Joe is a serial entrepreneur, co-founding Sprintly, SimpleGeo, and attachments.me. He teaches online classes on growth hacking for The Next Web, and he is an advisor at PIE and Upstart Labs.
TOPIC JOE COVERS
- He thinks about the growth potential before he gets involved
- When he thinks about a new startup now
- How did he achieve that growth
- What are some tactics he accumulated
- What he learned about exit surveys
- How important is pricing on the SAS app
- His background in teaching online classes on growth hacking for The Next Web
- And a whole lot more
LINKS & RESOURCES
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Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I brought in Taylor and today I have Joe Stump with us. Joe, thanks so much for coming on the program.
Joe: Thanks for having me.
Bronson: Absolutely. You done some interesting things. I think people are going to learn a lot. So to start with, your sitter, serial entrepreneur, you co-founded Sprint. He co-founded Simple Go and you co-founded Attachments Dot Me. So to start off, kind of tell us about the growth of those companies. Whatever you can disclose, you know, you may not be schools, everything, but anything about revenue or number of users or just anything that would excite our audience to know why they should listen to you.
Joe: Sure. Well, that’s a that’s a little difficult. Simple. Joe was my first startup. And I think that you could maybe you compare that to a Vegas wedding where it’s lessons learned wasn’t very pretty by any means. And I think the lessons that I learned from Simple Joe really was like, we need to focus on the right metrics at the right time. I learned a lot about just generally how to manage people and companies and whatnot, so there wasn’t a super crazy amount of growth or anything. There attachments for me, but I think the lesson that I learned from there is that, you know, there are a couple of things. One, as a computer programmer and as an engineer, my job is to solve problems. That’s really what my job is, right? So and I like helping people just as a person. So what inevitably ends up happening is every time you hear somebody complaining about something and you’re like, Oh, man, I wish I can just do this and then mash these two APIs up and whatever, you know? And it’s actually something we you know, we threw that out there. And what we found is that Jesse, Ben and I all really found this product interesting and fun to use. Mm hmm. Not necessarily everybody else on the planet. But I find it interesting to you and those guys, to their credit, you know, I’m not involved day to day there. But the lesson that I really taken away from those guys is that because what’s happened is they’ve been slogging through this for almost by two years now. A little bit over two years. Mm hmm. And they’re now starting to see massive growth and really, really exponential type growth, the type where it’s like for the last 12 months, we had, you know, hundreds of thousands and now we’re signing many tens of thousands up a week kind of thing. Yeah. And really what that was, was them wandering through the desert and they were like, we know, you know, it’s actually something you started from email broken. That’s a big problem. And like we started with attachment. We’ve been slowly, you know, they’ve been slowly slogging their way through that desert. And they started to figure out what the real problems are. They tried to. They started to figure out who the real constituents are, who they value to. And so that’s the real lesson there, I think, is sometimes sometimes you find a problem space and you throw that first shot in the dark and it doesn’t quite work out. But if you keep slogging, you know, you can. If you keep iterating, you keep working on your customer development. You can’t get there with Sprint. Sprint. It’s been been really interesting because it actually started out as the bootstrapped product. We actually launched it without taking any funding. After we launched that, we raised a very small convertible note and really what’s friendly as a result of lessons learned from the other companies. I heavily undercapitalized it. Compared to most startups, I’ve taken about one fifth the amount of funding as most of my peers have and I focused. One of the things that that I told everybody when I’m investors, I was like, we are going to be charging from this from day one. We are going to be focused on revenue. We are going to be focused on building a sustainable business. So the lessons that I’ve been learning from Sprint and the growth that we’ve been seeing there is has been actually pretty phenomenal Amram, which is monthly recurring revenue for those that aren’t familiar with the acronym. Our monthly recurring revenue in the first year between January and this last January was up about 300 and 320%. And since then, we’re since January, we’re already up another probably over percent and more growth. So our growth is accelerating and it’s it’s really great. I mean, we’re seeing you know, we’re seeing our average team size is doubled. So when we first launched Sprint, we actually tripled. When we first launched really, average team size was about 3 to 5. We’re now somewhere between 15 and 20.
Bronson: And you charge per seat. That’s a big deal.
Joe: We charge per seat this year. So that fully helps the pricing thing. The lesson that I’ve learned there is that one of the problems is sometimes your pricing can actually work against your vision. Yeah, so we’re seeing some of that. It’s really like my vision is that everybody in the company can participate and collaborate around this creation process. And the problem when you start to see is people in product and people in development are like, Well, do I really need to give that person in marketing a seat? And it’s like, so we’re still trying to figure that out. You know, pricing is really hard. It’s, I think, the hardest thing in business. Really.
