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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.

Follow the author on twitter @robbieab, and for up to the minute startup news – follow us on twitter @startupfoundry

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.

    Managing 400m users, Disqus shares 3 hacks for a better UX in lean startups

    Chris Jennings (@ckj) from Disqus spoke at Superconf in Miami this past week, and I had a chance to chat with him after his presentation. In this video Chris shares how Disqus uses 3 hacks to ensure a clean UX for its 400m users.

    Summary of the video:
    1. Design with constraints – Restraints fuel our creativity – Example: Quroa 1.0 was written just in HTML. Restraint keeps you focused on what’s important.
    2. Selectively deploy – Roll out – Example: When Disqus rolled out their new theme, Houdini, Disqus employees could interact with the theme on major sites without disrupting regular users.
    3. Design for delight – This gives fans something to talk about, and it can help diffuse anger if something breaks.

    Slides from his presentation are attached below.

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

    Ask TSF Readers – What happened to “real world” startups?

    You know, the startups that actually have tangible products such as Zappos, Amazon, Redbox or Groupon.  If you can explain it to your grandmother, then most likely it has a real world aspect to it that normal people can relate to. If you’re debating a freemium model vs. Paid model then most likely you don’t have a physical product / service to sell.

    As Startup Foundry grows we get more and more startups asking for us to cover them, and 99% of them don’t involve any “real life” aspects to them.  Why is that?  I have a few explanations why they don’t exist.

    1. Pure software startups have almost zero barrier to entry if the founders are developers
    2. Developers are so immersed into their digital lives, they forget about problems that can be solved in the real world.
    3. The people who have the ideas for real world startups, are not entrepreneurs, thus the idea never gets executed.
    4. There are actually plenty of real world startups, but I don’t hear about them because I’m also so immersed in my digital life.

    Reason #1: Pure software startups have almost zero barrier to entry if the founders are developers

    Or as I like to day: The path of least resistance.  A digital site that doesn’t involve physical things means that a developer can essentially develop and market a product without ever having to go outside of their house.  Chat Roulette being a prime example of this.  The founder of Chat Roulette didn’t have to go outside of his house and market his product to retail stores, companies or anything of that sort.  He just built it, and the initial (albeit short term) success was great.

    All a developer needs is a computer and an internet connection.  Most of the popular developer frameworks are free and open source. It’s a no brainer.  However, this leads to a billion websites that all try to accomplish the same thing and there really is no innovation involved.  I don’t want another website that allows me to filter and display my online content in an easier way.  I’m absolutely dying for someone to come up with another article recommendation engine or a better way to determine my online clout.

    The path to least resistance is also amplified because there are no hardware costs associated with it besides server costs (A server you will most likely never ever see).

    Reason #2: Developers are so immersed in their digital lives, they forget about problems that can be solved in the real world.

    This is another big reason why I think why we are too busy solving online problems instead of real world problems.  Developers are doing what they do best: Developing.  This involves a computer and an internet connection and also means most of their lives are spent are in front of their computer.  Ideas evolve from frustration you experience, and developers frustrations are mostly online because this is where they are most of the time.

    If you combined the “path of least resistance” along with frustration you experience online, you end up with a digital product that solves a digital need – not a real world need.

    Reason #3:  The people who have the ideas for real world startups, are not entrepreneurs, thus the idea never gets executed.

    I’m sure there are plenty of mothers out there that experience a lot of frustrations in their lives with the products they use.  A baby monitor that doesn’t work, a crib that is too hard to put together, etc.  But, they are too busy to implement these ideas, or have the slightest clue where to start.  For this case in particular, i’m sure the major brands are all over it anyway.

    But, as I type this, reason #4 seems like possibly the best answer to this post.

    Reason #4: There are plenty of real world startups, but I don’t hear about them because I’m also so immersed in my digital life.

    This can quite possibly be the answer.  Maybe it’s because I’m like everyone else, and I spend most of my time in front of a computer.  As sad as that sounds, it’s true.  The places I “hang out” are mostly online.  I hear the frustration of signal vs noise on twitter, but I never hear something like “I wish there was a better way to hang my keys”.  I’m so immersed in my online life, this is seriously the best real world problem I can come up with.  And it’s not even a problem!

    In my example in reason #3, it is quite possible that sine I don’t have kids I have no idea what the newest and greatest products are and most importantly who are making these products.   Are there startups focusing on making baby products, I have no idea.

    This is where I need the readers help – Where are all these real world startups.  Do they exist & if so where do I find them?

