These are all of the podcasts - and research interviews - we did with successful entrepreneurs to compile the book. Listen & learn.

October 1, 2014

Nathan Kontny


Interview with Nathan Kontny, Founder of Draft and CEO of Highrise (please note: this episode was recorded before the announcement about Nate becoming CEO of Highrise was made, so there are no questions about his new role). Nate is @natekontny on Twitter and writes on his blog at ninjasandrobots.com.

In this episode, Nate talks about how prior to starting Draft, he was a co-founder of two different companies that went through Y Combinator. The first company, Inkling Markets, was pretty successful, but after a while Nate moved on to start another company called CityPosh, which wasn’t successful. After his experiences with CityPosh, Nate decided to take a break from entrepreneurship and work for the Obama campaign. Throughout this time, Nate had been blogging and writing consistently on his blog, Ninja and Robots. With his blogging, Nate built up an audience before starting to work on Draft. Nate says that you should build an audience by teaching people before you ever start working on a business. When he started working on Draft and when he launched it, Nate had a large group of people who were very interested in it thanks to his efforts in building an audience. When thinking about how to structure Draft’s business model, Nate talks about how the development tool Sublime Text had a heavily influenced him. To hear about all of these interesting experiences Nate has had and to learn much more, give this episode a listen.

September 25, 2014

Dan Shipper


Interview with Dan Shipper, Co-Founder of Firefly, which was recently acquired by Pegasystems. Dan is @danshipper on Twitter and writes regularly on his blog at danshipper.com about entrepreneurship and business.

In this episode, Dan talks about how in the early days of Firefly Dan and his co-founder hypothesized that companies would benefit from integrating Firefly into their support workflows so they could provide better support. Dan and his co-founder also hypothesized that companies who were already using chat technologies on their websites would likely want, need, and benefit from Firefly too. So, Dan and his co-founder bought a list of companies that use live chat from builtwith.com, and then started cold-emailing and cold-calling all of these companies. What Dan and his co-founder found was not all live chat users had a need for Firefly’s co-browsing technologies, but many live chat users in particular sectors really liked Firefly. During sales conversations, Dan and his co-founder talked as little about the Firefly product as possible. Instead, Dan and his co-founder listened intently and tried to figure out different companies’ support needs and how Firefly could help with those needs and fit into companies’ support processes. These conversations took place over the course of a summer, and then at the end of that summer Dan and his co-founder had already gotten a few customers for Firefly. The other crucial thing they learned was that not only were users of chat companies going to be great customers for Firefly, but the chat companies themselves would make great Firefly customers. To learn much more from Dan about how to get your business’s first customers, give this episode a listen.

September 15, 2014

Danny Wen

Harvest Time Tracking

Interview with Danny Wen, Co-Founder of Harvest Time Tracking. Danny is @dannywen on Twitter and you can learn more about Danny on his personal website, dannywen.com.

In this episode, Danny talks about how before creating Harvest, he and his co-founder were working on a digital agency. While working on the digital agency, Danny and his co-founder were using Microsoft Excel for time tracking, which was very difficult for them to use. So, Danny and his co-founder decided to build Harvest and launched it in 2006. Before starting Harvest, Danny and his co-founder surveyed the market and found that there were no other cloud-based time tracking solutions on the market yet. When getting the first customers for Harvest, Danny and his co-founder asked friends who also owned digital agencies and consulting firms to purchase the product and start using it. Because Harvest was bootstrapped, Danny and his co-founder charged people to use the product from its beginning. Even with charging people to use Harvest from the start, it took about a year before Harvest was generating enough money so Danny and his team could focus on it 100%. Besides these great stories, Danny also shares a bunch of other tips to help you find your first customers based on his experiences with Harvest.

September 13, 2014

Melody McCloskey


Interview with Melody McCloskey, Co-Founder and CEO of StyleSeat. Melody is @MelodyMcC on Twitter.

