pganalyze: The Unconventional Path to a 7-Figure SaaS
Lukas Fittl is the founder of pganalyze, a tool that offers automatic insights for developers to optimize their databases and improve performance.
In 2012, after years of painstakingly manual database tuning, Lukas decided to scratch his own itch and build a tool to make database optimization easier for developers everywhere.
But this isn't one of those overnight success stories where a founder quits their job, raises money, and is off to the races with a high-growth startup.
Instead, for the first two years, this was just a side project that Lukas tinkered with on evenings and weekends while he continued working a full-time job to pay the bills.
In 2014, he added a way to accept payments, which was the first step in transitioning to a real business. But traction was slow, and it took another year for Lukas to get the first 10 customers.
Lukas continued working part-time on his business for several more years until 2019 when he finally quit his job and went full-time on his business.
Today, pganalyze is a multiple 7-figure ARR SaaS company, entirely bootstrapped with over 500 customers, including industry leaders like Atlassian and DoorDash.
In this episode, you'll learn:
- Lukas's unconventional path to building a multiple seven-figure SaaS business proving there's a multitude of ways to build a company on your own terms.
- How Lukas developed his Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) which enabled him to build a better product, differentiate his offering, and create a winning content marketing strategy.
- What Lukas did when a well-funded and much bigger company launched a competing product and there was no way he could possibly compete in a features arms race.
- How Lukas took on enterprise sales without any prior experience, and the valuable lessons he's learned about sales and negotiation.
I hope you enjoy it.
TranscriptClick to view transcript
This is a machine-generated transcript.[00:00:00] Omer: Lukas, welcome to the show. [00:00:01] Lukas: Thank you. Thanks for having me. [00:00:03] Omer: Do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you that you can share with us? [00:00:08] Lukas: Yeah, I don't know if it necessarily inspires or motivates me, but it's something I think about every now and then, which is there's a saying of do things that don't scale.
And I think what's interesting is at this stage in our business, we're at the point where we. Do need to do things that do scale. And so, you know, doing things that don't scale. I think there's an interesting question to when you shouldn't follow that quote or that advice, so to say. Okay.[00:00:30] Omer: That's a good way to think about it.
So tell us about pganalyze. What does the product do? Who's it for and what's the main problem you're helping to solve?[00:00:37] Lukas: Sure. So pganalyze is a product for optimizing Postgres databases. So it's very specific. So Postgres database for those of you not familiar is an open source database system that's very popular these days, right?
So if you are running a startup. Very good chance that there's a Postgres database backing your actual, you know, main data store, so to say. You might be using Aurora, you might be using, you know, Google's LLDB service or Azure's database services. But ultimately that's still oftentimes Postgres these days.
And so what pganalyze does is pganalyze helps people make their Postgres databases faster by providing better introspection into what's going on in the database, and also providing tuning recommendations on how to, for example, add missing indexes or change configuration settings.
And so ultimately, our main customer in a company are data platform teams or sometimes backend engineers that struggle with, you know, essentially tuning Postgres databases or making sure databases perform well. If they don't perform well, usually the way you would see this as, you know, slow web requests, for example, right?
So like applications that are struggling, they're slow, people pay way too much money for database hardware. And so we can help essentially reduce costs and improve performance.[00:01:40] Omer: Let's talk a little bit about, I mean, this is not your first startup you have founded or co-founded a few other companies previously.
Some did better than others. Some didn't work out at all. So just give us a little bit of an overview of that, your background there.[00:01:57] Lukas: Sure. Yeah. So the quick tour is you know, now it's what's 2023. So I started doing this these things back in 2007. I'm an engineer by trade. So I, you know, very first thing is I didn't actually work for a startup or for a web hosting company at the very start of my career.
But then after that, I co-founded a startup called soup.io, which was a kind of. Blogging networks or B2C type business that worked pretty well in terms of getting attention. It just wasn’t a good business because, you know, how do you make money with blogging networks? So, you know, ultimately fun experience, but not, you know, a big business.
After soup.io kind of just focusing on the main startups here. So, I tried starting something in the web hosting space where I essentially tried to. Improve, you know, since that was my first job, so, I was like, Hey, you know, I, I know a little bit about that. And so, I tried to essentially sell better hosting software to hosting companies that failed spectacularly in the sense that we didn't get a single paying customer which was very frustrating.
So, you know, I learned, learned a few things there. Then I kind of you know, as I was trying to learn better how to start companies I got myself you know, involved in some of what the lean startup movement at the time was trying to do, right? So like, Being iterative, trying out different ways, experimenting, worked with Ash Moria, who wrote some of the books in the Lean space to create kind of the online version of Lean Canvas, as well as a product called UserCycle.
Those were actually quite fine businesses. They, you know, had, you know, kind of connection, strong content component, essentially. And then after that, I kind of Went on to join Product Hunt as an early engineer. Product Hunt still exists today. If you're launching your product, you know, Product Hunt is a good choice.
And so essentially was there more on the engineering side and then kind of, you know, continued the journey joined a company called Citus Data in the Postgres space, and then spent a little bit of time at Microsoft and then left Microsoft two and a half years ago.[00:03:34] Omer: So pganalyze, you founded the business in 2012, and it was just something you were working on evenings and weekends for many years. So, I think you went full time what, a few years ago on the business? [00:03:49] Lukas: That's right. Yeah. So I think for the first, you know, again, math, but like seven years or so for the first seven years of the business, I was part time I actually had hired people already to work full time on it before I myself went full time on it and, you know, kind of went full time on it two and a half years ago building out the team you know, building out additional functionality and you know, I think motivation there was to bootstrap the company ultimately, right? So I did not want to raise funding very intentionally. And so, the way to do that was to be able to, you know, Work on something else whilst I was working, for example, for Citus Data. And, you know, thank you also to the founders of Citus who were very, you know, graciously accepting me working on my own business whilst working with them. [00:04:26] Omer: Why did you decide that you wanted to bootstrap? You didn't want to raise money. Many, many founders I talked to for them, maybe it's a natural decision, but you're based down in San Francisco where it's almost the default is, is going out and raising money. So why did you decide you weren't going to take that path? [00:04:47] Lukas: I think some of that comes, I'm from Europe originally from Austria and. If you raise money in Austria, it's, I mean, I don't want to, you know, talk badly about anyone necessarily, but there's just not many good investors, right? Like it's, it's just, it's not you don't find many experienced investors essentially.
