Share:

  • Facebook
  • Hacker News

Follow:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
Chris Cardell

Interview with Matt DeLong (CoreCommerce)

CoreCommerce gives small and medium businesses the opportunity to sell online in minutes.

I interviewed Matt DeLong, CoreCommerce President/CEO to find out more. This interview is the hundred and first in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Matt!

How would you describe CoreCommerce in under 50 words?

We help people reach their dreams of financial independence!!

We are a software company that helps people sell their products on the internet. We allow entrepreneurs to create their own “ecommerce storefronts” using our CoreCommerce product.

What services does CoreCommerce offer?

Customers are able to use our powerful ecommerce software that we’ve spent millions ($$) building — starting at just $19.99/month. We offer everything you need to setup an online storefront, including domain names, credit card processing accounts, as well as custom design services as well for customers who want a custom “CoreCommerce skin”.

What brought you to CoreCommerce in 2001?

I started the company in 2001, and created the (early versions) of our software because of an unmet need that I had noticed in the late 90’s (1998-1999ish). At that time, companies wanting to sell their products went to web design shops wanting “to sell stuff online”, but web design shops would respond, “We don’t do programming and databases, we only do flash + Photoshop”, thus the need for an off the shelf eCommerce package that you could setup and run in less than 1 hour.

Who is the team behind CoreCommerce?

We are made up of smart people who can get things done. We are ordinary folks (geeks, computer nerds, business owners and entrepreneurs) who can have a passion for service who execute well.

Over the years, CoreCommerce has won numerous awards around the globe. What would you say is CoreCommerce’s USP?

We are best known for our service and rolling out new features monthly. For example, we were the first shopping cart company to roll out mobile commerce at no charge to our customers. That was years ago — today everyone offers it — most for an additional fee.

What technologies have you used to build CoreCommerce?

We use dozens of technologies, mainly the big ones are PHP, MySQL, AJAX & jQuery running on the LAMP stack @ Rackspace.

How do you promote CoreCommerce?

Word of mouth, resellers, Google Adwords, partnerships, SEO/SEM, other promotions/sponsorships.

You recently released version 8.8.90 of CoreCommerce. What new features does this include?

Alot of our features are socially driven — based on customer popularity/votes. This release included Shipworks fulfillment — which allows customers to auto-send their orders to Shipworks for order processing. The Bing product feed feature allows customers to generate more traffic for comparison shopping customers using bing.com. We also integrated with Channel Manager & the HubSpot Lead API as well as a dozen+ other features targeted to make life easy for our customers and improve usability.

Do you have any other new services or features in the pipeline?

Yes, we are working on some new features that will be out later this year…can’t comment on them just yet :-)

What do you wish you’d have known 11 years ago that you know now?

Usability and user experience are extremely important, it’s no longer a luxury item — it’s a necessity. Prospective customers really only give you <45 seconds to make a first impression, so if they are confused about how to use your software when they first log on, they are likely moving on to another company.

Has CoreCommerce got the feedback and growth expected since launch?

We have seen busy & slow times as all businesses have, but we seem to do well during an economic boom, but really, really well during a recession.

Where do you see CoreCommerce in another 11 years time?

11 years, wow…we plan to conquer the world by then.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

Yahoo! Stores

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

Ongoing changes in technology and keeping staff happy :)

With your diverse business background, what one piece of advice would you give to startup founders?

Success always comes down to 3 things, (whether you are starting a new workout routine or starting a new business)

1) How prepared are you?
2) How bad do you want it?
3) Are you willing to pay the price to succeed?

What are you most excited about at the moment?

We have a new COO (last week), Vance Lawson, who has a strong finance and operations background and excited about that hire.

Can you convince the reader to start using CoreCommerce in under 50 words?

Turn your hobby into a full time business –today– using our powerful ecommerce software. It’s simple to use, choose a design, add your products, configure setting and start making money. Signup for a 15-day free trial to see how easy it is to build your own online store.

Finished reading? Check out CoreCommerce!

Interview with Assaf Eisenstein (GooodJob)

GooodJob provide employees with tools to help maximize referrals.

I interviewed Assaf Eisenstein, GooodJob (employee referral software) founder and CEO to find out more. This interview is the hundredth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Assaf!

How would you describe GooodJob in under 50 words?

GooodJob’s pioneering approach to the employee referral program enables companies to motivate the referral efforts of employees, while leveraging their social media networks to reach top talent.

What are the main benefits of employee referral programs?

Employee referral programs are an incredibly powerful internal sourcing method for companies of all sizes. Cost- and time-efficient, they allow you to use your existing resource – your employees – to reach out to similarly talented candidates. Their word-of-mouth recommendations are reliable, and that they would publicly endorse their companies resonates with their friends, sending the message the job opportunities are worth looking into.

What’s your background? What made you decide to start working on GooodJob?

Before I founded GooodJob, I worked as the CEO of a large company.

My wife owns a recruiting agency, and I was first exposed to the field through her. I was particularly drawn to the corporate recruiter side of the table, though, and started considering how recruiters could save time and increase their access to better candidates. As I mentioned earlier, employee referrals are a major source of hiring. With the explosion of social media networking, all companies, through their employees, have access to networks of thousands of potential candidates. It was simply a matter of properly combining these two powerful channels – employee referrals and social recruiting – into an effective method that corporate recruiters, employees and candidates would all embrace. And that’s exactly what GooodJob delivers.

What appealed most about being your own boss?

Actually, it’s harder than working for somebody else. You need to meet standards and goals that you set yourself. And forming a new company for a service that has never existed is one of the most challenging tasks one can encounter – yet also one of the most rewarding.

What planning did you do before you started up?

Extensive market research – everything from reading countless industry blogs and research studies, to studying surveys and trends, and to speaking with potential customers in order to better understand their short- and long-term needs.

But it is actually not just about planning – it’s about possessing a belief in a revolutionary vision.

Congratulations for your selection as a finalist in this years startup competition at the Recruiting Innovation Summit 2012. Apart from winning, what do you hope to get out of the conference?

