Phil Alves is the Founder and CEO of DevSquad, a boutique consulting firm specializing in strategizing, designing, and developing SaaS products. A SaaS aficionado, Phil has led the build of 100-plus software products for bootstrapper founders, VC-funded fast-growing startups, and big enterprises such as ADP, Box, and the US ski team. In addition, he is the Founder of DevStats, a developer analytics tool that helps product and engineer leaders optimize data and improve how they measure performance metrics to build healthier teams. Phil also hosts The SaaS Origin Stories Podcast, where he sits with founders to explore their SaaS journeys and share insights on navigating the world of SaaS.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- [02:57] Phil Alves talks about DevSquad and services they specialize in
- [07:23] Tips for building a successful SaaS company
- [10:37] Building an in-house SaaS product and going public with it later
- [15:45] Does DevSquad serve as an extension of other companies’ developer teams?
- [18:25] DevSquad’s customer success stories from launch to exit and lessons learned
- [22:38] How can you balance innovation and growth in SaaS startups?
- [31:41] Phil’s proudest moment in the SaaS world
In this episode…
Are you aiming to thrive in the SaaS world as an entrepreneur? How can you create a SaaS product that meets your expectations and exceeds the expectations of your users?
Many SaaS entrepreneurs have intelligent ideas for creating new products, revamping existing ones, and writing custom software to transform their businesses. Still, they often need more skills to implement them successfully. Furthermore, with many competitors in the market, it is challenging to stand out and gain traction with your target audience. Phil Alves recommends partnering with a consulting firm to help you strategize, design, and develop SaaS products. With consulting advice, you can take your SaaS company to the next level and achieve your desired success.
In this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast, host Dr. Jeremy Weisz welcomes Phil Alves, Founder and CEO of DevSquad, to discuss how to build a successful SaaS company. Phil talks about his companies, how to balance innovation and growth in SaaS startups, and the mistakes people make while building a SaaS company.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- “[SaaS Series] Tips To Thrive in the SaaS Space With Sujan Patel” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “Pipedrive: Brain Surgery, Married, & Moved Company from Estonia to U.S. All at Once – with Urmas Purde [Inspiration]” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “[Private Equity Series] Acquiring Bootstrapped SaaS Companies with Kevin McArdle of SureSwift Capital” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “When you are like industry expert, and you know English very well, and you’re trying to build like a B2B SaaS product, you will have a better chance of being successful.”
- “We have to really be careful with the shiny object syndrome, you are more likely to fail because of that than because you fail to develop and to adapt.”
- “The bigger the company, the less risk you should take.”
Sponsor for this episode
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Podcast production has a lot of moving parts and is a big commitment on our end; we only want to work with people who are committed to their business and to cultivating amazing relationships.
Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.
Insider Stories from Top Leaders & Entrepreneurs…
You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.
Jeremy Weisz 0:22
Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of inspiredinsider.com where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. I have Phil Alves of DevSquad and Phil before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes people should check out of the podcast and since this is all things SaaS we’re gonna talk about, I was thinking of what are some of the other cool SaaS interviews people should check out? I did one with Sujan Patel of Mailshake. And he was talking about how he grew to I think they’re over 70,000 customers at this point. I had Pipedrive on when they were 10,000 customers. I think now they’re over 100,000. So I guess SaaS is the way to go. Right Phil? And Kevin McArdle’s interview he talks about acquiring bootstrap SaaS companies. That was an interesting one that many more on inspiredinsider.com. And this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships. And how do we do that we actually help you run your podcast, we are a easy button for a company launch or on a podcast we do the accountability, the strategy and the full execution production. Kind of like Phil, what you do with SaaS companies. You know, we call ourselves the magic elves who run in the background and make sure it looks easy for the host. And they could just worry about doing the podcast, building the relationship and running their business. So for me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way over the past decade to profile the people in companies I most admire and share what they’re working on. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, go to rise25.com And I’m excited to introduce today’s guest Phil Alves. He’s a man on a mission. Basically, Phil, I guess you could say you help underdog SaaS founders compete against big tech. Right, and Phil is the CEO and Principal Consultant DevSquad, he’s led the build of over 100 SaaS products for bootstrap founders and VC funded startups, leading multiple clients to multi-million dollar exits along the way, and he’s paving the way for other up and coming SaaS founders and DevSquad’s bootstrapped, they’re profitable. They’re 90 person, boutique consulting firm that specializes in strategizing designing and developing SaaS products. And they’ve helped bootstrap founders VC-funded big enterprises, even ADP box, and even the US Ski Team. So Phil, thanks for joining me.
Phil Alves 2:52
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Jeremy Weisz 2:54
Tell people about DevSquad and what you do.
