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The SaaS Podcast

Freemium Model for SaaS: Lessons from a Startup Founder – with Sam Dolbel [239]

Sam Dolbel

Freemium Model for SaaS: Lessons from a Startup Founder

Sam Dolbel is the co-founder and CEO of SINC, a SaaS product, and a mobile app that helps companies manage their mobile workforce by taking care of timesheets, location tracking, staff scheduling, and job tracking.

In 2017, Sam was running a small business in New Zealand. He had 10 employees and found himself spending several hours every week managing payroll.

He reached out to a friend and asked him if he could help him create a spreadsheet that might help him save some time and make dealing with payroll easier.

Sam's friend suggested that they build an app. It sounded like a great idea. The only trouble was that his friend (who was a mechanical engineer) didn't know how to code either.

And at the time, his friend was filming a documentary in Africa. But he had some time, so he started learning how to code while living in a tent in Tanzania.

A couple of months later, the app was ready and Sam was using it in his business. Once they realized the value of the app, they decided to join forces and launch it as a product.

In this interview, we talk about:

  • The lessons Sam and his co-founder (whose name is also Sam) learned from starting out with a free product, building a large user base and then charging.
  • How they developed and refined a freemium pricing model. And how they figured out which features to build that customers were willing to pay more for.
  • Why they joined an accelerator in Bahrain and eventually relocated their company there. And surprisingly, how that might be a great location for your SaaS business.

Today, SINC has over 1,000 paying customers and the founder's journey is a really interesting story. I hope you enjoy it.

Transcript

Read Full Transcript

Omer Khan [0:10]
Welcome to another episode of The SaaS Podcast. I'm your host Omer Khan. And this is the show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies and insights to help you build, launch and grow your SaaS business. In this episode, I talked to Sam Dolbel, the co-founder and CEO of SINC, a SaaS product that helps companies manage their mobile workforce by taking care of timesheets location tracking, staff scheduling and job tracking. In 2017, Sam was running a small business in New Zealand he had 10 employees and found himself spending several hours every week managing payroll. He reached out to a friend and asked him if he could help him create a spreadsheet that might help him save some time and make dealing with payroll easier. Sams friends suggested That they built an app and that sounded like a great idea. The only trouble was that his friend who was a mechanical engineer didn't know how to code either. And at that time, his friend was actually filming a documentary in Africa. But he had some time. So believe it or not, he started learning to code while living in a tent in Tanzania. A couple of months later, the app was ready. And Sam was using it in his business. And once they realized the value of the app, they decided to join forces, launch a company and start selling this as a product. In this interview, we talked about the lessons Sam and his co-founder whose name is also Sam, learned from starting out with a free product, building a large user base and then charging. We also talk about how they developed and refined a freemium pricing model and how they figured out which features to build that customers were willing to pay more for. And we also talked about why they joined an accelerator in Bahrain and eventually relocated their company there, and surprisingly, how that might actually be a great location for your SaaS business. Today, SINC has over 1000 paying customers, and the founders journey is a really interesting story. So I hope you enjoy it. Real quick before we get started. Firstly, don't forget to grab a free copy of The SaaS Toolkit which will tell you about the 21 essential tools that every SaaS business needs, you can download your copy by going to theSaaSpodcast.com. Secondly, enrollment for SaaS Club Plus is currently open. Plus is our online membership and community for new early-stage SaaS founders. One of the benefits of joining is private coaching with me as a member you get access to our private messaging, which only you and I can see. You can ask me questions, get my help to figure out the next steps or solve problems or just use it as a way to get accountability. Now I'll stop offering this benefit when we're filled all the spots, but if you join now, you'll keep this benefit as long as you're an active plus member. You can get more information by going to SaaSclubplus.com. And you can also request an invitation To join from them. Okay, let's get into the interview. Sam, welcome to the show.

Sam Dolbel [3:03]
My pleasure to be here.

Omer Khan [3:05]
So do you have a favorite quote something that inspires and motivates you?

