The Story of Aprao's First Customer

Aprao Development Appraisal Software

The Story of Aprao's First Customer

Stumbling across the contract for our first ever Aprao customer the other day was a trip down memory lane. It brought back a flood of memories from five years ago, a lifetime ago considering everything that's happened since.

We had just spent the last 12 months building the minimum viable product (MVP) version of Aprao (formerly Appraised), our goal being to create a product compelling enough to sign up our first customer.

It's easy to forget the initial feeling of anticipation my co-founder and I felt when we left the comfort of regular employment to pursue an idea we believed had potential. Of course, we did our research. We conducted countless customer interviews, spoke to as many people as possible, and the overall feedback was positive. But until someone agrees to exchange money to use your software, it's all theoretical.

Until someone agrees to exchange money to use your software, it's all theoretical

Back then, Aprao's functionality was far more limited than it is today. We didn't even have cash flow forecasting, spreadsheet exporting, or advanced reporting capabilities.

We created a comprehensive list of potential features, then sorted them into three categories:

  • MVP: Mission-critical features essential for users.
  • MVP+: Important but non-essential features we'd build if time allowed.
  • Ideas to explore: A wide range of potential ideas we'd explore when we had the capacity.

After nearly a year of development, we had ticked off most of the MVP list and were finally ready to start sales conversations.

While building the software, we set up a basic landing page website to gauge interest in our product. We were pleased to have collected about 900 email addresses over that year, a testament to the initial spark of interest.

However, as it turned out, most of those people were simply curious but not a good fit for the product we were building. Nevertheless, it allowed us to get some initial conversations going.

Finally, after many conversations, I asked a residential developer if they'd like to have a demonstration of Aprao. The pain point we were addressing clearly resonated with them, and they said yes.

A couple of days later, I found myself delivering the first sales demo of the software we had poured so much energy into building. As the demo concluded, I remember asking the crucial question: "Would you like to sign up for Aprao?" The silence following my question felt like an eternity, filled with the anticipation of a potential rejection.

However, to my surprise, he said yes! This was the first real validation that we were onto something.

There was just one problem: we didn't have a way to bill customers yet. I agreed on the pricing during the call, then mentioned I'd send a follow-up email to buy myself some time to figure out how we were going to handle contracts and billing.

I sent the email on a Friday and spent the weekend finding a solution for a contract to send him on Monday. I did so, along with an invoice with our business bank details ready for him to send us the money.

A few days later, I received the scanned signed version of the contract back and the money in the bank shortly afterwards. It felt amazing – a wave of relief and excitement washed over me.

Now we just needed a way to repeat that process as many times as possible.

Next time, we'll explore the challenges and triumphs of scaling our customer base.

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