We’re back once again, talking about the SaaS apps that help companies stay ahead of the competition. This week we’re talking to Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ, a company that has cracked the code (so to speak) of app marketplace SEO.
Want more insight as to the SaaS apps that are making the world go around? Check out the What’s in Your SaaS Stack? infographic, where we analyzed results from 100+ companies from startups to post-IPO.
Video Transcript: What’s in Your SaaS Stack? An Interview with Ian Sefferman, MobileDevHQ CEO
Brad: I’m Brad from Full Contact and we are back once again talking about “What’s in Your Saas Stack,” joined this week by Ian Sefferman from MobiledevHQ. Ian, hi how are you?
Ian: I’m doing well. How are you doing?
Brad: Doing great, now that we have Wi-Fi issues resolved.
Ian: That’s right. It’s always good to have working Internet when we work in software, right?
Brad: Yeah, it’s funny how that happens. You would think that of all the places that would have great Internet it would be somebody trying to build the Internet.
Ian: I feel like every time I’ve seen bad Internet it’s at places that are trying to build the Internet.
Brad: Pretty much. Pretty much without fail. And hotels, of course.
Ian: Yeah. Of course. Yeah.
Brad: Yeah, so I guess the big question is what’s in your SaaS stack? What do you guys do? Let’s start there and kind of talk about what MobiledevHQ does.
Ian: Sure. So we actually provide a SaaS application, and we basically provide tools for sort of enterprise app marketers, IOS or Android app marketers who are looking to do better, get more downloads and in particular do it through organic channels. So on the web you have things like SEO and we have basically helped expose sort of the SEO of the apps store. So how do you rank in searching the apps store? What keywords should you be focused on, competitive intelligence, lots of stuff like that.
Brad: Very cool. So here’s where we’ll probably get in touch because you know, we have an app or two.
Ian: That sounds great to me.
Brad: All right. So, as far as the stuff that you guys can use internally-whether it’s development or production or marketing/sales-what kind of stuff do you guys rely on as far as SaaS app concerns?
Ian: You know what’s funny is that I was thinking about the question beforehand and I was like, oh man. This is like, everything. There’s no way I’m going to remember all of this stuff.
Brad: Yeah. We’re kind of the same way. I mean, we probably have a list of at least 40 or 50 that are really kind of just core to us.
Brad: But then trying to distill that is tough.
Ian: Yeah, exactly. So, obviously like just sort of from an organization standpoint, Google Apps is a big deal for us. Gmail, Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, I think that’s pretty important for us. We have both a Box and a Dropbox account that we use through the team. Different people like different things and for different reasons, so we have both.
Ian: So those are big ones. We have on like the development side of the world, we use tools like New Relic, and I probably wouldn’t call anything that AWS does SaaS, it’s more-or infrastructure-but even sort of their console and stuff like that, that’s part of SaaS. I think the list goes on and on. Chatting internally we use HipChat, which you can download in Native Client or you can use on the web. So it continues to go on and on. I think it’s a large number of things. Obviously we use Skype like we are today.
Brad: Sure. So you actually, you bring up a really interesting point. It’s something that we’ve hit on here a couple of times as well. How do you deal with ambiguity? Where, you do have certain members of your team who, they’re addicted to Box and others are addicted Dropbox. Some may use things like Droppler or whatever kind of cloud site storage stuff. How do you deal with that?
Ian: I think what we basically do is just delineate on sort of project or project type. So, for whatever reason Box does a really good job of helping out those who are sort of more on the sales side or on the business operations end of the world, then Drop Box does a better job of being a good use case for things like designers, right? So our designer side of the world has that and our legal side of the world and we invite our counsel on stuff like that on our Box account and so we do it that way for the Box side of the world.
Brad: Okay. Cool. You talked about projects, so what about project management stuff? What’s kind of your guy’s core for that?
Ian: Trello is the big one there. In fact I think we basically moved almost everything over to Trello at this point so at one point we had Trello. We were even using a little bit of straight up Big Sell or Google Spreadsheets, had some Base Camp in there for certain things. But we’ve moved everything over to Trello.
Brad: Very cool. I think for us we do have a Trello account that we don’t actually use all that often. The majority of our stuff is all handled through Pivotal. But then what we’ve actually found is we did a recent integration of one of our products, Full Contact Card Reader with Zapier, and we found all these use cases for just using Zapier to just kind of patch things together.
Brad: Then if there’s a new project it goes into, you can actually send things directly into kind of like a signoff for task management related to that project and things of that nature. So kind of stitching all of these little pieces together has kind of helped us to distill that list of 40 or 50 down to something a little bit more useable but…
Ian: Yeah, you know we do something similar to that with, I would say, moderate results. So we use a service called Close.io for our CRM so we’re not Salesforce users. And one of the reasons that we really love Close.io is that their API is really simple to work with.
And so we actually got rid of a couple of pieces of-we had a little bit of like a mail chip integration and a little bit of a hub spot integration for lead nurturing-and what we realized was that we were not taking full advantage of either of those services and that we could actually cut out a lot of the back end using Close.io’s API and just sort of stitch together our back end when leads would sign up. Or we’d do things and send it through to Close.io and have Close.io be our single management and it’s sort of like we essentially built our Zapier interface for that, right?
