MatthewOdette A blog

Day 12 - Zero to MVP in 30 Days - A look at cold validation

Hello there! If you’re new to this series, I laid down some ground rules in day zero, and explain the idea for my first project on day one. I document, a little every day, what I’m working on.

Today as, promised, was heavily focused on revisiting and pushing out a new wave of cold (and a few warm) validation emails, and we’ll get a look at those raw emails.

If you got a chance to check out the two videos linked in yesterday post, our strategy should look like a marriage between those two sources. That flow ends up looking like:

Gather information:

We have already defined our desired market earlier in this series. But for this time around, I’ve narrowed it down a bit more:

  • SaaS businesses
  • Employee counts between ~50-400
  • Over 10 percent employee growth in the last 6 months (I’m looking for growing support or UX teams)
  • Seniority should be a Lead (or the equivalent of) or higher, but not necessarily the highest

Since we’re bootstrapping this thing, I’m keeping tooling to a minimum. So our updated, no-frills, prospecting list looks like this:

This is super simple, I just want to track what I need to get going for now:

  • Company
  • Company size
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Status
  • Notes
  • Social accounts (not pictured)

So to gather information, after we define our market, we need to start with a list of companies of which we can then research their teams for desirable prospects. Most markets have directories available. Lucky for us SaaS1000 does a ton of the heavy lifting for us.

Going from your list of companies to finding the right employees to contact is as simple as pulling up the company’s page on LinkedIn and searching by title. In my case, I punch in “customer” or “ux” and decide from that list which level of seniority I want to approach. The position that I choose here is a mix, as I’d like to test the response from varying titles.

Finding email addresses is my least favorite part. I feel like Sherlock Holmes for the first 10 minutes, then I break down and go to Anymail finder or

Cold email and finding the pain

Now, I’m definitely no expert at cold emailing. The following is what I’m currently testing with and learning from, I’d urge you to search around to see how your favorite influencers in the space handle cold emails and find a format you’re comfortable with.

The subject line: my approach to emailing is to be as honest, to the point, and conversational in tone as possible. No one likes being tricked into opening an email. So my very first emails often go along the lines of “Question about how customer success teams scale” as I’m looking into the challenges their support team is facing with scaling.

The personal: a lot of resources out there recommended leading with something personal (“I really like your XYZ”) Now, I agree, but only if it’s something I really do relate to and actually enjoyed. I don’t try to force this by any means, and will often leave it out.

So, let’s take a look at an example email I sent today:

I sent 10 similar emails today (plus ~20 more in a different format altogether). But this particular one is testing “leading the witness” with discussing pains in their team. I want to chat about every challenge they’re running into, but I plant the seed that I’m curious about my particular idea as well.

I suspect this group will underperform compared to emails with a single ask, but you don’t know if you don’t test.

No response? That’s fine, I have no idea if you not responding means you’re just busy right now. I’ll follow up three times, with the final email being a breakup email, this is modeled after Steli’s approach that he blogged about on’s blog. If you find his blog post helpful, give this talk of his on selling a watch.

The ultimate goal is to get our prospects on the phone to discuss the challenges they’re facing. I’ll go into that after I get some new folks on the line this time around. But, I want to listen, by asking questions that keep them talking about their pains and close by asking what their perfect solution would look like.


I have no idea how that feels or looks, so no comment yet Hopefully I’ll let you know before much longer.

I will say: the goal is to reach 3-5 pre-orders from folks who have intersecting pains (hopefully closely related to what we’ve been chipping away at). They’ll need to be annual contracts, but discounted at 50% my planned price.

Tomorrow’s todo list

  • More of the same. We’ve reached a point where we need to keep our nose to the grinding stone for a while.
  • I’ll continue to use the landing page feedback list as my creative outlet when I need a break.

As always, thanks for reading! And please email me with any questions or feedback! My email is on the sidebar. See you tomorrow!

Day 11 - Zero to MVP in 30 Days - Checking in

Hello! If you’re new to this series, I laid down some ground rules in day zero, and explain the idea for my first project on day one. I document, a little every day, what I’m working on.

Today’s going to be a quick check-in style update as I still have quite a lot I want to get through tonight.

First, I want reassure everyone who took the time to comment and email me feedback regarding my landing page that I’m noting everything down. Changes will slowly trickle in and be tested as I get a chance to. Everything’s been broken down into a spreadsheet:

A lot of the cells have notes with a list of full length comments where something was mentioned multiple times, or if the feedback came with a lot of extra context I that didn’t want to misplace.