In this episode, Melody talks about how before she and her co-founder even had a product, their number one goal was to create a product that would be useful and valuable for their ideal customers, which are salon owners and stylists. To learn more about stylists and salon owners and what the challenges in their businesses are, Melody and her co-founder held events where they could have conversations with them. The other goal of these events was to show the early customers of StyleSeat that she and her co-founder were very passionate about the industry, so these early customers would become vocal, early evangelists of the product. Also, Melody talks about how about 90% of StyleSeat’s new customers join the product via word-of-mouth referrals because stylists refer things to other stylists. To encourage word-of-mouth referrals, Melody and the StyleSeat team has focused on working with their customers and providing excellent support and service to their customers so they know that the StyleSeat team cares. One example of why word-of-mouth referrals are such a big distribution source for StyleSeat is that the average stylist increases his or her revenues by 70% in the first year of using StyleSeat. Melody stresses the importance of product distribution and how most startups fail because they can’t properly market and distribute their products.

August 26, 2014

Gabriel Weinberg


Interview with Gabriel Weinberg, Founder and CEO of DuckDuckGo. Gabriel is @yegg on Twitter, writes on his blog, and is a co-author of Traction, which is a book that teaches you how to efficiently and effectively grow your startup or business using the traction framework invented by Gabriel and his co-author Justin Mares and the 19 tractions channels that are laid out in great detail in the book.

In this episode, Gabriel talks about how he launched DuckDuckGo on Hacker News and used feedback from users and customers to improve DuckDuckGo over time. Gabriel says that in DuckDuckGo’s early days he created a huge list of reasons why other people weren’t joining DuckDuckGo, and spent two years going through and resolving all of those reasons for not using DuckDuckGo so the product could improve. After a while, Gabriel noticed how people on Reddit started expressing interest in a search engine with better privacy. With some research, Gabriel learned that a person’s search data is his or her most personal data on the Internet, and so Gabriel decided to shape DuckDuckGo around being a very secure and privacy-conscious search engine that doesn’t track user data. Gabriel also goes into detail about a number of the 19 traction channels that are covered in Traction, and talks about the Bullseye Traction Framework that he and his co-founder created to help identify which traction channel will help you the most at any time. To get traction for DuckDuckGo, Gabriel talks about how he’s used many different strategies over the years such as: SEO, community-building, content marketing, mainstream press, and business development.

August 18, 2014

Chris Savage


Interview with Chris Savage, Co-Founder and CEO of Wistia. Chris is @csavage on Twitter and writes about marketing, startups, and entrepreneurship on his blog, Savage Thoughts.

In this episode, Chris talks about how the initial versions of Wistia (a filmmaking competition website) and then a photo portfolio hosting website, were not effective product ideas because they weren’t able to get any customers for them. Eventually, Chris and his co-founder realized that businesses weren’t video experts and businesses didn’t use a lot of video. So, they realized that if they made it easy for businesses to use video, then those businesses would pay them lots of money. Initially, to get the first customers for Wistia, Chris would cold-call potential customers and have conversations with them. In fact, for the first 6 months to a year of Wistia’s existence, it was impossible for businesses to become paying customers by directly signing up on Wistia’s website. Besides helping him get customer, cold-calling was also helpful because it helped Chris understand his customers better and and learn more about their problems and pains.

August 11, 2014

Steli Efti


Interview with Steli Efti, Co-Founder and CEO of Close.io. Steli is also a Co-Founder of ElasticSales. Steli is @Steli on Twitter and is the author of The Ultimate Startup Guide to Outbound Sales.

