Growing a Social Proof Marketing Platform to $88k/mo in Revenue

Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

Howdy! I'm Ryan Kulp, founder of Fomo. Fomo is a conversion rate optimization tool that increases website conversions by showing off recent customer behaviors.

Before Fomo I started (and failed) 3 companies, and worked as a marketer both full time and as a freelancer at more than 30 venture-backed startups over 5 years.

I spent my teenage years in angst as a performing musician. I recorded several albums, performed 100s of times, and made approximately $0. I wasn't interested in technology or programming, or even marketing.

But as I built side hustles in college, from hookah catering to pin-back button manufacturing, I got more acquainted with consumer-buying behavior — why we do what we do.

I also had the opportunity to work with great brands like Red Bull, Microsoft, Teach for America, and a dozen more, doing experiential events and PR stunts.

All of this came together with Fomo, whose premise requires an intimate understanding of herd mentality, word of mouth marketing, and of course: social proof.

Today, Fomo has over 5,000 paying subscribers, and last month we made about $88,000.

We're also bootstrapped, with the exception of a $150k convertible debt loan that we intend to pay back with interest.

I'm thrilled to share our journey so it can be replicated by indie hackers everywhere.

What motivated you to get started with Fomo?

Fomo's end-to-end history is a much longer story, but tl;dr:

In March 2016, my partner Justin and I acquired a Shopify app called Notify.

Fomo homepage

In four months we rebuilt and rebranded Notify to Fomo, relaunching on Product Hunt in August 2016.

During the rebuild, and for several months afterward, we both worked full time at other companies — me in venture capital and Justin in ecommerce.

It's kinda embarassing to admit, but we considered Fomo a side project and only dedicated 1-2 nights/week to hacking on it.

Then things got real.

Martha Stewart signed up. Hint Water too. We served a billion Fomo notifications. Our servers crashed during Black Friday.

As more multi-million dollar brands began relying on Fomo to improve their conversions, we knew this was special, and that it needed more attention.

Luckily I had been learning to code for around six months when we acquired Notify, and working with experienced engineers expedited my dev chops significantly.

Keep your day job. Not forever, but until your side project is bursting at the seams with needle moving todos.

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This allowed us to respond to customer requests very quickly, shipping new integrations in as little as a few hours, or bug fixes in as little as five minutes, even after midnight on a weekend.

My personal motto: all you have to do is whatever it takes.

To answer your question, what motivated us to start and grow Fomo is the absence of honesty and transparency in a lot of marketing organizations.

Most marketers seem more interested in creating fake hype, fake urgency, fake fear (loss aversion), fake value.

Our point of view:

  • it's easier than ever to start a business (great!)
  • thus, competition is at an all-time high
  • which causes customer acquisition costs to skyrocket

The future of digital marketing will not be Facebook advertising, or any form of paid media. Rather, the future of marketing relies on businesses being able to scale their word of mouth.

Fomo provides a strategy to do this, and our clients are seeing incredible results for about a buck a day.

What went into building the initial product?

The app we bought, Notify, was just a few dozen PHP scripts.

We knew this wouldn't scale, so we hired a dev shop to do the leg work on Fomo version 1.0.

We also weren't happy with the architecture, a tight 1:1 between "data" (recent Shopify orders) and their presentation (the notifications).

Fomo sales page

Abstracting this into something more flexible became our thesis for the Fomo rebuild. This also allowed us to launch plugins for several of the world's leading e-commerce tools within a few short weeks.

Fun story:

Three hours after closing the Notify acquisition, our first developer added a simple "powered by" link to all notifications. This drove thousands of hits to our site, but also a couple dozen angry customer emails.

"This isn't fair! I pay you!"

"How dare you — I'm cancelling."

In other words, our first product-marketing decision was a total fail. We reverted the change before midnight on the same day.

It's funny to see competitors still using this tactic, given customers hate it. Justifying backlinks like this under the guise that "your visitors will know it's real" is yet another example of many in the arsenal of dishonest marketing strategies we intend to remedy.

Anyway.

