your MVP grows and features are added. They also include monitoring, analysis, and load-balancing tools.

Unreal budget estimates

It is more affordable to develop an MVP than a full product, but it is certainly not cheap. Although this is a very early project stage, many companies underestimate how much work it will require and go over budget anyway.

In our experience, creating an MVP for a SaaS startup costs between $25K and $80,000. That, too, is only when you have a team of experienced coders, seasoned managers, and an established workflow.

Your team’s location also affects development costs. It is important to consider pricing, available talent, and skill rates when choosing a remote team for outsourcing.

Ways to Accelerate SaaS MVP Development

Although MVPs are small and usually delivered quickly, there are a few tricks to develop them quickly.

Choosing the right tech stack is crucial

A project’s essential stack will depend mainly on its complexity, but we prefer the following:

  • In frontend development, JavaScript (JS) is the most commonly used language
  • In addition to its dynamic nature, Python works well with several high-level frameworks
  • The Node.js runtime can be used concurrently for web development and rapid client-side rendering
  • The React Native framework can be used to develop cross-platform mobile apps

It is vital to avoid making short-term decisions that result in long-term work, even if you decide to go with complex solutions. Rather, make sure your idea is technically valid at the bare minimum.

Factors that slow down MVP development

Any software application’s build time is significantly slowed by the “DVS”. Typically, it is referred to as “Delightfully Vague Specifications,” which means that you’d like to do this, but I don’t mind if it does that.

Putting jokes aside (maybe I am not kidding), the big problem that slows down everything, including your MVP, is constant changes to the Systems Requirements Specification (SRS) and the Business Requirements Definition (BRD).

A Business Requirements Document outlines the overall business requirements for an application. Thus, the near-term design and build are aligned with overall objectives and give context to the overall work. Nothing is worse than finding out that version one does not meet the requirements that version two is expected to meet.

Using the SRS, programmers can write code without making erroneous assumptions or making constant back-and-forth queries.

7 Steps to Building a SaaS MVP

An MVP helps smaller startups with limited resources learn what their audience thinks of their SaaS early on. But to create a successful MVP, you must conduct thorough market research and plan carefully. As a result, we divided the process into the following steps to simplify it and avoid bottlenecks.

  1. Determine the target audience

The fatal flaw of many SaaS startups is solving a problem that doesn’t exist. For this reason, it’s important to create a detailed customer persona before committing to development. Here are some questions to help you:

  • Can you tell me who your customers are?
  • What are their pains and desires?
  • Do their problems have enough validity and significance?
  • Do they use any specific devices?
  • Are there any current solutions available on the market?

Make sure you gather as much information as possible from people who fit your customer persona. Perhaps your project idea isn’t the best option if you don’t have an audience. However, don’t spread yourself too thin if your audience has many pain points. Instead, decide how to solve a single specific problem.

  1. Analyze the market and your competitors

Approximately 19% of unsuccessful startups missed their window of opportunity because they didn’t pay enough attention to their competitors. To build a SaaS MVP, you should thoroughly research the market and the competition. Consider the following:

  • Does your market demand a new solution, and how large is it?
  • Are you primarily targeting a specific area of the country?
  • How do you comply with the laws and regulations applicable to your target industry and location?
  • What are your competitors doing to solve the same problem?
  • What is the perception of your competitors among your target audience?
  • In what ways will your app make a difference?
  • What are the revenue model and pricing strategy of your competitors?

You should study successful and unsuccessful startups in your niche to understand what works and what doesn’t. Your indirect competitors should also be considered – SaaS products that try to solve the problem differently. You can find direct and indirect competitors using platforms such as Crunchbase and Product Hunt.

  1. Identify the core features

Many founders either stuff their MVP with unnecessary features or make it too complex. Bear in mind you don’t need a fully functional product. So, try to keep the functionalities to a bare minimum as you just need to test the product viability.

The best way to chart the list of functionalities is by using prioritization techniques. This way, you will only add essential features for your MVP. First, create a table consisting of two columns, one depicting must-have initiatives and the other showcasing secondary initiatives.

