Monday, April 01, 2013

109 paying subscribers

This is a followup to my blogpost entitled How I was forced to create a SaaS business

Obsurvey was transformed to a paid service Feb 27th 2013. Because the service was growing too large as a free service, and I was facing large hosting bills if it continued to be free. Existing users were given free access until April 1st 2013.

Today obsurvey has 109 paying customers. Fourteen of those are on a $96/Year plan. I had to create a annual plan in a hurry, because people were asking for it. The remaining 95 are on a $8/Month plan.

All in all I consider this a success. Getting twelve upgrades on a single day, has been an exhilarating experience. Hey! They are really paying and they continue to come!

Getting paying customers has revived my drive for improving obsurvey. Since it was made a paid service, I have done a lot of improvements. Implemented features that people have been asking for, and I did a quite big data-transformation and performance optimization - that has obsurvey running faster than ever. I'm having fun with obsurvey again!

One thing that has surprised me is that with over a thousand likes on the obsurvey facebook page, I was expecting a lot of people to unlike obsurvey when it turned paid. This hasn't happened. In fact since converting to a paid service, the number of likes has continued to increase.

I did see some numbers fall. Right before converting to a paid service, obsurvey was getting 2,000 signups a month. This number has dropped to 800 signups for a trial a month. The number of survey responses has dropped from 200,000 a month to 80,000 a month.

I personally consider 800 signups for trials a month, with a $0 marketing budget and no time spend on marketing at all, quite good.

What now?

I do not intend to focus on conversion rates, optimizing payment tiers, marketing, SEO, partnerships or anything like that. I will instead be focusing on one thing and one thing only. The thing that made obsurvey grow in the first place: Building an even better survey application. Here are my personal reasons why:
  • Building a great product is fun!
  • Marketing sucks the life out of me, and I'm really bad at it.
  • I can't get enough of performance optimizing obsurvey.
  • I've tried, but never even been able to muster enough interest in SEO, to even grasph the basics.
  • I love the excitement of building a feature, and testing it on real people on The feeling of having build something awesome, that users are going to love, can't be beaten.
  • I have limited time to spend, might as spend it on something I'm good at and love to do - things that make me a better developer.
When obsurvey users write me emails, saying how much they love obsurvey, it's because the product is great. Nobody writes me thank you notes, because my marketing or SEO is great. Although, come to think of it, some have complained that obsurvey was hard to find - but I'm guessing they work with marketing/SEO themselves :-).

And also, when everyone is doing one thing, I usually try to do something different. This is not primary source of income - I can afford to experiment. That's also why obsurvey has no free plan, has no payment tiers and the annual plan has no discount. Obsurvey does not become less valuable, because you pay for longer periods.

Having a small userbase, allows me to spend more time on innovation, when the userbase gets large, change comes slower. You spend more time on support, and you get the dreaded: "But what are the users going to say"-fear of change. I've seen first hand how damaging this fear can be at large SaaS companies. I intend to take full advantage of my small size.

So I'm not saying obsurvey is never going to get some work done on SEO, marketing, partnerships or payment tiers. I'm just not going to be the one doing it. If obsurvey can grow into a bigger business just by focusing on building an even better survey application, I will eventually pay someone to do that work. If not, I have a nice extra income, and a few very happy users, that I can build a close relationship with. That's enough for me.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

How I was forced to create a SaaS business

Since 2006 I've been working on obsurvey, another online survey solution. I did not build it, so much to create a business. But more because I thought that the survey solutions of the day where not very good, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could build a better one.

I worked at it in my spare time, for countless hours from 2006 to 2010. At this point, obsurvey was a very "complete" survey solution, that would meet 80% of users requirements.

I learned a lot about building Rich Internet Applications, and I also learned a lot from conducting real user tests with I'm proud of the great usability and innovative solutions that I have pioneered with obsurvey. Especially the logic to only show a question when something specific was answered to a previous question. And the live filtering in the reporting. But also the whole "no drag and drop, just click"-philosophy I developed.

