Entry #3: SaaS Industry Research and Narrowing My Niche

Welcome back my aspiring and established entrepreneurs. So I’ve decided makes a few pivots. I think it’s important to note that pivots are a crucial aspect of starting a business and, especially in the beginning, they can happen often and drastically. As time goes on and a business becomes more and more established, I’m sure the rate of pivots decreases as well as the magnitude. But at this stage, at this ever so early stage, pivots are going to be commonplace.

A quick update on my attempt to set up meetings with Ecwid store owners…none of them replied to me. I’m not entirely surprised given the fact that I was, for the most part, reaching out to through customer support channels. At least I’m guessing that’s where a lot of my emails were landing. On top of that, even if some of my correspondences were actually reaching the store owners themselves, how motivated are they really going to be to meet with a stranger about something that doesn’t immediately benefit them? I’m just speculating at this point. But, in the future, when I try to reach out to potential clients/customers, I need a better approach.

These past two weeks, I continued exploring E-Commerce as a potential target for my inevitable SaaS product. I explored more lacking features in the Ecwid app store as well as exploring various niches I could get into. After a few more days of this, I began to reconsider e-commerce as the general industry that I want to start off targeting. I started looking into other SaaS businesses and potentially serving them and their use cases. I performed more industry research and looking at more niches within that space. I then moved onto exploring different startups that I could get in contact with and gathering contacts.

Exploring E-Commerce for a SaaS Business

Finding Problems

I spent some more time finding potential problem spaces to solve in the Ecwid ecosystem. Here’s what I came up with:

  • 301 redirects for 404 errors
  • Product recommendations
  • A/B testing (for conversion rate optimization)
  • Visual Search and Product Discovery – solution that utilizes image recognition technology to enable visual search and product discovery for eCommerce websites, enhancing the user experience and increasing product visibility.
  • Wish list feature
  • Subscription Management and Billing – solution that simplifies subscription management for eCommerce businesses, offering features such as recurring billing, subscription upgrades/downgrades, and churn analysis.
  • Shoppable quizzes that customers can engage with to find the best fit products in the store
  • Integrated payment plan for larger ticket items
  • Alert suite (example functionalities include competitor monitoring alerts, ow/out of stock alert, abandoned cart alerts, website down alerts, payment gateway alerts, etc.)

On top of that, I wanted to see how effective it was finding pain points on Twitter. Essentially, I gave Twitter hashtags such as #ecwid, #ecommerce, #frustrating, #problem, #annoying, #issue, etc. The results from this were okay but not spectacular.

Exploring Store Categories and Niches

I decided to take a step back and do more research on store categories and niches. I even temporarily subscribed to a service called Store Leads, a tool for market research and lead generation which housed a decent amount of information for various online stores. With it, I came up with a list of categories, each consisting of a decent number of stores and revenue average revenue per store. Then for each category, I came up with some specific niches. Here are some examples:

  • Security Products
    • Smart Locks and Access Control – keyless entry systems, and access control solutions for homes, offices, businesses, etc.
    • Vehicle Security Systems – car alarm systems, GPS tracking devices, steering wheel locks, other security solutions for vehicles, etc.
  • Computer & Video Games
    • Gaming PC Components – including graphics cards, processors, RAM, storage devices, etc.
    • Game Modding and Customization – modding tools, custom skins, and modification services for popular video games, allowing players to personalize their gaming experience
    • Game Collectibles and Limited Editions – rare and limited edition video game collectibles, including figurines, art prints, signed memorabilia, special edition game releases, etc.
  • Web Design & Development
    • Website Templates and Themes – catering to individuals and businesses looking for pre-made website designs.
    • Custom Web Design Services – creating unique and custom website designs for clients based on their specific requirements and branding.
    • Website Hosting and Domain Services – domain registration, and related services to individuals and businesses looking for reliable hosting solutions for their websites.

I did take advantage of ChatGPT to help give some ideas into potential niches. For instance, I would ask ChatGPT, “What are some ecommerce niches related to online training and certifications?” Since ChatGPT keeps track of your previous questions and its responses, sometimes I would ask it to give me more niches, in which case it would provide an additional list. If I wanted more specific responses, I’d ask it to be more specific. I suggest playing around with it and trying to give it prompts of varying complexity. For example, “Give me 3 extremely specific niches that revolve around home security products for large houses.” So, ChatGPT is a good supplemental tool for specific tasks, especially if you know how to give it prompts.

