Categories for Bootstrapped

We’re giving away $6,620 worth of goods and services to 2 Lean Startups

When you’re building a lean startup, you walk a tightrope between pinching every penny that you can and making sure your team has the best tools available. We feel your pain and we want to help! We’ve decided that we are going to lend a hand and give away $6,620 worth of goods and services to 2 startups. How are we able to make this happen? The answer is our newest sponsor AppSumo, is really cool. AppSumo provides “Daily deals for web geeks” and we’ve partnered up to help a couple of startups get off the ground.

How to Enter:

1. Follow us on Twitter @startupfoundry,
2. Help spread the word by tweeting a link to this article.
3. Register for AppSumo (These guys take email seriously, and they will never spam you).

What we’re giving away:

When will the winner be announced?

We will contact the 2 winners on Friday the 18th.

Good Luck!

I would love to hear how your startup would benefit from these tools in the comments.

P.S. Make sure you say “Thanks” to @noahkagan (from AppSumo) for making this giveaway possible!

We’re giving away 10 copies of SyncPad for iOS ($9.99 value)

You may have seen our earlier coverage of SyncPad in our post yesterday titled “Talk to your real customers, not your imaginary ones. The SyncPad story.“.

We ran the promotion on our story yesterday, but we felt it would be best to mention it in a separate post to give it the attention it deserves.

We are giving away 10 copies of the iPhone and iPad versions (5 copies each). If you would like a chance to win a copy, leave a comment and tweet out a link to this article. An easy way to do that is by a simple ReTweet.

We will pick the winners in the next couple of days. SyncPad for iPad is available for $9.99 on the App Store or $4.99 for the iPhone version.

For up to the minute startup news, follow us on twitter @startupfoundry.

Talk to your real customers, not your imaginary ones. The SyncPad story.

SyncPad is an iOS app that helps people collaborate in real-time. You can think of it as a virtual whiteboard that helps people focus.

When Davide Di Cillo (the founder of SyncPad) was building SyncPad, he had envisioned the target market of his app to be creative studios. He foresaw advertising agencies, graphic design shops, and freelancers clamoring to use SyncPad so they could easily collaborate with clients remotely.

After Davide launched his app he hit the streets and began talking with his actual customers. What he discovered surprised him. Instead of taking the art world by storm, Davide discovered that his true customers for SyncPad were in the business market. He found that companies were using SyncPad to help manage meetings (both remote and locally), real time visual communication, and for presentations.

Davide jumped into action and immediately began to retool parts of SyncPad to better fit with how his actual customers were using his app (for example: They quickly integrated multi-page PDF support). Business started to flourish for Davide and SyncPad is now in talks with some major corporations that would like to buy several thousand seats for it.

All of this happened because Davide talked to his real customers, and didn’t get hung up on his imaginary ones.

We are giving away 5 copies of the iPhone and iPad versions. If you would like a chance to win a copy, leave a comment and tweet out a link to this article. An easy way to do this is by hitting the “Like” button in the comments and it will ask you if you want to share the article via Twitter.
SyncPad for iPad is available for $9.99 on the App Store or $4.99 for the iPhone version.

For up to the minute startup news, follow us on twitter @startupfoundry.

Bootstrapped Startup Fitocracy Helps You Level Up in Real Life (Beta Invites Included)

Looking for a way to make your workouts more social and fun?  Fitocracy has you covered.  The two-man startup based out of Brooklyn is intent on ensuring that fitness is fun, motivational, and social.  The basics of the site include signing up for a profile and then logging your workouts, following users and seeing their fitness accomplishments, earning points and leveling up.  There is also a leader board that ranks all users of the site and allows for them to engage in competition amongst one another.  The unique relationship between exercise and many popular game mechanics is the ability to always be able to push harder, longer, or stronger.  Entwine that with a dedicated community of supporters and Fitocracy users can be well on the way to accomplishing their fitness goals.

Before we take a closer look at how Fitocracy works we asked the founders to share 3 pieces of advice for other bootstrapped startups.

1.) Know your topic.  Know your field.  Whatever topic or arena your startup is in, it should be your passion to know everything there is to know about it.  You should be credible and knowledgeable about all the details in your space.  That knowledge should become your identity.

