Hey entrepreneurs, developers & fellow marketers! Startup Radius interviewed Joshua Bitossi, founder of Slack Scheduler – a simple, but highly effective app that allows teams to improve the remote communication by scheduling Slack messages. Sounds simple, but hey, more than 1000 teams are using Slack Scheduler already!
Read below to learn how Joshua built the product by himself, how working at Shopify Plus helped him, what he did to get first customers, what marketing channels he uses, why marketplaces is a great traffic channel, and more. Enjoy!
Can you tell us about what you are working on? What is Slack Scheduler?
My name’s Josh, I’m working on a tool called Slack Scheduler that helps remote teams communicate better on Slack by allowing you to schedule messages.
While the initial concept was to help communicate across timezones, I’ve since learned it’s being used in some really cool ways:
- Managers are using it to limit the amount of time they spend on Slack by batching
- Organisations and Slack communities are using it as a kind of “Mailchimp for Slack” to send updates and announcements
- Teams are using it to set up regular announcements at the best time for everyone to see
The initial launch was super simple. You could schedule a message using a command like /schedule hello in 5 minutes.
In the few short months we’ve been live, I’ve had dozens of amazing feedback requests on how to make the app better. And the current version now gives Slack teams a tonne of superpowers. Like being able to schedule fully formatted messages at a specific minute, months in advance. Or sending a message in a specific timezone.
Why are you building this? Was there a particular source of inspiration or money-making idea?
I work at Shopify Plus, so I’m fortunate to be constantly surrounded by amazing entrepreneurs both internal and external to the company. There’s always the itch and encouragement to explore new ideas and solve problems that I’m facing.
Slack Scheduler was born out of personal need. Being in Australia and a member of 6 active Slack teams I constantly found myself sending messages to people when they were asleep, or working weird hours just to have an engaging conversation.
I also found myself spending more and more time on Slack instead of more focused work. My partner and I were in the middle of a month long working holiday in Bali for a month, which further accentuated the timezone weirdness.
Out of the blue I received a developer update from Slack announcing that they had just introduced the ability to schedule messages into their API.
I honestly couldn’t have asked for a clearer sign that I needed to build this.
So for the next week I was up at 4am (our place in Bali was right in front of a rooster den), rode my scooter through crazy markets to Hubud where I’d spend a few hours coding the first version of Slack Scheduler and making sure the messaging conveyed the problem this tool now solves – helping teams communicate better on Slack.
I’d work in the afternoons and some weekends to make sure I was the first one to have a great version of this product. Because I knew it was going to revolutionise how so many millions of people use Slack.
I think being in that situation also made me really passionate about this as well. I’m a huge advocate for the benefits of remote work, and working remotely from Indonesia made me realise how important the right tools are for communication in remote teams.
After I did some user testing, I rolled it out on the Slack directory and published in on Product Hunt for some initial feedback where we were featured for the day.
Time for bragging! How big you are – traffic, users, anything else? (the more numbers the better)
Since launching 4 months ago we’ve had nearly 1,200 teams use Slack Scheduler and nearly 3,000 people individually authorise us to schedule messages on their behalf.
Slack Scheduler has a 30 day free trial period, and at any given time we now have ~250 teams on a trial.
Some of our customers are small non-profits, and some are amongst the biggest companies in the world with teams in the many thousands. But the nature of the app means that if one person installs and activates it, anyone else on the team is also able to use it if they choose.
Traffic wise the main site sees ~1,000 new users per month. And September has been a month where I’ve looked to steadily grow this by improving our blog where I write about being productive as a team on Slack.
Who are your main competitors, and how good/bad they are?
Having such a niche solution to a problem means the barriers to entry are definitely lower, and it definitely didn’t take long for competition to wake up.
Some of them are small, and some are much bigger than us because they’ve been in the market longer but had to do weird work arounds to enable the same result.
There’s a couple of ways I think we’re a better offer though:
Security – I don’t think many teams realise how easy it is for anyone to install a Slack app to your team, and what that potentially allows that app to do. For any app relating to messages in particular that’s a huge risk and it made me nervous looking under the hood. So I specifically built the app to work directly with the Slack API, where as I know based on features that others are storing message content elsewhere.
