How We Started a New Type
of Form Builder For No-Coders

Tally logo

Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, I’m Marie, co-founder of Tally. Tally is the simplest way to create forms, for free.

We created a new type of form builder that works like a doc. You can just start typing and create any type of form, for free and without knowing how to code.

What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?

We’re based in Belgium and I founded Tally together with Filip Minev. I have a background of 10 years in B2B marketing and Filip is the technical brain behind Tally. He has founded other startups in the past (the most recent one is Delta, a crypto portfolio tracking app acquired by eToro).

Beginning 2020 I decided to quit my job and together with Filip work full time on our first startup Hotspot. We got the idea a couple of years ago when traveling in Mexico, a hotspot for travel influencers and bloggers. Hotspot is a platform that helps hotels to connect with travel influencers and set up collaborations. We were going to build the platform if we could find 100 hotels that showed interest in our idea. We made a landing page and reached out to hotels we found on Instagram, using a Google form to collect data. However, we weren’t really happy with the way it looked, but we didn’t want to spend too much time on it and moved on.

In no time, we found 100 hotels that were interested in our product.But unfortunately, COVID-19 hit, and customers started churning. We decided to organize a fundraiser and donated free hotel nights to healthcare workers. Again we needed a form for hotels and healthcare workers to register and again we struggled with finding the right one. Google Forms is very functional but doesn’t look great, and established form tools like Typeform, Jotform, Formstack make you hit a paywall fast and can be very expensive for early-stage startups or indie makers.

Marie Marterns, Co-Founder of Tally
Marie Martens – Co-Founder, Tally

By summer 2020 we had lost half of our Hotspot customers and with still no perspective on when the travel industry would recover, we decided to pivot and build our own form tool.

We wanted to make a simple, yet powerful form builder that allows you to create any type of form without breaking the bank. We set off building Tally — a new type of form builder for makers and no-coders. 

“There’s no point in automating processes when you don’t know what works yet.”

What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?

The form building space is a very competitive market. Established players have been around for years, have raised money, have a lot of development power and big marketing budgets. Entering the market as Indiehackers with a team of 2 and zero budget was and is definitely a challenge. 

We noticed that all existing form builders’  limits make you hit a paywall very fast, and can be expensive for early-stage startups or indie makers. We felt like there was a place for a different type of form builder for this niche.

Create Forms for All Purposes in Seconds – Tally

When we started building we kept 3 things in mind:

  1. The tool should be accessible and everybody needs to enjoy using it. Tally works like a doc: you can just start typing, and use shortcuts to create any type of form in seconds. 
  2. 99% FREE: We built Tally with a different business model in mind. Unlike other form builders, most advanced features are free and without limits.
  3. Tally Pro: we use simple pricing for our Pro subscription. Tally Pro offers empowering features tailored to the needs of teams and creators, at $29/month or $290/year.

We launched our MVP in September 2020 and started asking for feedback from makers, Indiehackers, and start-ups on Twitter and in Slack communities. 

Tally works like a document (you can just start typing and insert building blocks) and our first users seemed to love the form-building experience we offered. Our user base started growing, while we kept talking to existing and potential users. We went above and beyond to make our first users happy, offered instant support, and shipped new features every week.

Who is your target market?

Everybody needs a form at one point, so our target audience is really broad. Tally can be used for professional use (employee surveys, customer feedback surveys, lead generation, payment forms,…) as well as personal use (planning a weekend with your friends, for example).

When we first launched we focussed on reaching Indie Hackers, no-coders, creators and freelancers. We received a lot of positive feedback from the no-code community and started building a network in that space.

With Tally Pro we target start-ups and SMEs with more advanced features for teams. Ideal customers here would be founders, marketing or HR-departments of a company between 0-100 employees.

How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?

It’s a combination of a lot of smaller things really. As most SaaS businesses we have a multi-touch approach.

  • Organic: We haven’t invested in paid methods, so our user growth so far is mainly organic. We have focussed on talking to (potential) users from the start via channels like Twitter and Indiehackers. We try to be active and answer as many questions as possible on forums like Quora and Reddit and Slack or other communities.
  • Community building: we started building our own community with early users joining our own Slack channel and growing our Twitter followers by building in public and sharing regular updates about new features.
  • Launches: We have launched on Product Hunt and Betalist, which have been the 2 most successful launches so far, and we are planning to launch on more software platforms in the coming months.
  • When free users share a Tally form, respondents see a Tally-badge which generates new users as more than 50.000 people have submitted a Tally form by now.
  • Integrations: we have integrations with Zapier, Google Sheets, Airtable and soon Notion as well. As we add more integrations, we reach new audiences via our integration partners.
  • In the future we want to focus more on content creation, and really show people the variety of use cases Tally serves through templates and tutorials.

” Not one day has looked the same since we started and you learn so much along the road.”

Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?

We have only launched publicly (on Product Hunt) in the beginning of March ‘21, so it’s still too early to say how our retention rate will look like. 

We believe strongly in customer support, and we go the extra mile every day to make our users happy. Filip and I are very approachable through different channels and strive to answer our users’ questions within one day.

In the coming months we will work on our onboarding process and suggest more personalised content depending on your user profile.

Tally forms

What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?

We’re a team of only 2, and we don’t have employees yet. Being a small team makes it very easy to keep the communication lines short and work to the same beat.

If we were to build a team, we have always envisioned it to be a remote team of passionate people that might already be part of our community or have started their own projects in the same space.

What software, services or tools do you use within your business?

We’re big fans of Notion, which we use for documentation and planning, but we have also built our help center and public roadmap in Notion

We use Ghost for our Tally blog, Figma for all our designs, and Sendgrid for transactional emails and newsletters. To process payments we use Stripe, and our data is hosted in Google Cloud.

What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?

Talking to your users is definitely the most important thing to do when launching a startup. It shows you whether you are on the right track and helps you prioritise your roadmap. It’s easy to assume things, but if you’re new in a certain space or industry you never really know 100% for sure what your target audience’s main challenges are.

A second thing would be to do things that don’t scale. My previous job was Marketing Manager at a scale-up and I was used to thinking in scalable processes, while at a startup you just have to do things, see what sticks and repeat. There’s no point in automating processes when you don’t know what works yet.

What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

I’m my own boss and have the freedom to work when and where I want. Not one day has looked the same since we started and you learn so much along the road. 

It’s so rewarding to get positive feedback and seeing your product used by thousands of people. Users taking the time to send us an email just to say they love the product we’ve built, that’s what keeps me going.

Tally Forms
Tally Forms

What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

There’s a lot of insecurity. I gave up a good job in a growing company to run my own startup. Not knowing how much money you will make and living off your savings can be stressful.

What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?

If it comes to marketing I’ve really enjoyed reading Intercom on marketing and how they grew from zero to more than 30.000 customers. The growth hacks they used and how they approach their content marketing has inspired me a lot through the past 10 years I’ve worked in Marketing.

I listen to several podcasts on marketing and no-code, such as Indiebites and Visualdev.fm. Indiebites shares bite-sized conversations (15 mins) with indie hackers that have started small, profitable and bootstrapped businesses. You learn how they come up with ideas, what they do to validate, find those first customers and make a sustainable income. Visualdev.fm is my go-to source for everything no-code.

Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?

Hard to say as things are moving and changing fast right now. But we surely want to become a real challenger in the form building space, and make a sustainable income with a small and lean team. Once we reach that milestone, we’ll see what the future brings 🙂 

Where can people go to find out more about your business?

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