Dominik Angerer - Storyblok

Storyblok: Turning a CMS Prototype Into an 8-Figure SaaS – with Dominik Angerer [366]

Storyblok: Turning a CMS Prototype Into an 8-Figure SaaS

Dominik Angerer is the co-founder and CEO of Storyblok, a headless content management system (CMS) that helps developers and marketers create better content experiences.

In 2017, Dominik and Alexander discovered the limitations of traditional CMS platforms while working at an agency on various client projects.

They wanted to find a CMS that could be customized to fit their client's needs. But there didn't seem to be a good solution out there.

They developed a simple prototype of a headless CMS to use on client projects while they continued searching for a proper solution. But their prototype grew in popularity, and they started adding more features.

Eventually, the duo quit their jobs and started their own company.

But it wasn't all smooth sailing. They wasted a lot of time and energy by trying to pursue too many ideas at once instead of being focused on the problem that mattered the most. And they lost a big customer that was very interested in their product once they revealed they were a 2-person company.

Today Storyblok is an 8-figure ARR business that serves thousands of customers and has raised $58 million in funding.

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • How the founders acquired nearly all their customers from inbound marketing and only recently started doing any outbound.
  • How they managed to get SEO working for them quickly and drive organic traffic, leads, and customers.
  • We also talk about they accidentally discovered how to turn the live chat widget on their website into a growth channel.
  • Why the decision to choose a domain name that looks like a typo is still costing them around half a million dollars every year.

I hope you enjoy the interview!


Click to view transcript

This is a machine-generated transcript.

[00:00:00] Omer: Dominik, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for having me. Do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you that you can share with us?

[00:00:07] Dominik: Yeah, since 2014, I have it as my WhatsApp status. It's if you're offered a seed on a rocket ship, don't ask what seed. Just got get on.

And it's by Shirley Sandberg who also inspired Mark Zuckerberg.

[00:00:19] Omer: Cheryl Sandberg, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

[00:00:20] Dominik: Really, really, really good quote.

[00:00:22] Omer: What does that quote mean to you?

[00:00:24] Dominik: Don't ask too many questions. Just get on with it and, and try it and see if you like it or not. And it helps you be faster and be more focused because, hey, you're off the seat, so yes, get onto the seat and try it.

You know? So it helped to be more focused.

[00:00:39] Omer: Love it. So tell us about Storyblok. What does the product do? Who is it for, and what's the main problem you're helping to solve?

[00:00:46] Dominik: Yeah, so Storyblok is headless CMS. It helps you to actually build out flexible content in a faster and more easier way.

Not just in the billing part, but also in the management part. Storyblok's CMS comes with a visual features, we have collaboration features. We have a. Really, really, really fast API for content consummation on any platform, you can use any frontend technology so you're not bound to just PHP or just JavaScript or anything like that.

You can really use the content everywhere. And by now we are fully enterprise-ready. Not, not just that we are actually customers choice according to Gartner. And we actually got yeah, return of investment calculated by Forrester of 582% which I think is really, really cool.

[00:01:25] Omer: So Forrester said that the, return on investment of using Storyblok is 500 and

[00:01:33] Dominik: 82%, yeah. So we, we asked Forrester to, without our interview variance in, in, in any, any way we asked them to interview our customers and they selected the customers, they selected the size of the customers, and they interviewed them without us being in the room and without us extra preparing them for anything.

Then they shared metrics, they anonymized them. And then we got the full calculation of multiple customers and the average was 582% to a ton of investment after using Storyblok. So the license you paid to Storyblok, to use it as a content management solution after six months, you already completely yeah, in the green.

[00:02:08] Omer: Also that, that Gartner Matrix that you talked about, I saw that. I came across that on your website. We'll, we'll talk about that a little later. I think. When we just took a little bit about competition, but it was quite nice that you a Storyblok was in a grid of its own, in a pretty competitive market, and it was one of the good boxes to be in. It wasn't like, you know, like Gartner has, like, you know, the boxes you don't want to be in.

So that, that was, that was pretty good. Again. We'll, we'll, we'll talk about that before we get started with your story. You know, give us a sense of the size of the business. Where are you in terms of revenue, number of customers, size of team, and so on.

[00:02:49] Dominik: So we are now 235 people across 47 countries. We don't have offices, so we're fully remote mostly home office or coworking spaces in, in that sense if we have at least three x growth of year over year.

Basically, and the craziest thing is I believe we have like 0% enterprise churn. Actually, I don't believe that. I, I know that super percent enterprise churn and our like revenue split. To give you some understanding 70% of our ARR comes from enterprise and 30% is self-service. So paid by a credit card either monthly or yearly.

And yeah, that's story block.

[00:03:18] Omer: Awesome. So you're a eight-figure ARR business, and I think you, you have raised, what was the number.

[00:03:27] Dominik: Total of 58 million so far at the last Series B was 47 million.

[00:03:32] Omer: And so you said the team is remote 235 people and you are based in Austria?

[00:03:38] Dominik: Yes, I'm based in Austria in Linz and my co-founder Alex, is actually living in Teresópolis in, in Brazil. So yeah, it really helps on, on like life support and stuff like that being in like different time zones.

[00:03:52] Omer: Yeah, yeah, exactly. He can do the work when you're sleeping.

[00:03:56] Dominik: Exactly. Yeah. Especially when, when we bootstrapped, you know, like we, we didn't start with being like VC funded. So we actually put strapped from 2017 until end of 2019 and created business to the first million in the hour with just the two of us. And only then when we hit some struggles we actually decided to, to go the VC route.

[00:04:15] Omer: Awesome. So let's talk about where the idea came from. You and Alexander were working. In an agency, you're running an agency working at an agency?