And so I think I actually had raised money in the past for like one of my own projects that didn't work out. And so I was, I was very much, you know, aware of what happens when you have, you know, disappointed angel investors. I then, you know, was part of funded startups later on. So definitely I saw the benefit of funding.
But I think for me really the main motivation is do I want to see that pressure to, you know, scale up the business in a way that's not really helping the business, right? So do I want to have hundreds of employees just because that's what you signed up for to your investors and then you're kind of forced to make decisions that don't really benefit the customer or benefit what you want to work on. And so I've realized for myself that it's much more interesting to work, you know, with a small team of people on interesting problems make good revenue, but don't, you know, force yourself to have an exit or an IPO in a certain timeframe.[00:05:50] Omer: Yeah. I talked to another founder recently who sold his first company to Google and then realized that he had this almost void, this thing that he'd been working on for years. Kind of just disappeared. And, and he decided that the next startup that he was going to work on, he wanted to be able to do that for over a decade.
And he didn't want to just do, you know, aim for the quick sell. And, and I think it's just a really an interesting perspective because we always assume, yeah, it's always about raise money, go exit, whatever. But there's also this component, I think, which is becoming. More and more people are talking about in terms of just meaningful work and doing something that you just feel like, whether you feel like you're making a difference or just something that just gets you out of bed every day.
And there are different paths to, you know, how you go and build those companies. And there's no one, So give us a sense of where you are, where the, what's the size of the business today?[00:06:43] Lukas: So, in terms of customers, we're now at a point where it's, we're over 500 customers. These are, you know, business customers.
Some of them smaller, like 5, 000 annual, like annual revenue for those customers, some of them are larger, like more than a hundred K in revenue for us. And we do in total have multiple millions of dollars in revenue. So we are, you know, generally doing. We have a team of currently eight people planning to grow to 10, probably by the end of the year.
And so generally speaking, you know, we were just stacking the bricks, right? Like every year we're just growing our business making sure that we don't, of course, lose, you know, customers in a subscription model. But generally speaking, you know, we just have a steady. Stream of new people coming in, subscribing to the product.[00:07:21] Omer: So, let's talk about where the idea came from. Like, so going back to like 2011, 2012, how did you come up with the idea? And, and, you know, what did you do to kind of get started? [00:07:36] Lukas: Yeah. So, the motivation for it really was You know, I was essentially solving my own problems. So, the very first company I co-founded, soup.io, was actually using Postgres.
And so, at the, back in 2007, before pganalyze, I was essentially struggling to optimize our own database. And so, I had this friend of mine who was good at database optimization. And so essentially I was learning from him how to do this stuff. And what I realized, you know, over the years that followed is that there was just no good way to do this without having a skilled human next to you who knows how to optimize these Postgres databases. So the motivation back in 2012 really was not even to replace that person, but just to give them better tools because their tools were really bad. Like it was just scripts and running, you know, individual SQL queries. Like they just had a lot of tedious work that they were doing.
And they weren't really adding value when doing this tedious work, right? They were just like trying to get the data to then interpret how to optimize as a database. And so really to start in 2012 was just to, to get that initial set of data in a better way, right? Just make it easier to see which part of the database is slow.
You know, why is it slow? And then to have somebody who actually knows how to interpret it, have better tooling.[00:08:41] Omer: Okay, so you have the pain yourself. How did you start with the idea? Was this something you initially just said, I need to build something for myself to make my life easier? Or was this, Oh, I, I've got this pain.
There must be a bunch of other people out there. Maybe there's a business idea here.[00:09:01] Lukas: So, for the first, I would say two years, like between 2012 and 2014, it was mainly. Let's just make something that makes us better. Right. So I don't think there were any way to purchase a product at the time. I remember implementing, you know, the, the like credit card billing form at some point in 2014, I think.
So, at that point you could actually pay for it. But before it was literally just, you know, solving our own problems essentially and of the people that we knew that were using Postgres databases.[00:09:26] Omer: Okay. So, 2014 people can actually. How long did it take you to get your, your first 10 customers? And, and was it, was it kind of fairly organic or were you, were you spending time marketing the product?
I mean, you've got this full-time job, you're building this thing and trying to maintain it. Like how much effort were you putting into like getting the word out about it as well.[00:09:53] Lukas: Yeah, I think definitely not enough, I would say in hindsight. Right. So I could have been more proactive about marketing at that time.
But I wasn't, I think at the time it was more like build it and they will come, which, you know, doesn't really work that way. Like you do have to tell people that you exist. And so I think there was some inbound, right. But that was really mainly out of Not necessarily people I knew directly, but people that the people I knew, right?
So, there was some level of basic word of mouth just from being in a tech industry and, you know, people saying, Hey, you have Postgres problems. Go take a look at this product. But I think it definitely took a while. So, I, I don't, I can't recount exactly when we got to the first 10, but it must have been, you know, over a year, I imagine until we actually, you know, from we put the payment form in to actually having 10 customers.
One thing that I found interesting though, is that. I didn't know these customers, right? So, I think one thing that, like, not directly, I mean, I knew them indirectly probably, but there weren't people that I told, Hey, please sign up for this. And, you know, I have this precious business that I spent so much time on.
