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Powering PriceLevel: How much it costs to build SaaS

Steven Rapp
Jun 4, 2024
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I still remember seven-year-old me excitedly buying a Sonic the Hedgehog pinball machine with my hard earned allowance - my first “big” purchase. It was glorious. I played it all the time, at least, until the batteries ran out after 45 minutes. Then I’d tear through the house looking for fresh Duracells, “borrowing” them from other electronics, and the cycle would begin anew. Eventually I’d beg my parents to take me to the store so I could fork over more chore money in exchange for the batteries it required.

Eventually, I realized that all of my allowance was going towards maintaining a stock of freshly charged C and D cells - to the point that I actually had paid more for the batteries than the toy itself! Had I understood the actual cost of owning it, I might’ve considered investing my allowance elsewhere (though, let’s be honest - it’s hard to escape the allure of Sonic pinball, especially at seven).

I didn’t realize it at such a young age, but that experience led to me being much more meticulous about how I spend my money. I learned that if I want to get my money’s worth, I need to do my research and determine whether the benefits of the purchase outweighed the price. But what do you do when you don’t know the price? How do you make that judgment? That’s the problem facing many companies today when it comes to evaluating SaaS - and why we’re enthusiastic about pricing transparency.

The Sonic the Hedgehog pinball machine of my youth. This sucker chewed through so many batteries: 2 C batteries powered the sound and lights, and 2 more D batteries powered the motors and scoreboard.
The Sonic the Hedgehog pinball machine of my youth. This sucker chewed through so many batteries: 2 C batteries powered the sound and lights, and 2 more D batteries powered the motors and scoreboard.

Time and Money

I’ve worked as a software engineer and technical lead for over 13 years. I’ve made numerous recommendations about which software solutions my team should invest into. My primary focus was often on evaluating the features, the speed of integration, and figuring out how well a potential candidate would solve our problem. Price was important, but on several occasions, we ended up paying for a more expensive solution if it could save us time. Money wasn’t the issue, time to market was.

As a first-time startup founder, it’s become painfully obvious that being efficient in both time and money is critical. I’m now intimately familiar with our runway. Every dollar spent means pulling that runway even closer, and when it’s yours, it can feel like you’re cutting weeks off the lifespan of whatever you’re trying to build. This is true at every company, but it hits different when it’s just you and your co-founder.

So, in the spirit of transparency (and transparent pricing), here are the services we use to power PriceLevel, and what we pay for each of them:

ServiceWhat we use it forMonthly Cost
AngelList StackIncorporation, Cap Table$0 (due to startup program)
BrevoTransactional Emails$0 (due to current scale)
CalendlyScheduling$20
CloudflareDomain Registrar$20
Dropbox SignDocument Signing$21
FigmaDesign, Productivity$0
GithubVCS, Productivity$0
Google WorkspaceEmail, Productivity$25
LoomVideo Recording, Productivity$15
MercuryBanking$0
OpenPhoneBusiness Phone$0 (due to free credit)
PostHogAnalytics, Screen Recording$0 (due to current scale, free credit)
RampCredit Card$0
SlackTeam Communications$0
StripePayments, Tax$0 (due to free credit)
SupabaseManaged DB, auth, block storage$0 (due to free credit)
VercelManaged infrastructure$20
ZoomVideo Conferencing$13

In total, we use 18 services, pay $134 per month, which is $1608 in annual SaaS spend. Nothing surprising here in terms of services or their associated costs, we’re small enough that most standard or free plans work for us. We’ve also combed through the perks that Stripe, AngelList, and Ramp offer, which is how we were able to get so many services down to no cost with free credits.

The need for pricing transparency

We’ll eventually outgrow these standard plans and need to start looking at enterprise tiers. Depending on which critical features are gated behind those tiers (SSO being a common one) we may need to upgrade sooner than we realize.  Sadly, enterprise tiers don’t have transparent pricing, and with how critical both time and money are for founders like us, building true price transparency becomes all the more important.

Help us build the future of price transparency! Contribute a single pricing insight today and you’ll be able unlock all of the insights for a supplier of your choice and see what other companies actually pay for their software.

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