Sam Dolbel [3:09]
Yeah, look, I'm not a huge quote, guy but there's one thing that stuck with us since we began this journey. And that was Steve Blanks and mantra about getting out of the building and talking to customers, and the whole customer discovery thing and driving product development. And while most of our users are in the United States, and I can always be there myself, sometimes I have to do that virtually instead of physically, it's really driven the the product to where it is today.

Omer Khan [3:35]
So tell us about SINC. What is the product do? Who's it for? And what's the main problem that you're helping to solve?

Sam Dolbel [3:45]
SINC is a multi-platform SaaS product that helps construction companies gather the critical labor data from the work side and bring it back into the office. And this data is then used to run payroll very accurately and more importantly, showed detailed insight into job profitability at both the project level and also the cost code level. Now the thing is about construction companies as labor is often the biggest variable in their business and we give companies the insight they need to bid competitively, and ultimately drive profitability in their business.

Omer Khan [4:19]
Got it? Okay. So let's set the scene here and help just the listeners understand, like, how your business is set up, because it's a pretty unique situation that you have. you're targeting customers primarily in North America, you and your co-founder are originally from New Zealand. As you told me earlier, you've kind of been building this business across nine different countries, or working from nine different countries. And now you guys are based in Bahrain.

Sam Dolbel [5:00]
That's correct. So yeah, it's been a bit of a windy journey to get here. Originally, what happened is I was running a company in New Zealand and I had a real problem with payroll. So, you know, at the point, when we decided to do this, I had about 10 employees, and we used to pay them weekly. And I used to spend probably half a day every week, messing around with, with payroll, working out how many hours everyone had worked, making sure that everything was accurate. You know what it's like, employees, everyone's trying to get one up on the boss. And I actually reached out to my son, longtime associate to St. Matthews to initially see if he could build me something, you know, try and work together some different systems, maybe something in Excel that could just reduce the amount of time I was spending doing this. And, you know, it took a look at and he said, why don't we build an app. So basically, he taught himself how to do that. And within a few months, we had a very basic version, and we're using it inside the company, and we had this really sort of tight feedback loop. And once we started to see how much value it was bringing us, we decided to turn it into a startup. And so it like you said he taught himself. So it was he was a developer, but it was he learned the kind of the app development piece, or he just, he kind of hadn't coated before. I'm not at all. So Sam's actually a mechanical engineer by trade. And he's been my sort of right-hand man throughout a number of different businesses. And our whole thing is like, if we see something, we'll just teach ourselves how to do it. So we taught ourselves SEO through these businesses and how to build websites. And at the time, he was actually filming a documentary in Africa. And he taught himself how to code inside a tent in Tanzania. Kidding, funnily enough, yeah. So it's really, really unique, unique story, and it quickly whipped up a very basic chat app following some tutorials and you should know this the stuff isn't too hard. So we started having all these grandiose ideas about Everything would want to throw at this product. And obviously, like, reality kicked in after some time, we realized how complicated everything was. But you know, we got, we got the first product out there inside my business. And it was really great because we didn't have any pressure from customers. And we were able to, we were able to deal with bugs very quickly.

Omer Khan [7:18]
So SINC is a mobile app. So you have an iOS version, an android version. And then there's a web app as well. And you're doing six figures in ARR. And how many customers do you have?

Sam Dolbel [7:36]
We're knocking on the door of 1000 paying customers, but we have many more free customers. So we had there's a free version of the application. And that's, that's been our business model so far.

Omer Khan [7:47]
Okay. Yeah, I want to talk about that in a little while. So when did you guys launch this business?

Sam Dolbel [7:53]
Well, we, like I said, about the start of 2017 is when we decided to build it for my own company. We really turned it into a startup, probably about June of 2017, when we released it on the App Store and the Play Store. And what we did is we just, we wanted to get as much feedback as possible from people because we had our own ideas and what we'd known from our own businesses, but we want to know what what everyone wanted in terms of features. The idea was, if we just made it free, we'd get more users in the door. And that just worked. We got one guy download that and then another one, and they they started to get so much value from it, that they just spread it amongst their friends.

Omer Khan [8:32]
So was it a freemium business model or, or just free?