In this episode, Steli talks about how he and his co-founders initially were working on a consumer startup, but ended up switching and working on ElasticSales, which is kind of like a scalable AWS for sales instead of servers. To get the first customers for ElasticSales, Steli and his co-founders cold-called startups they found on CrunchBase, and two weeks later they had 7 startups who were interested in becoming customers for ElasticSales. In this episode, one of the many great tactics Steli shares is a formula for effectively cold-calling potential customers. When working on ElasticSales, Steli says that he and his co-founders were dissatisfied with all of the sales software and CRMs on the market. So, Steli and his co-founders decided to build their own sales software for ElasticSales so they could have a competitive advantage in sales and recruiting. After a while, as Steli and his team continued to improve their internal sales software, demand from outside salespeople and teams started to come together asking to buy ElasticSales’ internal software. Eventually, a small group of 4 people broke off and began to work on getting ElasticSales’ internal sales software ready to be released for use by outside companies, and this team launched the initial version of Close.io. Within the first year of the launch of Close.io, the revenue generated by Close.io eclipsed the revenue generated by ElasticSales. During the time Close.io was growing and getting customers, ElasticSales was receiving 400 to 500 very interested leads per month, but was only accepting 2 to 4 leads per month as customers. After Close.io launched, Steli and the Close.io team started to tell the leads they didn’t take on as customers about Close.io and sell the leads on the software. Steli also talks about lots of other tactics and strategies that helped grow Close.io in this episode.

August 4, 2014

Mitch Wainer


Interview with Mitch Wainer, Co-Founder and CMO of DigitalOcean. Mitch is @MitchWainer on Twitter and writes on his blog at MitchWainer.com.

In this episode, Mitch talks about how he and his co-founders launched DigitalOcean when they presented it at the New York Tech Meetup. At the end of the NYTM presentation, the DigitalOcean co-founders gave away a $50 promo to everyone in attendance for DigitalOcean. After giving away the free $50 promos, DigitalOcean got its first 50 customers when people had to start paying to use the service. In the summer of 2012, DigitalOcean was accepted into TechStars, and had 70 customers at the time. To fund the creation and growth of DigitalOcean, Mitch and his co-founders were very fortunate to have a previous business (a managed hosting company) that was generating $5,000,000 per year in revenue. Mitch and his co-founders then used some of the capital that their previous company was generating in order to fund the incubation of DigitalOcean. In this episode, Mitch also talsk about how and why content marketing is important for early-stage startups to focus on and how DigitalOcean has used content marketing to grow and scale its customer base.

August 2, 2014

How do you validate your product idea if you already have an audience? Ask the people in your audience to pre-order your product based on your idea alone. This is also a great strategy to get the first customers for your product once you have built up an audience (Don’t have an audience yet? Our […]

August 2, 2014

SEO is a great way to drive traffic to your site. In order for you to have an effective SEO strategy, you need to write and create a lot of great content on your website.  How can you create high-quality content? Build a loyal audience. Then, produce content that teaches people everything you know. While […]

August 2, 2014

Concentric circles are layered circles where you have one smaller circle in the middle, and then more circles layered on top of the first circle where each circle is a little bit bigger than the previous circle. Rob Walling has an effective and efficient marketing strategy to find your first customers. It’s called concentric circle […]

August 2, 2014

Severe “pains” that people will pay to solve and “vitamin” products that are valuable are easy to distinguish from minor pains, mere inconveniences and useless vitamins. When you do customer development, if someone has a severe pain or severe need for a useful vitamin, he’ll be extremely emotional and passionate about it. It will be […]

July 28, 2014

John Sheehan


Interview with John Sheehan, Co-Founder and CEO of Runscope. John is @johnsheehan on Twitter, is the creator of RestSharp, API Digest, and API Jobs, and is the co-host of the API and cloud podcast, Traffic and Weather.

In this episode, John talks about how a lot of the initial attention and community that he and his co-founder built came from their existing networks from when they were involved at Twilio and from when John was involved at IFTTT, and from having done lots of open source work related to APIs as well. Before getting the first customers for Runscope, John and his co-founder ran a private beta for Runscope where they did not charge people to get access to the beta. The main goal of the beta was to learn more about potential customers and what tools they really needed. Though beta testers didn’t have to pay while Runscope was in beta, after Runscope launched John and his co-founder had pricing plans nearly from the beginning as they wanted to set the tone that Runscope was going to be a product that people had to pay for. John also talks about how tool-based marketing has helped drive most of Runscope’s customers, and how Runscope has used this form of marketing effectively.