Today, and realistically much of this week will, I’ll spend on prospecting and emailing folks chasing a pre-order, or alternatively I’m discussing related pains to see if exploring small pivots or redefining our focus is needed to get into some pre-order validation.

Emailing takes a bit of time, but by the end of next week I’m hoping to openly share some stats:

  • Total emails out
  • Responses (negative and positive)
  • Calls scheduled
  • Pains discussed

And tomorrow I’ll share some of the actual emails I’m sending out. And I’ll give examples of how the flow looks sending an email to a warm lead versus a cold prospect.

In preparation for tomorrow’s post, if you have an interest in emailing people about validation, these two talks are great and largely what I’m basing my strategy off of this time around:

  1. Pawel Brzeminski - 12 minutes - “How to start a SaaS business in any market with no idea or connections, using only excel, email & phone
  2. Rob Walling - 1 hour - “How to Validate Your Idea and Launch to $7k in Recurring Revenue


  • I’ll check a few things off the landing page feedback todo list
  • All that outreach I’m yammering on about, time to validate or find a related pain I can validate with.
  • The Ship page gets promoted tomorrow, which I’m curious about.

Thank you for reading! And of course, feel free to email me with any questions or feedback! My email is on the sidebar. And I’ll see you all tomorrow!

Day 10 - Zero to MVP in 30 Days - Let's talk pricing

Hi there! If this is your first time here, you may be interested in day zero where I lay out ground rules, and on day one describing my current idea. I document, a little every day, what I’m working on.

Let’s talk about pricing!

We discussed yesterday that we’re now looking to convince some businesses to part with their cold hard cash, to push this project from “I’m getting some (awesome!) email subscribers” to “Hey, this is actually one step closer to a sustainable business

Some time ago, I stumbled onto a Hacker News post: “Ask HN: What are some ‘must watch’ talks?” In that thread, Patrick McKenzie (patio11) offered up this amazing MicroConf talk by Jason Cohen. If you have an hour of time available and are interested in pricing, I definitely think Jason’s talk is worth a watch. He’s an engaging speaker and that hour will fly by:

I’m subscribing to many of Jason’s strategies when it comes to this early version of pricing for

I can only work with napkin math to estimate my costs at this time. But I’ll also be researching similar companies and their pricing strategies. I’m focusing on the pricing tiers they offer, the price, and the primary metered “thing” (pageviews, events, stored user sessions, etc.)

This spreadsheet is quite long, but here’s how simple it looks:

And I’ve found a few that store data similar to what my session tracking will look like (my primary metered “thing”) which helps in checking my cost estimates against what a few businesses in a similar space have in production.

When it comes to pricing, I have to remind myself that we’re selling to businesses. It’s easy to have my consumer hat on, and start price gouging myself before I even have this thing out the door.

Plus, if no one at all thinks your pricing is too high, your price probably isn’t high enough.

With that said the early pricing iteration looks like:

I still want to add an annual opt-in, which discounts the price by two months. The idea behind annual opt-in is: more money now is better than a little more money in the future – I can turn around apply that larger annual opt-in sum into custom acquisition.

Of course, this is getting ahead of myself a bit, but it will be nice to build with this strategy in mind early.

Hooking up Stripe and actually offering the 50% discounted pre-order for early access subscribers starts tomorrow.

I don’t yet have any updates about the ads were testing from yesterday. I failed to anticipate how long the review process was for new advertiser accounts.

And understandably so! I can imagine they get an influx of people trying to advertise on Black Friday through Cyber Monday. Which, come to think of it, I bet that also explains the inflated bidding prices I saw this weekend. So, the delay will probably save us a bit of money!

Tomorrow, Day 11

  • We’re hooking up Stripe and putting that pre-order flow in

  • Lots of outreach, I want to make a big push now

  • I have a ton of feedback on the landing page from a few kind folks on Medium from my day 8 post, and on my Indie Hackers post. I want to organize that feedback and make a list of things I’d like to test, and start planning on some improvements I for sure want to get started on.

I’ll catch you tomorrow! Thanks for reading. And of course, feel free to email me with any questions or feedback!

Day 9 - Zero to MVP in 30 Days - Torching some cash

Hi there! If you’re new to this series, I laid down some ground rules in day zero, and explain the idea for my first project on day one. I document, a little every day, what I’m working on.

I’ve realized, especially with today’s update where I’m discussing torching some money on social advertising and Nginx boilerplate, that I sometimes throw a weird hodgepodge of stuff at you. I almost edited this post down to one topic, but I think this mix of random thoughts is the most honest representation of my day-to-day during this challenge.

So let’s get into it.