Phil Alves 2:57
Yeah, so I think you did a great job telling people about DevSquad, we build SaaS products. So what I do in organization, the size that we are now, I spend most of my time with thinking big picture, helping our companies, our customers with his strategy. And I also spend a lot of my time building my own SaaS. Because from my own experience, I’m able to bring that over to our customers. So yeah, that’s what I do. I help mentor our product managers or developers, I see how our site open. But what we like to say, it’s that we are a product-level thinking. So when they hire us, they get the strategy, they get the design, they get the product experts, they get everything they need to build a successful SaaS product, we really specialize in building most b2b SaaS products. And we give each of our customers if you go down a little bit like a full squad that has developers, designers, and keyways product managers, everyone they need that’s kind of like what the little part is showing over there. So yeah, that’s kind of like DevSquad. And I love the work I do. I love going to meetings with the customers talking about big picture strategy, and I love actually also been building my own SaaS, so I can kind of like see what’s working, what’s not working, and I can bring that up to our customers.
Jeremy Weisz 4:28
Yeah, we’ll talk about that Phil, because I know you started a SaaS company. You sold it now you started another one. But first of all, how did you get a DevSquad? I mean, that seems like a not an easy domain to get.
Phil Alves 4:40
Oh, yeah. I reached out to the people that own it and pay a little bit over $10,000 for it.
Jeremy Weisz 4:50
Yeah, it’s not easy to get one that you can say and spell. So I love the domain DevSquad. Talk about your first SaaS company. From starting it, why you started it, what the idea was to, we’ll talk a little bit about selling it too.
Phil Alves 5:07
Yeah, my first SaaS company was a total accident. So I was doing Freelancer work building custom software for people. And I was blogging, at the same time with everything that I was learning because I was learning to code back them. And then what I would do, I write on my blog, and then I will write other websites that will let me write. So I had published a bunch of tutorials on how to do stuff in programming. I didn’t know at the time I was doing SEO, because I was doing pointing a lot of links back to my site, right. And so I was hired to build this one specific custom software and I published on my blog. Hey, this is what I built, this is what it looks like. And that rank number one in Google, for the keyword, which was like a software related direct sales in Brazil, originally from so was in Portuguese. So that blog post had like 400 comments, everyone wanted something similar. At first, I had the brilliant idea of just like, install the same custom software, in like different servers for each of the customers. And then after I have six customers, and then it was impossible to maintain and to give, like, when I changed something I had to go and logging every single server again, that’s many years ago. So then I started to research and I learned what SaaS was. And then I turned that into a SaaS that then could support many customers. And I didn’t have when that was a new feature. It was all in one place. When there was a bug, there was only one place to fix. So that’s how they started. And I grew that company to employees and hundreds of customers. And then I sold and I moved to United States with that money.
Jeremy Weisz 6:54
So it sounds like early on, I’m wondering where people come to you at in their journey. Right at that point. You had kind of, I don’t know, if you’re a product market fit per se, but you definitely had a demand already and people are wanting your stuff and you want a minimum viable product to start with. Right? What are you suggesting? And how are you consulting with the people coming to you depending on the stage, they’re at?
Phil Alves 7:23
Yeah, I think when you are like industry expert, and you know English very well, and you’re trying to build like a b2b SaaS product, you will have a better chance of being successful. Product market fit is very important. But if you know more about the market, you’re going to do well. I think it depends a lot on how big you want to go. And that’s where if you want it to be super big product market fit might be harder. But if you’re like in a b2b target space, a space that you know, that’s a little bit easier, because there’s like basically two risks to take a SaaS to market. One, is there a market? And the second one is, can you build it? And I guess the third one is a kitchen, if there’s a market and you build, how good is your build? And how good is your marketing? How good is your sales, so you can actually sell the product. And that’s how I think we’re everyone should start when you’re thinking about building a product before you do the MVP. Like my story by accident, I found a market and I could build it. But there’s, there’s better ways to do other than by accident. But you have to guarantee there’s a market. And that’s possible to build that solution.
Jeremy Weisz 8:47
Talk about DevStats for a second. And what the idea was behind that.
Phil Alves 8:53
So DevStats, it’s a software to help development teams be high performing. And don’t get burnt out. So running DevSquad, a company with almost 100 developers, it became very important to me to be able to help my own developers be productive, don’t be burn out, and for us to understand when you’re doing well when you hit roadblocks and how to fix those roadblocks. And the first thing that we did is actually we went and bought a couple products in the space. And we end up learning that none of the products actually was as good as you want it to be to solve the problem you’re trying to solve. So I decided to build up my own. And again, that’s an industry that I’m an expert. I have been a developer myself, I have been running development teams, like for 15-plus years. So I understand what it’s like to run a development team and to try to get development people are performing. And that’s what my SaaS product is about. It’s about giving the tools so engineer leaders and product leaders can help your developers be high performing.
