🏰 Everyday Empires: Ex-Typeform Engineer Unlocks Notion Analytics
Discover how Max and his co-founder created Notionlytics, the go-to analytics platform for Notion
Like many great products, Notionlytics was born out of Max and his co-founder scratching their own itch. Following user feedback, they’ve transformed a simple weekend prototype into a SaaS gem boasting an ever-growing user base.
How did Max and his co-founder go from prototype to a SaaS venture that’s fast-becoming the go-to solution for Notion analytics?
Let’s dive into the conversation (14 min read):
Start us off with a brief description of your business: what is Notionlytics?
Notionlytics is a SaaS application designed to empower corporate Notion users and entrepreneurs who produce a lot of content. Its aim is to provide them with advanced, real-time analytics that help understand the usefulness and effectiveness of the content they create. Notionlytics is meant for authors, content creators, educators, and entrepreneurs who use Notion as their primary content creation tool, providing them with critical insights to enhance their workflows.
What sparked the idea?
My co-founder, an avid Notion user, and I were discussing our frustrations over coffee one day. She was having trouble understanding how useful the content she created in Notion was. She spoke of wanting to know how much of her content was being used and how often, which part was referred to regularly, and how she could better organize her work.
We immediately recognized the problem wasn't unique to my co-founder alone. Many Notion users, like her, would benefit from a tool that provides them vital insights into their content usage. And that's how the idea of Notionlytics emerged - out of a very specific need, a pain point that we decided to alleviate.
We spent the next few days brainstorming, researching, and validating the idea. We discovered that our target users - Notion power users, were indeed facing the same problem. Furthermore, we found that there was no other service out there that fulfilled this specific need. It was a clear pain point with a clear market. The market was small, though. But for us back then - it was exactly what we needed: a surface to just get started.
Before Notionlytics, what was your mindset like? Were there other ventures or ideas you were contemplating?
Absolutely, life before Notionlytics was a constant brainstorming session. Like most entrepreneurs, my mind was never at rest, always toying with potential ideas, solutions, and ventures. I was engrossed in the tech world, with a solid foundation in full-stack development and later in engineering management, and I loved every aspect of it. But, there was always this nagging feeling that something was missing.
This journey taught me that the path to entrepreneurship is never straight, but when you find the right venture, it feels worth every twist and turn.
Around this time, I was working at Typeform as an Engineering Manager. It was an exciting rollercoaster with plenty of opportunities to interact with brilliant minds and work on challenging projects. Yet, in the back of my mind, the desire to create something of my own, the desire to build and control my own venture, lurked.
I didn't just want to build something for the sake of building. I wanted to produce something meaningful, something useful that people wanted to use. Several ideas came and went. An online platform for collaborative education, a marketplace for freelancers, a tool for personal finance management, and even a comprehensive meal-planning app for fitness enthusiasts. Some of these ideas sounded promising, but none gave me that 'Eureka' moment, that feeling of absolute certainty.
So, how did I deal with this uncertainty? I decided to equip myself better and embarked on MBA-like programs from Stanford and ThePowerMba. It was COVID lockdown back then, and I thought to myself that since I’m spending most of my time at home either way - I’d treat that as an opportunity.
It was a rigorous routine, balancing work and studies. I was getting up at around 6:00 in the morning, studying for 4 hours, and then jumping into my 9-5 shoes at around 10:00 in the morning, for around a year. I wouldn’t say those programs are necessary to start a business. But for me - it was incredible. It was during this period of intense learning and self-improvement, of understanding the nuances of entrepreneurship, that I became more certain about what I wanted. I wanted to leverage my technical skills, my newly gained business understanding, and create a product that addressed a real, tangible problem.
When Notionlytics started emerging from the countless discussions and brainstorming sessions with my co-founder, I realized it was the venture that may work out. It was an idea that stemmed from an inherent problem, aimed at a defined user base, and leveraged my skills and experiences. It just felt right to start the journey with.
At what point did you feel confident that Notionlytics was a promising idea worth pursuing? Was there a specific “aha” moment or sign that you were onto something?
With Notionlytics, this moment arrived quite naturally, but not without its share of doubts and second-guessing.
It was not just an app people were willing to use for free but something they found useful enough to pay for. And that, that was our “aha” moment.
As I mentioned earlier, the idea of Notionlytics came up during a casual conversation with my co-founder. She was grappling with the pain point of not knowing whether her content in Notion was useful or not. After our conversation, we started riffing on the idea. Could there be other Notion users experiencing the same challenges?
The real "aha" moment, however, came after our primary validation process. We decided to build a quick and dirty prototype over the weekend. It was simple, certainly not polished, but it served its core purpose. Once the prototype was ready, we shared it across various online communities and forums, targeting Notion users.