[00:04:30] Dominik: Yeah, so we were running the departments. Alex was like the head of app development. I was like this head of service and maintenance for our customers and so luckily we were not the founders of the agency, so it would have been quite difficult to move out with Storyblok, but it was, was an intense time back in 2015.

[00:04:48] Omer: Got it. Okay. So you're at this agency. How did you come up with the idea? Where, where did it come from?

[00:04:54] Dominik: So Alex initially started, so we were using tons of different content dimension solutions. But one in particular, we had an later on an exclusive kind of deal, which was a really old Java, PHP kind of mixture kind of thing from the Austrian state. And told us, hey, we are going to shut it down and you need to find something new.

And so you can imagine an agency that has an exclusive deal with one enterprise content management solution kind of flipping out that they are about to lose all the customers because that's the CMS that they're using, right? So we looked for new CMS, we looked into WordPress type of free, then triple from triple we, we saw Acquia on the enterprise side Adobe Sitecore Liferay. Then we found headless competitors like account full content stack in Prismic back then in 2015, and we realized that this is, all okay for us as a developer, but the marketers actually are not that happy. Like they, they need visual guidance. They need to understand what they're editing because they're used to understanding what they're doing and they don't want to wait for publishing run to just basically wait to, to see if they broke something.

And we combined the settlers idea with a visually detour that is still completely separated from a few, and launched it for our own customers. They, they liked it. And then, you know, like we invited more customers to try it. We built more features, we added more services, and then we, we launched it on a, on a website called

[00:06:18] Omer: Okay, great. So you, you mentioned some of the, the other products out there, and I've had Neha Sampat, the, founder of Contentstack on the show, but just for people who aren't familiar, can you just explain what is a headless CMS? And how is it different to, you know, what people might be more familiar with like a WordPress?

[00:06:46] Dominik: Yeah. So when you like, get your, your hands on, on something like WordPress or any monolith CMS, how, how we headless people talk about it. It usually ships with the templating language and the, the few layers of how the content is displayed together with the CMS. And so you have your, your admin interface where you have your, your management or, or few.

And basically you can change your content at the same time. When you hit publish, you immediately have the website built from WebPress. You can install plugins that change the HTML, it chip, the JavaScript and all that. And the idea of hatless originally is that, You completely strip away that fuel layer.

You basically cut the head of your website, that's why it's called headless. And all you're left with is this admin overview where you actually change content and save the drafts, publish it, and then stop at the content. I. Stop it data and all you give to developers at that point is the pure adjacent data information.

So they can just consume the data from APIs and use any technology they want to build the website. The cool thing is even tools like WebPress and similar, they now have plugins that you can install where you can use them as an a i that doesn't make them hatless because it's a different way of how they were built originally.

But it gives you an option to combine it with other tools that have this philosophy of using APIs from data.

[00:08:05] Omer: Okay, great. Thanks for that. One thing I wanna understand I wasn't quite clear on, was when you and Alexander started working on this idea of a headless CMS when you were at the agency, was this some work you were doing?

For an agency client or this was you, you spotted an opportunity and then you guys were like, evenings and weekends, build a product and we'll go and sell it to somebody else.

[00:08:34] Dominik: Yeah, so we didn't have to plan to do that. We actually had the goal to not build the CMS because every developer build the CMS before, or at least some kind of management kind of where you can it stuff.

We're like, okay, let, let's not build a CMS, let's find a CMS we want and then customize it to like fit the needs of our clients. And turns out that when we were looking for that CMS, we. At one point had to find something that our customers wanted to use in the meantime. Right? So it started out as this like small prototype that yeah, somehow like crew and crew, and it was, the main idea was about storytelling with components, reusable content blocks, so storytelling with blocks, story block. And at that point it somehow grew, grew. We, we, we, larger than we expected given that at that time, like Silhouette, Adidas and, and so on, started using it. And it was a prototype that, that face still and from that prototype one, we, we started the journey of writing articles and, and stuff like that, and it grew.

[00:09:36] Omer: So tell me how you got your first customer.

[00:09:39] Dominik: So the first customers definitely came directly from the agency. You know, we, we pitched them, Hey, this will be just this transition kind of prototype. I guess it's more interesting to see how we got beyond that agency phase because we spin out of that agency in, in mid 2017 when Storyblok GBH, the Austrian entity was established. And what we did is we started the landing page, and we realized quite early on that we need content. And Alex in my background is in technical SEO. So we are not talking about like add keywords to your site. You need to add meat attacks and stuff like that.

That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about performance of the site, site structure searchability usage and, and accessibility of the site itself. And we optimized site so, so much that every article that we wrote. Not on like these short term keywords, short term phrases and more on the long tail phrases.

That's like if you, if you google longtail, SEO phrases that's like a technique you can use to actually get more viewers from like more niche content. And that's what we have done. We created articles on how to use Storyblok with PHP, with futures, with React, with Angular, with Python, with everything you can imagine.

And we just started writing those articles because people were asking us how to do that, right? How to use it. In the live chat that we had. And with that, we, we then started to suddenly have more and more traffic, more and more users coming on the site. And because the article was about how to solve a certain problem with introducing Storyblok for free, like there's a premium version.

People just used it, liked it, and, and suddenly paid for it. And, With that, we ranked up on, on Google in itself, and at one point we decided, okay, let's write an article explaining headless CMS in five minutes. So we published that and because we ranked so good for those long tail articles, we also ranked number one for this headless CMS explained article.

And yeah, then more and more users came in and we hit like 1000 users in November, 2017 and two months later we had 3000 views on the platform and we're profitable at that point, which is kind of crazy to to think about actually.

[00:11:50] Omer: Wow. So most founders will be told, I when you are in the early stages of building a product, and I had just, I just had this conversation with, with a bunch of founders in my community just a few days ago where it was like, we need to be doing outbound, we need to be doing more outbound because SEO is great, but SEO isn't gonna pay back for six months, nine months, whatever.