In the early days, most of my time was spent on customer support for the legacy Notify app. At night I worked with Justin on marketing campaigns, ranging from answering questions on Quora to requesting mentions in blog posts about social proof or "must-have Shopify apps."

Seed-stage products are fun because even 10 extra hits/day can move the needle. I don't recommend scaling beyond predictable, high-quality traffic to spray and pray sources (i.e. ads) until you need to.

In total we spent four months and around $40,000 building Fomo v1.0.

These expenses went to developers, hosting, and tools like Mailchimp/Mixpanel/Gmail. We almost broke even, thanks to revenue during that period.

As for the $10,000 that was over budget, we put it on a 12-month, 0% interest credit card from Chase.

If you're bootstrapping, responsible, and careful, consider credit arrangements like these. They act sort of like venture capital, getting you over the product-market fit hump, investor-free.

How have you attracted users and grown Fomo?

We're incredibly fortunate that Fomo is a visible product.

To give a sense of scale, Fomo serves more than 500 million notifications per month — all of which is tracked in our stats server, hosted on Google BigQuery.

Fomo BigQuery

When someone signs up they instantly join our sales team, except they pay us instead of the other way around.

In particular, the viral coefficient is even higher when that customer is part of a niche industry or use case.

For example, a few months ago we got our first crypto client. They were about to ICO and wanted to show off live signups and commitments on their FAQ page.

Within a couple weeks, a dozen other token sales came onboard, most likely because they were tracking ICO events and looking for best practices.

This also happens through direct competition.

Wannabe clones spend heavily on paid media, even using Fomo customers in their marketing materials. But within days of acquiring a free trial, many of their hard-earned prospects switch to us. Conversely, we scraped the websites of more than 700 Fomo free trial cancellations, and only 2 of them had switched to a competitor.

The lesson here is that, if you have the best product, while it won't sell itself, savvy shoppers will find you in their own diligence, after clicking an expensive ad from your competitors.

The future of marketing relies on businesses being able to scale their word of mouth.

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We also grow through partnerships with larger companies.

It's generally tough to create symbiotic relationships with the "bigger guy," but most of the platforms we partner with already have formalized processes for co-marketing, private API integrations, and so forth. Our strategy, in a nutshell, is to NOT ask for permission. We simply build what we can with the docs available to us, then send a completed demo/GIF to the partner manager after it's live.

This causes some partner prospects to insist on getting to know us, changing the co-marketing dynamics completely. At that point, we have decent leverage with which to establish revenue share agreements, endorsed backlinks, etc.

It's this literal end-user exposure, along with our engineer-backed support team and best-in-class product, that drive most of our growth.

No fancy marketing campaigns, no Facebook ads, no cold email, no 'last chance! offer expires today!' webinars.

What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Fomo charges a monthly subscription fee, ranging from $11.99 to $750. Most users are on our $29-49 dollar plans.

Since day one we've dedicated significant resources to excellent technical support, since many users want customizations unique to their website.

As a result we have more features and configurable settings than anyone on the market, which further increases the complexity, begetting the need for even more customizations. Kind of an interesting paradox, or hedonic treadmill.

Our current customer base (5,000+ paying) and revenue ($88k MRR) is strong. At this time we're more focused on adding value to our existing customers (thus increasing ARPU) than doubling our customer base.

So far this strategy has worked well, given we've increased prices three times in the past 12 months. Selling annual plans also helps, because a single annual plan (for a larger customer) is several thousand dollars in additional revenue, in one click.

Month Revenue
Aug 17 67383
Sep 17 73726
Oct 17 74324
Nov 17 80335
Dec 17 87100
Jan 18 87100

What are your goals for the future?

We're finally doing "marketing" in 2018.

Our goal is to make a ruckus, and we're launching an experimental PR campaign this Spring.

Our team also just produced a short film in-house, which was a lot of fun and another non-conventional way to express our point-of-view.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome?

Providing high-quality customer support is our biggest challenge, but also the biggest opportunity.

