Interview with Anthony Morales (ThankThank Notes)
ThankThank Notes allows businesses to send handwritten notes (not just thank you notes) to their customers for $3 each. These notes can be sent on-demand or in bulk.
I interviewed Anthony Morales, ThankThank Notes founder to find out more. This interview is the eleventh in a series of DoesWhat interviews. I put together an overview of the first week of interviews last week. Big thank you to Anthony for the interview! You can follow Anthony on Twitter.
How would you describe ThankThank Notes in under 50 words?
ThankThank Notes is the best way to send handwritten messages to your customers. ThankThank Notes sends, on demand or in bulk, renewal or appointment reminders, special offers and of course thank you notes.
How and when did you come up with ThankThank Notes?
Our first company, Cubit, sends handwritten thank you notes to new subscribers. It was important to us to send a remarkable thank you, one that would be noticed, rather than just an e-mail. It worked great too, some customers went out of their way to tell us how much they appreciated the note. Cubit is a two-person so company we were writing the notes ourselves. As Cubit grew it became harder and harder to write the notes. Kristen (my co-founder) and I are efficiency and automation nuts. We thought about hiring somebody just to write the notes. But that’s just outsourcing, and we’d have to manage the writer. We wanted to send the notes immediately. Then someone said “I wish I could press a button and the note would be sent.” And we went a step farther – what if our application could send out a hand-written thank you note automatically like sending a welcome e-mail?
You spent 8 hours and $105 getting ThankThank Notes launched. What did you spend your money and time on? Did you have a production and marketing plan?
We spent our money on a domain name and a WooThemes theme. And I think the celebratory margaritas and queso are in that total as well. Time was split into two phases: scope and production. We spent a few hours thinking of all the cool things we could do. Then we asked ourselves: what did we want to learn? And finally: what can’t we do in 8 hours? The product of that was a WordPress-backed site with Wufoo + PayPal to process orders. Our marketing plan was to use our existing network of startup founders and investors to vet the idea and find initial customers. Startups – though cash-strapped – have a burning desire to cut through noise and make an impression.
How do you split your time between Cubit and ThankThank Notes?
There are times when you’re busy and when you’re not so busy. There aren’t many slow days at a startup. So it’s a careful balancing act. We have to be ruthless in deciding what gets done for each company. Cubit is data and software heavy. ThankThank is less technical but has a tangible product that is custom made. Some days it’s 100% Cubit and some days it’s note-writing, note-writing, note-writing. Priorities are set daily for each company. Founders meet each morning to trade notes and set the priorities for the day based on overall goals for each company. We don’t do much that doesn’t move us closer to a goal, there simply isn’t enough time.
Has ThankThank Notes got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
The response was greater, and better, than we expected. ThankThank was making sales a few in the weeks after we launch, and has been growing steadily ever since.
Has your initial vision changed since launch?
Our initial vision hasn’t changed significantly – that is to automate hand-written messages to our customers. How we go about fulfilling that vision does change. We’re testing different ideas, looking at different kinds of customers. Scalability is the first question out of everyone’s mouth: like traditional printers, we get asked “can you handle my order?” So we’re looking at interesting ways of solving that problem and providing a quality service.
Who do you see as your target audience?
Companies where customer service is a differentiator. Realtors, car dealer, and other service-oriented merchants don’t sell a unique product. It’s the service that keeps customers coming back. SaaS companies too. When your customer service is exemplary – and it’s often the little things, the details that set you apart – customers begin to act as cheerleaders and partners. Companies that understand that are our target audience.
Who is your biggest competitor?
If we knew we would have used them instead of starting ThankThank Notes!
Have you faced any scalability problems?
We are people powered right now. Us founders and a small squadron of college students, friends and family fulfill orders for notes. Obviously that could be a scaling issue. So we’re looking for ways to scale it reasonably. We’re looking at different partnership options and the possibility of using robots (!!!) to write the notes.
What advice would you give to your past-self?
Don’t do it! Seriously. Running one startup is HARD. Running two startups is crazy. We have to be ruthless about what tasks and priorities we choose. And if you think one startup cuts in to your social life (huh? social what?) two is worse.
What’s your background in startups?
Kristen, my partner, and I founded Cubit a few years ago. We were accepted into Capital Factory 2009 as part of the inaugural class. There we got to work with awesome companies and 20 amazing mentors. We really got a schooling there. It gave us the kick in the pants we needed to dive feet first into startup world. When we found another opportunity to test out what we’d learned in ThankThank Notes, we said “what the hell…”.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Finding customers. Getting them to pay. Isn’t that the problem we’re all facing?
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Robots! To solve our scaling issues, and to build something I think would be really cool, we’re researching robots that can spit out handwritten notes – that is, written by robot hands. And what’s not cool about robot hands?
Can you convince an entrepreneur or business to use ThankThank Notes in under 50 words?
Can you remember the last time you got a handwritten letter from a company? I’ve received two in my life. I remember those companies and I remember the message. Wouldn’t you like to be a company people remember?
Finished reading? Check out ThankThank Notes!