Sam Dolbel [8:35]
That was just free there was there was we didn't get around. We didn't get around to building a payment system until about June of 2018. So up until that point, that was just free, as many users as you had. And all we expected in return was for you to you know, take a phone call every now and then and talk us about the product.

Omer Khan [8:56]
So was that the main way that you thought dating the idea

Sam Dolbel [9:03]
coming we'd already validated inside the business. And we knew we knew there was a big need for it. And I had actually been a customer of some of our competitors in my last business. But what I'd learned from that was there was nothing on the Mac in the market that really offered very simple to use powerful software, it was either too simple and didn't have the features you need or it was just overcomplicated. And the thing is that a piece of software like this, like here that the customers, the business owner, or one of the business administrators, but the real users of the employees, and if you don't get buy-in from the employees, the whole thing falls apart. And I knew from experience, you know, hiring very low level, low skilled employees that you know, you can implement a system like this. And if you have one or two guys who don't quite get how to use it and don't do it properly, the whole thing sort of falls apart, okay.

Omer Khan [9:55]
So making the product available for free was a great way to spread the word, find users get feedback, further validate the idea. But it also turned out to be something that caused you some problems later on.

Sam Dolbel [10:18]
I wouldn't say problems. I mean, the free users did us a lot of favors. It helped us gain some traction inside the app stores who have the usage velocity. And but what we found is that we just started to really over-optimize for free users with the idea that eventually they'll become bigger or they'll see the value in additional features, and upgrade but we just found like after a while, that, you know, if someone comes in and uses something like this for free, they really just expect to continue to use it for free. So that was the problem we had. And the other thing about gathering too much customer feedback from people who do not expect to pay for the product. you're optimizing for the wrong sort. customer. So we didn't make any really bad development decisions. But we had to filter out a lot of feature requests that weren't really going to help us in the long run. So once we started getting paying customers, that's when we started to get really useful product information.

Omer Khan [11:16]
Okay, and so you guys focus on the construction industry. But when you made the product, you just put it in the app stores, presumably, you are getting people from all different kinds of industries using the product.

Sam Dolbel [11:30]
Yes, so. So the thing is that we always say that, like the end goal was always to build something that was the very best in Job Costing. So not only knowing how many hours your team is working, but what particular jobs they're working on, and what aspects inside those jobs. So they're known as cost codes, but they're essentially jobs within jobs. So if you look at a construction company, you might have you know, three or four different jobs on the go. You might have some guys on one job, but you want to know why. job with them that job they're doing. But they might have spent a lot of time framing and you want to be able to spit out those reports at the end of the week and have that visibility. But to do that, we had to get the time and attendance piece, right? It sounds simple, but it ended up being very complicated to do over multiple devices and time zones that we had to get the time the tendons but so we were essentially just marketing to general blue-collar companies who have an hourly workforce. And we ended up with probably, if we looked at it today, we probably have about 60% of our user base at construction companies, maybe another 10%, a cleaning companies. And the rest are just every vertical that you could imagine because anyone who has an hourly workforce can find value in the time and attendance. But the thing is about time and attendance also is if you look in the App Store, there's a lot of a lot of very simple applications that on the surface essentially do the same thing. And that's what a fixed the willingness to pay.

Omer Khan [12:58]
So how do you differentiate yourself if people are, you know, they have an abundance of choice and an App Store. And a lot of those products are free.

Sam Dolbel [13:09]
Yeah. So that that's a problem. What's not a problem? It's something that we were dealing with for the last part of last year. Building the job costing side of the company is how we differentiate ourselves. But it turns out that that was more work than everything we've done up until that point. So we went through this period, in the last six months of last year, we were just the whole team was working on Job Costing. And we just got an we couldn't really change the messaging because the new features weren't there. And we just really dug our heels in and just got the new features out as quick as possible. And we launched them. I think on the 24th we I think we were still launching it on Christmas Day, but no one had a day off on Christmas Day. And now we essentially gone to market with them

Omer Khan [13:53]
Sound like a scrooge.

