It is easier to improve something than to create a new category. Evaluate what problem you are trying to solve. Despite any high-flying dreams, it will be easier to solve an existing problem than evangelize about other, new ones.
As part of my series about the “5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wences García, Co-Founder and Head of Culture at marketgoo. Together with José Miguel Pérez, he founded marketgoo, an SEO SaaS app, in 2012. Before that, he was at Spanish hosting company Acens for 9 years, and also headed a Madrid-based digital agency.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I am the type of person who has a wide range of interests, and in the Internet, I found the place I wanted to be. In a way I was the typical college dropout, looking for (and getting) vibrant work experiences in different Internet companies.
One of these companies turned out to be very successful and I took advantage of the cash-out to start my first company. Building good digital products and living in freedom have been my goal since then.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I am more of an advocate of the “sum of dots” versus the “a-ha moment” process. In my case, it was the sum of my past experiences, market knowledge and competitor analysis that gave me the necessary signals to create this project. They allowed me to identify a gap in the market and position myself and the company as the right solution to address that gap.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My co-founder and I had decided from the beginning that we wanted to be as free as possible. In order to do so, we had to be bootstrapped. That word is basically a synonym for “hard times”! We almost ran out of cash several times. My wife was the breadwinner in our household for years, I moonlighted, lost sleep, etc. The hardest times are not what happens to you, but how that impacts your motivation and self-esteem. But we had faith and no big external pressure (like VCs), so we kept working with determination.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
I am so grateful! I felt we were a success as a company even before we turned a profit. It’s a matter of defining success. Today, we are successful margin-wise but our culture and model was a success even before!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
We closed a big reselling agreement years ago. I was at a party with industry peers, celebrating it. A guy reached out to me and after sharing the big news, he laughed at me and told me he was in my same situation 3 years ago. Signing is just one tiny step towards impact, he told me, based on his experience. I felt confused, until it took us 2 years to collect any profit from that agreement, and I understood he was right!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are unique in terms of company culture. For us, Culture is more important than Company. During the years we were struggling to make money, we defined 5 company stages and told our team that in stages one and two, we were going to pay way below market, but as soon as we reached stage 3, profit sharing would come.
Last year we made our first profit sharing payment. We gathered all the team during a company retreat, took them to see the sunset in a remote Lisbon beach, had some beers and I shared a customized check with each of them.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Peer groups. Hanging out with other entrepreneurs and sharing your fears and challenges is a strong tool to overcome burnout. Don’t isolate yourself.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My last boss — not only he was willing to let me go in a challenging situation for the company he was running, but he was the first one to help us out when we started the app MVP. I left the company and brought some other members, he understood my intentions and supported my motivations. His name is José Cerdán, from Telefónica.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
Over 300K at this moment. Being a very small company, the explanation comes from building a strong distribution channel in a very defined niche. It is a very particular strategy and worked for us, but I would suggest everybody not only focus on product alone but also determining their channel strategy. For example, we’ve built a white-label platform, API integration and partner support even before our app was stable.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
We work under a reselling-model. So we help our resellers distribute our solution. End users pay our resellers and we get a piece of that. That works for us. It is a pure subscription model.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know before one wants to start an app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Add an integrator role to your visionary profile. The moment I realized I was a visionary kind of person, I looked for someone to focus our operations and control my shiny new ideas.
- Define your company values. Even at that starting moment, having clear what you want to be and what you value would be a game changer to attract people and follow your faith.
- It is easier to improve something than to create a new category. Evaluate what problem you are trying to solve. Despite any high-flying dreams, it will be easier to solve an existing problem than evangelize about other, new ones.
- Get out of the building. The typical mantra comes true, always validate your assumptions looking for real feedback.
- Surround yourself with other explorers. It is going to be challenging, look for teammates that gives you confidence.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Changing the traditional work-model relationship and dynamics. Individuals should be in control and companies should act only as frameworks to align their goals. Let’s change the way people work and live, less control and more democracy.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m @wencesg on Twitter!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!