But you guys started doing that very early on and you started getting results from that. So what was it that you were doing differently?

[00:12:26] Dominik: We, we, we, we started doing outbound mid last year, so that that's what, what we have done, like literally mid last year. Before that, everything we have done was pure inbound.

And the way we, we, we see that is that people that have a problem search for a solution. If you can be in the number one or second spot. You will be the defacto solution that they're going to at least try, and then your product needs to be spot on. So we focused on building the product because we were solving our own problems already and we didn't have the The The pressure to actually make money at the time because we were just becoming profitable because of the project we've built before. And also because of the, the users that just came in from the first couple of articles, we were really, really fortunate in, in, in that position because it allowed us to actually build and complete onboarding flow where they didn't need us to onboard them.

So we didn't need to outbound and onboard people because they were just able to register, try it out, like it or not, and then subscribe or not right. So that was our, our big luck in that, that regard. And it allows us to, allowed us to actually bootstrap for like two, two and a half years from basically nothing.

And like with purely inbound we, we still, still hits that $1 million ARR mark and I'm not sure if we did something different. I guess our product was in this hype kind of, of niche of hatless of that hatless movement. We just have, were really lucky on the timing. Plus the product is not too bad because they really liked it.

[00:13:58] Omer: Yeah. That helps with the product. Yeah. People like the product and I, I think also the fact that you mentioned that you were going after long tail keywords is, is also relevant because, and I think if people aren't familiar with it, I dunno, we can give an example and say, Headless CMS might be a more competitive keyword.

Using headless CMS with Django on Python would probably be a long tail keyword because fewer people are gonna be searching for that. There's gonna be less competition, so you get a better chance of ranking for that quickly. You're not going to get tens of thousands of people doing that, but you will get people there.

So I think that going after long tail keywords, great. And you know, I think everyone should, should try to do that in whatever they're doing. Let's talk about a little problem that you also had, which was I. A typo in your name, like just tell us the story about StoryBlok and, and you know, getting the domain and stuff.

[00:15:02] Dominik: Yeah. If, if you've like hear the name story block, you instantly think about Storyblok. But the problem was that this C on the BLOK side the domain was already gone, so we wanted to have a .com domain and we said we really like the name because of the idea of storytelling with blocks. So we don't want to just like move it away, like we don't want to take any other name.

Right. So I, naive as we were like back in the days, we were like, oh yeah, it's fine. We'll just train Google to understand that this is not a spelling mistake. It's not the typo. And like, if, if Flickr can do that and, and all the others, we can do that too. So we decided to, okay, Storyblok is fine without the C and there's so many problems if you do that. So the, the first one is it took us about three months for Googling not having this, like, did you mean Storyblock with a C, you know writing under the search results that they're, they're actually receiving or like sending out. And even today, I and we are talking now, five, six years later, we have, we have we are actually spending a lot of money for these typo campaigns, so when people are actually spelling Storyblok wrong, so they can at least find us because of course the other products, but sometimes they actually just look for Storyblok and or story blank block and or anything like that. So we have now to pay money on like paid advertisement for people who actually find us. And yeah, we have landing pages and all set up, but it's pretty expensive to have a typo in your name and you should think about it.

[00:16:33] Omer: Definitely, and I think that, you know, I mean Google is trying to be helpful of, by sending people to, of course, the correct domain.

You know, I, I just, I just went up to and there's no website there. So it look, it looks like one of those domains that somebody's just bought and is sitting on, and I don't know if you tried to buy it

[00:16:52] Dominik: No response. No response. If you're out there and your own with a c, please let me know.

[00:16:59] Omer: Yeah, I I'm sure it would've been easier to buy when it was just the two of you running a business with very little revenue.

[00:17:08] Dominik: Yeah, that, that's definitely a lesson learned, like, don't have a typo. I mean, it's fine. You, you can get around with it quite well. And, but now it's actually a really nice kind of gimmick because it's somewhat different.

Right. But still an expensive differentiator.

[00:17:23] Omer: Yeah, totally. Let's talk about enterprise customers. So you, earlier you said, we are enterprise ready. You have enterprise customers. Today, but it didn't go so well when you tried to sell to enterprise customers in the early days. Right? I mean, from, from what you, you told me you're actually getting interest in the product until, they found out.

[00:17:56] Dominik: Hey, it's just two people from Austria, or one from now Brazil and one from Austria.

Yeah, it's, it's, it's really tough, you know? Right now it's totally fine, you know, like 70% as mentioned of our like revenue is from enterprise customers. So talking like six figures upwards in ARR per customer and like, like banks and insurance companies and widespread organizations globally from like different regions and we're talking 52 languages projects, kind of stuff like really, really large projects.

And these kind of projects still had an interest already back in 2017. So they, they looked at us they looked at the freemium version. They tried it out and then they, they reached out to us and asked us, okay, we want to do redlining. We want to see your ISO certification. We want to see you fill out this 900 questions questionnaire for security audits and so on.

And we're like, yes, we can do that, but just share where like, we are two people and they're like, oh, oh, ooh, like the POC went great the product is cool and like we stress tested it, it works. It's really, really nice. But this is a block of us because they of course, have a risk assessment and they need to do that.

And by now we, we are fully ISO certified. You know, we, we are in the process of getting other certifications, especially for governments as well. And there's so many, many, many. Things that we have been doing since then especially filling out questionnaires. But back then it was a block of us.

Like literally we got the block because people said, Hey, we love the product please keep pushing. So you are getting better and bigger, mostly bigger so we can actually purchase you. Because right now we, we couldn't back in 2017, 2016. So that's why we went with not even bordering about outbounding because that had so many implications for us to fill out those certification processes and all that stuff that just blocked us from building the product.

