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How Simon Chiu Built a Growing SaaS Business for Ecommerce Clients


Simon Chiu had been working on web development for ecommerce clients when he decided to start a side project with his team: build a platform that would allow anyone to create customized checkout pages.

Less than a year later, Cartfunnel officially launched. The SaaS (software as a service) company integrates with Shopify to help businesses add recurring billing, upsell items, and other customizations to their checkout pages.

Simon talked to us about growing a SaaS company and creating a product that serves a single, focused purpose.

What inspired you to start an online checkout platform?

My team and I have been working on helping merchants with customizing their online stores on platforms like Shopify for some time.

Over time, we had quite a few requests for functionalities that couldn’t be done easily in Shopify itself or with any of the existing plugins (or apps, as they call them in the Shopify ecosystem).

There seemed to certain features that merchants wanted, and at a price point that was within the budget of many new small businesses. These included:

  • Being able to do recurring or subscription-based billing
  • Building “bundles” of products at a discounted price, and allowing upsells before and after payments
  • Offering bulk quantity discounts
  • Customizing the entire checkout experience
“We wanted to create a shopping cart and checkout platform that didn’t seem cobbled together from a bunch of different plugins. Everything works out of the box and seamlessly together.”

How did you determine your target market?

Many of our existing customers came to us with specific feature requests. We worked very closely with merchants who kept asking us for these features. As a result, it was quite easy to build something that people wanted to use from day one.

A lot of customers weren’t happy with the existing market solutions. And although we’ve done integrations with other Shopify plugins, we ultimately felt our idea filled a need in the marketplace.

How did you come up with your pricing model?

Our product is a SaaS, and so the monthly recurring model was a natural fit for us. We just needed to figure out how to price it in what’s a relatively competitive market.

When we first planned out our product, we knew we wanted a price point that reflected the quality of our product and offered great value for that price. At the same time, the pricing needed to make sense for us as a company.

In our space, we see a lot of companies pricing themselves so low that they can’t stay in business a year later. We’ve been in business for a few years now, and we want to continue to support our customers in a sustainable way.

What were your biggest startup costs and considerations?

Human resources (e.g. developers) is definitely the biggest cost. We had a lot of the other infrastructure in place already, but getting people who can design and build a system that’s extensible and modifiable is hard (and expensive).


Cartfunnel logo


Why did you decide to design your own logo, rather than hiring a designer?

We wanted a logo that “just worked.” Hiring a designer would mean another design decision that might slow things down. Logojoy is the best-in-breed logo design software. [Note: We love Cartfunnel’s brand guidelines page!]

How did you get your first clients?

We launched with a pre-launch list of our existing customers and people who’ve organically reached out to us for help with their online stores.

What online tools do you use to run your business?

Amazon Web Services for hosting, WordPress for marketing websites, Google Apps for email, Calendly for scheduling, Zoom for video screenshare, Help Scout for customer support, and Drift for chat.

What tips or advice would you have for people wanting to start a SaaS business?

The best advice — and it’s the same one I would give myself if I could go back in time — is to start small.

Create a product that serves a single purpose, try to sell it to customers, and see how you do. When you first get started, ask yourself:

  • Can I see myself working on this for the next ten years?
  • What’s the cost of support in this space?
  • Is it easy to acquire customers?
  • Do I enjoy working in this product category?
“In the beginning, it’s too easy to see monthly recurring revenue as the only reason to work on a SaaS. The reality is much different. It’s much harder than it looks and there are a whole bunch of factors that can affect how happy and enjoyable the experience is. It’s better to learn these things with a smaller project first.”

What are your goals for the year ahead?

Customer acquisition and growth will be the main goals in 2018. We’re still very much an early-stage product, and so optimizing the entire onboarding flow is where our focus will be.