2.) Jump in and do it.  Too often would be entrepreneurs find themselves idling around wasting time.  If you have an idea and you are passionate about it.  Go forth and make it happen.

3.) Communicate effectively.  If you followed the advice from #1 you should be able to live and breath the topic your startup is in.  If you can do that learn how to effectively speak to other about it in an engaging and meaningful way.  Sell your idea by stirring emotions, being a hustler, and imparting your knowledge to your audience.

Delving a little deeper into the startup the user is able to log fitness workouts in the form of repetitions for strength training or minutes for cardio.  These repetitions and minutes translate into points for the user.  There are also levels, which represent the overall fitness level of that user.  In addition to points and levels, users can also perform quests.  Quests are much like they sound, and involve going out and achieving some pre-established goal.  One such quest is being able to bench press twice your body weight or working your way up to lifting as much as this guy.   The quests are also a way to break up the regular routine that many gym rats fall into thus serve as a nudge to users to try a spinning class rather than just running all the time for a cardio session.  This repetitive routine can be broken by also participating in a multitude of workouts, which results in a more rounded fitness package, and thus a higher score in the Fitocracy world.  And of course, like any good game site, they have achievements and badges that can awarded and shown off to other users similar to Xbox Achievements.

Points, levels, and quests are all still a work in progress for Fitocracy.  They launched into beta a few weeks back and one of their continuing goals is to properly map the relationship between points and levels and the amount of work that a person is doing. This challenge has been tricky since the beginning due to the unique nature of exercise.  A standard across the board does not work well because fitness is not a one size fits all.  The mapping out of the points/user system is one of the main goals of the beta run.

So where did the idea come from?  Co-founders Brian and Dick were both your typical kids playing video games on the couch. When they decided to take control of their lives, they realized that fitness and working out tended to mirror the games they had once played.  Becoming obsessed with weightlifting and working out in general, they came to the conclusion that fitness and being healthy is about the journey.  And during the journey there are opportunities to level up and progress throughout the process.  Along the way there are also “mini adventures” (or quests, if you will) that add to the story.  Realizing there was an opportunity at hand they created Fitocracy, which is now helping real people level up and progress their way through the game of fitness.

Users also have the opportunity to share their workouts, stats, and achievements with the socialized aspect of Fitocracy.  They have utilized the Facebook and Twitter APIs making it easy to connect with friends.  As their user base increases the social aspect will obviously grow as well.  Members can follow other members or friends and “Give props” to those that deserve it.  “Give props” is analogous to the Facebook “Like” button in that it allows users to quickly notify others that they are deserving of credit for their workouts.  Or that they “Like” the status of another user.

Fitocracy has some really great things going for them.  For instance, time on site is averaging between 10-13 minutes, they have approximately 2,500 page views per day, and the gamification aspect of the site is actually meaningful.  This is important because normal game mechanics tend be cutesy and somewhat trivial.  Whereas, on Fitocracy they mean the user is able to translate them into real world effects that contribute to their overall health and wellness.  Which leads to another interesting point:  all the workout stats are self-reported.  Meaning I could say I accomplished 1000 crunches and ran 700 minutes if I wanted to accumulate a bunch of points and level up.  BUT, Brain and Dick tell me that their community is very self-regulating and the site offers a way to report abuses and flag unruly users.  This in turn has kept the community mostly honest and brings integrity into the game.

The Fitocracy concept would do well in the mobile world where users could log their workouts right in the gym.  While obesity rates are spiraling out of control in America there is a growing number of people that are taking control of their lives by starting down the road of fitness.  This means Fitocracy will continue to grow once they go mobile and users can get their fitness game on right in the gym.  They will have a mobile optimized site up soon followed by a dedicated app after that.

If you are interested in Fitocracy their main site can be found at:  Or follow them on Twitter @fitocracy.  If you are currently a beta user of Fitocracy make sure to leave them feedback and suggestions in the comments.  If your not part of the beta, use this link to get in and then leave them feedback and suggestions in the comments.  The first 100 readers will get a free beta account!

To keep up with startup news, follow us on twitter @startupfoundry.

How Tim O’Reilly bootstrapped O’Reilly Media with “happy accidents”

For more startup news, follow us on twitter @startupfoundry.

