Visual Website Optimizer: Solo Bootstrapper Lands 1,000 Paying Customers – with Paras Chopra

This is the conversion course we mentioned in the interview.

How does a solo entrepreneur in India bootstrap a profitable company with about 1,000 paying customers?

I’ve been waiting to do this interview for a long time, but when first talked to this guest I urged him not to do the interview and we both agreed. Now I think it’s time to do it. Today’s guest is Paras Chopra, the founder of Wingify, which makes Visual Website Optimizer, a dead-simple A/B testing and split testing software for marketers.

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Paras Chopra, Visual Website Optimizer

Paras Chopra is the founder of Wingify, which makes Visual Website Optimizer, a dead-simple A/B testing and split testing software for marketers.

 

Raw transcript

Mixergy's audio transcription is done by Speechpad

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Andrew: Hey there Freedom Fighters. My name is Andrew Warner, I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. This is a place where I bring you entrepreneurs who’ve built incredibly successful companies so they can tell you their story. The idea is for you to pick up as many lessons from them as possible, so that you can go out there and build your own success story and come back here and do your own interview.

Big question for this interview, and this is an interview I’ve been waiting to do a long time. I talked to this guest. We both agreed, and I urged him not to do an interview. Now I think it’s time to do it. Here’s a big question for the interview. How does a solo entrepreneur in India bootstrap a profitable company with about 1,000 paying business customers. Paras Chopra is the founder of Wingify, which makes Visual Website Optimizer. A dead simple A/B testing and split testing software for marketers. Paras, welcome.

Paras: Hi, Andrew. Thanks for having me here. It’s a real pleasure.

Andrew: Do you remember why I urged last time that you shouldn’t do the interview?

Paras: I do remember. When we interacted last time, I think we were too small back then. I had some reservations about talking freely about business when it was still in an infant state.

Andrew: When you say small though, the revenue was good. You had big customers like Microsoft, right? The business part of the business was doing well, but it was still essentially you, a one man operation. I remember I reached you at night because you were in India, and I think you even had a cover on as we were talking on video Skype. We said, ‘Why let the world know that this is a solo entrepreneur who’s building it. Who doesn’t really have a huge team, but he has a phenomenal product with great customers. Let’s wait a little bit and then tell it, so that your customers don’t worry that you’re going to go away. So we can tell the story in retrospect instead of revealing secrets that were still important to the business.’

Paras: Right. That’s precisely the reason. I was pretty much working alone, although I was working hard. Still, there’s a perception that if the company is just one man . . . I didn’t really want to talk about that because the business was in the growing stage, so why risk this startup just for an interview? Now, I’m pretty confident because we have grown, as you know.

Andrew: How many people are in the company now?

Paras: We are about nine people now. All of them are in India.

Andrew: I’m a customer, and when you say that you have about 1,000 paying customers, I’m a customer, and I don’t even know what I pay. What’s the lowest price that a customer would pay per month?

Paras: Our pricing plan starts from $49 per month and they go anywhere up to thousands of dollars depending on how much traffic your site has.

Andrew: OK. So, a minimum of $50,000 a month in revenue. Am I OK to say over a million dollars in business and profitable? Will you reveal anything like that about your revenues?

Paras: I won’t talk openly our revenues right now but you can make really educated guesses from the number of customers that we have and the (inaudible) pricing plans we have.

Andrew: All right. Let’s let people understand the product and then we’ll go back in time and find out how you built this business, as I said earlier, in India where the time is kind of lopsided with the U.S. with no huge team, with no huge funding. Just one man with the determination to build something out of nothing. The product, give me a typical use case so that the audience, if they’ve never heard of visual website optimizing, will understand what it does and why it’s so helpful.

Paras: All right. Visual Website Optimizer is an AB testing tool. By A/B testing I mean if you have a website, or a landing page, or a homepage, any page at all that you want to optimize we call the original page version A. Now you want to change that version A with some of your ideas. Those ideas may revolve around changing colors of your site, changing headlines or even changing products. You make certain changes to that version A and create a version called version B. Now the traffic that is coming onto your page, 50% of the visitors get to see version A while 50% of visitors get to see version B.