Thanks, we’re very excited!

We’re looking forward to the feedback from conference attendees and competition judges and off course PR and media coverage – like the occasional DoesWhat interview… :)

Great name! How did you come up with it?

Two answers:

The first is that the name represents our company’s philosophy: referrals fall outside of employees’ job descriptions, and organizations need to recognize that extra effort, and tell them, “Goood Job.” In addition, we offer companies a fantastic way to reach out to potential candidates and share their “Goood Jobs.”

Our second answer is more informal: many successful Internet companies have two O’s in their names – think Google, Facebook, Yahoo. We took our cue from them, and added another letter for goood luck!

What was the most challenging part of developing GooodJob?

Assembling a strong team of serious, passionate and dedicated individuals.

How long did it take to put together GooodJob?

The idea was brewing in my mind since 2008; we started officially in February 2011.

Who uses GooodJob?

We have about 30 clients, including Microsoft, ECI and HP. Their employees simply love our platform, and the companies have all increased their ROI’s.

Do you have any new features in the pipeline?

We have several upcoming developments. Unfortunately, I can’t divulge any of them at this point. (But trust me, they’re worth the wait!)

Where do you see GooodJob in 5 years time?

With 10,000 customers worldwide, and an additional three breakthrough features.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

A corporate recruiter who doesn’t want to source better candidates or save money for their organization.

Any employee referral success stories you’d like to share with us?

One of our customers, an Israeli startup called Panaya, has a great HR team, headed by Ilan Stern. They effectively implemented our platform a little less than six months ago, with amazing results. We’re currently preparing the final draft of a case study outlining their successes.

What do you like to do on days off?

Well, at this stage official days off are few and far between. With the little time that I do have, I enjoy spending it with my wife and two kids, and mountain biking.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting up their own business?

Carefully craft the value proposition that you want to offer to your potential customers. Listen and understand their pain and how much they are willing to pay to solve it. Remember, a simple tool that’s nice to have isn’t enough. Plan and design an efficient method to meet customer acquisition costs. At the end of the day, your long-term value has to be greater than these costs. Know your weaknesses, and recruit the best people to your team.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

The competition in San Francisco, of course :)

Can you convince the reader to start using GooodJob in under 50 words?

How’s two? Free Trial.

OK, a bit more: With GooodJob harness the power of social to increase visibility among your employees’ 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree qualified connections – passive candidates who aren’t perusing job boards. Inject fun into your referral program, and engage and motivate employees to participate.

Finished reading? Check out GooodJob!

Interview with Viktar Khamianok (Link-Assistant.Com)

Link-Assistant.Com produces SEO software and tools.

I interviewed Viktar Khamianok, Link-Assistant.Com founder to find out more. This interview is the ninety ninth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Viktar!

How would you describe Link-Assistant.Com in under 50 words?

Link-Assistant.Com is a team with collective talent so great it is virtually impossible to replicate. Together, we are fueled by a bold vision – making jaw-dropping software for internet marketers.

What made you decide to found Link-Assistant.Com?

It all started back in 2004 when my friend Aleh and I decided to launch a custom software development business. So we built a website and picked search engine optimization (SEO) as a way of attracting clients and improving our online presence.

We knew very little about SEO at the time but it didn’t take us long to realize that there was no comprehensive product on the market to take newbies like us by hand through the entire SEO process. I mean we did find a bunch of small tools, each focused on one SEO task. We found a great keyword research tool, a Google PageRank checker, another tool to spot broken links, but no one great product to do it all.

That’s when it hit us: WE should develop the world’s greatest SEO software! So that was how the idea of Link-Assistant.Com was born.

A couple of days, nights and gallons of coffee later, we came up with a prototype of the first tool in SEO PowerSuite series, LinkAssistant link building tool (hence the website and company name, Link-Assistant.Com)

We tried promoting our own site with LinkAssistant, and it worked great. We tried promoting our client sites with it, and it worked great. We took it public and after a short beta stage attached a price tag to it. And you know what? It started selling like hotcakes! It was an incredible feeling I can hardly describe: joy, excitement and firm inner voice screaming we’re on the right path!

Then followed 8 amazing years of steep learning, getting the hang of SEO industry’s best practices, keeping up with innovation and constant changes in SEO and applying this all to our tools.

Looking back, all I can say is that it’s been an amazing journey. Still is! We have grown from nothing into a professional software house with 4 great products on board SEO PowerSuite. We have upwards of 50 fantastic team members and over 380,000 customers in 173 countries around the globe. All of this with zero venture funding. Just an idea, our love for code, our perfectionism in product creation, and a vision for making something great for all SEO’s out there.

Tell us about the SEO products you have developed that can be sold separately and as an SEO PowerSuite software bundle. Which product is your best seller?

So far, there are four tools in SEO PowerSuite toolkit:

  • Rank Tracker (keyword research and rank checking tool)
  • WebSite Auditor (on page optimization tool)
  • SEO SpyGlass (backlink checker)
  • and the good old LinkAssistant (for link building)

We have a free version for each tool separately and for the whole suite for people to play around with. The nice thing is that the free version never expires and we don’t ask for any credit card info during signup. There’s no need for it unless the customer is ready to pay. On the one hand, this lets us attract more people to our products. On the other hand, it helps people who can’t pay for software use good tools for their SEO absolutely free of charge.

And for those paying folks we’ve got Professional and Enterprise versions of each tool and the whole suite. We also have bulk license deals available for SEO companies. This way each customer gets to choose a perfect mix of tools and versions to match their business needs.

The majority of our clients tend to use the whole bundle, for a good reason: you get lots of SEO tasks done, on and offpage, with one set of feature-rich tools.

Speaking of separate tools, only 8% of our customers buy one or several tools instead of the whole bundle.

