Visme: Bootstrapping a SaaS to 18 Million Users
Payman Taei is the founder and CEO of Visme, an all-in-one visual communication platform for non-design professionals.
In 2010, Payman was running a web design agency where he had been building mostly Flash-based websites for his clients.
After Apple dropped support for the Flash, Payman had the idea of building a similar tool for designers using HTML 5.
Once the tool was built, he organized a local focus group for designers. But not a single designer turned up.
But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it made him realize that he was building the wrong product for the wrong market.
So he set his sights on building an all-in-one design tool for people who weren't designers.
Although Visme grew slowly in its early years, Payman continued to focus on his agency business until 2018, when he finally went all-in with Visme.
Today, Visme has grown into a successful 8-figure business with 18.5 million registered users and almost 100 employees.
In this episode, Payman shares his journey of building Visme, the challenges he faced, and the mistakes he made along the way.
We discuss his experiences with content marketing and SEO, finding the right balance between great UX and monetization, competing with larger companies, and scaling the platform to meet the demands of a growing user base.
We also talk about Payman's efforts to differentiate Visme from its competitors and his lessons on pricing and marketing.
I hope you enjoy it.
TranscriptClick to view transcript
This is a machine-generated transcript.[00:00:00] Omer: Welcome to another episode of The SaaS Podcast. I'm your host, Omer Khan, and this is a 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 talk to Payman Taei, the founder and CEO of Visme an all-in-one visual communication platform for non-design professionals.
In 2010, payment was running a web design agency where he had been building mostly flash-based websites for his clients. After Apple dropped support for Flash, Payman had the idea of building a similar tool for designers using HTML five. Once the tool was built, he organized a local focus group for. But not a single designer turned up.
But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it made him realize that he was building the wrong product for the wrong market. So he set his sights on building an all-in-one design tool for people who weren't designers. Although Visme grew slowly in its early years, Payman continued to focus on his agency business until 2018. When he finally went all in with Visme.
Today, Visme has grown into a successful seven figure. With 18 and a half million registered users and almost 100 employees, and the business is fully bootstrapped. In this episode, payment shares his journey of building Visme, the challenges he faced and the mistakes he made along the way.
We discussed his experiences with content marketing and SEO, finding the right balance between great UX and Monetization. Competing with larger companies and scaling the platform to meet the demands of growing user base. We also talk about payments efforts to differentiate Visme from its competitors and the lessons he's learned on pricing and marketing.
So I hope you enjoy it. Payman, welcome to the show.[00:02:03] Payman: Thank you very much. Glad to be here. [00:02:06] Omer: Do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you that you can share with us? [00:02:09] Payman: My favorite quote is just be consistent. Don't give up nice and sweet. That's what's worked for me. [00:02:16] Omer: Tell us about Visme. What does the product do? Who's it for and what's the main problem you're helping to solve?
I could explain it in five minutes, but I'll try to keep it as short as possible because to some of our users we're known as a presentation platform to some others, were known as a platform to create interactive documents, short videos, infographics, data visualizations.
But the way we like to word it is that we're an all-in-one visual communication platform and focus more towards a non-design professionals. So a little bit more business related, not enterprise, in that it's this heavy, very difficult to use platform. It's actually fairly easy to use, low learning curve.
And the best way I would explain it to people is that if you were to take top leading presentation or graphic design tools. And typically, and even to this date, I would divide them to two, two departments compartments. One is on the left or the white, and that would be the dumb down, very easy to get into design tools or presentation platforms, but they have certain limitations.
They have certain areas that you get that you need to feel like you need to step beyond. And in that case, if you were to do, you have to step all the way, jump on the other. Which is the black and the, white and the black opposite and higher learning curve. Lots of features, pretty powerful, really reserved for, 5% of the population that are top design professionals and so on.
And we believe that instead of there being 90, 95% of the people having to use the left side and only a few percent on the. That there's this gray area and Visme essentially is the gray. And what it does is it bridges a gap between a simple and a powerful allows you to create not just the ordinary stuff, but also fairly interactive stuff.
In a no code environment, you can create pitch decks that are, as clean and simple as they can be. It can be fully interactive learning managements, internal communications download as videos are presented online. That's essentially what our platform is.
You wouldn't know what the flash was. Adobe Flash was my favorite tool to use and my team, we used to create these really highly interactive, animated websites and with intros and music and so on. And then of course Apple came out back in 2008 or 9, and then they stopped supporting Flash which was a plugin.
