Startup Interview: Ninja Outreach
Today, we’re going to be speaking with Dave Schneider, founder of Ninja Outreach — a blogger outreach software that will save you hours when doing content promotion and lead generation. In
2012 Dave quit his corporate job and backpacked around the world for two years, visiting over 40 countries, and starting a few niche, online businesses that grossed six figures in revenue. Those businesses ended up fading out, and now he is bootstrapping a SaaS against some large competitors in the space. Keep reading to learn from his story…
Can we get a little background on who you are and where you’re from?
I am 27 years old and from Boston Massachusetts. I graduated from Harvard with a degree in mathematics and worked at Capital One as a business analyst for two years.
Afterwards I left my job and went backpacking around the world for two years with my girlfriend.
During that time we started numerous businesses such as buying and selling websites, advertising, and SEO, and were able to replace our previous full time income. For the last four years I have been developing my skills as a digital marketer, and in June 2014 I partnered with two other digital entrepreneurs and began developing and marketing NinjaOutreach.
Aside from ninja outreach, it looks like you ran a travel blog and you currently run another by the name “self made businessman”…
My first foray into online marketing was through a travel blog that my girlfriend and I started before our big two-year backpacking trip around Europe and Asia. That was how we made our first dollar online.
I also write at SelfMadeBusinessman, which is a personal blog I started before NinjaOutreach and one that I leverage as a way to build my personal brand and write about business topics that wouldn’t be a good fit for the NinjaOutreach audience.
Can you touch on both those blogs and provide some context for those who might be interested?
ACoupleTravelers is purely a travel blog, so if you’re planning on doing some longterm budget backpacking in Asia or Europe it’s a great resource.
SelfMadeBusinessman is about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship. If you want tips of running and growing as business, as well as want to follow along with my projects, head there.
What inspired you to start Ninja Outreach? What is your why?
My main business is NinjaOutreach, which is a SaaS for blogger outreach. It launched in January of this year. I am working on it with two other co-founders from the UK.
I started it after looking at the current market for blogger outreach tools and finding that they were either overpriced or ineffective. Many of them only did prospecting or outreach but not both — we wanted to combine that and saw a whole in the market, so went for it.
What is Ninja Outreach and why should people sign up?
NinjaOutreach is a software that streamlines the process of blogger outreach and lead generation. You can type in a keyword and find thousands of bloggers in your niche, add them to lists, and outreach to them.
If you do any kind of blogger outreach, lead generation, or content promotion — this tool will save you hours a month.
What makes you different from your competitors?
Mainly — we have a more intuitive UI/UX, excellent customer service, and have contact information and outreach. We’re also priced very competitively.
What has been the biggest obstacle with Ninja Outreach?
I think the biggest obstacle has been the expectations that people have for the tool in terms of development/features, and building those features on a budget.
This is a general marketing tool and people want to be able to do A LOT. It’s prospecting, outreach, a CRM, and people also want analytics and a whole bunch of other things.
Meanwhile, the more you give people the more you have to educate them on how to use it. In most cases people could get what they want but they aren’t versed enough in marketing tactics to really know how to go about it. Sometimes it would require using another tool or trick and combining that with NinjaOutreach is the thing.
Have you ever felt like quitting?
Surprisingly no — never.
There have been some very difficult times with NinjaOutreach and will continue to be, but to be honest I never think about giving up. I just think about how hard it is, and maybe how we should have done things differently, but quitting is not an option.
We’re really too invested in the project to quit, and it has a lot of potential and is growing very nicely, even though it’s taking longer than we had hoped. We can see over the horizon that it will be a nice business if we stick with it, and I don’t have the funds or energy to start something over from scratch.
Did you get a lot of subscribers immediately or was it a gradual process?
It has been a gradual process through and through. Nothing was immediate.
What was the best thing you did to increase the amount of subscribers?
Starting a blog and doing a lot of content marketing and guest posts.
How do you market?
The primary way we market is through:
- Content marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Direct Email
Naturally, we rely on our own tool to help with this.
What has been your proudest moment?
I was very proud recently to hit 100 paying customers. That’s a milestone I’ve never had before and it really validates the business and what we’re doing.
When was the moment you realized that you actually had something of value?
I think even early on when we didn’t have much of a product or hardly any signups, but we had people reaching out to us asking when it was going to be ready.
There appeared to be a lot of demand for what we were building. People were telling us how they were using BuzzStream or InkyBee or GroupHigh and they just weren’t cutting it. They were excited to see what we were building and to test it it. That gave us a lot of confidence to keep going.
Are you a developer or did you have to hire one? If you had to hire, what was that process like? Any advice for those who aren’t coders?
I am not a developer. My partner is and we have hired several over the last year. I would definitely check out this article which I wrote on the topic, it describes our process and mistakes in depth.
How big is your team? If there are multiple co-founders, how did you go about getting them on your team?
We have 3 co founders and then another handful of contracted workers, say 5. The founders and I got together after I did a podcast with one of them. We both had an idea for a social analytics tool. They had built the prototype and I could see it had potential, so I asked if they’d be willing to have me join them.
What are some exciting things on the horizon for Ninja Outreach?
Product development is going to continue to be strong. We’re working on integrating with Gmail, which will be done in August, and will allow you to manage your outreach in the application more efficiently and with new features like message history, open/reply rate, etc.
We also want to test out some new marketing channels like webinars. Plus we’re launching a podcast this week!
Was it easier or harder than you thought to start and keep it going?
It’s been hard but I knew it would be hard. I wasn’t expecting an overnight success. That’s rarely ever the case.
So I don’t know if it’s been easier or harder — mostly that it’s been hard and I expected it.
The hardest part is keeping yourself motivated day in and day out when you know that you’re not going to win the war with a day’s, week’s, or even a month’s work.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Stay focused and rid yourself of all other distractions and side projects.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made? How did you turn things around?
The biggest mistake we made was going with a desktop application, because that was the existing technology that we had in place.
We turned things around as quickly as possible by making it web based. It took a lot of effort and resources but it was 100% necessary to be successful in the long term.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur just starting out?
Be prepared for a long grind.
Would you do anything differently?
Certainly I wouldn’t have started with the desktop app. Additionally at one point in October last year I started a small side project that, although it didn’t take that much of my time, ended up just being a waste of time and money and detracted from Ninja Outreach.
Do you have a preferred way for people to get in contact with you?
Email — firstname.lastname@example.org
Skype — david.schneider8