Steve Balistreri of Band of Coders On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App, SaaS or Software Business

Steve Balistreri of Band of Coders On The 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App, SaaS or Software Business


Take care of yourself. So many entrepreneurs and leaders don’t realize they’re burning themselves out until they’re too burnt out to function. Sometimes you will have to burn the candle at both ends, but it should never be a regular thing, it should never be the status quo. Pay attention to how YOU are doing, sometimes taking an occasional afternoon off can save you weeks of suffering though burnout. Don’t forget to allow yourself weekends either.

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Balistreri.

Steve Balistreri is a coding and software expert, a software engineer/development consultant, and the Managing Director at Band of Coders.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Thanks for having me! So, my backstory might be a bit different than a lot of people in tech. I originally went to art school and quickly realized it wasn’t for me. Eventually I dropped out and just spent a year teaching myself how to code in PHP, HTML/JS/CSS, did a lot of networking events and ended up being the first web development hire at large marketing agency in town.

After that I moved around consulting for various marketing agencies, lead the digital department at a digital agency. After that moved into R&D for a few large software companies and honed my engineering skills.

Eventually I met the CEO of Band of Coders, after talking a bit we agreed to open an office in Milwaukee, WI, and I’ve been running and growing that ever since.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Though my career, there’s always been times that were challenging, or put me in positions I don’t want to be in. I don’t care what anyone says, any kind of growth, whether it’s pushing to elevate yourself in a career or starting a business, you’re going to run into problems, and they’re going to be problems you absolutely don’t want to deal with. That’s kind of the beauty of it though, working those things not only open more doors for your career or business growth, they also grow you as a person.

There’s been so many times I’ve thought about giving up or going back to something more simple though my entire career. I grew up refinishing wood floors and did that though college, sometimes I still fantasize about going back to a job like that, much lower pressure, physically exhausting but you can just kind of run the machines and think about whatever all day.

That said I love what I do now so much that I wouldn’t go back to that, and realistically, everything has its pros and cons, “the grass isn’t greener, it’s just a different shade of brown”.

A lot of my drive has come from wanting to just see how far I can take things, like a constant competition with myself from the day before, and if I’m being honest, a deep desire to prove everyone who had doubts about what I want to do or what I’m capable of, were wrong.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are great! Better than I could have imagined when I first started learning to code, and taking that leap into tech.

Grit and resilience are necessary for any kind of massive growth or transformation. So many of the most valuable lessons you learn only come though having to suffer though things going not as planned, though failure, etc. It’s hard to swallow those things at first, stick though enough of those issues and eventually you almost get excited when you run into a problem. It’s like “oof, alright, cool, I’m going to learn a lot though this, let’s go”.

It has been said that our mistakes are our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Funniest mistake…hmm. I think early on in my career just getting into the office-culture, it was a huge adjustment for me. I come from a long line of “blue-collar” workers, I knew nothing about office culture, or “professional” life. My first days in an office were difficult to navigate from how you talk to co-workers in that setting, how to dress (what even is “business casual”? “smart casual?”), how to play office politics…none of that were things anyone in my family knew anything about. We were all bartenders, waiters, house painters, floor sanders, etc. You just showed up and did your job, that’s it. There was no metaphorical ladder to climb, only physical ladders. Needless to say, I embarrassed myself a lot those first few years.

One key takeaway from all this, is that there’s so many things in life that the only way to get better, is to just dive in, fail publicly, and keep going. It’s painful, there’s no way to practice some skills in private and refine them before putting it out in the world. Adjusting to a different culture, social skills, public speaking, etc. All things you need to just suffer though public failure to get better at.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

There are a few things I think make Band of Coders stand out. We’re a fully remote company distributed across the entire Western Hemisphere. Also, there is a big culture of autonomy here, we all support each other as needed, but we also don’t get in the way of allowing people to really focus on getting the work done.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

First thing I’d say is to learn how to become aware that you’re getting burnt out. Burnout has always been sneaky for me, and then I don’t realize I’ve been burnt out for months at a time until it gets REALLY bad.

More recently I’ve started to look for early signs I might be getting burnt out. Am I dreading tomorrow? Have I been dreading the next day for several days? Am I taking care of myself? Am I sacrificing healthier decisions so I can compensate the burnout with comfort or time?