Visme partially as a result of that is why it started. But it was actually initially to solve a challenge at my agency, which is where, hey, nobody wants flash websites anymore. And also what we create in Flash, you can't view it on an iPhone. And that was, becoming the device and of course, still is today.
And so what do we do? And it was a little experimental project. Let's create what it did creating ability to kind four designers with a timeline and animation abilities and so on. And then, but it will be based on HTML 5, which even today is still the fabric of internet, essentially. All the apps, everything is layered over HTML 5, so it's not going anywhere cuz it's fabric on the internet.
And so that's initially what Visme was. But it turned out to be more than that because very early on we pivoted and say, this really shouldn't be for designers. This should be solving another problem or challenge that I had. And one of the issues I had at my agency was, I'll go twofold customers and also me, myself, when I would, let's say, create a website.
I would have to, I wasn't a coder, so I was a designer. I would go to multiple tools, create bitmaps and filters and so on and Photoshop, V, icons, go to Illustrator and then go to Dream Weaver. People remember that was basically to create, put the webpages together. Yeah. Flash for the animations and so on, and then, and put that into the page and publish it and so on.
Every single one of those tools, great tools, love them, but the work around the interface was different completely than the other one. So I always was frustrated that I have to, when I'm into the zone, I'm creating something. I gotta go out of the zone, go to this other tool to accomplish something else, and it's a different environment, different interface.
So it just never felt right. And so I was like, there must be a way others might be having this problem too, that are just looking to create different types of content, that presentation and graphic chart and so on. Why can't there just be one user interface to do all. And yet be able to go beyond just the simple stuff, but then not go all the way to where it becomes extremely complex, where then you really have to be a professional to learn it.
So that's how it all came about.[00:07:31] Omer: So were you thinking of this as something to help run the agency business? At what point did it become a separate, product or business that you were going to invest your time and money in the way the agency was set up? [00:07:43] Payman: We pretty much, most of the sites we created were, we did sites that were like four or $5,000 and we did things that were, 20, $30,000 and a few maybe that were, $50,000 a year.
Not a lot of those. So as a lot more site builders came out, people were basically creating their own websites for the lower end. So the 4, 5K people were usually smaller businesses. They don't really need to as heavily depend on you. And also everybody's becoming a web designer. So I saw this coming.
And that essentially started to make it harder to grow. And because I was pretty pixel perfect micromanager when it comes to design and to this day I am when it comes to product and so on. I wasn't an operator that would just step back and say, Hey, let's put a couple designers and I'll step back and just run the business and so on.
And so it was very hard to scale it because I kept getting myself involved in project. When Visme came out, yes. It was just an experiment. And again, I mentioned 2008, 2009. It's really 11, 12 that we even touched. It was just an idea. Flash's demise was in 2011 or 12 when iPhone came very popular for us where people were like we don't really need those websites anymore, we just want to be on WordPress and so on.
And but I know the iPhone came out 2008, 2009. It wasn't really 11, 12 until we actually started. Visme it was 2013 when we put out a very small focus group here in the Baltimore area, DC area. It was the best thing to happen. No designers showed up, none designers showed up to that focus group, bad marketing there.
And I was like, that was where the aha moment was like, the heck we doing. These people are, individuals are trying to create like a pitch deck or he's trying to create a little infographic. What are we doing? That was the aha moment of well all in one for every. And let's go that. And it was just a side project for another year or two and I was just using some resources from hindsight and reinvesting it into Visme.
And then when 2016, 17 kind of came around, I was like this thing is growing faster, a lot faster than hindsight, and hindsight's not growing anymore the agency and my focus wasn't as much on that either. And I just was like, this is the way to go, and also, I loved what I was doing though.
The problem I had was, you have an agency. Again, this is my personal opinion that I faced. When you're at running agency, you're creating other people's ideas for them. They have the final say, so they're paying the money to do it. And so they say, I don't like this graphic unless it's designed. No, this is not gonna work.
So you're constantly restricted what they do. And also they restricted by the budgets that they put in front of you. And if you wanna spend 200, 300 hours working on this beautiful website, but the budget allows for only a third of that. So we're kept being like caged to really unleash the creativity in some sense.