Exploring Other SaaS Startups for a SaaS Business

At some point, I decided to shift away from ecommerce and explore the possibility of selling to other startups and small business. I had a few reasons for this:

  1. Which ever niche I decide on as my target audience, I need to obsess over their problems and processes, have a genuine interest in what their doing, and be willing to learn about the space they operate in. Since I’m learning how to build my own software business, most of the things I learn about other tech/SaaS startup can be useful, in some capacity, to my own business endeavors.
  2. Because I’m so interested in this space of SaaS startups, I believe it will give me the necessary grit and creativity to be an effective entrepreneur in this domain.
  3. Building for SaaS startups means I’ll be actively embedding myself in their community and building relationships with many different startup founders. I think that’s an incredible asset to have.

Now, of course, I still think that “other SaaS startups” is still too general and I would need to carve out a specific niche within that domain.

Niching Down

One thing I did was come up with some general strategies to starting with a broad niche and making it more specific:

  1. Demographic (age, gender, single/family, income, etc.)
  2. Classification or association, basically how people define themselves (profession, education, experience)
  3. Specific goals the customer has
  4. Specific problem the customer has
  5. The type of customer your potential customer would be serving (if you’re after B2B)
  6. The industry your customer operates in
  7. Lifestyle of your customer

I also wanted to have a systematic way of evaluating whether a potential niche was viable or not, so I came up with the following criteria list:

  1. Experience/knowledge in the niche
  2. An expanding niche
  3. A specific and focused niche
  4. A user base with budget for tools
  5. Interested in the niche
  6. A customer base that you like
  7. B2B opportunities
  8. Community around the niche
  9. Easy finding and reaching out to customers

Now, I know I said I need to niche down, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s all that necessary rushing into a niche. I still plan on having conversations with various SaaS startup founders and I think a lot of the insights into where I want to focus my efforts will come from those meetings.

Finding SaaS Startups To Contact

To find conversations, I need to find businesses. I was briefly exploring Crunchbase, but I decided against upgrading to a paid version since they only have annual plans (what a turn off). I may end up paying for it down the line, but I wanted to explore other options at this stage. There were two other websites I came across, GrowJo and TopStartups. From both of these, I extracted pre-seed/seeded SaaS startups with less than 50 employees. My approach to GrowJo was a bit different, since at the time of exploring them I was thinking about targeting AI based startups (regardless of them being SaaS or not). I created a scraper to extract information about each company and store these entries in a local and lightweight database. I’ll provide the scraper in the Miscellaneous section.

I also wanted to gather a list of SaaS startups that are headquartered specifically in Michigan. This way, I can attempt to have some face-to-face conversations with founders, which I think would be invaluable as it would facilitate a deeper conversation and a better social interaction.

I generated a list of Michigan SaaS startups and organized them in table format, in which for each company I specify the following:

  1. Year it was founded
  2. Number of employees
  3. Funding type
  4. Company’s LinkedIn profile
  5. Founders’ LinkedIn profile(s)

Here is a snippet of the table:

Company NameYear FoundedNumber of EmployeesFunding TypeLinkedInFounder(s)
Ripple Science20161-10Seedhttps://www.linkedin.com/company/ripple-science/Jacob Bonenberger – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacobbonenberger/
Onboard (Onboard.io)20201-10Venture – series unknownhttps://www.linkedin.com/company/onboardio2/Jeff Epstein – https://www.linkedin.com/in/epsteinjeffrey/
Sift201611-50Ahttps://www.linkedin.com/company/justsiftLawrence Angeli – https://www.linkedin.com/in/lawrenceangeli/
Nutshell201011-50Ahttp://www.linkedin.com/company/nutshell-llcIan Berry – https://www.linkedin.com/in/iankberry/
Guy Suter – https://www.linkedin.com/in/guysuter/
Andonix201711-50Seedhttps://www.linkedin.com/company/andonix/David Salazar Yanez – https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-salazar-yanez-9a9398/
Parrable201511-50Ahttp://www.linkedin.com/company/parrableCarla Holtze Cell – https://www.linkedin.com/in/carla-holtze-cell-2639326/
Amplifinity200811-50Bhttp://www.linkedin.com/company/amplifinityPaul Vlasic – https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulvlasic/

