About Spinal

Spinal is a bootstrapped and remote company, with its headquarters in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Built by a small team in a calm, sustainable way.

The first lines of code of what is now Spinal were written in mid-February 2022. But that’s not how things really started. The basis for Spinal was an internal tool I’ve used myself for years for all my previous (SaaS) businesses.

It wasn’t nearly as pretty as Spinal is now and not even close to its current feature set. But it was a minimal Git-based CMS for first Jekyll and then Bridgetown (I’m a Rubyist).

When using it and telling founder friends, reactions were always along the lines of: can I use that too? And that’s when you start to pay attention as a founder. Why are they not using an existing (headless) CMS option? After all, there are maybe hundreds of options available.

Getting recognition from friends, isn’t the validation you should look for. Don’t look for confirmation, but break apart your own idea. Also related, in this specific case, am I willing to go through the slow SaaS ramp of death (in a saturated market of CMS’)?

I learned that just a great Git-based CMS was not going to cut it. I also learned that growing SaaS teams everywhere do struggle to get quality content out there that drive sales.

As I just recently sold a previous SaaS, I now was in a good spot to get start a new venture. Enough runway for that infamous slow SaaS growth.

Let the app building begin #

So back to February 2022, I typed: rails new git-cms. The CMS was nameless and no domain yet. I started with a fresh app and only copied bits of code from my own internal tool instead. It took multiple days—spread over a few weeks—to get the most basic version ready for others to log in, connect with GitHub and create, edit and publish their own content.

It now was March 2022. I had cut many corners, but others were now able to update their own blog. Initially you could only update your blog (or, at least, one Content Type) with Spinal. Yes, I now also came up with a name and registered the domain.

I sent it to a few of the people I’ve talked to about my CMS. Took many notes and built a quick one-page website with a “wait list form” next. I shared this page far and wide and in a few months times got a few hundred people on the list.

Now, if you ever have run such a wait list feature, you know it means near nothing. But at the same time, it’s better than no-one leaving their email.

Based on the previous notes I took, I improved Spinal and slowly started to invite those on the list. All manual as I didn’t built any sign up flow.

I reached out and asked to steal some of their time. In return they would get a discount whenever they started a subscription for Spinal. Replies to these requests were low, but those who did reply often were truly invested already (and many still use Spinal on a daily basis!).

Spinal today and tomorrow #

From there it “simply” was rinse-and-repeat. And now we are about 736 days later. Spinal is at many hundred customers. All pretty much the target customer I had in mind: growing SaaS/software companies looking to increase their content marketing output. And with the current trajectory and some of the upcoming features, I’m confident reaching thousands of customers is possible. Why not become next?

—Eelco, founder Spinal