Sam Dolbel [13:55]
Well, luckily being in Bahrain, it wasn't so much of a problem for the for the workforce. And then we just wanted to Scott the basically going to market for the first time with a product that we set out to build two and a half years ago.

Omer Khan [14:09]
So when did you start charging for the product? And tell me about, like, how you sort of transitioned from free to paying and what, if any issues that's that's caused?

Sam Dolbel [14:23]
Well, we started off, like I said, about halfway through 2018. And we just we put a paid tier on for customers who had more than five users. And even up until now, like we're rethinking this at the moment, but up until the point that we are recording this podcast, we give the product away on a limited capacity to companies who have five users or less. So the idea initially was these companies will get bigger and become paid, which turns out not to be maybe we're a little bit optimistic on that one. But it's all about paying customers in this industry, then high growth companies And they, you know, most of them don't want to be growth companies that typically, for small operators who, you know, they might be like a handyman business, you you'll have, you know, the owner still goes out on the job, they still have the tools, you know, have two or three helpers. It's not the sort of thing that's going to get really large. And then look, some some people have, we've had guys that started off on the free tier, and I've got 100 employees now, but it's not so common. Okay, that makes sense.

Omer Khan [15:27]
Okay, so this, this kind of idea of, we're going to have this free plan and these companies and customers are going to grow and then they're going to stop paying us didn't sort of pan out as you sort of understood what was going on with what type of customers you had. So today, it's like if you have five or more than five users or employees, then you're paying to use the product.

Sam Dolbel [15:51]
Correct. You have to pay a fee if you have if you have over five users, you have no choice but to pay, or at least go on to a free trial, one of the paid plans

Omer Khan [15:58]
and tell me a little bit about your pricing like how did you kind of figure out, like, if we look at the pricing plan today, it starts from $14.99 a month is that that's not per user. So that's if you've got,

Sam Dolbel [16:15]
So that's base that's per company. So that's up to seven employees.

Omer Khan [16:19]
Wow, that's really cheap.

Sam Dolbel [16:21]
We're too cheap at the moment. So the thing is, we had to get the job costing side of things finished, and make sure it was stable and people were happy with it. And the idea is now we will begin to gradually put that price up. The problem was when we would just a time and attendance application there. You know, there's some there's some really great companies out there who are doing it really well who charged more than us. But we just felt that like, you know, we weren't there on a feature to feature basis and we just felt a bit uncomfortable charging the same as what a much more established company would. That was the idea but now now that we have these features that not a lot of companies do and some aspects, we are doing better, we can happily put that price up where we just want to do it. We just want to do it gradually.

Omer Khan [17:04]
How did you figure out? What were the most important features that you should build? or invest your your time and money in? Was this based on you as the founders and the knowledge of, of these types of businesses? Or were you spending a lot of time talking to customers and trying to figure out what more they needed.

Sam Dolbel [17:28]
So we had our own hypothesis based on the companies that we'd run. And we really validated that by spending a lot of time talking to users. Now, during the first 18 months when it was just my business partner and I, he was writing all the codes. So my main job was talking to the customers and I will spend up to three or four hours a day just on the phone, calling up the users and just just talking about what they want and how they using the product what they would like to see and if we get enough interest of a certain feature, then we will prioritize it.

Omer Khan [18:04]
And so what were you hearing about the sort of the, what was it the costing,

Sam Dolbel [18:09]
the other job costing was something that we get asked for multiple times a day and have been, for the last sort of 18 months, it was the by far the highest requested feature. And in a lot of ways it was, it was the difference between using us or not like we'd have people come in, and you know, they'd love the product, but they'd say, you know, we need to do Job Costing. And we just couldn't help them. So they would leave. But it was by far the most requested. And I had a lot of insight into that from my previous business, I had this exact same problem with you almost, to do proper job costing, you almost need a full-time person doing it, you almost need a full-time admin person, associating those hours to specific jobs. And not every small business could afford something like that. But essentially, everyone needs it because in these industries like how these companies grow, as they just take on as many jobs as they possibly can. Essentially work out how to do them when they roll around. And in these blue-collar industries, mostly in the construction field, how you solve a lot of these problems when you take on too much work is throwing extra labor at it. And it can really get out of hand. Because in the moment, you're just trying to keep the customers happy and do a great job. But at the end of the month, or at the end of the quarter, and you're wondering, you know, where all the profit when you wish that you had been accurately costing those jobs and working out with it labor component was going,

Omer Khan [19:30]
Okay. So tell me about like, what have you done to? Like, how did you go from zero to close to 1000 customers? What's been the main driver?

