Marie Martens

When you start out, don’t be afraid to do things that don’t scale.

May 11, 2023

Hi Marie, how the idea of Tally was created? What problem were you trying to solve?

As makers, we struggled with finding the right tool to create forms for our previous start-ups and jobs. Google Forms is very functional, but just doesn’t look good, and tools like Typeform, Jotform, Formstack make you hit a paywall very fast (and can be expensive depending on what type of form you’re building). For an early-stage startup or indie makers
It is a very competitive space, but we felt like there was a place for a new type of form builder experience with a different business model.

Tally is in quite a competitive market. What did you think was your advantage compared with other form builders

I would say our business model (we offer unlimited forms & responses for free) and our interface. We wanted to make form building easy, beautiful, and free without limits (so no limits on the number of responses, input fields, or forms). We’re big fans of the notion’s editor approach and wanted to create a fast, seamless, and fun form-building experience where you start from a blank page and can create any type of form by just typing text or adding blocks.
All of this brought us to the idea of creating Tally.

How long it took from idea to MVP?

We started building in the summer of 2020 and showed our MVP to the world in September. Our MVP was a very basic version of the form builder, you could insert questions and that was it, you couldn't even publish a form. We didn't have a large network of our own, so we started sharing our first version of our form builder with the people closest to us.
After processing their feedback we started with cold outreach to creators, Indie Hackers, and startup founders, who might be interested in our product. For months we kept on building and iterating while talking to our small community of early users.

Did you validate your idea before? How?

After processing the first feedback from family and friends we started with cold outreach to creators, Indie Hackers, and startup founders, who might be interested in our product. For months we kept on building and iterating while talking to our small community of early users.
In March 2021 we felt ready to launch on Product Hunt. We had a small community of 1.500 users and released some of the crucial (basic) features to be able to compete with other form builders out there. We received tons of positive feedback and double our user base in one day.

Can we talk about numbers? How many free and paid users? do you have, and on average how many free users became paid users?

We now have 100.000 users in total and 2.150 of them are paid. On average 3% of our free Tally users convert to paying customers.

You said in an interview that is ok to have a product that doesn’t need to scale. Find what works and repeat it. With that in mind, when was the moment that you thought: Tally is perfect now (even though you have added new features in the future)

I think that might have been a misunderstanding  :) Tally definitely needs to scale in order to be able to grow and is far from perfect. We do think we can stay bootstrapped and grow at our own pace, but we keep on adding new features on a weekly basis and will continue to do as long as Tally is active. A product is never done, and as we grow new challenges and bugs present themselves which require continuous development.

Where do you spend most of the time with Tally

It depends and changes every day, for me it’s a combination of marketing, community building, admin, customer support, growth…

You and Filip are like the perfect team. In a world where is sometimes so difficult to find the right business partner, you find it living right next to you. How you work your work together. Can you give us any tips?

We each have our own roles and responsibilities, which definitely helps in creating boundaries. Filip builds and designs the product and is the technical brain behind Tally, I make sure the business runs and grows 😊. We expect each other‘s skills and try to make time for fun and hobbies to be able to disconnect once in a while.

What about marketing strategies? What you use

Nowadays, when you discover Tally, it's most likely through one of our 100.000 users. "The best advertising is done by happy users" and happy clients help us spread the word about Tally. Besides word of mouth, our product itself has become our biggest acquisition channel. Tally is largely free, and free users have a "made with Tally" badge displayed on their forms. This results in more visibility for our product, new users and eventually paying subscribers. We describehow our growth flywheel works in this post.

How did you decide on your pricing?

We wanted to do things differently and didn’t want our users to hit a paywall after collecting 10 submissions. That’s just not a nice user experience, so we decided to offer unlimited forms and submissions for free. Our Tally Pro subscription is priced at the same level as the lower tiers of our competitors.

Before Tally, you created Hotspot that connected hotels with travel influencers. If I understood correctly, Corona hit so you had to let it go. Any plans of getting back on track?

In 2019, we launched Hotspot, a marketplace for hotels and travel influencers, but when COVID hit we quickly lost half of our clients. A couple of sleepless months later we decided to pivot, and Tally was born. Hotspot has been in maintenance mode ever since, and after 2 years we decided to pull the trigger.

We couldn't give the product the love that it deserves anymore, and in the meantime, Tally is taking up 200% of our time. We also realized that we are (way) more passionate about the no-code space than we were about influencer marketing, so we decided to sell.

We listed Hotspot on MicroAcquire and gave our first startup (with pain in our hearts) a new home. It wasn't easy to say goodbye. We sold when the travel industry was at its lowest, but we gained headspace and oxygen to fuel Tally with.

Both projects are really different. How do you get the inspiration going?

We came up with the idea of Hotspot while traveling in Mexico. At the time we also wanted to become digital nomads and work while traveling. Because of Covid, we had to pivot and we brainstormed about problems we’ve experienced ourselves in our previous jobs. Creating forms but in a fun way, was one of them.

Is Tally the One or do you plan to create more tools in the future?

Maybe one day, but I think Tally will keep us busy in the coming years ☺️

Favorite tool and why? 

Tally of course 😉 and Notion. We manage our entire business in Notion and I love how they made note-taking fun again, something we’re dreaming of doing with Tally (for forms).

Word of advice?

When you start out, don’t be afraid to do things that don’t scale. Find what works for you and repeat it over and over again. For us, it was cold outreach through Product Hunt to find our first users.

One book, one person to follow on Twitter, and one music?

I haven’t read many books lately, but find most of my inspiration online, mainly on Twitter. I can recommend following Sahil Lavingia (founder of Gumroad) and I’m listening to a lot of FKJ lately (great background music while working)

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