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I've built, sold, and am currently running several multi-million-dollar software companies, both bootstrapped and funded.
I like all sorts of tech and am happy to discuss anything from ideation, validation, fund-raising, boot-strapping, marketing, dev, founder struggles, you name it.
how do you make the decision of if you want to go after funding to try and increase growth or continue to bootstrap a company and maybe grow at a slower pace?
Depends on what your *personal* goals are for your business. You raise money generally when you want to "go big or go home" -- not only growing as fast as possible, but because you want to build a truly huge business. Think $200m+/yr in revenue, but more like potentially $1b in revenue.
To build truly large businesses *in tech*, you want to reduce as much risk as possible, since it's already almost impossible to build such a business. You want to get there as fast as possible, because time is the enemy (competitors, market changes, tech changes...). You want the best team early on even if they're expensive. You want to not be budget-constrained for office space, materials, marketing, etc..
Thus, money is the fuel that helps address the major risk areas.
If you have any other goals at all for the business -- retaining control, being profitable, controlling your destiny, making your own mark in the world, working with the people you chose, etc., then raising money is unlikely to be optimal.
Amazing response. Love how simple you have made it seem here. Never thought of time being the enemy in that kind of context, but its makes a ton of sense to think of using funding to counter in that way. Thanks so much for the time and everything you're doing over at WPE.
Thank you! P.S. More on the subject of money: http://blog.asmartbear.com/startup-money.html So if becoming a manager of managers is more appealing than the leader of a small tight band of people, AND if your current company problems can be "solved with money," raising money is likely the correct path.
Great article, thanks for sharing, more info that helps me frame the decision/discussion. With all of these ideas you have mentioned above and also in the article it seems that very few companies would actually be meeting the criteria necessary to pursue funding. Do you feel that many companies are funded that shouldn't be? Or that founders often go after funding for the wrong reasons or to solve problems that cannot be solved with funding?
I don't think more companies are funded that ought to be -- investors in general won't fund the "unfundables."
I DEFINITELY think more founders BELIEVE they NEED to raise money when in fact it is either unnecessary, inappropriate for the business, an inappropriate timing for the business, or would actually make them personally unhappy/unsatisfied.
Ahh, yes, I meant "shouldnt be" from the founders point-of-view, as in, the founders feel they need to be funded, when in fact, they dont.
Your second part of the response nails the answer to what my question was after. It's very easy to get caught up in the "get funded" world of startups and small business and it's very helpful to hear an experienced person put it in such plain terms.
To (kind of) fork for this thread -- how have you learned so much about founding, running and growing a small business? Just getting your hands dirty? Good mentorship? Reading a lot on it?
All of the above. I've been a founder since 1998 -- that was the end of my last "real" job. So there's a lot of time.
Second, WONDERFUL mentors. Gerry Cullen, my co-founder at ITW, was my big mentor for marketing/sales, and Paul Schmidt, founder of Photodex (where I worked for 4 years in the 90s) is my mentor for developing software.
Third, the amazing information online. When I started it was Joel Spolsky and Eric Sink. Now of course there's tons of stuff to learn from.
But at the end of the day, you have to JUST DO IT!
Thanks so much for doing this. It's awesome of you to stop by and answer questions. I loved your post about the Unprofitable SaaS business model trap (http://blog.asmartbear.com/unprofitable-saas-business-model.html).
Here's my question. I'm building a side project outside of my day job. It's already working and making revenue (Dan Martell taught me that), but I'm finding new revenue streams I hadn't thought about. So right now I'm focusing on the business model side and ignoring, to an extent, the product side.
When do you start building a scalable product, and for how long did you focus on the business model and validating that before you started building your software companies?
Thanks for the kind words!
The word "scalable" is usually reserved for when you have real traction with an accelerating growth curve, and also at a certain absolute scale. That is, it's easy to "double every month" when you have 4 customers, so a 100% MoM growth rate doesn't mean you're "scaling!" But, doing e.g. 5x-10x in a year starting the year with e.g. $1m run-rate, that's scale. Or 3x in a year starting with $5m is scale.
