Episode 37: Startup Decision-Making and ROI w/Hiten Shah


In this episode, Quick Sprout and Kiss Metrics founder Hiten Shah talks about early SEO consulting, finding the ROI in a startup, and more.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • Why you need good distribution AND good product
  • Why innovation isn’t necessarily a priority
  • The importance of managing expectations
  • How patterns aid startup decision-making
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 Show Notes:
Hiten.com – Hiten’s newletter
Quick Sprout – Make Better Content, co-founded by Hiten
KISS Metrics – Analytics Built to Optimize Marketing, co-founded by Hiten
Crazy Egg – Visualize where your visitors click, co-founded by Hiten
Neil Patel – Hiten’s co-founder & marketing badass
A Technique for Producing Ideas – book by James Webb Young
Conquering Client Conflict – Resolve conflicts, get more respect, make more money as a freelancer

Hiten Shah has made the transition from freelancing to products in a big way. Starting as an SEO consultant in the early 2000’s, Hiten has managed to hone his startup decision-making skills to a high degree, all while founding 3 companies, each offering a product not too far removed from the SEO consulting family tree.

“On a very high level, I’m just fascinated by the power of words & business”

In this episode, Hiten and I talk a but about keeping your freelancing business in order to better enable your product aspirations. We touch a bit on the importance of setting expectations and maintaining boundaries (which my free e-mail course happens to cover). In fact, Hiten cites his best freelancing skill that carried over into doing startups as his ability to manage expectations, calling it the most fundamental difference between success and failure. We also delve into his startup decision-making process by talking about some of the frameworks and patterns Hiten uses both when mentoring other founders and when making decisions of his own.

Hiten shares his insight on selecting the best marketing channel for your product, and why it’s necessary to have both a strong product and strong distribution rather than just one or the other. We also talk about the role of innovation in the startup decision-making process, and whether or not it’s as much of a factor now as it was 5+ years ago. He encourages founders to really think about the problem they’re solving and who has it. Hiten suggests that founders look for a direct path to ROI for their customers as early as possible.

And always, we finish the show with 3 action items that you can implement right away in your own business.

Episode 34: Self-Care For Founders w/Allan Branch


In this episode, Less Accounting founder Allan Branch shares his journey from freelancer to founder. We’ll touch on being a late bloomer, how cultural values shape the career path we take, and finish on some very strong self-care suggestions to help a founder keep going strong.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • How having highly-focused non-business interests develop you
  • Why you shouldn’t wait for permission
  • Why nothing can really prepare you to launch a product
  • The value of never thinking you have it all figured out
Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

 Show Notes:
Less Accounting – Simple Accounting Software for Small Business
Less Churn – Increase revenue by reducing churn while tracking exit feedback
Less Films – We create videos that turn web traffic into customers
I’m a Customer Conversion Support Designer – from Allans’ blog
Life Over Work – from Allans’ blog
Set Up These Automated Emails – from Allans’ blog
37 Signals
Quickbooks
SaasFest
Hiten Shah
Darmesh Shah
David Cancel
Sean Ellis

“If you can’t create a business in a year of nights & weekends, there’s no honor in killing yourself to be an entrepreneur.”

Episode 29: Launching a Productized Service w/Brian Casel

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Today’s guest is Brian Casel, a return guest, in a first for Chasing Product.  Brian is currently the founder of AudienceOps, a done-for-you content-marketing productized service. Before launching a productized service, Brian had successfully made the transition from freelancer to product creator over the past several years with his earlier businesses.

In this episode, Brian talks about what he’s been doing since we last heard from him, what he’s learned along the way, and shares some insights into what launching a productized service requires, without becoming overwhelmed.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • The importance of a team
  • Why “done for you” is the new hotness
  • Content marketing for personal vs business branding
  • Building an audience from nothing
Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

 Show Notes:

Casjam – the online home for Brians projects
Audience Ops – Grow your audience, your email list, and your customer-base with done-for-you content marketing
Restaurant Engine – Brians original Saas product
Content Upgrades – WP Plugin for use w/Audience Ops service
Software Product Marketing & Design (the previous episode of Chasing Product, featuring Brian)
How To Start A Freelancing Business That Won’t Fail

It was interesting to talk to Brian again after having him on the show so early on. He’s been talking about launching a productized service for a while now, even creating a course to teach others how to do it. Getting to sit down with him and actually talk about how a bootstrapper can go about launching a productized service was educational.

Brian learned that launching with a team was crucial – he wasn’t interested in going back into freelancing. Launching a productized service with a team behind it on day one allowed Brian to work ON the business instead of in the business. He had no interest in this business if he’d be the only one doing the work, which is reasonable.

The other part of launching a productized service that was crucial was focusing on doing ONE thing really well for an ideal customer. Audience Ops does content marketing for B2B software companies; that’s their focus. This powerful focus made a lot of decisions very clear in the new business.

