I'm Hiten Shah, Co-Founder and CEO of FYI. AMA =)

The post on billion dollar mistake resonated quite a bit. In my case this is more around GTM/Marketing/Sales ideas. How do you strike a balance between speed of running tests and letting tests run more deeply to see outcomes?

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Hi Hiten,

Thanks for doing this AMA! :slight_smile:

My question is on brainstorming and doing creative collaboration as a remote team. We have tried using whiteboards on a video call in the past, but that has been rather tricky and inefficient.

What do you recommend is a good way of brainstorming together while working remotely?

We are in the early days and my co-founder and I often need to collaborate closely with the team multiple times a week.

Thanks!
Aditi

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I had a couple of questions Hiten-

  1. Is it realistic to aim to bootstrap a b2b Saas start up to a $1 million + in revenue? Does this end up taking longer and entail too many trade offs wrt the product features and market expansion?

  2. For an early stage b2b saas start up, what is the ideal digital marketing channel to consider?

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I’ve got another one, Hiten! :slight_smile:

You and Marie engage in a particularly special brand of content: Building in public. Sharing stories about how you’re figuring things out, bit by bit.

Still remember, quite distinctly, how insightful those posts about FYI’s pricing research were. Not to mention, the regular surveys you run to get a pulse on different pressing subjects people have been pondering over. So, wanted to ask you about:

  • With all that one has to do as a founder, what goes into producing these efforts with such remarkable consistency?
  • Any insight-generation processes/rituals you’ve come to rely on over the years?
  • Having built the fine engine that was the KISSmetrics blog, also the most sought-after newsletter in SaaS, how has your thinking evolved around the short-term and long-term goals of content?
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Thanks for asking the question. For Crazy Egg what I would do differently is instead of start with a free plan, I’d start with a trial and paid plans only. I would use that time to discover both what people are willing to pay for and also develop a free plan in conjunction. This way we would have a strong pulse on paying customers and their needs versus focusing on converting free customers to become paying customers. It’s a strategy that I don’t see mentioned often. Folks are usually debating whether to have a free plan or not instead of focusing in the early days on exactly what needs to be built for customers in order for them to pay for the product. I’m a huge proponent of having a free plan, I would just sequence it in at the right time. The one caveat I’d give is if you are in a market where free plans are the norm. Then you probably should start with a free plan that’s similar to competitors and build in appropriate upsell opportunities to start that mimic with the customers in the market are used to.

The above is even better than any specific learnings I’ve had. Overall the one thing you want to solve for early on with a product is maximizing the learnings, especially ones that help you figure out what people are willing to pay for.

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Three things matter right now or during any crisis in no particular order:

  • Your team
  • Your customers
  • Your cash flow

It’s more than likely your team is dealing with a lot right now with the uncertainty related to a pandemic. This impacts everyone. You need to make sure your team is OK and do whatever you can to help them get through these times. Which first and foremost means not pressuring them like you might normally to hit their targets or goals. This is an unusual situation and the parameters of how to operate like you normally do are thrown out the door. Be compassionate and think about what each and every team member might be going through, ask them what their challenges are and help them the best you can. Being reassuring and supportive is the best way during this time.

Your customers are also going through the pandemic. Being customer-centric is really critical at this time. This means that whatever you do, make sure you find out what problems/challenges your customers are having right now and if those have changed from what they are normally dealing with. A pandemic like this where everyone has to work from home and schools are also closed means that this isn’t your usual remote work situation. Day to day your customers needs might be different than normal and might even be changing on a regular basis. Staying close to your customers and figuring out how their mindset is changing can be helpful for you to figure out what to do for them. This is how you’ll make sure you are aligned with customer needs. Whatever you thought you knew about your customers, you should be considering reevaluating it to ensure you really know what’s going on and how to support them best with your business.

Cash is king. Especially right now. My biggest piece of advice during this time is to spend energy to figure out what kind of cash position your business is in and do some scenario planning. To the point where you have a best case, moderate case and worst case scenario in mind. The decisions you make should be based on the fact that a lot about the future is uncertain. Having enough cash in the bank for as long as possible is key. If you don’t have a lot of cash in the bank, you have to think about ways to increase your cash reserves so you have time. This might involve some really hard decisions that it’s likely during normal times you wouldn’t consider.