Bronson: Mm hmm. No, absolutely. That’s great. I’m going to ask you more about separately in a second in terms of like how you’ve actually achieved that 300% growth and stuff. But first, when you think about a new startup now, do you think about the growth potential before you even get involved? Seeing that simple, Gio had a hard time seeing that attached was not me. It took a while and then it kind of took off. Is that kind of like baseline now? Can it grow before you even begin down that path?
Joe: So it depends on what hat I’m wearing. So, you know, I do a lot of I dabble in a lot of different things. And so when I’m when I have my venture partner at Upstart Labs on yes, I absolutely do look at market potential. If you came to me with a startup idea that was, you know, very focused on, you know, I’m going to build this app. But it’s only for people who liked Ironman, too. It’s like, that’s kind of a small market. I don’t know really. As an investor, you’re always looking for, does this business have the opportunity to be at a nine figure run rate within five years? Mm hmm. So that’s how I look at things when I’m when I’m making introductions to investors, when I’m agreeing to be, you know, when I when we think about investing and things like that. Mm hmm. As an advisor and someone that just likes helping out startups, I will often give guidance around that where it’s like, I’ll tell you flat out, you know, if you come to me, you’re like, Hey, I’m thinking about pitching some investors. I have this idea. If I’m interested in the idea, I’ll tell them, like, this is an interesting idea and I am personally interested, but you know, it’s a niche market or you’re going to have problems with investor because investors, they want to see a big market opportunity so that you know that so that they can believe you can very easily get to that you know that that nine figure run rate within five years it makes.
Joe: For for me personally though I don’t care if it’s something that’s interesting. I’m an engineer and I like hacking. So, you know, I built sprinting and I knew that certainly I didn’t have like supposedly a huge market. But, you know, I thought it was interesting and I wanted to build it. So for me personally, I think when I go to invest shares the expectations and be upfront. Like I think it’s really going to be a nine figure business. I think it could under the right context. I don’t know when or how, but you know, you try and talk them around it.
Bronson: But yeah, now that’s good and it’s good to see there’s different reasons to do things. You know, everything’s not about exit strategy sometimes it’s about passion or what you want to be doing with your life. And sometimes they fit together and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you get to do something you love. And as you know, nine figures. Sometimes you don’t, you know. And that’s okay. Let me talk to you about Sprint a little bit because, you know, you mentioned some of the growth that you’ve had there, but the people watching this are going. Be saying, okay. Or how. That’s that’s the million dollar question. You know, how did you kind of achieve that growth? So what are some of the best tactics that you’ve accumulated through separately for really acquiring users that end up paying you? That’s a hard thing to do. It’s one thing to get a consumer facing a free product out there. It’s a totally different animal to get a SAS application credit card on file to grow. So what are some of the tactics you’ve accumulated there?
Joe: So I should start by saying we haven’t done a concert by saying three things. One, we haven’t done any advertising. Do we have any marketing or PR? And three, I have a slightly unfair competitive advantage in that I’m kind of known on the Twitters and whatnot as being like a dev manager type guy. And then I’ve built a tool for dev manager type people. So I’ve been very fortunate and word of mouth and having, you know, a little bit of credit in the space that I built the product in. So that being said, the things that. There’s there’s really everything is word of mouth marketing right now. Everybody is passing it on to the number one thing that you can do is focus on solving a problem and doing it in a way that people that really resonates with people. So one of the things we really, really focused on is is churn. That’s really the number one thing. You know, it doesn’t matter how many people you pile onto that top of that funnel. If your funnel looks like this, they’re just all falling straight through their net. You know, you’re not capturing any of them. So someone, someone once very, um, eloquently put it to be like you need to like pucker up the, the bottom end kind of thing. And it is, you know, I mean, it’s kind of disgusting you think about. But the reality is like if you if you can drive that churn down, you’re going to make your current customers more happy and you’re going to capture more of those people that are that are coming through that funnel. So yeah, so we focused a lot on that. We had Cory’s feature a year ago like. 60%, one brutal, brutal turn. And so I dove in and we spent a lot of time on that. The other thing I spent a lot of time on that I’ve been realizing is, is another critical kind of component is that is I spent a lot of time talking to our successful customers, what made them successful and figuring out what made them successful and then backing that into documentation, support, lifecycle emails, onboarding, first user experience, user experience, UI, all of that stuff has been another thing that we’ve spent a lot of time on. So I don’t think there’s there’s nothing I’ve done in marketing or advertising that’s led to this growth. In fact, we’re probably not even signing up a dramatically more amount of people than we were. We certainly aren’t signing up 300% more people per per month than we work.
