Marie Martens

Co-Founder of Tally

Marie is the co-founder of Tally, the simplest way to create forms for free.
She’s born and raised in Belgium, and is bootstrapping Tally together with her partner Filip Minev.

Before launching Tally, Marie had a career of 10 years in B2B marketing and has founded Hotspot, a marketplace for hotels and travel influencers.

Where did the idea for Tally come from?

I founded Tally together with my partner Filip in the summer of 2020.
As makers, we struggled with finding the right tool to create forms for our previous start-ups and jobs. Google Forms is very functional but doesn’t look great and other established form building tools can be very expensive for early-stage startups or indie makers.

It is a very competitive space, but we felt like there was a place for a new type of form builder experience with a different business model. We wanted to make form building easy, beautiful, and free without limits. We’re big fans of the inline type user interface (such as Notion) and wanted to create a fast, seamless, and fun form-building experience where you start from a blank page and can create any type of form by just typing.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I usually get up around 7am, and my first job is to get my daughter ready for daycare. My partner or myself bring her to daycare, and we start working between 8.30 and 9am.
We’re bootstrapping Tally with a team of 2. My partner, Filip, is the technical brain behind the product and I focus on marketing, customer support, and everything else related to running a business.
I usually start by replying to support requests from our users in the morning and switch to other tasks in the afternoon. Every day looks different. I might be working on the launch of a new feature, content creation, social media updates, updating our help documentation, reaching out to potential partners, finding new ways to grow…
At 5.30pm either me or my partner pick up our daughter from daycare and we spend some time together. She goes to bed around 7.30pm, we eat and either relax, work or meet with friends.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I tend to dream out loud and often brainstorm with Filip. For Tally we combine user requests, an estimate of the required effort and our gut feeling to decide what we will be working on next.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The no-code movement is democratizing software and is empowering non-technical founders to start new businesses without writing a single line of code. Literally anyone with a computer, an internet connection, and a good idea can create a landing page, accept payments, collect feedback and automate workflows.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I try to structure my day by, for example, only answering emails once or twice a day, and leaving room for more productive focus hours. I dump everything that comes up in my head in our product backlog or personal to-do list, to make sure I can clear my head and focus.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Travel more, and be confident!

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Startups don’t need to be revolutionary. But I’m sure a lot of people also agree on this 😉

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Do things that don’t scale. You need to put in the hours and do the manual work to grow your business. Find what works for you, repeat it over and over again, and be patient, because growth takes time.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Cold outreach has helped us a lot to get our first Tally users. We shared our MVP for the first time with friends and family in August 2020. Our MVP was a very basic version of the form builder, you could insert questions and that was it, you couldn’t even publish a form. We didn’t have a large network of our own, so we started sharing our first version of our form builder with the people closest to us.

After processing their feedback we started with cold outreach to creators, Indie Hackers, and startup founders, who might be interested in our product. We scanned Product Hunt and Twitter and made lists of hundreds of prospects and started doing cold outreach, asking for their feedback. Often without success, but those who did take the time to reply became part of our community of early users and ambassadors.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Tally is not the first startup that Filip and I founded. We launched Hotspot, a marketplace for travel influencers and hotels, as a side-project in 2019. Beginning 2020, we had a growing number of hotels and influencers on the platform and we decided both to go for it. I quit my job, so we could work on the project full-time, but then the pandemic hit.

Customers started churning or asking to pause their subscriptions. We felt like Hotspot had the potential to grow and didn’t want to give up on our startup idea so easily. So we decided to keep building and prepare for better days. Fast forward to summer 2020 we realized that the pandemic would last a lot longer than expected and we took the hard decision to pivot and launch a new startup. We didn’t manage to keep the product alive and stay motivated. And that’s how Tally was born.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think the idea of our first startup (Hotspot) is still a great idea, but unfortunately we don’t have the time to run both. Hotspot is a platform that helps hotel owners to connect with travel influencers and set up collaborations to promote their properties.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A wellness treatment for me and my partner. Sometimes we definitely need some time to recharge.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We use Notion to manage almost everything. It contains our product backlog, planning, documentation, our help center, affiliate program… We also collect feedback and feature requests with Tally and sync the data to Notion.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I haven’t read a lot of books lately, because I learn the most about bootstrapping a Saas online, on Twitter or in founder communities. Marketingwise I love ‘Intercom on marketing’ because it shows the strength of content marketing and it’s packed with advice for early startups.

What is your favorite quote?

“You can have it all, but not at the same time.”

Key Learnings:

  • Do things that don’t scale
  • Get out there and talk to as many people as possible about your product
  • Don’t be afraid to pivot