I have been running a startup on the side for about 2.5 years now. Got some money coming in (not hit the 100k mark yet!) but with a few Fortune 50 as paid clients. I am a techy, I don't understand marketing or sales or Google Analytics. Is there a dummies guide to such things? How do I start scaling and where do I find a good Co founder? Money investment is not needed as the company is making money that can be invested back but solid back breaking commitment is.
- Expedia PCoulsonFind a team not a cofounder, you probably don't need one. Build a good team.
- What you’re describing is not that unusual, many start-ups are bootstrapped and the founders need to manage day jobs or consulting gigs until it takes off. A good co-founder would be a consultant/self employed who could finance the start up with opportunity cost rather than cash.
- Precisely. The question is are there forums or places where like minded people meet to see if there are synergies? I plan to launch another product in Q3 this year which has a significantly higher market cap but is in the same general are so I know already that the concept works. Before I do that launch I want to make sure I am setup for success with the right partner with me.
- I tried reddit but it's full of people who are ful of hot air. They are great at dispensing advice from a distance but ask them to walk the talk and they disappear as if they never existed. In my very limited experience so far, running a start up is a game of grit, sweat and obsession. Someone who likes the "idea" of it but isn't willing to burn the midnight oil would probably not fit into this game. Unfortunately and perhaps just my luck, these were the kind of knowledge dispensing, actuon shy people I have been running into thus far.
- New MoiGrootYou don’t know marketing / sales and you have Fortune 50 companies as your paid clients , working part time with another full time job ? How ?
- I consciously built the product so that it is self serviced as much as possible. When someone downloads and installs it the product generates a 30 day license unique for them. At the end of 30 days it either stops working or you can buy a license on my online store post which the product starts working again. So far I haven't had to do any presentations or outbound sales activity other than running a Google ad campaign on which I barely spend $100 a month. The big companies often have a manual PO driven purchasing process but all that is handled over emails. I have barely ever had to talk to anyone and when I did it was to troubleshoot a problem that firm was facing.Mar 105
- Thanks. It did mean that I had to write a completely bespoke license generation, subscription management, renewal and cancellation framework in addition to building the core product but now I am glad I put in all that effort. I am nearly done with my second product so a lot of it will be reused there too.
- I'm in the same boat, except the revenue... Just launched 2 months ago. My biggest advice is not to go with a co founder since you're already making enough money to hire a marketing specialist. I hired one and it brought almost immediate results. The marketer will setup the analytics and campaigns, if needed. Also will do market research for you. Co founders are a huge headache unless you know them really well and trust their work ethic.
- New lady 👩🏻🍳Congrats on your success. Off topic question, I heard Amazon has a very strong IP laws and that anything employees work on might end up being litigated, is this true?
- @OP how did you get your initial customers? I built an app that I think could be useful to customers in a certain niche market, but am unsure how to approach them
- So it's not an app and that is all I will say here. I built the software itself, built the site and then left it. A few months later I hired someone from Fiverr.com and paid them about $50 for a basic round of SEO. I listed it on a market place which was open at that time. Slowly I had a few downloads. As I said earlier I have built a feedback feature in the product which let's the client send feedback to me directly. I made sure I reach out to each and everyone who sent me their feedback and build a relationship with them . That I found was the key. If they believe you to be genuinely interested in their feedback (and you should be) they will trust you with their money.
- I'm not sure yet.
The website in its current form is free, open source, copyrighted and consumer-facing, so with traffic I could get revenue from ads. However, I'm considering making it a white label service that companies in my target niche would pay for to make available to their customers. It would solve a problem that their customers frequently ask them to solve, and which many (or all) of them haven't concretely solved with software that provides a conclusive answer.
Basically, the question is whether SEO + on-website ads or B2B would be the more profitable business model. One risk with B2B is that the target companies could eventually reverse engineer their own solution, if they can hire people with the right skills to do so.
- I'd de-open source it if I pursue revenue. Currently, it's a portfolio project on my resume and helped me get interviews with various companies.
One of the companies in my target audience would have hired me to incorporate the functionality into their website, but I chose Bloomberg instead. Afaik they haven't reverse engineered it, maybe because of the copyright or because they decided not to build it. I've been thinking of de-open sourcing it and pursuing revenue because I'm not so sure that keeping it open source confers any advantage when eventually interviewing for my next job.
- I am sorry but I get a sense that you are either aren't serious about it or don't know what to do with it. If it's open source now and you make it closed source later then in my opinion that's a big trust buster with your clients. They aren't likely to take kindly to someone who can switch the operational model on a whim. This makes them not want to trust you. Someone here asked me how I managed to pull off so many Fortune 50 clients without any sales and marketing etc and my simple answer is by building trust. Say what you will do and do what you say. If you make a bad decision you should pay its cost and not your clients. I won't recommend you to flip flop like this.
