Brian Casel
Brian Casel

I sold my SaaS, ProcessKit

by Brian Casel on January 20, 2022
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Today I’m happy to report that I reached a deal to sell my SaaS product, ProcessKit.

I bootstrapped ProcessKit for 3 years to some success with a loyal customer base.  But ultimately I wasn’t able to grow it to what I initially hoped when I started it.

With my newer product, ZipMessage, off to a really solid start, I felt it’s the right time to see ProcessKit off to a new home.

I must say, even though ProcessKit didn’t pan out for me long-term, I think it’s one of my proudest chapters in my entrepreneurial career.  I learned the most about product design and business in a very condensed and intense 3-year chapter in my journey.

This blog post below marks the end of this chapter and some closing thoughts and takeaways.

As for the deal and new owner—I’m thrilled to report that I couldn’t have found a better outcome and new owner for ProcessKit.  The new owners are experienced SaaS operators and know the space well!  While I can’t share the buyer and amount, I can certainly say it was a good outcome for both sides, and I’m very excited for the future of ProcessKit under new leadership.  More on my experience selling ProcessKit is below.

Here’s the recap!

ProcessKit—the idea.

The concept for ProcessKit as a product was on my mind for several years before ProcessKit came to fruition.  It came out of my own experience running heavily process-oriented service businesses (productized services) and wanting to automate and streamline task delegation as much as possible.

I found the popular broad-based project management tools left a lot to be desired when it came to automating the delegation of repeatable tasks, especially for highly repeatable processes in a client services operation.  Relying on manual tasks and having to remember all the special cases and details left too much room for natural human error and things falling through the cracks.

The goal for the ProcessKit product has always been to remove my teammates’ mental weight of thinking about “what should I do next?  How do I do it?  Do I have what I need to do it?” and let them spend that mental energy focusing on doing their best work.  The software, it’s built-in logic and process templates should handle all the legwork of delegating the right tasks, at the right time, to the right people.  That’s ProcessKit.

Building and launching a SaaS—myself.

Up until 2018, whenever I wanted to build and launch a software product, I had to hire out the back-end app development because I didn’t possess that skillset myself.  I was just a front-end guy with some design chops.

2018 was the year I set out to change that.  I spent the year investing in my skills to go from front-end/designer to full stack product maker with Ruby on Rails.  I spent the year learning, building practice projects and tiny SaaS ideas, all in preparation for what I knew I’d want to build next—ProcessKit.

By January 2019, I felt “ready”  to break ground on ProcessKit.  I spent most of that year designing and building the core product.  By June 2019, it rolled out to the first paying customers.

The wins, challenges & takeaways

Here were a few of the wins and key learnings I picked up during my 3 years building the ProcessKit business (in no particular order):

Customer research

Even though ProcessKit was largely born out of my own needs and vision for what the product should be and do, I made a concerted effort to speak to customers and prospects from very early on in the process.

I built an early access list, invited many of them to recorded calls, and tried to zero in on exactly what was it about the ProcessKit concept that was resonating (or not), what their use cases were, and how we can make ProcessKit a win for them.

Looking back, I think I heavily improved my customer research muscle—the mechanics of gathering feedback, hosting research calls, etc.  Where I think I didn’t do such a great job was organizing my takeaways and connecting the dots.  Despite lots of research done, I don’t know that I always mapped that directly to the product roadmap with the right prioritization based on what people were (trying) to tell me they wanted.  Some things aligned anyway, some things probably did not.

Designing the product from the inside out.

ProcessKit is a complex product with a deep feature-set.  Most of what we built was in my original vision for the product.

Having picked up full stack application design skills, I was able to be much more thoughtful when it came to the database models and early architecture decisions than I was in the past when I relied solely on outsourced developers for those decisions.

This not only built a strong foundation for the product, but also greatly leveled up my skills as a product designer and developer.

Hiring a developer

In late 2019, I set out to hire a developer to work with me on ProcessKit and increase our speed in shipping new features.  This was the first time I’d hire a dev who would be a direct collaborator with me on the codebase, not just an outsourced person who I delegate all of the building work to.

I started by hiring a solo freelancer.  We had some quick wins, but within a few weeks it was clear we weren’t “clicking” and being very productive together.  I learned that regardless of their technical skill, if we can’t collaborate effectively, then it just won’t work.  Better to cut ties quickly and find a better collaborator.

I then hired an agency out of India based on a friend’s referral.  They assigned a full-time developer to work with me, along with support from their internal management team.  This turned out to be a wonderful working experience.  We were incredibly productive working together on scoping and shipping features at a rapid pace, maintaining the growing the codebase, and optimizing performance over time. I’m still working with the same team today on ZipMessage.