It really means "human scale" more than anything else. You're hiring at a clip where the scale itself is one of the biggest threats to the business. It's hard to hire quickly and keep quality and culture. It's hard as people's existing positions shift around or become irrelevant. It's hard as you need different skillsets to navigate the new challenges. If you get it wrong, you get very behind and broken very fast.
If it's still just you, by definition you're not scaling yet -- you'd be underwater! :-)
Don't worry about a threshold. It's sort of: If you have to ask, you're nowhere near that threshold.
I would ask this: How many customers and/or what revenue is needed so you can quit your day job? That's the only interesting milestone at this time. If you still can't, you don't even have product/market fit yet.
Thanks for the answer, Jason! I love that final question and it's one I've thought about and am working towards. It'll be interesting once that point comes around (if it does) about where to go next. Thanks!
What's your side business if you can share :-}
I read the URL and was really worried about what your business was going to be offering haha! Sounds like a good idea, hope it all goes well for you.
What are some tactics you've used to get people to notice / read your content?
I've found that the more I try to self-promote, the LESS I get views and shares. Rather, it's out of my control, and I have to rely on a steady stream of good content and the Internet "will provide," even if it takes years to build it up.
Here's a post from 2009 (!) about how I did it: http://blog.asmartbear.com/how-i-got-6000-rss-subscribers-in-12-months.html
Now I have >40,000 RSS subscribers and the information here hasn't changed in terms of jump-starting a following.
Are you saying you don't currently submit your blog to Hacker News?
Correct, I haven't submitted it to HN in years. Of course articles are submitted by readers every time I post, and often (>50% of the time) it makes the front page.
But you're self promoting by sharing your own blog posts!!! Haha jk, I know the difference.
You are correct indeed! Of course I share in forums like this, and only when in fact it is an exposition of the answer.
What I mean is to "go viral" or get "distribution" I've found that self-promotion doesn't get me anywhere.
How has Imposter Sydrome presented itself for you in the three years since writing about it on the Smart Bear blog?
It comes and goes in waves. As WP Engine grows and changes, I sometimes feel like I'm the perfect person for the job(s) I'm doing, and other times as it describes in that article. I think that's the normal state of things, especially when you're introspective.
Sometimes the little voice is correct. There ARE always people more qualified than you to run a certain function or make certain decisions or even lead things, even in your own company.
In fact, as the CEO, if you're NOT hiring people better than you to lead every function, you are not doing you job!
It's this last fact that gives me solace. I'm not supposed to be the best, and if I were, I'm actually failing.
I'm nowhere near the point of hiring anyone but I will look for a way to tweak your last point to help get over the feeling I get when I consider asking anyone for help which is a relatively new and oddly painful experience for me :) Thank you for your time.
Well you asked what it's like *now*. :-)
But yeah I think it doesn't go away. You just manage it.
Good day Jason!
I enjoyed your talk at the most recent microconf, and had a few follow-up questions mostly out of sheer curiosity's sake:
As a fellow web hosting company founder myself, what attracted you to the industry initially? Furthermore, what do you feel your biggest hurdle has been with wpengine thusfar?
I need WP Engine for my own blog. It went down every Monday as I got on the front page of HackerNews. I've always enjoyed optimization problems, so it was a fun thing to start for myself.
The biggest hurdle has been managing the scale the company itself. We're growing so fast, and therefore changing so fast, we're our own worst enemy, certainly more of an enemy than any competitor. See above for a litany of just some of the things that "scale" brings.
Hi, Jason. Thanks for doing this. Do you have any guidelines for when a bootstrapped business should take on funding?
See the answer to Ben Giordano's question above -- I'm happy to answer follow-up questions if you have more on that?
