This is the third part/month of my challenge to build 12 projects in 12 months
In April/May 2022, I focused on building Markbase, a niche SaaS that allows Obsidian users to convert folders full of plain Markdown files into a website in just a few clicks.
I’ve only been self-employed for around 2 months now. I have little in the way of experience and no income coming in (aside from $30MRR from Tressel.
Safety comes before long shots. Rather than pursuing “world changing”, unique ideas, I need to focus on ones already proven to work or the market clearly wants. I can’t be creating demand; I just need to capture it. This is the path most likely to succeed and get me to ramen profitability.
To generate ideas, I started by keenly observing the communities I was naturally a part of. I was looking for communities with lots of complaints or requests for products/alternatives. Eventually, I landed on the Obsidian community (on r/ObsidianMD, Twitter and the Obsidian forums).
There were tons of complaints about Obsidian Publish; a SaaS built by the creators of Obsidian that allows you to publish your notes online. People thought it was far too expensive and there were no true alternatives. Existing solutions were too technical (i.e. they needed you to know about Git, web hosting and how to configure without a GUI).
So here’s the context:
- Obsidian is gaining lots of popularity (due to the “second brain movement”)
- There’s no true alternative to Obsidian Publish on the market – existing solutions are too clunky & technical
- People are actively complaining about this problem in communities
It seemed like an opportunity worth pursuing.
The solution was to build an Obsidian Publish alternative that’s priced appropriately (i.e. cheaper) and requires no technical skills to use. Markbase , as an MVP, should be positioned in the middle of the expensive Obsidian Publish and free but more technical solutions.
Here’s what that looks like (yes, the landing page is built using Markbase):
And here’s the pricing strategy I’m using (in alpha):
I was initially considering not doing a free plan at all (since it attracts users that often don’t truly value the product). But my hope is that my free users can market for me (via the markbase.xyz subdomain when sharing their websites) and potentially convert into paid users down the track.
I’m trying a similar viral loop strategy with Tressel but it remains to be seen if it’s effective or just increasing my server load.
I see Markbase as a community-built Obsidian Publish alternative. I never really used Obsidian Publish so I want to rely on people that actively do to tell me what they want. This means embedding myself in the community and listening closely to what they tell me.
My competitive advantage compared to Obsidian Publish is focus. The creators of Obsidian (& its Publish feature) have a massive note-taking application to build. I just have this much-smaller SaaS that allows you to share your notes from that app online. So I can potentially add features the community wants but the Obsidian team is too busy to handle.
In addition, the viral loop of free users naturally advertising Markbase should attach Markbase’s success to the success of its users. The more views they get on their sites, the more attention Markbase gets.
But still, this early on, I’m still going to rely on cold outreach to get my first 100 paid users. I need to deeply understand what people want from Markbase; something which I can’t realistically learn in a single month or by relying on impersonal strategies (like viral loops)
Let’s see how I go.
- Market Markbase by engaging in the community, optimizing the viral loop and cold outreach to frustrated users of alternatives
- Get regular feedback from users and implement must-have features accordingly
- Fix bugs (my MVP is ridiculously buggy)
- If/after you get 100 paid users (i.e. a minimum of $900MRR), launch to celebrate