Story: Why i fail in my first SaaS and lost $10K

So it was 2013 in Cairo where entrepreneurship was booming and i was running my company while i am still student in the engineering school. The company were expanding and therefore i was always in need for freelancer and part-timer developers & designers. I faced many challenges during this process starting from finding the caliber then agreeing on the work terms and then start the implementation without a prior history about this guy which leads to low deliverables quality or not fulfilling the tasks’ deadline. Here i came up with an idea for an online workplace for local freelancers, It was at that time something unique to some extent because upwork and wasn’t about locals at all.

Here i started Superneur, the first local workplace for Egyptian SMEs and freelancers. Although that the first thing i did is to find the right mentors and discuss the idea with them before implementation but Superneur was a great failure story that i am proud of. Here are the mistakes i did about this project:

 – Don’t Start Without Taking To Your End Users

I was driven by my passion and the idea was solving my personal challenges, that was enough for me to start the project and proceed with the implementation. In my opinion, Making assumptions is almost like writing the death note of your project.

Lesson Learned: You are not building the project for you, it’s for the end customer. You don’t decide what to build and what not to. Your customers’ needs do! And you won’t understand that without talking to them one to one. It’s too important step that I wrote a dedicated article about it (Link Here)

– MVP means MVP, No Strings Attached!

I was so in love with Superneur and because i am perfectionist i wanted the project to be perfect. And i am sure that you now know that this led to more features, and more iterations without even getting the users’ feedback. Guess what? Superneur never saw the light, and we didn’t launch the website because i ran out of cash assigned to this project.

Lesson learned: Stick with MVP,  Michael Seibel said “If you can’t get it done within one month then it’s not an MVP” and i agree with him to great degree.

What i would do if i had a time machine? I would start this project with simple Facebook page or group that i can invite trusted freelancers and business owners to validate the idea  while i am doing the escrow role manually. This would start the learning curve with almost no budget and it will give me the proper experience needed before i develop the website if the idea is really valid and solving a problem.

–  Agile is a life saver, specially for startups!

Also, because i wasn’t implementing Agile methodology properly and the MVP features were not strictly specified, the designer kept changing the design based on my consistent new requirements and in the same time the developers refused to start working on the project till they receive the final UI. This means that we are now working in waterfall approach, obviously this made the project timeline double in time.

Lesson Learned: Right the MVP features very clearly for yourself as project owner, priorities the road map on different sprints, implement, test and validate! Welcome to the scrum world.

– Don’t Hire Freelancer For Long Term Project

Obviously, i was trying to solve this problem from first place and despite that i was fool enough to fall in the same problem but i wasn’t have the proper budget to afford file time team of developers and UI designer. This led to a lot of critical issues because freelancers are prioritizing their full time job over the freelancing one.

Lesson Learned: If you can’t afford to pay for a dedicated team, find a co-founder that can build it, but he must be dedicated for the project. Another solution or If you couldn’t find someone then you will have to validate the idea with what you can afford, generate some good numbers and search for investor that can fund your project for the estimated period till you make revenue. Additional solution is to look for software houses that can build the project in exchange for equity share in the company, If you went for the last option you have to ensure that you seek for lawyer advise to write a solid contract that protect your rights and guarantee that the agency will fulfill its role.

– Get an expert mentorship

Despite that i did this part already but my mistake was that i didn’t get the right mentors. all the mentors i have sought for were business oriented and not familiar with how SaaS works and the related technical stuff. 

Lesson Learned: Having the right mentor will save you latterly and it will extremely increase your success chance! If i had the right mentor he would advise me how to implement Agile approach, which technology to use and will guide me for other business-technical parts such as the online payment and related legalities.

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