What is your startup and what does it do?
Discuss.io provides ‘on-demand’ qualitative customer depth interviews and focus groups using webcams and crowdsourcing. We partner with panel companies to put 15 million consumers in a dozen countries at qual researchers’ fingertips. Our tools are simple and powerful. Anybody, from the intern to your boss, can be interviewing people in minutes. For example, recorded video deliverable is automatically synchronized to a keyword-searchable transcript. This allows you to locate customer quotes, and share video clips with colleagues and clients in seconds.
At whom is your startup aimed?
Marketers within the Fortune 2000, research/ad agencies and startups.
How does your startup stand out against its competitors?
A traditional in person focus group costs thousands of dollars to organize and execute. We use crowdsourcing and webcams to dramatically lower the costs and complexity of executing these projects.
Where did the idea for the startup come from?
We want to solve the problem of startup product failure. Upwards of 95% of startups fail to doing any primary market research. Product failure is far more often an issue of product/market fit rather than does the tech work. We are big believers in Steve Blank and Eric Reis lean startup philosophy. Once you peel back the onion you realize that interview research is really just a coordination problem.
Did you have any concerns when starting your business, if so what were they?
Of course. As a founder, you are constantly worrying about everything. Being a founder requires you to be continually vigilant about every facet of your business. You are ultimately responsible product, operations, sales, bookkeeping etc. No founder is great at everything so you have to fill those gaps.
What is your business background, and what got you interested in startups?
I hold a MBA from the University of Chicago and I most recently was a technical product manager at Amazon Web Services. However, formal education and working at a big company rarely prepares you for operating within a cash constrained environment. Being scrappy is something that you are either born with or you have to learn on the spot. If you can’t do that then you aren’t cut out to be an entrepreneur.
How did you initially raise funding for your company?
We bootstrapped for almost two years. Investors only noticed us after we were making a lot of money. We were able to command much better terms as a result of focusing on building shareholder value rather than running around begging for capital.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Our service is being rolled out globally by Unilever, the 2nd largest CPG firm in the globe.
How have you kept your business relevant and engaged with your audience over the last three years?
Simple rule: Go where your user tells you to go and they will come back.
How long has your business been in making, and who is the team behind the business?
We were a napkin drawing 3 years ago. We had a stable MVP a year ago. Our team is divided evenly between engineering and business developers.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Bootstrapping forces you to build on a shoestring. It requires you to make constant sacrifices both in a product and personal standpoints.
In the coming year, what would you like to achieve with your business?
Quadruple revenues within 12 months
What has been your most valuable lesson so far since starting your business?
Being simultaneously confident and humble.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
Listen to you customers more than you speak.