Sam Dolbel [19:43]
Well, what people like about it is it's complicated software done in a very intuitive, easy to use way. And that, as you know, and as your listeners will know, it's actually a really hard thing to get right. We've just been very focused on making sure that you know, any level employee could pick up the application and just intuitively know how to use it. We have very little onboarding. I mean, there's obviously a whole range of support documentation. But you know, most people would just be able to pick it up and use it. We don't want to make the software too complicated. And that's the number one bit of feedback that we get from our customers. And the other thing is that we've got a real passion for making very transparent fear software for employees. Because the thing is, when you start getting into these sort of things, there's a lot of stuff out there that can make it very easy for sort of bad actor employees to manipulate staff hours without them knowing when everything lives in the cloud, and no one has visibility into the hours. And no one knows whether the bosses as trimmed a few hours off your paycheck every week. So we make sure that every change in the system is communicated to both parties, which we get a lot of pushback from customers on but you know, those The sort of customers that we want.

Omer Khan [21:01]
So if I'm an employer and I'm using the app, and you know, I kind of look at the hours that my employees of work tonight, for whatever reason I decide I'm going to change that number they get notified,

Sam Dolbel [21:15]
Correct in either there's not as notified. And the other thing is that it's a really touchy subject with employees is the whole privacy thing because we track locations now, some applications will force employees to have location permission switched on before they can clock in for work. That's something that we fundamentally disagree with. And something that we haven't done like we leave the location tracking aspect of sinkers turned off by default for everyone and they have to turn it on for it to start working.

Omer Khan [21:44]
Okay. But like where did these customers come from? Was this basically, you know, you're marketing to the free users you already had and finding customers there or were you doing different types of outreach or models to find paying customers.

Sam Dolbel [22:02]
No, it was purely like in the beginning, it was purely companies that were over five and over five users. There was there were no additional features, the only difference between being free and being paid was having over five users. Okay? And so once you added the ability to pay for the product a year later, what did you do you just you just sent an email out to users to let them know that we didn't even do that. We just turned it on. And we got our first paying customer and we were very happy. And they just would set a steady trickle since then. We've only just started marketing to our free user base on the second week of February, and we wanted to wait till everyone was back after Christmas. So we just we we've really just been focused solely on building a great product and not so much on the on the growth side and that's, that's essentially changed in a bit a month ago.

Omer Khan [22:53]
Okay, so you started out as a free product completely free. There wasn't even a way to pay. Then you added the payment component to that, and effectively became a freemium business model. And the growth that we're talking about here, close to 1000 customers, has all been organic through people finding the product through one of the app stores, or potentially Google, and then some of them signing up for paid plan.

Sam Dolbel [23:21]
Yeah, I couldn't tell you exactly how many people come in through the app stores, but a great deal of them. It's just really organic word of mouth. We don't have any official referral system inside of the product, but people just we get comments when you can read all the all the reviews on the Play Store. But, you know, like, in the early days, we were getting comments like, you know, where's this been? My whole life, you know, just saved me so much time, so much money, and they just naturally tell their other friends who are running small businesses. I believe that's been our biggest driver.

Omer Khan [23:48]
So tell me a little bit about like, talking to customers three, four hours a day. I don't have many people doing that. So And also I, I mean, I'm curious, like, how do you kind of set up the conversation with customers? Like, a lot of the times when you use a product and you have somebody contacting you or wanting to get you on the phone? it's usually because they want to figure out how they can upsell you something else.

