Welcome to the Eleventh episode of Founder's session, where I have a chat with the founders of SaaS companies on their journey building the product & company.
This session's guest is the Founder of a product that is a meeting and appointment booking tool that takes on the likes of Calendly and Acuity Scheduling.
Let's meet Rafal Muszyński, Founder & CEO of Harmonizely.
We will discuss the product in detail and upcoming plans with Rafal.
Hi Rafal, Thanks so much for joining us for a chat. Much appreciated and excited to hear your story and share your thoughts on building Harmonizely.
Hi Yusuff, glad to join you for a chat.
First up, heard that you work with open-source software development. As a fellow enthusiast of open-source software and the overall movement, what's your view on the current state of open-source software and your favorite open-source tools?
That's right. I've been working on the open-source tools for newsrooms and news agencies for seven years already.
There are plenty of great open source tools available out there. Some of those tools saved me a lot of time I spend on coding and managing the projects. Every day I see a lot of new apps being added by developers to Github. It is stunning!
I'm very thankful for all their hard work and commitment to make the life of others more comfortable. I think that more companies go into the open-source market. There are lots of opportunities there.
Even when you share your tool for free, you can still earn good money on implementations. Thanks to other contributors, the development of the projects could be very fast.
I think the best open source tools are Docker, Symfony framework, Station.
Can you explain briefly what is Harmonizely and what is the problem it solves as a SaaS product for a business?
Harmonizely is an appointment scheduling tool that helps to schedule meetings with your clients in just a few clicks without the back-and-forth email messages.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background when it comes to tech and SaaS?
I'm relatively new to the SaaS space. I've been working as a software engineer for about eight years developing open-source software for newsrooms.
Everything started from renting the game servers to other players which I think was the first contact with the SaaS in general. At this point, I even didn't realize it was called SaaS.
After a few years, I started a news portal with the latest news from the city where I lived. The idea came about while I was still studying at the university. My girlfriend and now wife was helping as a journalist because she had an experience with that already. I was working on the tech side of it.
We got to the point where our portal was in the top 3 news portals in the city. But it was not fascinating anymore, and it was tough to earn any money, that's why I decided to sell it.
I've always been curious about SaaS where you build an app that you sell to customers all over the world, and customers pay you on a recurring monthly or annual basis. That was insane for me back then!
What was the primary motivation behind building Harmonizely? When was the first line of code written?
I was thinking about different options even two years before I figured out I will build Harmonizely. Sometimes it's better to stop thinking and worrying too much, and the ideas will come themselves.
The primary motivation for me was joining that SaaS business with my application that will solve real problems for people who need it. I wanted to feel how it's to be the SaaS founder.
I wanted to create something myself that would give someone value and the additional passive income to me. I also wanted to experiment with other technologies and solutions out there.
I wrote the first line of code at the end of 2017.
What are the primary channels you have promoted & marketed Harmonizely until now? I believe you launched it on AppSumo and recently saw a few Facebook ads as well. Can you tell us how the Appsumo launch went and your takeaways from it?
I launched Harmonizely on BetaList, BetaPage, Product Hunt, IndieHacker, etc. Everywhere where it was possible for free.
I even showed up in one of the Nathan Latka's The Top podcast, which by the way was a motivation booster for me myself.
We were featured on AppSumo a few months ago. When I found out about it, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to show my tool to the world and even earn some money. Money was not the first thing here.
I wanted to let people know that Harmonizely exists and we are here in this market too. I was all about brand awareness. However, the earned money helped me push the things forward. Great features are coming soon, so stay tuned!
We don't invest in Facebook Ads daily. We are too small for it. We were testing some different strategies internally, that's why you could have seen some retargeting ads.
Oh Yeah, I saw that Episode on Nathan's Podcast. Was a really interesting conversation.
What is your vision for Harmonizely and what are the expansion plans in the next 2 to 3 years?