Most recently I’ve started thinking about running my life as if I were something like an athlete, most athletes optimize much of their life towards performance.

If I want to be able to show up best for my clients and my employees, I too can optimize my life towards performance. I perform better when I’m healthier, happier, rested, etc. Sacrificing those things has a compounding negative effect on what I’m able to give to the world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are tons of people who’ve helped me along the way, honestly, I’m grateful for almost all my co-workers and managers in the past for their help and support day-to-day, giving me the opportunity to work with them and learn.

I have a ton of gratitude towards Bobby John, Band of Coders’ CEO for giving me the opportunity to establish an office for BoC.

I’m grateful for my clients placing their trust in me to help them grow and build our businesses together.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

We’ve been lucky to work with a wide variety of clients ranging from early stage startups, to companies everyone knows by name. We’ve built a few systems related to helping schools and other organizations keep track of Covid testing during the pandemic, we’ve worked on building applications that work with custom built tools and hardware for field engineers, there’s a lot more than what I could realistically cover here.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

We’ve seen our clients use a number of different monetization models. We’ve seen a lot of SasS products use models like monthly fees, licensing fees, ad-supported memberships, all models we’re all familiar with.

Though one of our clients has had success with providing a few distinctly different models their customer can choose from with them that vary from a fixed fee to use the service, to a revenue sharing model where revenue the customer generates though using their service is shared back to the SaaS. That’s an interesting approach I haven’t seen used as often before.

Thank you. Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

I’d say one of the most important things is to really validate your market early on. There are a ton of great ideas out there, and I’m sure there’s likely a way to make every great idea work as a business. The thing I see a lot of businesses NOT do early on, that ends up causing a lot of pain and trouble, is they don’t start with a clear understanding of how many people they can serve, what those people really look like, how to get in front of them, and how much they can pay for your solution.

My second piece of advice, start simple before investing in software engineers. This is the classic idea of “start with doing things that don’t scale” Many people want to jump right into building an app. Though I think many people overestimate the degree of what they understand about solving the problem they are providing a solution for. If you don’t have a clear picture about how your solution works, and have already tested and proven it, taking it straight to software will only make the things you missed hurt more. Software helps you scale things that don’t scale easily, this also means software helps you scale failure if your solution has missed points of failure. It’s easy to forget this. By starting with something that might not scale super well, it makes you and your team closer to the process, which will make you keenly aware of where the process fails.

Smaller iterations, faster cycles. I’ve seen a lot of companies invest tons of time, effort, funding, etc into building a massive solution before putting it in front of their customers or potential users, only to release it and have their customers tell them all the things they should have done instead. The faster, quicker, and cheaper you can get from idea to customer feedback, and iterate, the greater chances you have at seeing massive success. Nobody knows what your customer wants better than your customers.

Cultivate grit. Starting anything is hard, software is risky and expensive. A lot of things need to go right for success, and guess what, some of them absolutely won’t go right. Some of them might even be catastrophic in the moment. Learn to accept this as part of the work, and find ways to make yourself ok when things aren’t ok.

Take care of yourself. So many entrepreneurs and leaders don’t realize they’re burning themselves out until they’re too burnt out to function. Sometimes you will have to burn the candle at both ends, but it should never be a regular thing, it should never be the status quo. Pay attention to how YOU are doing, sometimes taking an occasional afternoon off can save you weeks of suffering though burnout. Don’t forget to allow yourself weekends either.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I think the biggest thing in my head right now that I’d like to push out to other people, is the idea of optimizing your life for the outcomes you want.

None of us are ever perfect or adhere to our plans perfectly. Though I think a lot of people go through life, living a certain way because that’s what they are used to, and deny themselves the life they want to have because they don’t think about changing their life to fit that desired outcome.

Self-care is a huge part of that for anyone. If you want to feel better, think better, have more energy, contribute more to life, experience more, etc. Getting enough sleep, moving your body, eating in a way that aligns with health and vitality, all of this will make you so much more empowered to create a better world for yourself and others.

Yet so many of us sacrifice all those things for “productivity”, and end up unhappy, burnt-out, and far less productive than we could be.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find us at

And follow me at

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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