Please, you know, be nice to me. I didn't do that, right? Like, I was just like, here's something that's useful. If you find it useful yourself, then go ahead and use it. And I think that has been a very good starting point because it, essentially, like I listened to what people were saying, but it wasn't, it was A little bit, you know, removed from people that I knew directly.
And I think that helped me kind of cultivate also a culture of like later on, as we talk about hundreds of customers, right? Like really being more about, you know, what's the pattern we're seeing here? Like, what do these people actually want versus, you know, them just being nice to me because they, you know, wanted to support my business.[00:11:29] Omer: So how are they finding. The product, I mean, we, was it just SEO or? [00:11:34] Lukas: So, I remember we, we did some talks at like user groups, right? So like this, I mean, Postgres is an open source projects, right? And so, I think we, I recall like I had a friend of mine who I was starting things with back then, who's no longer with the company, but back then he was He was, I think, doing some talks at user groups.
And so I think some of that was inbound from that. And he was also doing some consulting in the space. So I think it might've been consulting clients or people that he knew through that as well.[00:11:57] Omer: So 2014, people can pay for it. You said about a year to get the first 10 customers. How long did it take you to get to the first million in ARR? [00:12:09] Lukas: That was a couple more years. So, I think that must've been. Somewhere around 2019 or 2020. So definitely a longer time period. And I think the big difference there, I mean, there were a couple of pricing decisions along the way. But the big difference really is starting up more of a marketing and sales engine around, I would say 2017, roughly, and then that's just, you know, accumulating over time.
That's really, that's the part where, you know, it was more proactive efforts, so to say.[00:12:35] Omer: Okay. So let's, let's talk about that. Like what, what did you do differently? In those four or five years to improve your marketing, get the word out more, it's, it's great that people were stumbling upon the product and, and, you know, or hearing about it at a talk or whatever.
But that's, that's hard to scale and grow that to hundreds of customers. So, what, what, what was the main growth channel in those years that helped you get to that first million?[00:13:05] Lukas: Right. And I think it's. It's essentially the same in principle and what's still true today for us, which is ultimately focused on content, right?
So like this, the database space is very, it's very technical. Essentially, it's very technical to the point that you want to have deep technical content, right? So if you do very high level content, like fluff pieces, they don't really work in that space because people will see through it, especially when they are actually the database administrators or, you know, like the people, the data platform engineers, as you would call them these days.
I think what I always, because I'm an engineer myself, I always put an emphasis on quality, right? So, we always were trying to say. If we produce content, it actually needs to be good content. And Manuel and our team who is working on marketing I think was always a bit frustrated with me because I was essentially saying, no, this is not good enough.
Like it needs to be actually good technical content. And so. What we started doing around that time, like 2017 was really putting out more blog posts initially, you know, mainly written by myself. Cause I felt, you know, somebody needs to do this. And I already had other people working on engineering at the time.
But I, myself, you know, wasn't essentially like I was the main person who could write.
And so starting out with that, that I think, you know, then quickly turned also to growing a newsletter audience. So I think, you know, if you produce content, the question is, how do you, how do you make it something that actually sticks, right? So if you have a great content piece and for us, for example, if it's on HackerNews, like NewsYCombinator.com, that's a good place for us to be in terms of getting traffic from engineers. But then if those people don't stick around, it doesn't help as much, right? I mean, we build our brand, but we don't actually, Get people that then try out the product. And so I think it's been really important for us to also think about how do we convert to newsletter signups, where we can then say, Hey, here's a product and kind of remind people that product exists.
And that's really been, I think, the continuation of that marketing strategy.[00:14:53] Omer: So I just Googled Postgres SQL and basically, you know, first few pages, all you find is what is Postgres, right? How to get started. And I guess that's the type of content you're talking about. That doesn't really help you a ton with the, with your target audience.
So can you give me an example of the type of content you were creating that you feel was more successful?[00:15:21] Lukas: I mean, I'll give you one of the most successful pieces of content that, you know, still is successful today, which is, so Postgres has, I'll go technical for a moment, so Postgres has different index types, right?
So, there's B- tree index, there's GIN index, there's GiST index, brin, blah, blah. So, there's these different index types and they're very specific to Postgres. And so that means of course, if you search for it, right. It is a good term in that sense, because it's specific. And so, one of the things that I wrote a couple of years ago was a blog post on Postgres gin indexes.
GIN is again, one index type, stands for generalized inverted something, tree, I think. And so not gin, the thing that you drink but the gin that, you know, you store data in. And so. I wrote a blog post, which I still think is a good blog post, which just walked through, you know, the tradeoffs and when you should use it, when you shouldn't use it.
And what, you know, like, I think I referenced like GitLab had some public content around to what didn't work for them. And so I referenced that, right. And so that post is still performing well today from an SEO perspective. If you search for Postgres GIN index, you'll find your post somewhere on the first page.
It's something that people, like I actually last week got somebody to say, Hey, there's, you know, this issue in this post. You're saying this, but actually you probably mean this. And I was like, Oh yeah, the person's right. And so, it has become this reference piece. Right. And so I think. Good content, like really good technical content for me are things that people want to reference where you can become the authoritative source, or at least in this case, I mean, Postgres documentation is the authoritative source, but I think we can accompany that and give you things that the main actual Postgres documentation does not have, right?
And so that's, for me, the good kind of content, but it's also really hard to write which makes it challenging sometimes.[00:16:50] Omer: So how long did it take before you, you felt that you were starting to see results from the content marketing efforts? [00:17:00] Lukas: Definitely multiple months, if not years. So I think it's, it's, that's part of the problem why it's not a great strategy if you're trying to get revenue fast, right?
So again, kind of comparing this with the funded strategy, right? If you just. It's like, you've got a bunch of VC funding and you've got to get to big revenue fast. It's not a great strategy because it just takes time. So, I think always do something else as well if you're trying to get revenue fast. But I would say at the very least, multiple months to actually get, you know, good, like content that actually is successful.