Then you measure the difference in sales generator or conversion rate or any other goal that you’re measuring between version A and version B. In simple terms it’s just like doing a scientific experiment on your page. You have a control and then you have a treatment and you see the difference in behavior of your visitors across these two versions. That’s what A/B testing is.

Now where the Visual Website Optimizer comes into the picture is that it allows a marketer, who does not know any kind of HTML or who does not know any kind of Java script, to easily create different versions of their pages. Traditionally if you were going to do an AB test you would need to know all sorts of IT things like HTML or to upload new pages to your servers and go through a lot of IT hoops just to get the simple AB test done. With Visual Website Optimizer it’s very easy. It’s a point and click design where you can load your site and, with a Microsoft Word-like interface, make the changes you want then simply go live without involving an IT department or (inaudible). It’s a taxing proposition.

Andrew: Here’s one way that I have used it. We have a website that first time users see when they come to Mixergy. We basically ask them for their e-mail address before letting them onto the rest of the site. I think a line above the box where people are supposed to enter their e-mail address said ‘confirm your e-mail to listen in.’ When we made that twice as big I got 30% more people filling out the form and giving me their e-mail address.

The way that I did that was I went to Visual Website Optimizer. I said take this page, create a copy of it, bump up the text just a little bit. Like you said, it’s just like using Microsoft Word, you can easily bump up the text. Then I said run a test and whichever version works best I want you to keep that and show that to everyone. When 30% more people gave me their e-mail address with the text being bigger that’s the text that everyone else saw. Today it’s the main text on the site.

Paras: Yeah, a lot of people underestimate the kind of changes that can increase sales or conversions. Even a simple change like changing a color from blue to red can dramatically increase conversion rate. That’s why it is critical to just keep testing your pages.

Andrew: All right, let’s find out where the idea came from and how you built it up. This isn’t the first business that you started, is it?

Paras: No, not technically. In my college I was always enthusiastic about doing a start up. I did a lot of small start up projects. Some worked, some didn’t work. I always wanted to do a serious start up of my own. After graduating from college in 2008 I worked for about two years then finally decided to pursue a full time start up. I wanted to explore my interests in marketing, in analytics, and in technology. I made a list of ideas that I would want to pursue. Marketing optimization was on the top of that list.

It wasn’t an accident that I entered into this industry. I made a very conscious decision of going into marketing optimization. Then developed a prototype of a tool with all sorts of functions. Earlier I called that prototype as Vindify [SP] and it had all the functions of analytics, testing, targeting, segmentation, and what not. That was the first attempt of coming up with a tool. I posted that on Hacker News and the kind of feedback I got was, even though this tool has a lot of features, I’m confused what to do. I did not focus on usability aspect at all. And the tool was confusing and the tool was, it was a little complex for its target user which was a marketer. So, I focused on features, not on the end user and that was a great learning point for me.

Andrew: It’s great to hear that putting your first version up on Hacker News and asking people for feedback actually generated useful feedback like this. I think that’s how you found my interviews and how you and I then got to connect. That’s how, as we’ll find out later in the story, you connected with one person, Patrick McKenzie, who helped you think through the strategy. But what was in this first version that you put up on Hacker News? What was it able to do?

Paras: The first version, actually, I had this crazy idea of coming up with a tool with all possible marketing functions. When I say marketing functions I mean what, I thought what would a typical marketer want to do with his website, so I listed all the functionalities he’d want to see analytics of; which visitors are coming, what they are doing. Then he will want to do A/B testing and finally he would also want to do behavioral targeting. Showing different content to different visitors. So there are a lot of features that a marketer would want to do. So I just basically created all these features and threw it on a dashboard without any guidance of any sort to first time user, what is he expected to do.

If you see the dashboard of the first version I came out with, it was OK for me because I made it but for a neutral third, for a neutral user, it was too intimidating. There was testing, targeting, analytics, tools, all sorts of things just thrown out and with no clue what to do next. So, on Hacker News and particularly Patrick McKenzie on Hacker News, he gave very constructive feedback that although this is good this is very complex, this won’t work, and all sorts of interesting feedback. So I decided…

Andrew: Before you tell me what you decided to do, I’m curious about what you didn’t do, which is to say these guys are just trolls, these people don’t know what, they’re not buyers, they’re not my market, I’ll go find a market that’s smarter than these idiots and I’ll sell to them. Why didn’t you go in that direction which is very tempting for entrepreneurs?

