The first key moment an entrepreneur needs help happens as he starts working on an MVP. Right at the start of his entrepreneurial journey. That specific moment they are coding in their bedroom, kitchen, or wherever… That’s the moment they most need help. When I launched my first business, I had very limited resources. I wish I could have saved money on the best software for my cloud hosting or marketing. It would have helped me a lot.

This is the problem we are solving. Secret is helping entrepreneurs save money when launching. We are becoming the helping hand of entrepreneurs. Secret is the first platform of exclusive offers on services and software for startups. Entrepreneurs can sign up and save up to $25,000 on 50+ SaaS deals (AWS, Airtable, Pipedrive, Mailjet, Quickbooks etc.). It’s totally free for them!

On a mission to help entrepreneurs kick-start their business

I am Jean-Loup Karst and I’m based in Paris. I have been around in the startup world for seven years. Secret is my second startup. I previously launched in 2014 a hiring marketplace startup called breaz which got acquired by Hired in 2016

Other deals platforms are not free. Secret is free, and we offer deals on software which startups can usually get access to when being accelerated or incubated (AWS, Airtable, Zendesk, Quickbooks, etc.) Now it’s available to everyone. 

Every entrepreneur out there knows that as you start a new business, every dollar matters. Every. Dollar. Matters. And we are super excited and proud to contribute to helping entrepreneurs grow faster. We are also lowering the bar to entrepreneurship. With tools like Bubble on Secret, you pretty much need no money to launch a web app today.

Building an MVP without code

The initial product consisted of two things: the tech side and the partnerships side with the software providers. My cofounder Edouard and I did not have any coding skills, so he decided to join a Bootcamp program (Le Wagon) to gain the necessary Ruby on Rails skills to build an MVP, while I would focus on getting deals with a bunch of services we thought entrepreneurs would pay for.

At the end of the bootcamp, it took him around a week to build a very basic website: a landing page showcasing the deals I negotiated (Clevercloud, Mailjet, Lemlist, Mention, SalesMachine and Scalingo) and a payment funnel using Stripe API.

Back in April 2019 for our MVP, our goal was to launch fast and get as much feedback as possible from our users to assess to what extent our idea had potential. We negotiated deals with these 6 software applications for cloud hosting, emailing, sales automation, etc. And launched our MVP in April 2019. Given how basic and rustic our website was at the time, the initial feedback we gathered was pretty mixed. Most of our visitors were asking questions on the chat as “Is it a scam?”, “It is real?” Some of our partners reported that a few visitors asked them directly if the deals really were true.

At the time, the fee to access all of the deals was €49. To be honest, I felt a bit ashamed of our website and got surprised as I saw the first payments were being processed. I would not have paid with a credit card myself on such website! It proved our hypothesis to be true: everyone is interested in saving money on software. It’s just a no-brainer.  To launch our beta, we essentially relied on email marketing our Linkedin contact base and got one media article as well (in French).  

After testing and validating our concept for four to five months, we decided to work on our V2. This summer, we decided to pivot our model to make it fully free for entrepreneurs and make revenues on the partners side. Edouard started mockuping the website and we hired three freelancers.

Growing the platform

We are working on Secret full-time. We are about to add a third cofounder on the team to solely focus on partners relationships. Things are just getting started—it’s exciting.

We have tested different acquisition channels and we are still working on figuring out what works best. Still, I think email marketing is the best form of marketing. You can personalize your emails through Yesware. Add people on Linkedin, extract their personal email using Phantomb Buster’s API, and then schedule your campaigns. The daily limit of several hundred emails a day works just fine. 

Facebook groups are kind of average. Reach is limited. One group can have thousands of members but only some of them will see your post. How many? 100? Also, moderators hate spamming/direct promotion. You need to add value to the community if you want to cut your way to the top of the page (e.g talk about a side-topic and rely on side-promotion). The worst of all is Linkedin groups. It just does not work. No one hangs out there.

At the moment we have 20 to 50 entrepreneurs signing up a day on Secret. We are looking to expand that number fast through invites to grow our user base. The startup scene worldwide is growing at an insane rate and we believe we can help every entrepreneur to launch his MVP in his bedroom, kitchen or living room. This is the key moment when you need help. Right at the start. And Secret is a natural fit for that moment, as our users show it below. It gives us lots of energy for the future!

There are several features we want to add to the product to help entrepreneurs find faster the software they are interested in. Overall, I think the SaaS market is expanding fast and there is a lot of value to add to decision makers to help them in their thinking towards what software they should use to grow their business the right way. Secret will become a key player in the B2B software discovery space.

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