Experiment: Code Reuse as a Growth Hack?

3 Jun

SMImpactWhen developing software you are almost always looking to code for reuse.  It’s great if you can use it multiple times in an application, but what about taking parts to create something standalone and useful as a marketing tool?

While doing some experimental coding for Referral Rock I was trying to find out if I could see how many times a link was liked, shared, tweeted, pinned…

I  planned on using this code to truly validate when someone shares something on a social network.   In testing the code with various websites I realized how incredibly useful it was.

I could put any URL in and measure the link’s social impact.  My favorite use was putting in a website that I just heard of, just to get a sneak peak on how big they really were.  Reminds me of how I use to look up websites back in the day on complete and alexa, which is still useful at times, but not as granular as seeing individual likes and tweets.

And like that Social Impact was born.  It has a functional use to me so maybe others can benefit.

I needed to built the functionality anyway, so why not give it away for free and maybe get some exposure?  All it really took was adding a simple UI.

One of my other requirements was that it would be nice to see these statistics over time, so that led me to poll the statistics once a day so one could eventually see the changes overtime of an individual URL.  So I threw that into the tool as well, so that users can be updated weekly on changes to a URL(s) of their choosing.

FYI For better or for worse it only gives you the statistics on that exact URL.  So looking up a site like a blog was not very useful because most of their social impact came from individual posts, not the base URL.

Hopefully it will lead to some people finding Referral Rock, creating some new customers and even inspire a amazing follow up post, right?   if not… not too much was lost as the code will still serve it’s original purpose.



Announcing My Latest Project : Referral Rock

2 Jun

landinglogo3I’ve been somewhat quiet about my latest project: Referral Rock, but now I am ready to add the additional public pressure of letting it be known to all of the Internets!


Here’s the gist:

Just about everyone is familiar with customer referral programs. You know the ones where you refer a friend and you and the friend may get a benefit like 20% off, a $10 gift card, or entry into a drawing for free iPad…

You often see these programs with larger businesses where running customer referral program online has been proven to increase the number of new customers for businesses. Not only do they acquire more business but they can track exactly where it came from.

Here’s how I came up with it:

So as I was sitting in a car dealership waiting for service, I watched a new customer come in and mention they were referred by a previous customer. The dealer looked confused and not able to place the name of the previous customer. That’s when I realized small businesses lacked the tools to make a customer referral program work. I have taken the best practices of customer referral systems for big businesses and built one specifically for small businesses.

What it does:

1. Create your own program (hosted on it’s own website)
2. Run your program through a system who’s sole goal is to get you more referrals
3. Track and monitor the results

What I need:

I’m looking for small businesses who want to try out the system for free and give me feedback.  Please use the invite code: ANNOUNCED and sign up here: http://referralrock.com/signup.html


Deleted Account? Quick Hack to find out why a user left

6 May

ImageJust read Email:Verify Growth Hack That Will Increase Conversions this morning (very clever by the way, I love it!) and it reminded me of something we did at UberNote years ago to find out why people left.

On the delete account web page we put a short set of survey questions.  None of the questions were required to delete the user’s account, but we did receive a roughly 75% completed rate for at least the first question.


This form also emailed us the answers and stored them in a database table.  Over time we changed the questions a few times to get more information.  It became an extremely valuable way for us to figure out why people deleted accounts.

One thing I’ve always meant to add was a question of “Would like to be notified if we make changes to our service to better serve your needs?”  That way we could have a list of soft leads we could try to contact again, after we made changes.

That’s the basic idea.  Add some questions as someone is leaving your site for good, there is valuable information to gather while the door is hitting them on the way out.  You’ll be surprised how many people respond constructively.


9 Ways I Benefit from Watching Shark Tank

20 Feb


With the return of Shark Tank this week I decided to write up all the ways I benefit from the show.

If you aren’t familiar with the show, I highly recommend you check it out.  Basically business owners come into the “Shark Tank” and pitch their business to investors (The Sharks) who are all very successful in business and in investing.  You usually see about 5-6 different businesses and some side profiles on previous presenters and what has happened since they presented on Shark Tank.