I recently was interviewed by Nathan Baschez for his newsletter and the topic was about how I think about strategy and frameworks. It’s more relevant than ever and aligns with my thoughts above. Here is a link to the article.

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During a time like this you have to first evaluate how your marketing campaigns are doing and you might need to rethink your strategy if things are unusual. So the way you determine increasing marketing spend is to first figure out what’s going on with it right now. Has it changed because of the pandemic in any way? And if so, what kind of changes do you need to experiment? This means monitoring your marketing campaigns like you should be doing normally and being ready to make adjustments faster. You can’t increase your marketing spend right now if you don’t know what’s happening with what you’re already spending. My suggestion would be to make sure your marketing spend is effective and with a shorter payback period than usual. So the criteria for success should be changed and increasing marketing spend should only be considered when it can be profitable. This might actually mean you have to decrease your marketing spend to start with and run some experiments in this new environment before you are able to increase it.

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Hi Hiten, big fan!

My question is around pricing. Right now in our progressionapp.com beta we have effectively one price-point, then are manually discounting based on volume and a certain amount of ‘finger in the air’. The sticker price has attracted a few teams paying full or close to full price, but we now believe it to be too high to go to market with.

We plan to launch next month with that price as our enterprise tier and a cheaper tier alongside. Strategically we don’t want to hamstring the lower tier by locking down features as we want lots of footfall, but that means a fair few of our customers should be downgraded when it rolls out based on their needs and usage so far.

My question is: given we want to do the right thing by our customers but also as an early bootstrapped startup in current climate need to survive, how should we try to persuade teams to stick to our higher tier, and for annuals what can we offer them to say thank you without offering a refund for the remainder of the term?

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  1. At FYI we’ve been self-funded because we are able to fund the business ourselves. And our plan has always been to raise money when the time is right for us. This is basically when we’ve got an understanding of the market opportunity, have a product that people love and are ready to scale.

  2. My co-founder and I started remotely 17 years ago because it didn’t make sense for us to have an office. We were doing marketing work for other companies and were able to do it from home. It wasn’t a deliberate choice between office or no office, it was just the way we were able to do things effectively. We simply didn’t need an office. We used Skype. It worked fine to enable us to talk to people. And various Zoom-like solutions existed back then too when we needed to share our screen with customers. Also a lot was communicated via email back then too. It wasn’t as hard as you might think.

  3. Get early access to my product, FYI :wink: because we not only help you find documents but also see what’s happening at work. Outside of that, especially for remote work, good management involves these three things being in-sync. Visibility, Communication and Alignment. What most folks who are new to working from home are missing is visibility and communication which leads to a lack of alignment. When people are working remotely, you have to make sure you have systems for visibility, communication and alignment. My best piece of advice for a manager is to evaluate how you and the team are getting work done along these three things, even score yourselves and then find ways to improve visibility and communication so you can all be aligned.

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Sandeep, hiring remotely is challenging for everyone. It’s not success that makes it easier, it’s just the amount of experience someone has doing it. Here are a few pieces of actionable advice I have about remote recruiting for you:

  • If you can afford it, use weworkremotely.com and angel.co to post your job posting. There are plenty of people looking at those websites for remote work.
  • Have a very deliberate interviewing process for your remote team. Figuring out what makes people successful in your company and create your interviewing process around that. I could write a book on this. But overall the idea is that you have a work environment in every part of your company and your interview process needs to be able to evaluate a person’s ability to work in that environment.
  • Here are a bunch of remote work recruiting tips that we curated.
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I would say that you need to have set budgets or amount of traffic and/or conversions for a test in order to know before you even start what will cause you to stop running the test and evaluate it. In marketing it’s really easy to move from idea to idea without going deep into any single idea you try to execute. The most helpful thing I can suggest is to have a hypothesis about the outcome of each campaign even before you start it. If you create this for every campaign you want to try, it even makes it a lot easier to choose which ones you start in the first place.

