The Fort DC Accelerator Talk - YOLO: You Only Launch Once


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  • Hello. I’m Danny Boice the co-founder and CTO of Speek and this is Drake. He’s the rapper who coined the acronym YOLO. Who’s familiar: Who here is familiar w/ “YOLO”? What is YOLO: If you’re not already aware YOLO is this cultural phenomena where people are doing crazy shit and just shrugging it off like “You Only Live Once”. There are a series of memes that have cropped up so you know it’s legit. Connection to my talk: My team dared me to try and work YOLO into one of my talks – so here it goes. Be sure to tweet at SpeekApp with these hashtags so my team knows I actually did this My startup Speek is launching out of beta this month so I just had to make my own YOLO talk but instead of “You only live once” I had to make it nerdy and call it “You Only Launch Once” Here it goes
  • Speek is a new way of doing conference calls that doesn’t suck. You don’t need annoying dial-ins. Instead you get a simple link like that you can share with anyone you want to do a conference call with. Once on you can see who’s on the call and when they talk, add / remove callers, share files, take notes. Speek was founded in June 2012 by myself and John Bracken who previously founded E-vite and did biz dev for AOL Instant Messenger and some other big communication products. Be sure to go register your free speek link now before someone else gets your name
  • We’ve had a little bit of success so far but still have a ton of work to do: Raised a lot of cash early on good terms from good VC’s Amazing team Decent press I thought it may help to share what we did month by month to get here
  • So we’ve navigated the infamous trough of sorrows. We just hit a good growth trajectory. Sounds cool but it started off in a very modest fashion. Back around February of last year John and I were in NYC and went out for beers after work. We were both serial entrepreneurs and in between startups at the time and did what any founder would do – we started brainstorming on startups to found together and drawing them out on cocktail napkins. The one we felt best about was this “ for conference calling” concept that John came up with. We were both big into Lean Startup so we immediately went about validating our riskiest assumption – that people would do something other than a phone number and PIN for audio conference calls
  • Theme: product concept validation before we waste time and money even forming a company
  • Theme: Even more product concept validation before we waste time and money even starting a company
  • Theme: We validated our product concept. Now we had to make it not suck so much. Voice quality was core. One bad experience churned a user. We had to get this right. It took us several months to do that. We never stopped organically growing along the way though (no paid advertising)
  • Theme: Our product doesn’t suck now but if we can’t scale it in a cost effective manner we’re fucked. Can we scale viral growth? Get out there and distribute, distribute, distribute
  • Theme: We can generate new users out of active users so now we need to feed the funnel with new users that will active and not churn
  • We’ve had a little bit of success so far but still have a ton of work to do: Growing exponentially Raised a lot of cash early on good terms from good VC’s Amazing team Decent press
  • Don’t spend money on marketing until your basic product works enough to retain users at a baseline level Organic growth is fine and a great sign if you can achieve it
  • MVP = minimum viable product if you’re not aware. We literally sliced black and white balsamiq wireframes as our first UI in production. It got us a few hundred users which allowed to raise money on a note with a fairly high cap.
  • Once you’re basic product is retaining users at even the most basic level go full steam with distribution and growth
  • One way of understanding whether you are ready to grow or not is to use the survey to identify whether you have achieved product / market fit or not. 40% of a 30 user cohort must answer “very dissapointed” to the question about how they would feel if your product didn’t exist.
  • Virginia Lee from my product team literally stalked our early users on facebook and linkedin to get their feedback. This must be done.
  • Ours was active users. “active” means they did a conference call that was longer than 5 minutes with more than 2 people on it within the last 30 days. We tracked our % of growth on a weekly and monthly basis.
  • I think we would have saved ourselves a few months if we had gone to one of these at the very beginning. It not only gets your product out there faster, connects you with really smart mentors but it will also jump start fundraising
  • It will take you twice as long to raise half as much. We had me (previous exit, published, harvard, decade+ of tech) and my co-founder (e-vite founder w/ exit, berkley mba, several years of biz dev for AOL instant messenger) and it took us about 6 months to raise our seed round. Granted we did a convertible note with a high cap and only took money from pro’s.
  • Thank you for having me Now please go put a dent in the damn universe by founding startups!
  • The Fort DC Accelerator Talk - YOLO: You Only Launch Once

    1. 1. 1 DrakeYOLO: You Only Launch Once Danny Boice Speek Co-founder & CTO @DannyBoice | @SpeekApp #YOLO
    2. 2. 2What is Speek?
    3. 3. 3Current StateLots of Users100% Monthly Growth$1.5mm Seed Funding11 EmployeesJust hit “hockey stick”shaped growth curve lastmonth
    4. 4. 4Our JourneyStarted with NYC, ANapkin, and Beer. YOLO
    5. 5. 5February 2012Place: NYCProblem: Conference callssuck and people hate themSolution: Use a link instead of YOLOa phone number and PINFunding: $0Users: 0People: 2Assumption:People will use a link forconference callsExperiment: Lots of customerinterviews & some AdWordbuys
    6. 6. 6March 2012Place: SXSWProblem: We need an app formore experimentsSolution: Drink lots of beer(and bourbon) in our AIRBNB YOLOhouse and hack a butt uglyMVP togetherFunding: $0Users: 0People: 2 + offshore devAssumption:We can overcome voicetechnology hurdlesExperiment: Get our friendsand family to start doing callsResult: FAIL - tech glitches(Voice related)
    7. 7. 7June 2012Place: Arlington, VAProblem: Voice quality sucksSolution: Host conference callson hardware rather than AWS YOLOFunding: $50,000Users: 50People: 3 + offshore devAssumption:We can overcome voicetechnology hurdlesExperiment: Upgrade ourtechnology and keep gettingpeople to do calls.Result: Validated** This is when we finally formedSpeek, Inc **
    8. 8. 8September 2012Place: AOL Fishbowl Labs (our newand current home)Problem: Not growing organicallySolution: Start giving survey.iosurvey to all active users YOLOFunding: $150,000Users: 1,000People: 3 + offshore devAssumption:We can grow without huge useracquisition costsExperiment: Customer Interviews & survey and see if we canget to 40% “very disappointed ifSpeek didn’t exist” for a givencohort.Result: 3+ months of iteration
    9. 9. 9December 2012Place: Fishbowl LabsProblem: Cheap useracquisition / feed the viralfunnelSolution: Try a bunch of YOLOdifferent growth tactics -ITERATEFunding: $500,000Users: 20,000People: 6Assumption:We can grow our user basewithout huge marketing spendExperiment: Customerdevelopment + analyticsResult: 3+ months of iteration
    10. 10. 10TodayPlace: Fishbowl LabsProblem: Scale growth,become ubiquitousSolution: Keep iteratingand get out early on newplatforms and devicesFunding: $1,500,000Monthly Growth: 100%People: 11Launching out of betaand charging $$
    11. 11. 11Lessons Learned
    12. 12. 12A great product trumps everything else
    13. 13. 13Your MVP can - and should - be buttugly
    14. 14. 14Don’t be shy about growth anddistro
    15. 15. is the bees knees
    16. 16. 16People will not volunteer information –wrestle it out of them
    17. 17. 17Pick one single metric and track weeklygrowth rate
    18. 18. 18We should have done anaccelerator
    19. 19. 19Fundraising sucks
    20. 20. 20 Thank You!Be Sure To Check Out @DannyBoice | @SpeekApp #YOLO