Over two dozen ripoff competitors have launched over the past year, but none of them have multiple full-time engineers working directly with customers 11 hours per day. We're vigilant about 9:30am-8:30pm EST live chat hours, which is unheard of for our size and industry.

(By "live chat," I actually mean live chat. True story: one time a prospect pinged us, just to see if we were there, then converted from a competitor who took days to respond.)

Another common obstacle is meeting customer demand.

Fomo launched with three integrations — Stripe, Zapier, and Eventbrite — but has since added more than 40 others, as well as an API, custom webhooks, and more.

To achieve this we refactored our integrations architecture from 1,000+ lines of code per integration to as few as 80.

As a rule of thumb, we've been able to move quickly by spending about half our time refactoring technical debt, and half our time creating more of it. ;)

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Short answer: reading a book every week.

Longer answer: our core advantage is our team — their technical skills, customer empathy, and genuine interest in our vision: To give honest entrepreneurs the credibility they deserve.

Before Fomo I started (and failed) 3 companies.

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Fomo is about so much more than "notifications" or "a line of JavaScript on your website."

Consistently communicating and demonstrating this to ourselves and our customers has driven deep product insights that lead to a robust roadmap of next gen features.

We're also lucky to have been first-to-market, which makes thought leadership more natural and thus builds customer trust.

What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?

Keep your day job. Not forever, but until your side project is bursting at the seams with needle moving todos.

For the first 13 months of Fomo I worked full time and freelanced to keep the ship afloat. Even after going full time in early 2017, I still didn't get my first Fomo paycheck for another nine months.

Where can we go to learn more?

Our Instagram is pretty kickass, but the platform pays our rent.

Fomo is anti-hype, so I won't try to sell you. The truth is, businesses either value social proof or they don't. They value lowering customer acquisition costs, or they don't.

How's that for a sales pitch?

Because I'm a big Indie Hackers fan, I'll respond to every question or comment below. Thanks again.

Ryan Kulp , Founder of Fomo

Want to build your own business like Fomo?

You should join the Indie Hackers community! 🤗

We're a few thousand founders helping each other build profitable businesses and side projects. Come share what you're working on and get feedback from your peers.

Not ready to get started on your product yet? No problem. The community is a great place to meet people, learn, and get your feet wet. Feel free to just browse!

Courtland Allen , Indie Hackers founder

  1. 3

    Internet marketers make me hate the internet. Lately it feels like there are more people talking about "the thing" than actually doing it. So hard to tell who is legitimate and who is just talk. Love how open and transparent this post is. Thanks for sharing

    1. 1

      amen Mike!

  2. 3

    Hey Ryan! Awesome post - and congrats on your success. :)

    A couple of questions:

    • How did you guys get listed in the Shopify app store? How long did it take? We submitted an app to Shopify and it's been pending review for about three months now, which is a huge bummer. We've found BigCommerce and Woo to be way more efficient. I know a few folks in this community are also building apps for ecom platforms! So any advice on getting listed and speeding up the process with Shopify would help a lot.

    • How exactly did you go about marketing the app in the early days? What channels were most effective for you? You've built up a solid list of customers, and you actively share their stories which is awesome to see. Any guidance on getting a bit of traction going would be great. Looks like you did a lot of Quora hustling in the early days etc. https://www.ryanckulp.com/quit-cold-email/

    1. 2

      hey Chris!

      thanks for the kind words.

      • yes, it takes awhile to get listed on your first go-round. however, they have a priority queue for established apps, and most recently we had a side project approved + listed in < 24 hours. we're also on Big & Woo, but find the traffic + install conversion rate is much lower on those app stores. this could also be unique to us, however, since a lot of Woo extensions are priced as lifetime service, whereas we're monthly.
      • in the early days we relied on Shopify marketing agencies and Youtubers. if we saw a "best apps" post, whether on a blog or in the Shopify forums (ecommerce.shopify.com), we'd add a note and try to be helpful too (not just spam!). TBH though, breakneck response times in customer support led to our biggest growth driver: word of mouth.

      hope this helps.

