Welcome to Startup Revival, the number one podcast for Christian entrepreneurs, with your hosts Matthew Bell and Rafael Simpson. The world needs more entrepreneurs. Build something.
Matthew Bell: Hello everyone, this is Matthew Bell. Thanks for tuning in to Startup Revival.
Before we get started, I just want to remind you of a few things. Startup Revival is all about the community. So if you have any feedback or comments or questions you’d like us to address in the podcast, feel free to let us know. You can send us an email at [email protected]. And also, be sure to join the online community. Go to Facebook.com/groups/startuprevival. It’s a great place to meet other entrepreneurs and learn some new and interesting things. Thanks, everyone. Enjoy the podcast.
Right, welcome to Startup Revival. This is Week 3 of our podcast, where we tell our stories about entrepreneurship and starting businesses and share them with you so you can go out and do the same. We also plan to have a variety of different guests who have been successful entrepreneurs and startup founders and businessfolks and want to share their stories with you as well, and so you can go out and take their best practices and be a success. I am Matthew Bell, your cohost. With me is Rafael, my cofounder and partner in Startup Revival, and we are here to dig in. Raf, how you doing this week?
Rafael Simpson: I’m doing great. It’s about 125 degree in Miami Beach, but besides that I can’t really complain because I’m on the beach.
Matthew Bell: Nice, nice. We are here suffering the heat in Austin, Texas. It’s been consistently triple-digit weather for the last three weeks. So I’m pretty much wasting away to nothing as I sweat every day and waiting for the fall to come. And we don’t have a beach, which is unfortunate. I wish we did.
Rafael Simpson: Yeah. Yeah, well, it’s a good thing we’re meeting up in Orlando though, next week, in the heat, and you’re probably going to try to force me to go to Epcot again, which I’ll probably do.
Matthew Bell: One of us has to take us to Disney. But anyway, folks, we really appreciate you guys joining us. We live to share our stories and encourage other Christian entrepreneurs to go out and build stuff and do things and use that creativity that’s God-given and change the world through business and inventions and starting companies and building products.
So last week we started on the topic of “I have an idea for a product, but what do I do next?” and the key takeaway from last week was to go out and tell the world, essentially. We said that the number one thing you should do is to begin to validate that business is to tell people about it, get feedback of people who are going to tell you the truth, be honest with you, and hear what they have to say.
This week, we’re going to take a step further. We’re going to give you some practical steps on what we’ve done for validating business. I’m going to talk to you about the digital aspect because I have a strong background in digital startups and software. Raf is going to talk to you guys about the physical product side because he has a lot more experience in building actually products and prototypes from everything from hardware to furniture to you name it. I don’t even know how many things you got your hands into these days.
But, so first thing that I like to do when I have an idea for a business, and I’ve used this process myself for my last company, which was a mobile app company for on-demand delivery—I had this idea with my cofounder who is my brother and we didn’t know if people were going to be excited about it or if we were running in the wrong direction. We passed the test of initially telling our friends and family about it, and they liked it. They thought it was great. But we wanted to further validate the business to make sure that we weren’t just coming up with something that only our friends and family were going to use but the broader market was interested in as well, so what we did is we created a landing page. And for those of you that aren’t familiar, a landing page is a one-page website that you can put whatever content you want on it. What we did was we put the message about what our business was going to be and then a call to action which said, “Sign up to receive information about our launch.”
Now our assumption was that if our business was going to be something that was successful, we would generate email subscribers. People would sign up. Now, if we had a high percentage of signups, great, we would feel as though we were on to something that people wanted. If we had a low percentage of signups, it probably wasn’t something that was going to be a viable business.
So to launch a simple landing page like that, you can go to a tool like Unbounce or LeadPages, which are free for the first 30 days, you can put your message up there, you could put your signup link, your signup form, and you can get the landing page out there without really paying any money. You could put it on Facebook. You could have your friends share it. You could even, if you wanted to, spend a little bit of money on Facebook ads or Google ads to drive traffic to it. The whole goal here is to figure out if you have something that is viable and to validate that business idea beyond just your family-and-friends network by putting it onto the web.
So that’s what I simply like to do when I am validating a business idea. I’ll spend a little bit of money on driving traffic. I’ll put up a landing page that tells a story about my business, my idea. I’ll make it look like the idea is coming soon or has already been launched and use that as an opportunity to market that business.
Rafael Simpson: Yes. Matt, it’s so funny because when we were talking about this podcast before, we were kind of like, “Oh, we both agree on the second step,” but we take a little bit of a different approach to it. But what’s interesting is, what I think the audience might really like to know especially from you when you’re launching your product—I mean, the landing page makes complete sense. You put up a simple landing page. You get people to that page and see if they convert. By convert, I mean they give you their email address because they want to learn more. But for the audience member, the person listening that’s like, “Well, I have my product and it’s a blog or it’s an online tool,” or whatever it is, can you—and for my sake too, and I know we just started doing it on our product that we’ve launched in partnership with another company—but what type of digital assets did you have? Did you have a logo? Did you come up with a slogan? I mean, I think it would just be really helpful for the audience if you could tell them a little bit about the actual assets you needed to execute on that landing page because it’s such an important step.