Sam Dolbel [24:20]
Sure. I know you mean to. The thing is, I love small businesses, I love talking about it. I love hearing about how businesses are going. So you know, I'll typically like it will usually start with, you know, they might start with a support request, and I may there sometimes I'll jump on the live chat. And if I see an interesting support requests, then I'll ask them if they have if they have time for a quick chat. And I'll just talk about how they're using the product, obviously would love to get them on the paid tiers. And quite often we managed to do that on the phone call, but it's certainly not the reason for the call. And I think I make that pretty clear at the beginning of the conversation so people feel a bit more comfortable. They really appreciate it as well.

Omer Khan [25:02]
So you, are you reaching out to people who are just us on the free plan? Or are you also having these conversations with people who are already customers and paying for the product?

Sam Dolbel [25:10]
Both both, we get more valuable insight out of paying customers. So we were really interested, like, if I see a company who's got, you know, they've got 30 employees, and they're heavily using the product, I really want to find out what they like about it. And what they'd like to see improved in will put a lot of weight into those phone calls in terms of what we build next and how we prioritize things. Because they are our ideal customer.

Omer Khan [25:34]
Yeah. And and presumably, if someone's paying for the product, they're more engaged. They're clearly getting some value from it. And then I think in most cases, I think if a paying customer is giving you feedback that has more waiting than somebody who's using the product for free, yes, it's interesting. A lot of the times the ones the people who are using their product for free seemed to be the most vocal about all the things they need.

Sam Dolbel [26:00]
Then suddenly have the most support requests, I can tell you that quite often it's the guys who are paying us the most that you never hear from.

Omer Khan [26:08]
Yeah, yeah, I can see that. That said, have you ever thought about like, you know, not having a free plan, like moving away from the freemium model, and maybe just making trunking and giving people a trial, and then after that, they have to sign up and pay?

Sam Dolbel [26:22]
That is the direction that we are now going, because we're now targeting construction companies, and, you know, not large construction companies, but not two or three person operations. And we give so much value that, you know, it's more than theater pay, and we can charge a lot more than what we're charging at the moment. So the way we look at it as we've just been in product mode for all this time. Now, we're in growth mode, and we are tackling a different sort of customer and we will gradually move away from the free version and maybe just try to put people into a into a free trial.

Omer Khan [26:57]
Yeah, you know, I think a good lesson here. For people listening, who maybe are starting out, we're trying to figure out their pricing is that don't overthink it too much when you start out, because your pricing on launch is never going to be perfect. And it's going to continue to evolve. And even, you know, companies doing hundreds of millions of dollars a year are still continuously testing their pricing and optimizing and figuring out how to how to kind of reconfigure that. So in many ways, I think, you know, you guys are good example of that, where it's like, Yeah, well, we launched and we didn't even we didn't worry about pricing because we didn't have any pricing or, you know, you can pay for the product.

Sam Dolbel [27:50]
Correct. It's just important. I think just to charge something. I don't think it matters what that price point is because as you say, it's going to change as the company evolves, but just That validation that people will put on a credit card and they get that much value out of it. It's got to be worth something in those early days.

Omer Khan [28:06]
Yeah, I agree with you. I think that's that's in many ways is the key is like, rather than trying to figure out what is my perfect pricing, figure out, is there a, you know, reasonable number, or you know, that you could ask people to pay? And, you know, generally I sort of say, it's like, hey, whatever your prices, are you able to either demonstrate or kind of feel good that you know, the value that you're delivering your customers run that prices, you know, three x five x, whatever they're paying, and that's probably good enough place to start your pricing and get out there. So let's talk about Bahrain. How did you guys end up there? Why have you decided to you set up that country as a base for your SaaS business when all your customers are in North America?