Bronson: That’s good enough.
Joe: But we’re catching more of them. Yeah.
Bronson: Let’s talk about churn a little bit, because you actually teach a class for the next Web on growth hacking. And one of the things in that class is helping people, you know, interpret and use the data that they have at their disposal and really at the heart of it, diagnose churn problems. What are some of the things that you tell people in that class to, you know, to, you know, help their own churn woes?
Joe: It it really there’s really two things. One, I’ll repeat three times. Surveys, exit surveys, exit surveys. All right. Need to be paying attention to the customers who are leaving. And number two is there’s a great book. I’m hoping everybody in the audience has heard up already. It’s called The Four Steps The Epiphany for Customer Development. It’s great book really opened my eyes about kind of debugging, you know, product problems. At the end of the day, are people problems. You have to debug people. I swear development is a great book on basically how to debug people problems. Yeah. So those are the two things that that I that I really focus on as far as churn goes. And the reason I say exit surveys and I reason I say that three times is because a lot of people when they build SaaS, I think one of the first problems that people make on the product side is they spend more time worrying about keeping the few customers that they have gotten across the finish line than the hundreds that are leaving every day. You know, it’s like if you had a store and like two people came in and actually bought something and one of them was like, well, if you don’t start doing this that I’m not going to ever come in here, buy anything ever again, or and in that same day, you had 100 people come in, look around, and then leave without even talking to you. Like, should you be optimizing for that one person or 100 people that left? And I really think for churn, you need to be optimizing and paying attention to the people that leave. There’s a there’s that concept called survivorship bias. There’s a great story of World War Two that I think really makes this clear where at the beginning of World War Two, the Brits were sending bombers over Europe all the time, and they were getting shot down in an alarming rate. It was like one out of three didn’t make it back. And so they put the Army Corps of Engineers or whatever, did a yearlong study where they meticulously found out where the bullet holes were on all the airplanes that were coming back. And then they went and reinforced the planes where those bullet holes were. And it didn’t significantly drop the number of planes that were getting shot down. And so one engineer was like, why don’t we just put the armor where the bullet holes aren’t? Because clearly the planes can survive getting shot where they’re being shot because they’re making it back.
Bronson: That’s awesome.
Joe: Yeah. So I think about that a lot when I think about the product. I mean, we have a lot of customers that have been with us a long time. And you know, I have one feature that I know right now that every single one of my customers has complained about. They haven’t left. But I’ve been gaining more customers.
Bronson: So they can take that bullet hole. Yeah.
Joe: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s kind of a crappy way to put it, but yeah.
Bronson: You know.
Joe: There are certain things that there are certain things internally that we’re just never going to do. And I’ve had a couple of our customers be like, Dude, you know, I really want you to do this. And I’ll be like, Well, we’re not. And this is why and here’s a workaround if you really want it, and they’re like, Well, okay, the rest of it’s all awesome. So I’ll let this thing slide.
Bronson: Yeah, it’s a great, great story there. What have you learned about exit surveys? Because, you know, I’ve done exit surveys before and they’re really difficult. I do not know what I’m doing with them at all. I feel like I put out a survey, I got a bunch of data and then I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it. To be honest, it’s sitting in an inbox somewhere. So have you have you learned anything that, like, make that more efficient or actually actionable or anything like that?
Joe: So I have a couple of tricks that I’ve used that I, you know, I don’t know if I’m I’m that I’ve developed that I help. You know, one of the problems that that I deal with, you know, I’m an engineer. I’m very analytical, focused, and I want numbers. And the problem with exit surveys is that most exit surveys are distilled roughly into kind of the following questions. What were you using before you used us? What are you going to use after leaving us? What you know, what could we have done better to to keep you as a customer? Those are roughly distilled now and what surveys tend to collect. The first few questions are very easy to kind of, you know, distill those are all of multiple choice. Usually the the text box, though, is really difficult. Right. And if you have a an okay and a product, you’ll probably end up with dozens or even hundreds of these things. And the problem that I ran into was like, I got this sludge of text and this is mushy and soft and it doesn’t I can’t make a pretty bar chart out of this thing. And what it was really a problem is in the beginning is really I did all of the support, I was reading all the exit surveys, and then I was really buffering my my co-founder who was doing the predominant all of the front end coding. And then I did support on back end kind of coding to. And I would go to him and I’d be like, oh, I think, you know, a lot of people want mobile. They want like a mobile version of Sprint. And he’d be like, Really? Is that really what they want? Do you have data? Then I’m like, Well, no, but I answered like 400 emails in support yesterday and read like 20 surveys, and I’m pretty sure that mobile was mentioned in some of them. So when I finally broke down and did is human brains are pattern recognition machines. So what I did was I started you start noticing themes and I’m sure you read through your own surveys and noticed a few things yourself. And what I did is I opened up a spreadsheet and every time I noticed a theme, every time my brain picked up like oh, two or three people have mentioned that I would add a column along the top. I gotcha. And literally went through every single exit survey and every theme that was mentioned in each entry. I just put a one under by this huge grid of basically themes across the top, responses going down the side, and then ones for everything that they mentioned. And I had to do.
