Building An Online Fax Service
February 10, 2021projects
A goal I had in 2020 was to build and launch a micro SaaS product. What is a micro SaaS? Well, it's essentially a software as a service product but smaller in scope. A micro SaaS product is often build by independent software builders, has a smaller scope, and is targeting business to busines markets. The goal is often to generate modest recurring revenue as a lifestyle business. $10,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR) is the common target for Indie Hackers.
Online Fax Service? WTF?
WTF would anyone build an online fax service in (then) 2020? Well for starters it seemed like an easy product to launch leveraging a couple great API platforms in Twilio and Stripe. Having really found a groove building Laravel apps, it seemed like a no brainer. The goal was to launch a product - not build the next Uber. So I decided to glue a few pieces together. I just wanted to ship something. Back to WTF... wtf wants to send a fax online?
Finding The Market
A common pattern for micro SaaS founders and Indie Hackers in general is scratching ones own itch. Basecamp built a great company on this model. Well one day - I had to send a fax. And what I found was interesting and gave me a spark that was similar to the rabbit hole I found when deciding to build a printable baby shower game e-commerce store about ten years ago. Anyway, in this case I had sold some bitcoin and my bank flagged my business account as acting nefariously. They required I fax them information to prove that I wasn't slinging drugs on the Silk Road (that's probably not the real reason but it's a better story than IRS putting pressure on banks to have customers report crypto activity).
Okay - scratch your own itch. But is anyone else itchy? That's kind of weird but maybe you get what I am saying. I love market research - time to dive into the search world. One of the best parts about micro SaaS models in the B2B space is customer acquisition is generally one search with purchase intent away. What does search with purchase intent mean? If someone is jumping on Google and typing in "buy a new bike online" - what do you think they want?
SIDEBAR - I love the internet beacause of the long tail and micro SaaS businesses play well in the long tail. There is almost always someone looking to do something, no matter how small you believe the market is. And guess what - they generally start by searching for a solution to said problem. And organic search targeting the long tail is a super cheap and scalable customer acquisition channel.
What Is the Long Tail? The long tail is a business strategy that allows companies to realize significant profits by selling low volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers, instead of only selling large volumes of a reduced number of popular items. The term was first coined in 2004 by Chris Anderson, who argued that products in low demand or with low sales volume can collectively make up market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters but only if the store or distribution channel is large enough.
Okay cool - yada yada yada, a few people search for a solution to a problem... Still, WTF would you build an online fax service? That's the beauty of the long tail. While you might assume a market is small - it's not. The infinite ability for distribution of a service on the internet at a marginal cost equals huge opportunity.
eFax is the incumbent in the online faxing space (I still can't believe I am analyzing the "online faxing market" in a blog post). Anyway - 1 million visits a month. Right? Now take the top 10 providers of online fax services and you have a pretty decent market to attack. There's a subset of that market that just needs to send a fax online one time - they don't need a monthly recurring bill to send faxes. Also at this low end of the market are the people looking to send a free fax but searches for that yield a market of unsavory, ad-driven fax services. And everything else looks like it was designed in the early 00's (because it was). So, there's a ripe, underserved market of people who just need to send a fax online every once in awhile. The long tail is real.
Follow Along Building Micro SaaS
If there is a market for sending online faxes online that can be served by a simple micro SaaS product - there have got to be more opportunities. We are building micro SaaS products in public ("building in public"), follow along at It's Fine.