Josh Dunham of Reveel: 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS
You need to identify the niche in your chosen industry that you will dominate. To do this successfully, you need to think about the type of business you are looking to become, and be as specific as possible. What is your specific industry? What is the target revenue range? How fast do you need to grow? In our case, we simply don’t have the marketing budget to market to everyone that could use our services. We’ve had to distill down to exactly who we’re trying to reach and focus our marketing spend on acquiring them. This approach has been successful for us.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Josh Dunham.
Josh Dunham co-founded Reveel in 2006, and is responsible for creating and advancing the corporate strategy and vision of the business. He directly oversees the technology and operations departments. Under his guidance, Reveel successfully acquired a technology partner and is now the industry leader in machine learning technology.
Prior to co-founding Reveel, Josh served in several sales roles at DHL. He quickly became a top producer and remained in the top 1% of nationwide sales throughout his tenure. Josh has a Bachelor of Science in International Business from Pepperdine University.
Josh serves on the board of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) and will serve as the Orange County President next fiscal year. Josh finds passion in building. Whether it’s Reveel’s technology products, company culture, high performing teams, strategy, vision, or a motorcycle or truck, he loves creating things and making them great.
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 graduated undergrad at Pepperdine University and did what many college students do — moved back home. After taking some time off from ‘job searching,’ I ended up finding my way into the shipping industry because it offered the largest 1st year compensation package. As fate would have it, I met my business partner on my first day of work. He and I both excelled at the position, becoming ranked very high nationally for our performance.
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 was doing sales for a company contracted to re-sell DHL and immediately saw that there was no pricing transparency in the industry. I saw small shippers have better discounts than large shippers and when asking our pricing dept about it, I was told it’s because they negotiated better or because there was a competitor in the bid, so we had to offer better discounts. It made me realize that because of the lack of transparency shippers had no idea what pricing they could actually get, and they were just relying on their carrier rep telling them ‘You have the best deal,’ meanwhile the carrier rep is being paid on the margin of the account. It was then that we decided to create a company that brings transparency to the shipping industry and helps to level the playing field with carriers like FedEx and UPS.
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?
Starting a business is both hard and risky. I can vividly remember the day FedEx made the decision to no longer work with 3rd party consulting companies. UPS then made the same decision. At the time, we negotiated carrier agreements directly with the carrier sales reps on behalf of our clients. We thought we were going to go out of business as a result. We sought wise counsel, made a pivot in how we negotiated the pricing and persevered. It wasn’t without several sleepless nights, but in the end, it made us better.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are going great today. We can provide an incredible employment opportunity that makes an impact for our employees all over the world. It’s hard to believe that we started this company working our butts off knocking on doors every single day. We still work hard and face many challenges, but we will always remember our roots and where we came from. Perseverance is one of our core values.
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 work behind the scenes with our clients when negotiating with FedEx and UPS. We help prepare our clients for meetings and negotiations and advise them on how to proceed in order to get the best possible rates. I received an email from a client with a pretty simple question and in a hurry (and on my phone) decided to respond. Due to me being in a hurry, I didn’t realize that he had forwarded me an email from one of the carrier reps so when I hit reply all and sent my response, I copied the carrier rep on the email thus exposing our participation with the client. The carrier rep simply responded to the email stating that I was correct and thankfully nothing was mentioned about our involvement. This was quite some time ago, but even today I still double or triple check almost every email I send to make sure the appropriate parties are on there.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There are a lot — one of which is the benefit we provide our customers. Many of our customers are reliant on FedEx and UPS to deliver packages for them to even be in business.
There was one customer several years back that was severely impacted by a price change made by both FedEx and UPS, the result of which was going to put them out of business, because the cost to ship their products exceeded the profit they were making. They were desperate and it feels great knowing that with our help negotiating with the carriers, they were able to continue to operate.
Having low shipping rates cannot only be a competitive advantage, but nowadays, it can be the difference of whether you remain in business or not.”
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Understand your WHY. Remaining focused on why you do what you do is the only thing that will allow you to sustain the energy to keep pushing.
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?
There are too many to list! I will say that being a part of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) has been instrumental in shaping me as a leader — and ultimately in changing our business. Prior to joining, we were focused more on the day to day rather than thinking strategically about the future. We lost a lot of ground to our competitors because I was too involved in the operations of the business, and I was wearing way too many hats. I was not only pushed by several members, but I observed how other entrepreneurs ran their businesses more effectively than I did.