Bronson: An upside down bar chart.
Joe: Yeah. So I basically then I then rolled those up into percentages. It was like out of all out of a 180 exit surveys I went through, 7% of them said that they’re leaving in part because we don’t have time tracking.
Bronson: I gotcha. And now then for that and it’s puckering up.
Joe: Right. So what we did is it gave us a very objective, you know, theme to go after, right? It’s like, okay, well, and what it should do is I think in the end, about 2021, 22% of our churn was all back to basically sprint, please. Sprint is the sprint we experience degraded as you added more items effectively became unmanageable and as you added more, more things. Imagine if Dropbox didn’t have folders right and you just kept adding files and adding files and adding files. Well, the first ten, that’s okay. But once you get 4000 files in there, you’re like, this is useless. Yeah. And that was roughly the problem that we had. So we focused 1.0, basically all on. On that. On fixing those problems. Mm hmm. And churn dropped. I don’t know. It’s down 50, 60% since we released those features.
Bronson: That’s awesome.
Bronson: You know, earlier you also mentioned how important pricing is on a SAS app and you said you’ve learned that you’re some kind of work against you because you want everyone to have a seat. But, you know, when it’s 15 bucks a pop or whatever it is, it’s like it’s hard to give everyone a seat because now you have to think about it. Anything else you’ve learned about pricing? Maybe. How did you pick your initial price? Has it changed kind of over the, you know, the course of time? And and what insights do you have there? Because I’m always pricing stuff to and people watching this are always pricing stuff. And I feel like I have almost no good way to do it, honestly.
Joe: Sure. So the way that I chose the initial pricing is I did kind of I knew I wanted to charge per seat something that I, I can’t even tell you why I decided that.
Bronson: But just maybe to get more revenue, I mean, is that kind of the heart of it?
Joe: You know, I made the decision two and a half years ago, and it’s at the point I honestly don’t remember what my thinking was behind it. But what I ended up doing is going and making a spreadsheet of all of our competitors and then every competitor in my space, they’ll have the three tiered plans, but they’re all faceted by user, so they’re still technically charging for C, there’s still a per seat price associated with it. It’s just obvious. Scattered a bit. Yeah. So I got a lay of the land of kind of roughly what the, the, the perceived pricing was. And then I, I kind of, I picked something that was slightly higher. We started out at nine bucks. I think the average across across most of these things. And our space was like 757, 58 bucks. So I, I chose nine. I don’t really know why the high end was like it. They basically ranged from two bucks in C to 35 bucks a seats.
Bronson: Was all over the place.
Joe: Yeah, yeah, it’s all over the place. And then we ended up when we launched 1.2, we ended up raising our prices to 14 bucks to see haven’t seen any real problems with conversion since then. Yeah.
Bronson: And that were already on the 930 when.
Joe: We left there. Grandfathered in. Yes, we left them. Once you sign up you get the price until you, you know, similar with your cell phone kind of thing. Yeah. Yeah. So we as far as pricing goes, that I think it’s really hard. What I know is that people tend to start low and then they’ll ratchet their prices up until conversion takes a precipitous drop. Mm hmm. And I think that’s a an okay approach. The the number one rule, though, I think, with SAS is that you have to establish value from day one. So if there are people out there that are thinking about, well, release, this is free and then see if I can make money later, no. Like even if you release it for $2 a month, just reset and assign some value to it. Yeah. And then figure things out. There are some other great things that I’ve heard. And I think one thing that we suffer from, we learned very early on that like one price to rule them all is not very good. So we’ve introduced different types of seeds at different prices. We have a free observer seed. We’re going to be introducing a very cheap what we call collaborator seed, and then we’re going to we’ll probably eventually have some sort of like based on smaller feature sets, maybe a smaller team, kind of a business friendly. But I think bookending pricing and having some flexibility in pricing and allowing people to choose is also really important. And then I think the best advice I found in kind of finding your perfect price point is all Gram said, you know, you found the perfect price when people complain about it but still pay for it.