Long time listener, first time caller ;)
1) As a fellow Austin startup person, what would it take to 10X the Austin Startup ecosystem?
2) When marketing startups, how you prioritize optimization (eg CRO, retention flows, etc) versus growing the top of the funnel (content, outreach, etc) ?
3) In running WPEngine, what's the biggest surprise you've encountered? It's not your first rodeo, but what threw you for a curve ball in this venture?
These are hard questions for quick answers. :-) I'll try:
1) Time. Large companies are grown in long timeframes, and then people leave to start others and money and time and talent is available to join them, and then it's years again. We're a few cycles in, but it takes time. Also I'm not sure you can 10x it without 10x'ing the population (or 5x?) which is a tall order for a city with almost 2mm people in the surrounding areas.
2) Top of the funnel is always more valuable. Optimization can and does happen whenever you want, on your own terms. Getting people's attention, trust, and dollars in the first place is much less in your control and much harder, therefore achieving it is much more valuable. Look at it this way: If you were given $10mm today, it would take you lots of work to increase the top end of the funnel, and you might not even know that you could. But you know for a fact you can do some measure of optimization along the way. Therefore, optimization can be solved with a simple application of time/money, whereas top-line takes more.
3) I knew intellectually that rapid scale is "hard," but experiencing it at this pace is different from the knowledge. Just as someone who has never started a company can intellectually appreciate "how hard it must be" to quit your job and watch your savings go down, but you can't understand the emotional impact until you're doing it.
These are great answers. Thanks Jason!
Hey. How would you go about getting off the ground to compete with a SaaS giant like SurveyMonkey ? On a related note, if you think the cost of acquisition on AdWords would be somewhere around 200-600$, how would you go about testing this in a more statistically representative way if you don't have a lot of cash ? Throw 10K$ at it or useless ?
I can only help if you're very specific about which SaaS "giant" you mean. Going against Salesforce.com would be very different than going up against SurveyMonkey. Do you mean SurveyMonkey in particular? If you can be specific I can give a better answer.
WRT throwing money at AdWords: HELL NO. :-)
Yes I actually meant SurveyMonkey in particular. They were first-movers, have now tons of cash and experience, and it seems like a lot of survey products get launched and then die slowly because they're not able to attract enough customers even with a good product. As a result, distribution is tricky and paid marketing is very competitive. It could be a good idea to focus on a vertical but it's not very easy to find a niche target as customers could be anyone that need to conduct a survey at a given time. It's more about good timing than good customer targeting.
The trouble with going head-to-head with them is: (1) they're very well-capitalized, so they can do customer acquisition with pay-back periods that you cannot afford, which means they win that battle, particularly in auction situations like AdWords, (2) they have a lot of experience and infrastructure so their marginal costs are close to zero, (3) their growth engine and development engine is mature.
So I would turn it around and ask "why do you want to do that?" I don't mean that in a bad way -- I'm dead serious! Because I think the REASON you want to do it-- the type of company you want to build, the product insight you want to bring to market, the pain or frustration or amazing thing you see -- that's the thing to build your company around.
If you can say what that is in a few sentences, I'm happy to brainstorm further.
If there's honestly not a real answer, then I'd submit to you that you NEED that kind of passion and insight to build ANY sort of company.
Sorry for the delay. I agree that's a very important question :)
To clarify, it's an existing company : HeyCrowd
In a few sentences : because I don't think their product is really awesome. It's very solid and reliable, but the design looks old, UX is a bit to complicated and they move slowly and don't innovate much.
There are two aspects that they're not addressing well and we are :
- mobile (we started with an iOS app, which is a fun social polling app where more than 400 questions have been asked and close to a million votes every day)
- social (we can offer survey creators the option to make their surveys public to our mobile community so that they can get hundred of respondents for a very small cost for quick market research surveys)
As a devil's advocate -- because I'm genuinely trying to help by challenging, not trying to shoot you down -- I would say:
The well-documented financially super-success of that company demonstrates that CUSTOMERS DO NOT CARE about the things you list.