So with Visme it's total opposite, it's where like recruiting creative platform, design platform for everyone, non-design professionals to use. And we're just empowering them to do things and we're able to not just listen to them, but there's a lot of cool ideas and great things that we have in mind of what we believe should be in the platform.
So that's really been a good formula for us.[00:10:48] Omer: Okay. So you said this was a side project for a while. When you had that, that aha moment, when all of these non designers turned up and told you what they were trying to do, what did you do next? Was that the point where you felt, okay, this is not a side project, there's something a lot more, a bigger opportunity here.
Or did you just continue to play around with different features in the product? Like I, I wanted to understand like side project to like first paying customer. How long did that take?[00:11:16] Payman: Yeah. So side project 2000, mid 2013, we did open it up. It was free for everybody at first until, I think 2014, late 2013 or early 14.
But we just opened up and put a paywall on it. We really weren't doing much marketing or anything, so it wasn't a couple of page. A couple directories and so on. So traffic was coming. We didn't know SEO or anything, so didn't really market it. So it didn't really generate much revenue until 2000, mid 14, early 15 is where okay.
Each month there's a little bit more growth coming in. So at that point, I think is when it was like near 2015 and was like, okay, like this might be the wake up, but it still couldn't stand on its own feet. It wasn't generating enough revenue for me to not take a salary, for my other company.
So I continued to operate hindsight all the way till probably 2017 or 18 where I was essentially bringing more and more resources from there into sme, essentially just maintaining the customers we had. We're no longer getting really new customers unless they just knocked on our door and just focus where it's there.
Really when I look at it, even though people say, Hey, you may look at it and say you guys, the business around this 2000, early 2023 you started in 2013. It's really, I think we got serious about it 2015, 16, so that's when the, we started to go all in, I would say all in 2017. In that aspect, it was still running the agency to spending about a third of my time, half of my time.[00:12:45] Omer: And you said that you added a paywall in 2014. Did you have to do, anything to try and get those first 10 customers, or did you already have enough traffic and free users that you were able to convert at least 10 of them into paying customers? [00:13:02] Payman: Yeah. First year, I'm going by memory, first year, 2014 or so, we had about 25,000 registered users.
A lot of those were students, teachers. They really wouldn't, they wanted free tools, free tool. To this day, a lot of our traffic is from education and so on. And welcome to user tool board. They're not really our target audience. In essence, when they graduate, they are , and so you know, no, we just put up the paywall.
We didn't know anything about AB testing and so on. And traffic, little by little just started come in, we created a couple more landing pages and learned a bit more about SEO and so that's how it was a paywall. Yes, there was a little bit of registrations here and there, here in the us nowhere we're.
For the first don't know few years, and then little by little, I guess organics start to pick up in other countries or regions and so on.[00:13:46] Omer: Do you do any outbound sales for, larger customers or is this all product led? People sign up, use the free product, and then at some point some of them upgrade to a paid. [00:14:02] Payman: Yes, product led still is product led, but we actually didn't even we didn't form our first sales team until early last year. So we have a sales team, essentially small sales team, a handful of people. And part of those though, a lot of the focus on that has been, we had some companies coming in, the last prior years enterprise and so on.
It's been a number of years. We have some enterprise people coming in, but there were inbound, I love the tool. Tell us about it. Hey, we're looking to get like a team account, we're enterprise account and. But to this day still most of our sales revenue is inbound. Referrals from existing people that are using the tool. Tell others about it. A lot of it from organic traffic that we drive.[00:14:42] Omer: I want to talk about how you've grown to these 18 million users that you have today. Anyone can build a product and put a free plan on there, but that's not gonna get you 18 million users. So you clearly did something right. Even if a large percentage of them are students or whatever, and people who are not gonna pay. It's still a significant, number of people. So I think that, from what I understand, most of that growth has come from content marketing and SEO. But tell me about how you got on that road, because it wasn't smooth sailing from the start, right? You were creating content, but you weren't really getting the results that you were hoping for.
Yeah.[00:15:18] Payman: I'll go through the process. First this is, my thinking and our thinking was, and I think it wasn't necessarily correct in our tool. Maybe to the degree, it's good for branding, but I don't think so.
It's two sides to it. It's fantastic because we're in such a huge market. Anybody can use our platform. We have a marketing person, a student, and a teacher, CEOs, executives any role you can imagine, whoever needs to create a presentation or visual graphic design, social media, there essentially can be our audience.