July 20, 2014

Lukas Biewald


Interview with Lukas Biewald, Co-Founder and CEO of CrowdFlower. Lukas is @l2k on Twitter and writes on his blog at LukasBiewald.com.

In this episode, Lukas talks about how he thought he didn’t have a lot of connections for finding customers because he was an engineer. But, when he started to ask people about the CrowdFlower and its idea more often, they started introducing him to people who they thought would be interested and get value from the service. Lukas mentions how CrowdFlower’s first customer was initially a startup with only 3 people, and now that startup, Scribd, has grown into a much bigger company. Something Lukas has noticed is that most people don’t think they have a network that they can for help from, but actually people are very helpful when you ask them sincerely for help. CrowdFlower was bootstrapped for the first year. Lukas wishes CrowdFlower had gotten funding from the start, but he also talks about how it was good to reach and focus on profitability from the start. One other tactic Lukas brings up for getting your first customers is having an authentic social media presence and a valuable and authentic blog. Though customers didn’t come in a big influx from this blog and authentic social media presence, Lukas says that the customers that did sign up from this channel were some of the best customers.

July 17, 2014

Anthony Eden


Interview with Anthony Eden, Founder of DNSimple. Anthony is @aeden on Twitter and writes on his blog, All Things v9.

In this episode, Anthony talks about how before working on DNSimple, he was working on a different startup. After stopping work on this startup, Anthony mentioned that he always knew a lot about domains and DNS servers and was interested in doing something in that space. Eventually, Anthony started talking with his Twitter followers asking them if they’d be interested in a DNS service provided by him. So, the first customers for DNSimple were friends and followers of his on Twitter who committed to being the first people to try and pay for the product. At first, DNSimple only provided hosted DNS services. Anthony looked at the competitors in the market and noticed how there were only DNS providers for enterprise customers and only DNS providers that people could use for free after registering domains with services like Godaddy or NameCheap. But, there weren’t any companies providing self-serve SaaS DNS services, so Anthony recognized that there was an opportunity. At first, Anthony charged a small $3 per month in order for people to use DNSimple, and that’s how he got the first customers for his business. Anthony also discusses how charging a low price for your product tends to give you more customers, but those customers almost always require more work to support. Plus, Anthony talks about how marketing a product at conferences can be very profitable and worthwhile.

July 14, 2014

Elizabeth Yin


Interview with Elizabeth Yin, Co-Founder and CEO of LaunchBit. Elizabeth is @elizyin on Twitter and writes on her blog, Startup Adventures Abound!. You can learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her personal site at elizabethyin.com.

In this episode, Elizabeth talks about how she and her co-founder joined the 500 Startups Accelerator Program even though they didn’t initially have an idea, but they had bootstrapped different side projects and generated revenue from them. Though Elizabeth and her co-founder didn’t have an idea at the start of 500 Startups Accelerator, they knew that they wanted to help marketers with customer acquisition. Elizabeth and her co-founder started out by cold-emailing other startups and asking to speak with them. They also received introductions to other teams and companies in the 500 Startups network, but most of their early work in creating LaunchBit came from them cold emailing other companies. To come up with the idea for LaunchBit, Elizabeth and her co-founder started having discussions with marketers about what channels they used for customer acquisition. They learned that a handful of companies were using paid ads in email newsletters to generate leads and acquire customers, but that this was a difficult and time-consuming process for these companies because they had to partner with newsletters one at a time. Recognizing the pain that these marketers faced and the value of ads in email newsletters, Elizabeth and her co-founder created LaunchBit and started to acquire the first customers for it.

July 10, 2014

Todd Garland


Interview with Todd Garland, Founder and CEO of BuySellAds. Todd is @toddo on Twitter and writes on his blog at toddgarland.com.