The real wisdom in launching a productized service is in how easy it is to launch and how little infrastructure is needed ahead of time. Launching a service offering allows for lower costs and lower technical requirements on day one. Brian was able to launch the offer with a 1-page sales pitch and start signing up clients right away. It may *use* software, but software is not the offering.

Launching a productized service is not easy, but Brian was able to take the lessons learned from previous business efforts and roll them into this one. It’s a big inspiration for those of us who hope to eventually do the same thing.

Episode 24: Learning As You Go w/Tracy Osborn

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Tracy Osborn joins us today to talk about her founders journey. From college CS to art courses, to an incubator, Tracy has made her bones in the industry by learning as she went along. Now, Tracy can claim multiple products and recently authored a book.

In this episode, we talk about Tracy’s early experiences working in both startups and agencies, her experiences with partnerships, and why it pays to get an app in front of customers, fast. We also cover some practical aspects of being a founder and keeping a product moving forward.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • the benefits of participating in an incubator/accelerator
  • how Kickstarter can aid your product launch
  • why it’s important not to dilute your focus
  • why learning as you go is better than reading books

 Show Notes:
WeddingLovely – Tracys web product
Hello Web App – Tracys book; Learn to Build a Web product w/Python & Django
Limedaring – Tracys blog

Python
Django
500 startups
Y Combinator
Kickstarter
PyCon
Nathan Barry
Authority
Gumroad
Leanpub
Product Hunt
Reddit
Uber
Skillshare

Episode 16: Building a Software Business On The Road w/Mike Taber

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Mike Taber of AuditShark shares his tale of building a software business while on the road as a consultant.  We talk about life as a consultant and a founder, the random nature of hits, and some common behaviors of successful bootstrappers.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • Why getting help is important to a solo founder
  • The exigencies of the game market vs the market for business apps
  • The depression of watching business start to crumble
  • Recognizing market opportunities in what other companies leave behind

Mike-related links:

singlefounder.com
auditshark.com
moonriversoftware.com
moonriverconsulting.com
startupsfortherestofus
micropreneuracademy.com
microconf 2014

 

Show-related links:

Pedestal Software
Rovio – maker of Angry Birds
Einstein
Rob Walling – founder of HitTail and Drip
Symantec
GoogleAdWords
Oprah
Lifestyle Business
Marie Forleo
Cogeian Systems – my consulting firm
SmallSpec – my startup – Painless Functional Specs (join the launch list!)

Mike is an interesting dude.  He was successful at building a software business while still being a consultant, and he’s done it alone.  Because of my strong aversion to partnering up, seeing a success story like the one Mike has is very important to me.  Through it all, he has been able to distill what he has learned in such a way that it makes sense when he explains it.

We touch on Mike’s history as a consultant and founder, discuss some examples of success that doesn’t look like you expect it to, and even share a brutally honest moment with Mike as he recounts watching his business crater when the economy got rough.  This last moment is particularly interesting; it’s rare for a founder to be so honest about the ugly side of running a business.

Comments & feedback are welcome via Twitter or e-mail.

Episode 13: Organic Product Development w/Josh Pigford

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Josh Pigford, serial maker of things, joins me for this episode.  Josh has a wonderfully diverse portfolio of projects.  Starting as a designer and gradually transitioning into launching web products, Josh has had both successes and failures as a founder.  We talk about some freelancing issues, how to do organic product development, and the exigencies of freelancing for equity.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • What prompted Josh to make the leap to products
  • The importance of filling your skill gaps when you can’t outsource
  • The most accessible go-to marketing techniques Josh has used
  • Organic product development vs plucking a product idea from thin air

Temper.io – Better Customer Service Over Time; measures how your customers feel about your business so you know what to improve
PopSurvey – Create Surveys People Want to Take; PopSurveys are beautiful, easy to create and more importantly, fun to take
Baremetrics – SaaS Analytics for Stripe
PugSpot – The spot for pugs!
Tiny Farmstead – Learning how to farm in the ‘burbs!

Fugitive Toys – an Urban Vinyl Toy Store
Ruby on Rails
Flippa
The Apple Blog – Started by Josh, later acquired by GigaOm
Track the Pack – Universal package-tracking app that Josh had to shutter
Track the Pack Post-Mortem – fantastic account of the story behind Josh shutting down his app
Package Fox – Stop losing money on late shipments
Rovio – creator of Angry Birds
Entrepornography – the overhyped productivity BS foisted on the startup community by the media
SmallSpec – Christopher’s product-in-development. Join the launch list!

The organic product development idea is interesting to me, as someone who has struggled to come up with product ideas out of the blue.  There are probably more examples of organic product development out there, where a founder distills a product from an existing app or starts out with a pain point to solve.  But there are also a lot of “if you build it they will come” scenarios playing out, and those often end in ters for the founder in question.