The number one bestseller is Rank Tracker, which takes care of two fundamental SEO tasks: keyword research and rank checking. We take special pride in Rank Tracker’s keyword research module which incorporates 19 proven keyword research strategies and tools of the SEO industry helping website promoters select keywords most lucrative for their niches: relevant, bringing in lots of targeted traffic and easy to compete for. Rank Tracker is a known favorite of SEO Book’s Eric Covino and Shaun Anderson of Hobo-Web.

How did you raise the money for developing your flagship product in 2005?

As I said, we started the company completely from scratch. All we had were our development skills and a passion to create the best SEO software ever.

We didn’t raise any venture capital, funding our startup with our development services over the first year. We reinvested every penny into Link-Assistant.Com to keep it growing. Above all, we have been able to attract the most talented employees who are still with us and continue to make us successful.

Your website says users who’ve been among the first wave to start using this SEO software are now making serious profits. Can you give us any specific cases?

We have several really amazing clients who have been with us from the very start. It was they who helped us take the tools to the present high level – no doubt about it. They would contact us to say: guys how about adding this and that – it worked pretty well for us.

And of course we’ve been happy like kids when they were getting back to share their online success with us. We have some of the case studies of our first wave users featured on our website.

Who do you see as your target audience? What is your main market?

SEO PowerSuite users are a mixed bag really.

Many say you can’t make a product for everyone but the SEO sphere seems very promising.

We tend to look at our target audience for this software as anyone who needs to attract more visitors to a website. This can be a small business owner, an SEO agency, a web designer, a blogger, a whoever-needs-online-presence.

Our challenge was to create software that would allow SEOs with different level of expertise run their SEO campaigns professionally and efficiently. A wealth of professional data the software provides is something SEO experts love because this enables them to make informed decisions about their clients’ online presence. SEO PowerSuite reports can be easily white labeled so client reporting is another great benefit for SEO agencies. DIY-SEOs are provided with fast training which of course doesn’t make them experts but lets them achieve remarkable results with this software within shortest time.

Another segment is made up of big companies with a lot of pages to optimize and in-house SEO departments where a few dozen people with different level of expertise work. We’re glad to have big brands like General Electric, Microsoft, Disney, MasterCard and others on the user list – and these are great examples of this segment.

We also help lots of marketing managers in the companies that outsource their SEO but need solutions to objectively assess and track their SEO agencies’ work.

You recently undertook a major redesign to make your tools even more clear-cut and straightforward. What improvements have you made?

Yeah, the redesign was kind of long-awaited improvement for us and our users.

You see, for years we’ve been focused exclusively on brushing up the software performance. SEO PowerSuite is constantly being updated: we roll out new meaningful features every other week!

What we were after with the redesign was making the software even more smart and simple, improving both visual impact and feature usability. We believe the new design is more logical and work-flow oriented – thus it helps users keep focused on the actions performed.

Do you have any new products in the pipeline?

Of course we do! We’re currently developing the fifth tool to join SEO PowerSuite bundle, the one to address social media aspects of today’s SEO and SEM.

The most successful digital marketers make a great job of being just anywhere possible socially – that’s what we want to help our customers with.

We’re building a great tool for SEO PowerSuite users to get the most from social media marketing and manage their reputation in the most efficient way – no more details to disclose so far, stay tuned for the updates from Link-Assistant.Com!

What do you wish you’d have known 7 years ago that you know now?

That’s simple – everything I know now! Honestly, 7 years is a century for everything internet, SEO and software development related. And I’m extremely excited to work in such a fast-paced industry.

It’s amazing, but every new day brings in new search trends to explore. As a result, we have a long list of ideas how to make our software even better.

Have your products got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?

I must say that Link-Assistant.Com progress was well beyond our expectations!

I mean we’ve always shot big and worked hard on developing the best SEO software around but we couldn’t imagine having 380k customers simply because far fewer people were involved in SEO and digital marketing seven-eight years ago.

To know that every 3-rd SEO company was using SEO PowerSuite in 2011 is both mind-boggling and exciting. And we’re happy to see both the market and the number of our customers growing. Imagine: 600 people download SEO PowerSuite from our official website daily!

Where do you see Link-Assistant.Com in 7 years time?

I envision Link-Assistant.Com as an even more professional software house with fantastic corporate culture and passion to develop breakthrough marketing products. We’ve got huge plans on entering new internet marketing niches but I don’t want to alarm future competitors before this happens ;)

Can you convince the reader to start using Link-Assistant.Com products in under 60 words?

Behind this SEO software is the most passionate team whose goal is creating great products, not just profit. Our product quality proved itself times and again over the past 7+ years on the market: when other SEO tools fail, ours keep on working.

Download SEO PowerSuite – these might be the most useful 3 minutes in your SEO career.

Finished reading? Check out Link-Assistant.Com!

Interview with Brian Halligan (HubSpot)

HubSpot provides a marketing software platform for small and medium sized businesses.

I interviewed Brian Halligan, HubSpot co-founder and CEO to find out more. This interview is the ninety eighth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Brian for the interview!

How would you describe HubSpot in under 5 words?

All-in-one marketing software.

For those that don’t know, what is inbound marketing? How can marketers embrace inbound marketing? What is a great example of inbound marketing?

The way humans shop, learn, and spend their time has changed dramatically in the last few years in two important way. First, humans are sick-and-tired of being marketed to and are getting increasingly good at blocking marketing out through DVR’s spam protection, callerID, etc. Second, people spend tons of time in Google, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc versus watching TV, reading mail, and talking on the phone. …The idea behind inbound marketing is to transform the way you market to match the way modern humans live today by pulling them in versus interrupting them with emails, cold calls, ads, etc.

What were you doing before HubSpot? What inspired you decide to start working on HubSpot?

I was an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at a venture firm and my job was to go around to the portfolio companies and help them grow. All of the companies had a similar “marketing playbook”: hire a PR firm, buy Google Adwords, hire telesales reps, go to tradeshows, etc. My realization was that the playbook was broken — the market stopped responding to it.

While this was going on, Dharmesh Shah, my eventual co-founder was in school and spent a few hours a week blogging at OnStartups. His blog was getting 10x more interest than most of my venture backed startups! Wtf?!?!

