How to Create a Successful SaaS Business: Lessons from Building WebinarNinja

How to Create a Successful SaaS Business: Lessons from Building WebinarNinja

Last week, I had 4 fires to put out at Sumo in one day. 🔥

This isn’t that unusual…

Everyone thinks being an entrepreneur is glamorous. But they don’t know…

  • The nights and weekends sacrificed to build something
  • The early stages full of struggle
  • Dealing with crazy challenges every single day

Don’t get me wrong — I LOVE what I do, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Omar Zenhom, the founder of WebinarNinja, shares similar experiences.

When Omar joined me on Noah Kagan Presents, he was VERY open. He shared what it’s like to REALLY build a SaaS company… ups-and-downs.

If you run a SaaS company, or you’re thinking of starting a business, you’ll love this post.

  1. The BIGGEST mistakes Omar made as an early entrepreneur (and why you need to validate your business idea)
  2. How to scratch your own itch and “pre-sell” your idea.
  3. Omar’s biggest surprise while starting a Saas company and why you need to pace yourself

1. Why you NEED to validate your business idea

Let me tell you a secret about successful entrepreneurs…

We fail. And we fail a lot.

I’ve had way more unsuccessful business and terrible ideas than successful ones — for example, look no further than my taco t-shirt idea.

I wanted to find famous artists online to draw their favorite tacos and sell limited prints of them. I found my first designer, got things going…

And then no one wanted to buy.

Meanies. 😭

Even when I hit up my close friends, I got ZERO interest.

  • “Uh... so you want me to buy a print for $25 of a taco? I’ll pass.”
  • “Yea, not my thing Noah.”
  • “No one loves tacos as much as you do.”

Another time I wasted $82,000 building an online fantasy sports game that no one wanted to play.

OUCH!

Everyone makes mistakes and Omar is no different.

One of his first businesses seriously bombed.

Because he’d previously made some money through webinars, Omar decided to put together a “DIY Webinar” course to help others get better at webinars.

On the surface, it seemed like a good idea…

But Omar only made two sales — and one of those resulted in a chargeback. 🙈

The biggest mistake you can make is NOT validating that people want your idea.

Omar soon realized that what people really wanted was a tool to create webinars for them… not a course they had to sit, learn, and do everything manually.

Laziness wins. 😛

The biggest lesson here is to understand what customers will buy before you do anything else.

2. How to pre-sell your product

After the course failed, Omar was back to square one.

He had a successful podcast, The $100 MBA, but Omar knew he wanted to create a SaaS company because it was a new challenge.

I see all the things I've done kind of stepping stones. I had to go through the teaching phase and the grind of a job in order to get frustrated enough to want to become an entrepreneur.

Omar began to scratch his own itch and create something he wanted to use for himself.

He knew there wasn’t a great option to easily start and run a webinar, so he hacked together a simple webinar tool combining a few already available options.

After he’d used his new webinar tool for a few of his own webinars, a couple of people reached out to Omar asking what tool he used for his webinars.

They wanted to buy it.

But Omar didn’t want to waste time creating something people say they wanted… but never bought.

To lower his risk, Omar pre-sold the software as an idea before spending money on a developer.

He created a simple one-page website and sent a message to The $100 MBA mailing list of about 30,000 people.

Within 24 hrs, 150 people had pre-purchased. 😲

Omar told himself if 250 people paid, he’d build it.

48 hrs later, he sold out.

No marketing. No crazy promotions. No ads. WOW.

If you want to validate a business idea of your own:

  1. Have a clear goal: What does success look like? For Omar, he knew 250 sales meant he would 100% commit to the idea. Set yourself a pre-sale target
  2. Get it in from of people: If you have mailing list, send your landing page out to your subscribers. If not, maybe try spending a small budget (like $20) on Facebook Ads or just cold email people in your target markets.
  3. Get the money: Someone saying they’ll buy isn’t a sale. Don’t count any sales until the money hits your bank account.

3. The importance of pacing yourself

The #1 thing that surprised Omar about starting a SaaS company was how quickly things can get expensive.

The cost is another reason why it’s so essential to pre-sell and make sure you have money in the bank to cover costs like:

  • Developers
  • Hosting
  • Software

When you’re bootstrapping a SaaS business, every decision you make is affecting not just your business finances, but your personal bank balance too.

WebinarNinja might be a multi-million dollar business now, but what no one outside of the company sees is how slowly Omar had to scale.

It’s about pacing yourself

And I think that’s a really important thing for founders to think about.

It’s easy to look at Sumo as an eight-figure business and think that’s where you want to be.

But what you don’t see are the YEARS of work it took for us to be able to grow.

You have to be realistic about what you can achieve and not expect the world overnight.

Becoming a successful entrepreneur takes a ton of time and more work than most wantrepreneurs can imagine.

Once you’ve validated your idea and got some paying customers, you need to pace yourself and set realistic goals.

For more on Omar’s journey from taking WebinarNinja from a idea to a successful business, listen to the podcast below.

You’ll learn:

  1. How Omar attracted new customers outside of his pre-existing community of podcast listeners
  2. How to hire an awesome team (and when you should hire people)
  3. How to deal with stress as a founder and the importance of gratitude

Plus a TON more.

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6 responses to “How to Create a Successful SaaS Business: Lessons from Building WebinarNinja”

David Harris
November 28, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Great article, almost a form of Market Research assessing the ROI before going to market, and then the work begins.

Reply
Josh
November 28, 2017 at 7:33 am

Dr Pepper haha Good Stuff! (the content not the soda, soda's good to though :p)

Reply
Adam Franklin
November 22, 2017 at 7:54 pm

Great show Noah and Omar. I loved hearing more about the 10+ year journey before starting WebinarNinja!

Reply
Omar Zenhom
November 25, 2017 at 7:35 pm

Thanks Adam! Crazy ride indeed...and we are just getting started 🙂
PS. Love what Noah is doing with this podcast!

Reply
The Ed
November 21, 2017 at 7:14 pm

Sometimes even validating, focus grouping and ticking all the pre-launch boxes ends in a bored yawn and crotch scratch! Still good to do though. We poor entrepreneurs - how we suffer! 😀

Reply
Steve
November 21, 2017 at 7:09 pm

There's one crucial piece missing - how to listen to your customer. Man, I love what Omar is about but my goodness the entire Webinar Ninja 5.0 release was about as bad a screw up as I've ever seen. I want to hear the story behind that, with humility and real lessons, rather than a false story of 'success'.

Reply