Editors Note – Cy is a friend of HostGator, currently pursuing entrepreneurial dreams in Silicon Valley. We have asked him to share his adventures. If you missed it see Part 1 The Spark: A Startup Is Born.
Startups are inherently messy. The media makes it appear as if home run successes happen on the first try. In reality all progress is the result of founders careening for months between false fits and starts until they land on the idea that works. Contastic’s story is no different.
The False Start
With a promising idea in hand I was accepted into the Lightspeed Venture Fellows program and provided a generous grant to build Contastic. During the summer, I met my co-founder Kevin and together we engaged with the top investors/entrepreneur community around Silicon Valley. This got us excited about the hot space that is mobile CRM – taking the basic processes of managing a sales team from the desktop to the phone.
Over the next two months we built our mobile CRM. Investors loved it. However customers weren’t adopting the beta versions as readily as we’d hoped. We attributed the apathy to an incomplete product. It was instead a sign of a flawed focus – most people didn’t want to write notes on their mobile phone.
So, when we finally launched, it was bittersweet. By that time we knew that the product wouldn’t pick up. So, we changed the name to PeopleNotes to preserve our company name and launched it. The app never got more than a few hundred downloads – an App Store Flop:
Rediscovering Relentless Focus on the Customer
So where did we go wrong? We built for the people around us – technologist and investors – not our customers. We mistakenly let the most convenient information, from those around us, take the place of the most relevant information, from those customers we would need to seek out.
Committing to focus on our customer to the exclusion of everything else was the turning point for Contastic. It’s no mistake that this is what Mark Zuckerburg keeps on his desk:
Credit: Masahble http://mashable.com/2012/02/01/mark-zuckerberg-ipo-pic/
By pouring over the usage analytics from PeopleNotes we discovered that, while people did not like taking notes, they loved our automated emails to keep them in touch. So, we doubled down on that – pivoting from a mobile notes product to a web-based staying in touch product. And over the next month we built what became Contastic.
There was no big launch or press announcement. Just a quick post to Facebook. Over the next two months we iterated with a small group of users and obsessively measured our funnel. Analytics told us what was wrong. Then we’d talk to customers to figure out WHY.
Picking Up Steam
After twelve weeks of iteration we’ve developed a clear idea – as defined by our customers – of what Contastic is and who it’s built for. Contastic is an email personalization engine for salespeople.
By combining Linkedin and Gmail data Contastic automatically generates sales emails complete with content personalized to a prospect’s interests. By reducing the time it takes to send relevant emails from minutes to seconds Contastic enables salespeople to work more prospects, generate more leads and close more sales.
We also discovered new industries for Contastic beyond sales. Some of our top users are generating referrals for realtors, discovering jobs for freelancers, and building client relationships as consultants. Our user base is now doubling monthly as well as picking up paid users. It’s time for us to finally step back into the ring and raise our round.
Stay tuned for the third and final installment– Raising the Bar – Fundraising and the Future
I’m an engineer who loves to sell. My career started out in big data engineering for Microsoft evolved into a sales role that landed me as the founder of Contastic (getContastic.com). I bring the hard data-driven approach of an engineer to the softer science of sales. It’s always a pleasure for me to meet new people and help them evolve their sales practices. I blog at blog.cykho.com and tweet @cykho.