Welcome to our founder lessons series.
This week, Diony McPherson is sharing the story behind Paperform.
What is Paperform?
Paperform is a modern online form builder. Our tool allows people to build all kinds of online forms and landing pages without code. Unlike most other form and website creators, paperforms can be customized to match the unique look and style of your business.
Why and how we started the company?
My co-founder and spouse — Dean — is a brilliant web developer. He had a number of people approaching him to create forms and pages that could collect information and accept payments. There was no turnkey solution that he could recommend, that would be versatile and powerful for any use-case. And so the need for a tool like Paperform was obvious.
Me and Dean had always been planning to start a SaaS company: to put a dent into the universe and also to work for ourselves. And so we slowly started working on the product.
First steps into the market?
It took 4 months to have the product MVP ready. We published it on the BetaList, got a few hundred beta testers and lots of very important feedback. That’s when Paperform was spotted by an AppSumo, who’d offered us to publicly launch the product with an AppSumo deal attached. It was a wonderful opportunity — and so of course, we accepted.
The launch went extremely well. We got 3000 paying customers within a few weeks, which gave us half a year of the runway and allowed us to quit our jobs and focus on the project full-time.
Another important growth lever for us was a Zapier integration. Thanks to Zapier, people could now collect information using Paperform, then create zaps to automate processes like submitting the data to google sheets, CRM or invoicing systems.
But the most important growth channel for us has been the word of mouth. Since day one we’ve been putting lots of effort to make sure we’re talking to our customers as much as possible — and that has been paying off.
Thanks to our high NPS (net promoter score) and the inherent virality of our product, we were able to launch the referral and affiliate programs early on, which also had significantly helped the growth.
Biggest challenges so far?
Staying original and unbiased. Back in the days when we’d just started working on Paperform, we deliberately didn’t spend any time researching the existing alternative solutions. Why? Because we’d known what problems we want to solve for our users — and we were well aware that the competitors hadn’t solved them well.
Even now, as we keep on building out Paperform, focusing on our customers’ needs versus chasing trends remains our core priority.
Another challenge had been communicating in a crisp and clear way, across different channels, how Paperform is different. It took us a while to nail that down. We think we’d succeeded, since we’ve already seen the competitors trying to emulate our messaging, although unsuccessfully.
Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
I’d say that building the right product and having the right kind of people around you are most important.
I’d been lucky building a company with a person I admire and trust the most — my spouse. Now that we are growing though, we are very careful picking the right people, with the right attitude and values, to join the crew.
In terms of the product, as I’d mentioned already, the main success factor for us had been focusing on our customers foremost, and not competitors.
Final words for those chasing the startup dream?
You don’t have to sacrifice sustainability to start a company. It’s easier than ever currently to bootstrap the company to profitability thanks to smart partnerships — our company’s story proves that.