Bronson: That’s also, you know, the advice I’ve heard before, which is more about sales. But, you know, whatever the highest number you can say with a straight face, that’s what you should ask for to start negotiation.
Bronson: It’s like it’s the same kind of thing. It’s like, you know, it’s a good starting point. So you’ve mentioned churn and you mentioned, you know, the pricing. Has there been anything else, maybe mistakes that you’ve made that you’re trying to course correct on? Really like, man, we really did this wrong because I think there’s a lot to learn from, you know, what’s done wrong or is that really the main to churn and just getting the pricing right?
Joe: Well, yes. Yeah. Well, I don’t even know where to start with all the mistakes I made on Sprint. Yeah.
Bronson: The big ones. Yeah, I’m sure there’s a laundry list.
Joe: Yeah. So I think one of the things that we didn’t focus enough early enough on was onboarding. And like, like in when I am underneath the umbrella of onboarding, I’ll put documentation first user experience and and lifecycle emails. Okay. So we didn’t, we didn’t have any of that. So we had a product that was in a space that people knew very well, which is product management software. But it was a very different product because I had some different goals and we weren’t leading enough people through the desert. So for instance, a good example was something ridiculous, like this summer, what maybe maybe 50% of people that signed up even created an item. So like you can imagine like literally signing up for Basecamp and then never entering it to do or never like posting a message like pretty. Yeah. So we started sending lifecycle emails around like, oh, you add an item and we find we out that. So we created like a little step through mini tutorial onboarding thing. We started adding lifecycle emails, we started iterating on those lifecycle emails, sending the right light cycle emails to the right people kind of thing. Hmm. And that’s now, you know, I’m, I’m happy to say that’s much higher now. It’s well over 80% now. It’s still not where I want it to be. Like, I feel that. What better than.
Bronson: 50, though.
Joe: It’s a lot better than 50 though. Right, exactly. So that we’ve been I think I think that’s probably the biggest mistake that I that we made was not. We focus a little too much on product and not enough on telling the story about our product and every new user that comes through separately or consumer friendly or your product like they need to be told a story they need to know. Why is this a value? And and I’m sorry, but we’re not, John. None of us are really, Johnny. So creating, like.
Bronson: Although you do look like him a slight bit. What’s that? Although you do look like him a slight bit.
Joe: Yeah. We making self evident UI and self evident UX is really hard. Like the best in the business. Still have walkthroughs and tutorials and onboarding and tooltips and stuff. So I think that was that was a huge a huge mistake early on. Another mistake that we made was we were told our own billing. Most terrible use authorization we should use for curly or swipe or something like.
Bronson: I use Stripe for everything. You know, I’m on before and I wanted to kill myself afterwards.
Joe: Yeah, it was a very, very bad decision on my part. Well, that we’re still dealing with it to this day. And then another mistake that I actually just fixed last weekend is we we didn’t have any reports. I wasn’t really getting like a clear insight into, like, how well we were doing and who was canceling and when. And it was like very haphazard. And now we have a daily report that’s like, here are the new accounts that were created here. They can’t get canceled here, the new paying customers. And we have another revenue report that’s like you’re all a transaction that ran across all to authorize and we’re currently here’s the 30 day moving average of all of the transaction history. We have seat growth, account growth, all that stuff now like in daily email. So I think those are kind of the three ones that I would say and notice none of those have anything to do with tech choices or product decisions. Mm hmm. All business mess ups?
Bronson: No, absolutely. And that’s good, though. You know, you mentioned not telling the story. And you mentioned earlier that you’re known for kind of being a dev manager. You’re known as a dad yourself. You were the architect at Digg. So, I mean, you got some programing chops. Do you think that devs have a hard time with the telling the story part in general or just happen to be something they struggled with? Because I can imagine it being a theme, but I don’t know that, you know what I mean?
Joe: I think that developers suffer from what I am, what I’m going to call Field of Dreams Syndrome. If you build it, they will come. Mm hmm. That ain’t how it happens. Like you could build a skyscraper, but if you build it out in the middle of the desert, nobody’s ever going to see it or care about it or hear about it if you don’t tell anybody about it. So I do feel that there are a lot of things that my a my co-founder and I should have been doing earlier on that if I had had a stronger background in business that we would have been doing and would have, I would have known were more important at the time. So it’s something that I strongly encourage all developers like. Go to the community college, take marketing one on one, you’ll learn a lot, a few books on the subject. You know, you can’t just build some funny, awesome product and then you just expect tomorrow you’re going to have a thousand people signed up at 20 bucks a month.
