Interview with Jack Butcher of Visualize Value on the My First Million podcast.
“Jack Butcher talks about how he’s built up Visualize Value and “Build Once, Sell Twice”, where he’s productized his services. Sam and Jack talk about scaling to $1m in revenue in 18 months, plus other opportunities that Jack sees for content creators”
I love Jack’s brilliant idea of creating simple infographics to explain complex ideas. Check out his Twitter feed to see the images. He now has over 108k Twitter followers. That is up over 15k in just a few weeks. That is the power of a good idea!
Here is a great interview with Joel Runyon of ImpossibleHQ. His story is a very expiring example of all the opportunities available to entrepreneurs now. He has bootstrapped multiple businesses, ran 7 ultramarathons on 7 continents to build 7 schools for PencilsofPromise, and he has a great brand with Impossible.
“Joel Runyon started Impossible in 2010 as a way to push his limits and do something impossible. He’s a driven and determined entrepreneur, blogger, and athlete, and his lifestyle challenges have allowed him to set records and give back by supporting charity.”
“While running his brand, he’s also running multiple other brands such as a meal plan company, a fitness app, a productivity app, as well as being an advisor to multiple other companies.”
There are so many great lessons here:
-Blogging and podcasting to build an audience and become well known. -Doing interesting things like running ultramarathons around the world, raising money for charity, and doing cold shower therapy. -Writing evergreen content to get found in search engines. -Guest posting for early traction. -The value of great branding with Impossible and the 777 project.
“You know the old expression, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps?” It applies to your startup, too. Bootstrapping your startup means growing your business with little or no venture capital or outside investment. It means relying on your own savings and revenue to expland”
The founder of ScrapingBee shares his advice on successfully growing a startup after his first company failed. ScrapingBee has grown to $180k ARR in 18 months.
– This thing takes time – If you need 30 emails to sell a $30/month product, the problem isn’t your emails – Do not expect to be able to make data-driven decisions from day one – When starting, focus on what matters, don’t waste your time on futile things – Do not expect the acquisition channel to be “plug and play” – Offer top-notch support
“I want to urge you not to experiment with small changes when your problems are big! If no one is signing up or if no one is using your product, a 10% price decrease or a copy change won’t make the difference.”
“Marketing is really hard. And all acquisition channels are very different and complex. It’s ok to try several things in the early days to see what sticks, but once you have found something that works, even a little bit, you should definitely focus on it 200%.”
Building in public not only kept him accountable but generated help from the community. He got valuable advice and feedback from experienced entrepreneurs. It’s also a great way to build an audience.
Show up every day for two years It takes a lot of time to build anything substantial. ConvertKit now makes over $2m per month, but at the end of two years, they were only making about $3k per month.
Do things that don’t scale Nathan decided to migrate users to ConvertKit from their existing platforms for free. The migration process sometimes took up to 8 hours. At the time, he was charging $50/month. This was and still is a key component of their rapid growth.
“You have to do things that don’t scale in the early days because that is how you build momentum and get compound returns.”
Choose Yourself No one is going to choose you to do interesting things. You need to choose yourself. For example, if you gather people together in a conference or event, you are the one in charge. You get that credibility because you claim it yourself.
Start Small The first version of ConvertKit was just a landing page builder with an autoresponder. It couldn’t do broadcast messages.
Customer Funded Nathan funded the business with sales so that he could talk to customers along the way. It is critical to get this feedback early on.
You Have to Focus Nathan gives the example of a friend that was making tens of thousands of dollars with many affiliate sites. Another friend was focused on a single site and continually building backlinks and content. Years later, that website, BodyBuilding.com started by Ryan Deluca, sold for $100 million.
This is what Nathan’s friend said, “I was making far more money than Ryan was but Ryan was plugging away at this one thing to build it into a real brand and a real company rather than just chasing dollars where it was most convenient.”
Direct Sales is Critical “Selling early-stage software through content marketing is near impossible. The turning point was going all-in on direct sales. You have to do anything possible to get the customer.”
If you don’t know the story of how AirBnB started, this post is worth a read. It goes to show that a big company can start from very humble beginnings.
“In 2007, designers Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia could not afford the rent on their San Francisco apartment. To make ends meet, they decided to turn their loft into a lodging space, but, as Gebbia explained, “We didn’t want to post on Craigslist because we felt it was too impersonal. Our entrepreneur instinct said ‘build your own site.’ So we did.”
A design conference was coming to town and hotel space was limited, so they set up a simple website with pictures of their loft-turned-lodging space—complete with three air mattresses on the floor and the promise of a home-cooked breakfast in the morning. This site got them their first three renters, each one paying $80; after that first weekend, they began receiving emails from people around the world asking when the site would be available for destinations like Buenos Aires, London, and Japan.”
“In the summer of 2008, the founders needed a way to raise money. They bought a large amount of cereal and designed special edition election-themed boxes, released that fall—Obama O’s and Cap’n McCain’s, which were sold at convention parties for $40 a box . They sold 500 boxes of each cereal, helping them to raise around $30,000 for AirBed & Breakfast.”
“Founding a company might have job risk, but it often has little career risk. It’s an example of an asymmetric bet—a bet that, if it works, will have tremendous upside, and if it doesn’t, will still generate optionality.”
“The bigger risk is not that you fail, it’s that, if you don’t start enough companies, you don’t get enough actual shots on goal to actually create a big company.”
Here is an interesting look at DoorDash from the early days in yCombinator to their recent IPO.
Check out the founder’s yCombinator application video. It’s a great look at how to test your idea and discover the real business opportunity.
The founders initially wanted to create business software so they went out and interviewed over 100 businesses. They found that food delivery was a major pain point for restaurants so that become the focus.
You don’t need a perfect idea. You need to talk to a lot of potential customers to find out what they really need.