Year 1: How we bootstrapped Tally to 11k users and $5k MRR
One year ago Filip and I launched the MVP of our form building tool, Tally. While celebrating we're looking back on our lessons learned during year 1.
One year ago Filip and I launched the MVP of our form building tool, Tally. Our startup story isn't one of immediate success, but we couldn't be more grateful and proud of how far we've come.
If you're new here, Tally is the simplest way to create forms for free. Our forms are being used by creators and startups to kickstart their businesses, validate ideas, gather customer feedback, perform market research or sell products online.
We started building in the summer of 2020 and showed our MVP to the world in September. Our official launch on Product Hunt in March 2021 was an instrumental step in gaining exposure and we have now crossed $5K MRR and 11.000 users. We are a small team of 2 based in Belgium, Europe and Tally is completely independent, self-funded and bootstrapped.
While we raise a glass to our first birthday, we wanted to reflect on the journey so far and share our startup learnings with you.
Good to know
📆 We developed our MVP in the summer of 2020 and shared it in September.
🐱 We launched officially on Product Hunt launch in March 2021
👩🏻💻 We're a team of 2 and independent, self-funded and bootstrapped.
📈 We have 11.000 users.
💰 We just hit $5K MRR and 200 paying users.
🆓 Tally is a freemium product (99% of all features are free).
🤑 We haven't spent any money on marketing.
🇧🇪 We're based in Belgium, Europe.
Ship it and tweak it
— August '20, $0 MRR, 0 users
We shared our MVP for the first time with friends and family in August 2020. Our MVP was a very basic version of the form builder, you could insert questions and that was it, you couldn't even publish a form. We didn't have a large network of our own, so we started sharing our first version of our form builder with the people closest to us.
After processing their feedback we started with cold outreach to creators, Indie Hackers, and startup founders, who might be interested in our product. We scanned Product Hunt and Twitter and made lists of hundreds of prospects and started doing cold outreach, asking for their feedback. Often without success, but those who did take the time to reply became part of our community of early users and ambassadors.
- Look for similar products on Product Hunt and reach out to the people who upvoted or commented
- Share your MVP or product with established makers
- Join relevant slack groups or communities and contribute
- Use Tweetdeck to scan conversations on Twitter about similar products
- Reply to relevant questions on forums (Reddit, Quora, Indie Hackers...)
Keeping it simple
— October '20, $64 MRR, 184 users
As makers and frequent form users, we were unsatisfied with the existing tools out there. They either force you in a specific format or bombard you with countless limits and paywalls. We wanted a simple, yet powerful form builder that allows you to create any type of form without breaking the bank. We kept our pricing simple as well.
Tally is a freemium product, 99% of all features are free and you can create an unlimited number of forms and collect unlimited responses for free. Why so free, you might ask? We were entering a competitive market and offering free forms without limit is one of our main differentiators. We launched Tally Pro (at $29/month) a couple of months later with a set of advanced features aimed at teams and startups. We deliberately choose for only one pricing tier, again to keep things simple.
Another way to remove friction for our users is not having to sign up to try out our product. You can just start typing on our landing page and experience the form builder without any barriers.
We also kept our website simple, it is a single landing page until today, and used Notion and Super to create a help center.
Tip:— Blake Emal (@heyblake) May 4, 2021
Make your pricing easily accessible.
Don't hide pricing. Put it on a pricing page or the home page. Don't make people waste their time looking for valuable info.
Building in public
— November '20, $119 MRR, 344 users
Since the start, we've been shipping new features regularly and sharing our progress and roadmap publicly. We've been talking to our users and asking for feedback non-stop. Our Slack channel facilitated this process and from a couple of early users, it grew to a passionate community of 400 people.
We made mini-launches of every product update and shared them on social media, Reddit, Indie Hackers, no-code, and startup communities or Slack channels. We also created a blog to share our progress and create documentation.
- Free Notion template of our Tally Roadmap
- Free Notion template of our Tally Changelog
- We created our blog with Ghost and the help of the Docuhub theme
- Use this free feedback template to share or embed a Tally form
Figuring out startup life as a family
— December '20, $138 MRR, 750 users
Filip and I are co-founders, as well as partners in life. Filip is a software engineer, born in Bulgaria, and has founded multiple startups before. I have a background in marketing and was born in Belgium, where we met around 4 years ago. We welcomed our daughter Lucy in December 2020, and she turned our world upside down 🧡.