Ideal customers are more of the people that are businesses that are just a role. They have a professional role somewhere, whether it been a freelancer, be a large company, and so on. And so the traffic and acquiring those was first what we did was, Hey, let's just get more traffic to our website. We're only getting a few thousand visitors a month.
Let's get more visitors. How do we do that? Because it wasn't so much thinking. Okay. We didn't establish our ideal customers until two years ago, so it was just about more and more traffic. We got a lot of users and they were necessarily our ideal customers and so on. And also a lot of the traffic that we got, we looked at high opportunity keywords.
Opportunities to get, I'll give you an example on our blog. You probably have, you can Google it. I don't know what we're placed now, but we haven't even focused or maybe even refreshed that page for a long time. But I think it's called like Symbols and Meanings. It's a blog post that we created years ago and we might be still on page one somewhere.
I don't know what it is now, but it used to be number one for many, and there's a handful of those that we created many years ago and they generated a huge amount of traffic lot, a lot of people. No paid conversions from it. We didn't have attribution and all those things like what page people are coming from, what revenue we generated from one page and what's the conversion around that page?
It gives a sign up. We didn't have any of those. So it's all about driving more and more traffic. But when you drive a lot of traffic, even if you don't have a lot of ideal people or you're still jam a letter for users cuz it's open, they click, takes a second to sign. So we acquire a lot of those users.
The last few years we've been more and more focused on, what we write about, what we target and so on. So we don't really focus much at all about on these high traffic opportunities. We've probably exhausted most of them anyway. We focus on what is the product solution and what is the ideal customer, what solution they might be looking for.
So we write those. The problem, the challenge problem in it is that, you have to write a lot of content. They generate very little traffic. Even if you're on page one, it might get like 300 views a month or 500 views a month, but they're more ideal customers, so the conversion rate can be a little bit higher.
So I hope that answers your question, but content marketing insured and focusing on SEO has been something that we've invested a lot of time and effort on over the. And I don't wanna make it sound like it's, you just get out there and just write a lot of content and the more you write about and it sticks.
There's been a lot of figuring out and works and we're still figuring some things out, but we have figured out the formula of what works for us and we just are working on scaling it. So what I heard was, hey, we went out and targeted a whole bunch of keywords. We had some success with those.[00:18:24] Omer: By the way, you're still number one for symbols and meaning as I just looked up. So what else was it that helped you to get organic search working. Yeah, you can write a lot of content and target a lot of keywords, but that doesn't mean you're gonna rank well for them. I know for a while you guys were spending a lot of time from the conversation I had with Farzad, which we talked about Respona, which is another company that has spun out from your business here. You guys were spending a lot of time creating content, but not much on distribution. And so that was biting you for a while until you figured out you needed to do, to take a different approach. [00:19:00] Payman: Yeah. Yeah. It's look, sometimes certain, eventually, great content, there's a same on marketing, great content is going to automate, eventually place itself as well. Yeah. It eventually can. You put a few logs and you gotta give it a little spark to catch on fire. And so I think that spark, when you write something, you want to raise a certain level of awareness.
We would share it on our social media channels. We do that all still continuously. That helps a little bit to some degree. Depends on the content. You're not gonna give virality often just presenting something on social and so on. Still, there's the web of the spider web of the whole Google mechanism, out there.
So as you write more content, your blog and your website gets larger. So you're writing, we have a whole direct year for templates. You are in our template library for, I don't know, annual reports. Then any reports may also link back to a topic related to our. So you're driving traffic from one place and sending them back, and vice versa.
Billing these inner links very carefully. But also you're creating awareness outside, Hey, wrote this article, this is common. Everybody does, and you feel it's worth your audience. Would you mind like maybe adding it to your site, a blog and so on as well? Or this particular post, I get emails from others wanting do that on our side, but we're very exclusive as far as what we allow on our site.
Cuz we want to be, very, we have a very high quality control stage and so we are careful about what we had. So I wouldn't call it link building, but it's creating a certain amount of awareness and that's one part of it. And the other part is, still you have to write great content in that aspect.