Several readers have asked for transcripts of videos and I will start looking into that. In the mean time I’m including a summary.

1. The animal covers were done for free by an employees roommate. The design felt “better” then the ones that they paid a company to produce.

2. O’Reilly Media was bootstrapped with “$500 bucks of used furniture.”

3. O’Reilly Media was originally a consulting company. They had a huge consulting contract cancelled and it inspired them to publish their own stuff. They decided they wanted their own product to sell.

4. They focused on writing books that they thought were needed.

5. At first they were selling directly to consumers. O’Reilly Media was doing $7 Million in revenue before they were discovered by bookstores.

6. Tim O’Reilly said that early bits of ignorance that were helpful in getting them started. For example, the first books they produced didn’t have spines. They discovered people actually liked it because then the books could lay flat. Since they had a unique design that forced them to be displayed in a different way, they had their own shelves in book stores which helped them stand apart from their competitors.

Special thanks to Tim for coming on TSF. You can follow Tim on twitter @timoreilly.

For up to the minute startup news, follow us on twitter @startupfoundry.

How one startup successfully sold physical products – The Sticker Mule story.

I first heard about Sticker Mule through a comment on our site regarding real world startups.  I was in a desperate lookout for startups that actually make or sell physical products, and Anthony Thomas brought to our attention his startup: Sticker Mule.

Below is an excerpt of the interview:

Who you are, and your role in the company
I’m Anthony Thomas, one of the co-founders of Sticker Mule. I focus on product development & marketing and I do a lot of customer service too.

In two sentences or less, what does sticker mule do?
Sticker Mule makes it easy to buy custom stickers.

Where did the idea come from for sticker mule?
I have a close friend who is a retired operations manager that used to oversee large scale manufacturing operations. He had just bought his first computer at age 70 and was showing it to me. I decided to show him Zazzle and within a few minutes he was joking that we should build our own Internet-based manufacturing company. The next day he called me and put up $50k to get started.

We were actually incorporated before we settled on making stickers. At first we had plans to do multiple sites, but that was an overly ambitious idea. Sticker Mule ended up being the first project we got off the ground and now we’re obsessed with being the best sticker printer you’ll ever meet.

Give us a run through of the first 6 months of sticker mule. How did you market the site, what problems did you run into, etc.
We got lucky with our marketing efforts. Our team digs design, open source, and rails so we thought it’d be fun to make friends in these communities. Immediately after launching, we reached out to bloggers and conferences in these spaces. Word started to spread, sales went up and we got lots of positive feedback so we pushed harder.

I say we got lucky because these communities have really been responsible for our growth and we didn’t realize upfront how this would turn out. g takeaway is that outreach efforts work best when you have a genuine desire to connect with people. We really want to be thought well of by these communities and I think that’s been obvious to all the people that have helped us along.

Our biggest mistake was contracting a firm to help with SEO/marketing. We cut them after a few weeks and never implemented any of their ideas. In retrospect, it’s essential for startup founders to do as much as possible on their own initially. You have no way to evaluate if hired help is performing without making an attempt on your own first.

What initial costs did you have to get it up and running since you are a “real world” startup.
We had $180k in initial investment that was contributed by the founders. To get setup we spent about $150k.

Are you bootstrapped or funded
Technically, we are bootstrapped since all of the investment is from the founders. We have not taken any “outside” funding.

Are you profitable?
Yes, we’ve been profitable for the last three months. All of our cash is being invested back into the company to keep up with growth. We have no plans to get rich quick. We like what we’re doing and want to see it become a big deal.

What’s the hardest part about running a company with physical assets? How do you minimize the risk on costs.
Honestly, our biggest challenge isn’t physical assets. As our demand grows we just buy more machines at prices that provides a reasonably quick payback (1 – 2 years). Our bigger challenge is managing development costs and direction.

We do as much development as possible in house, but contract out more complex ideas. It’s easy to waste development time and money pursuing vaguely worded feature specifications. To keep focused, we design everything upfront before writing code. That gives us an opportunity to think through ideas and, in some cases, throw them out before wasting development effort.

What advice do you have for others who have considered starting a company that produces physical assets or goods. how is it different then a pure software company.
#1 Don’t build an e-commerce store

Build an application that sells your product; not an e-commerce store. Enabling purchases is only one goal of your web site. You should also be developing features that assist with customer service, help your marketing and engage visitors so they want to talk about you.

