Choosing Wisely Between Dreams and Nightmares in Startup Arena

Admir Mujkic
9 min readMar 5, 2024

So, you have an idea for a new SaaS product and are ready to bring it to life? However, this journey won’t be without its challenges — especially if software engineering is unfamiliar territory. One of the most significant hurdles is deciding where to start. This involves weighing up options like a custom-built system or a headless Content Management System (CMS). Be prepared to assess these choices thoughtfully, as they will impact your success down the line.

Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey entails understanding the gravity of your decisions. Stark statistics from MIT and Failory indicate a bleak reality: only 10% of startups succeed. The startup path is riddled with obstacles like team conflicts, financial crises, marketing roadblocks and technical challenges — brace yourself for these formidable hurdles.

The data has been taken from: https://www.failory.com/blog/startup-failure-rate and prepared using the Canva Platform.

To navigate this challenging terrain successfully, let us offer you valuable insights and experiences in the forthcoming article. We will provide potential solutions to address some critical issues, thereby enhancing your chances of success.

Selecting the right platform

When building a SaaS platform, it’s important to consider the different options available to you. Two commonly used options are bespoke platforms and headless CMS.

A bespoke platform is a system designed specifically to meet your unique requirements. It can be fully customized to align with your goals and needs. Since it’s built from scratch, you have complete control over every feature and aspect of the platform.

On the other hand, a headless CMS takes a different approach compared to bespoke solutions. Instead of focusing on the front-end appearance of content, it prioritizes content management and organization on the back-end. It acts as a central hub for storing content through a CMS Backoffice user interface, allowing for easy display across multiple platforms such as websites or mobile apps using an API-driven model.

Both bespoke platforms and headless CMS have their own advantages. Understanding the differences between these options can help you make informed decisions based on your specific business goals and needs. With a headless CMS, once you define the content, it can be delivered to multiple platforms, including mobile and web, thanks to its ability for multichannel delivery.

Costs

Developing a custom platform demands significant groundwork from the ground up, which includes creating source code, running tests, and assimilating multiple features and functions. The expense of development hinges on how intricate your platform is and its number of traits; besides, it depends on hourly rates charged by the programmers involved.

  • For a unique, tailored platform, development fees usually come to between $60,000 and $80,000 in the first year of implementation. This estimation encompasses the initial creation of the main features of the platform.
  • When it comes to website development, utilizing a Headless CMS can greatly reduce costs. Why? Because instead of building custom tools and infrastructure from scratch, the CMS already has pre-existing ones available. On average, integrating and tailoring a Headless CMS will set you back roughly $10k — $15k in the first year. This figure includes setting up, modifying and integrating the CMS to fit your platform’s specific needs.

Maintenance Costs

The costs for maintaining your platform involve continuous support, resolving any glitches that may arise, keeping security measures updated, and improving the functionality of the system. If you possess a customized platform, it is crucial to regularly allocate resources for sustaining and revitalizing the unique codebase used in your applications.

  • A bespoke platform requires regular maintenance, which can cost between $12,000 and $16,000 annually. This amount includes expenses linked to fixing bugs, updating security patches and codes on an ongoing basis.
  • Headless CMS providers handle maintenance and updates for their clients, resulting in lower costs. The typical range of maintenance costs for Headless CMS is between $2,000 to $3,000 a year, which covers customization updates and support requirements.

Hosting Costs

When you host a platform, you must pay to store and deliver its files, databases, and content to users. For a custom platform, building your own hosting infrastructure means additional expenses.

  • Hosting expenses for a bespoke platform vary from $1,200 to $2,400 (projection) per annum and are influenced by the chosen hosting provider and the scale of the platform.
  • Third-party Headless CMS providers offer a range of hosting options as part of their service bundles, reducing the need for buyers to shell out money separately on hosting-related expenses. This feature constitutes significant cost savings for new users with little experience using a Headless CMS platform.

