Saturday, March 02, 2013

How I was forced to create a SaaS business

Since 2006 I've been working on obsurvey, another online survey solution. I did not build it, so much to create a business. But more because I thought that the survey solutions of the day where not very good, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could build a better one.

I worked at it in my spare time, for countless hours from 2006 to 2010. At this point, obsurvey was a very "complete" survey solution, that would meet 80% of users requirements.

I learned a lot about building Rich Internet Applications, and I also learned a lot from conducting real user tests with usertesting.com. I'm proud of the great usability and innovative solutions that I have pioneered with obsurvey. Especially the logic to only show a question when something specific was answered to a previous question. And the live filtering in the reporting. But also the whole "no drag and drop, just click"-philosophy I developed.

By 2010-11 my interest had moved on to other projects, and I just left obsurvey as a completely free service, with no limitations.
When I left it, there where about 100 new registrations a month and about 20.000 new survey responses a month.

Three years passed, I had done no development and no marketing for obsurrvey. But the usage continued to grow slowly but steadily. So about a month ago it passes 1.1 million survey responses, and was averaging 2,000 signups and 200,000 survey responses a month. And as far as I can see from Google Analytics, the growth is almost entirely from word of mouth. Obsurvey users, are telling their friends  that this is a piece of software worth using. My hosting company contacted me to tell me that the server was stressed, and I had to do something about it.

I did some optimizations, and the hosting company was happy. But now I was faced with the fact that I had to do something to reduce the traffic, or move to more expensive hosting because of the growth.

So during the weekend I implemented payments for obsurvey. One plan: $8/month, 30 day free trial. No freemium. Announced the change on facebook, and launched the paid version Feb 25th 2013. I set existing users to have free access until April 1st 2013.

So how is it going? So far 7 people have signed up for a paid account. And I'm satisfied with that, as no-one has had their trial expire yet.

I must say that getting a bit of money for my work, has brought back enthusiasm for the project. It's a pretty awesome survey solution if I may say so myself. And all the kind mails from users who love obsurvey have been great (Even though most of the kind words came with a support question :-).

The size of the business will hopefully grow, I will know more April 1st, when all the existing trials run out.

I'm going to give obsurvey some love again.

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