Paras: It’s a good question actually. When I think about it I realize their comments made a lot of sense. When you’re making a product, when you’re making a prototype, you get too enamored with it. So when I was making Wingify I was very excited about it. It’ll be a game changer; there is no other product like this in the world. It is the most beautiful thing ever. When you get feedback you are really jolted to see how the person who is not actually making the software would look at it.

For them, it was just a screen with a bunch of text and nothing more than that. Behind the scenes there may be thousands and thousands of lines of code, but for them interface was what mattered a lot and if they couldn’t figure out what to do I would just lose them as a user. So their feedback made a lot of sense when I thought it from a neutral perspective. Not from a very programmer perspective or not from a very fatherly perspective, just like it’s my baby. So I put myself in the users shoe and saw that the feedback made sense.

Andrew: All right, so you didn’t go in that direction, that as I said, many entrepreneurs would go in. Instead, you were about to tell us what you did do. What was that?

Paras: So I decided to focus on just one feature, which was A/B testing. So it was really hard for me because I had to throw all the code that I had written. So I had been writing code for maybe three or four month’s non-stop, during weekends and during me evenings after office. It was lots and lots of code that I had to throw out. But this wasn’t a hard decision to make because Wingify as a product, I could clearly see it wasn’t going anywhere. Even if I had made a lot of modifications, the fundamentals were wrong. So I had not focused on usability. I had not focused on users.

I had to start from scratch and I decided to experiment with just one feature at a time and the first feature I tried my hands on was A/B testing. And I imagined what I can do to make it really, really simple and easy to use. The usability part I am stressing again and again. The point was really driven hard into me from the feedback that I got from Hacker News, is that usability is what matters to a user and that was the basis for my next product.

Andrew: How did you know that A/B testing would be the one feature to focus on, not any number of other features that you had in that dashboard?

Paras: Again, a very good question. This was also a conscious choice. I did not just go ahead with A/B testing at random. I studied the landscape, and I realized that in A/B testing, there were essentially two kinds of tools available at that point of time. One was Google Website Optimizer, which was free, but was also incredibly hard to use in terms of requiring a lot of IT resources, and it required a lot of cold changes every time you do a test. In fact, I tried setting up an A/B test using that tool, and found myself not being able to set up a test. That was one tool.

On the other end of the spectrum there were Enterprise Tools that were good but really, really expensive for a small business or a medium sized business to afford. So, I saw a very sweet spot within Google Website Optimizer and Enterprise Tools for a tool to be inexpensive, yet feature full and easy. That’s how Visual Website Optimizer came into being.

Andrew: What about this. A lot of entrepreneurs who build a product, and then watch a giant like Google get into this space, freak out. They lose heart, and they either cut out of the business completely or they stop giving it 100% because they keep waiting to get squashed by the giant. Here you are walking into the arena with the giant already entrenched, already in the space, and others around too. Why didn’t you say, ‘They would crush me. I’ll go find another business that they don’t care about.’ Why walk directly into their space?

Paras: Some markets are very multidimensional when you think about it. Google may or may not get things right. There is always a certain segment of users in the market that may find that particular competitor who is already entrenched is not serving their needs. This is exactly what I realized. Even though the Google tool was free, a lot of companies were using it. But, the usability part was not really addressed by them. Similarly a lot of other parts which Google may not serve. For example, support levels. You as a paid tool, can provide fantastic support to your users that Google may not be able to afford that. Similarly there are a lot of other factors which Google or any other competitor may not be able to serve, and your customers are really wanting that, or at least a small segment of customers.

At that point, when you’re just starting up, all you need to do is grab that small segment first, and then be ready to start capturing more and more portions of your market. At the start, you need a small segment of customers whose needs you are serving really, really well. That’s what I tried to do.