Marketing & hiring a marketer

I feel like I put a lot of energy and resources into a wide range of marketing activities on ProcessKit.  These were a mixed bag of quick wins, some longer-term investments that paid off, and some wheel-spinning.

Early on, most of the marketing work involved me creating assets like video tutorials and content aimed at helping people streamline their processes (with ProcessKit).

By 2020, I decided I needed to hire a marketing person to help execute some of the longer-term marketing initiatives—mainly SEO-driven content.  We had a good retainer going for about 8 months where we were releasing well-researched articles on a regular basis and running outreach campaigns to grow engagement and shares on those.  That seemed to improve our SEO/organic ranking, which continued to naturally improve over time.

I also developed a set of process templates, which helped attract search traffic as well as helped with onboarding customers (more on this below).

One of the quick wins included an accidental, but somewhat successful launch on Product Hunt (someone hunted it unexpectedly, but it still ended up on the front page for a week).   We did a round of customer case studies interviews, which turned into valuable evergreen content pieces.

Customer onboarding

This was perhaps one of my favorite wins from my time working on ProcessKit.

In the first 1.5 years of onboarding customers, it became clear that onboarding was a key challenge for the business.  It’s a lot of work for a customer to get set up on ProcessKit, create and deploy your processes, and get their team onboard.

I found myself doing a lot of customer support emails and calls with new, onboarding customers.  In some cases I charged for more extensive consulting with new customers on implementing processes in their business.

In late 2020, I set out to improve onboarding.  I did a few things:

  • I brought our importable process templates front-and-center for new customers, to give them an easy quick win with ProcessKit.

  • I built a “process wizard” (didn’t call it that), which helps people rapidly spin up a new process and connect it to a board in ProcessKit.

  • I built a custom-built tour with in-app helpers and videos that helped new users get oriented in ProcessKit.

The result was a clear and sustained decrease in new customer support inquiries, while customers continued to convert from trials.  From then on, we’ve seen customers regularly convert on their own without ever contacting support :) 

Deciding what to do with ProcessKit

By late 2021, having just sold my other business, and seeing steady traction with my new product, ZipMessage, I started considering what, if anything, to do with ProcessKit.

On one hand, it wasn’t taking up much of my time to run and maintain—albeit not zero time.  I had a bit of customer support to do, and oversee bug fixes when necessary.

On the other hand, I didn’t love the idea of a SaaS product sitting in my portfolio while I wasn’t actively investing my energy, resources, and effort into the roadmap and growth for it.  It would be just a matter of time before the business plateaus.

One idea I was considering was to find a partner to bring into ProcessKit to help run it and grow it, while I maintained a smaller advisory role in the business.  But even spending energy on finding the right person and developing this relationship would require more time/energy than I wanted to spend on it (my main goal was stay focused on ZipMessage).

So I decided that selling would be best way forward.

Selling ProcessKit

Having already used Microacquire to list 2 of my other businesses in 2021, it was a clear and obvious way forward to seek a buyer for ProcessKit.  When I listed it in late 2021, it had quite a bit of interest right out of the gate.

I quickly received my first offer, above asking price, which I accepted.  Unfortunately, after that LOI (letter of intent) was signed, that deal had a very slow, sluggish start.  I knew something was off.  And sure enough, I was right.  That buyer informed me that his company was suddenly acquired, which changed his situation causing him to have to back out of our deal.  Bummer.

For the next couple weeks, I saw occasional inquiries from potential buyers, some more serious than others.  I was unsure if or when ProcessKit would find it’s next home.  But I also didn’t care to focus too much on that, since ZipMessage was really heating up at the end of 2021 and demanding my full attention.

Then around new years, Microacquire featured ProcessKit in their email blast, bringing a wave of new interested buyers.  Several came close to submitting offers.  Then one did.

This offer turned out to be a perfect match for what I was looking for, because it checked all of my most important boxes:

  • The buyer valued speed as much as I did.

  • Desirable and very simple deal terms.

  • The buyer was experienced in SaaS, strong technical background, and very easy to work with.

  • It was clear that ProcessKit (and it’s customers) would benefit from the buyer’s leadership with the product going forward.

It turned out to be an incredibly fast and easy process to close the deal.  It was just 5 days from offer to closed deal!

I truly appreciate the speed and stress-free process.  Both the buyer and I had bought and sold businesses before so it wasn’t our first rodeos.  I think this helped us avoid a lot of the common games and hurdles and just focus on the pieces that truly mattered in due diligence and contract negotiations.  We got through all of this over a couple of calls and emails.  Easy, straightforward, professional.

Onto the next one!

So that’s a wrap (for me) on ProcessKit!

Like I said at the top, of all my businesses in my career so far, it was one of my proudest accomplishments because I feel like I learned the most in a condensed period of time.

Now it’s onto the next one.