And also the optimization of the content and the formula of how valuable is that coming for your audience, title, metal tags, all those in intrinsic things that goes in page loads. All of those I think, have played a little bit of a difference on that. So all of the above.[00:20:42] Omer: I wanna talk a little bit about one mistake that you potentially made, and we talked briefly about this a little earlier this kind of focus maybe too much on the product at the cost of not enough marketing. I think when we look at your business today, it seems to have worked out. But when you look back, what kind of issues did that create for you at the time? [00:21:06] Payman: Let's see. There's so many mistakes, but the one you're particularly referring to would be, oh, focusing on a product. Let's talk about. I don't think it's a mistake. So I guess here's how I would put it. First of all, we focus, we have been, and to this day, we are very heavy product focus. We invest more in our product than sales and like marketing combined.
It's just that's, we spent a lot of time and effort on that and a lot of other companies, I'm not talking about competitors of ours at all, just other products out there and so on. There is products out there that are not product first. They're very sales. And so they invest a lot of time on that.
And they do great the revenue first and works to a certain degree. And somebody, at some point they may hit a red, in an area where they didn't invest enough in the product and it gets harder to sell it and so on. For us, it's been the opposite. We have, I believe we've created a great product.
Our users think so as well, and we focus a lot on the product. But to a point where all we did was invest in product and just wrote a little bit of content, there was no other marketing, there was no other sales outbound or any of those at all. If looking back, we would be further ahead I think.
If we have taking some of that product focus, a little bit of it. Some things are experimental. You don't know if they're gonna work or not. You don't know how much ROI they're gonna have, right? I don't have regrets on almost most of the things we've built, but my mission and at the creating vis me really wasn't about let's generate as much revenue as possible.
That was never why I did it. I just loved this platform to create it and put my heart and soul into it. And due to this day, and at the end of the day, they know you realize after a few years that you know, this is a company, it's a business that pays a hundred employees salaries and families and healthcare and all those things.
And of course, our users depend on it. So in order to be successful, it also means you have a good bottom line and so on. So that's, hope to put into perspective is that the, that we have, we will continue to be very product first, but we're also investing more. Into other areas as well to really get the word out and awareness out of Visme, which I believe really deserves to be in the hand of more people.[00:23:14] Omer: You mentioned competition. Let's talk a little bit about that. The one natural comparison I think people are likely to make when they look at Visme is Canva, and I want to talk a little bit about how you think about that space and how you are differentiating what you do. Interesting enough, I interviewed Melanie Perkins, I think she was like one of the first of five or 10 people I interviewed when I started this podcast in 2014. And Canva had been around for a year or two at the time. I had no idea, where that was gonna go. And I think both Visme and Canva probably started around the same time.
They probably had a bit more luck and growth and I dunno where they are in terms of hundred million plus users right now. So just as you look at that and you know that's probably, the elephant in the room, one of these big competitors, how do you think about Visme and how are you differentiating the product?[00:24:14] Payman: First I would say all respect to Canva and everything they've accomplished in essentially one of the the top startups out there. And there's a few things that we've done differently and there's a few things that are very similar and also very different. So let me go through this cuz actually very important for people to know because that often is, the part is when, you know there's a certain level of brand awareness to a product or brand out.
You don't really, the immediate thing is how are different at, so for us it was always how we are different from PowerPoint? How are different from PowerPoint? So it's still that, but also how we are different from Canva and so on. How are you different in these other tools? But they are the, essentially, so we are very similar in that it's all in one design, all in one, whiteboarding presentations, documents, all of those we have, and they have as well.
The route and approach that was taken was very different. One, I literally say that we started the product was just an experiment, side project for the first few years, so we don't really get serious about it 2015 or 16. And at that point they had gained a lot of momentum and another one was we never raised funds, so we've been completely bootstrapped to date profitable for, since essentially, I don't know, 2015 or so.
And also the approach that they took and we took was very, I think they took a very bottoms of approach. Opening up to all students educators is free for all, very good, low very low price point and free actually for the first few years, there's no one even paywall on it, if I recall correctly. And also for everybody, it's to democratize design for everyone, so ours was never really about that. Like we didn't have social graphics until years later. We didn't do any of those. It was infographics, presentations, interactivity, ability to like hover over and show something, animations and so on. So our route was a much smaller audience that were looking for, interactivity, animations and so on.
Their route was I think I'm guessing that design for all. So a lot more people designing graphics than they are creating a pitch deck for their business. Later on they added those things. So by then they built this huge following and our mission was totally opposite, like top to the bottom.