Andrew: All right. Now I understand why you’re picking A/B testing. I understand why you’re not afraid of going in against Google. I understand that the vision that you have is really, really, simple. As I said in the intro, dead simple A/B testing was your goal. When you have that in mind, what do you do? Do you start to sketch out with a pencil on paper? Do you get Balsamiq and use that? How do you think through this process?

Paras: I start with a simple pencil and paper. I’ll grab paper, and I’ll start thinking from a user perspective. I think if you start thinking from the first interaction point of view. After a person signs up and logs in to your app, what is he expected to do? That is really important. Is he expected to go figure out what to do by himself or is there a kind of wizard or tutorial out there helping him, guiding him. So, your users have a certain life cycle. They’ll sign up for your app. They’ll try it first to get comfortable with it. If they like it, then they’ll come back again one week later. If they still like it, they’ll probably sign up as a paid user.

When I was designing Wingify first, the first prototype, I started from the perspective of the user already knowing what to do. With visual method optimizer, I started with the perspective of the user completely not aware of what this application is about and guiding him through various steps of what A/B testing is, how it is done, and what he is basically expected to do. That guides the interfaces that you come up with.

Andrew: What did you lay out as the interface? I’m spending a lot of time on this because I know that you’ve done this really well on your site. This is one of the key reasons why companies like mine use your software instead of using Google’s. I want to understand how you created this flow. What was the first step you were going to take a new user through? What was the second step? How would you take someone who is clueless and get them to be a customer, a paying customer?

Paras: Right. So you, when you’re designing user interface, you really start with the basics and what is…you really want to take minimal amount of information first and then expand on gathering more information as the user has… as the user is developing more commitment in the application. To give you a simple example, the first, after the… after a user signs up for Visual Website Optimizer, the first step we require him to do is just enter [??] office page. We’re not gathering any more information than he’s comfortable with right now. Because what he just did is to provide his e-mail ID and password, nothing else. His commitment level is minimal right now. So you cannot expect him to go through pages of documentation or watch 5 minute video or fill in tens of different options in your forms.

What you really want to do is gather small amount of information and as more and more steps come forward you add more and more information and slowly and steadily, as the user sees that something is happening in this application, and he’s understanding what is happening, his comfort level starts growing.

Andrew: But…So, the first step was a landing page, second step was, “Give me your name and e-mail address.” Third step was, “Give me your URL.” Fourth step was, “Here’s your page on my site, now start playing around with it the way you might edit a Word document, and I’ll show you the next process.”

Paras: Right. Exactly.

Andrew: So, you’re the founder of, sorry to interrupt, but the founder of Optimizely was on here, and Dan told me that the first thing that he did was ask people for the URL of the site they want to test. His thinking was, get their URL, show the page on Optimizely, and then have people quickly edit, and only after they’ve edited and played with it, does he ask for their e-mail address. Why did you decide to do it the other way?

Paras: So, we also did an A/B test with not requiring a user name and password, and it didn’t work really well for us. So we’re a very testing-driven company and we, of course, test a lot of ideas, lot of time. So one of my hypotheses of having user name and password earlier, is because it creates some sort of commitment. At least a minimum commitment that I am creating an account with Visual Website Optimizer, and I need to at least spend 5 to 10 minutes figuring out what exactly it is. Without commitment, we found out that if you’re just taking it to the demo level or allowing a user to play around with it, too, he may not really figure out what’s happening. So you want to hand-hold a user through different steps, and slowly and steadily make him more confident if this is the right tool for him or not. We just don’t want to throw him right at the page, and just figure out if it is right for him or not.

Andrew: Yeah, before we continue with the narrative, I’ve got to tell you, you taught me this too, that sometimes what seems obvious is completely wrong. You taught one of the first courses on Mixergy Premium, and what you taught was how to increase conversions. I took the checklist that you gave people within the session, and I applied it to our site in so many different ways, including the header on Mixergy’s…on every page on Mixergy, just about. And I saw my sales go from “flat, flat, flat, flat, flat” to “you can actually see an inflection point on the day that we made the changes that you suggested in that course”. And it’s just, it’s amazing to see how this way of thinking, if you apply it, impacts your business.