1.  Time with the wife

My wife and I often have healthy debates based on the products and pitches.  It is fun to see how each other analyze and evaluate the presentations (you definitely learn a lot about your SO).  The businesses that present are mostly consumer facing, so that makes it very easy for us to engage without any research or needing to be subject matter experts.  My wife’s world is very different than mine as a nurse and the primary caregiver of our children, so Shark Tank provides a great medium for us to connect and for her to see aspects of my world as an entrepreneur and investor.

2.  Evaluating the pitches

Hearing and critiquing pitches is such a good way to exercise your entrepreneurial muscles from both sides of the table.  When you cringe at something or think, “why don’t they know their numbers??!?!” it just makes you better at evaluating and preparing your own pitches.  A good pitch applies to so many areas of life and business when you are doing any kind of selling.  You have tell a good story, be prepared, and know your subject matter.

Throughout each presentation I’m always asking myself questions like:

Would I be interested in investing?

Would I have pitched that differently?

Could they have done something different for a different outcome?

At what key indicators did the light bulb go off for the Sharks that they were interested?

 There are many ways to break it down that are all very beneficial.

3.  Deep waters of valuation

Every business coming into the Shark Tank has to have a valuation of their business in the form of:  1.  Amount of money they are looking for and   2.  Percentage of their business that it represents.

Valuation is a tricky thing but it is very telling.  I think it’s something you develop over time by seeing lots of businesses, products, and their respective models and markets.  How a personal values themselves and their business is such a great indicator of their maturity as an entrepreneur.

The head in the clouds massive valuation without proving much of anything person, shows a lot of blind spots.  It shows they don’t see themselves and their business as the world sees them and they are going to be up against some harsh realities.

Undervaluing can also have some strategic implications from the presenter themselves (the guys/girls in the chairs aren’t necessarily the only sharks in the room!)  helping the business position themselves to get multiple sharks invested or drive the price up.  Beware though, it can backfire when the Sharks get a sniff that the business is being to slick for their own good.  Definitely fun to watch.

4.  Feeding the Sharks

When it comes down to a business the Sharks are interested in, it starts to get fun!  Watching the body language, the order of offers, the teaming up of Sharks, the banter between the business owner and the Sharks, how a business owner holds up with a fury of questions and pressure…  It’s all so authentic, dynamic and really fun to watch.

5.  Inspirational

The show inspires people to dream.  The success stories are great for the entrepreneurial spirit.  How many people has this show inspired into going into business for themselves and following a dream? The show doesn’t give a particular blue print to how this success can be achieved,  but they show you many different roads and that it can be done by anyone.

6.  Failure and Reinforcement Business Basics

On the flip side, the show does a good job of showcasing the realities of what it takes to succeed in the tank.    If someone pays attention they should take away some valuable lessons.   (I love to come up with new business ideas, and it’s so easy to get carried away with your own idea.  For me it’s a perpetual reinforcement of business basics)  Like:

  • Know how you are going to acquire customers (which relates to user acquisition costs)
  • Know the size of your market (how big can this be?)
  • Know your competition (who else wants some of the same pie) and why you are different
  • Tell a good story
  • Always know your numbers

By watching the show you are learning these lessons by repetition as they are reinforced practically every episode.  An aspiring entrepreneur can they can save themselves a lot of time and money before they even start.

7.  Thinking and learning outside your market 

The variety of types of businesses is great.  As a software developer, I am surrounded by mobile apps, cloud, software as a service, enterprise licensing…  On the show you really get to see business models of a food truck business or a child clothing line.  I rarely think of distribution, manufacturing, logistics and purchase orders but it’s a great mental exercise.  Who knows when it will come in handy?

The diversity of experience among the sharks is awesome.  So many points of view, styles of investing, go to market strategies…   Hearing about what is “hard” in certain industries helps you understand different strategies for different markets.  How often can you hear candid advice from people that have done it before in a particular type of business?

8.  Remember to be human

All of the sharks do so much to continue to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit.  They are extremely respectful of the time and commitment people take on to work on their businesses (regardless if they are working smart) because they know how hard it is.  However they will tell the presenter when they are doing something they don’t agree with or is just plain stupid, but never in a manner to crush or destroy the individual (aside from the Kevin “You are dead to me”, which is a little different)

Even if they don’t see the vision of the entrepreneur, they give good advice and wish them the best of luck and future success.  It is a great way to show how supportive the entrepreneurial community can be.