Sam Dolbel [28:56]
That's a funny story. So when it was just saying I working on this and we were doing it remotely all around the world. It's quite a lonely thing to do, you know, like we and we get sort of got fixated on the idea that we needed to join an accelerator. And we were both in Hong Kong at the time, and we went to a Expo there. And we had a booth. And we simply wrote on our sign that we're looking for an accelerator. And from there, we ended up meeting, we end up meeting a few that were interested in us, but we came across a booth for startup Bahrain. And, you know, neither of us could pinpoint Bahrain on the map. And it just seemed like, such a crazy place to base a software company that's targeting the US. But when we started to look into it, there were all these government subsidies available to help small businesses here. And we were very quickly put on to a government agency here called Tamkeen. It's essentially the the labor fund and they will subsidize 50% of the salaries of your local employees and all sorts of other things like we, you know, we ended up sitting a fund fund fully speak [inuadible] and they picked up half the price of the purchase costs. And what that enabled us to do in those early days when we had very little MRR some very modest funding was just do a lot with a small amount of money and just be really scrappy. So we got put in touch with an accelerator here called Flat6Labs, who is an experienced accelerator operating all over the MENA region. And they are actually funded by that same program, Tamkeen, and they made a moderate investment in us for an equity position and put us through their program. And through that program, we ended up raising a pre-seed financing round of around 300,000 through some very good investors called the Dubai Angel Network over there in Dubai. So it ended up being really really worthwhile and we and we love being here. The downside is the timezone difference. So I work very funny hours, we essentially start working at about one in the afternoon and work until the early hours of the morning. But it's quite good because we do spend a lot of time in the States. So we're, we're accustomed to the timezone, and there's no jet lag going between the the two regions.

Omer Khan [31:22]
So you get some financial incentives from the government there. If you're hiring local people, what's the talent market like out there? And how easy or hard is it been to find the kinds of people you need?

Sam Dolbel [31:37]
We haven't had any trouble. I mean, we we've found five very good team members here. But what we did is we pay a little bit more than what most technology companies would hear. And the fact that we're working with technology that's really exciting to these guys. They're very happy to do it. So we sort of get the pick of the bunch. I don't know if you'd be able to scale large development team here and we wouldn't want to like our plan is to have distributed teams, we'd probably bring this team up to maybe eight or nine people. And that would be about what we would want here.

Omer Khan [32:12]
Okay. And so in terms of setup your setup as a Delaware C Corp. Does it complicate things by, you know, having that setup being in Bahrain, having customers in America? Has there been any kind of challenges with that kind of setup? Or is is it easier than it sounds?

Sam Dolbel [32:28]
It sounds so complicated, but we've just done it. I mean, we had to set up another company here in the kingdom to access these benefits. And it's a little bit of a complicated process to do that. But we haven't found any complications. I mean, we set up the Delaware company with with [inaudible], and that was reasonably easy. Our investors invest into that company. You know, we don't have any trouble sort of visa wise in the US. Yeah, that sounds very complicated and messy, but it really hasn't been

Omer Khan [32:59]
So you are able to raise some, some funding to help with the business. And I know you used most are a big chunk of that money to hire developers talk us through that a little bit. Because I think there's an interesting lesson there about hiring and pace of hiring and kind of what you guys have learned from your experience.

Sam Dolbel [33:25]
Yeah, so we were a little naive in the sense, like, we were staring down the barrel of 40 plus feature requests that people were requesting quite often. And initially, we just thought that we need to throw more developers at it. So we quickly hired four or five developers right off the bat. And my co-founder, Sam, who can essentially just code as fast as he can type was getting things out the door really quickly, but when he had to move to that sort of managerial role, has output was just reduced so drastically and our conversations Went from purely discussing products to discussing HR issues and dealing with paperwork. And in hindsight, we probably would have done that a little slower and would have probably got more output in that time frame. But, I mean, we're in a good position now because we have a fully trained team who can all work independently. But there was certainly a period last year where we felt like we were working a lot harder than we were before, and producing a lot less in terms of product development.

Omer Khan [34:32]
Yeah, yeah, that's a that's a great lesson there. And just hiring more people quickly doesn't always equate to innovating and shipping more features faster. And as you guys have learned, it can actually slow you down. So be careful what you wish for.

Sam Dolbel [34:51]
Would have come from my experience running these blue-collar businesses, because in a company like that, you can really just throwing more people at it. It's just doing what we're doing now. It's just so much more complexed. But it all worked out quite well. And now we have here we have like, say we've got this fully trained team and we are pumping out features very quickly.