    Rails for Zombies has evolved into Code School [50 invites available]

    Learning how to code can be a daunting challenge. There are a ton of free resources available online, but there are very few cohesive courses that pull it all together in one package and this pain point was Gregg Pollack’s inspiration for Rails for Zombies. Gregg believe if he could integrate screen-casts with interactive elements (run sample code right in the browser) and gamification he could create a very unique learning experience. In the first several months over 5,000 people have already completed the “Rails for Zombies” course.

    Inspired by Rails for Zombies success, Gregg decided to apply the lessons he learned from it and build a marketplace that could host similar content. Thus Code School was born. Code School is an interactive online marketplace where you can learn to code directly in the browser. It’s built off the same framework that Rails for Zombies uses.

    Code School is currently in private beta, but they have graciously given us 50 invites to share with our readers. With an invite you can access “Rails Best Practices” for free (typically $30). All you need to do is leave a comment on this article with a way for us to get in touch with you and we will shoot you an invite.

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

    Viinyl is for music

    The music industry has changed rapidly over the last 15 years. The evolution from vinyl, to tape, to cds, to MP3s has forced artists to adapt the way they brand and market their music. For instance, instead of the 12 inches of artwork on a Vinyl jacket artists previously had, today we’re limited to an MP3 file and accompanying JPG.

    Along with the format change our purchasing preferences have shifted. Most people no longer buy whole albums, but instead prefer to pluck a few singles from iTunes. The single is undeniably king. Unfortunately this comes at the cost of lost art.

    Armine Saidi’s company Viinyl believes it has the answer. Viinyl launched yesterday at Superconf in Miami, and their aim is to give singles the art they deserve. Their motto is “1 Song. 1 Site. 1 URL.”. In a sense Viinyl is hoping to be the of music. A place where artists maintain their own creative vision.

    Preliminary case studies show favorable results for artists using Viinyl. 24% of visitors who saw the artist’s Viinyl went on to visit the artist’s social media page, and 5% of listeners decided to purchase the track.

    You can check out a demo Viinyl here. For more startup news, follow us on twitter @startupfoundry.

    (Special thanks to Auston Bunsen for inviting me to be on the judging panel at Superconf).

    Get Satisfaction tells TSF why their commitment is to “be a good citizen”

    Thor Muller is one of the original co-founders of Get Satisfaction and is also the current CTO.  Get Satisfaction officially launched in September of 2007 and since then has grown to 50,000 communities, 6 million visitors a month and over 2,000 paying customers.

    I had the chance to speak with Thor on the phone and we had a great conversation regarding how t hey started, challenges on the way, and their commitment to “Be a good citizen”.

    What type of company would be suited to use your service?

    Get Satisfaction is used by every size and category of company.  It ranges from small mom and pop retail shops to Global 500 customers such as Walmart, P&G, Microsoft & Motorola.  The appeal is broad.

    Tell us about the first 6 months of Get Satisfaction, and how the idea originated.

    My wife, Amy Muller, and I were founders of a consulting company we founded called Rubyred Labs.  We had grown to a team of seven, working together on developing new social networks and web apps.  Through a side-project called ValleySchwag we stumbled onto the intractable problem of customer service, which we thought could be reinvented using the social web.  Lane Becker, a friend who had co-founded Adaptive Path, told us: “If you two don’t start it, I will”.  We brought him on board as a co-founder and started Get Satisfaction.

    During our initial pitches to investors we were told that most companies would never allow their “dirty laundry” to be aired in public. Customer service issues were “best kept hidden,” according to them. But our story was that companies don’t really have the choice:  through blogs, Get Satisfaction, Twitter, Facebook, etc, people are able to summon companies into public conversation.  This disruptive position was what ultimately attracted our initial investors, First Round Capital,  OATV, and SoftTech VC, to us.

    To be clear: we never set out to be a complaint site. Our goal was to create open spaces for people to connect with each other around the products and services they cared about. Being a “good citizen” has been central to playing this role. Instead of just providing a SaaS community platform we allowed anyone to start a customer community–be they an employee or a customer.  This led to an initial launch of our service that was fundamentally consumer-driven.

    Did this unconventional approach cause you any problems?

    The good folks at 37signals had an issue with it, the result of a hasty update to our site design.  We responded quickly to the issue (and it was a valid issue), and fixed our mistakes. I am the first to admit that it was our mistake.  We received some feedback from outsiders to push back hard against the critique, but we felt that missed the point. This was our opportunity to live by our creed of conducting business with more humility, more humanity. Our original idea for a lightweight web app was inspired by 37signals’ work, and we genuinely respect the work that they have done.

