Tag Archives: startup

After 3 months using DuckDuckGo

Past October I read Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares , an amazing book about how to get customers (and more, you should read it). Once of the things I discovered in the book was DuckDuckGo, a search engine, which differentiation with the others is that it doesn’t track you. So you can be surfing along their results and don’t have to worry about your privacy (from the search engine side).

ddg1

I like the idea, I love privacy. I didn’t start using social networks until some months ago, but I thought most of people don’t care about this or they are conscious about all you iterations are been tracked for ones or another, so I don’t know if the people who use DuckDuckGo, do it because their key differentiation.

The Interface

I think the interface is what engaged me. I used Google and I don’t miss any of their features, almost are replicated. DuckDuckGo’s really minimalist but it has lot of useful details who make your experience more comfortable.

Checks when you click in a result.

When you click in a search result, the result is marked with a check, so you can know if  you already visited it. I found this really useful recently when I was looking for LinkedIn profiles with their advanced search syntax. I had to look at several results and when I changed the search keywords, some results were recurrent.

ddg2

Twitter-style triggered infinite scroll

This is amazing, once you get used to this and you have to come back to Google and navigate between result pages you will know what I’m talking about.

This is useful when you have to look at several results. Because I wanted to see lot of LinkedIn profiles I noticed how useful this can be.

Advertisement

I never see more than one ads per search, I don’t know if this can be considered a featured or it is just they don’t have many advertiser still. I don’t mind if they put more ads, they have to monetize their product. Maybe because it is an infinite scroll they should put the ads in a sidebar which go along with you when you make scroll. Right now their ads are really well differentiated from the results as you can see in the previous screenshot.

I think currently in DuckDuckGo you have a defined segment of “early adopters who care about their privacy”. So if your product is related to it, I’m sure you can promote there without worry about keywords and reach lot of potential customers.

And more…

There are many more details that contribute to make a user experience while you are using their search engine like the about / images / video / news widget that you get, some times you don’t have to leave their web to get what you was looking for. Or the favicon of the site in the results, or tags like official in the official search result for certain brand…

Also they have a great community, but I din’t participate there, so I can’t tell, but it looks very active. I got answer directly from their founders in a question I had about advanced search.

It will be great to know more things about their startup. I know, they want to reach 1% of the total users of internet using their search engine. I would love to know how close they are. Also if the users who are using DuckDuckGo do because the key differentiation that the are offering (privacy). For me is a plus, but the real reason I’m using them in all my devices is because I’m very comfortable with their interface (well, also because I think Google has too much power over us :) ).

Are you using DuckDuckGo, what are your impressions about it? If not, you should give it a try!

Bootstrapping your Startup

puzzleFor most of us (entrepreneurs), bootstrapping is not an option, is the only way to launch our startup.
Keep in mind, even if you are bootstrapping, you will have some expenses beyond your maintenance (you will be without salary several months and you have to live in the meantime).

These are my experiences bootstrapping projects and more specifically Jooicer.

Remote Working

If your project doesn’t require physical components, I’ll recommend you 100%, to be a distributed team, not only because you will save up on office and infrastructure, but you won’t be limited to your location when looking for talents, you don’t have to set schedule… There is lot of info out there about the advantage of remote working, and a great book called Remote.

Communication

Communication is one of the most important challenges you will face with a distributed team. There is lot of tools that help you to communicate, but each one in the team will have his preferences. You have to be sure to choose one with which everybody is comfortable. Once you have established a communication channel, try don’t use different ones to deal with matters that should be of general knowledge in your team, because people who are not in that others channels will feel displaced.

In Jooicer we prefer to use text chat. It is very useful because you can keep a log of your conversations for future reference, also, in a distributed team not everyone have the same timezone or the same schedule, so you can be updated just reading the log. I like it too because is not intrusive so when your are doing something that require concentration, you can forget about the chat and dive yourself in the task.

The Team

communicationProbably, this will the most important thing in your startup, you can’t do it everything by yourself. Even if you can code and design the entire project, you still have to give support, customer development, improve it, fix it, accounting…

I think to have at least one more co-founder is important. The process is going to be long and hard, so you will need support when your motivation is low (you will face this a couple of time). If you don’t have this support, you could quit early.

When you look for members of your team, look for people who share some other interests with you (sports, hobbies…). You are going to spend lot of time with them it can’t be all work.

Where To Find Them.

I found builditwith.me, a really interesting idea to find people or join other people’s ideas, however we didn’t have luck there.

What we do is to look for experts in Linkedin, Duckduckgo (or Google), Twitter… wherever they could be and ask them to talk. These will be your first pitchs, if you can’t convince them to join you, how are you going to convince customers to buy your product or investors to give you their money?

Identify your lacks and look for experts who can cover them. Don’t be afraid to ask the betters, you will be surprised. In Jooicer, we ask two experts in the same field to join us, we didn’t think they would, surprisingly both say they were interested and we had the problem to have to choose between them (it was a leadership role, if not I would have keep both of them).

Availability

Try that your team members have the same availability and same commitment, if not, you will have timing problems. If you have some people committed full time with the project and other part time (because they have their own jobs), you will find that the full time people need to launch while the part time people only want to, and that is a problem.

