Four Years with CloudForecast, Now What?
Four years ago, Francois and I took a leap of faith by quitting our cushy full-time jobs and working on CloudForecast full-time. One might think we were a bit crazy since we JUST got rejected by YCombinator. In addition, we were going into this with no funding, no salary to take, and a paltry $800 monthly recurring revenue (MRR) with a handful of customers at the time. Getting rejected should’ve been the most devastating thing (trust me, it felt like it was at the time).
However, if you know Francois and me, we’re relentless, stubborn, and competitive. We wanted to prove YC wrong. Gustaf’s feedback showed we needed to give CloudForecast a fair shot by going into it full-time. Most importantly, Francois and I wanted to bet on ourselves.
That one year turned into two (we got rejected a second time by YC again btw), turned into three, turned into four, and now we’re starting year five working on this full-time! Most importantly, we have a fantastic portfolio of amazing customers, two full-time employees, four part-time employees, and we donate a portion of Nov profits annually to amazing non-profits that make the world a better place. Overall, CloudForecast is in a tremendous position to start making bold moves in 2023 with momentum working in our favor.
You can read some of my past reflection posts here:
- CloudForecast Story: What We Learned Spending 2 Million Annually On AWS
- CloudForecast’s 2018 Year-End Summary Report
- Happy New Year! Reflecting on the Past Two Years and 2020 Feature Releases
Our main challenge in 2023 was growing from a scrappy business of two to a team of four. Over the past eight to nine months, that meant figuring out how to work together, what the roles would be, setting up processes, and getting into a rhythm.
Thankfully, Arturo and Fernando were excellent hires, which made our lives easier as founders. It took some time to figure that out, but we’re starting to find our footing with how we all work together and get into a nice groove of product development and features.
If you want to hear more about this journey, I recorded a six-part episode over a year detailing all the highs and lows of our journey through TinySeed year:
TinySeed Tales: Featuring Tony Chan, The Cofounder of CloudForecast
Market Changes and Shifts
Unrelated to the growing pains, there were a lot of market changes and shifts in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cost management, cost monitoring, and optimization space over the past year.
AWS has been improving with AWS cost explorer, CUDOs Cost and Usage Dashboards Operations Solution), and key hires to help customers in this area. If you were at re:Invent, you probably noticed the buzzword was “Cost optimization!” “FinOps” “Lower cost!” for many sessions and talks.
In addition, our venture backed competitors are being gobbled up by more prominent companies. The ones that haven’t been acquired are expanding horizontally and up-market with new features to monitor/manage multi-cloud costs and services like Kubernetes, Snowflake, DataDog, etc.
It will be rough if they haven’t found a product market fit or a business model that generates revenue. In my opinion, it makes them mediocre at everything rather than good at one thing.
So with us finally getting into a good rhythm and the market changes and shifts, what’s next for us?
CloudForecast wants to be the best AWS cost visibility tool for busy engineers and technical teams at high-growth startups and mid-market-sized companies.
I genuinely believe we can do this for our users in 2023 and the years ahead with the feature improvements we have in the pipeline and our team. In addition, we have a fantastic portfolio of customers giving us insights and feedback to improve.
Even with AWS improving its cost management features, we still believe a tool like ours can exist alongside AWS Cost Explorer and all the tools they provide. This is proven by the loyal customers that have stuck with us for more than four years and the feedback they continually give us on the problems and areas where they want more visibility.
CloudForecast does not have the desire to build a better “Cost Explorer” or a dashboarding tool that all our competitors are building. We want to help engineers, technical teams, and finance quickly answer specific questions about their AWS cost without the exhaustive investigative work it typically requires.
1h2023 Feature Roadmap
Here is what you can expect from us for the six months:
AWS Cost Dashboards and Tools — A set of themed-based dashboards and tools to help users quickly answer questions about their AWS costs.
- AWS Cost Detective Tool
- AWS Reserved Instances and Savings Plan Dashboard
- AWS Marketplace Cost Visibility
- AWS Data Transfer Cost Visualization
Unified Filtering and Dimensions — The ability to slice/dice cost by tags and/or sub-accounts and send them to specific teams or persons across all the reports:
- Daily AWS Cost Monitoring Report
- Monthly AWS CFO Report
- ZeroWaste Cost Optimization Report
New ZeroWaste AWS Cost Optimization Policies — New policies to give our users more visibility on possible cost optimization opportunities.
- EBS Volumes: Upgrade to GP3 from GP2/IO1/etc.
- RDS: Convert to Graviton
- RDS: Convert to Aurora Serverless
- RDS: Check for GP2
With this renewed focus on AWS, we must sunset Barometer, our Kubernetes Cost Management feature. We’ve spent about a year and a half beta-testing and improving this feature with our users. However, we faced issues dedicating engineering resources and time while trying to meet the demand of enhancing our AWS cost-monitoring features.
AWS cost is already complex enough. Adding improvements to Barometer meant a slowdown of AWS-related features, which was getting increasingly demanding as we grew. Instead of “spinning our wheels” with Barometer, we plan to turn off the feature by the month’s end and start recommending KubeCost and their OpenCost open-source project to our users. We believe KubeCost is the best tool to help monitor and manage Kubernetes costs.
The big lesson we learned as a bootstrapped startup is to focus and not be distracted by “shiny objects.” This is difficult since we often make decisions based on incomplete data and it’s easy to get distracted and follow the wrong path.
Since we don’t have the money, we must spend our time wisely in the right places and resources in the areas that matter most. For us, that means niche-ing down (AWS cost), segmenting the market that fits our current strengths (high-growth startups and mid-market sized companies), and solving a specific problem in this area (specific tools and reports to help engineers and technical get answers quickly).
Francois and I look forward to the fifth year of working on CloudForecast and servicing our customers. We know there will be a lot of challenges, as expected for a bootstrapped startup, and many feature improvements we need to continue to make. However, we are motivated, hungry, and ready to earn our customer’s business.
As always, feel free to contact us directly if we can help further or if you have feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We would love the opportunity to learn, see how we can improve, and see how we can help!
Tony is a co-founder of CloudForecast and runs all the business operations: customer success, support, marketing and sales.
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