Pricing – because I’ve focused specifically on scheduling messages the support and costs are low. Which means right now I’m happy charging a flat fee with custom pricing where requested, instead of per user which is fairly common.
Official Slack Directory listing – We’re the top scheduling app on the Slack directory, which means Slack has reviewed and approved our app for use by other teams.
First to market – Because this was the first app to achieve message scheduling natively with Slack, I received an amazing amount of early feedback that I’m still working to introduce in to the app.
And also the fact that this is a tool I still use everyday, I’m dedicated to growing it and making it a core part of every Slack user’s day.
Who uses Slack Scheduler? What is your perfect buyer persona?
I’ve seen a tremendous diversity of users. Obviously the common factor is they use Slack. But the people I’ve found really resonate with what I’m hoping to achieve are:
- Managers who want to be more efficient with their time or not be the one to message their employee’s outside of working hours and
- People who work outside the rest of their team’s hours
Based on my existing customers, I’ve found that the app succeeds best when a founder or manager introduces the app to their team.
Both from a conversion standpoint because they have the authority to sign up for the app after the trial. But more importantly from a user standpoint I see more people within a team sign up and schedule messages if it’s introduced by a person in leadership such as a manager.
Were there any early ‘growth hacks’ or tactics that have contributed to your current success?
One of the key things when building Slack Scheduler was the pressure I had to build this right and build it fast.
That ended up being an amazing benefit because I had to really focus on how to solve this problem without worrying about extra bells and whistles that could come later when I had more user feedback to build it right.
It also meant that a lot of the early work with user onboarding and support was all done manually, something that I still largely do today which makes me learn something new about the product every day.
In terms of growth, the Slack directory has been a big source of acquisition which means I’ve been able to focus more time on the product and support instead of marketing.
While I’m starting to spend more time on content now, it’s from the perspective of helping people be more productive on Slack and helping them find us while they’re searching for problems on Google that the app can solve.
What were some of the biggest challenges while building Slack Scheduler early on and how did you solve them?
I was dedicated to being first to market with this, which put some time pressure on the project.
But getting it in the hands of users as soon as possible meant that Slack scheduler quickly became incredibly resilient as I would have people emailing in everyday with either feature requests or bugs that I could then quickly fix.
If you could give a marketing advice to other companies, what could it be based on your experience?
Coming from eCommerce there is a tonne that can be learned from that industry in terms of acquisition and how you look at the customer lifecycle.
I actually built the front-end of my site on Shopify. Speed of development and familiarity were two big reasons. But also because it gave me access to a huge range of plugins that can help with marketing, customer service and more, which allows me to focus my development time on the app itself.
So that, and also understanding your customer. I’ve learned so much from some simple email follow ups and conversations with customers.
Which marketing channels you prefer and why?
I definitely prefer marketplace listings, but that’s the nature of the product I’ve built where I’m building for a specific audience (Slack users) and there happens to be a directory where those users look for solutions.
Second is SEO as I think good content is such an amazing way to help answer people’s problems and really engage them in an ongoing way if done right.
I’ve run a couple of LinkedIn campaigns as well which was promising but had a high cost per click. Something I’ll continue to optimise but not a core focus.
Is Slack Scheduler monetized? Why did you choose the current monetization method?
It is. The app costs $20 USD per month for the entire team to use. For small teams or non-profits I offer more custom pricing upon request. And some larger companies have requested annual pricing to help with invoicing of which I’m happy to oblige.
The flat rate meant I could launch faster, and now that I have some user feedback I’ll begin to explore different pricing options. But for the time being I think it’s great value for almost any team.
What are the top products/services you use in your company and why do you like them?
- Shopify is running our website – which includes cart, blog, help center etc. On top of that is Recharge which just helps for recurring subscription management.
- Heroku is where I host my services. The ease of use and scalability means the app has gone from 1 or two messages a day to hundreds of teams using it every day.
- Stripe – not something I directly use but the underlying service is critical and the dashboard is fantastic
- Klaviyo – has been great for setting up email onboarding campaigns
- Baremetrics – I’ve paused my account with them, but the product was fantastic during early growth to mark out where customers were churning and how we could build a better business. Look forward to using them again.
- And obviously Slack. A big shout out to them because the API and development docs are top tier which has made it a pleasure building on their platform.