Marketing + UI/UX Design + Co-founder
Our SaaS story 🤡
(Software as a Circus Service)
This is the story of two "visionaries" who took a leap of faith into the toughest journey of bootstrapping their first tech startup without any investors' funding, but self-funded with their own savings.
Our first product idea was a gender-neutral period-tracking app for people with uteruses, and those with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). We spent two months working together on research and development and made our business pitch deck.
In June 2021, we submitted our application to an international startup competition hoping that we would get accepted into their accelerator programme but we didn't get through.
We thought that if we just showed investors the idea's potential, they would be so blown away that they would want to fund us immediately.
However, this was not the case; we had to have a working prototype before they would even consider investing. The lesson here was to build a minimum viable product (MVP) with some user traction!
It was heartbreaking at first, but fortunately, we found new hope and inspiration in the stories of successful bootstrapping entrepreneurs like Jon Yong Fook of Banner Bear, Jen from Lunch Money and Chris Lu of CopyAI. We too needed to build something that could be immediately commercialised, but our period app idea seemed more like goodwill than sustainable.
This eventually led us to our second startup idea: an e-learning platform for teachers and educators to deliver and manage their content online.
We felt this was the next best thing, as government school teachers and private educators were struggling to adapt to teaching online during the pandemic. We spent the next couple of months working on a platform for educators to host their teaching material, as well as conduct their lessons in one place.
Unfortunately, this didn't work out because schools reopened before we could test out our prototype.
Two failed ideas in, the unexpected happened in August 2021. Melly found herself retrenched from her job at a successful tech company. To make matters worse just two months later, she discovered her father had been diagnosed with cancer.
With no income and a sick parent, Melly decided to put job hunting aside to focus on spending time with her family and taking care of her father.
Soung on the other hand, was burnt out from managing his software agency business and was going through a tough time with his business partner. He soon decided to part ways with his partner, and take a break from his company.
During this period of uncertainty, we took some time off to recuperate on a short road trip to Malacca, and think about our next move. There was a lot of brainstorming but none of our ideas seemed worth pursuing. Great trip though!
🤔 Discovering the problem: Shortly after Melly returned home to her family duties, she took her father to his check-up at the hospital. While they were in the waiting room, Melly asked the doctor for his contact information, just in case she had any questions or concerns about her father's condition. Instead of giving her a business card, the doctor tore off a small piece of paper and wrote down his number by hand.
💡Solving the problem: Surprised by how backward this was, Melly told Soung about it and floated the idea of a digital business card—something simple to create and update, and easy to share. Soung was reluctant at first since page builders, profile builders, and website builders are all too common—but perhaps there was still an underserved niche.
And so it was with this figment of a market, that Melly and Soung teamed up again to build an app (web app this time), that would let anyone make digital business cards for free on their phone in seconds (or minutes if you’re a slow typer), without needing any software installed beforehand (besides your browser). Soung loves his disclaimers 🤷🏻.
There are many schools of thought that advocate their own approach to a startup. Some will tell you to validate the idea before you even begin to work on a prototype, or that if you do choose to work on a prototype, it should be minimal enough to take a couple weeks before you test it in the field.
We did neither of those, and our MVP took 6 months. 🙈The thought at the time was that it’s a little hard to gauge if someone would use “a better mousetrap” if they can’t experience it. That and both Melly and Soung are sticklers for quality of work, so we had to eventually force ourselves to release what we felt was an unpolished (though many begged to differ) but usable product.
Melly even self-learned UI/UX design during this time, built her first ever website for Mole, and designed all of the branding including most of the Mole UI, which took a lot of work off Soung’s solo-dev shoulders.
We learned a lot about ourselves and as co-founders building that MVP. Working together under the pressure of time and dwindling savings was testing, but we made it out in one piece!
Not to forget Melly’s siblings who helped us get over the finish line with some marketing and customer onboarding resources 🙌. And, shoutout to Eduardo for making our super awesome customer testimonial video!
Our family and friends are truly a blessing — extremely grateful for their support especially in the most difficult shittiest time of our lives. Literally.
It was finally time to see if all our hard work and sleepless nights over the past 6 months paid off! The baby of two helicopter parents was going out into the world. We started with a closed beta of some friends and some small business owners who very quickly hit some bugs and struggled to use our product in certain areas—the feedback was incredibly humbling, and invaluable.
As Soung went to work on improvements, Melly put on her marketing hat and started gathering interest for an open beta. It was encouraging to see we actually had interest internationally as well. Phew! This gave us an inkling that Mole was something that people needed, and we couldn’t wait to let them use it. We then decided to open our beta officially, in Malaysia to start.
A few days went by post-launch, as we eagerly awaited our first paying customer. Nothing. And then a week. Getting a little nervous here. Suddenly on the 12th day, we got a ding from Stripe. Our first customer! Much happy tears.
Our first paying customer was a financial consultant. He was first attracted to Mole because he was tired of having to carry and reprint a variety of business cards. With Mole, his digital business card could be updated at any time, so anyone he shared his digital card with would always have his latest information.
He also loved that Mole had a blog feature, which was very important for him. He would often share his financial tips with his clients to build rapport, and the Mole blog provided him with a platform to do it.
To get to this point, we broke a ton of rules and we’re lucky enough that it worked (so far at least 🤞). Most partnerships don’t even make it this far, and we’re thankful we’ve found a way to make it work and stick together.
We’re also incredibly fortunate to have users who enjoy using Mole and look forward to our feature releases. One thing we want to change immediately though, is how public we are about what we’re going through or working on, so we can give back to the community we’ve learned so much from.
With that said, we’ll stop rambling here, and instead encourage you to interact with us on our social platforms!
Thanks for reading all of that, and we’ll talk to you soon ❤️
Melly & Soung,
Co-founders of Mole
You made it to the end of this page! If you like what we're doing, show us some 💛 by switching your paper business cards with a digital Mole Card—it's free.
Let's change the world of business cards by making connections more meaningful and sustainable.
Marketing + UI/UX Design + Co-founder
Developer + Operations + Co-founder