In this episode, Todd talks about how he got the first ad inventory for BuySellAds by reaching out to people he knew that owned websites that were selling ad space on their sites. Todd then went and looked for the existing advertisers that the sites in BuySellAds’ inventory had and also searched for similar advertisers. To get people to buy ads from the initial inventory he built up, Todd acted as a sales guy for the sites in his inventory by encouraging the advertisers he found to buy ads on their sites through BuySellAds. To get the first customers for BuySellAds, Todd did lots of manual work and did things that didn’t scale.

July 7, 2014

Colin Nederkoorn


Interview with Colin Nederkoorn, Co-Founder and CEO of Customer.io. Colin is @alphacolin on Twitter and blogs at iamnotaprogrammer.com.

In this episode, Colin talks about how he and his co-founder got the idea for Customer.io by reaching out to anyone who was asking or talking about retention emails and retaining their customers. Colin and his co-founder also put up a splash page so that anyone who was interested in learning more about the product could hear about it. Any time someone would sign up on the splash page, Colin and his co-founder would reach out to that person directly to better understand their problems and pains and to then try to get that person to commit to paying $10 per month for Customer.io. One other very important point Colin brings up is that you should reach out to people and build relationships with them when you have nothing to sell. Even if the people you build relationships with don’t end up eventually buying your product, there’s still lots of value to building these relationships, which is something Colin talks about.

July 3, 2014

Scott Watermasysk


Interview with Scott Watermasysk, Co-Founder of KickoffLabs. Scott is @scottw on Twitter and also writes regularly on his blog at scottw.com. Scott is also the creator and curator of BootStrapped Weekly, a once a week newsletter highlighting the most interesting news, tips, and tricks from the bootstrapping community.

In this episode, Scott talks about how he and his co-founder engaged with as many people on Twitter and the web as possible like Quora that were expressing an interest in or need for lead collection software like KickoffLabs. For example, at the time that KickoffLabs was just starting out, there was a competitor to KickoffLabs that was forcing people to wait before using the service and was requiring that they Tweet about the service on Twitter in order to get on the service faster. Scott and his co-founder went to these people and let them know about KickoffLabs and how they could start using it right away, which is something that resonated with them. Scott also discusses how it is much easier to decide to implement the feature requests of paying customers than it is to implement the feature requests of people who are not yet paying. Lastly, Scott talks about the importance of customer service and some of the things he and his co-founder do to provide excellent customer service.

June 30, 2014

Brennan Dunn


Interview with Brennan Dunn, Founder of Planscope.io. Brennan is @brennandunn on Twitter and is the person behind Freelancer’s Weekly, a weekly newsletter with actionable advice to help freelancers and consultants grow their businesses. Brennan is also the creator of the Double Your Freelancing Rate course and the author of The Blueprint. You can learn more about Brennan and his different products at brennandunn.com.

In this episode, Brennan talks about how he built a launch list for Planscope before he even wrote the first line of code for it. Brennan created a long-form landing page to collect the emails of people who were interested in hearing more about Planscope. While working on Planscope, Brennan communicated regularly with the people on his list and spoke about different problems related to freelancing and different strategies freelancers could use to make more money. To help drive leads and traffic to Planscope’s email list, Brennan wrote regularly on a blog that was directly associated with the list. Often times Brennan would look for comment threads on forums about people talking about problems related to freelancing. Then Brennan would go write posts that solved these people’s problems, and replied to people’s problems in forums by pointing them to the posts. Then, to get email subscribers, Brennan had a call-to-action at the end of each post encouraging people to sign up for Planscope’s list.

June 26, 2014

Clay Collins


Interview with Clay Collins, Co-Founder and CEO of LeadPages. Clay is @ClayCollins on Twitter.

In this episode, Clay talks about how he built up an audience before starting LeadPages and trying to get the first customers for it. When getting the first customers for LeadPages, Clay pre-sold LeadPages to the people in his audience. In this episode, Clay talks about his formula for effectively pre-selling products and how he used this formula to pre-sell LeadPages. Clay also talks about the concept of a “minimum viable audience” in this episode and why having a “minimum viable audience” is important for pre-selling a product effectively.