9.  Just plain entertaining

There are so many dynamics to the show that make it good.  I’ve touched on many of them across both of these articles.  Overall the Sharks really make it sing and the producers do a good job at vetting the presenters.

Enjoy watching!  I’m counting down the rest of my week waiting for the new episodes!

Lessons: Just because you can build it. Doesn’t mean you should

5 Feb


I’ve probably been burned by this at least 1/2 a dozen times.  There are friends of mine who I know have/are doing the exact same thing (you know who you are).  Here are the steps of a start-up in the mind of a technical entrepreneur:

  1. Come up with a fantastic start-up idea
  2. Look for a domain name (maybe buy it?)
  3. Tell a couple of trusted friends about it and why it’s going to rock
  4. Start building

There are many other steps past #4 but so many of my start-up ideas die within these steps.  (sidenote: The ones that die after #2 are entertaining because I have the domains to prove the existed and took up brain cycles at extended period of time. )

#4 is where it goes wrong.  It’s so tempting to just start coding.  Even if it is just a demo, proof of concept, just to tinker with an API or something.  Just stop.  Just stop wasting your time.

Sure I’ve read about customer development and lean start-ups but my idea is different, right?  Or I can do that after the demo is done, the customers can look at that…. then you just keep making updates and tweeks and before you know it… you’ve wasted way too much time on it.  

My new belief is to not “build/code” anything until I have a pilot customer.  I can do mock-ups, I can do wire frames, I can do workflows, but I should not code anything.  Say it with me now “I shall not code anything until I have a pilot customer”.  Without a customer you have no guidance of where this thing is really going.  You are just wasting your time on assumptions.  Time is a commodity, if I’m going to be serious at getting a hit one of these start-up ideas.  I have to fail fast.  I can fail a lot faster if I don’t start building until I really need to.

 This may seem obvious to other entrepreneurs but having the chops to build things, is also a sickness of temptation to just build things.   

Article: Sunset For The Consumer Web?

10 Jun

Sunset For The Consumer Web?


I hate the consumer web from a founder start-up standpoint.  It pains me to want to develop anything for a mass consumer audience.

Idea: Perfect Reader Application/Service

8 Jan

flipboardThis thought has been in my head for awhile, but it took my friend Jay’s rant to get all the thoughts on paper (so to speak)

Yea, I love consuming from my iPad but it’s messy. I read in GReader and star stuff to read. Then I read stared stuff in Flipboard, but if I want to bookmark it in Delicious I have to “Open in Safari” and use the bookmarklet. Or I can “Read Later” to add it to iOS’ reading list, if it’s a link on the page I’m reading. But if it’s something from the page you’re reading (and you’re viewing it in Flipboard but not in the Flipboard web browser) then you can hit “Save for Reading” and it saves to Pocket, where I can tag directly to Delicious (but not modify tags for existing links).

Messy messy messy..

My current process: I use GReader (where I star things) and Flipboard on my Galaxy II… Sometimes tweet directly from them too but I lack a consistent “Read Later” aside from the star… And don’t bookmark enough but would like to.  It’s a mess.

I would like one fluid app for it all.  Initial Browse, Read Now, Read Later, Share, Read again / Find again /Search… On any/multiple devices.  I’d pay for a service that does all this.

1.  Multidevice (Normal Browser, Android, iPad, iPhone)
2.  Easy of Subscribing of GReader
3.  Flipping and easy reading type of Flipboard
4.  Never have to go directly to a site… (more has to do with the content providers that sometimes provide snipits on their feeds)
5.  Add to a read later queue (w/ Same readability)
6.  Easy to Share (various social networks)
7.  Add to a Saved list.. That contains all the content and tags/categories with in them.. and be full text searchable. Delicious like…
8.  Also could integrate into browser bookmarks.  (chrome and other bookmark syncs)

Someone make it and take my money!

Does anyone want to add anything to the list?


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