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