June 23, 2014

Dan Martell


Interview with Dan Martell, Founder and CEO of Clarity.fm. Dan is @danmartell on Twitter and you can schedule a call with Dan on Clarity.fm here.

In this episode, Dan talks about how he got the first customers for Clarity by Tweeting to his followers if they would be interested in having conversations with expert marketers like Neil Patel about SEO or Lewis Howes about affiliate marketing. Then, those people who were interested would email Dan, he would tell them the price, and they would pay and set up a call. By doing this, Dan got the first customers for Clarity on the day he announced it to the world. After this announcement, Dan manually got more customers for Clarity and set up calls for them over the next few weeks. Over time, Dan created a product for Clarity, which made setting calls up with experts for customers much easier.

Note: This interview with Dan is over the telephone instead of being on Skype, which means the audio quality is a bit lower than it normally is. There’s still tons of great content, and we would really recommend giving it a listen. We’re sorry for the lower audio quality!

June 19, 2014

Josh Pigford


Interview with Josh Pigford, Founder of Baremetrics. Josh is @Shpigford and writes regularly on Baremetric’s blog and his own blog at joshpigford.com.

In this episode, Josh talks about he got his first customers for Baremetrics by reaching out to friends of his who were also the owners of SaaS businesses. He says that if he hadn’t been able to get any of his friends to pay, then he wouldn’t have been able to get anyone else to pay for it. For the first few months of running Baremetrics, Josh talks about how most of his customers came from Twitter. Baremetrics solved enough of a pain that people would Tweet about it and recommend it to their friends. In the past couple months, Josh has gotten new customers for Baremetrics by posting on its blog and being very transparent about how Baremetrics is doing. For example, Josh opened up Baremetric’s own Baremetrics dashboard to the public, which means anyone can see the MRR, ARR, and tons of other metrics from Baremetrics. Josh’s transparency about his own company’s metrics led to a special deal with Buffer, where Buffer proceeded to open up its own Baremetrics dashboard to the public.

June 16, 2014

Patrick McKenzie

Appointment Reminder

Interview with Patrick McKenzie, Founder of Appointment Reminder and Bingo Card Creator. Patrick is patio11 on Twitter and writes regularly on his blog, Kalzumeus Software. Patrick is also the author of a book called Sell More Software and also creates software training material and products that you can learn about here.

In this episode, Patrick talks about how he made a very basic mockup of Appointment Reminder when determining if it was something he should work on. One time when visiting Chicago, Patrick went and visited salons and other stores that require people to have appointments, and asked the owners at these places if he could talk with them for 30 minutes about the industry they were. When asking to have these conversations, Patrick also offered to pay people for their time based on the rate they usually charged. Almost everyone Patrick talked to was open to having a conversation with him, and only one of the 15 or so people he spoke with asked him to pay. After having conversations with these people and showing them his very basic demo for Appointment Reminder, Patrick learned that there was a big need for it and that he should go forward with building it.

June 12, 2014

Liam Gooding


Interview with Liam Gooding, Co-founder and CEO of Trak.io. Liam is @liamgooding on Twitter and writes regularly on Trak’s blog. Liam is also the author of Growth Pirate: How to Use Pirate Metrics to Unlock Growth in Your Startup.

In this episode, Liam talks about initially he and his co-founders decided to give Trak away for free and raised angel funding. After 2 or 3 months of giving Trak away for free, Liam and his co-founders realized that they were building a product for users and not for customers. Liam discusses in the episode how he wished he required people to be paying customers for Trak from day one instead of letting people be free users. The wait list for Trak while it was in beta was huge, so the Trak team began charging people $29 to jump the wait list and start using Trak right away. When Liam and his co-founders started charging for Trak, only one or two people were annoyed about the switch. Liam has a great saying about why getting people to pay for your product is so important, which is, “Paying customers have feature requests for valuable features, while free users only have feature requests for cool features.” A successful product has to have valuable features, and what Liam has learned is that paying customers are the only people who give suggestions for valuable features.

