How Userflow bootstrapped to millions of ARR with three people and PLG

Zach DeWitt
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Executing a product-led growth (PLG) model isn’t for the faint of heart. You must build a product users love, repeatedly use and then pay for.

And it’s even harder to launch and scale a PLG startup without external funding.

Yet some companies beat the odds — like Userflow. The team at Userflow navigated these challenges to grow their user onboarding app to millions in annual recurring revenue, no external funding (yet), and with only three employees.

When I first encountered Userflow, I was impressed with their no-code onboarding tools that empower teams to build customized in-app tours, checklists and surveys, without help from developers.

Not only is Userflow a PLG company in how it engages with its users, but it is also a PLG enabler in that it enables PLG companies to improve their own user onboarding flows.

I talked with Userflow co-founder and Chief Growth Officer Esben Friis-Jensen for my Notorious PLG Substack newsletter recently about his playbook for bootstrapping a successful PLG company that also happens to enable PLG for other companies (my head is exploding). As startups across the board are working to become more efficient in this new environment, I hope you find this article both timely and instructive.

Esben Friss-Jensen on Userflow’s bootstrapping story

Userflow launched in 2019 as a SaaS solution for building no-code product-led onboarding. From day one, co-founders Esben Friis-Jensen and Sebastian Seilund knew they wanted to bootstrap the business and remain 100% focused on optimizing their processes for a strong PLG motion.

“Sebastian and I had previously built larger organizations, and this time we wanted to try something different,” Esben shared.

Since then, Userflow was able to bootstrap to 550+ customers and millions in ARR with a team of just three people. Esben recognizes that their story may be an outlier — PLG typically requires investor involvement — but there are lessons to be learned here for any startup.

“I believe many SaaS businesses can learn from some of the ways we think about things (especially in the current climate),” Esben says, “and therefore we wanted to share 6 key things that have allowed us to do this.”

1. Build a product customers love

“Having a product that customers need and love is probably the most important ingredient to building a great PLG business. Without a great product that solves a real problem, none of your PLG strategies will really work.”

Esben’s technical co-founder, Sebastian, is an accomplished engineer. With the support of Userflow’s designer, Jonas, they built a product that is:

  1. Easy to use: Strong focus on UX
  2. Sophisticated: Advanced triggers, version control, localization, etc. 
  3. Robust: Minimal bugs and performance issues

Esben feels that a major benefit of having a small team is that the people who are building the product (Sebastian and Jonas) are close to the customers and can understand their needs better.

“This is something a lot of larger organizations can learn from, as many developers tend to be too far from the customers to understand their needs truly,” Esben says. “Another way we do this is by dogfooding, by using our product for onboarding.”

2. Stay focused on your ideal customer in your marketing and website

Userflow’s primary users are customer success teams and product managers — this is their ideal customer profile (ICP). While competitors are focused on general employee onboarding and product analytics, Userflow’s messaging is much more specific to SaaS B2B businesses. Userflow’s primary messaging revolves around helping these companies build product-led onboarding that converts and retains more customers, without requiring developer involvement.

From the website to marketing, Userflow stays hyper-focused on their message of delivering the best no-code builder for in-app customer onboarding.

Esben shares, “In reality, Userflow can do much more than that, with features like surveys, trackers, etc.  But by having this focus, we can not only build a product that is fit for purpose but also do marketing and website messaging solely focused on that problem and solution. This attracts the right ICPs (Ideal customer profiles) to our free trial, so we don’t waste time vetting through customers with completely different use cases.”

Userflow also makes an effort to show the actual product in video demos, screenshots, and click-through demos. All of this is designed to attract the right ICPs and filter out leads who are looking to solve a different problem.

3. Offer a free trial with automated onboarding that drives to “Aha!”

Userflow offers a free trial as their primary call to action (CTA). Esben notes that they also have a “request a demo” form, but it’s tertiary CTA to the free trial and watching a demo video.

“When the user signs up for the free trial, we use Userflow on Userflow to onboard the user and drive them to the Aha moment,” Esben says. “For us, the key Aha moment is how easy it is to build a flow (guide), so our first onboarding guide drives the user to build their first flow in five minutes. This guide is followed by a checklist with some additional action-based Aha moments. Action-based guides (jobs to be done) like this are always better than doing boring next, next, next product tours, and something we recommend to all of our customers.”


Userflow combines in-app onboarding with automated email-based onboarding. They send tips and tricks to new users, and they make it clear that they’re available to answer any questions that come up. 

In fact, removing unnecessary friction is a big part of Userflow’s onboarding. For example, instead of asking their customers — who are not developers — to install the JavaScript snippet that makes the Userflow app work, the team built a simple Chrome extension to do the job.

4. Empower customers to self-serve

When a user is ready to become a paying Userflow customer, they can buy with the click of a button — no sales call necessary. But even with self-service, they don’t leave customers stranded.

Userflow gives customers three resources that make signing up easy:

  1. Transparent pricing: All pricing and the features available with each tier are public on the website.
  2. Online terms and conditions based on industry standards.
  3. Online security policies: All security policies are available online. Userflow is also SOC-2 Type 2 compliant to make it even easier to assess the security of the business. 

Userflow’s leadership team wants to reduce procurement delays as much as possible. Esben says, “We do support contracts and security questionnaires, but we incentivize customers not to do them by only allowing them on the more expensive enterprise package. This helps remove a large amount of procurement friction.”

5. Prioritize product-led support

“Great support is essential to the success of a PLG business, and even with our small team, we are able to provide this,” says Esben.

Here is how Userflow does this with such a small team:

  1. They solve recurring support issues in the product. Instead of hiring more people to support, the spend development time on fixing recurring UX challenges.
  2. They have an extensive knowledge base with troubleshooting guides and detailed product feature information.
  3. A self-help widget and support chat ensure documentation and support are always easily accessible.
  4. The people who build the product are also the people who provide support — so users always get a qualified person to answer questions when the documentation is not enough. Esben notes, “This also helps keep the product team close to our customers and thereby better understand their needs.”

6. Be wise with spending and tracking

“As a bootstrapped business we are customer funded. That means we are very careful about how we spend our money,” Esben says.

“We continuously track our growth, and as long as we are growing MRR at a good pace and our customers are happy we do not go out and hire. We furthermore (as mentioned) optimize through documentation, automation, and better UX in the product, to reduce the need for support personnel. 

“For marketing spending, we evaluate the ROI based on the payback period, e.g. how many customers we should get from going to a conference or doing paid ads, and we do a lot of thought leadership and content marketing which are things we can create on our own.”

Esben and team also do structured tracking of their customer pipeline in HubSpot and track SaaS metrics in Chartmogul. Those systems are integrated with Userflow and Stripe to ensure the data is always up to date.

Esben points out that a key part of having good reporting is using a standardized setup. This is, for example, why they avoid customized deals and instead use standard product packages.

Startup lessons from a PLG success story

Not every startup with a PLG model will be able to bootstrap the way Userflow did — but still, Esben’s story is an object lesson in scrappiness that doesn’t come at the customer’s expense.

Did you learn something from this article? Then you should sign up for my Substack newsletter, Notorious PLG.

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