Bronson: Yeah. And that’s why they’ve kind of come up with that trio. You know, they say you need a hacker or a hustler. And was it a designer? You know what? Whether you need those three or not, it’s you need something like that. It takes a mix to really pull off the the skill sets that you need. Now, recently, you’ve taught a class at Upstart Labs, and we’ll talk about them a little more later if there’s something you’re involved in there. But you presented what you called the Growth Hacking Toolkit, or at least that’s what they dubbed it online. I don’t know if you actually called it that or if that’s what they called it, but in that toolkit, you kind of listed some of the tools that you use to really growth hack to really, you know, acquire users and just do the things we’ve already talked about. So let’s talk through some of these a little bit. One of the first ones is Wu Fu. My guess is I know how you used it based on a previous question, but how do you use woofer?
Joe: We use it for exit surveys. Of course, we also for customer surveys and customer surveys are are super valuable because they allow you to do like for instance on Basecamp they have like those great stats that are like 98% of people who use Basecamp would recommend it to a friend. Right. And that’s a great stat. Where do you think he got that from? Customer surveys? And so we have great stats like 30% of our users are non-technical. I’ll compare that number against your email tracker any day of the week. We have, you know, other things like we get a lot of great customer quotes through the app. So one of the other things I used the customer survey for was I listed out like 60 of our semi meeting, nice features and it was basically just checkbox and say and it said what, what features do you wish you had known about on day one? It’s friendly and we use that to inform our onboarding process.
Bronson: Oh, that’s good. Yeah.
Joe: So so Woofer is great and we use it for those surveys and it’s just very easy to throw a survey together, very easy to send out a quick email and get, you know, get great data. So I’m a big fan of those, those simple kind of form tools.
Bronson: Absolutely. And now you’ve also used Intercom I oh, more so maybe some of the reasons you started using that. And then I think you’re also moving away from a little bit. So anything you can tell us to to help us make decisions around, you know, those kind of products.
Joe: Yeah. So Intercom is, is effectively in many ways a CRM for SAS apps. So what’s great about Intercom is that you get all this customer intelligence so you know where your customers are at. You can see them on a map. You can get a list of like people that are on your line so you can send push notifications to them and whatnot. Very early on, I think that we were probably using it incorrectly. We were using it more support tool, which people loved, by the way. But, you know, I think if you were to ask the intercom guys, they would tell you that I was using it wrong. And I found out pretty quickly that you need a little bit of a support tool is for people, not a CRM. You wouldn’t use Salesforce you know, to demand manage support to use. So I, we ended up I ended up using, we were using Mixpanel already and getting a lot of obviously great data on usage and what people are using and funnel analysis and retention, all the good stuff that Mixpanel gives you. And the problem was I couldn’t get a cohesive picture between the two. It’s like, okay, I’m sending this lifecycle email through intercom, but I don’t know if it’s helping over here. And then Mixpanel released their lifecycle email product. So we ended up switching over to that because it did give us the ability to kind of send the email and then see how it affected those KPIs in the actual analytics. So I think Intercom still has value. I think there’s a lot of we still we’re still paying, paying, paying customers. We send out a nice daily email that kind of tells you user movement we haven’t seen in a while who’s new, you know, things like that. And so but we use a lot more of Mixpanel for the pure ROI analytics side of things now.
Bronson: Yeah, another one you mentioned is Sell Through and I hadn’t actually heard of this, but I think it fulfills an interesting niche that people watching this will be excited about. Tell us a little bit about sell through what they do.
Joe: Yeah. So sail through also is that they focus a lot more on the management of the other lifecycle emails. They have very sophisticated tools around effectively building decision trees for for lifecycle, email management and whatnot. You can almost think of them as if like HubSpot and you know, like a lifecycle email provider like joined forces into, you know, a big kind of self marketing email machine. It’s definitely what I would call more of a big boy product. You know, that’s a if you have a very big machine that you need to be operating, that would be something you probably look into similar to HubSpot. You know, HubSpot is also that big boy territory in my and I’m nowhere near it, you know.
Bronson: So yeah. And then separately is also on the list of course. So give a plug for separately who should be using it? Who’s it made for? Is it made for dev managers like you, or is it made for a different kind of group? Who is it for?
Joe: It’s really made for. It’s really made for for really to people. It’s made for the the business stakeholder who is constantly trying to figure out what’s going on in development and how things are going. And, you know, what’s blocked up, what’s not blocked up, what are they working on real quick?
Bronson: That’s really difficult. You know, I do a lot of work for clients and they don’t have a window into what we’re doing. And it’s frustrating when we try to give them a window into it, and it’s frustrating they have to ask for a window into it. It’s not it’s a very like real pain point. Just I can say that. Yeah, it’s not transparent, you know.