The real validation came with the feedback we started receiving. Yes, there were bugs. Yes, there were glitches. But amidst all that, people were actually using the product. They were finding it helpful. They started regularly checking the analytics, informing us when something broke, and even offering suggestions for improvements. It was a clear indication that we were onto something. And it wasn’t just that they were using Notionlytics. They were benefiting from it.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing. Our prototype was free, and transitioning from a free to a paid model was scary, to say the least. Yet, when we announced our pricing plans, an incredible thing happened. The first day we launched the paid version, we got our first paying customer. It was a strong testament that real value was being delivered. It was not just an app people were willing to use for free but something they found useful enough to pay for. And that, that was our “aha” moment.
Can you delineate the pivotal steps in creating Notionlytics and perhaps share a rough timeline from ideation to securing your first customer?
Absolutely! The journey of Notionlytics can be broken down into a few pivotal steps and stages.
Ideation (2 years ago) - As I've mentioned before, the initial idea for Notionlytics came up during a chat with my co-founder about her struggles with tracking the usefulness of her content in Notion. We saw the potential and decided to dig deeper.
Validation and Prototype (2 years ago) - We spent a couple of weeks validating the idea, discussing it with other Notion users, and realized that there was indeed a need for such a tool. This led us to spend the following weekend developing the first basic prototype of Notionlytics.
Initial Launch (2 years ago) - We then launched the prototype for free on various online communities and forums aimed at Notion users. The response we received was unexpected. People were interested, they were using the tool, they were finding it helpful. This was our first significant validation. Manual outreach to Reddit users via DMs worked pretty well.
Iterating and Improving (~1.5 years ago - 6 months ago) - For the next several months, my co-founder kept a close eye on the project, making tiny enhancements and adjustments based on the feedback we were receiving from users. We weren’t doing much, but the product existed, and made its sales, slowly, every once in a while.
Taking the Plunge (~6 months ago) - About 6 months ago, we made the significant decision to work full-time on Notionlytics, dedicating all our energy and resources to the project. This was also when we transformed the basic prototype into a professional looking app. We were nervous about how our users would react, but we were also cautiously optimistic. Everybody liked it. This was a significant milestone, proving that what we built provided real value that users were willing to pay for.
Present Day - Today, we're seeing a growing MRR between $1,000 and $1,500. We're still in the early stages of our journey and continue to iterate and improve Notionlytics based on our users' feedback.
Knowing that something you've built from scratch is adding value to people's lives is an indescribable feeling. And the fact that they're willing to pay for it? It doesn't get much better than that.
Describe a regular day for you. How do you strike a balance between work and personal time?
I like to start my day early, but not too early. Usually, I'm up by 8 am. The first few hours of the day, when everything is quiet and peaceful, are my most productive. It's during this time that I dive into tasks that require deep focus, like strategic planning, coding, or product development for Notionlytics.
Around 10 am, my co-founder joins in, and we start by going over our work for the day, discussing any updates or changes, and planning our tasks. The rest of the morning is typically busy with development work, customer support, marketing efforts, and user feedback. Every day we have two syncs: in the morning, we commit to something we’re planning to finish within that day, and in the afternoon, we double-check what’s been done and if we’re still on track.
Regular exercise is another non-negotiable part of my routine. I believe a healthy mind resides in a healthy body.
Our afternoons are often reserved for collaborative work, meetings, brainstorming sessions and dealing with any emergent issues. We also take out some time to engage with our users, collect feedback, and stay attuned to their needs.
I wrap up my work day by 6 or 7 pm. Then, it's time to unwind and disconnect. I highly value work-life balance and make sure to spend quality time with my family, indulge in hobbies or just relax. I also love reading, so I try to read at least for a bit every day - it helps me to unwind and stay inspired.
Regular exercise is another non-negotiable part of my routine. I believe a healthy mind resides in a healthy body. So, whether it's going for a run, or hitting the gym, I ensure to include some form of physical activity in my daily schedule.
This balanced routine helps me stay focused, and productive, and maintain my sanity in the rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship.
How do you envision its success, and what milestones lie ahead?
Honestly, there's no one defined end goal or a specific revenue target that we're chasing. For us, success is incremental. It's about continuous growth - both in terms of our product and our understanding of our user's needs. It's about constantly iterating, improving, and ensuring that Notionlytics is offering the best value to its users.
We have quite a few milestones that lie ahead. A major one is to further refine our product based on user feedback, and improve its usability. We are also focused on boosting our MRR, and while we are happy with our current growth, we would like to reach a monthly recurring revenue of $10,000 in the near future.
Another major milestone is to expand our user base. We're currently focused on consolidating our position within the Notion user community but intend to extend our reach to newer audiences who could benefit from Notionlytics.
We also want to delve deeper into understanding our user's needs and pain points, and explore additional features or services that we can develop within Notionlytics. Something we’re spending a lot of time on currently.
Lastly, we are looking forward to growing our team in the near future. As our operations expand, we would benefit from having more hands on deck, and also from the fresh perspectives that a diverse team can bring in.
As ambitious as these milestones may sound, my co-founder and I are geared up for the challenge. After all, the journey is as exciting as the destination. I believe it’s key.
