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From side project to fully-funded business: How UPEZ turned a profit in less than a year with Gadget

I can't live without Gadget because, without it, I have to build and sustain my own backend and Shopify connection. There's no replacement. There's no alternative to Gadget.
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Son Chu, Founder

About

By skipping all the boilerplate and jumping straight into growth with Gadget, UPEZ went from a passion project to an investment-backed company.

10x

Faster build time

80%

Costs saved

Problem

UPEZ needed someone to handle all of the backend setup and maintenance so they could focus on building the features that would help them grow in a competitive market.

Solution

Building with Gadget meant all of the infrastructure, data, and connections were taken care of, so they could put all of their efforts into customer experience and feedback.

Result

UPEZ was able to grow to a profit quickly with Gadget, introducing new features at a speed that impressed VCs, and have since accepted their first funding round.

From side project to fully-funded business: How UPEZ turned a profit in less than a year with Gadget

Emma Hyde
September 7, 2023

10x

Faster build time

80%

Costs saved

The big idea

UPEZ.io is a Shopify app that promises to increase average order value in the first 30 days of use. It allows merchants to customize their carts, adding shopping incentives like pre-purchase upsells, automatic discounts, free gifts, subscription upgrades, and custom cart branding. 

The problem

When Son Chu started UPEZ, he wasn't expecting his side project to become a full-time job so quickly.

Son made his entrepreneurial debut as co-founder of the sneaker company Rens Original, a project that got him featured in Forbes 30 under 30. He had the idea for UPEZ while trying to grow Rens Original, after experimenting with every cart upsell app available to increase AOV. No matter which solution he tried, he wasn't seeing the ROI he wanted. He needed an app that could provide more flexibility and control over the cart, so he decided to build one. He started UPEZ to give Shopify merchants everything missing from the existing cart-based upsell apps.

"There's no access to these features for the small brands. They don't have a tech team to build everything custom like the big brands. I feel like a Robin Hood, giving these features away."

When he started UPEZ, he was still working as a Growth Lead at another company. But he walked into the world of Shopify app development, knowing it would be a hyper-competitive market. He had first-hand experience with the competition, so he knew the current market leaders had thousands of users, but Son wanted to build the upsell product that merchants deserved.

He set out to start his app and immediately found himself faced with the same problems that many Shopify app developers face: the hurdles of OAuth, creating and maintaining a backend with all the necessary Shopify data, and the trouble of building an embedded frontend. It quickly became clear to him that setting up and maintaining the infrastructure required just to run his app would be a blocker for growth, and that wasn't sustainable.

He began considering outsourcing the bulk of the work so he could turn his focus on customer acquisition and growth. "I paid a guy $1,000 to build me a backend because I really didn't want to touch it. He built me a server to run on AWS. And it worked, but there were a lot of bad things about it." Son said. The service cost him more than $100/month before he even had any customer data to store. "I still had to do more backend stuff to integrate the Shopify stuff with the server he built. And the authentication is the most annoying part about it all." 

But with Gadget, all of that was taken care of.

The solution

Son found Gadget while looking for a backend provider for Shopify apps. As he explored the product, the more he learned, the more he thought it sounded too good to be true. Gadget would take care of all the setup, maintenance, and connections, leaving time for Son to focus on marketing and onboarding customers. Son says, "Gadget is a perfect match for my business. I get to spend more time on the marketing and make sure that this is the product that people want."

Gadget was able to replace not only his AWS servers but also supplied him with a database, hosting, staging, and both a development and production environment. Because Son didn't have to worry about setting up, connecting, or maintaining any of that, he could jump straight into building competitive features.

"And the cherry on the top is that it's free until I scale."

Something Son didn't expect when he first signed up for Gadget was how much flexibility it would add to his product roadmap. When he finds himself on calls with customers, he can quickly jump to discussing the features they need, and if anything is missing, he can promise they're coming soon. He's better equipped to handle hesitations about his competitors because Gadget lets him build so quickly, and his time to market with new features is a significant competitive advantage.

"I can't live without Gadget because, without it, I have to build and sustain my own backend and Shopify connection. There's no replacement. There's no alternative to Gadget."

The result

With all the infrastructure and boilerplate code off his plate, Son turned all of his attention to customer acquisition and onboarding, and within a few months, UPEZ had turned a profit. Son knew that velocity and time to market was a huge selling point for VCs, and Gadget allowed him to launch his product months, if not years ahead of schedule. As a result, UPEZ has taken its first funding round. Since taking the funding, Son has left his growth position and is now focusing on building and scaling his Shopify app full-time.

“I basically owe my success to Gadget. I went from bootstrapping UPEZ to being profitable in less than a year.” Son's business is so far ahead of where he expected it to be, he’s sure he wouldn’t have been able to get here on his own. "Without Gadget, I probably would have had to raise another funding round to get here."

Son continues to talk to every customer he gets, gathering their feedback and opinions on how his app can grow. The most significant difference Son has noticed since switching to Gadget was how his messaging has changed. "In the beginning, I was only trying to build a cart. I hadn't intended to create custom discounts back then."  

Now, he can provide features like targeted upsells, better incentives, and automatic discounts. "Gadget makes it 10 times faster for me."

The change of messaging is a great example of how speed and flexibility were a major win for pitching UPEZ to VCs. Spinning up new features quickly has been a huge value add when it comes to working with investors, because it means that Son can make big bets quickly, and as a result, be wrong quickly. He’s able to quickly learn and take action on those learnings, saving himself time and money.

“One of the reasons I was able to impress my investors was the speed at which I was iterating as a solopreneur. The truth of it is that a lot of that was because of the stack I had chosen to work with, Gadget, and how much of the heavy lifting it was doing for me."

With the recent funding, he plans to expand his marketing and growth strategies and has hired his first developer. Together, they'll continue adding highly requested features while aiming to create a more automated onboarding process to help UPEZ scale.

"There are too many things I need to do to grow my business, but with Gadget, development isn't a blocker. It's all about executing, so it's just a matter of finding time."

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