Startup Stories: How to bootstrap a B2B SaaS to $13K MRR in 1 year! Kilian’s Story

I’m super excited to share my very first podcast of the year!?🎙 It’s a special one with a good friend of mine Kilian Poulin.  

Kilian is the founder of Mark (MarkCopyAI). Mark helps you write blogs, articles and short form content three times faster than you’ve ever done before.🎉   

There are over 4.4 million blog posts published every day! So how do you get your content in front of more customers? This blog will follow the journey of a founder who has built a product to help you do just that.

but before we get into this month’s blog, I’d love to connect with you!

Soooo, let’s do it follow me on twitter (DMs always open) 📨

Welcome to the Founder Stories Podcast Kilian, and thank you for joining us today.  I’m interested in finding out about you and your journey into entrepreneurship.

Kilian and I share a number of mutual friends, and for that reason this blog is going to be a little different, it’s going to be more conversational. My responses in between his answers will be in bold

Can I call your Startup “Mark” or “MarkCopy”?

Actually, you can just call it Mark, that’s fine. We’ve given our AI a name to make sure that it is relatable to our audience.

Awesome, can you tell me more about your Startup Journey?

I was always fascinated by entrepreneurship; I love to build things. In fact, I started to write code at the age of 10. I just built things for fun, websites, apps you know anything I could program. Around the age of 20, my interest in Startups really started to grow.

As you can imagine, I had no idea about marketing back then, so I was just creating websites but I never made any money from them. The creative process helped to develop my interest in Engineering, and that curiosity led me into engineering school and of course now entrepreneurship.

Olu: I checked out your website recently, and you guys have made some massive changes to your landing page copy and the overall design. It’s amazing how quickly you’ve been able to do this.

Tell me in your own words – What is “Mark”?

Discover Mark - a Content marketing AI driven SaaS Startup for agencies and Startups
Discover Mark – a content marketing AI driven SaaS Startup for agencies and startups

Our goal with Mark is to optimize the way Startups scale content marketing. We want more Startups to take content marketing seriously, often a lot of Startups wait far too long to start. This is bad because the only way for them to get users is through paid ads or through an agency. With Mark, you can start very early.

We provide a much cheaper way than finding a content marketing agency. Mark is designed to help you scale your content marketing. Just like you said, it’s not just for writing blog posts, it’s also for writing emails, newsletters, title headers and website’s landing page copy.

How did you meet Selim, your Startup Cofounder?

They say know your Startup cofounder – Selim and Kilian have known each other for 7 years.

Yeah, so it’s. It’s kind of the easiest path to finding a cofounder, we met in engineering school on our very first day actually!  Can you believe it, engineering school is five years, and we’ve met on the very first day. We did almost all of our projects together.

We built Apps, drones and so many different types of projects together. this really helped us to understand one another and learn to work together. After we graduated from Engineering school, I did an internship as a full stack developer in a Startup. I remember one day, a few months after I’d started at this job, I received a call from Selim, he just told me he had a project he wanted us to work on.

I knew he was running a social media marketing agency, and he wanted to build a SaaS business. He was actively looking for a technical cofounder and it was just perfect timing. It was as though I had a premonition, because I was just waiting for that call and you know the call came. I knew he had excellent knowledge in marketing, so our skills were going to be really complementary. That’s how everything started 12 months ago.

Olu: I find this fascinating because I didn’t actually know that there were two of you building Mark.

How did you and Selim share marketing activities for your Startup?

Yeah, actually we each focused on different social media channels. Selim is full-time on LinkedIn and I’m 100% on Twitter. We had this strategy for a while and it works. We think this process has really helped us to accelerate our grow especially during the early stages of our growth.

What problem were you trying to solve when you founded your Startup?

Interestingly, Selim and I had another marketing and advertising app before we created Mark. It was an Ads app that helped ecommerce stores create ads, it started ok but we decided to pivot to content marketing.

Why did we pivot? Well, our customers kept asking us about content marketing, They didn’t want just the advertising copy they also wanted to distribute their content, and that process was laborious and expensive. Funny enough, we had exactly the same problem when we tried to scale our content for the Ads app, it was just so expensive. We thought about asking for finance but that didn’t really work out for us.