Utilizing a Headless CMS can result in significant cost savings when compared to developing a customized platform. Particularly for beginners with limited financial resources, a Headless CMS offers advantages such as reduced development expenses and lower maintenance costs. Additionally, potential discounts on hosting further make using a Headless CMS an economical choice. Let’s now breakdown into calculations:

Development Costs

  • Bespoke Platform: $60,000 — $80,000
  • Headless CMS: $10,000 — $15,000
  • Cost Savings = (Development cost of Bespoke Platform — Development cost of Headless CMS) / Development cost of Bespoke Platform * 100
  • Taking the lower range of costs: Cost Savings = ($60,000 — $10,000) / $60,000 * 100 = 83.33%
  • Taking the higher range of costs: Cost Savings = ($80,000 — $15,000) / $80,000 * 100 = 81.25%

Therefore, using a Headless CMS can result in cost savings of approximately 81.25% to 83.33% compared to building a bespoke platform.

Maintenance Costs

  • Bespoke Platform: $12,000 — $16,000
  • Headless CMS: $2,000 — $3,000
  • Cost Savings = (Maintenance cost of Bespoke Platform — Maintenance cost of Headless CMS) / Maintenance cost of Bespoke Platform * 100
  • Taking the lower range of costs: Cost Savings = ($12,000 — $2,000) / $12,000 * 100 = 83.33%
  • Taking the higher range of costs: Cost Savings = ($16,000 — $3,000) / $16,000 * 100 = 81.25%

Therefore, using a Headless CMS can result in cost savings of approximately 81.25% to 83.33% compared to maintaining a bespoke platform.

We will take an imaginary system that needs to be developed in order to illustrate the costs. We will divide them into several common segments for developing most of systems to gain the best possible insight into the comparative analysis and projection of development costs.

Please note that the following analysis is hypothetical and based on the provided information. It is important to conduct an individual calculation specific to your project in order to obtain accurate cost projections.

Unveiling Implementation Simplicity using Headless CMS versus Bespoke Solutions

In the fast-paced and competitive world of technology, it can be challenging for startups to find dedicated engineers who are receptive to new ideas. Retaining top talent often poses a difficulty for these budding organizations due to various factors. When we compare technical challenges, here are some reasons why Headless CMS has a comparative advantage over Bespoke solutions.

SOLID

A headless CMS simplifies development by allowing a separation of concerns. Backend developers can focus on managing content APIs, while frontend developers can independently work on designing and implementing the user interface. This division of labor improves efficiency and benefits both teams.

Pre-Built Functionalities

Headless CMS platforms provide content management capabilities with pre-built functionalities that include user authentication, version control, and content scheduling. These built-in features can save developers a great deal of time and effort by eliminating the need for redundant tasks during development. With Headless CMS platforms, common content management elements are already in place, freeing developers to focus on more specialized aspects of their projects.

API-Driven Development

Headless CMS come equipped with extensive APIs that simplify the process of integrating with third-party systems and tools, making it seamless for developers to connect them with various applications, services, or devices. This opens up opportunities for expanding the functionality of bespoke solutions significantly. For instance, by pairing a customer relationship management (CRM) system or an e-commerce platform with the CMS can leverage its capabilities.

Communities, Documentation and Tutorials

Headless CMSs have vibrant developer communities that provide substantial support, resources, and best practices. This community is a valuable resource for developers to overcome hurdles, get their queries answered with documentation, and find tutorials or code samples to enhance their work effectively.

Easy Scaling

When content demand and traffic spikes, a headless CMS efficiently handles it. The separation of the frontend and backend makes horizontal scalability possible by adding more servers to handle increased traffic volumes. A headless CMS also offers flexibility for easy content scaling across multiple channels such as websites, mobile apps, or internet of things (IoT) devices.

QA

Headless CMS platforms undergo extensive testing and quality assurance, meaning that bespoke solutions require less QA engineering. This saves valuable time and resources as the core CMS functionalities have already been rigorously tested and proven to be reliable.