That’s where we came up with the idea of helping folks shift from the traditional outbound marketing playbook to the new inbound marketing playbook which was better aligned with the way humans live, shop, learn, yada, yada.

Who are the other co-founders of Hubspot? How do you all complement each other skills-wise?

I met my cofounder, Dharmesh, while we were studying together at MIT. I think there are two things that have worked well for us. First, we have a complimentary skillset — I am from a sales-ish background and he is from a tech-ish background. Second, we get along and tend to see the world in a similar way.

Who came up with the name?

Dharmesh came up with the name. …The idea is we want businesses to turn their website into a “hub” on the internet that is pulling people in from Google, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I also like the double entendre (Boston is the “hub” of the universe).

HubSpot has been named Inc.500 2nd Fastest growing software company and ranked #17 in the Forbes top 20 most promising companies. What are the main factors that have led to HubSpot’s growth and success?

Well, I think we saw the massive shift that needed to happen in marketing and it turned out we were vaguely right about it! After that, we worked hard to build a product that people love and a process to bring customers on board and delight them that scaled. …Frankly, there’s been no “one thing” — lots of little things done right and wrong along the way and lots of course corrections along the way.

You literally wrote the book on inbound marketing (you co-wrote ‘Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs’). How much of a challenge was this? Any plans for more books?

This was actually a pretty big challenge — not for the faint of heart, it turns out. Every spare second of my life for about 4-5 months was consumed by the book.

We are working on another book now that is a broader and more modern version of the Inbound book. Pumped about it!

Last year you closed $32m in series D financing from Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures and Salesforce.com. Overall, HubSpot has raised more than $65m in venture capital. What is the secret to securing venture capital?

Having a hockey stick growth curve doesn’t hurt!

Congratulations on being awarded Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year in 2011. What appeals most about being your own boss?

Huh? I must have missed a memo. When you are a vp of something, you have one boss. When you are a CEO, you have a board. In my case, I have 6 bosses on my board! Smile.

If you had a time machine, is there anything you would go back and do differently?

This is going to sound weird, but I wish we actually had less access to capital in the early days. It would have forced us to be a bit more disciplined. It would have forced to solve everything with software versus relying a lot on humans.

Where do you see HubSpot in 5 years time?

I see it as a standalone company, not part of something bigger. When we started the company, we set out to build something that our grandkids would be proud of.

Are you able to keep a work-life balance?

Not really.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

Point solutions: Google Analytics + Constant Contact + Wordpress + SEO consultant + Marketo + IT person.

Marketing hasn’t changed much over the last 50 years, but during the past 5 years it has changed a lot. What trends in marketing do you foresee in the next 5 years?

I kind of think the marketing industry today looks like the horse and buggy industry in 1912. Back then, there were 16,000 companies making horse shoes, saddles, whips, etc. There’s basically none left as that industry was wiped out by the auto industry. …The changes over the last 5 years are just the 1st inning.

What one piece of advice would you give to startup founders?

Go big or go home.

Finished reading? Check out HubSpot!

Interview with Aytekin Tank (JotForm)

JotForm is a free web based WYSIWYG form builder.

I interviewed Aytekin Tank, JotForm founder to find out more. This interview is the ninety seventh in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Aytekin for the interview!

How would you describe JotForm in under 50 words?

JotForm is a free web form builder. JotForm’s drag & drop form builder is easy to use and covers any kind of form functionality you might need. What makes JotForm great is that it is optimized for speed. We’d like people to be able to create web forms quickly and get on with their busy lives.

What kind of forms can users create with JotForm?

Pretty much any kind. Last week, we released a form templates gallery for Jotform. We created 500 forms before launching. Another 100 were shared by JotForm users in the first week. So, the possibilities are endless.

The most common uses for JotForm are for contact forms, order and payment forms, event registration forms, surveys, feedback buttons, facebook forms and lead generation forms.

What made you decide to start working on JotForm?

In the past I worked for a large internet media company and developed similar internal tools. At that time, there weren’t any good tools available to build web forms.

In 2005, I quit my job to start my own company. At the beginning we tried several different products. We’ve done some consulting, we had membership products, and we had this completely free toy product called JotForm. The sales on consulting and other products were able to sustain us but they were limited in growth. On the other hand, JotForm started growing like crazy. That’s when we decided to completely focus on JotForm.

How did you come up with the name?

I wanted to emphasize the ease of use and speed of this new product. JotForm was perfect because jotting down something is a casual, easy and quick thing.

The three important criteria I look for coming up with a product name are short, unique and easy to remember.

What technologies have you used to build JotForm?

Our main goal has always been to make it easy to quickly create web forms. So, JotForm is heavy on JavaScript. Our codebase is based on the Prototype library. We’ve always been happy with Prototype but we have recently also started experimenting with Backbone.js and used it on our Form Templates Gallery. The speed and ease of implementation was very impressive.

On the back end we mainly use PHP. For databases, we use MySQL and MongoDB. We also use redis for caching and session data.

What was technically the most challenging part of developing JotForm?

When I first developed JotForm in 2005, drag & drop was not as easy as today. The biggest challenge was to make it drag & drop smoothly.

Who do you see as your target audience?

Our main target audience is small website owners. People who create web sites with a low budget and no dedicated development team.

How long did it take to put together JotForm?

It took me several months to complete the first version of JotForm. Today, we have a dedicated team of 7 developers and a designer who exclusively work on JotForm full-time.

JotForm’s domain name was shut down at the request of the US Secret Service last month. What happened, how did your users respond, and how has it affected business?

Yes, that was very unfortunate.

We currently host 2,000,000 online forms. One of the difficulties of our business is dealing with phishing. We suspended 65,000 phishing forms in the last year alone. We have a bayesian phishing filter that can detect phishing forms with great accuracy. It works similar to the bayesian spam filters but instead of detecting spam, it detects phishing forms. In addition, we review any forms reported to us immediately. We care a lot about keeping our service clean of such activities.