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Hi Aditi! What my co-founder Marie and I do is get on a Zoom call while one of us screenshares and we review things together. Whether it’s a document, spreadsheet, designs or whatever. Once of us is screensharing and we’re both discussing what we’re looking at. One other method we use is get on a Zoom call and then be in the same document while editing it at the same time. So in that scenario Zoom enables us to talk while also collaborating on the document together. We like to keep things basic. If drawing or whiteboarding is required, we usually don’t use a collaborate app for that and are sending screenshots and images back and forth. Invision has a really simple whiteboarding product called Freehand that we’ve toyed with in a similar way. Get on a Zoom call and both be in Freehand while discussing things.

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Hi Hiten,

Thanks for doing this AMA! :slight_smile:

My question is how do you get everyone to be proactive while remote? How do you make sure people get the training they need as well as the face-time?

Thanks!

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Hi Hiten, you mentioned about how in these times, it’s soo important to stay close to the team - understand their concerns and not pressurize them like normal times.

I intend to take this approach, although pertaining to the WFH culture in India, which is somewhat a paid holiday. Shouldn’t pressure & strict KPI’s be used to hit goals.

Asking for an early-stage startup with a small team size of around 10 people.

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  1. It’s totally possible. Depends on the market you go after and what will be required for you to be successful in it to reach $1 million in revenue. The choices you make for getting to that revenue don’t need to be harmful to your future prospects. That’s a myth. The key is being able to be deliberate about the choices you make with your end goal in mind.

  2. The question about channels requires understanding your audience and meeting them where they are at. Here’s a presentation I have done on the topic.

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Great question!

  • We do these efforts of “building in public” with the idea that it helps us be that much more accountable to the outcomes we want. That mindset has made it much easier to align our efforts with the business and get the motivation to do it consistently. Thanks for noticing!
  • For me, I just need to take a breath and think deeply about something with a blank mind for even just 2 minutes and I can get meaningful insights. Some folks might call it a meditation of sorts. What I’ve found is that just be taking a breath and clearing my mind (no matter what else is going on) and then picking a topic or problem, I can get to really meaningful ideas / insights very quickly on just about anything.
  • Content builds brand. Brand is being able to carve out space in someone’s mind. Podcasts are literally in-between your ears and basically a direct route to someone’s mind. Ultimately consistency is key. What do you stand for? What is your brand all about? We don’t have goals for our content. We have goals for our brand. That’s the difference for us. We don’t think about what content can do for us and goals it can hit. We start with understanding the brand we need to be for our market and the content is designed to support the brand and the goals we have for our brand. We use this both for personal brand and company brand.
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Thanks for sharing the full context, Jonny. That’s really helpful. What would be the worst case scenario if you just launched with your current pricing? Sometimes we need to rethink our basic assumptions especially in a changing environment. Outside of that, I would reconsider this idea that you have to provide all the features in all the tiers. What you really need to do is figure out what different tiers of customers need and differentiate the tiers based on that. Usually this has to do with size of company or volume based on a value metric you determine.

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This is very cultural. It really depends on the culture of your company. Do you have a lot of meetings? If so, while remote you’ll probably need to have those meetings still at least until people get comfortable with it. At FYI we’re working on a remote work assessment for employees, teams and entire companies to help identify existing gaps and everyone’s sentiment about working remotely. We always start with understanding people whether it’s customers or employees before we try to solve problems. If we don’t understand the challenges people are facing, any changes we make aren’t likely to be aligned with solving those challenges. Our remote work tips directory might give you some ideas too.

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Everything is cultural. The culture in the country you are in as well as the company you are creating. If the pressure and strict KPI’s are required, then you’ll have to do that in order to ensure people continue to work as best as they can. My comment was about how this isn’t a normal work from home scenario. There is a pandemic and many people are going to distracted by it. Normal distractions such as the WFH culture in India have to be accounted for as well, of course.

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Hi @Hiten,

Thank you for joining us for an AMA and for answering the questions in such depth! There are so many quotable ideas and insights, I lost count of them. :slight_smile:

Given the uncertainties of the current situation and the challenges it brings, I’m sure your answers will act as a sounding board and help everyone deal with things a little better. So, thank you again!

Hope to have you join us soon again.

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