Studio Project Playbook

Updated 06 Mar 2023

Artcompiler is a software studio that builds and hosts API-first B2B SaaS products. We use a product first approach.

We take each project through four main stages. Each stage has an exit challenge that needs to be passed before advancing to the next stage.


There are four stages that a project will pass through to get to a self-sustaining business. The transition from one stage to the next is conditioned on meeting certain criteria that opens the gate to the next stage.


While our stages and costs are different, the illustration applies. Here are the four stages in brief. We’ll elaborate on each later in this essay.

Idea Stage. Identify a problem that we want to solve. Identify a community of users with that problem. Talk to those users to confirm that the problem is real and painful for them. Explore, with them, possible software solutions to the problem. Exit this stage when we have one or more solutions that are ready to be built.

Product Stage. Build a software product that implements the essential tasks of one of the posited solutions. Put it in front of the users to see if it begins to solve their problem. We exit this stage when we have at least one user in a community or channel of like minded users.

Revenue Stage. Market to the original or adjacent communities or channels of users to find paying customers. We exit this phase when we have at least one customer paying us $100 per month.

Profit Stage. Hire a cofounder and secure funding and spin out the business as an LLC. We exit this phase when we are default alive.


We take a scratch-your-own-itch, product first, approach to venture building. The itch is one that the founder has experienced first hand.

Being close to the problem provides us with the intrinsic motivation and access to inside knowledge that are necessary to discover real and valuable solutions. This is an unfair advantage.

Working with this inside knowledge, sketch out possible solutions to the problem, and pitch them back to the potential users, and refine them until you are confident that one or more of them would be viable if well implemented.

Therefore, start with a problem we have. Find a community where like minded people gather. Reach out to that community to validate the problem and explore possible solutions.

Exit this stage when we have a pitch for a solution that is specific, practical and compelling enough to be quickly rendered as software.


The product stage is about experimenting with the solution conceived in the idea stage.

Iterate on product variations that turn the pitched solution into a usable product. Give it back to the users who helped design it. Iterate until users start to depend on it.

Therefore, quickly implement the solution pitched in the previous stage to test its efficacy and value with actual users. Iterate until users become dependent on the product.

Exit this stage when it is clear that there will be some demand for the product as demonstrated by users using the product to do real work.


The revenue stage is about acquiring paying customers, using product led marketing to the communities and marketplaces identified in the previous two stages.

During this stage we are learning how to acquire customers using a product led approach.

Therefore, market the product to the communities and marketplaces that we have already engaged with. Expand to similar niches.

Exit this stage when we have a repeatable marketing approach and at least ten customers and $1,000 MRR.


At this point we have a viable product and product let marketing approach, but not enough revenue to be profitable with full-time staff.

Therefore, spin out the project as an LLC. Find a marketing partner or co-founder to grow the business to profitability.

Exit this stage when we are default alive. Once the company is default alive, it becomes an Artcompiler portfolio company and held for profit sharing, or possibly for sale. Our preference is to build businesses that we want to hold forever.

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