If you think they SHOULD care, you need to be able to articulate that in SECONDS on a visit to the home page, and in interesting stories which can be spread in the news, on social, etc., so that it "gets around."
If you think they DO care, but there's no other choice, then you need to tap that desire directly and strongly.
But I would say the evidence until proven otherwise is that they do NOT care. It's hard to educate.
You might start in a niche that already DOES DEFINITELY CARE about the things you offer, and try to own that niche. Then expand outside that once you have some stories and advocates at your back.
Just sent via shortmail before you anounced this... but I'll ask here anyway...
To seed a two-sided platform I need to attract a generic
audience of people actively involved in multiple niches. (E.g. You: Founder,
Austinite, Parent, Blogger, Investor, Marketer, etc.) If marketing to everyone
generically is a no-no and marketing to a single niche goes against the purpose
of the product, what other option is there?
Here's exactly how I think about solving Marketplace business models: http://blog.asmartbear.com/marketplace-business-model.html
To answer your specific question about "people with multiple interests," I would respond to you "Everyone has multiple interests."
So I would ask "What niche of people NOT ONLY have multiple interests, but VALUES that fact and CARES about it in some tangible way?" Without understanding your product I can't comment more specifically (although feel free to expound here and I'll try!), but you need to find people who not only "match the criteria" but are zealots about the specific thing you're doing. And ideally they will pull in the people who also match, but are less zealous.
Ha! That's actually the line of thinking I have been following but something about it seemed too simple and logical so I started to second guess it. (Hate it when I do that.) Thanks for your time.
Since you're still here...
The system will allow startups, product creators, marketers
etc. to jump into pre-built audiences in any niche instead of having to build
their own. Phase 1 will gather the multi-niche zealots (as you called them) by
giving them a way to separate their feeds by the niches they are in. Would you target
the product creators etc. based on the end vision (only some of whom will meet phase
1 criteria) or find an audience specifically for phase 1 (per the original question)?
I'm confused about what it is. If you're selling mailing lists or other "attention" from certain segments, that just sounds like purchasing attention in the usual way. An interesting question is why those same people would want to give their attention to random companies who would like to tell them things.
LOL, that's covered by subsequent phases - too involved to get into here. Perhaps a call on Clarity is in order. Does this sound like a call you'd be interested in taking?
I'll try, but know ahead of time that this might not be the sort of thing I'll have insight on. If I don't understand the business already, that's probably a bad sign that I'll be able to help.
Good point. Thank you for being candid.
Thanks for doing this!
Having started a bunch of companies, I was curious why you'd enter a sector like Wordpress Hosting where there's a lot of money in getting it right, but also lots of competition. I suppose it's a market that's growing fast, but not quite like an all-new, "blue ocean" market. Why get into the space, how do you feel you can differentiate yourselves, and where do you see the Wordpress hosting market and WPengine going in future?
I was also curious about the future of Wordpress? It seems contingent on the future of the web (what might one-up the 'web' ?), PHP and the growth of content. What degree do you think they will each still exist in the long term (20, 50... 100 years?) and what sort of thing do you feel could replace them?
That's a lot of questions. :-)
There isn't a lot of competition for the sector we're going after, which is people who have money to spend for quality (i.e. speed, scale, security, service, and tech support who will actually answer WordPress questions), or people who BUILD WordPress sites (developers who want tools like git-push to deploy, staging areas, modern backups, profiling tools).
In the latter, think "Heroku for WordPress." In the former, think "What RAX did for managed hardware."
In fact there's almost no competition there, but we see a tremendous opportunity in that space. So far the growth rate of the company is justifying this theory.
In terms of macro trends, I believe that all applications that can be done "as a service" will be. This started with email (the first real "app" to be outsourced and in the "cloud" before there was a cloud), then with virtualization of hardware -- in which the "instance" is a service and not actual hardware. Apps of all sorts of next, already with CRM/sForce, with Heroku, with hosted Java (Heroku, CloudBees), with transactional email (SendGrid, Mailgun, and many others), with Drupal (Acquia, DrupalGardens) and of course with WordPress.
