Markup Hero built one of the most neat, handy tools on the internet - we use it all the time! They’re also FeedBear fans - using our Feedback Board, Roadmap and Changelog to get great ideas from their users, prioritize what to build next, and keep stakeholders informed.
We sat down with serial entrepreneur and Markup Hero founder Jeff Solomon to get the inside story of the business, and hear about how FeedBear is helping them to succeed.
It’s an interesting story with some cool insights on SaaS, product development, and the user-centric mindset. Let’s get started.
Who is Jeff Solomon?
Before founding Markup Hero, Jeff had an interesting history as an entrepreneur.
“I've been a serial entrepreneur for the last 25 years, founding six companies. I also co-founded an accelerator here in Los Angeles called Amplify, where we've invested in 150 companies. I also had a SaaS CRM business that I sold in 2017. So I've been around the startup game for a long time, and over the last few years I've been mostly consulting and doing advisory work and stuff, but always working on my own side projects”
Markup Hero came out of one of these side projects, and was a classic case of a founder “scratching their own itch”.
“I always used lots of productivity tools. One thing that was a daily behavior for me - taking screenshots and annotating files, images, PDFs, and such. I use it a lot to explain myself clearly to people”
What is Markup Hero?
Over the years Jeff failed to find one tool that met all these requirements.
“I mixed and matched but I could never find one tool that did everything I needed in the exact right way. And so, like a lot of startups - Markup Hero was born out of the founder's own personal needs”
After seeing the gap in the market for a tool that fulfilled all these needs, Jeff started building it. Today It's a tool for taking screenshots and annotating them, and other files too. It has evolved to be a pretty good suite of productivity tools around.
As an app aimed at the consumer market, Markup Hero was a departure from Jeff’s previous ventures in B2B SaaS.
“There are a ton of products in the market, and it's very low cost - we charge five bucks for the basic product. I'm used to SaaS models where clients are spending 5 or 10 grand a month. So it’s a very different category”
Jeff only founded Markup Hero in early 2020, during the beginning phase of the pandemic. It has grown fast, and already built up a community of enthusiastic fans.
As a low cost consumer app, some level of scale is necessary for success. And with more users comes more customer support overhead in the form of feedback and requests.
The User-Centric Mindset
It was interesting to hear about Jeff’s attitude to this, and how earlier ventures in his career shaped his views.
“I've always been a very customer-centric founder. When we built Velocify, the CRM that we sold in 2017, we were venture-backed and went heavy on onboarding. It was a decision where there was a heavy upfront cost, but necessary since cancellations within 60-days lost us money”
Jeff ran that company for 7 years, and personally took on a lot of the roles related to dealing with customers and getting them up and running.
He also has had several other startups, like a consumer mobile app, where feedback was crucial.
“I found ways to optimize and manage large volumes of feedback and customer requests, and I built systems and automations to manage and streamline it”
Over time, customer development became a core part of Jeff’s business philosophy.
Jeff coaches other business people on clarity.fm, teaches a course on Udemy called “Launch + Grow Your Business w/ Startup Customer Development”, and even teaches an entrepreneurship class in a local high school.
At the core of all his teaching is an intense focus on the customer and their needs.
“A big part of my approach is customer development. I focus on capturing customer needs, pain points, feedback - and how to translate that into the right products and the right features that people are really willing to pay for”
As we’ve seen, Jeff’s ideas on customer development and focus made him an ideal user for a tool like FeedBear. So, how did he come across us?
“I hadn't used a product exactly like FeedBear previous companies, because it didn’t really exist, it wasn't really a concept. There was one that I came across, an older one, UserVoice”
We wrote a post comparing FeedBear with UserVoice here. The bottom line is that it's too expensive and complex for 90% of use cases. Jeff came to a similar conclusion, and soon moved on from the tool.
“It didn't really work in the way that I wanted, and was too clunky. We ended up capturing most feedback through the support portal. We had a place to log in, tag feedback, and that was how we did it. I’d been following the trends though and was starting to see a couple of good solutions coming out”
Jeff decided that the next time he launched a SaaS company he was going to use a proper feedback tool. He soon did, and came across FeedBear.
“I did a ton of research and I stumbled upon you guys and tested FeedBear out. And I was immediately very pleased with the simplicity and cleanliness - and obviously the price point. It always surprised me, the price points of some of these others is so high. They often offer a lot of features for roadmapping but really that wasn’t what we needed at all.”
When we built FeedBear, we really tried to make it as clean, simple, and usable as possible. This was something that Jeff particularly liked.
“I was very pleased with the cleanliness of the product. It's something that can get bloated and overdone easily, but I’m very happy and FeedBear fits really well. There was a core problem I was trying to solve and I really just wanted to solve that one thing - and this is the best solution”
How FeedBear is helping Markup Hero to connect with their most engaged users and get great ideas for the roadmap
We asked Jeff about some concrete results that he’d experienced since he started using FeedBear.