So I’ve got a list of over 80 SaaS startups (some based in Michigan and some outside of Michigan). To have effective conversations, it’s important to have a set of well thought out questions that pinpoint the pain points worth solving. Thus far, I came up with the following questions:

  • What are the primary goals and objectives of your business?
  • What are the current challenges or obstacles you face in achieving those goals?
  • What specific areas or processes within your business are causing the most frustration or inefficiency?
  • Have you identified any bottlenecks or areas where productivity is lacking?
  • What are the main pain points of your customers?
  • What is the most challenging aspect of serving your particular set of customers?
  • What challenges do you think are unique to operating in this industry?
  • Are there any regulatory or compliance issues that you struggle with?
  • What are the most common customer complaints or issues that arise in your business?
  • Are there any emerging trends or changes in your industry that you find particularly challenging to adapt to?
  • Do you struggle with data management, analysis, or reporting? Are there any specific data-related challenges?
  • What tools, technologies, or systems are you currently using? Are there any limitations or gaps in their functionality?
  • Are there any internal communication or collaboration challenges that hinder productivity or efficiency?

I’ll be messaging the individuals through LinkedIn, but I will also be exploring some additional and potentially creative ways of getting in front of these founders.

Lastly, I’ve put on my calendar a local startup social event in Detroit this Tuesday. I think this is a good opportunity to get in front of founders and start building some initial relationships. Plus, I may gain some useful insights from the conversations I’m going to have. I will admit, it may be a bit of an intimidating task to go to such an event and socialize with startup founders and CEOs while I have yet to even identify exactly what business problem I want to solve. However, I like to believe I thrive in situations like this. There’s something intoxicating about being hungry and foolish, but at the same time calculated.


One thing I was considering, if I end up going through a lot of conversations with founders, is to build my own application for managing and tracking these interviews. I’d have a table of companies I’ve interviewed, each row containing various pieces of information about the company such as number of employees, funding type, and tags related to the business. For each row, I could click into it and be presented with a page with further details, such as saved audio/screen capture file that I can play, notes written down, etc. Maybe it will actually grow into an app that other’s can gain value from, maybe I’ll call it ConvoKeeper, all food for thought and something to consider down the line.

Python web scraper for GrowJo:

import requests
from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
from tinydb import TinyDB

url = "https://growjo.com/industry/ai/"
db = TinyDB('growjo_ai_companies.json')

def getCompanies(page=1):
    # get article source code
    response = requests.get(url + str(page))

    # create beautiful soup object from source text, allowing parsing
    soup = BeautifulSoup(response.content, "html.parser")

    # retrieve all h3 tags nested in blog-content__content class
    tableRows = soup.find_all("tr", {"class": "jss33"})

    # if a page has an empty table (excluding headers), then exit
    if len(tableRows) == 1:
        return 1
    for row in tableRows:
        # extract various pieces of information from each row
        if row.find("a") != None:
            columns = row.find_all("td")
            companyName = columns[1].getText()
            funding = columns[5].getText()
            numberOfEmployees = columns[7].getText()
            revenue = columns[8].getText()
            # insert company data into database
            db.insert({'company': companyName,
                       'funding': funding,
                       'exployees': numberOfEmployees,
                       'revenue': revenue,
    return 0

if __name__=="__main__":
    tableEmpty = False
    page = 1
    # scrape each page until a page has an empty table
    while not tableEmpty:
        tableEmpty = getCompanies(page)
        page += 1

Next Objectives

Here are my objectives for the following couple weeks, but a lot of it really depends on how responsive the founders are:

  1. Virtually meet with as many SaaS startup founders as I can (at least 10)
  2. Physically/virtually meet with as many Michigan-based SaaS startup founders as I can (at least 5)
  3. Attend the startup event in Detroit and build up some connections

Leave a Comment