    Besides the 37 signals issue, were there any other public issues that you had to deal with? We’ve been fortunate to avoid many public mis-steps. One near miss: a year ago we pre-announced a change to our paid plans, including the removal of features from our free plan. However, we did not “grandfather” existing users. Not surprisingly, free users were upset. But since we were able to collect feedback before the actual change, we were able to add a grandfathering policy for our early users.  We avoided a black eye by being ultra-responsive.

    Are you bootstrapped or funded?

    In our early months were able to use our existing cash flow from the consulting business, along with funding from our friends and family who were eager–perhaps recklessly so–to support the venture.  Since we spun the business out of our development consultancy, we had a whole product team from day one.

    How did you market your startup initially.  What advice do you have for other early stage startups?

    First and foremost, you need a good story.  Early on, we had a provocative position: “Your company doesn’t own its customer service.”  That statement resonated with a lot of people and that’s how we were able to get press.  We also did a lot of speaking engagements, conferences, etc.

    Another big thing that helped is that a few times we were featured as part of hot news stories or controversies. A prime example of this was last November, when DecorMyEyes was accused of cultivating complaints and bad reviews to gin up the SEO of their e-commerce site. The story got a lot of attention & press. We responded to the story, clarifying numerous mis-conceptions and providing technical guidance on how other sites could avoid being gamed by bad actors.  This was an example of how we look for opportunities to be a good citizen. This is the social capital that the reputations and businesses are built on today.

    Check Get Satisfaction out at, or follow them on twitter @getsatisfactio. Follow the author on twitter @robbieab, and for up to the minute startup news – follow us on twitter @startupfoundry

    Don’t suck twice.

    Every company makes mistakes. Startups by definition are more prone to making mistakes. Your app is at version 1.0, you’re slowly getting traction, and you’re scared you might screw something up.

    I’ve seen startups that get so scared they become paralyzed by fear that the tiniest little mistake might bring their whole company down. I’ve heard companies internally debate button placement before they had a single customer even interested in their product.

    As your startup grows there are things that you won’t be perfect on, and that’s okay (as long as it’s not a security hole). When you make a mistake, iterate quickly and fix it. Your goal as a startup is not to be perfect at version 1.0, but to not make the same mistake twice.

    Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, said:
    ‘If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.’

    Two days ago I published my first (“real”) interview with Andrew Warner. Before the interview I practiced a hundred times, recorded several demo interviews with friends to make sure my equipment worked, and I memorized all of my questions. You know what? I still sucked (I botched a question, Skype auto color-corrected me green, there was a slight echo, etc.). However, it was a fantastic learning experience for me. I learned more in those 15 minutes with Andrew then I did in all of my rehearsals. My next interview will be a little bit better as I have learned from my mistakes. It still might not be perfect, but I won’t repeat those mistakes. Don’t be afraid of failure.

    Planning is incredibly important, but you will learn so much more by actually getting some skin in the game. You have to get out of the boat to walk on water. Pick something your company sucks at and fix it. Don’t suck twice.

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

    This is Your Brain on One Page: Workflowy [YC Summer 2010]

    My girlfriend lovingly describes herself as the “geeks tech resistant girlfriend.”  That description is quite accurate.  She has an iPhone (which she got about three months ago) that has four non-Apple apps on it.  Some days I am surprised that she can even find the Internet.  As such, I thought it would be an interesting to see what she had to say about the dead simple list making startup Workflowy.  We’ll get to that in a moment in the form of a he said/she said discussion.  First a bit on Workflowy…

    Workflowy is not exactly new to the startup arena.  They have been around since November 2010.  Mike Turtzin and Jesse Patel, the two cofounders, were accepted to Y Combinator in summer 2010, but what is interesting is that Workflowy was not the idea they were accepted for.  They were working on some sort of a platform for web gurus to give and get advice.  Which just goes to show that most angels or investors are looking at the person rather than the idea.

    Workflowy was a product of Jesse needing a way to keep track of lists and ideas.  While working on their original YC idea he was using an older version of Workflowy to keep notes and lists.  Other YC members were using it as well and liked the product.  As a result, they realized that they may have been on to something and the notion of keeping your brain on a single sheet of paper developed into what we now know as Workflowy.

    So how good is Workflowy?  Very very good.  I have been using it for what I thought was six months.  Turns out it has only been available publically since November 2010.  Apparently it is so good it has skewed my interpretation of the passage of time.  Nonetheless, my Workflowy account has been a godsend.  I use it for anything and everything.  It works great for this geek but what about his non-tech girlfriend?

    She said: There is minimal set up—truly easy for anyone.  I am the ultimate test.