I believe my app will be the default choice for users who use CalDAV powered calendars (Zimbra, Zoho, Fastmail, Nextcloud, Daylite, Kopano, and many more).
In the future, we will be focusing more on the teams of users who need such a scheduling tool, and in this direction, we will be heading in the next two years.
With the market consisting of products like Calendly, Acuity, etc. that have been in the space for a long time, how would you define the need for a user to choose Harmonizely over the others? What makes Harmonizely unique when compared to other established scheduling apps in the market to give it a try?
Most meeting scheduling apps work with the most popular calendars only, such as Google Calendar, iCloud, or Office 365. Harmonizely, on the other hand, is a comprehensive scheduling tool.
It supports a broader range of calendars, including Zimbra, Zoho, Fastmail, and Nextcloud. If you're looking for an inclusive meeting scheduler, this is the right pick.
Bootstrapped or raised capital? Any plans in the pipeline to raise funds?
100% bootstrapped. I don't see any plans to raise any funds at the moment. There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages in both cases, but I try to stick to being bootstrapped.
With the self-funded option, I have more control over in which direction the product should go, and I don't feel any stress because someone gave me the money and I should do what they require.
What is the major shift in the SaaS industry in your perspective in the past 5 years and how you see it evolve over the next decade?
AI has changed the industry, in my opinion. There are lots of new solutions based on that, and we can see it evolves rapidly in different sectors like medicine, automotive, etc.
It helped to achieve a higher level when it comes to SaaS ideas and solutions.
In the next decade, we will see only more AI solutions and less human interaction.
The new COVID situation showed us that without the Internet and online tools, we wouldn't do much. More companies will be moving towards the remote work and will leverage all the SaaS tools available out there.
Your favorite SaaS tool apart from yours and why?
Slack. It helps me communicate with my co-workers instantly.
Your favorite European SaaS company whose marketing strategies you would be happy to implement at Harmonizely for growth?
I agree Lemlist is a fantastic product that has grown leaps and bounds in the cold emailing space within a very short period of time.
There are some really good SaaS companies from Poland in recent times. LiveChat and CallPage come to mind immediately. Tell us a bit about the SaaS industry and the overall startup scene in Poland. How it compares with the major European startup hubs.
Indeed, there are lots of great SaaS companies here. The SaaS industry evolves every quickly. New good quality solutions are showing up from different sectors all the time.
I like that more of the Polish SaaS companies can compete with other companies all over the world. I think we have some unicorns like Brainly and they already proved what they are capable.
There are possibilities to get funding from Venture Capital, and there is access to great mentors and know-how. We learn all the time, but we do not stand out from others.
What is the team size currently both on-site and remote, and are there any plans to expand the team in the near future?
At the moment, we are a team of three core teammates fully working remotely from different cities + 2 consultants. I would want to expand the team in the future a little bit to push things forward, but you know, you can't have everything at once.
I like to automate things so I would not want to hire extra team members if I know the jobs can be automated.
Favorite programming language? Reasons for it?
Some of them were designed for different purposes. To me, it has to be user friendly, easy to understand, and do its job in a fast manner.
AWS or Azure or GCP? Which you used for Harmonizely and which would you choose if you are starting a SaaS company today and why?
AWS. At Harmonizely, we use mainly AWS. It has everything we need. Maybe the pricing is not sometimes so visible, but AWS helps us develop things faster.
Some words of advice for any aspiring entrepreneurs especially in the SaaS? In your experience, what are a few things to do and a few mistakes to avoid at all costs?
Find a team of passionate entrepreneurs and stick with them. Create or join mastermind groups and share your experiences. Find your niche.
It shouldn't specifically be a bigger market. Test your idea fast and quit it quickly if it does not make sense. Some things require more time - just be patient. Get as much feedback from your customers as possible. The WOW effect is the most important.
That's awesome advice and inspiring words to warp up, Rafal. Thanks so much for joining me for a chat. Looking forward to the growth of Harmonizely.
Thanks so much for having me, Yusuff.