Bootstrapping a SaaS marketplace without billing integration
Before I started NachoNacho, I found that Amazon had launched a marketplace for subscriptions. I was excited. What could be better than plugging into the massive Amazon machine and getting access to millions of customers? Alas, my excitement soon ended when I downloaded a 28 page ‘Seller Integration Guide’ from Amazon. Was it even worth setting up a meeting with our CTO, knowing I’ll be added to the back of a very long queue of development projects?
I was convinced that a marketplace for subscriptions makes sense. Like any marketplace, it creates strong network effects that benefit both buyers and sellers. So, I decided to build one.
But why would a vendor spend valuable engineering resources on a marketplace with zero buyers?
How we started
Like building any marketplace, the first question is where to start – Buyers or Sellers. We started with Sellers. We built our platform and an API and approached subscription vendors to join our marketplace. That plan didn’t go very far – why would a vendor spend valuable engineering resources on a marketplace with zero buyers?
We went back to the drawing board, and figured out we would acquire Buyers first without the need for Sellers. Why would a Buyer sign up on NachoNacho when there are no Sellers? It turns out we could solve an existing pain-point Buyers have – the subscription sprawl – without having Sellers signed up. By issuing a separate virtual card per subscription vendor, businesses have very granular control over every vendor. Plus, real-time visibility into all subscriptions across the whole company in one dashboard. We signed up 3,000 businesses in 1.5 years, processing millions of dollars in GMV. That set the stage for inviting Sellers onto our marketplace.
Why integration is needed
A vendor needs to integrate in some way with the marketplace, so a buyer can have a seamless buying experience. Plus, the vendor needs to track referral activity from this channel – visits, signups, payments, etc. for attribution purposes.
Why UTMs/promo codes are imprecise
UTMs are used widely for attribution and analytics. But there are various issues: use of incognito browsers and VPNs, multi-device touchpoints, lack of security, first-click vs last-click issues, etc.
The NachoNacho solution that worked
After much trials and tribulations, we finally came upon the optimal solution. Onboarding SaaS vendors in the NachoNacho Marketplace requires no technical integration and no UTMs. We issue VISA credit cards and these act as a virtual API. We send our customers to the vendor’s designated landing page, and then the vendor takes over the onboarding process (self-serve signup, demos, sales calls, whatever).
When our customer is ready to pay, they issue a new virtual credit card in their NachoNacho account and make the payment. This informs us and the vendor that the payment came from our customer. The vendor doesn’t need to change their customer-facing workflow at all. And yet, the attribution is much more precise.
The NachoNacho marketplace has 115 brands already listed, ranging from smaller up and coming brands to really large and well known ones. Constant Contact has more than 500,000 paying accounts – they would not have partnered with NachoNacho if we had required technical integration. Similarly, iStock/Getty is a 25+ year old brand – they evaluated the partnership opportunity carefully and signed up because they could do so just using the UI provided by NachoNacho. Now, as we get more self-serve sign ups from both Buyers and Sellers, the flywheel is beginning to crank up.