Simple Deployment Processes

Headless CMS are known for their simple deployment processes which make them a popular choice in cloud-based hosting platforms and serverless environments. This allows for speedy updates and easy deployment, without adding complexity to infrastructure management.

Headless CMS enable developers to define their own data structures and content models, tailored to the specific requirements of a project’s domain, through an user interface. This simplifies complex representations of data and business logic via custom models, enhancing flexibility.

User-Friendly Interface

A headless CMS typically offers a user-friendly interface designed for content creators to effortlessly create and manage their content. This feature empowers non-technical individuals to add, edit, and publish engaging content without relying on developers’ assistance. Meanwhile, developers can focus on delivering an excellent frontend experience with precision and mastery.

Inline editing tools known as experience editors are integral components of headless CMS. They offer content creators a more user-friendly interface by allowing direct editing and previewing of frontend content. Experience editors provide users with greater autonomy over layout and presentation, without the need for technical assistance.

From above enumerated features you can conclude that headless CMS offers startups a cost-saving bundle that propels them to market success.

The software’s pre-built functionalities make tasks less repetitive. This includes user authentication and content scheduling features, which saves time and effort. Furthermore, the comprehensive APIs make it easy to integrate with third-party systems to boost bespoke solutions’ capabilities.

The developer communities thrive with activity and offer an array of resources, providing startups with ample support to navigate obstacles and improve their work efficiently.

Startups are empowered by scalability, simple deployment processes, and user-friendly interfaces when managing content demand with ease. Thanks to headless CMS which saves both time and costs, these startups can confidently launch into the market at a faster pace.

Support

To ensure a platform’s success, having proper support in place is crucial. However, developing a unique platform often comes with challenges that include troubleshooting and fixing problems that can be costly. This task usually falls on the expensive engineers who can exhaust resources.

Furthermore, new team members without maintenance and troubleshooting experience can struggle to find bugs, leading to additional expenses and downtime for both the company and its employees. Additionally, integrating with other systems requires development work which could lead to high costs if not appropriately managed. Therefore,it is essential to have adequate support in place.

Headless platforms offer a reliable solution for ongoing maintenance and improvement. These providers assist users through comprehensive support resources, including documentation, tutorials, and knowledgeable representatives available across multiple channels to guide customers through navigation, troubleshooting, and training.

Access to a user community provides valuable insights and assistance as well. By outsourcing updates and security patches to headless CMS providers, the workload is reduced while ensuring platform security and up-to-date functionality.

Finally

In the decision-making process for startups, choosing between bespoke platforms and headless CMS requires careful consideration of various factors. While bespoke platforms enable complete customization and control, they come with higher costs for development, maintenance, and hosting.

In comparison, headless CMS offer cost savings, pre-built functionalities, easy scaling options, simplified deployment processes and user-friendly interfaces. Ultimately, whether a startup chooses a bespoke platform or a headless CMS depends on their unique requirements and priorities. Experts in platform development and startup strategies can provide valuable insights. While this article aims to help, their personalized advice can enhance your decision-making process.

Startups can minimize their expenses by selecting a headless CMS over a custom-made platform. With estimated savings between 81.25% to 83.33%, businesses that are just starting out can significantly reduce development and maintenance costs. Headless CMS also provide access to an extensive support system, vibrant developer communities, and comprehensive documentation that allows startups to address any challenges with ease and optimize their work effectively.

When choosing between a Bespoke platform and a Headless CMS, the decision ultimately depends on specific business goals, needs, and financial resources. For newcomers looking to establish their platforms with a solid foundation for success, headless CMS offer attractive advantages at lower costs. This is particularly important given high startup failure rates.

Cheers and Good Luck! 👋

If you believe I can help with something, don’t hesitate to contact me, and I will reach you as soon as possible.

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Admir Mujkic

Admir combined engineering expertise with business acumen to make a positive impact & share knowledge. Dedicated to educating the next generation of leaders.