Table of contents
- Founder - Marie Martens & Filip Minev
- Ghent, Belgium
- Started in 2020
- 1 employee
- Revenue: $40K MRR
What's your backstory Marie?
I grew up in Bruges, a small town in Belgium, in a family of four. I had a happy, carefree childhood, and when I grew up, I decided to study communication sciences at the University of Ghent. I was always interested in the creative side of advertising or marketing, so this seemed like the right path for me.
After graduating, I started working at one of the bigger publishing houses in Belgium as a research executive. I worked closely with the marketing, ad operations, and sales teams. I supported sales teams by translating campaign ideas into custom-made presentations and providing argumentation and relevant data for digital advertising.
After a couple of years, I moved to the marketing team, as I wanted to focus more on the creative aspect of the industry. I worked for around six years at this company before deciding it was time for something new.
I then became a Marketing Manager in a Digital Product Studio in Ghent, the city I now call home. I mainly focussed on B2B marketing, but I also learned a lot about shipping products and working in a lean and agile startup environment. I happily worked there for four years before we decided to chase our dreams and build our own company.
At the beginning of 2020, me and my partner Filip Minev decided to chase our dreams.
I had ten years of experience in B2B marketing and was active as a marketing manager at a Digital Product Studio in Belgium. Filip has been building products for the past decade and had just sold Delta, a crypto portfolio app he had built and was acquired by eToro.
Our dream was to become digital nomads, and we wanted to build a product for the rising influencer marketing industry while travelling the world.
We got the idea a couple of years ago when travelling in Mexico, a hotspot for travel influencers and bloggers.
Hotspot was going to become a platform that helps hotels to connect with travel influencers and set up collaborations. We were going to build the platform if we could find 100 hotels that showed interest in our idea.
We made a landing page and reached out to hotels we found on Instagram. We used a Google form to collect data and weren’t really happy with the way it looked, but we didn’t want to spend too much time on it and moved on.
In no time, we found 100 hotels that were interested in our product and noticed most of the traction came from Asia.
Beginning in 2020, we had a growing number of hotels and influencers on the platform, and we decided to go for it. I quit my job, rented out our apartment and booked a plane to Bali, with the first stop in Bangkok.
Once we arrived in Bangkok, the pandemic hit, and countries were going into lockdown. Customers started churning or asking to pause their subscriptions.
Flights were being cancelled, and suddenly going to Bali and being stuck on an island with limited healthcare facilities didn’t seem like the safest thing to do.
Borders were closing, and to be able to stay in Thailand, we had to leave the country to extend our visas without knowing if we would be able to get back in. We ran out of options and had to fly back home.
By the summer of 2020, we had lost half of our Hotspot customers, and with still no perspective on when the travel industry would recover, we decided to pivot.
We had experienced the problem of not finding a form-building tool that we enjoyed using, so we decided to build our own.
We wanted to make a simple yet powerful form builder that allows you to create any type of form without breaking the bank. We set off building Tally, a new type of form builder for makers and no-coders.
What is Tally?
Tally is the simplest way to create forms. You can create any type of form or survey in minutes, without knowing how to code, and for free.
How did you come up with Tally?
In 2014, Filip launched a weekend project on Product Hunt called 'Tally'.
It was a simple tool that allowed you to make polls without having to sign up or create an account.
It became the number 1 product of the day, but he never pursued the idea.
Because of the meaning (a count or score), we thought it would be a good name for our form builder, and that's how Tally was born.
How did you launch Tally?
We worked for a couple of months on our MVP (minimum viable product) and shared it for the first time with friends and family in August 2020.
Our MVP was a very basic version of the form builder. You could insert questions, and that was it. You couldn't even publish a form. We didn't have an extensive network, so we started sharing our first version of our form builder with the people closest to us.
After processing their feedback, we started with cold outreach to creators, Indie Hackers, and startup founders who might be interested in our product.
We scanned Product Hunt and Twitter, made lists of hundreds of prospects, and started doing cold outreach, asking for their feedback. Often without success, but those who did take the time to reply became part of our community of early users and ambassadors.
Since the start, we've been shipping new features regularly and building in public.
We've been talking to our users and asking for feedback non-stop. Our Slack channel facilitated this process, and from a couple of early users, it grew to a passionate community of +2000 people.
We made mini-launches of every product update and shared them on social media, Reddit, Indie Hackers, no-code, and startup communities or Slack channels. We also created a blog to document our journey (blog.tally.so)
How have you grown Tally?
Our official launch on Product Hunt in March 2021 was an instrumental step in gaining exposure, and at that time, we reached $5K MRR and 11.000 users.
Nowadays, when you discover Tally, it's most likely through one of our 70,000 users. "Happy users are the best advertising", and happy clients help us spread the word about Tally.
Besides word of mouth, our product itself has become our biggest acquisition channel. Tally is mainly free, and free users have a "made with Tally" badge displayed on their forms.
This results in more visibility for our product, new users, and, eventually, paying subscribers.
We describe how our growth flywheel works in this post.
What's your biggest selling product?
Tally is a freemium product. We offer unlimited forms, submissions, and most of our features and integration for free.
We make money with Tally Pro, our premium plan that includes a set of empowering features for startups and teams.
Any big failures and learnings?
While the first two years were all about finding new users and doing things that don't scale, our growing user base is now presenting us with a new set of challenges.
As we grow, more and more time goes into customer support, moderation and administration.
This left us with no time to spend on actually building and improving the product.
We became a bottleneck for our own growth and were overwhelmed with the amount of work to keep the product running.
We realized that we had waited too long to hire, which was probably one of our biggest mistakes.
What's next for Tally?
We're currently growing our team and looking for engineers to join us. We're in the final stages of the hiring process and are looking forward to starting shipping features at a higher pace.
We have lots of plans for Tally. We want to stay the simplest (and most easy and fun to use) form builder out there but offer a compelling product at the same time.
Your go to digital tools?
Any podcasts you love?
I love the Indie Hackers podcast to learn more about the journey of fellow Indie Hackers, how they grow their business, and how they learn from their failures.
Any quotes you live by?
“You can have it all, just not all at once.
What do you love + hate about being a founder?
I love the freedom of running my own business, making my own choices, and making a living out of my passion.
At the same time you're never not working, I also underestimated the financial toll and insecurity of founding your own business.
Not having a salary when you start out, and not knowing when or if you will earn money was stressful for me.
Any mental health tips?
I'm trying to surround myself with more like-minded people to feel supported and learn from them.
We also have a 2-year-old daughter who forces us to take off regularly 😊
What does it mean to be a founder?
It's a rollercoaster 🙃
Any advice for other founders?
It's okay to say no. You can not satisfy everyone when you have a small bootstrapped team, but that's okay.
The art of persisting. Every day, I'm replying to emails, answering questions, and writing help docs while Filip is coding and helping users out non-stop.
Life as a bootstrapped founder sounds more glamorous than it is, but every dollar you make will make you insanely happy.
Don't be afraid to ask. Every problem you encounter has been solved by someone else before you. There's a great founder community out there that wants to see you succeed and will help you out. So, just ask!