Joe: Yeah. So we’ve, we’ve focused really hard on basically it’s friendly really is a translator it takes what the developers are doing and getting GitHub in translated into business speak is effectively what it is. So if you look at our metrics there, we don’t have burned down charts, we don’t have velocity because business people and I’m sure you can empathize with as I’m guaranteeing your customers a don’t know what velocity is they don’t know what story points are and they don’t care. They don’t care. They want to know how much stuff got done. They want to know what you’re working on and they want to know roughly whether or not their notion of when it could be done is reasonable or not.
Joe: And then the other thing that we do is we focus very hard on keeping the developers out of these tools. Okay. So I have a whole bunch of like what I want to talk to all my developer friends, those like the perfect PM tool, what would it be? And they’re like, it wouldn’t exist. It would just, it would just and that was a concern or problem that I had as developer PMS. And customers are coming to me. They tell me I’m trying to be like, Hey, how’s it going? What are you working on? And it’s like every bit I push is cataloged and audited in this thing called GitHub. Like, why are you asking me what I did? You can literally go and look at lines of code I wrote yesterday but of course isn’t that they’re not is because they don’t care about GitHub they don’t have accounts and they sure as hell can’t read your code.
Joe: So so that’s what it’s really is really it’s supposed to be this like viewport into what we do for the business people.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. And then lastly, you mentioned for contact and you have some really interesting ways that you kind of make full contact work with Mixpanel. Tell us about that a little bit.
Joe: Yeah. So full contact for those in the audience I haven’t heard a full contact is similar to wrap leap in that you can give it an email address and through magic that probably none of us want to know how it works.
Bronson: They don’t ask you how it’s made.
Joe: Yeah, I was just made. They return things like all of your social profiles, last known addresses, what companies you worked out, what your titles were at those companies, information about those companies, what your interests and cloud scores are, all of that data. So whenever somebody signs up or logs in for Sprint, we actually run that their email through full contact. We’ll get a bunch of data back. For instance, you know the positions that they’ve held software developer, VP of Engineering, Software Developer and we’ll tag them in mixed panels, people product, which allows me to have basically a full kind of user table and Mixpanel on. I can look and sift through them by certain characteristics, so it allows me to send lifecycle emails and do other an analysis on my data based on what company they work out, what type of company, what title they have. So I can bring that in the GitHub. Here’s how you use GitHub email to people who have sales or salesmen in their title. So that’s how we’ve been. We’ve been using full contact. We’re really only starting to scratch the surface on that. So one interesting bit of data that has come out of it is that there is something to Klout scores. It’s really ridiculous. People have a cloud score of 55 or above are worth like three X people that have a product scored 55 or below. Wow. Yeah, it’s kind of.
Bronson: Yeah. I’m glad you said the numbers. I know the cut off there is like a kind of a rough starting point of where that ends and begins. Yeah. So those are some of the tools you use and that’s awesome that you’re also an advisor and a mentor to a lot of startups, specifically in Portland with groups like PAE and Upstart. Tell us a little bit about those two groups because I think you’re more involved with those two. If I if I read it correctly online.
Joe: Yeah. So PI is is an accelerator. It accepts applications and you go through a 90 day program very similar to Y, C or Techstars and the same thing they have an. Uh, it’s the, I think the Portland Interactive experience.
Bronson: Okay. I gotcha. Maybe something like that. Look it up, everybody.
Joe: I haven’t investigated it further. It was originally started by White and Kennedy and a couple of other folks here when Kennedy’s a huge advertising digital agency.
Bronson: They got huge clients, all the big name brands. Eventually, at one point, the percentage.
Joe: Of people they did. In fact, I was just drinking coffee in and and the buddy I was with was like, no, the old place commercials. Like the dude. That response was me. I was like, Yeah. And he’s like, Those are the two guys that write all the scripts. And they were like, Just outside.
Bronson: That’s awesome.
Joe: They’re big guys. They do all sorts of stuff. And then I’m sorry, Labs is a little bit different in that. What our model is, is basically we invest money and services and talent into companies in exchange for equity. So we we act behave more like traditional investors as opposed to an accelerator. And companies and the entrepreneurs can come to us that, you know, like, for instance, they come to you. They don’t have to have resources and need, you know, go to market strategy. You need help with things like lifecycle emails and whatnot. They’ll come to us and then we invest effectively time and money into the company in exchange for equity.
Bronson: Yeah, it really is. In my humble opinion. It seems like things like upstart labs are really going to be the thing that disrupts venture capital as we know it from the last ten years. It just seems like such a better fit for the ecosystem we’re in. Is that kind of your feeling art as well?
