How Ian Grew His No Code Tool To Thousands of Users

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Hi! Please explain who you are and your backstory.

Ian here from Supersparks. I am a product manager & entrepreneur based in Vancouver, Canada.

In my previous role, I was the first employee at a startup where I helped it grow from idea to MVP to a business with >15 employees. While I always dreamed of starting my own business, it was this experience that gave me the confidence to take the leap. And I ended up taking this leap at the beginning of 2023.

What’s your product and how did you come up with the idea?

Supersparks is a tool that allows no-coders to create custom-designed online communities with Webflow. Our tool is also commonly used for adding user generated content (reviews & comments) to blog, directory, & ecommerce Webflow sites.

I got the inspiration for Supersparks while I was building a side project a year and a half ago. The project was a programmatic SEO website for breweries, called breweriesnearby.com. I wanted to grow the site into a reviews based community, similar to a Goodreads, where craft beer lovers could: 1) review brewery going experiences and 2) respond to other reviews. But I couldn’t find any 3rd party app that could enable this.

Instead, I spent days banging my head against a wall and ended up implementing a solution that was not anywhere close to what I wanted. This not only opened my eyes to the limitations of Webflow, but also just how tiny their app ecosystem was. After Webflow announced (around this time) their new app marketplace, I decided there was a great opportunity to pursue an idea in the Webflow space.

How did you build the MVP and validate the idea?

I initially built landing pages for different app ideas and posted links to them on Webflow / no-code communities. The landing pages included CTAs that made it seem like the app was live (eg. ‘Get early access’). But when users would click on the CTA, they would be redirected to a waitlist sign up page saying: ‘Our early access program has closed. But sign up to our waitlist and we will let you know once the app is live’.

This allowed us to measure interest by not only the number of waitlist sign ups, but the amount of visitors progressing in the funnel as if your product was live. We then gave waitlist sign ups the option to fill out a survey or schedule a call with us in exchange for a discount. Most people opted for the survey – in hindsight I would’ve offered a gift card or some other incentive for jumping on a call.

The app ideas with the most waitlist sign ups, best funnel metrics, and the strongest qualitative signals (from interviews & surveys) was our commenting / reviews app. And I was quite happy about this, since it was an opportunity to build to solve my own problem.

After deciding to pull the trigger, we released the MVP in July of 2023 after 4 weeks of development. Our app was the first commenting system built just for Webflow. What set our solution apart from other apps was:

a) Users have the freedom to custom-design every aspect of their community or UGC sections no-code in the Webflow Designer. This is key, since most Webflow users want full design control over every aspect of their websites.

b) When the member of a website is logged in and posts a comment, profile data gets displayed with their comment (eg. profile image, username, etc.)

How do you attract customers?

All of our customer acquisition has been 100% organic through the following channels:

  • Webflow’s app marketplace
  • Webflow communities (forums, Facebook groups, subreddits)
  • SEO (landing pages for each use case and feature) – we have not had much success with blog content
  • Youtube

While Twitter is far from our most successful channel in terms of user and customer acquisition, it’s still been useful for awareness, as posts from my personal and branded account get hundreds to thousands of views.

We are now experimenting more with micro-influencer affiliate partnerships. So if anyone reading this knows of any content creators that might be interested or looking to build a community website, then let me know :).

How do you monetize?

We monetize through subscriptions. All of our plans have a monthly usage threshold (number of comments / reviews and page views).

We also offer overly generous discounts on annual subscriptions. This has been extremely valuable for us, as the upfront cashflow has helped us fund different key growth and product initiatives.

Our free plan that works on staging sites for Webflow. This gives users as much time as needed to try our app out before publishing to a custom domain.

How is the business looking now? And what are your future goals?

Our product, revenue, and distribution is growing every month! 

A few months after launching our MVP, we added reviews and ratings to our commenting system after receiving strong demand. Also, we recently launched our feature for community posting, which unlocks a wide range of use cases and projects for Webflow sites, such as forums, courses, job boards, and much more.

There has been a recent movement of companies and content creators building their online communities with tools like Circle, Skool, Mighty over Slack, Discord, and Facebook Groups. With this new feature, we believe we are in a unique position to be the go-to no-code solution for building community websites with custom UI & UX.

“When you get stuck, do not be afraid to ask or even pay for help, instead of banging your head against a wall.”

What are tools you highly recommend to others?

Free tools:

Brevo – CRM

Heap – Product analytics which should be installed from day 1

Hotjar – User recording

Reditus – Affiliate marketing

Tutanota – $1 email hosting

Clipchamp & Davinci – video editing

Paid tools:

Brevo livechat – live chat is great for reducing friction for user interaction

Webflow – for websites

What are resources you’ve found invaluable?

Book: Sahil Lavingia – The Minimalist Entrepreneur

Podcasts: Indie Bites, My First Million, Indie Hackers

Over any book or podcast, I recommend finding posts on Reddit (r/ startups) or Indiehackers relevant to the stage you are at, and read what worked and what didn’t work for other founders.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs starting their journey?

What I would’ve done differently

Spend extra time making my MVP a minimum lovable product with amazing design and make sure there is as little on-boarding friction as possible. First impressions matter. And in this day and age, people’s standards are high for SAAS.

Spend at least 50% of my time on growth (marketing and sales) after launching. It’s easy to fall into the trap of mostly working on product.

My pieces of advice

If I could travel back in time, below are the pieces of advice I would give myself before starting:

When you get stuck, do not be afraid to ask or even pay for help, instead of banging your head against a wall.

Employ an experimental mindset when it comes to growth. Then double down on what’s working!

Advice I would give to everyone:

Build something and have fun! Of course, try to validate as much as possible first. But even just getting started, is such an amazing learning experience.

Where can people go to learn more?

Supersparks – https://www.supersparks.io/

Twitter – @ian_ruta

Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/@ianruta

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