#2 Don’t outsource the job of building your Internet presence.

As a founder you need to be personally familiar with what it takes to get your name out. Traditional companies that sell physical goods consider Internet marketing a technical skill that they need to contract out. The problem is, if you’ve never personally done it you have no way to tell if you’re getting value from who you hire.

#3 Find an awesome designer and put them on your core team.

Good design makes every other aspect of your business easier. It helps reduce customer service inquiries, makes outreach easier and gets people talking about you. Consider every screen and interaction an opportunity to excite and educate your visitors.

Check them out at Follow the author on twitter @robbieab.

For up to the minute startup news – follow us on twitter @startupfoundry

How DuckDuckGo is fighting an 800 lb gorilla (Video interview with Founder)

It’s no secret that Google dominates search, but they are certainly not invincible. Google is commonly criticized for privacy concerns. Eric Schmidt (Google’s former CEO) recently said that Google’s goal was “to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it”. This sort of thinking certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.

Gabriel Weinberg’s company DuckDuckGo is attempting to exploit this chink in Google’s armor and really focus on users that would prefer not to share personal information about themselves with 3rd party advertisers.

In this interview Gabriel Weinberg talks about why users should care about their privacy when dealing with search engines, a way to improve search, and some financial details about DuckDuckGo.

For more startup news, follow us on Twitter @startupfoundry. The interview is below.

One Day One Job – How a pissed off CEO became a startups biggest revenue stream

Willy Franzen and I met not too long ago at a “hacker meetup” in Chicago, and I immediately fell in love with his startup and the story of how it all started.

The name of the website is called, which as the name suggests features one employer every day, of whom is looking to hire an entry level position for college graduates. Willy also runs which is the same concept except for internships.

Here’s what I enjoy the most about this interview:

  • He is the sole founder, and he still operates both sites as an army of one
  • He started the company straight out of college.
  • While interviewing for jobs, he mentioned the idea to his interviewer (The CEO), who was angry that he was creating a “competing” product to their company.  Eventually that company became their #1 revenue source (more details in the interview)
  • He snuck into a job fair, spoke to every recruiter and got 40 business cards of recruiters who said they were interested in being featured. Only 1 out of those 40 responded after he followed up.  He then took another approach which eventually got their attention.
  • He is not a web developer or programmer.  Both sites run purely off WordPress. He talks about how he picked up the skills to get the site running.
  • He is completely bootstrapped, with no outside investment.
  • He has received significant offers to be acquired, but he has turned them all down.
  • The site has been featured on Times, Readers Digest, Business Week, Freakonomics Blog, Science Magazine, Slate & Big Money Magazine.

Since the interview is kind of long, we provided a linkable table of contents so you can go to the question that you want to see answered.

  1. Where did you get the motivation for this idea?
  2. How long did it take you to go from idea to implementation of the site?
  3. How did you market the site in the first 6 months, what were your biggest challenges?
  4. Why did you decide to stay bootstrapped? Have investors approached you to invest in the site?
  5. How do you make money? Take us through the different revenue models you tried. What were the challenges with each?
  6. Are you profitable now?
  7. What advice can you to other non technical entrepreneurs like yourself.

1. Where did you get the motivation for this idea?

I graduated from Cornell in 2006 and headed for a career in Human Resources. After two summers of interning in HR, I knew that I was about to make a bad choice. I decided to turn down a few job offers and look at my other options. I took some time off over the summer, and when I started job searching, I became very frustrated. Part of it was that I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but didn’t know what to do or how to do. A bigger part was that I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do, and I couldn’t find a good way to learn about what’s out there for new grads. Job searching is easy if you want to go into banking or consulting, but it gets a lot harder when you’re not sure what you’re looking for. I started thinking really hard about how I could provide a service that would introduce students and grads to options that they’d never considered before.