  3. 3

    Thanks for doing this. I had heard of Proof before but they are incredibly expensive (they give huge affiliate commissions) so its good to know an alternative

    1. 1

      thanks Shaun, we're an open book. :)

  4. 3

    You said you bought an app and converted it into the current business. Why did you pick that app, how much did you pay for it and how did you come up with the idea to re-engineer it?

    1. 5

      we wrote about that experience here:
      https://blog.usefomo.com/how-we-bought-a-small-software-startup/

      how we literally* found the business (Notify) is kinda a funny story:

      • early 2016, i had just moved to San Francisco from NYC
      • needed to swap my zip code on all my online subscriptions due to home address change
      • one subscription was for a beef jerky monthly box (lol)
      • while logged in to change my credit card, i saw a Notify notification ("XX just subscribed to our jerky box...")
      • as a marketer, i was blown away
      • emailed the founder (guessed "[email protected]" would work) to see if he wanted investors (my SF job was at a venture capital firm)
      • he said "no"
      • took him to dinner
      • did not invest, bought the company instead

      the idea to re-engineer... dreaming. :)

      humans territorial. buy a used house, you paint it. new car, you get a bumper sticker.

      same thing happens when you acquire a business; you look for ways to make it not just better, but yours.

      our goal from the start was not to simply "ride out the cash cow," but grow it significantly. in general, reliance on a single "integration" (in this case, Shopify) felt risky. rebuilding the platform and connecting to dozens of other services de-risked.

      can't share how much we bought it for, due to agreement w/ original maker.

  5. 3

    This is very cool! Thanks for sharing about your process.

    Quick question...you said that Martha Stewart & Hint Water signed up. Any sense of how they found out about you? It seems like you got a couple of big fish relatively early.

    Really cool product...

    1. 2

      hey Stephen,

      that's a great question. :)

      in general, so far all our customers have been inbound. we did a tiny bit of cold email, mostly to BigCommerce / WooCommerce stores, back in Spring 2016.

      but then we quit: https://www.ryanckulp.com/quit-cold-email/

      this year we're doing some "push" marketing, however, by attending conferences, renting booths, speaking at more events, etc.

      one thing that was especially cool about the Hint / Stewart's of the world, is that not only did they* find us* (inbound), but they also implemented our API self-service.

      in cases like this, it's really important to build [automated] feedback loops so you understand if a VIP prospect has signed up to trial your service.

      we didn't do a good job of this last year, but are getting better at it.

  6. 2

    Installed your widget on https://zeroqode.com/ after reading this interview Ryan, works like a charm, the installation and configuration was very smooth and easy. Love the idea and I believe it's totally worth $30/month. Good job! :)

    1. 1

      woo hoo! enjoy Levon!

  7. 2

    How does this work for other ecommerce systems (not shopify)?

    1. 1

      hey there, thanks for asking.

      pretty much the same way... click a couple times, boom, connected. :)

      in the API scheme of things, we always shoot for OAuth2. our Selz.com connection uses that protocol, so users click and are instantly set up.

      for Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce, we have plugins and app listings that provide a similar experience... click to install, accept permissions, and you're all set. for other ecommerce platforms like Cratejoy (subscription boxes), Magento, and so forth, we have a "paste your API key" strategy.

      in all cases, it's very easy for users to connect, especially in the ecommerce ecosystem.

  8. 2

    Hey Ryan, nice work with Fomo. I always appreciate reading about unique marketing products. I had a few questions but it looks like you answered them already in some of your other responses. After reading your blog, it seems like you have as much interest in music as you do building tech. I recently built a music feedback app that got a little bit of traction and I’m curious to get your thoughts on it. Do you have a moment for a quick email?

    1. 1

      yep, send it over! ryan@usefomo

  9. 2

    Hi Ryan, I like your writing and website is unique indeed. One thing though: "coding is for losers. Fomo connects seamlessly with 100s of your favourite apps. Losers: here’s our API." - I would change "losers" to "nerds". While I understand this is a joke, I think it is a bit strong, especially since you serve companies.
    I will probably integrate you guys into my project. Great job on getting this to where it is! Have you seen some proper jump in sales today thanks to this interview? I wonder if IH have power to move the needle.