I believe "managed services" at any level of the stack, when executed well, is something that a large number of customers of that app want. And because WordPress is so massive (about 20% of all domains on Earth today are currently powered by WordPress, including 20% of the top 10,000,000 sites by traffic), that "number of people" is very large. And WordPress is growing.
We differentiate in both small and large ways. In small ways, our uptime is better than our competitors, our security promise is better (we're the only ones who will fix security issues as part of normal tech support), our support is better (we're the only ones with a telephone number, and we have more support folks per 1000 customers than anyone else).
In large ways, we're the only ones thinking about it as "Heroku for WordPress" meaning not just the deployment side (for which there is competition at the low end, but almost none at the Enterprise end), but for the developers of those sites. No one has the developer features I mention above, and we continually put out more functionality for them.
There will of course be more in the future but I'm not going to publish our roadmap here. :-)
I have no idea what will happen in 100 years. Or 20. Or even 1. But it's hard to bet against the growth of the internet and content.
Great answer! Yes, sorry if it prompted an essay ;)
The WPengine differentiator makes sense. And the "every app will be offered as a service" hypothesis makes loads of sense. I'm thinking now of all applications which aren't 'aaS'-ed yet... online and off. And how you can find blue ocean amongst incumbents too. Business-to-developer, Enterprise, SME... mind storm!
RE: 'reading the future', I agree it's hard to bet against the internet and content. But I do wonder what it would take for Wordpress etc. to move away from PHP. Just imagine the chaos :-)
WordPress won't move away from PHP. It can't even move from MySQL, which would be much more useful.
Who's your biggest inspiration in the software/entrepreneurship world and why?
When I was starting in 2000, it was Joel Spolsky and Eric Sink. Both wrote business articles from the point of view of the geek-founder, but also for boostrappers which I was as well.
Today, and now that I'm building a large, scaling company, I'm inspired by big thinkers and big risk-takers. I know it's cliche, but Bezos. And probably Musk for the most inspiring products. Also Reid Hoffman for being a founder of a multi-billion-dollar company, getting the "credit," but also knowing when it was correct to bring in another CEO (one didn't work, the next was wonderous). I admire that introspection.
Do you have a SaaS dashboard that you use to track metrics at WPEngine? What's it like?
What is the first metric that you take a look at when you come to work in the morning?
Yes we're extremely data-heavy here at WP Engine. We have lots of dashboards, tools, CSV exports for Excel wizards to mess with, etc..
My first metric is sign-ups. (Growth is #1!) My second is ticket volume. But I don't really run the business on a daily basis like that -- I spend most of my time on monthly metrics, looking for trends and explanations in the mechanics of the business -- the "why" behind the numbers.
I was surprised to read "ticket volume" was #2. I'll assume you mean customer support tickets. What are you looking for in that metric? Ticket growth? Tickets growth per user? A general sense of how things are going? How aggressively you need to hire people?
Great Q&A by the way!
Correct, customer support volume. About 50% of our employees are in support, and scaling that team is the biggest single challenge we have today. Ticket surges can bury the team because of the size of the customer base, often due to things like a 3rd-party DNS having trouble or WordPress releasing a new version or something like that. Sourcing, recruiting, hiring, training, etc is a difficult but primary focus for us, so *predicting* the ticket volume is vital. Analyzing the nature of the tickets is the #1 thing for building new tools for customers and for support to reduce tickets or reduce the time it takes to resolve a ticket properly.
Jason.. it looks like you have success with an affliate program for WPEngine.. why do so many other SaaS based biz's have such a hard time getting them to work?
We also had trouble! Our first version of it failed. Our second version would probably also have failed, except we used a great outside firm (Marketing Clique) to run it, and they've done a great job. It took us almost 2 years to make it really work, and it's still changing all the time.