It's like eventually we wanna allow people to, while they're creating their pitch deck and so for their business, do that. So we're more business related. And as a result, the user base also is smaller and we took a slower route. And a later route to really start to ramp up our product. When you go inside of it, when you go through templates, you're gonna see much, really, almost most templates are for your business use case.
So the design and the type and the quality of the graphics, the types of graphics. The, and the styles of the templates and so on, they're really adhering more towards a professional. But if you are, let's say, have a baking big shop or retail store and so on, mom and pop shop, you're probably not gonna really like our tool for the templates and the assets, and you have.
But if you are serving other businesses, you're consulting or any type of professional setting, you're gonna see more of the stuff that you're looking for on our platform. The other part is that we do have a certain level of support that goes above and beyond a lot of others. We have really good support team and continual tutorials and Information we put out as far as how to use the platform, different things to do with it, and so on.
So those are some of the things that we have, but we do really feel that we sit in the middle, so that if you were to put, let's say, Adobe on the right, and then there's a can on the left side, although that gray area is a little bit less. Great. We do fall into that space where you get the best of both worlds, essentially.[00:27:47] Omer: It sounds like you've got a lot clearer about your target customer than where you were in the early days, which was let's just get tons of traffic and get anybody coming to the site. [00:27:57] Payman: Exactly. [00:27:57] Omer: Canva has raised, I guess somewhere between 5, 600 million. You've been building this business, bootstrapped. Did you at any point think about going out, raising money? Adding some kind of fuel to the fire here. [00:28:11] Payman: It's crossed the line a number of times. It's Yeah, sure. It's, there isn't a week that goes by that isn't some sort of interest from outside, I get, I don't even respond to most of the time messages or at this point and so on.
The timing is what I'm looking for. What is that timing? I couldn't tell you, but at some point there will be some sort of event and but we're just, looking for. The right time and the right moment to do that. There has been a little bit of a bug, I would say, over the years where unless you are in a startup, bootstrap environment and you create something with your own hands, when I say hands of course, my team and everyone and so on, but it didn't require a penny of outside help.
Even though you're a fraction of size and you build this platform and people come to you and say, wow, how did you guys build this thing without any outside help and this thing has almost everything and does this and that, and then you have all these Fortune 500 companies, others using a platform, it's just very fulfilling because n you just know that we built this and and it's very satisfying in that.
Of course the disadvantage is that you don't have just fuel to, you, we grew and then we invest, we grow, we invest. It wasn't where, hey, we raised 30 million, let's, we need to burn through that over the next 18 months, 24 months. And for us was, hey, we grew our margins went up by, I don't know, 10%.
Hey, it's going up too high. Let's reinvest it back. So it's been that type of style for us. I couldn't put a timing on it. There has been that it has, that is continual interest. And when the right person and the right time comes in, very likely we do something.[00:29:45] Omer: I think the takeaway for me, and I think for people listening is that sometimes people assume that there's only one path to, to building a SaaS business.
And you have to go out and you have to raise money and you have to do all of these things. And that might be right for some, it's not right for others. And I think it's more understanding what drives you, what gets you out of bed every day? What's gonna get you to keep working on this business for the next five, 10 years?
And then choosing the right way to build the business rather than assuming that, There's only one way to go and do this. And I think you touched on that earlier when you said, this wasn't as much about making as much money as I possibly could. It was like driven by a lot of passion for building this product.[00:30:32] Payman: Yeah that's Australia now. There is more and more of a bug now. That when you know you have this platform and you've created it and you really know, we know that it can solve a lot of challenges and problems for different companies and businesses and so on, which is why, we're investing more into our sales and marketing as time goes on.
But yeah, and I will say this openly, I believe this strongly. If we had raised in 2013, 14, maybe even 15, I think we probably wouldn't be here right now. That sounds very like dumb. If I was running it, then I would've probably burned. I'm very calculated. But if I ran it the way that was expected to run based on what I was in discussion and so on, we would've hit certain walls and so on, and I think we would've had to get diluted a lot.
I didn't want that to happen. And the reason for that is because the product was still raw for the first few years and. Really, I was running an agency and I wasn't a hundred percent focused on a SaaS. And not just that, I didn't know how to run a SaaS. We could brought certain people in and so on, and, but yet I would've still had to make certain decisions.
