Paul: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, this is Paul Kemp. This is the show where we go and deconstruct the success of founders from around the world. This is episode 465, there's a ton of content for you to catch up on. I've got several archives in the podcasting apps, you can search those out. Just search my name, Paul Kemp, in your favorite podcasting app and you will be able to find The App Guy Podcast archives. I want to introduce my guest today, we actually worked together on a launch, and we're gonna go through and deconstruct that launch to help you if you're planning a launch for your own apps, so let me introduce David Kosmayer - he is the CEO and founder of Bookmark.com. You'd better go and check that out, bookmark.com is gonna be the next big thing. Dave, welcome to The App Guy Podcast.
David: Hi Paul, it's a pleasure to be here. I'm really excited about the launch, still on a little bit of a high coming off yesterday's exciting Product Hunt debut, and I just want to say thank you very much for helping us with that. Your advice and knowledge has gone a long way.
Paul: It was a lot of fun, I have to say, and a lot of hard work, we were both up late. So first of all, let's paint a picture of what we're actually launching, and even though this is a show about apps, it's relevant because you're offering a website builder. Tell us a little bit about Bookmark.com to start with.
David: So Bookmark is a website publishing platform, and we're not just a website builder, we looked at ourselves as an entrepreneurial platform. We focus on the small business web users, one to nineteen type of employees, and we really focus on responsive. Responsive is very important for a lot of the websites, as many businesses don't have a responsive website and as we all know, mobile is becoming everything and if you're not responsive, you're nothing. So we build websites, we make them beautifully responsive and we take care of small businesses.
Paul: Right, okay. So we connected with each other, we had prepared a launch. You're just coming out of a beta, and just kind of getting the whole product started. I guess we can talk about the launch. We delayed it, didn't we? We were a little bit worried about the amount of traffic from mobile, but we decided to go for it, and we went and got hunted on a Wednesday. Talk us through the day from your perspective.
David: Yes, we were supposed to do it a day before, that was the original day, and I woke up in the morning excited, and I got a message from you telling me "We're thinking about delaying it until tomorrow", which was no problem. So Wednesday morning we woke up and I got my messages from you, you're six hours ahead of me - I'm on Eastern time - and we already had around 50 registrations coming into Bookmark; for the full day we had around 250 registrations. At the beginning of the day it was really exciting, it was just a flurry of a day.
Paul: We're still actually on the back of the launch, so [unintelligible 00:08:54]. [laughs] But I would say a hunter, Violeta Nedkova - just a quick shout out to her - she is a high influencer, and the most important thing for anyone listening is that she was able to get us onto the featured page, and there's no point in submitting your own product because the attention is on the homepage. We ended up on there and I guess you started to see the traffic flow in as well, and the comments were really positive, weren't they?
David: Yes. First I have to say thank you to Violeta, she was an expert and doing a great job of getting us on the homepage, and we needed to fight to stay in the top five; there was a lot of great companies on that day, and it was just an exciting day.
Paul: Yes, and I know that you did some announcements as well. I kind of briefed you about not asking for upvotes, which we do know that they have an algorithm at Product Hunt which actually takes into account negatively anyone asking for upvotes, so we were very cautious about that. But we were announcing it, and I know that I put an announcement on my site, to an e-mail list and to my Slack group, and you did stuff your side. I guess we got a fair bit of response from that.
David: Yes, every time I did a message to my Twitter followers or to a Slack group, I made sure that I did not send the link directly to the profile or asking for any votes. Every time I thought about it I had a pause, a voice in the back of my mind saying "Do not put it directly to your profile, because of the algorithm, and we don't want to be slapped for spamming. So we were very careful with that, but I did post in a few Slack groups just mentioning that we're on Product Hunt and putting a link to the Tech Page, where we were in the top three so it was easy to find us, and the same with our Facebook groups - Facebook page for Bookmark and Twitter page for Bookmark, and then later in the evening I sent out an e-mail to our people that have registered so far, telling them we're on Product Hunt.