And then probably multiple years to the point that we can say our organic search traffic, for example, is significant. You know, we, we know how to create that and how to create the compliment support set.[00:17:40] Omer: And, and is the experience mostly product-led? Like do people read a blog post and then some of them go on and sign up, try the product and then become customers or, or are you having to, well, actually I know you're doing it today, but back then getting to that first million, were you also having to go and basically.
Do demos and sell the product. Like what was, what was that general kind of that sales flow look like?[00:18:08] Lukas: So I think, I mean, in our funnel, it really splits up. So there's some people that are self serve. They just want to like, there are people with, you know, buying authority essentially that have a credit card they can use.
And they just, they have a problem that let's say their team needs solving. Right. So maybe it's the infrastructure team lead. And so. They don't necessarily need to see a demo. They're more interested in just getting the job done, so to say, right? Like they just know they have a problem. They want to solve it.
They think pganalyze can help. So they sign up, swipe a credit card, and it's done. There's the other class of customers who are, I would say, more enterprise y, at least that's how I think about them in my mind, right? So there, there's something about their, either their company structure or the way that, What they're used to that they want to buy in a different way, right?
So they're used to talking to an enterprise sales team. They're used to their procurement process being complicated. They're used to things like security questionnaires. And that type of customer has always existed for us, but it's definitely gotten worse in a sense that we have more of these customers that need that level of attention.
And so I think, you know, sometimes these are the customers that make you more money, but not always. I think one of our, like our biggest customer today, I think came from a. So they just signed up for like, I think at a time, 99 a month type plan. And today there are more than a hundred K a year type customer.
And this was just by essentially expansion revenue, right? Like they had a small use case and then they had, you know, Lockmore database service, which is our perceived essentially pricing. And so it's just like growing from, you know, initial experience. Somebody had success internally, right? Somebody became a champion for the product inside the company.
And then that's how it grew to a much bigger contract for us.[00:19:39] Omer: Did you know who your ICP is? at the time. It strikes me that Postgres is like a very accessible database. Like I, you know, I could, I could spin up an app this afternoon and have a Postgres database up and running. Probably I would never require pganalyze.
Unless I was doing so well that, you know, I needed to worry about, you know, scale and performance and all these kinds of things in my database. So I'm guessing there are a lot of people out there using you know, Postgres who aren't your ideal customers. So how did you, how did you figure who who that was?
Like when you were doing your marketing, was there a certain type of person you were, you were thinking of, you were targeting? And if not, like, what was the process you went through to figure out who that ICP was?[00:20:32] Lukas: I think it's, and it's funny when you say ICP, like for me, there is, you know, ICPD, we're trying to measure this and we're trying to say, Oh, this prospect is an ICP.
And it just doesn't work. So it's really funny. Cause I like, we keep trying to make this work well. So that we identify people in a funnel in an automated fashion. And it's really hard, but what does work well is I can tell you what's a good customer. So in a sense, I do know the ICP. It's just it's just funny that it's measuring it as hard sometimes.
Like in a sense, you know, of course this has shifted over time, but I think, think of like customers, like, so Atlassian, for example, is one of the public case studies we have. And so, you know, they have a very common setup, which a lot of bigger companies that we work with have, which is they have a central team that's supporting other teams, right?
So there's like, There's like an infrastructure team. And I think, well, I don't actually know right now if they have a data team as well, but oftentimes in other companies, you know, they have an infrastructure team and have data platform, data engineering team as well. And so these central teams then support other application teams.
And so I think one of the most important insights for us was understanding that structure, right? So when we think about which customer, like for us, customers that have more database servers are more valuable. And so because they pay us more money because we charge per database server. And so. What set up, like which kind of customers have a hundred database servers?
Now, it turns out if you're just, you know, a startup starting out and you have, as you mentioned, your Postgres database, I mean, at the worst case, you have one badly performing Postgres database, but you don't have a hundred badly performing Postgres databases. And so in that sense, right? Like I think what we've seen over the years is that the teams.
Like the companies where it's really beneficial are these kind of setups where there are these central teams. They try to, you know, kind of provide something to the other teams. And the motivation for them is ultimately they don't scale, right? Like there are five people, but there's a hundred plus application engineers.
And so what happens right now, if we don't, if we're not in the picture, then these application engineers come to them with questions like, please optimize my query. What's the database doing? It's slow again, right? Like all these things that are kind of. Like centralized in this team that doesn't really scale, like, even if they are experts at what they're doing, it still doesn't scale.
And so that's really what we found over the years by listening to our customers, right, by talking with them, by seeing who's buying, right? Like who is, who's the person writing the check and. It usually wasn't the infrastructure side or the data engineering side. So that's kind of how we evolved that ideal customer profile to today.
I would say, you know, the best customer we can get are those teams where there's, you know, multiple application teams that use Postgres as the main record store. And then there's data platform team that supports them and that data platform team needs a better solution.[00:23:05] Omer: And is most of that, most of those leads still coming through content marketing and inbound? [00:23:13] Lukas: That's right. Yeah. I mean, some word of mouth as well, like these days. So we definitely get people that are like, Hey, I used you guys at the previous company, now I'm at a new company. So I still like the product. So can we use it here? But yeah, it's definitely all inbound. So we don't today we don't do much outbound.
It's one of the things we're looking to change now to essentially scale the revenue further but otherwise it's all inbound from content.[00:23:34] Omer: And then what do you do in terms of nurturing? I mean, as we know, you know, 90 percent plus of the traffic coming to your site isn't going to be ready to buy. So how do you, what do you do to capture those leads and nurture them? [00:23:53] Lukas: So I think, I mean, in the technical sense or in the practical sense, like what are we doing is we're, so we have a life cycle email campaign. So let's say, so a couple of things actually, so you can sign up for a newsletter that's one way of getting into the system, so to say, but generally speaking, what most of the, you know, Like where we can follow the trail.
