This thread is for first time entrepreneurs who are struggling. It is 11 years ago.. 6 mos after leaving Goldman Sachs to bootstrap, work 100+ hour weeks, we launched @ampush. After 3 days and $10k spent in ads, we had generated <$500 in revenue. In short, we had failed...👇
First, what was the biz? We found potential students for online universities by buying search ads that went to our "matching engine." If we paid $1 per click and 5% of clicks matched, our cost would be $20 and the schools would pay $40. We would print $, right? wrong!
Our conversion rate was closer to 0.1%. We were F****d. But how could that be? Our financial model said we'd print $, we built keyword scrapping tools, we had a unique bidding framework from "wall street", our matching engine was built with super slick javascript...
I emailed a friend at Google, her response "Dude, Fail. You picked the absolute worst vertical. It's so competitive, even Google doesn't support/advise in it. I wish you spoke with me before doing this." I wished I had, too. I was numb, my face flush, why did I leave my job?
My dad asked the same Q... given we were bootstrapped, @aniketkshah and I lived with my parents. My dad, himself an entrepreneur + triathlete, took me for a run. "Why are you doing mktg with no prior experience? You said your boss at GS made millions, what were you thinking!?"
To add injury to insult, he ran an 8 min mile vs my 10 min so I just kept panting unable to answer his questions. Which is good, because I didn't really have good answers. Instead, we went into scramble mode for the next 2 mos. Here's what we did:
1) We called all our clients - we apologized we weren't delivering the volume we promised and assured them we were committed to success. None left and all were impressed by our candor/proactivity.
2) We sent out pings to any/everyone we knew who could help. We asked for introductions to competitors, ad experts, friends, cousins, anyone who could teach us anything about digital marketing. We learned a tremendous amount in <8 weeks.
3) Simplified - 1 thing we learned was we had over complicated. We had 4 channels, 4k keywords, 8k match types, dynamic bids, 20+ landing pages. Our "smarts" led us to create an unsolvable problem. The mantra: get ONE keyword to ONE landing page that converts profitably
4) We hustled - my then girlfriend, now wife @tweepika started cold calling publishers who would send us traffic. We looked at competitor websites and borrowed liberally (it turns out this demo didn't want a slick funnel and that was part of our conversion issues.)
And we got lucky... roughly 7 weeks later with less than $10k in our bank account + $50k of cc debt, on the week of my 26th Birthday no less (may 23rd), we "launched" again for the 9th time. Spent $2k on ads ($25 CPL) and generated $3500 in revenue, IT WORKED!!
2 months later, we started advertising on @Facebook and in August of 2011 (13 mos later), Ampush generated $2M in revenue and spent $1.2M (per month) on ads. That was around the time we got a call from Facebook... "You are one of our top 100 advertisers, what's an Ampush?
But that is a story for another day... If you liked this, please follow me @jspujji share it with any entrepreneur you know going through ups/downs and struggling. My advice: stay tenacious, don't be afraid to ask for help and iterate quickly.
Also focus on “rate of learning/improvement” vs absolute position.

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More from @jspujji

1 Apr
In this podcast: What is the biggest mistake in customer acquisition... I have seen inside the mktg orgs of 250+ startups over the last 10 years. It has nothing to do with FB ad creatives, GOOG keywords or LP optimization.

It’s misunderstanding your "Revenue Event" 🧵
Here's the concept: every biz has a “revenue event,” the moment the cash register rings. E.g., For Zynga, it’s when virtual gold is purchased, for DSC, it’s when you enter your CC, for Rocket Mortgage, it’s the CLOSING of a loan, for a SaaS company, it's when the bill is paid
I believe all customer acquisition (and arguably the entirety of the business) starts by identifying and deeply understanding this revenue event. Everything prior to the revenue event is your marketing, everything after the revenue event is retention.
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