Surfacing Markup Hero’s True Fans
He explained that one of his priorities in business is to connect with the most excited, engaged users - as they are often a source of great ideas and insight.
“Every company has these users. It's a matter of surfacing them and spending time with them. If your product is good, you're going to find people that love it. The goal is to find a lot of them and really engage them so that they keep paying and you can grow”
FeedBear is helping the Markup Hero team to surface and connect with these users.
“There's always somebody out there that's going to be this power-user. That's going to give you a lot of feedback. I try to find those people as quickly as possible and get their thoughts. We have people on FeedBear that are providing feedback all the time”
Getting New Insights from Users
They are also getting some great insights that have directly translated into new projects on the roadmap.
“A ton of the roadmap is either user ideas or ideas that we had, but validated with the feedback tools. That's been a huge part of our roadmap and our planning”
These users are very, very valuable. They are your “true fans” that can play a major role in the evolution of your product.
You may of course get some users that can be a little “intense” with their feedback, suggesting unworkable features daily. They are still to be highly valued. Here’s how Jeff handles these enthusiastic fans:
“I respond to all of them, let them know that we're listening and that we value them. I say that I know what they’re saying, but that's not exactly workable or a priority now because of x, y and z”
Encouraging User Engagement
It was interesting to hear how Jeff and the team encourage users to engage with the feedback board and roadmap.
“We encourage it for sure. It's in the product, it's in the drip emails that go out to new users. Any time we do a feature release, we plug the board to encourage people to go and share their thoughts and vote”
With FeedBear, your users vote on the ideas that other users or your team have submitted, on both the Feedback Board and the Roadmap.
“Voting is a big factor in what we prioritize. If a lot of people are upvoting something, then that's going to get a higher ranking for us. It's something that we actively ask our users to do. We’re not aggressive about it. We just say - we'd love to hear from you, here's how to do it”
With a feedback board on your own custom domain and a simple site widget, it couldn’t be easier to point your users in the right direction!
The Markup Hero Roadmap & Changelog
There is some debate on whether a public roadmap is a good idea or not. We wrote about our views on the matter here, and here’s Jeff’s take:
“I tell entrepreneurs and founders all the time - don't worry about someone stealing your idea. At the end of the day, there's a billion ideas, no shortage of them. It's not the idea, it's the execution and everything else that goes along with it. It could potentially be an issue because they could theoretically take a great idea and run with it. But the truth is, once you launch it, they're going to see it anyway”
Jeff said that the roadmap is loosely prioritized.
“It’s a place where we can show what we’re planning to do. It’s not strict in terms of deadlines. It’s a public place to collect information, keep it organized and keep everyone in the loop”
Showing Progress with the Changelog
Markup Hero also makes use of our Changelog feature, to keep everyone informed on how the product is evolving.
“We like to have a log of what's been done so people can see that we’re active, and that we're we’re iterating and really working to improve the product”
The changelog is a great way to do this, you can go into detail and include images and media in your announcements too!
The Future of Markup Hero
Markup Hero is in a great position, and has an exciting future. We asked Jeff about his plans for the company and the product.
In general, there are a lot of ideas, and the Feedback Board and Roadmap are helping to set the direction:
“There's a ton more stuff that we have planned and want to build into the core product. We've been using FeedBear to help prioritize everything. So there's a bunch of stuff planned, and also a lot of ideas in the feedback board that we think are probably going to be planned. we'll continue to iterate. We’ll continue to improve the product in terms of core functionality”
Jeff also has his sights set on competing with some of the bigger fish in the productivity tool space.
“Canva is one of the best products in the space. We have some of the same functionality. We’ve thought about becoming more of a studio, product design tool that’s closer to what they do. There are a lot of paths we could go down, as we have a wide user base. We have product managers, project managers, entrepreneurs, teachers”
Jeff also mentioned that the Feedback board has helped make tough decisions about whether to work on building video functionality and a desktop app.
Should you try FeedBear?
Jeff summed up his thoughts on proper feedback management.
“I think it’s a must for any software company. Getting feedback from customers in terms of what to do and why you should do it is the core of my entrepreneurial philosophy”
He went on to make the point that a tool like FeedBear can be a point of differentiation and a competitive advantage.
“There's a ton of SaaS companies out there. The industry is just constantly growing. There's a tool for everything. So I think it's a requirement for those businesses to have something like FeedBear for customer development. Not everyone does though, and when I find a product that doesn’t have a proper feedback system it's a negative in my mind”
It was great to speak with Jeff, hear about his amazing career, and get the inside story on how Markup Hero are handling feedback and customer development with FeedBear.
If you’re ready to do the same - you can get set up in minutes and try FeedBear free for 14 days. No credit card required.
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