Most of the cases do is so we have eBooks that we publish which essentially like 20-page PDFs and we put them behind a gated content page. Right. So it's like, Hey, you want to download this? Give us your email address. Tell us size of your company, how many database servers you have, stuff like that, right?
ICP type questions. And so once they give us an email address, we try not to be obnoxious, but we do try to give them a little bit of a, Hey. You know, here is why this product might be relevant to you. And so we're starting like we've revised this over time, but I think the current iteration we have is we essentially start by providing, like we focus, we don't focus on the product, but we focus on what we think their problem would be.
Right. So like in our case, slow SQL queries, right? So oftentimes queries are slow. And so we kind of walk them through how. I, as the expert, for example, right. Putting my Postgres hat on how I would optimize a query and just like providing value essentially through a lifecycle email, right? So day one, you get kind of a quick intro, how I optimize SQL queries.
Day two, you kind of get, I think an extension of that, but then we kind of weave in the product. And day three, well, it's probably, I think it's essentially after week, if I recall correctly. So it's like one day, three days, seven day. And on the seventh day, we were like, well, you know. As we talked about last week, here's our general process.
Here's some more resources. And if you want to try pganalyze. Here's a link to try it out or schedule a demo to kind of set it up. So that's kind of the basic lifecycle campaign to, to try to get people's attention. The other thing we do, which I think helps to, you know, keep things alive over time, because the problem is, of course, a lot of people drop out, like they will read those emails or not read them, but essentially that happens once when they, Go into the system as a prospect, but then, you know, they never hear from us again, except our monthly newsletter.
Now what we do in these monthly newsletters is besides product updates, we have started doing webinars about two years ago, I would say. And these webinars have been really successful. Like we had multiple hundred people, I think 400 people. Show up live for webinar, which is very unusual. Like I've, I've usually seen, you know, 50 people show up live.
Like you get, you'll get a couple of hundred registrations, right. But actually people showing up it's very unusual to get a multiple hundreds of people. And so that was a really good signal because our webinars, they were again, providing value first and then selling second, right? So we were saying, here is how to solve this problem in Postgres.
We can tell you all the background and how it works, and also we can make it easier with pganalyze, but you don't have to use the product. This is even valuable to listen to if you don't use the product. Yeah,[00:26:33] Omer: I think in, in your market and your target customers. I think that's so important, like with, particularly with developers, I think they can smell marketing type stuff a mile away.
And so it's, I think it's so much more important to be leading with value and educational content and so on. And, and I love this thing about, you know, we'll help you solve the problem. You can use our product if you like to make your life easier, but if not, you know, here's still things that you can do to make your life easier.
That's a good way to think about it. You, you also run a YouTube channel now. Is that something you did, you started recently?[00:27:14] Lukas: We did. Yeah. So, one of the challenges with content strategies is how do you produce the content, right? And so, like one and a half years ago, we started, so ultimately we're trying to figure out how do we scale this without relying on Lucas to sit down and write content.
Because it turns out the busier you get as a founder, the less time you have for writing content. And so especially the activation energy is high, right? So, like actually taking the time to start writing is, was the struggle and it's still a struggle for me today. And so, what we started as an experiment one and a half years ago, which I think is working actually pretty well, is we started a weekly video series on YouTube called five minutes of Postgres.
And the idea is literally just to say, Hey, you know, Lucas has things that are of interest to people in the Postgres space. How do we get Lucas to say things that are interesting is to take a blog post. By somebody else in a space and talk about that as a starting point, right? So, Hey, this person wrote about that.
And also, I think you should know this other thing that this person didn't include in their post. And so just using that as a kind of starting point. So like making it easier for me to do it, right? Like I spent, let's say three hours a week on recording those, those weekly videos, but I can always find a starting point so I can just sit down and do it.
Versus if it's a. You know, fresh piece of content. I would have to really, you know, struggle to even know where to start, what to write about, all that stuff. So, it's kind of a hack for us to, to get more content.[00:28:31] Omer: Isn't that amazing. You just said, you know. We do these five minute videos and I spent three hours a week on those videos. [00:28:39] Lukas: Well, the hard part is the research. So I still try to give you good content, right? It's like, it's like the hard part is figuring out like there's 20 pieces of blog posts, which one is the one worth talking about? Yeah. And [00:28:49] Omer: I think often people on the other side of that, people who are consuming that content.
Forget that, right? It's like, Oh, five, five minutes. They probably just sat down and just recorded it and spent a little bit more time editing and publishing and stuff. And, but if you want to do really good stuff, you have to research, you have to do something which is going to be different, something that's gonna give people some new insight takeaway and not something that they've heard a hundred times because those types of content.
You know, videos you could, you could probably create in five or 10 minutes, but do they add much value?[00:29:26] Lukas: Probably not. I mean, it's still interesting, right? Some people just, you know, get on the stream and talk for an hour. And I think people like that too. It's just, I found myself being more interested in shorter content.
That's, you know, edited. Like, I mean, I do heavy editing of that content and I, you know, try to get a good transcript, right. Cause I feel like that. ultimately values our listeners time and makes it more broadly interesting to more people.[00:29:46] Omer: So how is that working for you? Is that still an, kind of an experiment or are you, are you seeing results from that in terms of?
You know, generating leads and then customers.[00:29:58] Lukas: So I think, I mean, it's definitely generating results as well. So for reference today, that channel has 2, 100 subscribers. So not that many for YouTube channel, but it's a very targeted channel, right? So like it's, think of this as, you know, I mean, there's channels with millions of subscribers, but for us having 2000 people that really care about Postgres content and listen to us each week and probably talk about it to their colleagues, that's really valuable.