Paul: I think for anyone listening to this, it is helpful to have some e-mail list beforehand. What was it like to get guidance, because I've been dealing with Product Hunt now for a few years, so it becomes second nature to me. But from your perspective, as someone new coming into it, how easy was it to get up to speed I guess, and how important was it to get advice on the actual process?
David: There are a lot of articles out there written about Product Hunt, but to have somebody to talk to, which you and I were discussing for weeks ahead of time, is much better than reading ten articles, because you don't know what you're actually going to read; that person could have written an article and he could have been hit for spam, and you don't know what their results were. So it's nice to talk to somebody that knows what they're doing. Learning everything from you has been absolutely great, and a lot of stuff I had no idea how it works; I didn't know that I couldn't even put comments at first, until you invited me to be able to do commenting; discussing how to respond to each comment - we had a lot of engagement. It was really good engagement and the comments were great. I was expecting a lot of the comments, so I was prepared ahead of time. I knew that people were going to say it's a very crowded market, "What makes you different?" I knew that that was going to be the first question, and low and behold it was the question. Then the same question was asked two or three more times throughout the comments, so I was prepared for that one and I think we did good responding. The people that asked the comments were happy with the responses.
Paul: David, I just want to announce to the audience, the appster tribe listening to this, that the thing I've learned from you is that you've got to be passionate about your own idea, your own vision. If the whole market can see necessarily the opportunity then it may not be as big, but it's the founder who has to see the vision and see the opportunity and expect there will be some doubters out there.
David: Well particularly in my market, which is website publishing, a lot of people have read about so many new platforms that are launching in the last couple of years, but what they don't know is the quality, they don't know how user-friendly it is, they don't know who the target market is. A lot of the website publishing market is targeting professionals or design firms, and that market I feel is very crowded. But the market where the novice, you and me building a website, mom and pop shops, doing it themselves - that market is a tricky market because you really need to make it easy, but you have to still have the customize ability, and ability to make professional-looking websites that people can run a business off of. So finding that balance I feel is key, and that's what we're trying to do with Bookmark.
Paul: Let's switch gears slightly. There are a lot of people who are listening and reading this who will be applying for accelerators and combinators. You have been successfully applying to a number of different incubators, and I wondered what would be your biggest advice having successfully got to the interview stage to two big ones. What would be your advice to anyone else out there who's thinking of doing the same?
David: Yes, I've researched accelerators and I saw an article that mentions Techstars and Y Combinator as the top two, so I only applied to the top two and I got an interview to both. So it's quite an accomplishment just to get an interview, since thousands of companies are applying. What they want to hear is that you have a solid team, that you are very passionate. A lot of the time they're focused more on the team and your passion that the actual product, because if you have the solid team and the passion you will be able to drive the product. Of course they want to know that your product is in a sector that is not overcrowded, that is a big enough opportunity, but you need to portray that you can do this, you have the confidence, your team is not going to fall apart, you're going to be there through the tough two or three years building this company and that you're not just going to fade off after 12 months when things hit tough times, if they do. So we created a really nice demo video showcasing building a website with Bookmark, and I created a Y Combinator website and I created a Techstars website within a one or two-minute video. It was really difficult to build it that short of a time, but their specification are you have to create it really quick. Both of those videos are inside my Product Hunt launch, and you can view them if you'd like, but I think that got me the interview.
Paul: That's great advice. So there's two more things we need to do before we say goodbye, David. One is that, I mean you are an inspirational founder, I know there were some positive comments yesterday on Product Hunt about how dedicated you are. For anyone listening who's in a corporate job and wants to start their own business, work for themselves, what is the biggest tip you could do in making the transition?
