This interview aired on December 16, 2019 with Arvid Kahl of Feedback Panda. I listened to it in March of 2020. These are my notes and takeaways as they apply to my current place in the journey.
Interviewee background: Worked at a venture funded SF company remotely from Germany. Started two different bootstrapped companies with two different friends (in local food and photography). Both didn't go anywhere - didn't do any marketing or didn't have a payment system integrated. Consumed books and podcasts for 15 hours a week for 2 years on the train during commute.
About co-founder Danielle: Opera singer. Teaching English online for income. Working 10 hours per day teaching 20 students. Initiated the ideas for Feedback Panda. Product design and user experience. Ideation and product management. Content marketing and creating a tribe of teachers around her. Understanding teachers and building trust in online teacher communities.
Product Design of Feedback Panda
The templating engine was the most import part. They made a collaborative templating system, where teachers could share their feedback template with other teachers. (This also served as the Investment stage of the Hooked cycle). This built a networking effect within the product. This worked because of teaching culture - teachers really like sharing with other teachers and they are not jealous of other's success.
📖 Hooked - about designing habit forming products
Marketing and Growth
Put the link to their product in the comments in a fb group Danielle was part of. Never pushy, never wrote a post about the product, always in the comments. Danielle wrote posts about the origin of the company, about her experience with teaching online. They interviewed teachers every week/month and shared their stories with the community.
Understanding the audience was key for this product. Not just what problems were important, but audience psychology in general. How do they solve problems, how will they react to you and your product. They were careful not to overprice it. Teachers don't make very much money. They built goodwill by being affordable and supportive (lenient on credit card bounce, etc.)
💎 Market Size - as you understand your target audience, it's good to quantify the number of possible users that have the problem you're solving and therefore you can attract to your product. There were 15k to 20k online teachers in this case, they charged $10/month and got 5000 users so made $50,000/month when acquired.
✅ Pricing - started with a $5 plan and a $10 plan. The $5 users were actually too demanding and had some negative experiences so stopped offering that option. Later increased from $10 to $15/month and grandfathered in all users. Also implemented a referrer program that continues to do well (40% of new sign-ups). Teachers are already familiar with the concept of referring products. (reinforces a lesson I've already learned, which is you have to experiment with pricing there is not secret formula).
💎 Operations - automation, documentation, valued process and systems. Created an 11 hour video code walk-through as a way to teach his replacement. (note to self - try this for my current codebase to see how I like it. Definitely keep in mind for future company)
Acquisition Story: Got an email from a firm that buys bootstrapped businesses and the handover process was relatively smooth. They were involved in hiring their replacements. Had heard of this firm on another IH podcast during the early days of Feedback Panda (while driving to open a bank account as he recalled).
🤣 If you're a founder, you don't wanna leave things (like market fit) to luck. If you decide that there is an entire area of your business that you don't want to think about...you might as well have hired Luck as your cofounder and leave it to him/her while you go off and do other fun stuff. (from the Interviewer, Courtland)
To hear the full story, listen to this episode on the IndieHackers Podcast. Full of applicable insights.