- Makes sense. I don't have any clients or users yet, but will keep that in mind if I pursue the B2B route.
It seems to me that a consumer using the website for free won't care whether or not it's open source, or whether or not I de-open source or open source it. So I think I'll pursue the B2C SEO + ads route with it closed source and see if I get any results (i.e. profit). If not, I'll open source it again during my next job search. After my next job search, I may try the B2B route if B2C wasn't successful.
- Google PazziYou can hire a consultant. I know of some. They basically help you develop and execute a go to market strategy, while helping you optimize the product roadmap. If you managed even 1 Fortune 50 client, who are willing to give you a testimonial, that’s enough for a seasoned growth marketeer to help you deploy strategies to get into other target organizations. Many folks work for stock and a modest retainer, with a pay for performance bonus for hitting critical revenue goals/sales related Milestones.
- Intel INTC=$60You definitely need a co founder since this is your side business. Start going to good meetups like hacker dojo or join ycombinator. PM me if interested in learning more.
- New Vtfk55Startup marketer here. Agree with the rest. Hire a person. No co-founder needed. DM if you need some good hiring Qs and small tests to give potentials. Marketers can be very good at selling themselves than actually doing anything once hired. And the type of work they’ve done before matters (depending on level)—B2B very different from b2c and saas completely different ball game vs product. Some are versatile enough. Some definitely aren’t.
- Microsoft pollpullIs it a software related business? You need to find someone who is ready to work on it full time. You can hire a lead (cto) and pay them equity.
- I can do the tech myself, that is not a problem. I also don't think at this stage anyone would need to spend time on it full time. I do beleieve that someone who has experience in growing businesses by implementing a biz Dev plan would be a great partner but that csn also be done on the side. I don't know how. To go about finding such a person though.
- I am assuming you have at least 10 to 15 clients so you kind of know the target market already. You need to buy a list and hire an SDR and setup regular cadences of cold calling and cold emailing . I am assuming your product lends itself to such top of the funnel strategies. Once you have sold some deals directly emanating from cold process you need to setup other channels. PM me for details. How is your churn looking like ?
- I have about 30 clients including banks, software companies, car manufacturers, government bodies like state councils, colleges and so on. The thing is I don't know how to do all that you (rightly) said I should be doing. I can either focus on tech and product or all this in addition to my full time job and family. Hence the need for a partner I think without who I won't be able to scale.
- As a an ex startup founder I will suggest you focus on product sales and marketing. You are the heart and soul of the company. Tech can be outsourced but your passion for the product cannot be. Can you increase the price point without driving away majority of the customers ? Can you just focus on marketing and selling to software companies first ?
- Thanks. Just to clarify I have 30 institutional clients where they have bought licenses of my product for teams. I have many more retail clients. That is individuals who have paid money from their pockets to buy an individual license. Over the last year I actually decreased the price point and started volume discounts which brought in more clients and revenue.
- Finance 101. Time is money.
On your own or even with a marketing/sales co-founder, you'll only be able to scale out so fast. With a full time staff, your growth may not be as efficient, but the numbers will explode.
Find a VC, pay yourself a proper founder/CTO of a now funded company wage so you can quit your day job, hire a sales and marketing team, and make that money. Then exit years sooner than you would have, now having some real money to support your next project and your entire life, much more than Amazon will ever pay you.
VCs will try bully you in negotiations, but you have all the leverage. A bootstrapped B2B company with an existing revenue stream from Fortune 500 (not even 50) clients and a huge growth market is a very very hot commodity, as risk is pretty much nil.
Congratulations, you've made it. Now just go and take it.
- Thanks for your advice. I keep hearing that VCs won't engage with me unless I quit my job first. Is that so or would they be open to hearing my pitch even if I am currently in a full time job? I have enough hot logos as clients to convince any VC of the merit including some companies who are at the top of their domains in the world much like Amazon and Apple. Neither is a client by the way :)
- I'm not a VC, but in your situation where you're already selling and are willing to quit, seems enough to talk. Main concern instead would be how long the product would be able to keep its market lead since you were able to build it to this point while fiddling around part time. But would still insist you quit...
- Assuming your business model continues to be a freemium or modified into a tiered subscription model as you scale. You are in the stage where you have found a market with specific needs. As you scale your target market needs will be evolving. So you need someone who thinks from a product perspective and develops a clear product strategy/roadmap to support the scaling through research and experiments. To answer you sales question: you need to layout how the decision making happens within a sale. Are buyers and users the same? Who influences the buying decision. And then identify which channels can be used to reach them eg social media, emails, calls, ads, conventions etc. what kind of mindset they have: eg selling to tech, non tech, managers, executives can be different. Experiment on the marketing content. Can you develop a favorable partnership with a complementary solution?
Happy to bounce of ideas but you will have to be more specific.
- How did you get the idea for your product? Was it something you have experience with?