    1. 1

      thanks for the feedback. perhaps our self-deprecation ("losers" vs "nerds") isn't always well received, but hey, good copy polarizes.

      did we achieve extra sales from today's interview, probably.

      we got an extra handful of free trials, for sure, but leads from sources like interviews, ads, etc aren't as high-converting as organic and referral.

      time will tell, ie 7 days from now when free trials expire. :)

  10. 2

    My personal motto: all you have to do is whatever it takes.

    A great one, I might steal it 👍

    What did you spend the loan on? Paying yourself, or working with developers?

    Thanks for the read!

    1. 2

      hey Julian, please do! it's a Zach Braff movie quote anyway. :)

      spent the loan on developers, yeah. i didn't get my first paycheck until ~2 months ago, after around 21 months of freelancing / doing other jobs to pay my bills.

      1. 2

        👍 Great, disciplined approach!

        Congrats on this Ryan and a lot of success going forward!

  11. 2

    Thanks for doing the interview!

    Do you feel like opening up a Shopify store is the best way to find ideas for and launch a Shopify app?

    1. 1

      i had a blast, glad you enjoyed it.

      opening a Shopify store is a great way to find some* problems, but they'll be problems that only new Shopify stores face. like, "how to get my first sale? how to efficiently print order receipts and labels?"

      the "real $$$," however, comes from solving problems faced by much bigger stores. and opening + growing a store to be that size, just to then turn around and build software, doesn't make a lot of sense.

      i suggest browsing the Shopify forums, specifically the 2 different "App" related categories. in these discussions, shop owners are constantly requesting apps to fit their needs.

      recent ideas:

      • live art preview
      • inventory syncing between Shopify <> Etsy
      • automated newsletters whenever a product goes on sale
      • etc

      https://ecommerce.shopify.com/forums

      1. 2

        I did exactly this except mainly on the Etsy forums. I built crawlers to scrape specific topics daily--it's a goldmine when it comes to finding problems to solve. I reached out to tons of sellers on there, got great feedback, and eventually settled on a problem I was confident I could solve better than the competition.

        Fast forward 6 months later, I'm currently in early access with my software, Trunk, that syncs inventory between Etsy & Shopify [1]. If anyone's interested in trying it out for their business, please reach out! james@trunkinventory (dot com)

        [1] https://www.trunkinventory.com

        1. 1

          oooh awesome stuff @axsuul , my girlfriend has this exact issue, sharing Trunk with her now.

          1. 1

            👌Thanks @ryan

      2. 2

        Makes sense! Thank you Ryan.

  12. 2

    The shear number of comment responses makes this one of the most helpful interviews in recent memory. And to think I wasn’t going to read it. As a designer i straddle the line between causing anxiety of a purchasing design and hitting businesses goals. But I think you guys do a pretty good job of enforcing best practices.

    Mostly striking about about this interview is that you acquired an cash-flowing asset and partially funded via cheap credit. Both topics are super powerfully for indie hackers and not talked about nearly enough.

    Questions

    1. What do you consider your risk profile? I think it’s an important metric for indie hackers to understand.
    2. How important was the acquisition to the overall success? Would you be as successful starting from scratch?
    3. At this point, what are you optimizing for both personally and as a company?
    1. 2

      hiya Moe! i'm glad you took the time and got some value from it.

      1. my profile has changed over time... particularly, over the course of this business. when you have personal $$ savings, for example, you might make 10x bigger risks than even 3 or 6 months before, when you might be paycheck to paycheck (just an example). currently i'm willing to risk up to 10-20% of our user base (literally and in revenue terms) on a new idea, feature, vertical, etc. FWIW, Facebook has offered companies up to ~20% of their market cap, to be acquired (ie Whatsapp for $19 billion / $100 billion value).

