How to Get Started as a Web Entrepreneur

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From a talk given at WebDU 2010, audio available at theNetsetter

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How to Get Started as a Web Entrepreneur

  1. What Idea?<br />Solve problems you’ve experienced<br />Observe and looking for niches/problems<br />Help people make money<br />Not all businesses are equal<br />
  2. A Problem I Have …<br />It’s hard to sell advertising for RSS and Email<br />The market leader in RSS doesn’t provide Email Digests<br />There is no one-stop RSS/Email/Twitter service for publishers<br />
  3. My Idea: A Service That …<br />Helps people follow blogs with RSS, RSS Digest, Email, Email Digest, Twitter, Facebook, all automated for the publisher<br />Helps bloggers make money with self serve advertising on RSS, Email and Twitter<br />
  4. BlogFollower<br />Disclaimer: I’m not saying this is actually a great idea, but it’s a good example idea. And executed well, probably could work.<br />Lots of ideas could be good if executed well.<br />It’s not very glamorous or trendy, but it does fulfill a real need for a growing target market<br />
  5. Research<br />Do other people think this is a problem?<br />Is the problem solved already?<br />Look fordirectcompetitors<br />Look for similar competitors<br />Ask around<br />BlogFollower Competitiors:Aweber, Feedburner, Feedblitz, TwitterFeed, HeyAmigo (Defunct)<br />
  6. Identify the Audience<br />Primary Audience: Bloggers<br />Secondary Audiences: Readers, Advertisers<br />Are these audiences growing or declining?<br />How will you reach and capture these audiences? Do you know them well? Do you really know what their problems are? <br />Survey them. They may tell you some surprising things!<br />
  7. Is There Money in This?<br />How will you make money?<br />How are competitors making money?<br />Be pessimistic. To generate $1,000 p/m:<br />$10-20CPM is possible … but $.5 - $1 is more likely. At $1 CPM, you’d need 1,000,000 impressions a month<br />For example < 1% conversion for subscriptions. At $10 p/m subscription, you’d need 10,000 free subscribers to convert 100<br />Of course you can do better than these numbers, but you should be assuming the worst!<br />
  8. Mission and Vision<br />What are you actually trying to do?<br />A mission should be something that inspires you to work, and should be the reason you are tackling the business.<br />I am a blogger, I like blogging, I believe in individuals working for themselves. Therefore for me the reason I’d get into this business would be:To Make Independent Publishers More Effective<br />
  9. Start Planning!<br />Carry a notebook<br />Get excited<br />Get obsessive<br />Try out competitors<br />Learn more about the niche<br />Start networking<br />
  10. Personal Preparation<br />You need to be ready to work hard<br />You need to be prepared to carry it alone even if you are planning on having cofounders<br />You need to have some money to start off and/or an income to subsidize you<br />
  11. Cofounders<br />Find people you trust<br />Find people who have different strengths<br />Find people who work as hard as you<br />Find people who you like and get on with<br />You need to either:<br />lead people <br />join someone else’s team<br />find cofounders who are happy to lead in different capacities (technical vsbusiness vs product)<br />
  12. Who is Going to Do What<br />Money? Hours? Skills?<br />How will shares be split?<br />It's important that you don't look back and feel hard done by and that it wasn't fair<br />It's like a marriage - you have to work at it, you have to be prepared to compromise<br />
  13. My Core Team<br />My Wife: Project Manager, Branding, Organized<br />My Best Friend: Detail Work, Money<br />My Brother: Capable, Analytical, Business Minded<br />My Father: Experienced, Risk-averse, Wise<br />Me: Ideas, Instinct, Execution, Confident<br />
  14. Money<br />Founder investment<br />Keeps you focused<br />100% ownership<br />Outside investment<br />Time and attention consuming<br />Less control<br />Pressure to deliver ROI<br />Debt<br />Repayments and Interest<br />You own it, but the bank is watching you carefully<br />
  15. Accountant and a Lawyer<br />Essential in the long run and helpful with initial setup<br />Get recommendations<br />Meet a bunch of them<br />Build a relationship<br />Initially:<br />Lawyer should advise on company setup and shareholder agreement<br />Accountant should advise on company setup and creating your accounts<br />
  16. Business Plan<br />Think through assumptions and details<br />Don’t get bogged down with them, but don’t skip them either<br />More necessary if you need investment or debt<br />