It's a hard nut to crack, and you're always fighting other companies who are willing to spend ridiculous CAC -- even when the payback period is unthinkable. If it works, it's great, but you can't rely on it.
How do you deal with procrastination? For example, you have a brilliant business idea, and then you start making it live, and then, halfway, you realize that you are exhausted. Have you ever found yourself in situations like this one? how did you deal with this and eventually built the multimillion businesses? Thank you.
Procrastination and exhaustion are not the same thing. One is avoiding things you need to do because you have an emotional desire to not do it, and the other you can't bring yourself to do anything.
Burn-out is very real, and a real cause of startups "failing," because they ALL are that hard, and often a person cannot tough it out, at least not a that point in their life. Here's an guest-post on my blog about that: http://blog.asmartbear.com/burn-out.html and here's my own personal exposition on this: http://blog.asmartbear.com/startups-emotionally-draining.html
Procrastination is something you also have to deal with. We all have aspects of the business we prefer, so we put too much time into them or, rather, we starve the other things that need attention. The quintessential example in high-tech is the technical founder who won't work on marketing/sales, so the product is interesting and no one will find/buy it.
Of course I've been there, not only "all the time," but in the case of procrastination, EVERY DAY! These are the personal battles that are required to do something this difficult and wide-reaching.
It's one of the reasons business fail so frequently.
Hi Jason, just wanted to thank you for coming by, and that your "Rich vs King" post has stuck with me for years! Four years later have your feelings about the quality of life plateau at $? mil (freedom!) changed?
No, my feelings on that point have not changed. If anything, I'm even happier with my decisions, because in retrospect there's no doubt that the choice I made was right for my family, right for my psyche, right for my career.
What has changed is that, once you're on the other side of the line, the "thing you want to go do next" changes. I've spent so much more time helping other founders, even when I don't have a (substantial) financial stake, because I enjoy it. And I'm "swinging for the fences" with WP Engine because another small win would not change things again and, more importantly, isn't an interesting personal challenge.
But that's not at all to put down what I did or what most people are doing, building small businesses, which FYI are still my favorite to talk about and help with. It's not about better/worse, it's about what's right for the founder and employees.
If you could time travel and tell the you 5 years ago about one thing on running SaaS, what would it be?
It's never "one thing."
For SaaS businesses with intent to "go big or go home" I would say:
1. Take investment as soon as you have enough proof that you're not selling your soul, and then take as much as possible so it's never an impediment.
2. Focus on top-line growth first.
3. If cancellations > 3%/mo, fix that, otherwise keep it from growing. (For now -- eventually you need to do better!)
4. Build a business where revenue for a pariticular customer grows over time, by itself as much as possible. It's the only way to build a large business.
How do you do goal setting at WPE? (e.g. we want to grow 2x this quarter, we want to hit $1mm in MRR by X month, etc.)
We build out the model from a few different directions.
First, revenue is driven by various channels, each of which act differently. Word of mouth is a "viral" component whereas e.g. AdWords is "spend $X and make $Y/mo" where X and to a small extent Y can change over time. So we model what revenue we believe we can cause to occur, which results in top-line goals and sales/marketing goals.
Then there's GPM, which for us is primarily servers and customer support. Server cost needs to not-grow as a % of revenue (and goal of shrinking if we have a specific initiative that's supposed to shrink it, like new hardware). Support cost goes off expected revenues, since we need to hire ahead of need to keep good customer service while also hiring and onboarding new folks.
Then there's goals for G&A and R&D which are generally independent from that. R&D goals are around innovation and specific initiatives we want to implement.
There's also the top-down -- what kind of growth rate, cancellation rate, ratios, etc are needed for our long-term health. If the bottom-up doesn't achieve the top-down, we need to understand why.
Hi Jason -
Awesome blog - thank you!
Let's say someone is located in the bay area, but really want to meet you in person.