By 2010-11 my interest had moved on to other projects, and I just left obsurvey as a completely free service, with no limitations.
When I left it, there where about 100 new registrations a month and about 20.000 new survey responses a month.

Three years passed, I had done no development and no marketing for obsurrvey. But the usage continued to grow slowly but steadily. So about a month ago it passes 1.1 million survey responses, and was averaging 2,000 signups and 200,000 survey responses a month. And as far as I can see from Google Analytics, the growth is almost entirely from word of mouth. Obsurvey users, are telling their friends  that this is a piece of software worth using. My hosting company contacted me to tell me that the server was stressed, and I had to do something about it.

I did some optimizations, and the hosting company was happy. But now I was faced with the fact that I had to do something to reduce the traffic, or move to more expensive hosting because of the growth.

So during the weekend I implemented payments for obsurvey. One plan: $8/month, 30 day free trial. No freemium. Announced the change on facebook, and launched the paid version Feb 25th 2013. I set existing users to have free access until April 1st 2013.

So how is it going? So far 7 people have signed up for a paid account. And I'm satisfied with that, as no-one has had their trial expire yet.

I must say that getting a bit of money for my work, has brought back enthusiasm for the project. It's a pretty awesome survey solution if I may say so myself. And all the kind mails from users who love obsurvey have been great (Even though most of the kind words came with a support question :-).

The size of the business will hopefully grow, I will know more April 1st, when all the existing trials run out.

I'm going to give obsurvey some love again.

Friday, July 13, 2012

500,000 survey responses, what now?

I've been working on a online survey site in my spare time since 2007 called obsurvey. For the last year and a half I've not spend much time on it, but it keeps growing. I do absolutely zero marketing of the site.

The last 30 days there where more than 600 people who tried the app

of those 280 became registered users.

more than 800 surveys where created

and there are almost 5.000 registered users in total. (x-axis is weeks)

and there have been 500,000 survey responses. (x-axis is weeks)
There is also a facebook page with 468 likes.

Unfortunately, I find it hard to motivate myself to work on it alone. It's written as a single page app (JavaScript) with a dotNet (C#) and MSSQL backend, and I've moved on to Node.js and MongoDB

As you can see from the site, the functionality it top notch, but the design is pretty bad (I'm no designer and I did it all myself)

I can see two options for me

  1. Find a highly skilled and motivated designer who would be willing to work with me on this. My plan would be for him/her to poslish the design of the app and build a real website, while I move the backend to Node.js and MongoDB. And the start charging monthly subscriptions for the service.
  2. Sell the whole thing to someone willing to pay good money for the thousands of hours I've put into the project.
I've been trying both without success so far. Do you have any ideas for me to accomplish 1 or 2, or do you have an option 3?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Go to facebook to see our updates

We've decided to use facebook for frequent updates, instead of this blog.
Join us on facebook
There will only be infrequent updates here on the blog, when we have big things to announce.
This will allow us to spend more time on improving obsurvey.

Sunday, May 01, 2011


We've just made some updates that should help you get geolocation data from your respondents ip-addresses. Meaning you get the respondents approximate geographical location.
You can see this data when you click "Individual responses" for a survey or when you click "Report" and then click "Show map"
We are now using two different geolocation services, if the first service does not have geolocation for the respondents ip-address, we try the other service. This should mean that almost all responses get geolocation data attached to them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New front page and new social sharing

We've released a complete redesign of the obsurvey front page. We hope you like it as much as we do.
Also' today we released a new social sharing feature. The social sharing you can add to your survey is much better looking now:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Themes for your surveys, and more

It is now possibe to select themes for your survey. There are five themes in 2 different widths available, we will add more in the future.

If you know how to edit css, cascading style sheets, you can create your own themes. If you create a theme you like, please consider sending it to us, so we can consider adding at a standard theme in obsurvey. To the benefit of all obsurvey users.

Furthermore, we've added the abitily to password protect your syrveys. Click "collect responses" and add a password. You can also specify the password prompts text. Foreign language users will find this particularly usefull.

Finally there is a new filter in the reports "unique by IP-address", this filter is especially usefull if you are using obsurvey for polls or voting-style surveys.