And I think there's a lot of people I've seen that may do that. They, the first thing they think of is, let's go raise some funds. My being op, being realist versus too optimistic is, Then, when you look at the stats, you're gonna hit a home run, your home runs being your unicorns, and so on.
Once in a while, and even when you are a unicorn, often the founders are heavily diluted down and even when they reach unicorn status, you look at the market right now, how many unicorns do we have now versus last year? It's up and down. So it's not so much about that. I think it's how much diluted again, but just in general running vis me is just a different way.
It's not, I don't, I wouldn't say it's wrong. It actually, I think it's both paths are great. You have to see what makes sense for you and what your appetite is for risk. This was the safer route. We're still here and we're growing and we have the capacity to decide when, if we wanna raise, and once you got that route, you can go back and I think we gone.
That would've had certain regrets, but all I will say this also, it's never been cheaper than launch to launch a SaaS company. Anybody can launch a SaaS infrastructure and so on. You don't really need a lot of startup costs to start a SaaS company. What you need is a great solution that solves problems and so on.
And between the noise and sometimes more money doesn't solve that, that's where we're heading. Here's a low theory I have, and I was just talking to my colleagues, chat, GPT, Open AI right now, everything's AI, AI, I believe just like we were going through the Bitcoin craze cryptocurrency about a year and a half, two years ago, you look at all those companies and how many of them are gonna be left in about a year or.
And right now with the AI, everybody's layering over one company's great, fantastic solution. Everybody's coming their own solution. There's gonna be this flood of all this dot coms. There's only gonna be a handful that are really gonna be successful in standing. Most of them are gonna be out, so there's a lot of noise out there.[00:33:35] Omer: We'll bring you back in a couple of years and see how things turn out. I wanna talk a little bit about pricing. 18 million users we know in, in any kind of freemium business model, the majority of those free users probably never gonna pay for the product. And part of it is about figuring out how you use your target customer, how you are gonna reach those people, how you're gonna speak to them and position all that stuff.
But I think pricing is also another factor, like figuring out what to put in a free plan versus a paid plan can have all kinds of. Implications for your business in terms of whether you attract the right kind of free users and usage and word of mouth, because the free plan is great enough that even those people who are not gonna pay are still doing something to help get the word of mouth out there.
But at the same time, you've gotta figure out the pricing in terms of how you're gonna convert some of those people. So you mentioned the paywall, but what happened after that? How, what was, what kind of struggles did you experience when you tried to optimize pricing ?[00:34:31] Payman: First, looking early on, I think a lot of companies phases.
You, you put up a paywall and you're like this anticipation and you're like if a hundred people come in, probably two or three are gonna sign up, or five gonna sign up, or 10. You're like, what the heck? It's not doing that. So there's a lot of work that goes into that pricing.
We just throw some prices off the, like we just throw it out on the site and say, okay, let's start from here. I don't know what it was, but it was pretty low. I think it was like 10 bucks a month, 15 bucks a month, or, But the product just didn't have anywhere of the things that it does today and so on.
The free model was always, was when we made it a freemium version where we closed it off or, Hey, there's a free version, there's a paid version. For a number of years we had a lot of restrictions in place. Only a handful of templates. Lot of icons and graphics were blocked and so on, but a few years ago we opened a lot more.
So the free version is a lot more open. And the reason for that is because we want people to ex get a deeper experience to understand what they can really create and so on. And then there's paywalls in certain areas to get you, to prompt you to upgrade and get the benefits and so on.
When it comes to privacy, downloading a certain formats, certain collaborative features, these are more business related and so on, right? You want those are premium, additional storage and so on. But over the years we have adjusted pricing a number of times and yeah, early on it was just guesses.
Let's change it and see what ha we, increase a little bit more. Maybe we'll get more. But that doesn't always mean and that's not the case. So we do a lot of AB testing and last year we did a lot of AB testing and even a year. To figure out some of the areas and improvements in our platform and figure out what's right for us.
So you get a lot of discount going annual in Visme, and retention and so on is much better. Of course when you annual versus monthly. One of the big challenges that we have is it's churn. As with any type of business, like ours is always a problem. We have really good low churn very low churn when it comes to.
Teams and enterprises, as is the case with most, right? They love a tool, they keep paying for it. And we have ones, the first enterprise is still with us, today. That joined years ago, so that's very good. The other side of it, which is a lot of the users that are coming in, they're here for a one-off project.