And so I think anecdotally. The reason I think it's worth doing and investing the time also from our side is because I have conversations and people are like, Oh yeah, well thank you for these five minute videos. I find them really educational, right? And I have, this is not just one, I have like multiple of those cases over the last months, essentially.
And so I know that it's a way for people to remember us, right? Because that's part of the struggle is like these people use Postgres every day. But they don't think about pganalyze every day. So how do we get pganalyze into the conversation of their interest in Postgres to also, you know, be something that they think about when they, when the time is right?[00:30:54] Omer: Researching for this interview, the first thing I started asking myself was, you know, you're building, you're offering people a tool that they can use for their Postgres databases that are, you know, on AWS or Google Cloud or Azure or wherever. And surely there must be, you know, these types of tools like, you know, Amazon's already building this or Microsoft.
What, what is out there? What is available for people through some of these, these bigger companies? And how did you sort of figure out the best way to position pganalyze as, as something that made sense for people, despite maybe, you know, other tools being available for them to use?[00:31:43] Lukas: So, I think, I mean, it's definitely true, right?
It's like very specific examples. So, on Amazon AWS, you have RDS performance insights, which is like the built in here are the queries that are running on your database type for you, right? So Google has something similar. Azure has something similar. Now, I think in a sense that. It comes to looking at this also through a, what will these companies be able to do?
And what can't they do? And one of the things that they struggle with, like the cloud providers struggle with is doing a lot of unique user experience around debugging type tools, right? Cause that, that doesn't really fit their pattern, right? So, I think they're like, they do services and see sometimes like.
AWS, for example, has DevOps Guru, which is like their recommendation service, but it's, it's very restricted in terms of the UI that it's able to provide. And so, one of the things that I think we've, from a values, you know, how do we build the product perspective? We've always emphasized good user experience.
Like we have a designer on our team and I always felt that, you know. It's, it's important to make things good to understand, not just, you know, kind of provide a feature. And so I think that's in a sense of very, like that has longevity because it's very unlikely that AWS would, you know, do 180-degree turn and suddenly actually ship good user experience in their console.
I mean, it's not bad, but it's not really good, right? Like it's not the kind of thing that helps you when you're debugging. And so I think in a sense, right, like that means that the people that use it. So they can just get a better experience that they could get otherwise, even, you know, if it's more basic, essentially.
And I think from a very practical perspective, of course, it's a question of what we emphasize, right? So one of the things we did, I think, it must've been like two years ago, we started publishing competitor comparison pages on our website. So, we said, Hey. You know, if you are using RDS Performance Insights, which in a sense is a competitor, right?
And it's built-in, so it's free. So, you know, it's the worst kind of competitor. We just said, well, you know, here are the features that they have. And here are the features that we have. And if people ask me, I say, Hey, you know, this is biased, right? Like we published this, of course you should do your own research, but here are the things you should be looking at, right?
Like. They don't do execution plans. They don't do index recommendations. But here are all the things that they don't do. And that works pretty well. Like people are citing those features that we, you know, referenced. They, they see that as the reason why they don't think it's sufficient, right? Why they don't think like it's a good starting point, but then they really struggle with solving the problems end to end with those built-in solutions.[00:33:57] Omer: Okay, good. Let's also talk about competitors beyond those, you know, those platforms we just mentioned. Can we talk about Datadog? I think that was a good, good example of, so, you know, here's a company that is funded, I mean, they've raised, I think like 100, 150 million or something. [00:34:17] Lukas: I'm in your public now, right? [00:34:18] Omer: So, tell us a story about what happened there when, when you woke up one day and, and, and discovered what Datadog was doing. Sure. Yeah. [00:34:26] Lukas: And I think, you know I think they do some good work, but they are definitely very aggressive in their marketing machinery and their sales machinery. And so, I think what Datadog did a couple of years ago is they launched their database performance monitoring product. So Datadog, you know, has all kinds of products, but, you know, amongst other things, they now have a product that more directly competes with what we're doing. And you know, essentially it provides like query statistics at a very high level.
And so. I was worried at the time that they launched that. I mean, I knew a little bit earlier than it was publicly launched, but not in a sense that, you know, I could say, well, here is my grand strategy, how to solve it. and so I think in that very moment, you know, I was like, huh, well, that sucks. You know, will we see our revenue drop?
Right. Like, will we see, you know people migrating there and stop using us. And. I think what we've seen since then, you know, since this is, let's say two years ago, three years ago, is that because we, I think, worked on our positioning and because we worked on, on features that are maybe, you know, not solved and very explicitly not so for what they're doing, we were kind of able to, I think, unwind ourselves out of that.
You know, kind of perspective. And also I think the practical implications, right? So sometimes if these competitive comparisons, you're just getting obsessed and it doesn't really help you, right? So like as a founder, I think it's kind of pointless to worry about competitors day long, night long. But it is, I think, still good to think about how you position yourself.
And so why would a customer choose you versus them? And also, what data are you seeing, right? Are you seeing people bring up Datadog as a comparable? And so, I think what we've did, for example, very specifically in our case is we like focus more on recommendations, right? So, we essentially said, well, you know, if we just go into the observability route, observability gets commoditized.
So I mean, the fact that Datadog is getting into this. Means, and all these cloud providers have all their built-in solutions as well, means that the commodity here is that basic monitoring side of it, right? And so how do we become more than that? And essentially, we ourselves treat it as a commodity instead of saying we were so much better in that, even though we are, right, but how do we say, well, here are the other things that are, you know, distinct things that you need.
And so for us, it was really introducing what we call advisors, which are essentially ways that we can tell you what to improve in your database. Not just show you the data.[00:36:30] Omer: And when was that? When, when did they come out with the, [00:36:34] Lukas: You know, I'd have to look at the actual year, but it must've been, I think it was shortly into the pandemic.