2. How long did it take you to go from idea to implementation of the site?

Before I even started One Day, One Job, I started getting involved in the online recruiting community. I wanted to learn everything that I could about how employers reach candidates on the Internet. I read the blogs, I participated in some early social media sites, and I reached out to big names in the industry. This included applying for a job at a big startup in the space. I sent a cold e-mail to the CEO and told him about some of the ideas that I had for changing how online recruitment works. It got me an interview for a Business Development position, and it went well until the CEO walked in. I was trying to explain what I had been doing since I graduated (admittedly not much) and I started talking about One Day, One Job (it was no more than a few weeks old at this point). He got pretty angry at me for coming in to interview when I was working on what could be a competing product. 3 years later, his company became One Day, One Job’s biggest revenue source (through an advertising platform).

In late May of 2007, I came up with the idea for a site that features one job every day (like Woot for jobs). At first I thought that I’d need to hire someone to build the site, but I decided to just give it a go. A friend mentioned WordPress as a CMS platform, so I started playing around with that. My mom is a Graphic Designer, so she did my logo, and I built the site based off of the design of the logo. I had done some basic web development in high school and early college, so I taught myself how to build a WordPress theme and kludged together a working site based on a custom theme over the next 6 months (One Day, One Job launched in November of 2007). I found that FeedBurner could deliver daily e-mails for me, so I had everything that I needed for free. All I had to do was pay for a cheap shared hosting plan. (Over time I’ve had to upgrade my hosting to a cloud VPS, build on top of a more sophisticated paid WordPress framework, and move my e-mail list to AWeber. But the free/cheap stuff took me a really long way.) The technology was the easy part. Getting the product right was much harder.

That’s why I spent a ton of time researching and learning. I was constantly looking at competitors and trying to figure out what it would take to build something that could gain traction quickly. I probably could have been much more structured in the way that I approached the problem, but I chose to get a feel for the market. I did a lot of watching and thinking while keeping mostly quiet about what I was working on.

The original idea was to sell a sponsorship every day. It was a good idea, but it was too hard for me to implement. I had no traffic, so I couldn’t even give away free trial postings. I didn’t have any jobs, so I couldn’t build an audience. Other people have succeeded with this model (Groupon), but they’re usually selling to a Marketing/Advertising/Sales department. I was selling to HR. They’re far more resistant to change, so a new idea wasn’t something that they were willing to invest time in learning about.

I even snuck into Cornell’s career fair to pitch employers (I was all sketchy about it, yet they’re more than happy to have alums go to the fairs). It was the first time that I really put my idea out in the public. I targeted employers whose booths were empty. I introduced myself, told them a little bit about One Day, One Job, and offered them the opportunity to get a free posting. A lot of people were excited about what I was doing, so I was excited when I left with 30-40 business cards in my pocket. I followed up with every company that I spoke with, but I got almost no response. Even a free trial wasn’t worth their time.

I waited and waited for the employers to get back to me, but it never happened. (3 years later one of the relationships that was formed at the career fair turned into a sponsorship.) So I made a drastic change to my plan. Instead of working with employers to put together the features and charging them for the placement, I decided to make my content editorial. I’d write profiles on companies and their entry level jobs with nothing more than the publicly available information that every job seeker has access to. That way I’d have the content to build an audience, and eventually I’d be able to sell the ability to get in front of that audience. It worked.

3. How did you market the site in the first 6 months, what were your biggest challenges?

After I launched, I focused almost singularly on growing the audience.  One of the first things that I did was put together a cornerstone article that could generate some buzz. It was called How to Use Google to Find a Job – I used that article to introduce the site to people. It did really well on StumbleUpon, and it generated a lot of incoming links. It also helped me grow my exposure in the job search community.

I spent a lot of time personally e-mailing as many Career Services offices as I could find e-mail addresses for. I introduced myself and told them about what I was doing with One Day, One Job. This helped me build more incoming links, and I was able to find a few people who really loved the site and shared it with lots of students. This was really time consuming, but well worth it.

Facebook launched their PPC platform right around when One Day, One Job launched. I used that a lot too. I targeted students at Ivy League and Top 40 schools. I figured that it would cost the same to reach them as it would cost to reach other students, but they’d be much more valuable when pitching to employers. It helped me build a small following at a lot of elite schools, and to this date One Day, One Job continues to have a strong presence at the schools that I targeted. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence, but it really helps me sell advertising.

Finally, SEO was a big focus for me. It didn’t pay many dividends in the first 6 months, but by understanding the core ideas behind SEO, I was able to build a foundation for a site that would rank well moving forward. I didn’t realize how big search would be in driving traffic to the site.