Omer Khan [35:12]
Good stuff. Okay, we should wrap up and get into the lightning round. So you are listening to the show anyway. So you know the drill, I'm not gonna explain it to you. Are you ready to go? Yeah. What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

Sam Dolbel [35:29]
The best growth hack is just building a more compelling product.

Omer Khan [35:34]
What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

Sam Dolbel [35:37]
Whoa, I've taken all my book recommendations from your show. So I'm going to go a little in a little different direction here and recommend a book called Liver Rescue by a guy who calls himself the Medical Medium. Now, I was facing a problem when we started doing this business of essentially like brain fog, and I thought it was a stress thing, but once I started daily routine of drinking celery juice. It cleared that all up and I couldn't recommend that book enough for productivity,

Sam Dolbel [36:07]
liver rescue by the Medical Medium liver rescue. And if I could give your listeners two tips that would be get used to drinking celery juice first thing in the morning and drink what he calls a heavy metal detox smoothie. It's just done wonders for the for the mental well being.

Omer Khan [36:24]
I hate celery, but maybe I need to have an open mind.

Sam Dolbel [36:28]
The trick is to hold your breath and just get it down as quick as possible.

Omer Khan [36:32]
What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?

Sam Dolbel [36:37]
In our case it's pride. A failure is not an option. You're gonna weather the storm a lot better.

Omer Khan [36:42]
What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

Sam Dolbel [36:45]
Dot journaling. So I keep a journal and that's how I find I get more tasks done throughout the day.

Omer Khan [36:50]
What's that called?

Sam Dolbel [36:51]
Dot journaling. So some people call it bullet journaling. It's just a system of running a journal and I found it quite rewarding.

Omer Khan [37:00]
Oh, and this is just paper-based, is it?

Sam Dolbel [37:02]
Yeah, yeah, just a paper journal. And it just really helps getting getting tasks done throughout the day.

Omer Khan [37:07]
What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the extra time?

Sam Dolbel [37:11]
I wouldn't allow myself to think of it. But if it was something that would be in the it would be in the blue-collar, small business space.

Omer Khan [37:17]
What's an interesting little fun fact about you that most people don't know?

Sam Dolbel [37:20]
Well, I've never had a boss. I've essentially never had a job. I've always worked for myself.

Omer Khan [37:26]
And finally, what is one of your most important passions outside of your work?

Sam Dolbel [37:29]
That has to be my family. I have a wife who is a travel and lifestyle blogger. So I spend most of my free time taking photos of her and I have a three-year-old son who's obsessed with me. And that takes up all my spare time.

Omer Khan [37:44]
Cool. And if people want to find out more about SINC, they can go to SINC which is sinc.business. That was interesting. Like you don't have a .com domain, right? It's just all business right now.

Sam Dolbel [37:59]
Yeah, we just we just we've got business and you know, it's work for us.

Omer Khan [38:03]
And if people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

Sam Dolbel [38:06]
LinkedIn, send me a request on LinkedIn. I accept just about everyone.

Omer Khan [38:11]
Okay, we'll, we'll put a link in the show notes to that as well. Great. What's up? Thank you for joining me and sharing your story and the lessons are you guys have learned over the last couple of years? I know it's probably coming to what, sorry, what 11 pm for you in Bahrain? Yes. Appreciate you staying up. And you know, I wish you and Sam, all the best of success.

Sam Dolbel [38:36]
Yeah, I think it's been a real pleasure. And thank you so much for having me on.

Omer Khan [38:39]
All the best Cheers.

Sam Dolbel [38:41]
Thanks. Bye!

Omer Khan [38:42]
Alright, thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed the interview. You can get to the show notes as usual by going to theSaaSpodcast.com, where you'll find a summary of this episode, and the link to all the resources we discussed. If you enjoyed the episode, then please subscribe to the podcast. And if you're in a good mood, consider leaving a rating and review to show your support for the show. Thanks for listening. until next time, take care.

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The Show Notes

Omer Khan

Hi, I'm Omer, the founder of SaaS Club and host of The SaaS Podcast. I help early stage founders and entrepreneurs to build, launch and grow successful SaaS businesses. Join me on this journey.