Mike Slaats of Upvoty tells us how to turn user feedback into actionable product optimizations.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Upvoty.
Mike Slaats: I’m a 34-year-old serial entrepreneur from The Netherlands. I started my first business when I was 16 and dropped out of college. The internet has always fascinated me, so I started a webshop for printed t-shirts. Because of this, I learned to work with SEO, and soon local businesses asked me to help them with their SEO as well. Because of this, I started my SEO agency which I scaled into a 5-person company within 3 years.
At some point, I got a little bit bored working for clients and getting amazing results for their products, so I started a new business, which was an online marketplace for home improvement. Within 2 years, the business was doing over $500,000 a year, and we could close the agency to focus full-time on our new product. We managed to scale it to over a million dollars, but, again, I wasn’t fulfilled by the product and business. It turned out that I wasn’t that passionate about the market we were serving, and I acknowledged that I was in it for the wrong reason.
Luckily, because of the product’s growth, I could easily switch my focus to a new product that we were working on internally: a user feedback tool. I decided to work on it more and more, and after the launch, when we easily scaled to $1,000 MRR in no time, I knew I was on to something, and we completely switched focus to this new product called Upvoty. We’re still running Upvoty, and the business is now doing over $30,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
Do you have small habits that made a meaningful impact on your life and business?
Mike Slaats: Habits are a big and important part of my life. I talk about them a lot on my YouTube channel, such as this one about the 7 habits that brought me to where I am today. The best habits I’ve formed are: writing everything down to have a clear mind, going for a run after each work day to – again – clear my head and reflect on the day, and the to design the next day each evening so I can start with a clear path and goals.
How does Upvoty market its product/services online?
Mike Slaats: We’re as SaaS, a Software-as-a-Service, and people can start a free trial by just clicking on a couple of buttons, and they’ll have their own feedback portal up and running in no time. This makes it easier to market the product. We do not have to do any hard sales, we’re just investing a lot in our brand and content, like on our Upvoty on Product blog, and we’re making sure to publish content that is helpful to our potential customers and enable them to value our brand.
What specific tools, software and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Mike Slaats: We’re using Buffer for Twitter, Flick for Instagram, Notion, and Google Docs for planning and writing out blog content.
What is your hiring policy/process, and how do you retain your employees?
Mike Slaats: We’re fully remote and tend to stay that way. So we’re mainly looking for people who are comfortable with flexible hours and happy to connect online with colleagues instead of going to the office. We also try to organize a retreat every 6 months to stay connected in real life. We’re mainly communicating through Slack.
How are you funding your growth?
Mike Slaats: We’re bootstrapped, mainly because of the success of the previous product, which basically funded the current SaaS we’re running. We already had the team working on the previous product, so setting up a team to work on Upvoty was also an easy task. We’re currently not looking into new funding as we’re profitable, and we manage to fund new features and growth with the help of that revenue.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mike Slaats: We launched 4 years ago, and back then, the space wasn’t as crowded as it is today. We have a couple of big competitors, and eas has its own advantage. I would say the market is big enough for us to sustainably grow our product. To ensure Upvoty will keep growing, we’re doing 2 things: Listening to our customers, of course, by using our own user feedback software, and keeping an eye on the market and the changes so we can adapt if needed.
Tell us a customer success story of yours.
Mike Slaats: One particular customer comes to mind: an app for tourism that, obviously, had a hard time the past 2 years. Because of the help of Upvoty, they managed to actually pivot their product, a product that really couldn’t operate in the last 2 years, into something that is now generating even more revenue than the previous product did. And this all happened because of the fact they listened carefully to the feedback of customers by asking what they really needed during these times in which the previous product wasn’t of value anymore. This way, they could build a new product, and they did not only retain a lot of their existing customer base but also acquired a lot of new ones, resulting in a thriving business.
Your final thoughts?
Mike Slaats: Thanks for having me on! If I can end this with one big takeaway, the most important lesson in launching and scaling your online business: focus on a specific target audience. When you just start out: narrow down your target audience, build something of value to them, and only then think about scaling the product. If you want to learn more startup lessons, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, where I share daily content.