On that Tuesday, we were already tired from an internal hackathon and we were getting ready to go home. I checked my email one last time, and I saw an email from Godaddy. It said, our domain jotform.com is “suspended for violation of the Go Daddy Abuse Policy”. I quickly replied to the email asking for details and called the phone number. They told me it was suspended because of a request by the Secret Service and gave me a name and a number. The numbers were for Secret Service Phoenix Electronic Crimes Task Force.

Our domain name servers were pointed to NS1.SPAM-AND-ABUSE.COM and NS2.SPAM-AND-ABUSE.COM. It was a matter of time for the DNS caches to be expired and the site to go down for everyone.

When I called the special agent, she told me that she had to go away at that moment, but she would get back to me. Then she took my phone number. I told her that this was an urgent matter because we have a service with hundreds of thousands of users. She just said that she would get back to me.

I kept calling her every hour. She started saying she will get back to me “this week”, or in a “few days”. I told her I was ready to take down any malicious content and provide any information they need. But, she told me she needed to take a look at the case first. She asked me to not call her again, and wait for her to call.

So, at this point, our whole online business was held hostage in the hands of someone who did not care much, and there was nothing we could do about it.

We quickly changed our site to work with jotform.net domain and we emailed the most active users, telling them to switch the form code they have on their web sites to jotform.net. This was a huge task for some users. Some of our clients have hundreds of forms located in different sites. In some cases, it was not possible to change the links. Many customers were angry at us and told us that they had lost customers, productivity and revenue because of the downtime. We provided a lot of refunds to those customers and received some threats of legal action for damages. On the positive side, many people thanked us for acting quickly to find solutions and to inform them.

Our domain was down for 2 days. They still have not told us why they suspended it in the first place. We were punished for reasons we don’t know even though we were ready to help them in any way we could.

Do you have any new features in the pipeline?

We have just released Form Templates Gallery. That turned out to be a great success. People seemed to love it and used it to create 10,000 forms in the first week.

We are planning to release integration with Google Docs soon and more integrations are on the way.

What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now?

I wish we started doing Continuous Integration and Deployments earlier. That’s probably the single biggest thing that made a huge difference for our development team. Eric Ries’s ideas helped us start on that path.

The biggest mistake I made was not focusing enough. We are now laser focused on making JotForm users happy. But, in the first few years, we wasted so much time and effort trying to execute many ideas and products. When I meet with people who are just starting on their entrepreneurial journey that’s the single biggest advice I give them. Have a laser focus on a single product and don’t give up.

Where do you see JotForm in 5 years time?

When I think about what we have accomplished in the last 3 months, 5 years seems like an eternity. I am not worried too much about the future. I am more about what we can do TODAY to make our users happy, how we can help them save time, and how we can help them look professional.

You have over 700,000 users on JotForm. How many users upgrade to a premium subscription? What’s your philosophy on converting free members?

Yes, I’m very happy about the JotForm’s growth. The numbers may seem low compared to the social sites such as Facebook, but we are a B2B tool. 750,000 is actually pretty big number for a B2B tool.

We are a completely bootstrapped company and we never took any debt. We currently have enough Premium users to pay the bills, pay our salaries and even a small advertising budget.

Since we are above that threshold we are not pushy about converting free users. At this point, I am more focused on increasing our growth rate. Unlike similar services, our free plan is pretty good. You can create as many forms as you wish, and you can use all features. Our Premium price is also probably the lowest at $9.95/month.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

We have many competitors in this space, but my guess is that our biggest competition is lack of market awareness. Many people do not know about form builders. They are not aware that there are tools like JotForm that can help them create web forms quickly and easily.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

Our biggest headache is dealing with phishers. We have developed tools to catch and suspend them.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

I am very excited about Form Templates Gallery. Our users are loving it. They are using form templates to save time, and they are also sharing their forms with other users.

Can you convince the reader to start using JotForm in under 50 words?

I think they should just give it a try. They don’t need to create an account to try JotForm. Simply go to Jotform.com and give the form builder a try. Drag and drop questions, customize the form and add it to your web site. I’m sure they will love it.

Finished reading? Check out JotForm!

Interview with Julien Tartarin (Mailjet)

Mailjet helps you to improve the deliverability of your emails.

I interviewed Julien Tartarin, Mailjet founder to find out more. This interview is the ninety sixth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Julien for the interview!

How would you describe Mailjet in under 50 words?

Mailjet is a Cloud-Based service. We send, track and deliver emails. Our service is easy to use and easy to integrate via SMTP or with our API. We focus On real time and deliverability. We’re an all in one solution: Mailjet sends all your emails: bulk and transactional.

What made you decide to start working on Mailjet?

Sending email has always been easy, but during these last years, delivering it to the inbox has become very complicated. I’ve realized this in my previous jobs where I needed to configure and optimize email servers.

According to Return Path, more than 25% of legitimate email doesn’t reach the inbox. This can be disastrous (think about apps, online retailers, etc.).

For developers, making sure that email is getting delivered represents a huge amount of work. But they often need to focus on their product rather than on email delivery… I knew it, so I came up with the following idea: provide a very simple solution, ensuring that the message is successfully getting delivered to the recipient.

Eventually, the idea got “bigger”, and the objective became what Mailjet is today: an email platform used to send, track and deliver. Our customers are not only developers: even a perfect rookie can create and send a Newsletter with Mailjet!

Could you explain ‘deliverability’ to those that don’t know what it means?

The term is often misused. It isn’t in the dictionary yet: this problematic emerged not very long ago. Elie, our Digital Marketing Manager, defines the term “deliverability” this way:

“deliverability refers to the ability that an email has of successfully reaching the inbox of its recipients. It’s not an indicator, it’s an objective”.

So “Deliverability” is all about knowing if your email will get to the recipient’s inbox. To understand how it is possible to optimize, I recommend you to read “The 5 things Mailjet does for your deliverability”.

Who is the team behind Mailjet?