So it must've been like 2021 or something, 2020.[00:36:42] Omer: And did it have much of an impact on your revenue? [00:36:45] Lukas: No, interestingly not. I, I, you know we've like not seen anything. I mean, I've only seen it brought up in conversations, right? It's like. Definitely, you know, people talked about it and I kind of know when we would lose a deal from what they do well versus what we do well.
But generally speaking, I do not recall a single instance where we specifically lost somebody's business. I'm sure we have, right? But I think it's not to the point where I was like, Oh my God, you know, it's a problem. And our revenue kept growing since then. I mean, in a sense, it's also good for the customer, right?
I mean, the customer gets a better product because we have to compete. So, in a sense, you know the same as Datadog, hopefully, right? Like, I mean, I don't know if we show up on their competitive, you know, landscape much, but ultimately the customer gets a better product.[00:37:28] Omer: Let's talk about sales. You know, earlier we talked about, you know, Lucas not having you know, as the business is growing, not having enough time to really be able to create.
As much content as you would like you are working, you've been working on the business full time now for a few years, but you're, you're still, you're still doing all the selling right to these, what do you call them? Like enterprise y type, type customers. And, and you don't have a sales background. And, and I know some of these You know, some of these companies are fairly big and anytime you're selling to an enterprise, it's not a straightforward sale, right?
It's just like, just in terms of, you know, corralling these people and getting the right people to turn up for the right meeting to do a demo or whatever. And, and, you know, Kind of compliance and reviews and all of that. This is not an easy thing to go through. And you're doing all of that yourself today.
I mean, do you, do you consider yourself like a natural salesperson? It's not something that you'd done in the past?[00:38:30] Lukas: I think I consider myself a reasonably okay listener. So like when, like, You know, like I don't go into a situation being like, here's how we do it. It's more like, what, what are they trying to do and how can I help that?
Right. So I'm very much a consultative sales type mentality, I would say, which in some ways is good. I think the parts that I've struggled with and I've, you know, tried to do better over the years is streamlining processes. So sometimes it's very good to listen, but sometimes it's also very good to just say, well, they're just trying to get this done.
How do you enable that? Getting it done versus trying to listen too much. And so, I think. I'm not necessarily a good salesperson per se, but I'm again, pretty good at listening. And I think I'm pretty good at optimizing or automating things. And so, or identifying what's the blocker. And so, compliance, for example, you mentioned SOC 2.
So we last year was the first year where we had our SOC 2 type 2 report. And that's just, you know, wholesale just removed a bunch of work because we didn't have to do as many compliance type questionnaires, like security questionnaires. And it just became like a checklist item essentially for companies.
That also changed a lot over the years, like five years ago, that wouldn't have been as extreme. But nowadays, a lot of companies just ask for your SOC 2 type 2 report. And if you don't have it, they'll, you know, ask your security questionnaire. But I think, you know it is still a limited quantity, right?
So I think, you know, for me, I think the, the important realization is like, I can only spend so much time in a day. And so I think identifying which customers are worth spending time on versus which customers we essentially say, well, You are not an enterprise type customer for us, sorry, right? Like the fact that you are, I mean, sometimes, you know, it's a big corporation, but the database team is small.
And so I think those are the cases where we are, I think, are starting to get more explicit and say, well, you know, there's a self-serve motion by that way, you know, we, we cannot support your procurement requirements if you're just purchasing a. 5, 000 a year type license.[00:40:21] Omer: What's been the hardest part of selling to enterprises for you so far? [00:40:25] Lukas: I think feeling, knowing when to push back on things like on a contractual basis is challenging. We have a good lawyer who as an external counsel, but she's really good at being fast and responsive, which is an important quality in a lawyer. But I think. There are businesses that will always want to do things on their paperwork, right?
So like the, the, like bigger enterprises, they have their standard, like MSA that they will request you to use and knowing when to push back on that is hard. And I think by now what we've done is we've pushed back on most of these, except really the, you know, big names where we just say, well, you know, we want that name, unfortunately I can't name them, but let's just say their household names, right?
Where we're like, okay, well, well, you know, review their agreement, but it's. It's been challenging to know when that's okay. And what's also, you know, on a contract, like what you insurance limits, for example, right? So like which level of cyber liability insurance do you have? And, you know, what should you actually pay for with your insurance carrier?
And so I think it's just, that's just trial and error in a sense, right? So, because I think feeling confident to push back on terms. And then hearing from the other side, no, that's not okay. We, we absolutely must have that. And in some case, like there was one like well-known household name where they said, they essentially requested something in a contract that didn't make sense for us.
And so it was like, nope, we don't need you as a customer. If that's what you're requesting, essentially, we can say no. Like it's, I mean, this is the extreme and I usually wouldn't do it, but I'd rather say no and not sign up for something that I couldn't, you know, put my name to essentially. So, but that's, that's kind of hard to, to do, I think well, and I don't know if we're doing it well these days, but it's definitely been a struggle.[00:42:00] Omer: Yeah. Do you find it's hard to, to sell to enterprises? Like in terms of. Do they look at you and say, you know, you guys are, you know, like a small business or, you know, small company has, has that been, you know, I remember talking to Dominic who, who runs a Storyblock and who's also from, he's based, still based in Austria.
You know, I, I remember him saying, you know, the first big customer. That they were about to close, you know, it was great. They were excited about the products and everything. And then the security reviews came and, you know, all this stuff. And then Dominic was like, well, yeah, no problem. But just, you should know that, you know, like we're, we're a very small company.
And I said, like, how small? And they're like there's two of us. And they were like, and, You know, that killed the deal. I mean, obviously it's like, it's a little, a little different here. It's not like, you know, they're, they're, they're kind of betting the farm by using PG analysis, something is helping them improve what's already there on AWS or whatever, but has that been an issue for you?[00:43:03] Lukas: Do you mean just the size of the company? Yeah, I mean, I, I would say I've, I've definitely revised how I talk about it to customers directly, because I don't think there is much to gain by telling an enterprise you're small. I don't think you should lie. Right. So, if somebody asks how many team members you have, you should be honest.
