If Customers Don’t Pay For a Common Service, Make a Better One and Profit

Band aids may keep people from seeing your unsightly wounds, but do they fix them?

Founder Shayan Taslim created his startup, LogSnag, to replace a common yet limited band-aid solution: chatbots used by customer service teams and product owners to track customer activity on their platforms.

Flash back to 2021. Shayan had just quit his job working for the government. He wanted to build a platform connecting high-paying flight students to schools and trainers. Most of his customers weren’t very tech-savvy and dropped off the platform after basic issues like forgotten passwords. He’d try to catch these errors preemptively, but using customer event tracking systems like APIs in Slack didn’t work – Shayan could only see customer mistakes and not the events leading up to them.

After speaking with friends, Shayan realized the entire customer service industry was having trouble tracking customers too. Most businesses relied on APIs hooked up to messenger applications like Slack or Telegram to track customer interactions. These messengers only provided basic data on where customers were dropping off, and many were easily compromised by third parties.

In four months, Shayan whipped up a new application called LogSnag to fix the problem. The new system helped customer service teams track one customer’s entire interaction history with a platform while keeping their data private.

Despite positive feedback from friends and day-one profitability, it took several iterations for Shayan to get pricing and target customers right. He initially targeted startups that were too small to upgrade to a paid service before switching to better-paying clients. He also needed to come up with a pricing model that could entice customers accustomed to the free messenger services. He finally settled on a business model that made over twenty percent of customers convert after just two months.

A Marketplace for Private Pilots

After graduating in 2020 with a degree in computer science, Shayan cut his teeth working as a government contractor. In September 2021, he quit to explore startups – a new challenge to test his development skills.

Piggybacking off his interest in aviation, Shayan built a marketplace for pilots called Checkride (named after a type of pilot exam) and launched it in December 2021. It connected people in the US to flight instructors and examiners.

With Checkride, Shayan hoped to improve, automate, and eventually monetize US pilot certification. Shayan says flight training is currently a relatively oldschool yet high-value sector with trainees in the US paying anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000¹ in training fees and certifications by the time they get their license. But given the large sums of money changing hands, he had to ensure customers, specifically flight instructors (of which there is a very limited number) wouldn’t drop off the platform. 

“One of the biggest problems working with people who aren’t tech-friendly is we had to keep a close eye on them,” says Shayan. “We had people dropping in minutes just because they couldn’t figure out how to reset their password.”

To better understand where customers gave up, Shayan looked for real-time event tracking tools. If he could look into the system and someone had forgotten their password, he could take preemptive action like calling them. His search for customer support tools would soon uncover a gaping industry flaw.

The Problem With Using Messaging for Event Tracking

At first, Shayan tried hooking messenger apps like Discord, Slack, and Telegram up to APIs of live customer events. He soon realized these were band aids, not solutions. “People use Slack and Discord because they are flexible, not because they are optimized for tracking events,” he says.

While free and convenient, messenger apps only captured a sliver of what customers did on any platform. They could see one mistake like a single failed login, but no overarching view of what went on behind the scenes. For example, how much time one customer had spent on-platform. Shayan wanted a tool that could track anything and everything customers did online while keeping data private. Even more, he wanted detailed analytics on where customers were having issues.

“Most analytics tools give you an API, but they won’t let you track detailed things like orders or databases. They can’t provide great information in real-time about specific things.”

Shayan envisioned a real-time event-tracking tool for anything, anywhere. He developed a basic cross-platform event tracking tool that met his specifications in January, and then began showing it to friends and connections, all of whom were electrified by its potential. Shayan then created a landing page, posted it on various subreddits, and earned 320 free sign-ups in two days. 

At the end of January 2022, Shayan was tired of running Checkride. He put his marketplace on autopilot to work full-time on his new application and now only does support tickets. “I worked very closely with the aviation community for two months. I met with them and was in their voice chats almost every day but realized I didn’t have the passion for it I thought I did. I’m not a pilot,” he says.

Released from Checkride, Shayan put all of his efforts into building his new app in public, reaching thousands of customers and profitability in months.