Be Patient

Don’t leave people think they are doing you a favor and they can laze or not work like if they were being paid. Your team is elite and people have to proud to be part of it.

Be ready to face that some people will leave the project or you will have to fire them, you will find yourself looking for new members often until you have your definite team.

Equity

People can work for free for a while, but they want to know what they will have once the project become successful. We have launched many bootstrap projects and at the beginning we saw this perfectly normal, so we shared equity based in what will do each one, even worst, because they were working for free, we always thought in shame equity for everyone. You will find, like we did, that not everybody work the same, not everyone have the same commitment and not everyone will have same responsibilities. For Jooicer we are testing a different approach. We explain people who join us our bad experiences assigning equity without know each other, or without know our commitment. We explain that our intention is not to keep the big piece of the pie, once is done, but to create a pie sufficiently large so every piece of it will be big. Also, we tell them that we don’t want to take advantage of their work, so if the relation doesn’t work, we will pay for their services, even we pay more than their usual rates, but they will have to wait until the project have funds.

Once we have some traction we will value each one commitment until that moment, consider what will be expected from him and the role they will assume. Based in these factors we will assign the equity.

We didn’t know if people were going to join us with this approach, but everyone have understood it and nobody said no because they wanted to know their equity/salary from the beginning.

Outsourcing

There would be times when you need some task done and anybody in your team can make it or you need a person in your team but you can’t find anyone. In Jooicer we tried 3 different guys for a position and after 3 months we didn’t have that work done, so it became a bottleneck for us. Although we need one in the team, we had to stop looking for and hire a freelance. In this case you have to ask for budgets and find the money to pay for it.

To avoid to have to look for too much money and finally hire something too cheapest, you can try to agree some payment facilities with the freelance so you can afford it in your early stage (maybe you can give them free access to your product once is done, so you can reduce their price).

If you are good attracting people to your project, you could be tempted to save money attracting them for each task of your project however small it is. I won’t recommend that, once your project is online and working, you will have people in your project that don’t do nothing.

Tools

Even if you are not a distributed team, you will need some tool to manage your project. There are lot of good tools there that will cover your needs and I think you can find a free tool or with freemium plan that is enough for you. Remember, you are doing bootstrapping, there will be things you will have to pay for sure, so don’t spend your money where you have alternatives. Once you are monetizing you can search your perfect tool.

This is some of the tools that we use in Jooicer:

  • Basecamp: It has a freemium membership. It only allows one project, but that is good for us. However each time we use it less and more Drive.
  • Drive: For documentation, knowlegment base or to share files.
  • Skype: We have different groups chat “product”, “general”, “traction”… Currently we are the same people in the same groups but we use them to be organized.
  • Whatsapp: We don’t use it pretty much, but we have a group there.
  • Bitbucket: So different developer can work in the same code with version control.
  • Mail: To be in contact with our users.

We have to improve how we use them and try others (we need something to put tasks and allow people to auto assign them, some kind of SCRUM management), but we are in an early stage and we still have to find our best methodology. I’m not worry about this because each team/project have its own and it will emerge with the time.

Traction

Once you have launched and you start to sell your product, surely it can’t cover all your company’s expenses from the first day and you can’t do bootstrapping all your life, your team deserve a salary, you too and you will need money to scale and compete against the big ones. This is the point when we want to go for funds in Jooicer.

Traction is the proof that your project is working. Is not only that you already have customers but you have a working team and product. However if you already have customers, surely you will have a working product and a working team too.

Investors will use your current traction to measure your startup and decide if it’s worth to invest in. Try to have as much traction as possible before approach them, so you have more possibilities to attract them and you won’t have to grant too much equity.

These are my experience bootstrapping projects, I would love to know what do you think about them and your own experiences. Any recommendation ?

Jooicer: 5 months later

Hello there!
It has been a long time from my last post, but these months have been crazy.

After our customer development phase, we started to develop the tool. We focused entirely in the features and forgot about the user experience, we thought if the tool can do what we want it to do, users will want to learn how to use it… Wrong! The tool works, but it is so difficult to use that nobody knows how to do it. So after some minutes, the people logout and never come back.

Additionally to these problems, we found another with the database, Twitter manages a lot of data, so our database became huge with only the beta testers.

Improve the tool, get users, analyze feedback, fix bugs… for only two people have been crazy, we have neglected some aspects of the project because the team was too small.

After see these mistakes, we have stopped build new features, or get more users and we have analyzed the current problems and found solutions for them. It has started by extending the team. We have found talent people who wanted to join us at Jooicer, so now we are starting again with a full team compose by the original two guys (David and me) and the followings:

  • An UX guy, who will help with design too.
  • A Business Intelligence guy, lot of experience in analysis and with knowledge about Twitter, big data and databases.
  • A developer, with strongs in security.

With this new team, we have analyzed the mistakes and started to work in a new interface more user friendly with valuable data and features. Based in that interface we will code the tool, and for the database problem, currently analyzing it, I think we will use individual tables per user.

Takeaways

  • Invest in User Experience: No matter how good is your product if nobody know how to use it.
  • Look for a complete and talent team: If not you will neglect key areas.

Also I have moved to Coral Gables, Miami, so if you are around here and want to talk sometime, just let me know.