I have now relinquished some responsibilities and regularly take time to think strategically about the business. We now have a 10-year vision with a 3-year plan, and a one-page plan for the year. We’ve also implemented a system of accountability throughout the organization and have empowered members of our team to lead parts of our organization. I attribute changing our growth strategy to the influence of EO. EO has made such an impact on me, in an effort to give back I was recently elected and now serve as the President of the Orange County Chapter.
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?
We’ve serviced more than 1000 customers over the years. These are by no means the only things we’ve done, but here are 3 critical steps we’ve taken:
- Know your customer
- Create content that gives value
- Have a strong freemium offering
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 have a freemium monetization model with upgrades to paid subscriptions, based on tiers. We have considered just about every monetization model we could think of and decided on the freemium model, ultimately to drive market share. Because of machine learning and advanced analytics, our platform improves every time more data is ingested, and all our subscribers benefit by having better insights. Ultimately, we felt that offering a freemium version would add the highest number of subscribers in the shortest amount of time.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.
Sure thing. I think the first is that you need to identify the problem you solve that no one else does. This is your business’ WHY. The reason you started it in the first place.
Secondly — and this is closely related to the first — you need to identify the niche in your chosen industry that you will dominate. To do this successfully, you need to think about the type of business you are looking to become, and be as specific as possible. What is your specific industry? What is the target revenue range? How fast do you need to grow? In our case, we simply don’t have the marketing budget to market to everyone that could use our services. We’ve had to distill down to exactly who we’re trying to reach and focus our marketing spend on acquiring them. This approach has been successful for us.
The third most important thing to understand is that your core customers will determine what your product will become. It will evolve as you come to understand their needs more specifically. That means you need to identify who your customer is — what traits do they have? Are they experiencing the problem you’re specifically solving (they should be)? As you identify your core customers, you need to take the extra step of involving them in your business. Interview them to get feedback, and ultimately validation on prototypes you’ve sketched out and approaches you want to take. Do this before development begins. Otherwise, there’s no guarantee you’ll truly be incorporating their needs within your approach. For Reveel, we’ve conducted somewhere between 300–400 customer interviews. Most have been us working to better understand the problems the customers are experiencing. Once we have a clear understanding, we build a prototype that showcases a feature which aims to solve the problem. Then, we conduct another round of interviews, in which we showcase the feature to understand if it solves the problem, if the UI/UX is intuitive, etc. We don’t move a feature into development until we have at least 5 customers validate the feature.
The fourth thing to remember is to make sure your value proposition is clearly defined and that customers can understand how it can solve their problems and help them demonstrate ROI in their organization. Everyone has a boss or someone to answer to, and needs to show their efforts as being valuable to the larger company. In our case, once our value propositions were established and our feature sets completed (following customer validation), we found that the best way to convert and keep clients subscribed is to be clear about the ROI they are receiving through the platform — and to do so on a regular basis. Showing the expected ROI has helped us tremendously in converting new customers as well.
Lastly, the fifth critical thing to remember is to capture a competitive advantage. A competitive advantage can be established in one of three ways — cost leadership, differentiation, or focus (as in, a narrow market segmentation). Once you’ve created an amazing value proposition, the question is: what’s going to keep your competitors from copying what you’ve created? At Reveel, we’ve incorporated two of the strategies mentioned above to gain a competitive advantage: cost leadership and differentiation. In terms of cost leadership, through our first-in-market business model, we are gaining a significant amount of industry buzz and attention. This market traction and the amount of data we can acquire will serve as the competitive mote insulating us from market laggards. As for differentiation, we are extremely innovative. Our value proposition and feature sets include machine learning and advanced analytics that no one in our industry is doing — and our clients have been blown away so far.
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. :-)
Stepping away from the business we are in, I would have to say the movement would be around media and advertising reform. Much of our mainstream media and advertising platforms, i.e., social media and the like, has shifted from responsible and credible journalism reporting facts to anything that will prey on human emotion to get ‘clicks’ and hold the reader’s attention longer. I really think the long-term effects are a polarized society. If we can come together and focus more on what we have in common than where we differ, the impact on our society would be immense.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!