  17. What is Essential?<br />Focus first on the essential, core of the product<br />Nice-to-haves can be added later<br />You should have a vague idea of how you think the product will grow, but don’t over-plan or over-spec<br />How you can break the product into iterations?<br />
  18. Blog Follower Features<br />Essentials:<br />Takes an RSS Feed and pushes out RSS Digests, Emails, Email Digests, Twitter Notifications and Facebook Notifications<br />Facilitate Banner Ad Sales on RSS and Email<br />Nice-to-haves:<br />Self Serve Ad Marketplace<br />Analytics<br />Advanced Theming and Styling for Emails<br />Multiple Payment Methods<br />
  19. Concrete Monetization Plan<br />What exactly are you selling?<br />Who are the buyers? Who are the users?<br />How much will it cost?<br />Are there fixed costs you need to account for?<br />How much would you need to be selling to break even? To reach your ideal profit?<br />
  20. BlogFollower Monetization<br />Option 1: Subscriptions – charge the publishers<br />Lots of small increments<br />Easy to estimate and plan around, lots of conversion information out there<br />Easy to develop and account for<br />Option 2: Advertising cut – take a portion of ad sales<br />Potentially very lucrative<br />Hard to develop and account for<br />Only really works if your publishers are all selling lots of ads … hard to estimate and plan<br />Option 3: Charge per email sent, per RSS feed published etc<br />May be necessary for emails<br />Easy to develop and account for<br />Could be lucrative<br />Option 4: Mixture<br />
  21. Iterations<br />Iteration 1:<br />Publisher Account System<br />RSS -> Twitter and Facebook<br />RSS -> Email<br />RSS -> RSS Digest<br />Iteration 2:<br />Digest Settings<br />RSS -> Email Digest<br />Email Subscriber Management<br />Iteration 3:<br />Fine Tune and Testing<br />Publisher Subscription Billing<br />Launch Iteration 1 & 2<br />Iteration 4:<br />Banner Ad System<br />Basic publisher directory<br />… and so on<br />
  22. UI & Development<br />Wireframe out the application<br />Assume that UI and Development will be harder and more expensive than you’d planned <br />Contractors? Founders? Staff?<br />
  23. DON’T underestimate marketing<br />Lots of little startups build decent products<br />… but go nowhere<br />A mediocre product can go far with good marketing (and you can improve it as you go)<br />A great product may market itself … to some extent (but often is teamed with great marketers – e.g. 37Signals)<br />
  24. Branding<br />A brand should:<br />Be memorable<br />Have personality<br />Is more than just a logo<br />A good brand has a story<br />The easiest brand path is to tie it to yourself – be the voice of your site/app/service. Be the spokesperson, the evangelist, the story…<br />
  25. BlogFollower<br />Personal brand through <br />Blogging<br />Personal emails to users about new features and personally responding to support requests<br />Evangelizing and networking with the target audience<br />Get interviewed on sites and talk about my experience with blogging to create the back-story for the brand<br />Position as the anti-Feedburner (be the little guy)<br />
  26. How Will You Find Users?<br />Advertising (how much will you spend?)<br />Blogging (what will the blog be about?)<br />PR (what is the story?)<br />Networking (how will you reach out to people?)<br />Social Media (e.g. 0atmeal)<br />
  27. BlogFollower Marketing<br />Networking with bloggers, particularly bloggers whose audience is other bloggers and internet marketers<br />Try to get reviewed, interviewed, run giveaways, send T-shirts, …<br />Start a blog aimed at helping bloggers promote themselves<br />Try some social media promotion with linkbait articles and giveaways (e.g. free icons for bloggers)<br />
  28. There’s No Finish Line<br />Launching is not the end … it’s only the beginning.Now you have to build a business!<br />“If you leave and everything stops, you don’t have a business, you have a job.”<br />You need to be systematic in replacing yourself while still ensuring that everything keeps moving.<br />
  29. Stay Focused<br />Focus on your users<br />Marketing to new users<br />Improving the product for current users<br />Providing great support for current users<br />Focus on revenue and numbers<br />Accounting should be solid, watch out for cash flow!<br />Make sure you have an instinctive feel for what actions correlate with what numerical results<br />
  30. Continuously Improve<br />If you stand still, your competitors will pass you by<br />There is a never ending list of improvements and fixes and upgrades you can make. Be prepared for this<br />Improving isn’t always ‘adding’, sometimes it’s removing stuff or streamlining<br />

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