Matthew Bell: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great question. There’s a lot of misconceptions about what you actually need to start marketing a business. If you have an idea, you have more than enough that you need to start marketing that business. So when we put up our landing page, the only thing we really had was an idea. So what I did very simply was I whipped up a quick logo myself. You can use a tool like Canva. Go to Canva.com. It’s a quick and easy online graphic editing tool for people without any type of editing experience or graphic design experience whatsoever. Come up with a dummy logo, something that you could use as a placeholder. Obviously as you get going, your brand will evolve. Come up with a tagline and come up with some copy.
So all we had was the name of the company which we had already settled on. So that is something that we had already picked at that point, but you don’t necessarily have to have it picked at that point. I would say have a headline, have some copy, which would be a description about what your business actually is or what the service is or the product is that you are launching or which is coming soon, and have a quick call to action with a signup form that says, “Sign up now to be notified of our launch,” or “Sign up now to receive more information.”
So all that stuff that we put together on the landing page to validate our business, we came up with within the hour of creating the landing page. We didn’t have anything really. So all this to say is, I think if you just have an idea and you want to validate it a little bit further, the landing page as a test marketing strategy can work for ideas only or it can work for really established businesses if you’re looking to test the waters on something new or start to build your email list for what will actually be your audience to market to.
So Raf, all this to say is, you don’t need a lot. You just need the idea, you need to come up with a message around what your product is or your service is, and come up with a headline, and put it out there.
Rafael Simpson: Yeah, I mean, I’m with you there. It’s interesting. You make a really, really great point. And although processes can evolve slightly different, it all ends up at this phase sooner than later. But I know from personal experience and it was a painful experience, because in my first startup we spent a million dollars on a product to build out a product, to create the brand, to create the logos, and to make sure it was working. We got all the way through beta, and then we were like, “Well, we don’t really have much money to market it now?” So we were in a huge, huge problem, plus we didn’t even know if it was a good product because we hadn’t really gone out to market in the very, very early stage to say, “Hey, this is the concept. Are you even interested in it?”
So I think often people are trying to create the world’s best, most refined product before they just even get it into the market. And I’m not discounting if you want to be a little bit further ahead before you jump into the landing page and have something that you’ve toyed with and feel good about as far as a product. I’m not discounting the desire to do that, but I’m completely in agreement with you, Matt, in the sense that you’ve got to get out there and you need to start marketing sooner than later. And we’re not trying to make you do a false start here, but there’s no point in architecting the world’s best product if you’re not going to have any bandwidth to really get out there and market it. So I find that super-super-interesting.
My wife and I, and it’s really her business—I pretend to own it with her because it’s just more exciting than some of the things I’m doing right now, or I’m more excited about it because it’s the newest thing on our plate—one of the things that we did, basically we got past the phase of friends and family, to your point Matt, about, “Do you like this product? Do you think it’s good? Is it viable?” We had some experience in the field before, so we launched—my wife’s launched the furniture company. She just launched it this year. It’s called the [00:11:13] Studio, and super-proud of her. But it’s interesting because she was in the furniture space before as an interior designer, so she was constantly getting feedback about the type of products that her clients wanted and she had a built-in client base already. So for us, that first rung of testing had sort of already been done, but we had to bite the bullet and actually create a product and get to that first prototype product that we could just show one of the buyers to see if they’d be interested. And we did it in a way where they didn’t even know it was our product. We just showed it to them in a catalogue. It was their favorite one. They selected it and they wanted to buy it.
So it’s interesting how the point I think of the message is, whether it’s a landing page or whether you’re selling a physical product and you need to show somebody a prototype, I think that the big takeaway here, and not to discount anything else, but the big takeaway is you can’t sit and wait too long before you start to market it.
Now, in the case of the furniture, it was a little bit of a deep breath because we were manufacturing it. Most of the stuff was coming from Europe and it all had to be imported into the States. So when we looked at our bottom line investment, it was I think 10 grand. So it was like, “Oh man, we have to jump in there and spend the money to see if this works.”
In your case, Matt, I find that you were able to get validation and feel much more comfortable before you got to a phase where you were having to spend a lot of money because that landing page gave you all the information you needed. I think you told me, and you could have been exaggerating—you’ve been known to do it from time to time. Actually, Matt never exaggerates, I always do, so just take that for future podcasts. But you said, I believe, you had a thousand people sign up and it went—I wouldn’t say it went like a million-people viral, but for what it was, a product, for a thousand people to sign up before you even had a real brand built, I mean, that’s pretty impressive, right? So then you kind of had the confidence to step out there and spend the money and actually go raise money from investors, and you got to show that initial traction. Am I right on that?