June 9, 2014

Ryan Carson


Interview with Ryan Carson, Co-founder and CEO of Treehouse. Ryan is @ryancarson and blogs regularly on his blog, The Naive Optimist.

In this episode, Ryan talks about he used the cash-flow from his previous business to build Treehouse. Next, Ryan discusses how right when Treehouse launched, it had $3,000 in revenue on day one. Initially, Ryan got Treehouse to profitability with only 3 people, after which he decided to raise an angel round of funding. Ryan also talks about how a big part of Treehouse’s early marketing strategy was content marketing and using CPC and display ads. Treehouse didn’t collect email addresses and use email marketing as a part of its early content marketing strategy, but Ryan says he and his team should have. At first, Ryan and his team didn’t have very good success with online ads and decided to stop using them, but eventually they found a way to profitably use online ads.

Note: This interview with Ryan is over the telephone instead of being on Skype, which means the audio quality is a bit lower than it normally is. There’s still tons of great content, and we would really recommend giving it a listen. We’re sorry for the lower audio quality!

June 5, 2014

James Deer


Interview with James Deer, Co-founder and Product Director of GatherContent. James is @jamesdeer on Twitter.

In this episode, James talks about how before launching GatherContent James and his team built up an email list using a landing page. Initially, James asked friends who were consultants to try out GatherContent’s beta. Next, after a bit of time passed, James opened up the beta to everyone on the landing page’s email list. The beta for GatherContent was free, but when it officially launched all of the beta users were required to start paying. Because lots of people were so engaged with GatherContent, when it launched, it had more than 100 paying customers right away. James says that the pricing for GatherContent was too low at first, and that after 3 or 4 months he and his team doubled the prices for it. Doubling GatherContent’s prices actually led to an increase in the growth rate of new customers signing up. Lastly, James talks about how lots of startups invent pains to solve, but don’t solve real pains.

June 2, 2014

Ruben Gamez


Interview with Ruben Gamez, Founder of Bidsketch. Ruben is @earthlingworks on Twitter and writes on his blog, ExtendsLogic.

In this episode, Ruben talks about how he built up an email list by putting up a landing page that described what Bidsketch would do and what problems it would solve. Eventually, Ruben added an incentive to encourage people to sign up for his list. The incentive was a free proposal template. Adding an incentive helped immediately increase signups by a factor of 5. The list only had about 300 people, but Ruben got his first customers by selling to this list. Ruben also talks about how getting rid of Bidsketch’s free plan helped get more paid signups.

May 28, 2014

Kelly Sutton


Interview with Kelly Sutton, Co-founder and CTO of LayerVault. Kelly is @KellySutton on Twitter and writes on his blog kellysutton.tumblr.com.

In this episode, Kelly talks about how he and his co-founder built the first version of LayerVault because they personally needed a version control tool for design files, but one didn’t exist. Before launching LayerVault, Kelly and his co-founder built up an email list of people who were interested in LayerVault. Prior to launching LayerVault to everyone on their email list, Kelly and his co-founder segmented the launch by picking out the people they most wanted to use the product first such as their friends and people in the industry they really respected. Even though LayerVault raised funding after bootstrapping for a year, Kelly says that he and his team still try to have the bootstrapping mindset when running LayerVault.

May 26, 2014

Rob Walling


Interview with Rob Walling, Founder of Drip. Rob is @robwalling on Twitter, and Rob also writes about entrepreneurship and bootstrapping on his blog, Software by Rob. Besides running Drip, Rob also co-hosts the podcast, Startups For the Rest of Us, and Rob is also the owner of the software products HitTail and DotNetInvoice.