Unconventional SEO Tactics

By building LogSnag in public on forums like Twitter and Reddit, Shayan hoped to draw in other founders doing the same as his first customers. However, this proved to be a losing strategy. Founders building in public tended to be smaller than his target audience. He found much greater success improving his website’s ranking on Google Search.

Shayan is particularly proud of his unconventional SEO strategies. While working on Checkride, he frequently used a process called “programmatic SEO”. He used procedural scripts to generate list articles on various pilot-related topics (for example, “List of Flight Schools in Minnesota”). He says this quickly built a pipeline of content drawing in about 700 signups a month for his marketplace.

Today, Shayan chases long tail keywords on the LogSnag blog like “How do I track memory usage in PHP?” and writes simple articles with copyable code snippets. After writing an article, he uses procedural scripts and transcribes it into multiple different articles for different coding languages (“How do I track memory usage in C,” for example). Through this process, a single article turns into more than twenty unique pages and articles.

He recently enhanced his programmatic SEO strategy with a standalone website similar to Stack Overflow with backlinks to LogSnag called Gistlib. On Gistlib, users can ask questions about code and their questions are automatically answered by AI. Shayan says the page generates over 11,000 individual web pages in two weeks with 3,000 indexed by Google.

“You ask a specific question like, ‘How do I do this in Swift?’ or ‘How do I do this in PHP?’” says Shayan. “Then it generates code snippets for you with an explanation of what to do to get this thing done in the specific language. Each time there’s a new prompt or a new snippet generated, I’m creating a new page again for Google to index.”

By the time Shayan launched the full product three months later in April, he had about 1,200 free customers. Now he needed to find a way to make them pay.

Charging For Usage to Nudge Customers to Premium Plans

Shayan struggled to monetize LogSnag because he didn’t know how to convince people to pay. He’d decided to go up against services that were popular precisely because they were free and easy to implement. “If people are creating programs for free, there should be a reason why customers would pay for an alternative. At the bare minimum, it needed to do what Slack does and more.”

“Once people started hitting limits, the conversion rate to higher plans was 28 percent.” 

Eventually, Shayan realized that charging customers by the number of API calls they made was much more effective for converting them to paid plans. “I realized nobody comes in and goes straight to a professional plan. Everyone starts from a free plan.”

After some testing, Shayan capped the free plan at 200 events per month. A second (Hobbyist), third (Startup), and fourth (professional) tier offer higher numbers. Now he can convert a customer to a paid plan in roughly two months of use. 

“Once people started hitting limits, the conversion rate to higher plans was 28 percent,” he says. “People took a month or two to start converting but now we’re profitable.

Don’t Take Four Months to Go to Market

Today, LogSnag features a host of event-tracking features businesses can’t find anywhere else. Its central feature is a system called journey tracking – letting product owners see every single action one customer has ever made on a platform. By 2023, Shayan hopes to add an email automation feature as well as more visually-appealing analytics.

While he is ultimately happy with his results, Shayan believes he took a huge risk creating such a large project.

“Pick something smart, learn and fail fast, and go to the market as soon as possible.”

“I wouldn’t start with such a large project if I had to do this again,” he says. “I had to build, deploy, and test on Android, iOS, desktop, Mac, windows, and a bunch of different browsers. As a solo developer, it is just a headache. Going to market in four months wasn’t ideal either. I would’ve liked to go in one or two weeks.”

Shayan suggests other founders build as fast as possible and get feedback just as quickly.

“Pick something smart, learn and fail fast, and go to the market as soon as possible. Feedback is really important. If you keep seeing customers asking for the same thing over and over again, you probably need to add it in.”

Sources:

¹https://pilotinstitute.com/pilot-license-cost/


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Andrew Gazdecki
Andrew Gazdeckihttps://microacquire.com
Andrew is an award-winning serial entrepreneur with three exits. He’s the founder and CEO of MicroAcquire, the world’s most founder-friendly startup marketplace, and its rebellious child, Bootstrappers, which gives voice to the entrepreneurial underdog. When not building businesses, he writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, and now, Bootstrappers.

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