Josh also shares some of his biggest regrets about product development, and three action items for aspiring bootstrappers.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Episode 10: If At First You Don’t Succeed, Product Launch Again w/Tim Whitacre

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In this episode, Tim Whitacre of Plain and Argyll Studios shares what he’s learned while transitioning out of freelancing and into products.  Tim is fearless, and freely shares the story of multiple non-thriving attempts at product launch, as well as the story of his newest product launch (which has since taken off!).

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • Tim’s comments on the tension between consulting revenue & investing in product
  • the critical nature of pricing for your app
  • what it feels like to sell off a product
  • how to maintain the motivation & desire to try again

You can follow Tim on Twitter or check out his blog for more info on Tim’s work and the story of the startups he’s been a part of.

Barley – The Inline Editor for Everyone
New! 
Barley for WordPress – Released after we recorded the podcast
Presstaurant
HostedNotes – Password Management Made Simple & Secure

The show notes will be fleshed out later – for now, just check out the interview!  Tim talks about a side of product launch that most people shy away from, if not hide completely; what it looks like & feels like when a product launch “fails”.  I put “fails” in quotes because as long as you learn something, it’s not really a failure.

Tim learned from every product launch experience, moved on, and now has a hit on his hands.  Learn from him!

Episode 8: The Importance of Small Wins w/Ivan Lopez

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Episode 8 features Ivan Lopez, founder of AB Press Optimizer and Project Conductor.  Ivan shares his tale of bootstrapping a large product, only to reconsider and do a smaller one instead.  By doing so, Ivan managed to get a small win quickly.  The momentum from that win bolstered his efforts to do a larger project.

My friends, I must apologize – WordPress ate my show notes.

I’m publishing the podcast without notes because Ivan’s story is a good one and deserves to be heard.  The concept of shifting gears to earn a small win instead of committing to a huge project is one that’s really catching on.

Proper show notes will be re-created and  posted later.

AB Press Optimizer – Ivan’s small product; The Easy Way to Increase Conversion in WordPress
Project Conductor – Ivan’s larger product; Helping You Get Your Project In Tune

 

Episode 7: Commit to Launching Product w/Ian Landsman

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What are you prepared to do?  That’s the question Ian Landsman poses in Episode 7 as we talk about launching product.  Ian takes us from his start in retail all the way through learning to code and eventually launching product of his own.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • trial and error in the service of selecting a product,
  • pros, cons and opportunities of launching Saas apps vs on-premise apps,
  • why podcasting in 2013 is like blogging in 2004,
  • the role of youth & confidence vs age & wisdom when launching product,
  • the importance of community

We also talk a bit about the red ocean/blue ocean strategy, which was also addressed in Episode 6.  Ian is a big proponent of the “red ocean” strategy, and he tell us why.  He also addresses how the world of launching product has changed in the past 10 years; more tools, communities, and information are available to aspiring bootstrappers now than ever before.  We also take a detour into Curmudgeon-ville and talk about what it’s like to launch as an older-than-college-age entrepreneur.

We finish the show with three actionable bullet points for launching product.  As a 10-year veteran of running a successful bootstrapped business, Ian has been there and done that.  Stick around for the entire episode to see what three things are so important to launching product, Ian thinks you should do them right now.

 

UserScape – Ian’s company
HelpSpot – Ian’s 1st product; Help Desk Software for Email/Web Customer Service
Snappy – Ian’s latest product; Customer Service, Simplified
Bootstrapped.fm – Andrey’s bootstrapped product podcast

Joel on Software Forums – where an entire generation of bootstrappers got their start
Office Depot
EngineHosting
ZenDesk
Laravel – the elegant PHP framework for web artisans
Red Ocean strategy vs Blue Ocean strategy
SmallSpec – painless functional specifications; join the launch list

Episode 5: Product-izing Your Consulting Work w/Brennan Dunn

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In this episode, Brennan Dunn talks about consulting work and the product business.  He shares some of the pitfalls of each, while teaching us what he learned as he moved from consulting work into launching bootstrapped product.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • how monthly retainers can put you in a product-selling mindset,
  • finding people to support & understand your endeavors,
  • why it’s important to understand the sales cycle,
  • the importance of value transactions,

and more, including the story of how Brennan’s had his big “I have to get out consulting” moment, and what’s going on with his newest info-products; how they flowed naturally from his consulting work.

As always, we finish off with concrete, can-do action items for your own product launch. Brennan gives you three homework items that will move you closer to getting product out the door.

Planscope – Brennan’s Saas app for managing consulting work or general projects
Double Your Freelancing Rate – Brennan’s book for consultants
The Blueprint – Brennan’s system for getting more consulting clients
Consultancy Masterclass – Brennan’s workshop for leveling-up your consulting work

Amy Hoy – creator of the 30×500 method for launching products
Joel Spolsky
Patrick McKenzie
Nathan Barry
Rob Walling
Buffer
Mastering Modern Payments Using Stripe w/Rails by Pete Keen
RailsKit – Ready-made Rails code
SmallSpec – Christopher’s app for creating painless functional specs; join the launch list