I also tried giving away a Nintendo Wii. I ran a contest for users who helped spread the word about the site. It failed miserably. I eventually learned that virality and job search don’t fit together. People don’t like sharing stuff related to their job search. It’s a personal matter that most people don’t like putting out in public. I’m glad that I learned this early, because it’s easy to get caught up in chasing viral growth. In some markets it’s just unrealistic.

4. Why did you decide to stay bootstrapped?  Have investors approached you to invest in the site?

When I started, I didn’t really know anything about startups. The thought of using other people’s money to grow my business was completely foreign. My parents and girlfriend helped to support me along the way, but I figured that if I couldn’t get to profitability with what I had, then I’d have to go get a job. One Day, One Job’s expenses are minimal, so I was able to last a really long time on my savings. In a lot of ways I straddle the line between startup and lifestyle business, but I certainly consider One Day, One Job a startup.

I’ve had a few investors approach me along with a few acquisition offers. I talk to everyone, but I’ve told the investors that I’m not interested. I’m always interested in a potential acquisition, but it has to be the right fit. There are a lot of ways that I could put capital to use for One Day, One Job, but I think that investment would change the conversation. I’m ok with the fact that One Day, One Job is never going to be a $100 million business, but I think that it can be a $5 million business. I’d be thrilled with that. Investors wouldn’t. By owning 100% I have a lot more flexibility, and I might even stand to make more if I ever do exit. I definitely stand to gain more if I decide to keep doing One Day, One Job for a while.

5. How do you make money?  Take us through the different revenue models you tried.  What were the challenges with each?

Like I mentioned before, the original idea was to sell placement in our daily profiles. It didn’t work. Selling to HR is a full-time job, and you can’t do it if you don’t have something to sell. Luckily, my choice to move to editorial content enabled me to build a really significant audience.Between One Day, One Job and One Day, One Internship we have nearly 14,000 subscribers, and the two sites combine for 100k-150k unique visits per month (it’s quite seasonal).

From launch, I’ve pretty much stayed focused on an ad-supported model with one big bump in the road. The initial plan was to sell sponsorships alongside the editorial content. It took me a year to get my first sponsor. It was $500. Suddenly I was getting a lot of interest from employers. Then the economy tanked and everyone who had contacted me said “Let’s wait and see what happens over the next few months.” My next sponsor came almost 15 months later.

In between I committed a lot of resources to a project called Found Your Career. It was an online course for entry level job seekers. I had a partner who helped me develop some amazing content. The course was spread out over 21 days and consisted of 41 lessons. We priced it at $152. We launched it to the One Day, One Job audience and sold 10 in our first week. It wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for, but it was a pretty strong sign that we hit on something. Then the sales dried up. We sold 10 more over the next 6 months. Then we didn’t sell any for 6 months. I eventually lowered the price to $27 and sold a few more. But by that time I realized that advertising was more lucrative. Selling to job seekers is a terrible business decision, especially when you’re trying to sell them something they don’t think that they need. (Very few job seekers focus on improving themselves. Most think that if they can find the right job and craft their resume properly then they’ll magically get a job.)

Here’s the breakdown of revenue by percentage from 2010:

Employer Sponsorships: 35%
Contextual Job Advertisements: 50%
Found Your Career: 10%
Other Sponsorships and Affiliate Programs: 5%

I don’t actively sell sponsorships. Whenever I do, I fail. However, when an employer comes to me and wants to advertise, it usually works out really well. I’ve been working on expanding our offerings (and simplifying them), and so far it’s working really well. You can take a look at our media kit here:

Advertising jobs beyond job postings is unfamiliar territory for a lot of people in recruiting, so I try to focus on working with employers who already get it. I think that I should probably sell harder, but it’s hard to get the conversation moving in the right direction. I think this could be the area where I gain the most in 2011.

The contextual job advertisements section represents a huge win and a surprise. I had worked with the ad network before, but it never did much for me. Out of desperation I tried implementing it again late last year. Once again, it made me a few dollars over a few days. However, my business  development contact at the company contacted me when he saw all of the impression that I had delivered. He helped me change up my approach, and it became a revenue source that I was able to grow significantly over the 4th quarter of 2010. This is great, because it’s essentially automatic. But there’s always room for improvement.

