I’m Landon Bennett, the co-founder of Ad Reform and Userfeed. Being able to grow something from nothing and help other companies solve problems has always been really interesting to me. My first job out of school was in sales. As a sales rep you're kind of like an entrepreneur in a way…an intrapreneur. You learn a lot about the pain points that companies have and what the triggers are at the very top. What they really care about. When you know that kind of stuff it can help you build your business as well.
I think you have to have a lot of grit. You have to like being the underdog. You have to really care about actually helping a customer. Everybody knows you can sell a product one time to one person, but you’re not going to build a network unless you're actually solving problems for people and not screwing them over.
I tend to think that the sales people that become entrepreneurs care more about the recognition piece than they care about the money. You kind of have to, because you're not going to make money at first. I've always cared about the recognition; somebody telling me that I did a good job makes me so much more motivated than you giving me a commission check of $50,000. I mean, of course like I'll take that. But money doesn't motivate me.
I'm working on two different products.
One is a product called Ad Reform which is an intelligent advertising operation assistant. Most of what ad teams do on a daily basis is super manual and it's just spreadsheets galore. So we build automation technology for ad operations teams, publishers, and ad tech companies to automate a lot of those tasks (testing ads’ user experience issues, previewing ads, proving you know an ad is showing up on a certain site).
We've recently started working on a product called Userfeed which stemmed from Ad Reform. It’s basically a product to gather user feedback, close the loop on feature requests, and connect the data in Intercom to all of these different feature requests. So, you know which people care about an ad, which companies care about it, which features are going to be most impactful across your entire customer base. We're close to releasing the beta of Userfeed.
Everybody thinks Intercom is just an in-app chat—the little smiley face in the bottom right corner. But it's really a next generation salesforce.
One part of Intercom’s product is what they call a platform: all data on all the users, leads, and companies that you have within your product. What features have they used? When were they last seen? How often do they use the product? What's the revenue per company per user?
There's also the ability to segment users based on certain criteria and then message those users via e-mail or in-app pop-up. Maybe you want to send a particular message to users that have 3 days left in their trial. Rather than do what traditional companies have done--have sales reps that constantly stay in touch with people--you can do all this in an automated fashion and really segment users in almost any way. Small companies now have the tools to be able to do the things that traditionally only large companies could do with their big sales forces. Now you can be a team of two people and have the same effect that a larger company would have with a thousand people.
The messenger is the in-app chat at the bottom right hand corner of all these websites.
They're now allowing developers to build apps for the messenger. It’s almost like having an iPhone on your page; the same way that the iPhone has apps, the messenger has them too.
A lot of companies are doing this now where they basically build a developer platform with the main goal of having people integrate with their product. I think the big goal around that is to make their products stickier. We thought, why don't we just spent two weeks building something cool off of this?
One of the big challenges with user feedback tools is that they're not discoverable. Typically, your users have to create an account and log into a separate product to give feedback. The thing is, most people don't do that. They don't have the time to do that.
So we said, wouldn't it be great if we just took what they told us in Intercom, wrote up a feature request, and submitted it on their behalf? Now you have this super valuable feedback, and you’ve also delighted the customer. You're showing that you actually care.
Now that we've made it super easy to gather feedback and link it to users, companies, or conversations in Intercom, we want to focus more on the product prioritization side. We want to allow you to use different algorithms to decide what you should build based on all this data.
What we've been doing is using it internally, because we think we should eat our own dog food. It's helped us to develop and improve the product so far. We’ve been adding some beta users to get feedback from them as well. Once we launch, Intercom will be a big growth channel for us. We’ll be in the app store, so companies will just naturally see us. We also include some “powered by Userfeed” links within our user facing messenger app that should give us some nice organic growth too. I heard only 5% of businesses have an online chat function. It's in the first inning for sure, so I think there's a lot of growth potential there.
We’re low six figures annual recurring revenue.
For beta or early access, we’ll go free. Fortunately, we have another business so we can finance that free beta without digging into our pocketbooks or having investors. Investors wouldn’t allow you to do this. This is another case in which bootstrapping gives us more freedom to create.
I also don't know how people are going to use it. You don't know shit until you get something in somebody's hands. I don't care how much money they say they'll spend on it. None of it's true, none of it's accurate, until they use your product. So let's have people use it for free for a little bit. And we'll start to get data on how long until people start getting actions, how many feeds they're using, and what they find valuable. Then, based on value, we can set actual pricing.
I've become really passionate about bootstrapping, and I'm really interested in helping other small, growing businesses. There's almost nothing more impactful that you can do for your community than to build a profitable, sustainable business. You start hiring people and you impact them financially, in their lives, in their careers, and so on.
I think Userfeed is a product that is very differentiated from what's out there right now and can really help people grow their businesses even if they're a smaller company. It's that mentality of helping the little guy, the underdog that drives me.
Because I am that. I'm going through the same thing. I've always relished the underdog role. I enjoy it, and I want to help others rise up.
Last summer. We were basically just getting rejected all the time. We'd made all these iterations and we were working so hard. We were slapping high fives for tiny deals for virtually no money. We were working from home so I wasn’t even speaking to humans every day. And I just remember really struggling emotionally. You can only get rejected for so long before you start to go a little insane. And you start to doubt yourself, which is something I've never really done.
Absolutely. Having gone through that I think I definitely became stronger mentally. Since starting the business I've started to put a lot more value into family, friends, and relationships than I ever did before. I also started waking up fairly early in the morning, reading, and spending time thinking about things I'm grateful for. And that made me feel better going into each day.
I used to think of everything in terms of whether I had success or failure. And I don't think that way now. I believe that success is going after something with everything you have. Most people don’t. They’re comfortable with the status quo. Comfortable with their 9-5. I could have easily just not bootstrapped and made a lot of money elsewhere. But I would always regret not trying. To me, not trying is failing.
I think one of the most helpful things has been talking to other entrepreneurs. During that low point, I would think, what's wrong with me? What am I doing? But in reality, there's a million other entrepreneurs who are all probably having similar experiences. They would tell me their stories and I'm thinking ‘Holy crap, we're doing better than they are, and they seem really happy. I feel a little better now.’
Messaging is all about engagement. There's a ton of noise out there now, millions of products. And you’ve got someone on your site right now. They don't have time. We're talking seconds. You want to make it as easy as humanly possible to direct them somewhere or to chat with you. If it’s easy, they'll do it, and now you can build a relationship much faster.
To learn more about Userfeed:
To learn more about Ad Reform:
- Landon Bennett, Co-Founder of Ad Reform & Userfeed.io.