Jeremy Weisz 9:57
Yeah, so in a sense you were really scratching your own itch. I mean, you have an issue you saw that, can you talk about because there’s a lot of companies, they start to develop something at least at a basic level, maybe they you start using spreadsheets and other things. And they’re thinking, so that’d be cool. Like, we should turn this into a SaaS product, even if it’s just so valuable internally for them, right? But what’s the difference? And how should people think about an internal product they create, and then they’re like, well, we should release this to the universe and make it commercially available.
Phil Alves 10:13
And it’s funny because a lot of our customers that DevSquad, it’s exactly that scenario, they either build something with like spreadsheets and a lot of Zapier and a lot of stuff, or they even hire a developer to build something for them. But that was built in a way that was not like SaaS ready, was built specific for them just for the user case. So when you’re thinking about building something that SaaS ready, the first thing is the onboarding experience, it has to be seamless, you have to think how I’m going on board to users, it can’t be too hard to do the setup. And then from there, you have to be flexible enough so people can customize for their own process. But it can be too flexible to like, because the challenge here is really, sometimes, let’s say you have one kind of firm, where you go to build your SaaS, and then you want to build for six kinds of firms, you have to build just for that one use case first. Because that will make so the customization is less and it’s faster to go to market with that product.
Jeremy Weisz 11:45
Do you find Phil that even if someone’s going to use it internally, but they really want to be professional? Will they still use you?
Phil Alves 11:45
Yes. And also what we have many times, people are going to build version one because it’s a great strategy. And they’re going to do a soft lunch using internally. And then after they’re used internally, and they work out and they make sure things are like better, then they come and they make that public for other people. But that’s actually a great way to stuff launch a product. I do think if you don’t plan on actually turning that into a SaaS it’s likely too expensive for you, unless you’re very big. Like there’s very big companies that we work like they are public companies are funded by big private equities. And at that point, they’re build their own kind of like internal SaaS, and they don’t want to give it to other people because it’s the unfair advantage. And that happens to be building a SaaS is expensive. And unless you are a big company or you’re going to build to sell, you might you might get too expensive.
Jeremy Weisz 12:52
Yeah. What’s the base someone should be at expectation? I’m sure it ranges a lot depending on what someone wants. But what’s kind of the base of your like, when you say expensive, some people may be thinking one amount and larger companies may be thinking and totally different amount. What would be kind of the base where someone should be at I don’t know if it’s a revenue of that company, but I guess some people are funded or startups, what should they expect, at least at a base level to get started.
Phil Alves 13:21
But here’s what I like to tell people software is never done. Like some people have the mentality, I’m going to build you the software, and it’s going to be done in six months, it’s going to be done in 12 months, it’s never going to be done in your development cost is only going to go up. Jump on call with me in the like, are you trying to, like, convince me not to build this, I’m trying to be transparent with you. So it’s never gonna be done. It’s just like, is it making money or it’s not making money, is it launched or is not launched. So when you think like how much is going to cost, you have to be able to employ at least two developers full-time for years to come. And you can do that. Hiring a firm like mine is pretty much the same price of doing in-house, but you get everything around. Or you can go and get your own two developers full-time. But building like a full-blown SAS product, you’re gonna need at least two developers to start and as the product start to build, and users start to use, you have to keep adding developers to keep staying ahead of your competition. But now there’s this thing called micro SaaS where you build a just a little piece of software and you keep updating, but that’s different. Like when I’m talking about like actually, a full-blown SaaS product, never going to be done and be ready to spend in development four years. The only way that’s done it’s if you’re out of business is gonna always be aligning your p&l developers met up with DevSquad our customers don’t ever just stay with us 18 months They’re gonna be the first 18 months, they’re doing very well. And then they start bringing developers in-house. But the development didn’t and the 18 months, that just meant that they felt good enough. And they had a good place that they went to start bringing their own developers too. And we have customers that like, I don’t want to go to the challenge of managing development teams, whatever, and they’ve been with us for four years, and you’re still their development team.
Jeremy Weisz 15:24
Do you see the case Phil of where maybe someone starts building a team in-house of a couple of developers and are like, it’s really hard to find developers, it’s hard to find good ones, it’s hard to train them, it’s hard to manage the whole process, you find that they have a couple in-house, and then they use you to keep expanding the team.
Phil Alves 15:45
Yes, that happens too. And so the way they were like to tell them, you’re gonna get a squad, that’s the whole name of the company, we’re gonna come as a team, and you’re gonna be a separate team that’s going to help you have a higher output, because that’s how big companies are scaled to, like everyone. And let’s talk about Mailshake. Sujan Patel, I like his company, everyone is not the same team with the size that he has right now. He has different squads inside his company that is taking care of different parts of the product. And that’s how it works. So when you come on board, we’re going to be a separate squad, because we can move super quick, that take care of our X or Y over the product. And we’re going to also show them how we work and they’re many times able to replicate that with their own internal team. And it’s hard to use the best practice that we use. People usually start to use DevStarts at the point on their own with their internal team, too. But yeah, we definitely have customers where we are an extension of their team.