Ilan Cohen is the founder of Registre Foncier - SaaS providing real estate data for the Geneva market.
1. Tell us about your product and what inspired you to start it?
I created a micro-SaaS that provides accurate, valuable data about the real estate scene of Geneva, Switzerland. We sell subscriptions for real estate professionals, giving them access to a) the full land registry, with filters, stats, and charts, b) all the real estate transactions, with filters, stats, and charts. Our innovation is the fact that you can search through these two databases.
I worked in real estate for a couple of years, in Geneva and abroad. The Geneva market is very opaque in terms of numbers, however the data is available on the internet, mostly on public and government websites. So I compiled some data, parsed it (which was the hardest part), and present it in a user friendly way.
I like to go where no one else wants to go. Big data is not sexy, however it is extremely valuable. I believe it should be the backbone of every single business. This market is huge, but so under-exploited, it's crazy.
I'll be honest: reading stories on your newsletter about people launching micro-saas inspired me a lot!
2. How long did it take you to acquire your first 50 customers, and what was your growth strategy?
I dont have yet 50 customers, as I'm targeting a super-niche, so the audience is quite limited. I've indexed around 700 target companies that could potentially be interested by our service.
My growth strategy is simple: I'm doing cold-emailing, organic SEO, LinkedIn, Instagram. As it's a super-niche, SEO was not that hard. Same with social media. I've reached a few hundred followers easily.
Again, big data and the internet: I've discovered amazing websites, like apollo.io and rocketreach.co, where I've found loads of emails from the companies I'm targeting. Then, I had to scrap a few sites to get other email addresses.
Next step was to build a solid CRM, I've used Hubspot, which is for me one of the most incredible solution I found so far, this tool is very powerful.
Then I built a basic website where I acquired a few emails, and create a 2 emails sales funnel. Once the SaaS was ready, I clicked on SEND. And my first customers subscribed within days.
3. Which technology stack are you using and what challenges and limitations does it pose?
For the basic site I'm using WordPress. I does the job, it's way enough. I didnt need any heavy customization, as this part is just informative, and to acquire leads. So a few plugins will be sufficient.
For the SaaS itself, I'm using a Vuexy template, built on Laravel. The idea was to do as little customization as possible, hence the template. Vuexy is a very elegant solution, with lots of built-in options, so it's perfect.
I was not familiar with Laravel, but it's great, it's nice and customizable, which is perfect.
The database is MySQL, hosted on GCP.
My main challenge is to bundle all these together; as I am not a developer myself, I'm very limited when it comes to "put my hands in the engine". So putting 2 searchable databases with custom filters, and a subscription plan was challenging. As both databases are quite large, it takes some time to update the data.
4. What are some of the most essential tools that you use for your business?
Stripe: I've used Stripe with my previous startup, and kept my account opened "just in case". So it was logic to continue with them. I cannot complain, they are great.
Hubspot: I bless them every day. Their solution is incredibly powerful, user-friendly, and affordable, as they offer a pay-as-you-go solution.
Excel: the good old excel is very much present in my business, as both databases are on spreadsheets.
Canva: I try to be active on LinkedIn and Instagram, so I'm using Canva to create a few posts.
Google: Honestly, I'm a huge fan of Google Workspace, so I use the whole suite: Analytics, Google Sheets, Docs, Slides, Gmail... you name it.
I try to limit friction (and costs) when it comes to operations, so I limit the number of software I'm using. For example, I was using Mailchimp for newsletter, but I stopped when I realized I can do the same with Hubspot.
5. What have been some of the biggest insights you've gained since starting your entrepreneurial journey?
Oh wow. A lot! I'll try to stay brief.
- Niche markets: a niche is often a niche simply because people don't want to deal with it, not necessarily because it's a small market. I tend to thrive in those markets; there is very low competition, so I'll select sometimes a niche within the niche, and go full force into it, and end up leading the market in that particular area. Very enriching.
- Just start: don't wait to have the perfect product. Identify your target audience, get your MVP and just start.
- Laws & regulations: you don't want to ignore local rules about your market. No need to get a PhD in laws, but get familiar with the basics, and if needed, learn how to *legally* bypass certain rules to get your business going.
- Solopreneurship: it's perfectly fine to be a solopreneur. Co-founders and stuff is a legend, you do not necessarily need one. Simply outsource some tasks, and have an impeccable operating process.
- Ikigai: I've been introduced to the Ikigai concept by a friend (Nassime), and it is probably the most influential thing I made in the last 10 years. It allowed me to precisely identify what I was made for. A must!
6. Your recommended books/podcasts/newsletters etc.:
First of all, I never read fiction or novels, no time for this.
Obviously Upen and the Micro SaaS Idea! It honestly motivated me a lot to launch my micro-SaaS!
Who Moved my Cheese, by Spencer Johnson. This book shook me to my core, a must read, and re-read. Note: last time I recommended it to a friend, he divorced within 6 months, so be careful! And it is a true fact.
Get Sh*t Done: The Ultimate Guide to Productivity, Procrastination, and Profitability, by Jeffrey Gitomer. I read it once a year, super-powerful.
The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. You could apply all the war strategies to business, it is fascinating. I'm a huge fan.
Anything that have to do with self-improvement and health, such as Ubersleep, the Blueprint philosophy by Bryan Johnson, Tony Robbins. I'm all about being a better version of myself, it is mandatory to be effective.