There’s me of course :) But if Mailjet is doing so well it’s also because we’ve been able to set up a terrific team. Wilfried Durand was working for tuto.com but he loved the idea I had. I knew him from college. After I’ve talked to him about the idea, he did a bit of networking and convinced Thibaud Elzière, Founder of Fotolia, to join the project. Thibaud seed funded the venture, with the help of Quentin Nickmans. Quentin is now Mailjet’s CEO. Nicolas Chaunu, the Founder of tuto.com also joined as a strategic advisor.

Where are you based?

We are based in Paris, France. But we have just expanded to four other countries. We have actually opened some offices in Spain (Madrid), Germany (Berlin), United Kingdom (London) and the United States (San Francisco!). So now we are…everywhere!

We really want to remain close to our customers. This is why we don’t only make our platform accessible in different languages: we also want to have a local implantation.

What technologies have you used to build Mailjet?

I don’t want to provide a lot of details on this, it is kind of secret for now. But what is important to know is that we have our own proprietary technology to route the emails. This is a huge advantage: a lot of our competitors use some third party services at some point of the process, but we don’t. Except maybe for the IP reputation monitoring: we work with Return Path, the leader in this industry.

Where do you see Mailjet in 5 years time?

Our objective is quite ambitious: we want to impose our new model as a reference. For now there are not many Email Service Providers offering as much flexibility as we do. Liberty and simplicity are at the core of our product. Meanwhile, the traditional players work in a completely different way: long term contracts, training requirements to use the tools, etc. We are the complete opposite.

So in 5 years, we hope that Mailjet will have changed the game and imposed itself as the reference in the email domain!

What are you most excited about at the moment?

There are so many things going on… The new version of the platform and the expansion to other countries are very exciting. But we have quite a few other things on the schedule. So what I am the most excited about at the moment is what we will announce in the coming weeks: a handy tool and some unique features. Sorry I can’t say more now!

Can you convince the reader to start using Mailjet in under 50 words?

Mailjet grows very rapidly for a good reason: we offer the best value. We are easy to use and easy to integrate. Rather than words, the best solution is to experience what we have to offer. Because our basic plan is free, the best solution is to simply test us!

Finished reading? Check out Mailjet!

Interview with Shane Neman (Ez Texting)

Ez Texting helps businesses around the world build affordable SMS Marketing campaigns.

I interviewed Shane Neman, Ez Texting CEO to find out more. This interview is the ninety fifth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Shane for the interview!

How would you describe Ez Texting in under 50 words?

Ez Texting is a simple, affordable software platform for businesses to run SMS text marketing campaigns. SMS is fast and direct, which is great for offering specials and increasing customer loyalty.

What’s your background? How and when did you get involved with Ez Texting?

I grew up in New York and studied Computer Science at NYU. Ten years ago I founded JoonBug.com, which was one of the earliest digital event marketing platforms. We built up an email list that at its peak had over a half million young, urban professionals across the US.

In 2005, when text messaging really started to take off, we went looking for someone who could set us up with a text messaging service. We searched but couldn’t find an out-of-the-box solution, so we built it ourselves. To offset the cost of building it we offered it some of our own customers. It took off, and soon people were seeking us out, trying to sign up for the service. Ez Texting grew out of that into its own company providing a web-based text messaging platform used by many different types of businesses.

Who uses Ez Texting?

We have over 50,000 registered users. Primarily we serve small and medium sized businesses, but we also have thousands of religious groups and non-profits, as well as many Fortune 500 ‘enterprise’ type clients. Also, we have a full-featured API that is used by hundreds of developers to add SMS capabilities to their applications.

What technologies have been used to build Ez Texting?

As we’ve grown and scaled our tech has evolved. Our web app is built in PHP/Zend Framework and some Python as well. For databases we use both PostgreSQL and recently MongoDB. To run everything we use a combination of dedicated and cloud servers. Using newer technologies like MongoDB, Gearman and ‘cloud’ services has allowed us to scale with our customers.

What do you wish you’d have known 6 years ago that you know now?

Today we look at the large ESPs like Constant Contact and MailChimp as the model for how to serve small businesses. If we had taken our cues from them six years ago we might have avoided some early growing pains – but it’s not the worst thing in the world to learn what works for yourself, and I have no regrets.

Where do you see Ez Texting in 6 years time?

I see Ez Texting as the Constant Contact of SMS Marketing Services. There are smaller ESPs but Constant Contact, at 500,000 customers, has the biggest share of that industry and I see Ez Texting with a similar position among our peers. We were among the first-to-market, we have a powerful yet easy-to-use platform, and we expect to continue to bring SMS Marketing to more and more businesses every day.

Has Ez Texting got the feedback and growth expected since launch?

Definitely. The product has grown and evolved a lot in the past six years. As I mentioned above, we went out and built this to suit our own needs. When we decided to open it up as a product for other people to use we needed to grow the platform considerably, which we have done and continue to do. While we continue to quickly grow our customer base, it’s still astonishing to me that we went from a single customer to where we are today.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

As soon as I wake up I am checking my BlackBerry. We have a small team that supports tens of thousands of customers, so every day is extremely busy. There’s never any downtime. The last thing I do before I go to bed is answer more emails.

Who would you say is your biggest competitor?

Although we have been around for six years now, the mobile SMS industry is still young and the space is growing so much that any other companies entering the space serve to grow it. I don’t think that we are at the point where customers are being cannibalized by competitors – there are 30 Million SMBs in the US and the whole industry is not even close to scratching 1% of that. We welcome new SMS companies; they grow the overall industry, and they push us to constantly improve our product.

What is the biggest hurdle you, personally, have faced or are still facing?

Growing. I’ve had to figure out how to grow our product, grow our team, and grow our customers – and find the right balance.

With your experience in building from the ground up, two successful businesses, Ez Texting and JoonBug Productions, what one piece of advice would you give to startup founders?

When I founded JoonBug.com, nobody did event marketing over email and the web. Nobody thought it would work, but JoonBug helped push that industry forward. That is really fundamental to how I approach a potential business – find the shortcomings in an industry, find a niche to attack those shortcomings, and grow from that position.

