How do you compete in an ever-expanding world of new subscription apps?
If you were to create a new app for video calls, you’d have to compete with market leaders like Zoom, Google, and Skype. Even if your application was just as good, how would you cut through the noise to customers?
Adam Charvat succeeded by creating an application in a smaller pool: the Slack ecosystem.
Fed up with Slack’s lack of a calling system, Adam built /meet for Slack, an integration where typing “/meet” in a Slack channel would create a Google Meet with channel members.
Adam first offered it for free and then added a paywall once he reached roughly 8,000 users in a handful of weeks. At its peak, the app made over $2,200 in MRR. Even Slack’s eventual competitor, Huddles, failed to detract from Adam’s success. Enterprise clients favored /meet for Slack for its Google integrations despite having a free alternative.
After two years, Adam was ready to move on to new projects and needed a quick cash injection. He got nearly six figures by selling /meet for Slack on Acquire.com.
Adam chose a buyer he could trust, who was easy to talk to, and who did everything he said he would. They even collaborated on a new project outside of the acquisition.
Here’s how he monetized his simple application and used his exit to fund his next business.
A Few Lines of Code
When working for Bootstrappers.com, I interviewed over 70 startup founders about how they got their start. Many times, these founders cut their teeth at larger companies before realizing being their own boss could be much more lucrative and freeing. Usually, their time at larger companies helped them spot the market needs their future startups would address.
Adam’s path was no different. He started his career at German multinational software company SAP and then moved to IT DevOps at a cloud hosting startup. Most of his company’s clients were founders, and working with them gave Adam the urge to do something of his own.
“I reached a point in my life where I didn’t want to be stuck in the corporate wheel and instead decided to build my own business,” he says.
In 2021, many startups, including Adam’s employer, used Slack. Annoyingly, there was no easy way to jump on a call in the app back then. If you wanted to chat with someone, you’d need to post a link to Google Meet or Zoom in the channel and then switch over.
Adam responded by coding an application that opened a Google Meet session when you typed “/meet” into a private Slack channel. His team loved it, and soon everyone at his company used it regularly.
At first, Adam offered /meet for Slack free to everyone and forgot about it. After a few weeks, 8,000 people had installed his app, 4,000 used it regularly, and around 20 new installations happened daily.
He hadn’t done much marketing either – just a launch on ProductHunt that failed to generate much traffic. Most of his customers came in through his listing on the Slack app directory (still on the front page of Google). As many founders learn, listing on a less-crowded marketplace can be one of the best organic traffic sources.
Seeing so much usage after eight months, Adam built a paywall. He implemented three tiers based on team size with an enterprise subscription for the largest customers.
People converted from free to paid at a lower-than-expected rate, but Adam noticed many more conversions at the enterprise tier, where customers paid the most and were less likely to churn. These were IT and healthcare teams already subscribed to Google Suite and looking for better ways to integrate it into their internal communications.
“I think the power of Google Meet is important to many people, especially corporations that already use Google Suite,” says Adam.
Over the course of 2022, /meet for Slack increased by another few thousand customers mostly through these enterprise accounts. However, the idea was too good to go unchallenged.
In the Fall of that same year, Slack introduced its native competitor, Huddles. Adam was nervous it would kill his side project, but in the end, it had little impact on /meet for Slack’s usage rate. His enterprise customers preferred Google meetings due to extra features like recordings.
“At that time, Huddles was far from perfect too,” Adam adds.
By the end of 2022, /meet for Slack was making roughly $1,700 in MRR, and by May 2023, that had risen to $2,200. At this time, Adam was looking into new opportunities in the Shopify space. He’d begun building a Shopify agency helping businesses set up stores and automate sales processes on the increasingly popular ecommerce site.
“I felt like I needed to refocus my time and my mind too. I was doing many things, and it was overwhelming,” he says
Adam wanted a little bit of extra cash for his business and he knew one of the best ways to do it was to list on Acquire.com.
Turning a Startup Buyer Into a Business Opportunity
Adam says his acquisition happened at breakneck speed. One day after listing, he was on a call with a client success manager (CSM) at Acquire.com to perfect his listing (startups working with CSMs normally see a 400 percent increase in buyer interest).
He received a listing scorecard telling him what to improve, and after updating the details, he received roughly 15-20 NDAs in just a few days – and five serious buyer conversations.
One buyer named Justin stood out almost immediately. Justin was a solo founder and digital nomad (a person who works remotely from countries with a lower cost of living) who ran multiple agencies by himself. He’d recently begun acquiring a portfolio of SaaS businesses on Acquire.com and /meet for Slack met all of his criteria.
The two got on well. However, Justin’s initial offer was less than Adam’s asking price. Instead of letting the talks drop off, Adam went straight to the point.
“I told him what price I was looking for and he sent a new proposal matching it,” he says. “Justin was a cool guy and willing to negotiate a deal we both liked. He was honest from day one and I had a good feeling about him. I usually trust my instincts, and I think it worked out great.”
Adam still occasionally helps on support queries and he’s worked with Justin on one or two small Shopify projects outside of the deal.
Advice and Regrets
When building a product, Adam has two pieces of advice. First, never assume everyone is suffering the same problem as you. He was lucky his bet on /meet for Slack was correct.
Now that Adam runs a Shopify agency helping businesses build apps, he realizes that customer feedback is extremely important. It’s hard to get that feedback on an already-built product.
“From my experience working on Shopify apps, it’s very hard to find Shopify merchants willing to test new apps before you launch and give feedback,” he says. “I was lucky /meet for Slack solved a common customer problem.”
The other piece of advice from Adam is to monetize from day one.
“I didn’t really think about monetization,” says Adam. “I built the project as a potential risk and wasn’t thinking about that. It either worked or not. Now, I try to think about marketing and monetization from day one.”
Adam still has some what-ifs about selling his project, but he believes he ultimately made the right decision. He thinks other sellers should try to eliminate the what-ifs before entering acquisition talks.
“Always think about acquisition while you’re building,” he says. “I think sometimes I could have grown it a bit more, but I’m very happy with my buyer. The right time to sell is when you’ve done everything you can. Not just when you need cash.”