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Campus Life; A Student's PerspectiveKim Heeren, Psychology Senior
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Matt: Are there any unique metrics or social proof about AppSumo you would like to share with the audience?
Noah: It depends if our competitors are watching. I think the metrics that, the only metric that matters to us is the new Sumos that sign up. That’s the only thing we care about and I think what happens… what I’ve had a problem with was in my previous businesses I’m very like the business person who… I can code and I do marketing and I do other things, but I wanted all the metrics. “We should try this, and we should do this, and we should do all this tracking stuff,” and everyone buys all this tracking stuff. It’s actually one of the most popular sellers on AppSumo and I’m like, “People go crazy on it,” but what I’ve found to be the most helpful is to just pick one thing. Because… and that’s what I learned from Zuckerberg at Facebook, which was, when I asked Zuck, I said what’s… he didn’t even… I didn’t even ask him but he said what’s the number one most important thing and he said, “growth.” And so I came to Zuck, and I said, “We have events. We should sell tickets on the event page. We’ll make a lot of money,” he’s like, “How does it help growth?
It doesn’t, and you’re stupid now.” And so his clarity and focus on one thing, which was growth and domination, influenced me with AppSumo to say the only thing that matters is one thing which now is growth. So it’s the things that we do that affect new Sumo signups.
[Pause for 3 seconds.]
Matt: We know founders face unique challenges when they decide to launch a startup. What was the hardest part about launching AppSumo and how did you overcome this obstacle?
Noah: As we… in the beginning it was just getting deals. I guess that was kind of a challenge. And figuring out which deals were the most, the best that people would want. That was definitely a challenge. I think that what I have learned though at a high level in terms of strategy and a process is what are the bottlenecks in your business? And that question alone is what I have focused on and that, that has been the biggest… figuring out what has been the biggest obstacle. So we weren’t growing enough at the rate we wanted to and so we did some analysis and we figured out it was because we didn’t do enough deals, enough specials. And so we said all right, what is limiting us from that? And this is three months ago
that was our biggest obstacle. And so I said, “All right, well, it’s because we only have one sales Sumo.” Okay, that’s the biggest obstacle, and so then we spent, we focused on getting another person to remove that bottleneck. And what I’ve learned in kind of the second stage of our business where we validated it, is what are the obstacles in separating myself from the business so I can see what is limiting us. So in the beginning it was getting deals, and then we moved past that because, you know, I hired someone. And then now it’s like all right what is limiting us now? It’s spending enough money on advertising, and so it’s like we need to find someone in advertising. I’d say the big takeaway for the people watching is what we found very helpful for us is thinking about strategy more, which I’ve never really done as much, and so that’s been extremely helpful. I think we’ve [about four or five] extra business just because we’ve done more strategy than tactics, and the second thing that has been very helpful is thinking about things as a system and a process. So not just, so when we’re hiring people not just being, like, you know… on some of the people you know we’re not perfect, but on hiring we don’t just send out a ton of emails. We actually have a set forth process.
We’re like, all right, what are we looking for, why do we want it, and who is that person like? What is the Google form, what are the stages? Another example is for deals. Deals used to be like, “Do this, and put that up, remember to email him and remember that,” and it’s like holy crap what a horrible system. So we were like kinda just get a system up so you can prove it, and so our system became a checklist. So now every deal just has a checklist and on every Monday with the sales team I look at the checklist with them and I’m like, “Guys, did we do the checklist?” And, yeah, and I’m like, “Oh, and what’s an inefficient system?” and then we improve it. So it’s basically setting up systems for how you do your business so you that can improve them.
Matt: Since you’ve been in operation what have you learned about your business and your users that you didn’t realize before launching?
Noah: Yeah, so what did I not know about the business before launching? I didn’t realize how effective hiring would be. In terms of, like, scaling the business, it is a thing that no one talks… everyone talks about getting product-market fit and figuring out the idea, we actually got that, and we built something people love
and that’s amazing and so… but there’s not a lot of resources and information out there; how do you take that to the next level? How do you take that from a small business to now a successful, growing, scaled business? So I was surprised about how much I’ve had to think about that and read about that and learn about that. In terms of the customers and the Sumos, I was surprised… I wasn’t surprised they would buy this stuff because we find we’re very picky. Like, I don’t put anything out on AppSumo that I wouldn’t personally endorse, and so I was surprised that people buy things that, like, all right, they buy one thing and then they buy something kinda opposite and I was like, “All right, that’s kind of neat.”
Matt: Lots of people admire entrepreneurs because they appear to make starting companies look easy and we know it can be difficult. So, we want to dispel some myths here. My question to you is what do you make look easy? And when I say that I mean what comes intuitively or easy for you and what’s been difficult and how do you manage that?
Noah: I think I’m probably one of the best people ever at stage one business, which is making things happen. Like, for some reason I can bring people together,
I can get things accomplished and I will very, very effectively make things happen quickly. What I am sucking at, and what has taken me a lot to learn is basically growing that. So I get the business out there and the first part is easy, but taking it to that next level… and so what I have found helpful in doing that is saying all right, well what am I struggling with, right, and breaking that out. All right, so I’m struggling with strategy, so I brought in Andrew Chen. And it’s figuring out what are the things that are limiting you and then actually trying to figure and solve them. So strategy was one, to grow the business. So Andrew has helped with that. Another thing has been just build business acumen: hiring people, morale, so I have been reading a lot of books around that. There’s Eben Pagan, looking at alternative sources; he’s the Double Your Dating guy, and so it’s kinda like the game, the book. Basically, he has stuff that talks about business but it’s the underlying theories that I’m really interested in. And so I’ve learned a lot from him. I have learned a lot, like Ultimate Sales Machine, copy writing books, so learning about things that are limiting the business. And I was challenged with hiring people.
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