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SaaS Backwards Episode 46: From fad to must have—how CampusESP bootstrapped a new category, with CEO Dave Becker

Welcome to episode forty-six of the SaaS Backwards podcast, where we interview CEOs and CMOs of fast-growing SaaS firms to reveal what they are doing that's working, and lessons learned from things that didn't work as planned. 

You can listen to the full episode directly below via Spotify, or visit SaaS Backwards on Buzzsprout or wherever you listen to podcasts.



At the kickoff of their recent user conference, Dave Becker, CEO of CampusESP told the story of the person he first approached with his company idea for a SaaS that enables parent involvement in higher education.

She told him that “parent involvement is a fad, and I don’t think you have a company here.”

Nine years later, the company has gone from fad, to nice-to-have, to need-to have with over 260 schools representing over four million parents using the platform.

So, how do you pull off category creation?

Certainly not with VC money, although, not for lack of trying.

“It’s a long journey of educating people on the problem, educating them on a solution, and then educating on your solution.”

In fact, Becker shares with fellow entrepreneurs that however long you think it’s going to take, double it.

In this episode, Becker shares key learnings such as:

  • How difficult it is to get those first few customers.
  • How they used extensive market and customer research to build a foundation for client acquisition.
  • Why they had to abandon branding and positioning that didn’t serve the value proposition.
  • Why it’s important to find the right support network early.

In his bathroom at home is a hole in the door that Becker refuses to fix. “It’s a reminder of how hard this is, and it keeps me grounded.”

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