Is there anything keeping you up at night at Notionlytics? Any big hurdles or concerns?
Oh, absolutely. As exciting as running your own startup is, it does come with its own set of worries and anxieties.
One of our main concerns is customer retention. We have a user base that's growing, but we want to ensure that we're not just adding new users, but also retaining our existing ones. We're constantly trying to understand their needs better, identify their pain points, and find ways to add value to their experience with Notionlytics.
Although we're seeing some promising signs, we're still not entirely sure if we've achieved product-market fit. We've identified a problem and built a solution around it, but there's always a lingering question - are we addressing a significant enough problem that a large number of people are willing to pay for?
Growth and Scaling:
Figuring out how to scale and at what pace is another challenge. We're currently at a point where we're seeing growing MRR and a steady influx of new users. However, deciding when and how to scale, which areas need focus, and how fast we should grow is a complex equation to solve.
Finally, it’s the uncertainty and the unpredictability. Some days you're up in the clouds, and on others, you hit a roadblock. But that’s the nature of the beast, and it’s a part of what makes this journey so exciting.
Would you be comfortable sharing any key financial indicators or customer metrics that underscore Notionlytics’ performance?
Yeah, I can certainly share a few metrics!
Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR):
As mentioned earlier, our MRR is currently floating between $1,000 and $1,500 at the moment. This has been a significant milestone for us, moving from a free product to one that people find valuable enough to pay for.
We've seen steady growth in our customer base since we started charging for Notionlytics. Our user base has been growing month over month, and to this date, we’ve got around 18,000 sign-ups for our product. It's a promising start, and we're working hard to keep this momentum going.
These indicators provide a glimpse of where we stand today. Our goal is not obsessing over these metrics, but to ensure we are delivering a product that our customers find valuable and are willing to invest in. Seeing growth in these indicators is a happy bonus!
I noticed you recently launched another company (Embedry). If you'd like, please feel free to share a bit about it.
Sure, I'd love to shed some light on Embedry!
Embedry is a newer venture that my co-founder and I are embarking on. It's an exciting project that's designed to help businesses unlock insights from their data with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The concept is relatively simple: connect all your business accounts - from Google Analytics, Stripe, and Facebook Business Manager to Jira, GitHub, HubSpot, Salesforce, and basically anything - and Embedry will do the rest.
You simply ask questions in the app, and Embedry works its magic. It sends requests to the relevant APIs, aggregates the data, and delivers results highlighting insights and patterns. These insights are not just data points, but meaningful patterns that would be nearly impossible for a human to spot manually.
It's a powerful tool that simplifies data analysis and offers actionable business insights. Whether you want to understand your lead conversion rate, or identify churn patterns, or simply get a snapshot of your business performance, Embedry is designed to make the process effortless.
We're currently working hard on the technology, and while I can't share too much yet, I can say that the initial results look really promising. The product is still in its early stages, and we have an early access sign-up waitlist available on our website. If you're interested, you can sign up at Embedry.com, to be among the first to try the app out.
While juggling between Notionlytics and Embedry can be a challenge, it's also incredibly exciting. Both products are solving pressing problems, and it's satisfying to see them take shape and provide value to their users. Stay tuned for more updates on Embedry, and don't hesitate to sign up for early access if it interests you!
Lastly, what’s the best piece of advice you could give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs boils down to three main points:
1. Solve a real problem:
Ensure that the product or service you're building is solving a real problem. It doesn't have to be a problem for a billion people. But it needs to be a real problem, and ideally a frequent problem also, something that people are willing to pay for.
2. Validate early and iterate:
Don't spend years developing a perfect product only to realize that no one wants it. Build a minimum viable product, get it in front of your target users, learn from their feedback, and improve and iterate accordingly.
Building a startup is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be highs and lows, but the key is to keep going. Be resilient, keep learning, and stay focused on the journey.
And above all, enjoy the process. Entrepreneurship is a journey filled with incredible learnings, gratifying victories, and enlightening experiences. Embrace it!
That’s a wrap
Big thanks to Max for taking us behind the scenes of Notionlytics! Scratching their own itch, Max and his co-founder swiftly built an MVP over a weekend, validating their idea before diving deeper. It's inspiring to see founders like Max who not only recognize gaps in the market but also act swiftly with purpose and precision.
Make sure you follow him on X/Twitter at @MaxPrilutskiy - he’s an insightful follow for anyone diving into the SaaS space or just looking to draw inspiration from a dynamic founder:
If you’re interested in the potential of AI-driven business insights, don't miss the chance to sign up for early access to Embedry:
Lastly, for a deeper dive into what Notionlytics offers, make sure to check out their platform and see the magic for yourself:
That’s a wrap
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this issue of Everyday Empires (or didn’t), please let me know in the comments, reply to this email, or DM me on X/Twitter.
If you know someone (or are someone!) whose journey could encourage others to launch a venture, please let me know. I’m always on the lookout for relatable and inspiring stories.
Until next week,
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