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Entrepreneur-ing In Public: Journey Log #5
Face... meet palm...
I teach entrepreneurship at Duke and I’m publicly growing a company — Autopest — from $0 to $100k/year in revenue in order to help entrepreneurs better understanding the process of building startups. Learn more about my journey here.
As someone who teaches entrepreneurship, I’ve spent lots of time preaching about the challenges of being a solo founder. I bumped into one of those challenges this week. Or rather, I suppose I’ve been bumping into the challenge since the day I first conceived of Autopest, but I only just realized it was happening this week when I discovered a critical part of my product was broken, and I had no idea. 🤦♂️
I won’t waste your time detailing what was broken since you surely have no reason to care. I’ll only mention that Autopest’s transactional emails (the emails Autopest sends its users, like “welcome” emails when people register) weren’t working.
The reason I didn’t realize the transactional email system wasn’t working was because I have my email settings configured a certain way, and it never occurred to me to check Autopest on someone else’s email account. Presumably, if I’d had co-founders, they would have noticed the issue and told me. However, as a solo founder, I didn’t have anyone else who knew enough about what I was building to recognize the issue.
In other words, I was dealing with the biggest problem of being a solo founder: I couldn’t see one of my own blindspots.
By definition, of course, nobody can see their blindspots. That’s why they’re called “blindspots.” We solve this by working with other people. Co-founders are the people who help us see all the things we’re too naive, selfish, ignorant, stupid, egotistical, lazy, narcissistic, disinterested, or otherwise self-absorbed to see and/or admit to ourselves.
If you’re like me and trying to build a startup by yourself, consider my stupid mistake with Autopest’s transactional email system a reminder that, yes, you have blindspots, too. Don’t be like me and keep building on your own. I’m just doing this as an educational experiment. Since, presumably, you’re not, do yourself a favor and find a co-founder. Yes, it can be hard, but it’s easier than destroying your company with mistakes you don’t even realize you’re making.
Thanks for reading about my journey growing Autopest from $0 to $100k/year in revenue. To keep following along, be sure to subscribe!
WEEKLY ACQUISITION METRICS:
Site Visitors: 451 uniques (+1%)
New Free Users: 44 (-12%)
Website Conversion Rate: 9.8%
New Paid Users: 0
AGGREGATE ACQUISITION METRICS:
Total Free Users: 294
Total Paid Users: 1
Total Revenue: $15
Total Costs: $20.91
Net Revenue: -$5.91
WEEKLY USAGE METRICS:
Extension Installs: 9 (-31%)
Unique Senders: 1 (-83%)
As I explained last week, I’m having trouble getting people who register for Autopest to actually use Autopest. To combat this critical issue, I made some significant changes to the signup process. After the changes, the process does a better job explaining what to expect when people register, and it provides more education on how to use Autopest once it’s installed.
I expected these changes to impact three things:
the number of signups was going to drop because there was more friction in the signup process;
more people were going to install the Chrome extension since it was better explained; and,
app usage was going to dramatically increase.
None of that happened. Instead, signups stayed roughly the same (a slight drop, but within expected statistical variation), which makes no sense because I added multiple steps to the registration process. That’s a cardinal sin of UI design and basically a way to guarantee your process will be less efficient. Or I thought it was. But, apparently, that wasn’t the case.
At the same time, the number of Chrome extension installs and the number of unique users sending messages dropped like a rock.
Honestly, I’m confused. Everything was basically the opposite of what was supposed to happen.
I’m trying not to get too bummed out because, to be honest, the numbers I’m working with are small enough to not be statistically significant. Maybe I’ll collect data for a few more weeks before I draw any macro conclusions about how everything we all thought we knew about user interface design was completely wrong.
In the meantime, I still need to figure out better ways of activating users because a product without engaged, paying users isn’t really a product. It’s just an inefficient way to collect people’s email addresses.