So we decided actually, hey, let's, let's do self-service. Let's do a full put stripp kind of move and, and move to, to a, as big as we possibly can with the, the, the smallest amount of people. And we tried to push that as, as, as, yeah, as far as possible. And in 2019, we, we met again a person, Peter Lasinger from 3VC, which is is now one of our early investors that actually encouraged us to at least think about VC.

You know, it's not bad. It's not, not, not so, so bad to, to take money, to grow fast if you can. And I. After a lot of convincing and meeting other VCs, we decided, okay, let's, let's move out of the bootstrapping phase that we are in right now and flip it over to like, tackle those enterprises we never tackled before or because we, we suddenly, Had capital to tackle them.

Right. We suddenly had the possibility to hire those account executives, those, those security people that we actually need to have a co- proper, compliant answer to, to the questions that we received. And yeah, that was what at the time we were still to people that the time.

[00:20:47] Omer: Right. So you, the, the two of you got to, you said the first million in ARR. It was just two of you.

[00:20:55] Dominik: That's correct. 25,000 customers.

[00:20:58] Omer: How many customers?

[00:20:59] Dominik: 25,000 customers. Oh my gosh. Like it was, it was a freemium version plus, you know, like we had this $9 plan and $13 plan per user. So you need a lot of customers to, to ramp that number up right.

[00:21:11] Omer: Aside from the outbound, you did initially, you know, kind of going to the agency clients and saying, do you wanna buy this product?

[00:21:20] Dominik: They were inbound as well.

[00:21:21] Omer: The agency clients were as well?

[00:21:23] Dominik: Yeah, so we, we had a live chat on our website and because those agencies had developers and those developers tried to solve the same problem as every other developer, they found our articles. So when they had questions about us and the product and how to like build something with it.

Alex and I, we were sitting in the live chat and literally waiting for people to write this. And so they, they're really, really fun stories with people like writing us on Saturday night like 4:00 AM in the morning, not even about Storyblok because we talked with them for the last, like, three weeks and help them build that project that they're just buying a house and stuff like that.

You know, like really, really nice things that happened and that built those relationships with those agencies. And with that, we actually then got into touch with those large agencies and now I have a partner ecosystem of about 1,700 agencies globally. So like, this is basically just exploded from there.

[00:22:16] Omer: Wow. So it's all really been inbound until very, very recently last year mid last year. Yeah. I wanna talk about the live chat. Just, just to kind of finish off the, the previous questionnaire, what I was thinking about was, was there anything else. That you did to get to that first million in ARR, we talked about the, the SEO focusing on long tail.

We're gonna talk about live chat in the minute. Was there anything else that that got you to, to those 25,000 odd customers?

[00:22:53] Dominik: Yeah, so two things we, we focused heavily on, and especially Alex focused really hard on the onboarding journey. So we really wanted for people to. If you're a geister, you should have a clear step forward to the technology that you want to choose to building something and don't need us.

So it's could be, should be completely self-service. And the second thing we then did is if they have questions and ask us in the live chat that we had online before we answer in the live chat directly. We always just took the answer, made it a little bit more, I. Like in depth and published an article about it in an f a Q kind of style.

So with those customers that had had questions about the product, we optimized the onboarding flow. So it'd be completely automated basically from our side. And those people that still had questions, we could, we could refer them to the FAQ. And turns out, if you have a good search on your sites and enough content that actually answers the question that they, they actually have.

You suddenly reduce your, your support costs drastically. And that was necessary for two people to, to, to scale in that, that sense because suddenly we had more articles, more content, more relevant content that we didn't have to come up with, like. Just thinking, okay, what should I write about? No. People were asking us, Hey, how can you do that?

And is there any way I can go around it? So it was relevant content for the audience we were already getting, right? So suddenly we had this loop of people just reading the content that we wrote for others that. Had been on the site before and maybe resulted in a paid subscription. So we naturally, somehow created this loop of people subscribing and it took us, like every change we did on the onboarding, it took two to three months to see any impact.

And it was really nice because we are quite lucky that the feedback that we received. Was so good from those extremely friendly customers that we were able to, to integrate many, many, many informations. Like, like in onboarding, super important. You need to understand who you are onboarding. So ask the question who they are, are the developers, are the marketers, are they, like, do you have different audiences?

Depending on that, they might only want to see a demo and not build like a data structure like developers want to do. So like simple things like that. Right? It's, it's crazy to, to. Like build a product and have a login form and then just drop them in without an explanation and without facet first thinking about who they actually are that are like signing up.

And that was a big learning that you actually learn. Okay, which are the audiences that could possibly register and have an onboarding journey for all of them separated or combine them later again.

[00:25:35] Omer: So let's go back to the the live chat. Yeah. Now, there are very few SaaS companies that I can think of. Ones with even dedicated support teams that you go to the live chat and somebody actually replies, right? Usually it's like the fake live chat, which is you're really just searching the help docs and then they'll say to you, we'll get back to you, and then maybe 24 hours later or whatever, You, you hear from them?

Why put a live chat when there's only two of you? And then like, why were you guys just like, like sit sitting around and, and you know, having these conversations with, with people and. I mean, it was great you did that because it actually turned into a very important growth channel. Right? But that wasn't the intention right? When you started ?

[00:26:30] Dominik: Yeah, no, it, it wasn't so like the intention was that we get feedback. So the easiest, like you have multiple options to get feedback. If you're a large corporate, you usually know that hey, this, this upvote tool and here's this like feature request Dropbox that you can drop in and maybe someone somewhere at any point in time might reply.