David: Wow... I just became a mentor actually, I was contacted by Futurpreneur Canada and I started to mentor some Canadian companies, which was really nice. I like to help out people, especially in the startup community. Everybody is so tight-knit, we know how much of a struggle it is to create a startup. It's not easy, there's ups and downs. One minute you're super high and you think your product is gonna be the next Facebook, and the next minute you're like "This is never gonna sell" and you're super low; so lots of ups and downs, but it's an exciting journey and the payoffs are pretty great - being able to work for yourself, being able to create your own destiny. But some advice that I would say to somebody who wants to make the transition, I would say research your product that you're looking to do very, very well. Find out how people are buying it, who the competition is, why are they buying it. You really need to be good at growth-hacking. If you don't have a lot of money starting off, you need to know how to growth-hack, which is creating a buzz basically for free. I see a lot of people that are exceptional at this - they create a product, they've researched it, and then they get buzz by just using their network or using the reddits and the twitters and the different Facebook groups, and just creating a buzz around their product. Next thing you know, they have a thousand beta users and they haven't spent a dime. So research your product, know your market and then become an expert growth hacker, because if you don't have a huge amount of money, those are the things you need to do.
Paul: Great advice, David. Finally then, a lot of challenges that the community have are I guess with regards to funding. If you are starting on your own a new startup, any tips from what you've learned in how to actually get through the tough times of low revenue, perhaps almost zero income sometimes, whilst you're waiting for funding - I just wondered if you've got any tips for anyone out there who's also bootstrapping.
David: Well, right now my mentee, which I've just had an hour and a half meeting with, he has a grant for $45,000 and he's putting in $50,0000 of his own money, so he has around $100,000 in total, and he's discussing me what he's looking to do, and he talked about a PR agency, which I thought was very interesting, which is very expensive. And I right away told him, "Are you sure that you have the budget to do this PR agency?" That is like $35,000 he wants to spend over the next 6 months, which is interesting, but you have to manage your cash flow. It's doomsday thinking, but you have to assume your product's not gonna just take off right away. You have to budget for what if it doesn't take off for another three months? What if it doesn't take off for another six months? You've gotta keep in mind that your cash flow has to be spread out for a lot longer. To raise capital, that's the million-dollar question that everybody wants to know. It's not easy to raise capital. I'm going into a fundraising round actually starting in June, and we are creating a business plan, our pitch deck, three-year financial assumption showing what I will be looking to use the money on, doing a lot of pre-planning - it's almost taken one month to create all this, and we're going to be looking to raise funds in June, and we'll see how it goes. We're going to be pitching a lot of accredited investors, I don't think we're going to go right to the VCs, as we are seed stage still. We just have a tiny bit of revenue since we just launched a week and a half ago, so we're not ready for the VCs, but we're looking for angels and different platforms to raise capital on.
Paul: Well David, we have angel investors listening to this podcast and part of the community, so if there's any angel investors out there who like the idea of Bookmark, then they should contact you. Just on that then, how can people best reach out and connect with you, Dave? What's the best way of getting in touch?
David: They can e-mail me at Dave@bookmark.com. That's probably the best way to do it, I'm on my e-mail 24/7 and I respond really quick.
Paul: Great. Well Dave, as we wrap this up, it's been an absolute pleasure working alongside you, just being a very small part of what you're doing, and I'm a big fan of the work you're doing and I wish you all the success. Thanks for coming on this show!
David: Paul, I know that your website is created on Squarespace. [laughter] I remember when we first met we had that talk of converting you into a Bookmark person in the near future.
Paul: Yes, let's do it. I'm setting up websites all the time, so we can definitely get that onto a Bookmark. At the end of the day this is what you're competing against. SquareSpace have actually been massive advertising in the podcasting realm, they threw a lot of money and they're also advertising on the Super Bowl, so they are throwing a lot of money at their services. It's wonderful, that's why I do this podcast - you get to meet founders like you who compete against the big guys, and do well. That's what the digital revolution means, it's a level playing field.
David: Absolutely, it's a challenge.
Paul: Great, thanks for coming on Dave.
David: Thanks very much, Paul.
Paul: All the best.