Brad: Oh, very cool.
Ian: And that was a little sort of stitching-together project that helped reduce a lot of complexity.
Brad: Now you bring up a very great point with not choosing Salesforce. I think a lot of us in the startup world, especially, we are tending to kind of shy away from Salesforce. What was your guy’s reasoning for it and kind of notably the Close.io choice instead?
Ian: Yeah. So I think like two main reasons that made it simple for us. One was cost and the other was complexity. Close.io is pretty simple, not overburdened by features. Salesforce is massively complex and I still don’t really even know if I ever go to Salesforce what package would I actually need, right? And so we started with Close.io and we’ve been really happy with it. It’s been able to just do well for us.
Brad: So when you’re talking about using that many different SaaS services, how do you guys kind of keep track of spending and budget as related to that? Because as you know, it’s very easy to look at, oh this thing only cost us $10 a month or maybe it’s $100 a month or whatever and that’s kind of the benefit of SaaS, you know a pay-when-you-need-it kind of thing but that stuff all adds up. So how do you track it, how are you making sure that you’re not spending tens of thousands of dollars every month that you don’t have to spend?
Ian: Very poorly. I think that’s honestly like a big challenge of ours. We actually went in, I went in just to do our normal accounting last month and I was like, whoa we’re still paying for-we had this service that was like a VPN service, to allow us to log in to different servers around the world, just so we could do like, we test our products worldwide-and I was like, why are we still paying for this? We don’t need this. We haven’t used this in like six months. And it’s stuff like that so I think we just do a poor job. I don’t think we have a good management solution there.
Brad: Yeah, it’s tough. There have actually been some, so I guess this is pretty met out there. There are SaaS services of course to track your spending on SaaS services. But there was one out of Tech Services a couple of years ago that I thought was pretty cool and I see more and more of them and I think this is actually because it’s a bigger problem than any of us want to admit. When you start actually auditing things and figuring out that this is what I’m spending every month it can get a little scary.
Ian: That’s right. Yeah.
Brad: Those $5 and $10 things add up kind of quickly when you start talking 40 and 50 different services.
Ian: They do, yeah. Especially if you might think oh, this is only $3 or $4 a user, then all of a sudden you scale up a bunch of employees and you’re like whoa, now all of a sudden I’m paying a lot of money for something I never use.
Brad: Yeah. So in talking about scaling, how many employees do you guys have? Or, round about?
Ian: Around about 10.
Brad: Okay. Cool. So you’re kind of still in that stage where, we did this look and we focused really heavily on SaaS CRMs and one of the things that we talked about was what do you need at each stage of your business? And so like one of the things we focused on for kind of the solo entrepreneur up to about maybe 15 to 20 employees is you want something that works with stuff that you’re already using.
So, things you were talking about like Close.io where it’s really, really simple to integrate and it fits your work flow. Have you guys kind of hit any walls or any challenges in that growth yet on things that you did use but they don’t work at 10 people and maybe something a little bit different would work at 20?
Ian: I mean, I think the Trello thing was the most important one, like Trello does work for us at the scale that we are at. Before when we were two, we were using email when we were five we were using Google Docs, right and Google Spreadsheets. So now we’re at Trello. That was a big key. I still think we’re pretty small, right? And the 10 includes part-timers, right so it’s still a relatively small scale that we haven’t hit too much. It hasn’t been an issue for us.
Brad: Well have fun, because we’re getting ready to top 50 soon.
Ian: All right. That’s exciting.
Brad: It’s incredibly exciting but the difference between what it takes when your employee number 21 versus employee number 46. I mean, it’s a pretty significant difference, that like 20 to 50 growth range is fun, it’s challenging, but it’s also that moment when you go “Okay, these are decisions that, the things that we’re choosing now are the things that we’re going to use for the next five years.” Not the thing that we’re going to band-aid for the next six months.
So it’s definitely an interesting difference as you start talking about the scale and the growth, the company that you’re in. What’s missing? What piece of SaaS do you just sit back and go “Man, if only I had something that would do this?”
Ian: That’s a great question. I don’t know if I have a really good answer to that. I think if I knew the answer to that I would be working on that right now.
Brad: Probably building it yourself.
Ian: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, I honestly just don’t believe I have a good answer to that.
Brad: Yeah, it’s a tough one actually, because I interview startups and entrepreneurs about this and basically all of us kind of have that same answer. If there was one thing that was just really bugging me I would just build this and branch it out into another company or what have you.
Ian: Right. Exactly.
Brad: All right. Well, that’s going to wrap us up. I don’t want to take up a lot of your time today but I definitely appreciate you chatting with us and as you guys grow, looking forward to seeing what MobiledevHQ does. So like I said, we’ll probably be in touch again. I’ve got some big things and some fun stuff I’m launching very shortly.
Ian: Good. I love to hear that. I’m excited for that. I appreciate you having me on. This was fun.
Brad: All right. Well thanks very much. It is Ian from MobiledevHQ and I am Brad from Full Contact so thanks a lot for joining us and this has been “What’s in Your SaaS Stack?” Thanks.