We didn't want it because all the content management systems out there have that, like if you want to get in touch with any CMS vendor, it's super hard to do that. And we felt like, hey, we actually want to listen and we want to understand what's going on. And even today, if you go on, or even in the app, if you want to have like a report, an issue there's a, there's live chat popping up and you can chat with Renata, with with with Hannah and, and all our new joiners on the support team.

It's not just Alex and me anymore in there. Still we are there but like we have so many, many more people like supporting us now. And the cool thing is, people at first ask even our support team right now, if they're bots because they actually reply super fast because they actually know what they're doing.

And the big difference is they know, okay, this is more in depth and this sounds like something we should investigate. We, we will come back to you and here's like the, the. History of our conversation, you will be sent that by email automatically, and then later on you will have a service desk ticket created for you out of that conversation.

And then they will actually follow up. So it's, it's actually really nice because we can ask those initial kind of questions like, Hey which browser you're using? Does it happen on all the different spaces? Does it happen only for your use or other users? Does it happen on multiple devices and so on?

Like those, those default questions that you usually ask people. We can ask them real time and see them because it's a live person there and with us. So that's a huge, huge win. And if you are like just getting started, you want to understand what kind of customers or potential customers you have on your site.

So the easiest way to get that is not about data, because to get somebody to reply to a survey or anything like that, that's a big ask. But if they already have a question and you just are there for them to answer it, right, that's. Really, really nice. It's a really nice experience for them as well. So that's allowed us to get like honest feedback and mostly friendly feedback. Even until today.

[00:28:46] Omer: How did the feedback turn into customers?

[00:28:49] Dominik: Well, I, I can, I can give you one example where that feedback turned that person and the company into a customer, and then the person becoming an employee and now being the head of product at story block. Wow. So, and it was a really, really small feature.

So in Storyblok in the early days the title of our application was always Storyblok. And if you had multiple, multiple pages open with, with, in the application, it's always was story block on the top. So it's a really small thing and it's a detail, right? But this person, Sam, was a really big and heavy user of Storyblok back in the days now still, but a different perspective.

And one of the features that he, he asked in the live chat was like, Hey would it be possible to just update that title on the top with the current like content? I'm, I'm editing so I always know exactly which window is like, it's a small feature. It's nothing big. Right. And we ship that in five minutes.

I. Like it was two people coding and we were able to ship it really fast because it was a really small change. So we shipped that and 10, 50 minutes after our automated test and text accessibility and acceptance tests went through we shipped it and I pinged them back on the live. Yeah, yeah.

It's live. Please refresh and, and let us know if it works. And they wait, what? You deployed it in 15 minutes and Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's a good feature. Thanks for, thanks for the feedback. You know, and like a week later, the agency started onboarding the clients. And then when, when, when Sam moved to different country, he actually joined Storyblok at the end.

And yeah, he moved from DEFRA to advocating about Storyblok to becoming the head of products. So other people can have similar experiences. Now the, the timeframe is a little bit longer than 50 minutes because more people are working on that with proper sprint structure. We have proper security issues and all of that. But still the experience is quite the same still today.

[00:30:32] Omer: That's a, a great story. I, I love that. One thing I wanna understand is you, you said the majority of the growth until very recently has come from inbound in terms of sales onboarding, all of that stuff. Has that also been product led? Or The inbound turns into a demo, which turns into, you know, eventually a sale.

Which of the two has been kind of the predominant way you've acquired customers?

[00:31:03] Dominik: Yes, so there are two ways depending on who are the initiator of a project inside a company. So if it's coming from a developer inside a company or inside an agency, I. They usually just try the, the freemium version and then go up the tiers to the point.

Okay. We are launching a live product for a customer that has certain security requirements, certain optim requirements they need a certain amount of different spaces and stages and, and all that. And then they're moving up to the enterprise level. Then there's no demo because they already know the product and it's just a self-service, product-led growth kind of motion that we are talking about.

And we then also later on started doing that direct sales. We have a two stage sales process similar to what Salesforce is doing. It's, it's basically us having an inbound channel for you with contact form different campaigns that we have different papers that you can download and we ask you about some details.

And then if you. Contact us or we think, hey, we could help your company. Then we also by now reach out back in the days we just waited for you to drop us a message and we then got on a call with you and ask you some, some questions and if you have any technical questions or more on the marketing side or what kind of questions you just have, and then we schedule a demo, prepared that for you and, and walked you through the platform to the point where we then offered you a POC, not just for the freemium version, but for the enterprise plan that we have.

And you were able to just try that out and if you like it, you, you purchase it. If, if not then, then not. You know, we're not that, that pushy kind of a sales org, even though we have like steep goals and we are growing quite fast I still believe we like customers know best if, if they want our product, they're going to purchase it.

If then not, you know, so that, that's basically how we are doing it. It's like the motion, if it's more on the developer centric side, if it's a marketer that needs help with selling to the dev organization, the IT organization internally, then it's mostly top down or traditional sales.

[00:32:59] Omer: Got it. Okay. And then do you still have a freemium model today?

[00:33:03] Dominik: Of course, of course. It even got better. It's really nice.

[00:33:07] Omer: So basically it means that, You could have, you know, a Fortune 100 company, you could have a developer there who finds this signs up for the free me free account. Starts basically using it. And then you've got, you've got sort of that Trojan horse approach where you know people are, are using the product and eventually it sort of bubbles up and becomes.

You know, it gets in front of a decision maker.

[00:33:39] Dominik: Yeah. So we, we had that multiple times. Yeah. So

[00:33:42] Omer: I think that's, that's great. And I think it helps in terms of selling. To some of these big organizations because you don't really need to go through, like you're doing enterprise sales really, but you don't need to necessarily say, we're gonna do a proof of concept and we're going to help set this up for you and we're gonna do this.

And potentially you could, or maybe you're doing that. But it sounds like, you know, a developer could be ahead of everybody and say, I already built something.

