The challenge: Building a sustainable business with lifetime deals
Can you build a sustainable software business through lifetime deals?
Short answer: Yes, AppSumo partners do it every day.
Long answer: Just look at Stackby, a popular bootstrapped tool that leveraged 4 AppSumo launches to build a sustainable software business—and compete in an industry fueled by venture capital.
Stackby is a no-code SaaS platform that combines spreadsheets and databases in a collaborative workspace. CEO and Founder Rachit Khator soft-launched Stackby in July 2019 at a conference in Hong Kong.
Only a few months later, Rachit received an email from a business development rep at AppSumo. Our rep was interested in what Rachit had built and asked if he was interested in launching a lifetime deal of Stackby on AppSumo.
Rachit was onboard. He knew multiple founders who had achieved success by launching on our software deals platform.
Most competitors in Rachit’s industry exclusively offered subscription-based plans to access their tools. By launching on AppSumo, Rachit saw an opportunity to experiment with lifetime access to his product for a one-time fee.
In a sentence: Could Stackby gain an influx of early users (and valuable feedback), while setting the foundation for future recurring revenue?
Rachit decided to find out.
Launch. Implement feedback. Repeat.
AppSumo worked closely with Stackby to develop and execute a launch strategy.
Rachit and his team tweaked Stackby in preparation for an influx of new users, while the AppSumo team produced corresponding creative marketing assets. Stackby went live on AppSumo in January 2020.
For the India-based Stackby team, the launch went live in the evening. Rachit hired a few dedicated support staff. He jumped between every area of the business, helping to onboard users, listening to users, and building a community around his product.
Rachit said, “I was managing everything from getting feedback to making sure people are adding ideas to the product roadmap and helping early members of the community. During those first two or three weeks, I hardly slept. I slept maybe four hours a day because the traffic was so huge.”
The Stackby team paid special attention to user feedback. One of the biggest user complaints had less to do with the product itself and more to do with onboarding: users were sometimes overwhelmed by Stackby’s robust suite of features.
So Stackby simplified the tool. The team also created multiple onboarding experiences that catered to the unique business models of different users.
Around this time, Stackby was awarded Tech30 in India by YourStory, a prominent entrepreneurship & media channel covering Indian startups.
Stackby’s launch was a major success—so much so that the team has returned for follow-up launches. In fact, AppSumo has become a core part of their growth, a decision that has enabled Rachit to bootstrap Stackby. He has never had to raise outside capital.
Rachit used Sumo-ling feedback as a core part of growing Stackby. With every launch, Stackby has provided new and expanded features:
- Launch 1: Launched a mobile and desktop app
- Launch 2: Improved performance, 50+ API connectors, and 300+ templates
- Launch 3: Redesigned UI/UX/UI and the introduction of “Stackby PowerUps”
- Launch 4: Launched the Stackby Apps Marketplace (dashboards)
To date, more than 12,000 Sumo-lings have joined Stackby, many of whom still provide crucial feedback, test new features, and spread the word about Stackby in their own networks and online communities.
Stackby’s experience showcases how utilizing AppSumo to launch lifetime deals can lead to building a successful and sustainable business. Let’s talk about that sustainability part…
Turning lifetime deals into predictable recurring revenue
A lifetime deal can give new companies a fast influx of cash and users. So, what happens once the deal is done? How do companies translate a successful lifetime deal into sustainable recurring revenue?
For Stackby, building recurring revenue has come from two core factors: customer affiliates and a workspace-based business model.
Stackby’s first AppSumo launch helped them find and build a community around the product. Users became fans. Fans became advocates who promoted Stackby to other business owners.
Rachit said, “We did not have an affiliate program after the first launch. A lot of the customers who came were successful business owners who were beginning to recommend the tool to their own clients. Soon, agency owners were like, ‘Hey, I want to recommend this tool to my clients. Do you have a referral program?’”
Stackby listened and quickly implemented an affiliate program. Today, Stackby has more than 300 affiliates. This has helped Stackby generate more monthly recurring revenue for the business—while also giving their best clients more reasons to talk about Stackby.
Over 40% of new customer acquisition for Stackby is driven by positive word of mouth.
Workspace-based business model
Rachit focused Stackby’s business model to make it optimal for agency owners and freelancers, businesses that service multiple clients.
This was vital to helping Stackby build recurring revenue into their business. Stackby sold lifetime deals based on workspaces. Sumo-lings could use a workspace to add a number of databases. Users could add additional codes to access more workspaces for more databases and workflows.
Rachit illustrated this model with an example: “One workspace can be a company or department. For their first workspace, someone might buy it as a lifetime deal. The second workspace might be on a recurring plan.”
As Stackby’s clients succeed, they may require more workspaces. When that occurs, customers can either wait for the next AppSumo launch to buy new codes or simply sign up for a monthly subscription.
The key to this model is providing a lot of value to users. Stackby proved its value through the lifetime deal. As users fell in love with the tool, it became core to their businesses. These Stackby users could add workspaces in the future to grow their databases and apps.
Rachit said, “AppSumo launches provided a solid bedrock for our partnership program. We wouldn’t have discovered or onboarded some affiliates and partners if it wasn’t through AppSumo launches.”
Most software businesses rely on a subscription revenue model. But Rachit saw an opportunity to take his business Stackby to the next level by doing something different: doubling down on lifetime deals.
By partnering with AppSumo, Stackby accessed a global customer base and received valuable Sumo-ling feedback that inspired Rachit to simplify and improve the core product. Today, Stackby has grown over 40,000 companies & teams on the platform from 150+ countries and has over 100,000 users on the platform.
The best part is, Stackby is just getting started. Since its launch in 2020, Rachit says the team has added more than 1,000 new features and improvements—most recently, the Page Designer feature that allows users to create custom pages (invoices, certificates, cards, etc.) directly from the records. What started as a database product has transformed into a no-code platform.
Rachit said, “We’re working towards empowering 10 million spreadsheet users to become no-code creators by 2025. And I think AppSumo has been just a fantastic partner in that journey. For us to get to that scale, we need a partner like AppSumo to help build positive momentum.”