What are some ideas you are suggesting to get your attention and meet with this person next time you are in the area?
At this time I won't have the time. Before WP Engine, and when WP Engine was new, I would do that a lot. Here's my tips for how to get time from me and folks in similar circumstances: http://blog.asmartbear.com/email-pick-brain.html
Right now between WP Engine and my family, I'm completely full. So there's things like this forum. :-) I've also experimented with Clarity (https://clarity.fm/asmartbear) so that's a way to chat on the phone.
Thank you! :)
What is your go to SAAS strategy? Any tips?
That's like asking "what's your go-to technology?" It depends on the details.
I absolutely love your blog :)
I was wondering, does your blog generate leads for WP Engine?
Why did you start WP Engine? Did you see huge gap in the market?
I always thought that bloggers usually don't want to spend too much money on hosting and big companies don't want to use WP as their CMS. What was your thought process when you were thinking about it?
My blog doesn't generate many leads. In fact, here's an article about how it didn't, even though I expected it to: http://blog.asmartbear.com/reputation.html
I first had the need in my own blog, going down every Monday when it got on HackerNews. I asked around to see who else was doing this so I could just pay $50/mo and not have the WordPress blog go down, but everyone said "don't know, but tell me if you find it, I need it to." So it converted into customer development and it looked good.
Here's the story of the vetting: http://blog.asmartbear.com/vetting-startup-ideas.html and in general how to tell when customer development is going well (like WP Engine) or not (as with other ideas I had before that): http://blog.asmartbear.com/good-startup-ideas.html
To your last question: WordPress today powers 20% of every domain on Earth, and nearly 20% of the top 1,000,000 domains by traffic. That means: both large and small. Enterprise WordPress penetration is nascent, but being on the front end of a new and growing market is valuable. "Bloggers" indeed don't spend much money on hosting, but few of those top 1,000,000 domains are for "bloggers!"
WordPress has an (old) reputation as "blogging software." It's not, it's the largest general-purpose website CMS platform on Earth, by an order of magnitude. The market is amazingly large.
Thank you for the reply.Thinking about the market is really huge.
How oftern do you read about running business? Sometimes I think I need to spend less time reading and more time doing ....
If you think that, you're probably right. :-)
I say that as someone who writes about running businesses and hopes for the sake of my ego that you in fact continue reading. :-)
I do try to keep reading to stay fresh, think of new things, etc.. Sometimes reading other forms of writing also helps you think though. Business writing is best if you're researching a specific question. Maybe find some bloggers/sources who write infrequently but high quality so you can keep reading but not too much and not wasting time on fluff or "news" or fads.
How do you think should a small company find/identify/create a unique selling proposition that it can offer to its potential market when it is in a very competitive industry? Is USP even possible, say in the SEO industry, and is it even necessary?
Thank you very much.
I actually don't think a USP is always necessary. You need to be compelling by yourself, but customers don't necessarily know whether you're "unique," but just rather whether you're "right for them." Focus on being that, and then communicating it so they know it.
I appreciate the effort Jason. Thanks.
Hope you have heard about tryghost.org, will this be a real competitor to Wordpress? if no what are your reasons & if yes why? can we expect that wpengine.com be giving hosting support to tryghost.org.?
Given that even Drupal's penetration is almost two orders of magnitude smaller than WordPress, *any* newcomer is not a threat until/unless they prove themselves at scale.
Even Tumblr didn't stop WordPress's incredible growth.
Appreciate any advice...
If your starting a bootstrapped saas, and don't have any contacts in the industry or such, but can make a viable product, how best to get the word out? I don't know more about the industry itself than anyone else, and couldn't really write anything that hasn't been said, but I can make a good tool for people and businesses to use.
I'm just quite afraid that it will fall on deaf ears as no one will even know about it.
It will indeed fall on deaf ears. Usually the marketing -- not the code -- is the hard part.