[00:34:08] Dominik: We have, we have a customer that, that, that had done exactly that. So, Marco Polo still one of my, my most favorite case studies initially started building something without Storyblok.

And then Johannes, one of the texts and shout outs to him, if he, he listens to it. He just, yeah, I'm gonna try this. Can I have like two, three days? So I want to really, really try that. It's like this, this looks like it ticks all of our boxes. And in two days, He built the same thing that they have built in months before in storybook.

And you know, like just having, having that step, like we interviewed him and, and he, he was telling that, and I'm like, yes, that's the experience that you should get. And I, I like, it's, it's so nice, you know, suddenly because you have only data, you can choose any technology, you're actually good in. And you don't have to adapt to the CMS.

So at the end, it's just data for you and you can just build whatever you want and that's it. And of course, you need to take care of your own technology stack. You need to update your own technology stack. But you know that stack, right? So it's easier for you and I. That only worked because we had the freemium version.

Like if we didn't have that, there would be a complete kind of process for, for him to, to go through on legal review, on procurement process and all that. And with the freemium version, they at least could try it. And like our freemium version is free forever. So you can actually try it with one user. Well actually, can create multiple spaces with just one user and use it however long you want.

You can build your own blogging stuff, you can build anything you really want, and you will not be charged with anything. We I believe after a certain amount of time we ask you for a credit card. If you are expending your traffic usage or something like that, then we, of course, are charging traffic because only a certain bandwidth is included on the freemium plan.

And then the next highest tier is $9. That's also really nice. Like every additional user you add, you add for $9 essentially, and or plans are set up that you actually only need to upgrade if you need more collaboration features, more, more staging, you know, like more security kind of features. And they'll help us really a lot because again, here, self service, they actually should not need us to use Storyblok.

Like that's the whole idea. We, we tried to. Actually remove ourself from the selling process because we are really bad at selling. You know, it's just two developers building something.

[00:36:24] Omer: That's, that's a good motivation. Did you have the freemium product when in the first couple of years? When I. You were bootstrapping?

[00:36:32] Dominik: Yep. From the beginning.

[00:36:34] Omer: Okay. So the conventional advice to a bootstrapped founder or founders would be, don't have a freemium model. You're gonna get distracted by hundreds or thousands of people who will be demanding, who will want support. Who will never pay for your product and will probably even tell you that, and it's going to make it the economics of this thing so difficult to be able to build a profitable business and you don't have a lot of money if you're bootstrapping.

So why was it that you are able to make that work and survive and actually thrive?

[00:37:12] Dominik: We are a developer tool, so that means you actually have an initial investment. To be done. So with Storyblok, we are an API-based solution. So for us to work for you, you first needs to build your app, your website, your 3D kind of environment, where you want to display something.

You need to first build that environment where you actually want to use that content. So there is an investment of that developer, that company, that partner that at one point, like those people that just come to try it and test it out. They don't bother doing that investment, even though it's not that much of an investment.

Like literally have articles, how to build a multi-language website in like 30 minutes. Like you can literally do that with any tech stack right now. But the interesting thing is we never had those people even, even now I don't think so. So having that initial investment from their side, I believe, I believe, removed like that, the burden for us for B2C.

I see freemium really, really hard. Same, same, like I would follow, follow that advice a hundred percent of the time if I'm doing a B2C, a SaaS company a hundred percent. Because like this will burn all your cash period.

[00:38:29] Omer: And, and even B2B, I mean, ironically, if you weren't a headless CMS, you were a traditional CMS, people wouldn't have to make that kind of investment before they started using you, and you would've had probably most of those problems that we, we mentioned earlier.

[00:38:45] Dominik: A hundred percent. A hundred percent. At one point we actually had like a theme kind of store and stuff like that. But we ditched it immediately because, hey, hey, like we, we are headless CMS, we should not do that. We need it to focus. Right? So that was a big learning as well, like keep focus on the thing that you actually believe in and not get sidetracked and distracted.

[00:39:04] Omer: So let's talk about that, that Gartner Matrix that had you guys, so. Just for people who I wanna, I wanna kind of visualize this. So Gartner has this matrix for web content management and there are four grids. They have one grid, which is called strong performers, one called aspiring, you know, players. They have established players where there's companies like, you know, Contentful and Adobe.

And then there's one called Customers Choice. There's only one product in there, which is Storyblok. How much did you pay Gartner to get yourselves in your own box?

[00:39:46] Dominik: So, You cannot pay gartner and it's, it's real. You cannot pay Gartner or Forrester to get Indian A reports. That's not what they're doing. And I, I had a really, really hard time understanding that thing in the beginning. But shout out to Julius, our analyst relations manager at Storyblok. Like he has an amazing job educating me about what we can get out of Gartner, because what I learned, it's like a two-way street. Once you're at a certain level, it, it doesn't pay for, for people that, or companies that just get started, like you will not.

Like get that much benefit right away. But as soon as you have a certain amount of customers, don't want to see any specific numbers because it depends on are you B2C, B2B? Are you a dev tool? Are you more on like the consumer side? And it depends on, on just your, your company. But at one point you might want to get advice on certain topics, and that's the moment where we then turned to Gartner and Forrester because they ran.

Analysts or have analysts that run service about us, about our area, about our market, so they know what our customers actually think, because customers will be more open to individual people that are not. Basically we incentivize to sell you something. And being a customer from any vendor that goes to Garner gets advice that that's not a problem.

But as a vendor to get that advice and get that research that they're doing, you actually need to pay. So you need to pay to actually get access to their, and analysts, to asking questions, have inquiries and, and all that. And that allowed us to, to just learn more about them and also address certain things that our customers wanted to see.