    He said: She is right.  She is the ultimate test.  If it involves tech and she thinks it’s easy…it is.  She thought the activation process for “Find my iPhone” was difficult.

    She said: Workflowy will eliminate the need for those annoying little scraps of paper holding your notes and lists. Unless you lose your computer, you won’t lose your list!

    He said: When Workflowy gains traction 3M’s Post-it notes might be put out of business.  Those scraps of paper are annoying.  Digitalize them by shifting all your hot to-do items to Workflowy.  Worried that you won’t be able to access your notes on the go?  Or that you’ll lose your computer? They’ll have an app out soon.

    She said: The intuitive nature of this program would make you think it is an Apple application.

    He said: I love my Apple products but not in the hyper-rabid monomaniacal way that MG Seigler does.  She came up with that one on her own.  I will say that it is super simple, which is a large part of the appeal.

    She said: For the “Type A’s” out there—you will love the fact that you can hide your completed items—rather that just deleting them. You can look back at all of your “honey do’s” and feel great about your productivity!

    He said: For the deadbeat boyfriends or husbands out there, your significant others will be making “honey do” lists like starved beaver in a toothpick factory.  Which is an interesting part of list-making psychology.  I find that the easier it is to input notes, lists, or tasks, the more likely I am to actually to the inputting.  Which is usually the downfall of reminder notes:  the actual writing of them to remind yourself.  And it seems that most people that use Workflowy find the same thing.  The simple Workflowy interface lacks all the bells and whistles that your usual to-do apps include, which spurs the user to use it more.

    She said: I am strangely bonded to my lists, so I thought an electronic surrogate would not fit the bill. Sorry paper. After 36 years, I am leaving you.

    He said: Yikes!  Pretty strong words for someone that loves her lists and note taking materials.  I will keep you posted on whether she sticks to this very declarative statement.

    She said: If you love detail, let it all hang out. If you don’t, a few clicks will condense your list into more general headings and subheadings.

    He said: It’s true.  I just looked at my Workflowy account.  By my estimation I have about 10-15 pages when everything is expanded.  (Not counting completed items, which are hidden).  When it is minimized it consists of nine headings taking up about as much space as this paragraph.

    So what advice does this startup have for other startups?  A couple of things:

    1.) Have a vision for your company and product.  That vision needs to be the basis for which you measure all decisions about your product.  In the case of Workflowy, their vision is your brain organized onto one page.  This means that requests for more features or other add-ons are weighed against that vision.  If it doesn’t make the cut, it doesn’t find its way into the product.

    2.) Don’t spend eternity in beta.  A startup won’t benefit from every detail being perfected.  The less time you spend in beta the better your efforts will be because as you move along with your idea, the startup and the company will change.  If you are in beta forever there is no way to experiment with the outside world and truly better your product.

    3.) Do you know when to say goodbye to your baby?  This is the perennial problem of an entrepreneur:  when to let the idea go and begin anew.  In the case of Workflowy they moved into the list making area after they realized one thing:  Their users wanted it.  If you are forcing your product on them, it’s time to head in a new direction.

    4.) Jesse wanted this to be the headline for this article:  “Mike is A Champion.”  My editor wouldn’t allow it but I think the message he was trying to convey was that a successful company depends on a solid relationship between the cofounders.  Pick your cofounders wisely and once you have, make sure you cultivate that relationship to its fullest.

    If you are interested in Workflowy their main site can be found at  Or follow them on Twitter @workflowy. To keep up with startup news, follow us on twitter @startupfoundry.

    Andrew Warner’s 3 tips to giving interviews for founders and entrepreneurs

    Andrew Warner (from Mixergy fame) recently sat down with The Startup Foundry for a one-on-one interview. In this video Andrew first established why founders should give interviews, and then gave 3 tips on how to give a great interview.

    Cliff notes below.

    Andrew’s three key points in giving an interview:
    1. Practice – The old adage “Practice makes perfect” is true. Especially on film.
    2. Shut up – Don’t trust a producer or editor to cut something stupid that you said.
    3. Tell a Story – People remember stories.

    Links in this video: – Andrew Warner’s Company
    Balsmiq – The mockup company from the story Andrew Told
    Superconf – The conference Andrew and I will be attending in Miami.
    MediaTemple – Our sponsor

    You can follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewwarner. For more startup news, follow us on twitter @startupfoundry.

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    Picture of Paul

    Hi, I'm Paul Hontz.

    I'm a YC alumn and I love startups. I created TSF to highlight companies I find interesting. You can learn more about me here.

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