We just met up with Fabio Virgi of Paddle, a London-based startup providing developer tools for Mac & Windows. The service is doing incredibly well and Fabio tells us all about how the idea came about, where they’ve been, where they’re headed, and what advice they have for others in the tech startup world. Be sure to check them out!
StartupCatchup: Please introduce us to your venture Paddle, Fabio.
Fabio: Paddle is an eCommerce platform that makes it incredibly simple to sell digital products. We want our sellers to get on with what they enjoy, so Paddle is set up to take away the boring complexities involved with selling online like payment gateways, file hosting, customer support and analytics.
To work alongside this eCommerce platform, Christian Owens, Paddle’s founder and CEO, also built an SDK (Software Development Kit) for app developers that makes it quick and easy to set up a fully functional trial version of their apps. This SDK handles licensing, analytics and even allows customers to seamlessly pay for the full version in-app — it’s basically an all-in-one solution for developers who want to sell their apps directly to customers.
StartupCatchup: How did you come up with the idea?
Fabio: Before transitioning into the eCommerce platform we are today, Paddle was a marketplace for apps and games. Developers came to us for help promoting their apps through bundles and promotions because they struggled for visibility in the Mac App Store, and bundles allowed them to reach a much larger audience (and ultimately grow their sales).
The problem was that in order for them to get involved and sell outside of the App Store, these developers would need to build a trial/protection system to prevent piracy, a licensing system, set up a payment gateway, analytics and more. It’s a lot of work for a single developer.
Christian wanted to simplify the process and make it easy for developers to monetise from their apps, so he created the SDK which handles everything from trial creation and payments to analytics and licensing. It takes away all of the boring backend work involved in selling directly to customers and ultimately gives developers the freedom to focus on their apps instead.
StartupCatchup: What made you actually take action and go for it?
Fabio: The turning point was when people were signing up to Paddle just so we could help them distribute their apps elsewhere — not because they necessarily wanted to be in our marketplace. Once we realised the impact our tools could have, we shifted our focus from the marketplace onto the SDKs and eCommerce platform.
StartupCatchup: How many people are currently working on the project and who are they?
Fabio: We’re currently a team of 10 people, although we’re rapidly expanding.
StartupCatchup: How are you funding the project at this time?
Fabio: Paddle was initially self-funded, however we’ve been fortunate enough to attract the interest of some good investors like Mark Pearson of MyVoucherCodes along the way.
StartupCatchup: What are your plans for the business and what do you hope to accomplish?
Fabio: We want to continue providing developers with the tools they need to focus on what they’re good at; what they enjoy. After all, the less time they spend on the trials, payments, licensing etc., the more time they can spend building awesome new apps!
In the long run, we’re working to create a platform where developers can sell their apps directly to customers and take full ownership of their businesses.
StartupCatchup: What has been the most rewarding experience so far on the journey?
Fabio: One of the independent developers we started working with was selling solely via the Mac App Store when we met him. He was doing OK, but struggled with gaining visibility among the sea of other apps and so it was a challenge to grow his sales.
Once we helped him to set up a trial and a checkout for his own website, this guy was able to make $1000 within the first 48 hours of launching. That was something special, so that has to be my most rewarding experience so far.
StartupCatchup: What, if anything, would you have done differently looking back on the journey now?
Fabio: Maybe focusing more on what was working at the time — meaning the eCommerce platform and the SDK — and not putting so much time into the marketplace. The marketplace was working well, but in hindsight it would have been good to pull away from it sooner so that we could focus on our new direction.
StartupCatchup: What would you advise others who have an idea but simply don’t know where to begin?
Fabio: Noah Kagan, founder of AppSumo, is a big believer in validating a business idea before investing significant amounts of time and resources on it — and I’d encourage anybody who’s keen to start their own business to follow that advice. (Recommended watch: check out Noah and Tim Ferriss talking about business validation in this video).
I think once you’re able to validate whether or not your idea is viable, then you can start putting in the work to get it off the ground.
StartupCatchup: Can you give us a quote that motivates and inspires you to keep going?
Fabio: We have a bunch of StartupVitamins posters scattered around the office and one I particularly like is “Whatever the problem, be a part of the solution” by Tina Fey.