I just want to create one graphic and that's it. Love the tool. Fantastic. We'll be back in six months or a year or later. That counts as churn for us. They're users that don't need it. And so they still take a good amount of revenue, as is the case with products like ours. But so what's happening?
Our B2B side is growing at a much better pay pace, faster pace than the B2C side essentially is, and that's because it's a much lower retention and expansion is good on it.[00:37:12] Omer: What would you say to somebody who says, having a bootstrap business and a freemium model where you have to support millions of free users, who most of them will never become customers? Is it a really bad idea. Like you shouldn't have a free plan.
Yeah. It is a good point, but I would disagree at least for, so you figure out a model where you decide how much is it costing you to support the free users and so on. We have a higher level of support for our paid users, so free users do get support, but it's.
Higher level, more granular and support is costly. Creation of content and so on. We've built some very good optimal systems and infrastructure in place that's scalable and the cost has been very well managed. And so you know, I would say is if you are strictly going to be an enterprise solution, you probably want to go that.
Close everything off. That actually has been something that's proposed over and over again to Visme means is that you guys have the, like the best solution when it comes to creating powerful presentations and so on and really should be a enterprise solution. Close off your a B2B side and so on.
That's come up numbers and investors that have actually said, and order for us to do that, you have to do that. And I was like, this is not, this was not built for just enterprises. This is built for that wants to use it. So it depends on product by product. Some products do not make sense to be free you, but if the cost is very low, the advantage is that you gain brand awareness.
People go create a content of isme, they go shared on Twitter and so on, and other social. Where'd you create this? Oh, they click on a link, they come to visit. So it has that benefit. So there is the the scalability from that side that you're able to, to. that you would not when the tool is completely closed off.
So we have presentation competitors of ours that are completely closed off and extremely. We could generate a lot more revenue with the people would pay for it. Companies would pay for it because we compete with those, but we decided not to do that.
How big is like your hosting bill?[00:39:11] Payman: Tens of thousands a month. Yeah. Tens of thousands a month. Amazon is pretty happy about it. And it goes off each month.
Of course.[00:39:20] Omer: All right, let's let's wrap up. We're gonna go on to the lightning round. I've got seven quick fire questions for you. What's one of the best pieces of business advice that you've ever received? [00:39:30] Payman: Good things, take time to build. [00:39:32] Omer: What book would you recommend to our audience and why? [00:39:34] Payman: I'll be honest. I don't read a lot of books. I read a lot of articles these days. A lot of posts and article. But I, if I read, when I typically read books, it would be more about spirituality. And The Secret I think was one that would, that I would mention.
And I loved Stephen King books, so The Stand one of my favorite. But if you're talking about business, most of my content I consume, I'm on Tech Crunch and CNBC. Some of them in Twitter following very specific people and love the information they share. That's where I get most of my information from.[00:40:06] Omer: What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder? [00:40:10] Payman: Grounded, I stay grounded cuz you're gonna, you're gonna fall so many damn times. . You will be grounded regardless. [00:40:17] Omer: What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit? [00:40:21] Payman: I spend way too much time on Slack , so I could say productivity, but I will also say unproductivity. [00:40:29] Omer: What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the time? [00:40:32] Payman: There's one I'm working on right now, . It's going to be an extension of Visme, so you guys will see, check back in later this year. [00:40:39] Omer: All right. What's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know? [00:40:42] Payman: I'll give you a few. I used to be into body building, eat six meals a day, train four or five, Intense hours a week and so on. Used to be that. Now I eat maybe two meals a day, intermittent fasting and keto and vegan five days a week. You want more? [00:41:02] Omer: And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work? [00:41:05] Payman: Spend time. My son. [00:41:07] Omer: Love it. Cool. Okay, great. So if people want to check out Visme, they can go to visme.com. So v-i-s-m-e.com. And if folks wanna get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that? [00:41:19] Payman: LinkedIn is probably the best place. Look up my first name, last name. You're gonna get one result. That will be me. [00:41:24] Omer: All right, great. Payman, thank you so much for joining me today and sharing the story and some of your experiences and lessons along the way. Congratulations on what you have achieved so far with the business, and I wish you and the team the best of success. [00:41:35] Payman: Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Thank you, Omer. [00:41:37] Omer: My pleasure. Cheers.
- “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne
- “The Stand” by Stephen King