So that allowed us to then build features that customers wanted to see in our product. And then we asked those customers in our own platform to rate us. And Garten by now has its own Garten Insights, and all we did is ask our customers, Hey. If you like, story block or not, we're on both sides. Please, please review us.

We, we want to know. And so they, they started doing that and because we got quite a big amount of, of customer reviews that were outstandingly good, we were placed into this customer's choice bracket because of the review and. It was not us asking Gartners, Hey, create this quadrant. That's not what they're doing. Not at all. But they asked, Hey, we created that quadrant because it reflects the current state. Would you like to purchase it? And then we purchase the rights for us to publish it. That's what you need to then pay additionally, but you have no influence what they're going to publish. Of course you can.

You can mention two-way street. Of course you can try to educate them the best about what you're doing and why you're doing it. But at the end, it's their decision on how they see the world. And I think that it's super fair. You know, at first I thought like, ah, why, why do people like, depend so much on those reviews and those not just reviews, but those, those, those research results.

But having talked to, do those analysts like Chuck on, on, on like analysts for CMS. He's amazing. He knows everything about our market. Like he's generally like a super smart human and like you could not influence him if, if you want to, but you know, like he, he knows what, what, what, how he sees the world and he knows.

What his actual customers want. And then he tries to get the best for them. And he doesn't care so much about US vendors in that sense. But it's amazing. Like they're, they're really nice guys. And, and Chris, of course.

[00:43:06] Omer: Yeah. I, I, I think if you could, you, if you could influence those folks, then I. Gartner would probably be outta business.

Right? It's like and for people who aren't familiar with, with Gartner, you know, as a analyst firm, don't bother trying to get on the matrix unless you're selling, I'd say many, primarily to enterprise customers because those are the ones who are going to Gartner to look for this type of, of information.

But that's a very interesting insight on, on how you how you made that happen. I wanna make sure that people don't walk away from this thinking this was easy for Dominik and Alexander. They were at the agency, they had this idea, they built this thing and now they're running an eight-figure ARR business, and everything seems to go right and Gartner loves them so much that they give them their own box in the grid and all of this stuff.

[00:43:54] Dominik: And we pay half a million for a typo every year.

[00:43:59] Omer: See? So there are a few things we talked about, right? We talked about the pains of the having that so-called typo in your name, and are you really spending half a million just to resolve those types of issues Still, let's not talk about, wow. Okay. We also talked about having the basic, the rug pulled from under your feet when you thought you were gonna get your first enterprise customer in the early days, and they realized it was just the two of you.

Tell me also about some of the struggles around focus, and particularly when you look back, when, when you know you guys were, felt like you were doing too much.

[00:44:39] Dominik: In the early days, like 2016 to 17, even, even.Like beginning of 2018, we, we figured like, hey, we, we need to build not just the CMS, you know, like there's so many dev tools that we should build in this headless fashion and people need an API based e-commerce solution, another one, and then they need another API based full text search.

Like now you have a goal, you have commercial tools, you have MAP for like a location finder app that is fuel data driven. And, and all of those kind of product ideas, we of course had as well because these were projects we built or used or wanted to use because they didn't exist. All of them at the time, we wanted to build them and we started building them.

We built an e-commerce solution. Like literally an API-based eCommerce solution that was running in production, even in mainland China. Like, like, just imagine that we, we built those projects and they were in production with customers and luckily the agency took over like those, those clients and serve them individually.

So we don't have to maintain those, those projects anymore. But the, we, we wasted so much time at at least three months we wasted just because we started building out like this full suite of API based tools that at the time were way, way too small. Like we, we, we should have immediately just focused on the one thing.

We, we started building the first app and that was Storyblok, right? So, and 3 VC ‘s, Peter Lasinger. We are having this open office space with the agency and Peter was sitting there for another company and alex and I were sitting in, in the coffee table, like it's a long coffee table, and you can just imagine like two, two DSS with the laptop sitting across each other and we're just chatting about like what we've just built and what we need to tweak and what we need to do.

And then, then Peter just came in like dropping himself like a coffee and like just on a machine putting, putting in basically order and. Casually starts chatting with us and we are like, hey Peter, you're an investor, we need to picture that now. So like a super, super is super, super, super nice actually, if you think about it.

And we are like, hey Peter, you know, like we have like this idea of like Storyblok in the center, and then you have like e-commerce, you have this and that, and those, and that dozens, dozens of tools that we started building. And Peter just goes like sipping from like his espresso you know, a cup like.

Hey, why not just focus on one thing and do it really, really well? It just kept going, you know, like, just that. And we're like, wow. Well yeah, maybe he's right. I mean he, you know, like he's an investor. He, he needs to know and we're like casually like then discussing that he's actually right. And it took us three, four hours of, of getting our head around, throwing away multiple functional products that we spent months building.

For the sake of one, you know, like diversification versus centralization of one, one idea. And even today, like this is the, the best advice we ever, ever received. Build one thing or build your core structure once and you can expand later. Once you have an audience, once you have the customer base that you can then add more functionality, add additional products that solve other problems for them.

And the cool thing is, If you listen to your customers to tell you their problems so you can solve them and you have another business value that you can drive it, it's just amazing. And another thing, we, we at the same time learned really, really, I. Huh. Really in a bad way. We still have we're doing project work in the beginning because like in the early days before we launched a landing page and, and so on, we still of course somehow needed to maintain our families and, and pay rent and stuff like that, right.

But we always kept this project revenue, this one time kind of of revenues as a bad KPI We kept track of it and every time in, in, in a month when it, it, it rose a little bit, we actually were like, damn. We missed our goal, right? Like it should go down and the R should go up. And it, that was super motivating when you suddenly see the inflection point where suddenly ARR is larger than, or that the MRR is actually larger than the monthly revenue that you made from a project.