Joe: Um, I think we were always so the problem with the investing landscape over the last ten years is that there has been this race. I don’t want to say race to the bottom because that’s not right. But the money has rolled down into earlier and earlier stages.
Bronson: Angel Fund and the series, a crunch that we hear about. Yeah.
Joe: Yeah. And it’s not really a crunch. The series eight guys are investing just as they have been. But the problem is, is that now, instead of there being, you know, 20 applicants in the dating pool, there’s a thousand and they’re like, well, cool. Now I get to pick whoever I want. So I there will always be a role for VCs. I like to say you can’t bootstrap a rocket ship company, so there will always be a role for somebody that wants to take that risk and write $100 million check or something. Yeah, but I do think at the at the at the smaller stage, things like upstart labs, the accelerators, crowdfunding, Kickstarter, all of these things are very interesting and I think will be massively disrupting kind of the the, the early stage low end whatever of the market. Because to be frank, I mean, why, why would I go and give up 20% of my company when I can go and do all sorts of creative other things, like go to Kickstarter and just give out versions of my first product in exchange for the money ahead of time and whatnot. So it’ll be really interesting. I’m excited. I, you know, I mean, it’s, there’s a lot of opportunity for people to do what they want now and there’s a lot of options for them. So it’s good.
Bronson: No, absolutely. That’s good. Now you advise them and mentor them, you know, in these groups and other groups as well. What growth advice do you find yourself giving to startups kind of over and over? Well, what do you what do you find yourself saying? Like a broken record. Do you just wish more startups knew before they came to you?
Joe: Yeah. They too often focus on the wrong growth metrics. They’ll look at number of sign ups and number of, you know, just traffic or things like that. I’m like, What’s your churn? And they’ll be like, oh, 4,000% is like, that’s not even possible. It sounds terrible. Like, why are you focused on that? So I think focusing on the on the engagement, it’s it’s much more difficult to make a sticky product than it is to make get people to sign up. Yeah. So focusing on engagement and building something that’s addictive is something that I keep telling myself. I keep telling them over and over again, Who are you adding value to? Why are people going to buy this? Like, why are people going to stay using it? So that’s number one. And then the other advice that I almost the other vices around funding that I give them, but around profits, it’s much more you need to focus on that engagement and value and then. The the reverse of that is don’t go and spend $20,000 on a PR campaign for launch when you don’t even know if the product works yet.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great advice. Do you feel like startups have any misconceptions kind of old wives tale that they come to these groups with like, Oh, this is how growth works that you feel like actually that’s not true or is what you just said kind of the answer to that as well?
Joe: I think yeah. I think what I said today is a lot of that. I think the other misconception we’ve talked about is that if you build it, they will come. Misconception. A lot of people think that a hit on TechCrunch is going to make their startup. That definitely happened. Yeah. So I think I think that’s really kind of the, you know, the things that I deal with.
Bronson: Lastly, you’ve told me about a handful of books that you recommend. Talk to me about the three books that you said I should read personally, which I’m going to, so that our audience can read them also. The first one I think you said it’s called the luxury strategy.
Joe: Yeah. So the first one is called a luxury strategy. This really is my Bible. It’s friendly, to be totally honest. And it’s and it was written by a CEO, one of the former CEOs of Louis Vuitton. And it’s basically how to build and maintain a luxury brand. Mm hmm. And they talk about some really interesting things. Chapter three covers the 18 Antique Laws of Marketing A Love Affair brand. And I kind of look at luxury or brands as niche products. And the great thing about the Internet is there’s one or two and a half million people on it, so it’s pretty easy to extract niche markets from. So that’s a great book. The other one that I’ve been reading that I read that was really good was Predictable Revenue was a book that was written by the guy that basically built and planned out the inside sales process early on at Salesforce. So if you’re looking for a very metrics driven approach to sales funnels and how to manage them and things like that, that’s a great book. And then the other one that I’ve been that I’ve been picking my way through is Influence. And Influence was written by a Ph.D. of sociology or psychology or something like that. And it’s basically about how to use our biological hardwiring against us to influence humans, to do things that you want them to do it through things like marketing and sales and other things like that. Yeah.
Bronson: Well, it sounds like three great books that we should we should all check out. Joe, this has been an awesome interview you’ve given us so much great advice on SAS apps and the tools you use and the things that you teach people. So again, thank you so much for taking time out your schedule and com and educating our audience now.
Joe: No problem. Thanks for having me. Is good time. Great dialog and great to meet everybody.