      2. i don't think we'd be as successful starting from scratch, no. while we ultimately rebuilt the product anyway, having a bunch of customers that we could ask for rapid feedback, was everything. we knew exactly what to build for at least 6 months, before we really needed to get creative or make gut decisions.

      3. optimizing personally - making some money, after ~1.5 years of no paychecks. as a business - doubling our user base while not* doubling our team or even our support team (how??). optimizing in both regards - deep work, and how to do more of it.

      hope this helps, thanks again for reading.

  13. 2

    Hi Ryan, fomo seems like a serious undertaking, congrats. Excellent artwork and awesome Insta. Have u ever written a blog post on the details of your acquiring notify? I'd love to read it. I am in the market to sell my app. Thanks in advance.

    1. 2

      thanks for reading! i might be interested in acquiring your app, can you email me ([email protected]) more deets?

      as for the acquisition story, check this out:
      https://blog.usefomo.com/how-we-bought-a-small-software-startup/

    2. 1

      Hey Grant,

      Dillon here, can you please email me when you get a chance?

      Urgent.

  14. 2

    I just had to come back here and mention – you're absolutely killing it with copywriting. Can I hire you for all my projects? Perhaps any tips or good articles on the subject?

    1. 2

      way too kind.

      email me if you'd like a couple off-the-cuff ideas for your project.

  15. 2

    You guys got real weird with that video and I like it, keep it up.

    1. 1

      lol! just being ourselves

  16. 2

    Congrats @ryan - and thanks for sharing your story, very useful insights!

    1. 1

      appreciate the support, Jakub!

  17. 2

    Nice writeup Ryan!
    And a really cheeky FAQ section. I was laughing out at some of the FAQ answers :)

    1. 1

      thanks Suhas, we enjoy writing copy. :)

  18. 2

    Congrats on your success!

    1. What was the breaking point for you to quit your day-time job and focus on the startup? I imagine it can be hard to quantify.
    2. If you were to go back and time, what would you have done differently?
    1. 1

      thanks Mark!

      1. breaking point was mostly a sense of guilt about not performing well enough at my day job. a lot of folks have a certain revenue milestone in mind, which is rational, but i enjoy doing multiple things at once. staying full-time at another gig forced me to be efficient with my time and work on the right things. mechanically speaking, the break point was when i couldn't be at the (day job) office without my Fomo email being open all day.
      2. implemented more systems, sooner. we now have a "Fomo Bible," which is an internal wiki for our support engineers. this has so much content (that was previously in each of our brains, disconnected) that it's insane we were able to provide quality customer service early on without that kind of knowledge sharing.
  19. 2

    Congrats on your success Ryan, and thanks for sharing!

    I'm curious how your interest in social proof marketing started. Was it something you read, intuition you developed from your day job, etc..

    Also, on "reading one book a week" -- care to share any good books? :)

    1. 1

      thanks for reading!

      my friend David puts it best on his marketing analytics resource (https://codingisforlosers.com/) -- become a lazy marketer.

      frankly, if you can achieve a 1.0+ viral coefficient and achieve new users from existing users, the world is your oyster.

      the PR stunts and many many (100+) events i did with large brands taught me a lot too.

      for example, while working with Coca-Cola we'd rent a booth and give away 10,000 cans at a street festival. then when i worked at Red Bull we'd be given a 6-pack and told to make the same impact by going to the same festival, giving them to influencers, and getting kicked out.

      some good books...
      https://www.ryanckulp.com/now-reading

      i only update this ~once a month so the last 5-7 i've read aren't there.

  20. 2

    Thanks for the cool insights. My question is where did you find an agency to develop your product, and are you still using the same agency/developers today? How did you evaluate whether they were the right people to develop the code? Thanks!

    1. 1

      hola!

      • how we found a dev shop - my partner Justin "knew a guy who knew a guy." after a few months we hired folks in-house, including some ex-agency team members who were already familiar with the product.
      • determining if folks are the right fit... we move very quickly. 5/6 developers we hired were great, and pushed to production on Day 1. the 6th, we let go in about a week.
  21. 2

    I wish that the article went into detail early-on about what the business does, in plain English. I’m still fuzzy on it, which made this a less-engaging read for me. Nonetheless, thank you for taking time to share.