Right. And I am always honest, but I don't think you need to focus on that proactively because I don't think that's helpful. Like it's not gonna. Like, for example, if they give you a big compliance questionnaire and you say, Oh, I can't fill it out because I'm small. That's not going to win the deal. Right.
So I think what I've learned over the years is using other things like saying, Hey, you know, we have a SOC 2 type two report and, Oh, sorry, we're so busy. You know, we can't answer your 150 compliance questions, but can you make this work with this? Right. So like, I try to work around it when I see that there's, that there's stuff that we just can't support for our team size.
The other thing, this is not necessarily directly related to team size, but the other thing that we've done, which worked well for us is we have a version of the product called PGNL Enterprise Server, which is essentially a, the full product as a self-contained software. So generally speaking, when people sign up for the product or pay for a product, it's our cloud-based version, which runs in our AWS account.
But oftentimes when you get these really long compliance questionnaires. The part of the fear that they have, right, is that they have a data breach, right? So, like they are sharing PII with you and then you have data breaching your small vendor. And so, you know, there's a bigger risk. And so, one of the ways to sidestep that has been to have that self-contained version where they can be sure that, you know, if they put a bunch of firewall rules on it, then the data stays in their environment, guaranteed essentially, instead of kind of going through our cloud.
That's been a good trick.[00:44:39] Omer: Yeah, that's a good, that's a good way to get around it. Okay. Let's wrap up. Let's go to the lightning round. I've got seven quickfire questions for you. What’s one of the best pieces of business advice you've received? [00:44:50] Lukas: Don't listen to advice unless somebody is talking about their own past where they've done something, but don't listen to somebody giving you generic advice. [00:44:58] Omer: Unless it's advice telling you not to listen to advice. What book would you recommend to our audience and why? [00:45:06] Lukas: So, I found this book earlier again. It's a, there we go. Don't Just Roll the Dice by Neil Davidson. It's a good book on pricing. So, they, you know, Neil Davidson is actually in our space or used to be in our space, like he was the CEO of Redgate Software, which does what we do for Postgres, Server.
But it's a really nice short book on just different pricing strategies. And so you as a founder should always think about pricing. Every year you should think about, should we change our pricing? Should we raise our prices? Because I think, you know, people, especially engineering type founders don't do that often enough.
And so it's just a good reference book. Don't just roll the dice.[00:45:36] Omer: I haven't come across that one before. That sounds interesting. What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder? [00:45:45] Lukas: I think ultimately realizing that you will, you will need to solve the problems. And so you can hire for solving problems.
Right. But I think like that basic sense of grit and like kind of just getting into and doing it, like I do a lot of things that don't scale, right. Coming back to the point in the beginning like it's just important when to know not to do that, but I think oftentimes just sitting down and doing it versus being like, Oh, you know, I need.
Ahead of marketing, ahead of sales to be able to do it. So just getting in the seat and doing it is so important.[00:46:13] Omer: What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit? [00:46:16] Lukas: I think for me, it's funny, for me, it's been, so I, even though we're just a company, for me, it's actually been renting an office. So I, I mean, I have two kids at home, so that sometimes makes, it's part of the struggle, but it's just having a dedicated space to work in versus trying to make working from home work for me personally has been the best productivity tool. [00:46:33] Omer: What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the extra time? [00:46:37] Lukas: Well, you know, I've, over the years, I kept thinking it'd be nice to do like a Postgres as a service, you know, database hosting, that's just better than everything else, but then there have been so many of those launched recently.
If you're in that space, you would know. And so it's probably not a good idea anymore, but I, I kept thinking, wouldn't it be nice if we were also running a database? So, but I don't want to do that. So, you know,[00:46:54] Omer: I think it goes back to the timing, right? Timing is important as well. It's a lot of these ideas.
What's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know?[00:47:03] Lukas: It's a, it's a good question. I think. I mean, this is, this is more about how I see my own work, which is, I think it's very important to not have a strict schedule during the day. So sometimes, you know, like for example, I like to go like bouldering, rock climbing during the day, and that really helps me work my schedule and feel, you know, feel like everything fits together.
And so I think just not, you know, kind of being stuck in those you need to be nine to five or you need to do that and that, I think that's just me.[00:47:30] Omer: And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work? [00:47:33] Lukas: Well, in part, rock climbing, as I just mentioned, I think the thing that I really like doing when I have the time is doing multi day hikes like, you know, just in the back country, getting, having no reception and having hired enough people so that I can actually be out of office completely. [00:47:50] Omer: Love it. All right. Great. Well, thank you so much for joining me. It's been a pleasure chatting and thanks for racking your brain and finding some of the things that were deep in there from, you know, 10, 11 years ago. So never an easy thing to do. If people want to check out pganalyze, they go to pganalyze. com. And if folks want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that? [00:48:12] Lukas: So well, go to our website, send something to the contact us form. If you don't want to write this down, otherwise send me an email at Lukas, L U K A S, the K is important, not the C, Lukas at pganalyze.com. And then also, if you do know somebody who's good at sales, we are currently hiring our head of sales for the team so that I don't have to do all the selling.
So if you know somebody, please drop me an email or go to our careers page.[00:48:34] Omer: Perfect. Lucas, thank you. It's been a pleasure. I wish you and the team the best of success. And good luck with filling that position. Thank you so much. [00:48:43] Lukas: Thank you for having me. [00:48:44] Omer: My pleasure. All the best. Cheers.
- “Don't Just Roll the Dice – A Usefully Short Guide to Software Pricing” by Neil Davidson Ph.