So that's super inspiring if, if you just keep track of it so you, you know what you're doing.

And yeah.

[00:48:49] Omer: I, I love the way you described that the espresso, the very simple, wise insight, and then he's gone. Right. And I think from, from what I've seen with the, the one thing is intuitively we all know that's the right thing to do.

And probably, I think if I had to summarize it, I'd say there were like three, three reasons why it doesn't happen or as hard I've seen founders. Who are very tech driven, and they just have so many ideas for the technology that they get in their own way. We can build this, we can build that, we can build this, and so on, and you lose that focus.

The other thing I've seen is founders who kind of have these big aspirational visions of what they want to do, which again, is great. You might get there in whatever time, but it kind of gets in your way because instead of doing that one thing now you're trying to. Figure out how you can do the 25 things that will live up to your vision of what the product will be in 20 years time.

But I think for most people, the one thing they know they've gotta do the one thing, they just don't know which one thing. Right. It's like, I've got four, five features. Customer type of customers, I could go after problems that I could solve, whatever. And I know I need to do one, but how do I pick that?

[00:50:19] Dominik: So coming back to my no to, to my quote in the beginning, if you like. If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat. So just take one and get on with it. It doesn't matter which one. Try it. If it fails, it fails. Try the next one. Like, best thing of advice, don't waste time on questioning yourself. What you should do or what you could do. Do one thing and if it fails, do the next thing.

[00:50:45] Omer: I couldn't have asked for a better way to wrap up this interview, and I promise everybody who's listening, we didn't. I plan this. It just happened like that. So let's move on to the lightning round. I'm gonna give you the seven quick fire questions. Just try to answer 'em as quickly as you can.


[00:51:01] Dominik: Yeah.

[00:51:02] Omer: What's one of the best pieces of business advice you've ever received?

[00:51:05] Dominik: The focus one from Peter. A hundred percent.

[00:51:08] Omer: What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

[00:51:10] Dominik: There's a German book called, A Man Without Qualities, crazy book, highly rended. It's not business related, but it completely destroyed my few on how to describe the world.

If you want more business related, we are remote company. So the Culture Map from Erin Mayer is like, go-to anytime.

[00:51:29] Omer: What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?

[00:51:32] Dominik: Directness a hundred percent. So every founder I've talked with when we were part of like Founders Factory and all those like tech shops, where we are able to successfully see te successful founders and, and talk to them, they were always super direct and.

They tend to ask a lot of why questions. So why did you do that? Why not like this? And funny enough, like if they have an opinion and they're wrong about it they, they don't really care that they were wrong. They just want to understand why, you know? And I believe like this, this why, and the interest of how they can improve themselves and the business.

And the idea is why is really, really strong. And I see, I've seen that multiple times and that's, for me, it's like an attribute or characteristic for sure, for a successful founder.

[00:52:12] Omer: What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

[00:52:15] Dominik: I'm on the phone a lot reading a lot of emails and stuff like that, so I get easily distracted as well.

That's why we built so many different apps in the beginning. So screen time, just default feature on the iPhone app limits. Set time limits for different apps that distract you. Talking five minutes, 10 minutes for social media, stuff like that. Or remove them completely. I cannot remove them completely because it's part of my job, but limit them to a certain amount of time.

[00:52:39] Omer: What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the time?

[00:52:43] Dominik: So it's, it's crazy because it's so boring, you know, like financial kind of ERP for SaaS solution in Europe with like tax reports and stuff like that. That's the thing, you know, if you have a proper SaaS solution, hosted SaaS solution that does e r p subscription management not for other SaaS solutions, but for the actual like, like Stripe, but not for payment.

But after that, so you, you get to take care of like the taxation and tax reports for different countries and all of that, and Stripe has some kind of feature but not. Ideally that's what you actually want with multiple companies in different locations when you're like getting bigger, like like an our e r P solution forced us done, like definitely I.

[00:53:27] Omer: What's what's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know?

[00:53:31] Dominik: I'm, I'm super clumsy. Like I'm, I'm, I'm not even kidding. Like, tomorrow I have a surgery because I bumped my leg so many times that I have leg surgery tomorrow. So I'm, I'm really, really clumsy. So if, if at any conference you see myself falling off, off like a, stage or bumping against chairs or anything like that, don't worry.

I know what I'm doing. It just looks stupid.

[00:53:53] Omer: Love that. Thank you for sharing that one. And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work?

[00:53:58] Dominik: Music, and gaming. So, I love playing guitar and piano and I love gaming. I've been gaming my whole life from like any kind of m r peachy to, to even, even like any kind of of ego shoot and stuff like that.

Really like it. It's time with friends, it's, it's, That's super nice.

[00:54:13] Omer: Dominik, thanks so much for, for joining me and, and sharing your story. I, I just love these types of stories and yours in particular of, you know, the two of you just seeing an opportunity tinkering around with, with an idea, which has now become this.

Eight figure a year business with hundreds of employees. It's, it's you know, love, love these types of stories. I I also think that hopefully we did a good job not just showing the successes, but also some of the, the struggles and, and failures along the way. If people wanna check out story blog, Sign up for it, play around with it.

They can go to without the C. Yeah. And if people wanna get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

[00:55:02] Dominik: LinkedIn, Twitter definitely. I'm actually replying, so just ping me and, and I guess LinkedIn is better. I got a lot of of spam on Twitter right now, but LinkedIn just, just be me.

[00:55:13] Omer: Great. Well, we'll include links to your, your profiles and in the show notes. Great. Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure and I wish you and the team the best of success.

[00:55:21] Dominik: Thank you so much, and thanks for all this SaaS podcast, one of the best podcasts I've been. And Omer, you're just an amazing host. Thank you for having me.

[00:55:28] Omer: Thank you so much. Appreciate that.

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