    1. 4

      I’m not a FOMO user, but I believe it’s a notification product you’d place on your website, that pops open a notification icon on page load. The notification simply states the last time a user of that website purchased a product.

      Something like “Emily W. From Ohio just signed up for XYZ.com six minutes ago”.

      It provides social proof that other people are using the website you’re on, and can drastically increase conversion rates.

      1. 3

        great pitch, Joshua! lookin for a job? :D

    2. 3

      this is good feedback, Kayce. i'll amend the opening interview question w/ help from @channingallen to distill what we do more clearly.

  22. 2

    @ryan awesome interview. Congrats on your success. Fellow engineer here, also from NYC. I passed along your "learn to code" article to a buddy, also a great article.

    1. 1

      thanks Matthew!

  23. 2

    Great story, gives me lots of motivation!
    "All you have to do is whatever it takes" - This should be a startup proverb.

    1. 3

      know what's funny? that quote is from a Zach Braff movie (The Last Kiss) for a totally unrelated context.

      Braff has an affair w/ a girl at a bar while his pregnant fiancé is at home. she dumps him and he visits her dad for advice.

      dad says "all you have to do is whatever it takes."

      he does, which means sleeping on her porch for days (weeks?) until she begins to forgive him, and they get back together.

      thanks for reading!

  24. 2

    @ryan I love the "Keep your day job. Not forever, but until your side project is bursting at the seams with needle moving todos." quote. So true.

    I've literally just launched https://chadthiele.com to create a place to showcase my art and make it available to members and you're interview inspired me to work harder -- and I can totally see how Fomo could help me when I'm ready to integrate it.

    No questions... just a big thank you for taking the time to accept the interview.

    And thanks to @csallen for conducting it.

    1. 2

      thanks Chaddeus, and good for you re the art site. my first startup was actually an art marketplace, ArtSpot.

      while plenty of folks are buying art, for some reason it's incredibly hard to sell it. more on that project here: https://www.ryanckulp.com/doing-right-by-investors/

      good luck!

      1. 1

        Wow, that’s a great read... maybe a bit demotivating, but thanks for writing it.

        What do you feel was the biggest reason ArtSpot didn’t work out?

        1. 1

          ahh sorry, that was not my intention in sharing.

          biggest reason - ingredients required for selling art are more numerous than the average good.

          reminds me of "BANT," the textbook sales strategy for qualifying leads.

          • Budget - can they afford it?
          • Authority - can they make the final decision and sign?
          • Needs - do they actually need our solution?
          • Timing - is this the best time for them to come onboard?

          in art, BANT does not apply. or if it does, it's 1/10th of the framework required to close a sale.

          other, less obvious and harder to achieve:

          • brand perception (are you "hot shit"?)
          • wisdom of the crowd (ie why art auctions are popular)
          • critical praise (sorta like brand perception, but from elitists vs commoners)
          • etc
          1. 1

            Nice, thanks!

            Right now I’m selling each piece individually, or “free” to subscribers — which is a monthly/annual membership.

            Your comment about art auctions made me think... instead of a set price per piece, do you believe a “pay what you want” model works here?

            Also, in my case, I allow commercial use so in some regards it could be regarded as “unique stock art” for projects/merchandise too.

            Was ArtSpot mostly a marketplace for connecting art with typical customers wanting the art for their home/office?

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              i don't know much about your biz but, gut reaction is to not do "pay what you want." this violates law above of brand perception... what "legitimate" artist sells via this model?

              (excluding when Banksy sold his pieces for $60 in Central Park...)

              ArtSpot connected artists with venues* like cafe's, coworking spaces, etc. the customers were the clients or patrons of those venues. so, we indirectly connected artists <> consumers.