Also, if you’re already running a business and you need something that doesn’t exist, or doesn’t exist the way you need it, sometimes you really should go build it yourself. That’s what happened with our text messaging platform at JoonBug and it grew into what Ez Texting is today.

If you start a business you will, inevitably, reach a moment when things look impossibly bleak. It always happens, at the beginning, in the middle, and down the road. Trouble never goes away forever. Holding yourself as well as everything else together when it looks like things just won’t work is the difference between failing and succeeding.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

I feel like we’re at an inflection point for SMS Marketing among SMBs, similar to where Email Marketing was about five years ago. SMBs already have websites, email marketing lists, a social presence; now they are recognizing that text messaging is another essential tool in their marketing arsenal.

Who is the one person you text the most?

That’s a tie – my wife, my mother, and our lead Ez Texting Community Manager.

Can you convince the reader to start using Ez Texting in under 50 words?

Over 96 percent of text messages are read because they’re short, direct, timely and every phone receives them. As long as you respect the personal nature of the message, and get your customer’s permission to text them, SMS is the most cost effective way to connect with your customers.

Finished reading? Check out Ez Texting!

Interview with Jay Wadley (Mail Monitor)

Mail Monitor is an economical email deliverability reporting and spam filter testing tool.

I interviewed Jay Wadley, Mail Monitor founder and CEO to find out more. This interview is the ninety fourth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Jay for the interview!

How would you describe Mail Monitor in under 50 words?

Mail Monitor shows you if, how, and when marketing emails are being delivered to each major ISP by monitoring real accounts. We also put each email through multiple spam filters to identify content related issues that affect delivery.

What made you decide to found Mail Monitor?

While working at a different startup our emails were being sent to the spam folder at some large ISPs and it was impacting sales efforts. I had a huge need for these delivery metrics so I could diagnose, troubleshoot, and monitor progress of the resolution. I
needed visibility and had none. I knew exactly what I was looking for and could not find it. By building Mail Monitor I scratched my own itch.

When you look at a sales funnel for email marketing, effective delivery is right near the top below lead generation. The impact of delivery rate has an enormous affect on the bottom line, so it’s an exciting place to be helping companies make improvements. It has a significant impact.

Has your initial vision changed since launch?

The breadth of data in our reporting tools has grown significantly and will continue to expand, but the core vision of building a suite of delivery tracking tools that is user friendly and won’t kill the budget of a small or medium sized business remains.

However, it has been unexpected and fun to watch how different businesses use the data we provide. After our launch we added a robust API so our data can be integrated into other email products or integrated into internal business reports.

What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now?

Growth comes from working an idea, not planning it. Don’t over-think. Start immediately.

Where do you see Mail Monitor in 5 years time?

I intentionally do not make concrete development plans more than 9 months out since they are generally a waste of time. Things change too rapidly.

However, in 5 years the scope of our product is going to be much larger as we continue to meet the growing needs of our customers.

And of course….we’ll have a LOT more users.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

When you start a company that is not funded and 100% bootstrapped you have to do everything. Nailing down the vision and building the product is just the start. It still won’t grow and survive without marketing, sales, billing, accounting, and customer service and when we started I had to do it all.

With a bootstrapped company growth at the beginning is slow and it requires patience. We’ve since grown significantly enough to build a super efficient small team. I like it that way. I can name every expense and exactly how it impacts revenue. Inefficiency drives me crazy.

While I was developing the initial product a good friend recommended I read Rework. I read it in one evening and I didn’t question the vision again. It also confirmed that I didn’t need funding to get the company going.

What piece of advice would you give to startup founders?

Stick with what you know. Solve a problem you have had and build the solution with a technology you already know and understand. Your chance of success will increase dramatically.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

Progress is always my answer. The rest of this year we have some significant releases coming that I’m really looking forward to. I think our customers our going to love the improvements and find them highly useful.

Can you convince the reader to start using Mail Monitor in under 50 words?

Better deliverability leads to higher revenue. Without regular and accurate monitoring you’ll never know how badly delivery issues are harming your business. You can try Mail Monitor free for 1 month to see how we add value.

Finished reading? Check out Mail Monitor!

Interview with Duane Jackson (KashFlow)

KashFlow is a web-based accounting application for SMEs with no accounting experience.

I interviewed Duane Jackson, KashFlow founder to find out more. This interview is the ninety third in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Duane for the interview!

How would you describe KashFlow in under 50 words?

KashFlow is web-based accounting software for business owners that are sick of spreadsheets but alienated by traditional accounting software.

There’s no accounting jargon, it’s integrated with lots of other web-based apps like MailChimp and Dropbox. It automates many tasks to make your business more efficient

It’s fair to say you have overcome a variety of setbacks in an extraordinary career so far. Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to start working on KashFlow.

I grew up in childrens homes in the East End of London and left school at 15 with no qualifications and spent a year with a ZX Spectrum and a programming book.

At 19 I was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia in possession of a lot of Class A drugs. The full story involves DEA agents, guns, lap dancers, a serial killer, big piles of cash, death threats and a 6 month police surveillance operation. But that’s one for another time!

I sometimes get asked how I “fell in to crime”. I didn’t fall into it, I’d grown up amongst it. The guys I’d grown up with were running a large drug trafficking operation and I got involved to make some quick cash without giving it much thought.

On my release from a 5 year prison sentence my girlfriend fell pregnant very quickly. I didn’t want to end up like the many men I’d seen in prison only seeing their kids for an hour or two a month and decided I needed to turn my life around.

With no chance of getting a job or any start-up finance from a bank, I turned to the Prince’s Trust for help.

You have met and been praised by Bill Gates for turning your life around. This must have been quite a moving moment?

It was quite a surreal day for sure. It was before Office Live and I was winding him up about Microsoft having not yet moved to the cloud. He assured me they would be.

It was also shortly before he stepped down as CEO at Microsoft. Maybe after meeting me he decided to give up? : )

Are you still involved with The Princes Trust?