I’m putting an increased emphasis on affiliate marketing in 2011. A lot of people think that all affiliate marketing is sketchy, but I’ve found a few partners that live up to my standards. The offers add value for the One Day, One Job and One Day, One Internship audiences, and they perform well. It’s still something that I’m learning a lot about, but I’m excited at the potential.

(I also occasionally promote my referral links for Bonobos and Gilt Groupe. I never intend to spend money on clothing again because of this.

6. Are you profitable now?

Yes, 2009 was technically profitable. 2010 was enough to pay my rent. 2011 is looking much better. In 2 months, I’ve already covered business expense for the year (they increased significantly because of some necessary upgrades, but they’re still very low). I’m hoping to invest in some interns (who should always be paid) soon.

7. What advice can you to other non technical entrepreneurs like yourself?
Don’t underestimate the power of content businesses. There is huge potential.

Monetization, marketing, and business development are areas where you can add immense value without technical skills, but you need to commit a ton of time to learning them. They’re not easy just because they’re not technical.

I’ve seen a lot of businesses fail in my space. The non-technical founders have typically failed because they couldn’t control technology expenses and didn’t understand the technology that is core to their product (even if it’s not all that high-tech). There have also been a lot of technical founders that have failed because they didn’t understand the market. They thought that flashy technology could solve the problems that plague HR and job seekers. It’s just not that easy.

It’s really hard to be a completely non-technical entrepreneur if you want to build an Internet business. Without my barely adequate coding skills, I probably wouldn’t have made it to profitability. It would have been too expensive to build and maintain the site. By piecing together free technology, I was able to build a pretty decent platform for reaching job seekers and helping employers get their message out. I had some prior knowledge, but I learned most of it along the way.

If you do everything yourself, you can last a lot longer. 6 months ago my business was nearly identical to what it is now, except now it’s making money on a consistent basis (still not nearly as much as I’d like). If you can buy yourself enough time to try a variety of things, you can often stumble upon something that will make a huge difference. I can’t tell you why I never quit, and I can’t tell you what gave me the confidence to keep going, but I’m glad that I did. If you’re constantly learning and working towards something, advantages accumulate. Eventually you figure out how to combine these advantages and start making money. Just make sure that you’re building all of the advantages along the way.

Check them out at, or follow Willy on twitter @willyf.

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ShoeFitr: The company Amazon must buy immediately

This past weekend I was on the judging panel for SuperConf where nine startups were presenting and one company completely blew me away. As I watched Matt Wilkinson demonstrate ShoeFitr my jaw hit the floor.

They identified a real world problem that every consumer that shops online has faced. Buying shoes online sucks. Sizing between brands (and sometimes even within brands) is different. I could wear a size 11 Adidas Sambas, but a size 12 in Converse. ShoeFitr fixes this problem by establishing a baseline measurement of your best fitting shoe, and then it compares it to the shoe you would like to buy. You can find your ideal size and see a 3d model of where the shoe will be tighter or looser. All of the models are incredibly precise as they were taken with ShoeFitr’s proprietary 3d imaging technology.

Below is a quick 2 minute interview one of the founders, Matt Wilkinson.

Why Amazon should buy ShoeFitr immediately:

  • Amazon owns the largest online shoe retailer, Zappos. After running several pilots with ShoeFitr, stores were seeing a 25% increase in sales. People love being sure of their purchases.
  • They help solve one of Amazon’s biggest pain points, returns. Think of all the money Amazon/Zappos loses on returns.
  • Their tech isn’t limited to just shoes. They could expand out to anything that’s mass produced (Jeans, Shirts, etc.). What a perfect fit for Amazon!
  • ShoeFitr is already making money with partnerships and they don’t need to take any VC money. This makes buying them less messy.
  • There is no doubt in my mind if Amazon doesn’t buy them, one of their competitors will.
  • Their UI could be cleaned up a little bit, but their underlying tech is solid. I would order every single pair of my shoes through this. I would actually prefer to buy shoes via ShoeFitr then in person.

    You simply have to see this in action to grasp how genius this is. Go to and click on the demo. I have no doubt you will be thoroughly impressed. For more startup news, follow us on Twitter @startupfoundry.