In this episode, Rob talks about a strategy for marketing called Concentric-Circle Marketing. When finding the initial customers for Drip, the first people Rob contacted to validate his idea and sell it to were people he knew and were in his personal network. Initially, Rob brought customers onto Drip one at a time so he could get their feedback and make improvements to the product before letting anyone else sign up. Eventually, Rob segmented the larger launch of Drip so he could continue to get more feedback and only market to people on his launch list that he was confident would sign up. When discussing how he segmented Drip’s launch, Rob recommended that you check out Episode 139 of his podcast to learn more.

May 22, 2014

Jeff Epstein


Interview with Jeff Epstein, Founder and CEO of Ambassador. Jeff is @jeff_epstein on Twitter where he tweets about business, startups, and marketing.

In this episode, Jeff talks about how he and his team launched Ambassador while they were at Techstars in 2011. Before Jeff started Ambassador, he tried to build a business using a freemium model with Zferral. But, he found that with the freemium model it was hard to get people to pay for the product. With Ambassador, Jeff and his team charged for the product from the beginning. Jeff believes that a great way to get your first customers is to blog while you are building your product.

May 19, 2014

David Heinemeier Hansson


Interview with David Heinemeier Hansson, Co-founder and CTO of Basecamp. David is @DHH on Twitter and regularly writes for the Signal v. Noise blog. David is also the creator of Ruby on Rails and the co-author of Rework and Remote: Office Not Required.

In this episode, David talks about how he and the Basecamp team originally built Basecamp for just themselves. It wasn’t until they were about halfway through building the first version of Basecamp that they thought other people might find it to be valuable too, and decided to show it to other friends that they knew who were consultants. After showing about 10 potential customers the software, they got a lot of good encouragement for releasing the software as a business. When they actually launched Basecamp, they were able to launch to an audience of about 4,000 RSS readers they had built up from blogging over the course of 4 years.

May 15, 2014

Garrett Dimon


Interview with Garrett Dimon, Co-founder of Sifter. Garrett is @garrettdimon on Twitter and is the author of Starting and Sustaining, which is a book and spreadsheet to help you launch and maintain a SaaS web application. Jason also writes at GarrettDimon.com.

In this episode, Garrett talks about how when he launched the beta for Sifter, he charged $5 a month so he could only find serious customers. Before launching Sifter, Garrett built up an email list of about 1,000 people by blogging about bug tracking and other development-related topics. Garrett says he got 80% of his first customers from this list, and the other 20% of his first customers came from advertising. For building an email list, Garrett believes you should focus on finding “like-minded” people with your writing and content instead of building an audience.

May 12, 2014

Jason Cohen

WP Engine

Interview with Jason Cohen, Co-founder and CTO of WP Engine. Jason is @asmartbear on Twitter and writes regularly about business, startups, and marketing on his blog at a smart bear.

In this episode, Jason discusses the importance of talking with your potential customers before you start building your product. Not only does Jason recommend talking with potential customers, but he suggests that you should bring up the price of your product with potential customers and ask them to pay for it before it actually exists. Jason also talks about how he found his first customers with “good old-fashioned legwork.”

May 2, 2014

Rand Fishkin


Interview with Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz. Rand is @randfish on Twitter and writes regularly on his personal blog.

In this episode, Rand shares their “unsophisticated” (his words) approach to finding customers initially that foolishly saw them never collecting e-mail addresses from their content marketing for the longest time.

May 1, 2014

Wade Foster


Interview with Wade Foster, Co-Founder of Zapier. Wade is @wadefoster on Twitter and writes on his personal blog.

In this episode Wade shares how he scoured forums for pains, which lead him to find quite an influential first user. Thereafter Wade & his team started a paid, invite-only beta for Zapier whilst building out the product.

April 30, 2014

Neil Patel


Interview with Neil Patel, Co-Founder of CrazyEgg & KissMetrics. Neil is @neilpatel on Twitter and writes regularly at Quick Sprout.

In this episode, Neil shares insights in how KissMetrics acquired their first customers by manually reaching out to friends and other companies, and then offering them free usage of the product.

Learn how to find your first customers