Since my accidental blog post two months ago, I have been approached by quite a few individuals wanting either product validation or just a few tips on how to better transition their side-project into a full-fledged product offering. This has led to me trying out dozens of SaaS offerings and seeing so many great ideas, that I decided I will start blogging about the ones that I feel are the most likely to succeed, or just plain cool. This will be the first kickoff in an irregular series of posts about my favorites.
In this inaugural post, I would like to present Wouter Houweling’s side project MetricBoard.io.
Houweling came to me back in September a few days after my post went “viral” on Hacker News, leading to just under 100,000 views of that post. He told me that Metric Board was originally built to “scratch [his] own itch,” as most other analytics software was much to complex. He told me he had a handful of non-paying customers, but was looking to monetize the platform.
There were concerns that the offering might be too simplistic for a market that was filled with feature-rich analytics software. Houweling knew for smaller companies Metric Board was a simpler start, but before he wanted to invest any time in building out the billing and marketing strategy, he really wanted to validate the product.
That is where my team and I came in. We signed up for the product, took a look around at everything, and came back with a couple of recommendations. Having built products in a similar space before (email marketing analytics), I knew some of the challenges going in, and could spot a few things right off the bat.
I told Houweling that the product he had created fit a specific niche, and that trying to add all of the features of the bigger paid analytics providers was going to be nearly impossible on his own. Even if he succeeded at it, he would be just one in a crowd of other services, fighting for customers.
I instead told him that his product “is so simple to use that it is perfect for people who have side projects.”
But that lead to the main issue with his product.
With a simplistic offering such as Metric Board, its almost as easy to add analytics directly into your application. A few extra database tables and you are done. This “perfect fit” for developers is also a problem as “they don’t typically want to spend money unless it solves a problem they can’t easily.”
Houweling had also priced everything in Euros. Which, if your market is the European Union, there is nothing wrong with that. But I was pretty sure his market was global. So a little bit of advice I gave (as a confused American):
Everyone in the world buys services from companies in the US, so everyone is familiar with USD. And us Americans are very confused by Euros and Pounds ;).
As this is a product more for developers than for small businesses directly, Metric Board has documentation. Its a little sparse, but it gets most of the job done. With a background in web development, even I was a little confused by some of the types of integrations.
Update your documentation to cover any type of insert you want to do, and match the input with the screenshots, because right now just from reading it, I’m unsure if when I pass a metric value in, [if it is] additive, or does that set the value for today (or this minute, this upload, etc).
This documentation will also need to be updated if (hopefully when) he adds in the new feature requests I have made.
To combat the feeling that his offering is too simplistic, I suggested that Houweling adds a couple of features that would put him closer to the big guys, but still comfortably near the roots of the product.
While keeping everything simple, I requested that there be a new API call to upload unstructured user data (while requiring an email), and capturing metrics for that user.
Then your dashboard can have information broken down by any values you pass into the user object, making the data a little more informative.
It also would set him up for the worst case (sometimes the best case in retrospect) of product development, the need to pivot.
What you will notice when you add this extra user information, is if you need to pivot to become more valuable, you have opened up the ability to market to the users on behalf of your customers (intercom.io or customer.io but simpler, thus better).
This is actually how an internal tool I created at Humankind to track user stats ended up turning into our marketing platform.
Metric Board is a very simple analytics as a service platform. It has a lot of room to grow in the coming years, but the offering is actually very valuable.