On April 21st we hosted a webinar: Building SaaS Products that Scale; The Astropad Story: Pivots, Threats, & Opportunity
In this webinar, Dustin Bruzenak, Modern Logic CEO, had the opportunity to interview Matt Ronge (CEO and Cofounder of Astropad) on his startup journey. A big thank you to Lighter Capital and co-host Zach Hoene (VP of Strategic Partnerships) for making this webinar series possible.
Key Takeaways from the Astropad Story
- Pivoting is hard and expensive. If you are about to execute a pivot, make sure you do your research, talk to your customers, and plan plenty of time and cash flow to execute successfully. Real pivots take six months to a year, not one or two months.
- Platform Risk is a real threat! Matt Ronge recommends surveying the market for what consumers are willing to pay and then build Beta and Alpha test groups. Even though it can be expensive, once you have product market fit, you should go multiplatform as early as possible. Otherwise you risk an expensive upset, whether your platform is Apple OS, Amazon Web Services, or even Shopify or Woocommerce.
- You can compete with big companies, even the biggest in the world. Finding product market fit means loyal customers that will be happy to stick with you for additional services and features. The fact that you’re small allows you to focus on niche features to please your market. Use that to maintain a market advantage.
Overview of the Astropad Story
Astropad launched as a bootstrapped startup with an application that allowed creatives to transform their iPad into a professional drawing tablet. Their initial launch found market fit and garnered critical acclaim in the niche market of creative pros.
After their successful launch, Astropad pivoted from a one time purchase model to a recurring revenue model. CEO Matt Ronge told us in the webinar that this journey took an entire year, starting with a deep analysis of their market and audience and ending with AstroPad Studio, a new product tier. They followed the success of AstroPad Studio with a successful hardware product, Luna Display.
From two co-founders, to a team of four at the initial launch, Astropad grew to 20 employees and millions of dollars in annual recurring revenue. Everything was looking up for the Astropad team. But they’d made a strategic mistake.
Despite knowing it was possible, the AstroPad team had ignored the platform threat from Apple itself. Apple had courted them and made them feel important through multiple on-site meetings and offers of support, even featuring them in the App Store. They felt that their market was too niche for Apple to be interested. So it came as a surprise when, at WWDC 2019, Apple launched Sidecar, a competitor to Astropad, offered to iPad users for free.
After the announcement, the Astropad team was devastated but determined. They responded quickly, letting the world know that they weren’t going anywhere. They were going to fight for the market they’d created. They were now David, and Apple was Goliath. The press loved it. The Wall Street Journal even reached out to Astropad to discuss how they were “sherlocked” by Apple. Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t well received by Apple. But it generated interest and, more importantly, hope.
All the press, along with some quick features, kept the AstroPad market alive and their team energized. They soon found that their customers were willing to pay versus using the free version of Sidecar. AstroPad was simply a more feature rich offering than Sidecar for the creatives that used it, and they kept it up by adding additional features.
Meanwhile, Astropad managed to keep all of their employees motivated and focused on a new play for Astropad: Windows. They’d always known that Windows offered an enormous opportunity but had delayed development. It was never the right time. After Apple’s announcement, it was. Over the next two years, they built the Windows version of Astropad, which is currently in free public beta as Project Blue. The response has been amazing. The future looks bright!
We look forward to seeing you at the next webinar – Wednesday, July 21st!!