              RE your commercial arm, i spoke w/ several folks who make a full-time living helping artists sell their prints to new hotels, for example, who might need 2-3 pieces for every one of their 300 rooms at a new building. consider tapping into those folks and they can do the dirty work (sales) for you, to reputable clients that will boost your brand.

              would it be cool to be in 300 rooms at The W? maybe, maybe not.

              1. 1

                Thanks Ryan. I had a gut feeling it would kind of cheapen my art if I did a "pay what you want" model. Was curious what you thought. :)

                And yes, it would be awesome to be in 300 rooms at The W! :)

  25. 1

    Hi Ryan! Great interview! few question:

    1. What make you&Justin decide to buy Notify(Shopify app)?
    2. Before you&Justin acquire Notify, how many user do Notify have? are Notify already making money?
    3. how do you meet your partner Justin? college friend? co-worker?
    4. so both you&Justin can’t code?
    5. do you guys have HQ in bay area or remote-working?
    6. How many employee you guys have? or still working with that dev shop? how many people full-time working on Fomo?
    7. What's your major in college? You study in US/Canada?
    8. you mention you start&fail 3 companies, what these companies do, why they fail?

    Thanks!

    1. 2

      hey Cheng!

      1. felt right, we liked the product (as marketers) and saw it's potential.
      2. Notify had about 1,000 users (some were paused, cancelled, on legacy plans, etc so hard to know exact number)
      3. we met through a mutual friend, who email-introduced us when i moved to San Francisco early 2016
      4. where did we say that? i code 30-40% of the time, usually pushing to production a few times per day.
      5. we only have 1 person in the Bay Area now, 1 in LA, couple in NYC, few in Europe, Japan, Rhode Island... yes remote.
      6. around 10. not working with any agencies or dev shops.
      7. i studied "marketing" and scored horribly on core classes.
      8. wrote about some of that here: https://www.quora.com/How-did-you-start-your-business-What-did-you-do-and-how-did-you-go-about-doing-it/answer/Ryan-Kulp
      1. 1

        Thank you!

  26. 1

    Great article !
    How did you took the a decision to buy "Shopify app called Notify"
    How did you make your market research ? to choose this niche?
    what market place did you use to purchase it ?
    Thanks !

    1. 1

      howdy,

      we found the app ourselves, accidentally. in another comment i share that story, just search this page for "beef jerky." :)

      no market research, just a gut feeling this could be big. also, Justin was pretty involved in ecommerce at the time, so could speak intelligently as a potential customer.

      did not use a marketplace to purchase, simply contacted founder directly, took him to dinner, and made a deal days later.

  27. 1

    Nice story. But it's disappointing not to read what really occurred in between "hacking on it 1-2 nights a week" and "Martha Stewart signed up." Really? It just oozes that "any idiot could do this!" mentality, when we all know the real kind of work this takes.

    1. 1

      hey there, thanks for the feedback.

      if i did something brilliant on the marketing front to attract those kinds of customers, i would do my best to articulate it here (modestly). but frankly, that's not how it happened.

      no intention of waxing poetic, just telling it straight.

  28. 1

    FYI: It looks like the video on the homepage does not play.

    1. 1

      fixed, thanks @averageweather !

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    This comment was deleted a year ago.

    1. 1

      glad you enjoyed it!

      we have lots of non-ecommerce customers, showing off everything from Instagram posts to "requests for quotes" (ie consultants, service businesses) to blog subscribers.

      no matter what you do, your website has a call to action, something you want visitors to accomplish in order to connect with your business.

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        This comment was deleted a year ago.

        1. 1

          right, it's all about knowing your customers, and applying the right degree of anonymity to the data you're showing off.

          we built Fomo Instant for the common use case of mapping form fields (ie Contact Us) to Fomo notifications. optionally, users can turn the customer's email into an Avatar, for example, or the visitor's IP Address into city/state/country.

          but that's optional. you may also just want to say "Someone booked an appointment 5 mins ago" or "A busy mom downloaded our PDF on ADHD." (jokes)

          we've worked with a couple Fortune 500 companies that have to abide by HIPPA, and have identified ways around those limitations to keep things safe and legal.

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            This comment was deleted a year ago.