In essence, we stumbled on “Mark” while trying to help our customers solve the same problem we had.

Olu: This is interesting we were also trying to solve a problem we had. We found it extremely difficult to identify decision makers in funded Startups we wanted to collaborate with.

Lead generation companies couldn’t help us, and that was how we came up with Prelo.

Yeah, I’m sure you had the same problem with Prelo.

As soon as we had the idea, we sensed that other people had similar problems so we doubled down on creating Mark . I’m sure you had a similar experience with Prelo .

For us, the first month was tough, we spent the whole month just trying to figure out who our customers were. Our first customers were not the ones we were expecting. I’m sure you got that right?

Olu: Absolutely we had the same problem, initially we thought that we were going to be introducing small businesses to find tech companies.

Now it turns out that the interests in our Startup have come from founders, product makers and solopreneurs, people building their SaaS.

Actually, it’s funny. I remember when we first talked and you told me that you were just iterating your website copy. You said to me then:

“We’re not sure yet what our exact message is going to be”.

I’ve just gone back to your website too, and I can see that there’s been quite a lot of changes, It’s really well targeted.

What’s been your biggest challenge to date at your Startup?

Our biggest challenge has been finding our perfect audience for our product.

That’s been the most difficult issue we’ve had to date. Just to give you some idea, we thought our perfect audience would be freelancers and not Startups.

Our original thought process was that freelancers write a lot of content, so Mark could help them write even more content and get them more customers. We wanted freelancers and content creators to write content quicker and serve more customers. 

We were wrong, most content creators didn’t understand AI technology. They were scared of Artificial Intelligence. Content marketers were like, “oh, you’re going to take my job, I don’t want this.”

We quickly realized then, that freelancers and content creators were never going to use Mark . That was a big revelation for us, and this pushed us to engage with a wider demographic. We went out and found customers from different industries with different job titles, as we tried to narrow down our perfect audience. Just like what you guys did for Prelo actually.

What advice would you give a first-time Startup founder?

I think for a first-time founder, your objective is to get your Startup’s mvp out there in about 30 days. That is the best advice I can give first time founders embarking on their Startup journey.

how long should you take to you build your MVP (about 30 days). We all make the mistake of taking too long because we want to make sure it’s perfect. Founders tend to be perfectionists

This is one mistake we all make as first-time founders. I think there’s a real problem out there and that is, there’s too much information about what the MVP should deliver. For me, the message is simple, the MVP needs to have one feature, and it’s OK if it’s ugly.

I know it’s somewhat contradictory but the mvp cannot be horrendous, it still has to be functional. You need to remember that your customers are supposed to use your product from day one. That’s kind of confusing for the first-time founder. The question that needs to be asked is simple.

“What is the ultimate goal of the mvp?”

The goal, is to validate your idea. In order to do this, you need to have people using your product in the real world. This is what I think people can learn from both our projects. We had some difficulties finding the right audience after building our MVP, and we could have just rebuilt both products until this perfect audience becomes interested. We didn’t do that.

Instead, we just changed the copy on our website and modified our marketing. This attracted a different target audience and we saw interest.

I know you said one advice Olu, but I gave a few here.

1. Build your MVP in 30 days – we did it with Mark

2. Make sure your MVP is functional

3. If your target audience are not interested, change your messaging before you start rebuilding

How can we help your Startup?

We have a new goal now, we hit our MRRs last year, but we’ve now released our new version of Mark and our new version is going to be serving a slightly different part of the market. We are going to be creating Mark for teams!

For us this is a totally different challenge, because how do you get teams to use your product? The marketing will be different and the approach will be different, so this is where Prelo can help us a lot.

💡 Learn more about Mark here 👇

There are three versions of Mark ,

25 Euros/month per user – Write short-form copy such as headlines, and short advertisement descriptions

50 Euros/month per user – Write long-form copy such as blog posts, news articles of up to 20,000 words

99 Euros/month per user – Write long-form copy with an unlimited usage. The Enterprise version gives you unlimited credits to all sorts for writing all sorts of articles.  

On twitter : 🐤 @oluadedj
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Until the next time!

Founder, Prelo
I tweet about helping founders win!