Burning some cash, like the Joker but on a scale my wife won’t kick me out of bed for

First, let me lead up to why I’m burning a bit of cash on ad experiments. Today has been pretty lively for a Sunday:

  • Chat on is working. I’ve had 3 amazing live chats today with lovely people. Now this may not sound like much. But this is a B2B SaaS landing page that’s been live for less than 24 hours and has no advertising or backlinks other than those related to this little series.
  • I have 7 new signups for the early access form on the landing page today. These exclude the few signups I’ve been able to battle for via cold outreach.
  • Traffic to the landing page and stats to this blog continue to grow. While the stats for this series may not mean much in terms of validating Bystander, it sure does mean a lot to me and keeps me incredibly motivated (seriously, thank you to everyone reading and messaging me)

For those curious how this little series documenting my journey has grown on Medium from day zero:

Now, back on topic the topic of throwing away some cash.

This budding interest in Bystander gives me the confidence to move a bit farther. A big goal over the next two days is setting up an option to preorder. Preordering will save businesses 50% over the period they purchase. I’ve never tried the preordering method of validation, and I’d like to see if we can make it work here.

My assumptions now, are, a business who makes the leap for a preorder is someone I’m in active communication with. I don’t expect a landing page alone to be able to convert someone into prepaying for a B2B SaaS solution.

So why ads?

They’re a cheap way for me to test my copy and assumptions at a larger scale than I currently can organically. For trying to get folks to preorder I want to have the best copy and value proposition I can possibly have with my current resources and traffic.

Now, first time ad accounts usually offer bonuses that are quite generous for the scale were working with. I want to keep my spend below 200 dollars here. But LinkedIn, for example, will give you $50 credit to start with, taking advantage of this and similar bonuses stretches that small testing budget quite a bit farther.

Each campaign on both Facebook and LinkedIn are both running 3 different ads.

With each add set, I’m testing two different things:

  1. My headlines & subheadlines

  2. My audience’s by job title: user experience professionals VS. support leaders VS. project managers

Here’s an example LinkedIn ad for the User Experience camp:

I don’t expect conversions in this small run at advertising. The scale of my spend is tiny, it’s my first go ad advertising Bystander, and my primary goal is to see if I can pin down a measurable difference on my audience and headlines to help focus my early efforts.

Plus, I can’t learn about advertising by just reading, I need to just start. And at the very least, I’m spending a bit of money for your entertainment 😂

Going into some details and small changes in Bystander’s stack

Some folks have kindly expressed an interest in the stack I’m working with for I touched on this briefly on day 2, but I thought it may interest some folks on a more detailed look at the stack and the tools I use on a daily basis.

I come from a front-end development background originally. But most recently spent time as a Senior Engineer in Customer Support. Support engineering is a strange beast, you get really wide knowledge on an unbelievable number of technologies and customer stacks. But it’s like exploring an ankle deep ocean of tech — you find things fast, in any setting, and fix them. You don’t generally have a need to further explore code (or the time!)

Going solo on a project, I mostly stick to what I know, and may toss just one new piece into the stack that I’m interested in trying or learning. You do have to stay interested and excited after all! The hours are long when you try something new.

I’ve made the mistake of trying to build a project with all the new cool things a few times before, and progress ends up so slow I lose motivation and abandon ship.

So! The stack for this Bystander


  • Node latest stable with Express.
  • MongoDB with Mongoose
  • Auth0 for authentication and access control, authentication is something that’s been solved a million times. But working on a solo project, authentication-as-a-service saves me a ton of time. And it let’s me be confident in an otherwise scary space. Their content team is top notch too, if any of that interests you, check out their blog.

Express+Mongoose+Auth0 let me make APIs with protected endpoints incredibly fast.

On the frontend:

  • Angular 5, which requires Typescript. I find Typescript an absolute joy to work with. It’s a superset of JS that let’s you develop with JS as a strongly typed language. So, working with Angular in and IDE like Webstorm gives you typeahead on all the things and lets you catch compile errors.
  • For a design and component framework, my original plan was to go with Nebular, but the screenshots I currently made available actually leverage a Bootstrap official theme, with components I’ve already sliced down into Angular components/services for a previous project. I’m still tempted by Nebular as it feels more modern, but really, I need to double down and focus on function rather than form.
  • The new (to me!) tech I’m playing with for this project is Redux, although in the form of NgRx (Angular’s flavor of Redux) NgRx/Redux put your application’s state into a single object. So you get some reallllyyy cool benefits when it comes to debugging. This talk by Ngrx maintainers is worth a watch. Plus, even without having an interest in Redux or NgRx, this is the best format I’ve ever seen for two developers presenting a talk. Brandon and Mike did an awesome job on this.