We were planning to launch Tally on Product Hunt in December 2020, but Lucy was born earlier than planned, so we postponed our launch. As new and inexperienced parents we had no clue how much energy a newborn would take, and combined with a COVID lockdown, we decided to take a month off and slowly started working on new features for our launch afterwards.
Launching on Product Hunt
— March '21, $380 MRR, 1.500 users
In March 2021 we felt ready to launch on Product Hunt. We had a small community of 1.500 users and released some of the crucial features to be able to compete with other form builders out there.
Our launch was a rollercoaster and we ended as product #4 of the day. We doubled our user base (from 1.500 to 3.000 users) after the launch and Product Hunt has been an instrumental step in gaining exposure.
We made a checklist with everything we did to prepare for our Product Hunt launch. A lot has been written on how to launch successfully, and this checklist certainly does not guarantee to become the #1 product of the day (we were on the #1 spot for 23 hours, only to lose the race at the end 😅). It's a hands-on checklist based on our own experience, and definitely not a complete guide. Feel free to share your experiences, and I'll be happy to add them!
— April'21, $1.156 MRR, 4.000 users
After our launch, we added more integrations (Airtable, Notion) launched more advanced form building features (pre-filling fields, redirect on completion, translations), and worked on improving the overall form experience.
In April we reached the milestone of €1K MRR and 4.000 users. Our main acquisition channels were:
- Product Hunt
- 'Powered by Tally' badge on free forms
- No-code communities
- Indie Hackers
We kept on sharing our progress and product updates on Twitter, Reddit, Indie Hackers, and many wonderful no-code communities. Building in public helped us to spread our story and reach other startups. We learn a lot from the Indie Hacker community and love that we can contribute by sharing our learnings in public as well.
Whenever we see someone asking a question about an online form builder (on social media or forums) we try to mention Tally. As our user base is growing people start to recommend us as well, which is even more powerful.
Looking for new ways to grow
— June'21, €2.080 MRR, 5.800 users
We launched a startup program, discounts for students, non-profits and NGOs, as well as an affiliate program. These channels are still small and need more focus to grow (mental note to self 😄).
We created content and documentation on our blog and started adding guides and Youtube tutorials made by our users as well. We’re planning on focussing a lot more on (user-generated) content creation, which should result in stronger domain authority and more organic reach.
99% of all Tally features are available for free, and forms created by free users have a ‘made with Tally’ badge, which results in lots of visibility and new users. We experimented with the design of our badge to optimize it as an acquisition channel, and this version turned out to be the most effective one.
Measuring our Product-Market Fit
— August '21, $2.774 MRR, 7.500 users
When we launched Tally we knew we were entering a very competitive market. Every business needs a form at one point and at their core, a lot of products are complex forms. So the demand is definitely there. But is there room for another player in this crowded space?
To differentiate ourselves, we chose to offer unlimited forms, responses, and most features and integrations for free. But during summer our growth started slowing down, which made us nervous. At this moment we had just reached 8.000 users, and 100 paying users ($2,4K MRR). But what does this mean? And will we be able to keep up our growth?
Just like many founders, we were struggling with the million-dollar question: Does Tally have a product-market fit?
We decided to ask our users for feedback and launched a satisfaction survey. We were very happy to find out that 59% of our users said to be very disappointed if they could no longer use Tally. The survey gave us more insights into our ideal customer, acquisition channels, competitors, and opportunities to improve our product. Feel free to try it out for your own startup.
Looking back on Year 1
— October '21, $5.000 MRR, 11.000 users
So here we are, it's October 2021 and we just hit the milestone of 11.000 users and $5K MRR. We're feeling more confident than ever and are frickin' excited that we managed to get here. Not just with just the two of us, but with a new family of 11.000.
What did we learn?
- It's okay to say no. You can not satisfy everyone when you have a small bootstrapped team, but that's okay.
- The art of persisting. Every day, I'm replying to emails, answering questions, writing help docs and Filip is coding and helping users out non-stop. Life as a bootstrapped founder sounds more glamorous than it is, but every dollar you make will make you insanely happy.
- Don't be afraid to ask. Every problem you encounter has been solved by someone else before you. There's a great community supportive of Indie Hackers out there that wants to see you succeed and will help you out. So, just ask!
Happy Birthday, Tally ❤️