I am still involved with the Prince’s Trust. I’d never have got the help I needed anywhere else so I’m eternally grateful to them.

I quite often attend small lunches for them with tech entrepreneurs that have had a big exit with a view to encouraging them to make a donation. So I get to meet very interesting people and occasionally it ends with a big fat cheque for the Trust.

You are the first accounting application in the world to be PayPal certified. How did your partnership with PayPal materialize?

When we first built our API we wanted to build a “proof of concept” app to show what could be done. So we wrote a small tool that connect to the PayPal API, extracted data and imported it into KashFlow to create your financial accounts. It worked but was a bit clunky.

PayPal got in touch and encouraged us to rebuild it within the KashFlow application and make it as easy to use as the rest of our software. They said they’d help promote it to their customers and gave us access to the techies at their end so we could get it done quickly.

PayPal are a great company to partner with and they continue to promote us to their business customers today.

KashFlow regularly beat established accounting software companies at software awards. Congratulations on your numerous awards! What advantages do you offer to customers over your competitors?

Very simply: software that makes sense to non-accountants.

Winning customer or product satisfaction awards when you’re up against the likes of Sage and Quickbooks is a bit like beating the Elephant Man in a beauty pageant.

You have published a lot on the ‘flaws’ of one of your competitors, Sage. They have even threatened you with legal action. To what extent has the controversy around KashFlow and Sage raised the profile of Kashflow?

The Sage battles have been enormous fun and really helped to raise our profile. The whole “David v Goliath” angle is a great way to get your name out there on a tight budget.

There’s an entertaining blog post from one of my friends who was around at the time it first kicked off that gives you an insight into how Sage reacted to us.

As well as lots of media coverage it means we’re also well regarded by city analysts. They often phone for my opinion on Sages’ latest SaaS-related comments and in return we get name-checked in various reports.

What do you wish you’d have known 6 years ago that you know now?

We went through an interesting time in 2011 and I learned a lot. A lot of time was spent in talks with other companies that wanted to acquire us.

I’d always thought there was a “proper” way to build and grow a business. That there are some sort of magical rules that MBAs and corporate know about that I didn’t.

The realisation from talking to these big companies is that there isn’t. The whole SaaS business model is so massively different from the old world of software. The old rules of business and business models just don’t apply.

When I sat and listened to what these companies thought we should be doing differently if they bought us I was amazed at the utter stupidity of some of what they wanted us to do.

So I wish I realised more clearly 6 years ago that I do actually know what’s best for my company and had more confidence in what I was doing then.

Where are you based and who is the team behind KashFlow?

We’re based at London Bridge. There are close to 30 of us now and everyone plays an important role. But there are four people who have been with us a very long time and have contributed lots.

Dominique joined us out of school at 16 at the time when I was first starting up. She was Employee #1. She wears many hats including office manager, running the support and admin teams and was my PA for a long time. She pretty much runs the business whilst I’m front and center taking all the credit.

Michelle built up our accountants channel which accounts for a large part of our userbase.

Sandile is our lead developer. Having a CEO who writes code isn’t fun for him. He spends more time correcting bugs in my code than he’d like.

And Tim is the unsung hero of the support team. As he’s been with us so long he knows a lot about the wide range of features and the inner workings of the system so can quickly resolve complicated problems that would take others a long time to figure out.

Where do you see KashFlow in another 6 years time?

I think we’ve cracked the basic “accounting software is full of jargon and incredibly dull” problem already. We’re gradually adding more and more automation and integrations to make small businesses more efficient.

I think as we move more and more in that direction then KashFlow will become a wider business software application as opposed to an accounting application that happens to be useful in other areas of a small business too.

If there was one thing you could go back and do differently what would it be?

I’d have built a marketing team much, much sooner.

We’ve done very little actual marketing. All of our growth came from word-of-mouth, PR and social media. Whilst that was great and gave us brilliant growth at a very low cost we could have grown much quicker with a more structured approach and actually spending money on marketing.

It’s wasn’t until early 2012 that we actually had people in the company whose sole focus is on marketing.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone looking to startup?

Don’t do it. It’s going to be hard thankless work for a long time. Working silly hours, having no social life. TechCrunch aren’t going to write about you and you’re not going to make any money. Ever.

And if they listen to me and decide not to do it then they weren’t meant to be entrepreneurs in the first place.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

We’ve got lots of platform work going on behind the scenes. We’re moving from what is mainly a classic asp (yuck) application to a pure Javascript and HTML5 client that plugs in to a new REST API.

This is going to be a massive improvement to the user experience, be beneficial to our development community and enable us to iterate much faster across multiple platforms.

There’s lot of other exciting commercial things in the pipeline, but it’s still the technology and product that excite me the most.

Can you convince the reader to start using KashFlow in under 50 words?

If they’re not convinced after reading all of the above then another 50 words won’t help. But maybe watching the video (voiced by Stephen Fry!) on our home page will.

Oh, and there’s a free trial.

Finished reading? Check out KashFlow!

Most Popular


Recent Articles



What made you decide to start working on JobGizmo?

The idea of a job hunt organizer came to me back in 2005. I was in a continuing education program, trying to expand my web programming...
Avery Smith (JobGizmo)

Avery Smith
JobGizmo

How long did it take to put together Compare Ninja?

The first version of Compare Ninja was released one year ago and it took me just 1 month to put it together. However, it was a mess. So I started the whole...
Daniel Sternlicht (Compare Ninja)

Daniel Sternlicht
Compare Ninja

What do you think the software industry will look like in 5 years from now?

The days are over regarding on-premises software. I challenge you to find a recently funded venture backed software company that isn’t...
David Roth (AppFirst)

David Roth
AppFirst

What was technically the most challenging part of developing ZoomShift?

Keeping it simple. Scheduling is a complex problem, and everyone seems to approach it a bit differently. We found out pretty quick that...
Benjamin Bartling (ZoomShift)

Benjamin Bartling
ZoomShift