I announced the End of Life (EOL) for DevRaven back in May 2023. Today, I have completed offboarding the final set of customers who were using DevRaven. I have also started deprovisioning the services and queues that powered the service. So, this is it!
There were several key learnings throughout this process, and I hope some of these insights can help anyone looking into starting an enterprise B2B startup.
Competition: Once I started DevRaven, I quickly realized that the monitoring landscape is highly competitive. Although I chose workflow monitoring as a niche for monitoring complex workflows, most customers I spoke to did not typically set up monitors for such complex cases.
Selling to enterprises is challenging. The Vendor Risk Assessment (VRA) process is excessively complex, time-consuming, and drains all available resources.
Enterprises operate at a slow pace; they are reluctant to invest time and resources in onboarding a new tool, even if it yeilds some cost savings. In my case, even the friendly customers were content with their custom tools and frameworks running Selenium or using DDOG or similar tools for monitoring. A product must deliver exponential returns to convince an enterprise to incorporate a new tool into their stack.
Smaller customers lacked the resources to dedicate time to setting up monitoring. They often asked us to help with setting up monitoring for them. Requests for discounts on a $29.99/month plan were not uncommon.
Some customers expressed concerns that setting up monitoring might trash their environment or result in an outage. They were happy with just log monitoring/APM for their production environments.
Selling a product to developers is hard, really hard!
I also made some mistakes along the way:
As an engineer, once I had the product idea, I jumped straight into building it instead of securing customers willing to pay for it.
Although I consulted with friends who expressed interest in monitoring, I should have asked an important question: "Would your manager/company be willing to pay for this product? "
I placed excessive emphasis on product development and engineering, neglecting the importance of sales. Given that sales isn't my core skill, I should have onboarded a salesperson sooner.
I was naive about Product-Led Growth (PLG), assuming that a good product alone would drive sales. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for enterprise B2B. Sales-led growth is essential. I shouldn't have focused on PLG at all.
However, there were several positive aspects as well:
Freedom: Working on a startup grants unparalleled freedom to explore various aspects, choose any technology stack, and work on cutting-edge projects.
Exposure to diverse functions within an enterprise: Apart from product development, I handled administrative tasks, legal, privacy, and GDPR-related activities. I wrote extensive documentation, pushed myself to create demo videos, interacted with potential investors and customers, and attempted to sell the product to anyone interested.
I dedicated 14-16 hours a day for months, carrying my laptop to parties and family events. It was grueling, but I enjoyed every moment of it.
I am proud of all things I accomplished while working on the startup I always dreamed of building. It might not have been a wise financial move, but it was completely worth it. I'm especially proud that I didn't lose any investor money and managed to find ways to scale down the service, successfully running it for the entire term of the customer contracts.
I want to express my gratitude to all my customers who signed up and tried the product, potential investors who took the time to talk to me and highlighted the challenges in scaling the product, and my friends and family who provided unwavering support and regularly checked in on me to ensure I wasn't feeling isolated. Thank you!