Hosting Related:

Applications I use daily:

  • Sublime Text, still hard to beat once you get it set up with the plugins needed for your project. Although, because of Angular 5 I’m spending less time in there and more time in…
  • Webstorm which I touched on earlier.
  • iTerm2 makes it so your terminal is awesome. If you don’t already use iTerm2, I’d Google around a bit to see how other folks set it up. That will save you some time on getting the visual side going. I LOVE tabs and color coding so I can see where I have different services running locally:

Red, Blue two different running stances of an app on different ports so I can test two branches live. Which are my active tabs where I actually need to work in the console.

  • Skitch to take screenshots and annotate them for documenting this journey. It’s free and amazing.
  • LICEcap when I need to quickly record a Gif of part of my screen. Also free and super simple to use.
  • My own Slack (free) workspace to pipe notifications and data to me. Checking different emails, chat messages from, keeping up with Tweets, and follows on medium… Pretty much anything I ever need to tab over to, to check any sort of notification, I just yank that into a slack channel to avoid distractions and save a ton of time.

Plus I don’t have room for new tabs when I’m working:

I know I need to close some tabs when the icons go away, or my laptop’s fan is giving me a headache

  • Spotify to listen to weird stuff.

And I work until 11pm/midnight, so I keep Night Shift turned on, it definitely helps me. For any screen that isn’t iOS based, I use Flux for the same purpose.

And that’s about everything! What tools are essential in your workflow? Is there anything you use that might save me some time? ‘Cause I could certainly do with a bit more time!

Tomorrow, Day 10!

  • Begin hooking up Stripe to add a pre-order option.
  • Lots and lots of follow up. I need to touch base with new subscribers, folks I’m cold emailing, and the few people from live chat.
  • More cold outreach (it never stops)
  • Rollover from today’s list, to get Bystander’s Ghost blog into a template I like
  • 5 million more things that Ican’tfitintotheday

Thanks for reading, this turned out quite long! And of course, feel free to email me with any questions or feedback! My email is on the sidebar. And I’ll see you all tomorrow!

Day 8 - Zero to MVP in 30 Days - Please rip my landing page to shreds

Hello all! If this is your first time here, you may be interested in day zero where I lay out ground rules, and day one describing my current idea.

Tonight’s the night! You all get to see version 1.0 of the landing page. One note: NGINX and the droplet in general are very much unoptimized. I’ll spend a bit of time on that tomorrow.

As far as content goes, we’re lacking in social proof and testimonials, of course. But those key sections will be added in as soon as I get to a beta with some happy folks using the app.

I spent FAR too much time on my above-the-fold headlines, and I know I should spend even more time but that’s a deep rabbit hole to go down. If you’d like to see the bulleted list of options I was frantically brainstorming, you can check that out here.

From David Ogilvy:

On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.

So spending about 80% of my time writing on those two headlines seems fair. Since I don’t have nearly the traffic required to A/B test headlines, I’ll probably use the social ads trick, and buy a few cheap CPMs at Facebook and LinkedIn to test out other headlines that may be a good fit.

For my primary headline, I wanted second tense headline that introduces the “what” and promotes a sense of urgency & intrigue while not being accusatory (I hope!)

For the sub heading, I wanted to hint at the “how” to foster that intrigue. But since this is kind of a new market, derivative from solutions businesses are already using in other parts of their workflow, I want this headline to be relatable. “You already do this for XYZ, why aren’t you doing it for this too?” I’m hoping this format is an efficient way to seed the idea of a/b testing error messages to reduce their cost and increase customer happiness.

I feel I need to add one more section of content, but I didn’t want to force out a bunch of fluff after being so deliberate with my other copy.

Instead I prioritized listing my features, but describing them from the benefits point of view. And following that I try to tell a story about the journey a broken costly error might take on to an error that has close to zero cost.

That’s all for today, I spent a fair bit of time spent prospecting and putting the finishing touches on this landing page. The Ghost blog for Bystander is installed, but untouched. And (predictably!) I ran out of time to start my outreach for guest blogging to Bystander’s audience on UX blogs.

Tomorrow, Day 9

  • Take into account any harsh feedback you all might have on the landing page (this page goes out to prospects on Monday!)
  • Fine tune some server stuff
  • Choose a basic theme for the Bystander blog and clean up the filler/starter content proved by the Ghost install
  • More, more, and more prospecting

Longer term goals, I want to have a pre-order option up by the end of week 2. Pre ordering will likely have a benefit to the tune of saving 50% for the chosen length of the pre-order.

If you take a look at the landing page and have any feedback, please, let me know! You can email me on from the sidebar.