There cannot be a single simple answer to your question, because what you're asking is "how can any new business get attention," which doesn't have a simple easy answer.
Thanks a lot for your time :)
Some answers ago you mentioned that you are experimenting with Clarity.fm.
I'm trying to validate a business idea trying to solve the same problem: getting quality business advice is difficult.
I'm using this platform to get initial feedback (as you can see, you are the expert I'm using to explain how the service would work, hope you don't mind).
I would love to know what are your thoughts about...
1. How I'm trying to validate the idea.
2. The idea itself. Would this format feel interesting to you as an expert? Why?
You can't ask folks whether your idea is good. You can only validate whether people who OUGHT to like it actually do, and use it.
Thanks for your answer Jason.
I was asking you because proven and successful entrepreneurs like you would be one of the two types of "personas" (the other being inexperienced entrepreneurs) who ought to like and use it!
Would you enjoy helping entrepreneurs in the described way?
Thanks again for your insights!!
For me personally, the only way to help/mentor is to have a two-way conversation. I do very much like the detail you provide -- awesome! That gets a lot of mundane stuff out of the way and gets the gears turning.
But for many things the answer only comes by asking lots of questions of the founder. Their goals, their market, their perception, what they've done or seen, what they mean by "validation," and so on.
I find lots of so-called "mentors" give advice without seeking to understand first, which means you have no idea *really* whether that's the right advice *for you*. I refuse to follow that fallacy -- it's just an ego-stroke for the mentor and a crap-shoot for the founder.
Cool, thanks again for your answer.
Some people make a good living blogging, but it's extremely small compared with the number of people who try, and most of them have been blogging for years.
I think most folks will tell you that a "career" in self-publishing needs to be a combination of blogging (for attention), social (for attention), eBooks and other digital products (for regular revenue), and speaking (for the real money).
Hey Jason. Thanks for your insights. Can you tell me what you think are the 3 most important elements to succeed when boot-strapping and why?
Focus on profit.
Focus on getting to $10k/mo in revenue / founder (or whatever amount actually makes it stable and has a few dollars to put back into the company).
Only pick a business model that CAN be profitable at small scale. There are tons like that, but often people select different ones anyway.
Hi Jason!I am a big fan of WPEngine! You really built an awesome company (I LOVE the culture page, it reminds me of how we should aim higher than we usually do).Dunno if you still accept questions, but I'd love to know this from you:From a marketing point what were the 3 absolutely unsuccessful things you did when marketing WPEngine?We usually talk about success but I'm also curious about what didn't work and how did you react to it.I personally think it's where it shows the skill of a founder to give good direction even when the direction before failed.
Be well,PS: Wonderful blog. I discovered it here, I especially like all the burn-out/selfimprovement related topics. Keep going.
We do all sorts of unsuccessful things! :-) The first time we did affiliate marketing was an abject failure. We tried really hard too. The second time almost was, but then it caught on a bit and now it's successful. It took 2 years and a restart for that to work though.
Second huge failure was Facebook ads. We've restarted that attempt maybe 4 times. All complete failures. Maybe FB is just not a good ad channel for us, or maybe we just suck at that. Don't know.
Third was AdWords. We still do AdWords but we've alternately had great success but then great failures there. Some campaigns have good ROI but some of them are $1000 to acquire a customer. Some of that is other companies doing weird things with the auctioning, but some is probably just us.
There's a lot more. Of course the key is to test with an amount of money you can afford to lose so that the "failures" are not really company failures.
Whoa, that helped a lot. Thanks Jason :)
QUESTIONS ARE NOW CLOSED.
It was supposed to be 1 hour, but here it is days later and I'm still answering! :-D
I'm not complaining, it was fun. And we'll do it again!
Meanwhile, you can schedule one-on-one time with me through Clarity (https://clarity.fm/asmartbear) and please follow me on Twitter @asmartbear and my articles at http://blog.asmartbear.com.
Thanks! See you next time.