Apply the following criteria to filter out features:

  • Would your SaaS product be able to function without this feature?
  • As determined during the research phase, does your target audience want it?
  • Is it able to solve a critical issue?
  • How will it affect your revenue?
  • Does your product vision include this feature?

List features that meet these criteria among your must-have initiatives. All other features should be deferred to future versions.

It might be necessary to manage documents, clients, and invoices to ensure regulatory compliance with a SaaS MVP for a healthcare SaaS platform. However, time tracking, customer relationship management, and marketing expansion won’t be necessary right away.

  1. Decide on a business model

One in seven startups fails because they lack a viable business model to scale. That’s why it’s essential to determine your pricing strategy and revenue model early on.

Subscription-based revenue is the most common revenue model for SaaS companies. In addition to converting more customers, monthly recurring payments incur fewer initial costs. Furthermore, incremental income generally results in higher customer lifetime value.

Your SaaS can be priced in one of the following ways:

  • Standard monthly payments with a flat rate.
  • Pricing is based on multiple criteria sets.
  • Charges are based on users added to an account by the company.
  • Price based on usage – based on data consumption metrics.
  • Personalized payment models and feature packages for each client.
  • Pay for additional features after purchasing a full-featured SaaS version.

In 2021, Lahti University of Technology reported that 54% of SaaS companies used tiered pricing, and 27% developed their hybrid strategy.

Market demand and competitors should be taken into account when determining the price. Do not launch your MVP at the lowest price possible, only to later increase the price after you release the full version. The best way to learn how customers react to your business model is to mimic it closely.

You can also increase your product’s visibility by offering free services. Nevertheless, you should carefully decide what parts of your SaaS you should provide for free. For example, Freemium models generate leads but paid models with a trial generate twice as many conversions from free to paid accounts.

  1. Develop a roadmap for your product

All project requirements should be analyzed and documented by your engineers, architects, and designers before development begins:

  • APIs, frameworks, and subsystems for the MVP (technical stack, frameworks, and APIs).
  • During the coding phase, design specifications must include key features, the UI, the application logic, and how to implement requirements.
  • Assessment of your application’s architecture and infrastructure in the cloud.
  • Identifying, evaluating, and preventing security risks.
  • A post-deployment document to assist maintenance and support teams.

Furthermore, you can plan MVP development for executives, marketers, and customers. Make sure to keep key stakeholders in the loop when it comes to short-term and long-term goals, success criteria, and progress metrics. For example, your sales and marketing people must chart out plans for prioritized channels. Also, outlaying a roadmap will help you keep your customers interested until the launch.

  1. Market your SaaS before the launch

Sure, your development team will fix the bugs for you. But to know whether your MVP truly meets users’ expectations, it must be tested by a sufficient number of people. For this reason, you must showcase your solution to ideal customers, potential investors, and influencers before the launch.

A perfect way to accomplish this goal is by creating a landing page or video that shows the target audience’s problems and illustrates how your MVP solve them better than other solutions on the market. However, it only works when you communicate your idea accurately and straightforwardly.

Take a leaf out of Dropbox’s book. The leading file hosting service provider created a three-minute video to explain its concept. With this small investment, the company not only validated its idea but also grew the number of beta testers from 5,000 to 75,000 in a quick time.

  1. Deploy your MVP to gain user feedback

Post-launch is equally as crucial for your SaaS MVP as pre-launch. It helps you verify your assumptions regarding the market and customers. But it requires you to create a tight feedback loop with your users to find out:

  • If your SaaS MVP has enough demand to justify full-scale development.
  • What do users adore and hate about your product?
  • If your solution aligns with your business model.
  • If your pricing structure is better than the competition.

During deployment testing, your development team must get rid of all the bugs and errors. Additionally, you must ensure that your system can handle excessive loads, real user scenarios, and system updates.

Of course, it’s a great deal of work. But keep your cool because even if your MVP fails to resonate with your ideal customers, you can always start afresh or use the insights to create the next iteration of the MVP. Once you are able to fix the core of your SaaS application, you can sanction full-scale development.

Struggling to Get Your SaaS Idea Off the Ground

DFY SaaS can help you avoid costly pitfalls by building in the right way from the start, so you can go the extra mile and increase your chances for success.

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