Building micro-saas the Amazon way

Akash Panchal
5 min readOct 25, 2023

How I bootstrapped a micro SaaS using Amazon’s Leadership Principles

https://www.amazon.jobs/content/en/our-workplace/leadership-principles

Two months ago, I decided to leave my software engineering role at Amazon and pursue my goal of building a bootstrapped SaaS startup. The idea was for a text summarization tool that could condense content while maintaining key context — something I knew I would use constantly as an avid online reader.

With only personal savings backing me, I needed to build and validate an MVP quickly and efficiently. Luckily, my (almost) 2 years at Amazon ingrained leadership principles that would prove invaluable as a scrappy solo founder.

Here is a detailed look at that journey building LessenText — a text summarization tool for efficiently condensing content — as a solo, technical founder.

Step 1: Validating Demand (Months 1–2)

Sure there were existing summarization tools, but they lacked the control and customization I wanted. I started envisioning a SaaS focused specifically on summarizing longer written content while preserving key context. And allowing users to easily adjust and refine the generated text themselves.

One could argue that chatGPT can help for free. But this time around I’m solving the UX problem, not the Technical problem.

Thus, before investing significant time, I built a simple landing page using yep.so to validate interest. Over 3–4 months I drove 100 beta signups with minimal promotion. My goal was to gauge interest and collect emails from potential customers.

https://yep.so/p/lessentextai

Seeing that initial demand gave me conviction there was a need I could fill better than competitors.

Step 2: Designing an Intuitive User Experience (Weeks 1–2)

With demand validated, I focused on UX and UI design. As an ex-Amazonian, the Customer Obsession principle was ingrained in me. So I wanted to craft an intuitive, seamless experience for generating summaries.

I explored products like ChatGPT to understand current limitations and pain points. Two big gaps were a lack of summarization controls and exclusive features focusing on text summarization.

Keeping these user-centric insights top of mind, I sketched out user flows and wireframes. I wanted clean, intuitive interfaces that solved those key issues.

I also started learning NextJS during this design phase to prepare for rapidly building my vision as prototype code.

Step 3: Developing the MVP Version (Weeks 3–6)

https://productschool.com/resources/glossary/mvp-minimum-viable-product

POC(proof of concept) vs MVP(minimum viable product)

I believe that a POC should focus on the core proposition but an MVP should be close to the real product.

See the POC at, https://alpha.lessentext.com/. This POC helped me brainstorm the ideas and features (with myself 😋)

What I wanted to focus on is creating an MVP version which can be a whole product and the features can be developed on top of it, without starting from scratch.

MVP(minimum viable product)

With the design direction set, it was time to build. I set an ambitious goal of getting a functioning MVP online in 6 weeks. To achieve that timeline as a non-technical solo founder, I heavily leveraged some of the core Amazon leadership principles ingrained in me.

I’ve also come up with a 1-pager memo like Amazon does.

1. Customer Obsession kept me focused on solving real user problems like lack of summarization controls and reading/savings features. I refused to get distracted by non-essential features.

2. Dive Deep enabled me to ramp up with front-end technologies. I had previously worked in Web development during the PHP and jQuery era.

I brushed Javascript and learned enough ReactJS and NextJS by studying obsessively and testing code examples, I gained enough skills to build my UI mockups.

3. Ownership meant wearing many hats as a one-person team — not just coding, but also researching, testing, infrastructure setup and more. My experience at Amazon running projects end-to-end gave me confidence I could handle this variety.

Good to know: there is no DevOps team at Amazon. Engineering teams are responsible for setting and monitoring their infra.

I often had to study and iterate pricing strategies by calculating usage cost and customer pricing. It was overwhelming for me at first but I’m satisfied with the outcome and the learnings. It’s an ongoing process for any business whether large or small.

4. Frugality led me to use free tiers from tools like Vercel, PlanetScale, and Railway while in beta mode. I wanted to prove product-market fit before incurring greater costs.

The 6-week sprint was gruelling, with many late nights spent coding. But seeing my vision turn into a real product was tremendously exciting. In the end, I was able to launch an initial version of LessenText to a small waitlist right on schedule.

Step 4: Gathering Feedback from Early Users (Week 7+)

With a functioning beta product released, my goal shifted to learning. I wanted to gather feedback from early adopters to guide improvements before wider rollout.

https://lessentext.com
https://app.lessentext.com

I also took help from a friend and family guy to try out And got some hidden bugs and interesting perspectives from them.

Ongoing refinement based on real usage, monitoring churn metrics, and engaging with customers will be crucial. Thanks to lessons from Amazon, ignoring user feedback is never an option for me.

Now, If you’ve come this far, please try out the https://lessentext.com free tier. If you’re a student or a researcher, please contact me at contact@lessentext.com to get a minimal profit discount.

Continuing the Journey

Reaching an initial launch was a major milestone. However, building a successful bootstrapped SaaS that customers love is a never-ending journey.

The core Amazon leadership principles that enabled me to ship an MVP fast remain just as relevant today. I’m still customer-obsessed, diving deep into technical topics, and reluctant to overspend.

I’ve also learned how challenging it is to work alone for long periods. Staying motivated with no team for support or alignment is draining.

it’s always day one!

And with that, I’m signing off for now. I appreciate you following along and hope you’ll stay tuned as I continue to provide updates on my progress in future posts. Thanks for reading!

Resources helped me during my journey

  1. Technical learnings (Javascript, ReactJS, NextJS, Building AI saas)
  2. Free infra resources (Vercel, Planetscale, Clerk, Highlight, Railway)
  3. Pricing Strategy — paddle blog (https://www.paddle.com/blog)

Connect me via LinkedIn to say Hello!

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