Matthew Bell: Yeah, absolutely. So the reason we were validating our business model through a very lightweight landing-page approach is we wanted to get it out there and see what the market would respond to. So we created our landing page, we put it on Twitter, we put it on Facebook, and we wanted to see, is this something that people are going to respond to? And I wasn’t exaggerating at all. We had a thousand people sign up without spending a dollar. So we realized very quickly that we were on to something. People wanted what we were creating.
And then, we took that data and we took it to investors and we said, “Listen, this is the idea that we’re pursuing. We don’t have a product built yet but we need to raise money to go and build the product. We already have over a thousand people who have signed up to our mailing list and we think that we validated the demand in the market,” and we were able to close our first investor checks to go build the product without ever having anything more than an idea and a landing page and an email list.
So we will definitely absolutely get into the steps of the process here that can take you from idea to validation to raising money to building product all the way through to having a viable scalable business. And I’ve lived mostly in the digital world, so landing pages and digital marketing are the approach that I always take. But again, what we’re talking about here is validating your product, validating your business, so if you don’t have a digital product or something that makes sense for a landing page, [00:15:04] you could take an approach more like what Rafael did with the furniture business – build a prototype, get it in front of a couple of customers who might be interested in it, see what they have to say. It’s a little bit more expensive because you actually have to go through the initial prototyping phase, but again, if that’s something that’s interesting to you and you’re building something that’s not easily validated online, that may be the approach that you want to take. So we’re here to help you guys figure all that out. That’s why we launched this podcast.
Rafael Simpson: Yeah, I think you’re making some great points, and it’s interesting because even with the [00:15:37] Studio, my wife’s furniture line, even with that business, the first phase, the first step for us was to leverage other people to help us create some things like logos, like a brand bible and all these things, but we were sort of at an advantage because if we have cash flow in businesses I could spend the money I needed to spend on a design firm and kind of get past that phase. But something that, Matt, you’re so good at and I think you should just go over it one more time with some real resources for the people that are listening, is that there are so many ways to scale human resources efficiently these days. It’s not like the old days where you’ve got to go out and meet somebody and find a graphic designer that lives in your town and then negotiate with them on price or this, that or the other. And you mentioned Canva, Matt, as one of them, but even to get a landing page up where some people may just feel a little overwhelmed even with Unbounce, I know services that for 50 bucks they’ll put up an Unbounce page for you. So I think just going over some of these services will be really, really helpful – Upwork and Fiverr and the rest. I mean, Matt, you’re the king of scaling in very efficient ways when it comes to launching something.
Matthew Bell: Absolutely, yeah.
Rafael Simpson: I think you’re the one that should just go over this one for us because you’ve saved me a lot of time and energy from all the advice you’ve given me on these things.
Matthew Bell: Yeah. I’d say if it’s one thing that I’ve mastered it’s not doing the work myself.
Rafael Simpson: You’re hard worker though, but you are good at getting other people to do your work for you.
Matthew Bell: I read a quote by Steve Jobs that said he liked to hire lazy people because lazy people find the simple and fast and effective way to do things. Now, he’s obviously not talking about lazy people—it’s a joke—but I like to live the motto, “Work smart, not work hard.” So we leverage a lot of technology in the businesses that I operate. Raf, you’re aware of it. Upwork, Fiverr, etc.
I think it’s a good place to pause right here because we’re getting into a whole other topic. So Raf, I think if you agree with me, let’s line up another pipeline of topics around just leveraging all these platforms that people can start using so that they don’t feel overwhelmed with everything that we’re laying on them right now and break it down and condense it into additional podcasts that I think could help them understand all these tools that we’re talking about.
Rafael Simpson: Yeah, I mean, there’s literally so much out there that I want you to be excited about creating your landing page and continuing to validate your product, and we’re going to get into it like Matt said, but just don’t feel overwhelmed. I mean, this is a turnkey process and you’re really going to get to see what people, what strangers, think about what you’re setting out to do, your business idea. So Matt, I think it’s a great idea. I think we should get into that in a lot of detail because it’s really changed my whole business life, having those resources, and you’ve been a big part of bringing those things to the table to teach me, and it’s been fantastic.
Matthew Bell: Awesome, yeah. Well, I think that’s one of the real great blessings of our relationship, is we learn from each other. So you’ve taught me how to think big, and I’ve always been confident in my technical skill set but when I get in a room with you and you lay that vision on me for, “Let’s not talk about a thousand dollars a month, let’s talk about a hundred thousand dollars a month,” that’s where you push me to the limit or take me to new heights. So I appreciate that.
So anyway, guys, want to wrap up this call, or this podcast, with blessing you with a fruitful and successful week. Hope you guys have an awesome week, successful week, and hope this podcast has blessed you and be sure to tune in next week. Thanks. Have a great week.
That was Startup Revival, brought to you by your hosts Matt Bell and Rafael Simpson. Tune in next week to hear more stories from entrepreneurs and businesspeople to inspire, encourage and motivate you in your business journey. Have a great week.
I read a quote by Steve Jobs that said he liked to hire lazy people because lazy people find a simple and fast and effective way to do things.