And then, of course, you want to keep A/B testing ‘cuz then it becomes a little bit more fun and you see, “What can I do to increase that line and get it to go up even further?” And it’s phenomenal. So one of the things that you told me was, “Andrew, change your button from blue to red.”, which I did, I used Visual Website Optimizer to test it. Red button got us something like, 50% more clicks, or something like that, and then it reverted back to the mean, and so, we dropped it. It went right back to the same as the blue.

Anyway, what I’m saying is, this philosophy is just such a deep part of your company and I felt the impact of it as you shared it with me. So, you did it, now I understand why this process works well for you, you take it out to users first, do you take it out to guys like, people who complained on Hacker News first, do you take it to Patrick McKenzie and, who you met on Hacker News, and say, “Does this work?” Would you start releasing it to the world, right away?

Paras: So feedback is very important. I learned lot from Hacker News and I learned lot from Patrick. The kind of comments he give…Actually, I used to really, if I recall correctly, I used to really bother him with lots of e-mails, and all the time asking, what can I do to make the application better? What did you found frustrating? So I would really, really want to genuinely understand. What does that my application can improve on? And the feedback… you get feedback from a lot of users. If it makes logical sense and a lot of times it made that. You really ought to change your application to reflect that. So I wouldn’t never release an application just in the while [SP]. Taking feedback from smart people on Hacker New or similar forums, makes a lot of difference into the usability of application, in general, how people perceive your application.

Andrew: Did you pay Patrick to give you feedback along the way?

Paras: No, no. Not at all. I think he really enjoys mentoring people. He really enjoys giving feedback to people. He’s a marketing lover, himself. So when he saw the application, I think he saw potential in it. And he generally wanted to help me build an application that he would love to recommend to his clients or love to use, himself. So he took personal interest into helping me, and I’m very glad he did that.

Andrew: How do you get…You see, I sometimes feel guilty asking people for help. I mean, you and I have known each other. You did the course. I used what you did in the course, and I still felt guilty saying to you, “Hey, Paras, look at it this. This is what I did with it. What else do you think I can do? Where else should I change? There are some many times in the last few months that I’ve wanted to come to you and say, “What do you think we should be doing here? What else should we be testing?” How do you get over that feeling of, “This person has his own business to run, he’s busy. I’m going to keep pounding him with e-mail asking him for help?” How did you get yourself to a place where you can go to Patrick, a guy who lots of people want attention from, and just keep asking him for help and help?

Paras: It generally comes naturally to me. I’ll simply, if I have a problem or if I want to connect to someone, I will simply shoot an e-mail and ask, “What is your opinion on this?” or “What do you really think about this?” It’s my hypothesis that people are generally nice and people want to help other people. And, yeah, I’ve found it true. If I read somebody with a relevant question, the person generally responds well. And even, myself, when I get questions I feel a lot of pleasure answering questions because it gives you a certain confidence that people value your time and people value your expertise. So it’s beneficial for both parties, not just the person who’s asking the question.

Andrew: All right. So you get all this feedback, it’s time to release it. What happens after you release it? What’s the reaction?

Paras: I was really nervous, to be frank, because I had left my job. The product was still in beta. It was not making me money. And I had left my job and for two months I was without any kind of inflow of revenue and we did a lot of [??] into what pricing could be. I was thinking well it should be $29, $49, $99. Pricing was one of the big mysteries I [??] on and on and on. Because there was no real answer to it, what it should be. So I decided it should be $49 per month, the lowest plan, and simply see what the market’s reaction is. My initial goal was to make at least the same amount of money I was making while I had a job. That would prove that what I was doing was not really worthless [??].

Andrew: How much were you earning as an engineer in India?

Paras: I think it was, about, maybe, $1200 per month or so.

Andrew: $1200 per month.

Paras: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: OK. So you need to sell about 25 in order to make…in order to break even. Twenty-five memberships.

Paras: Yes.

Andrew: OK.

Paras: Yes. And I was nervous, frankly. If we didn’t get a single paying customer then, I don’t know how things would have turned, but, luckily, we got that many customers in single week. And I was really happy and free after that. Was anything that would come over the amount of money I was making at job would be a bonus for me.

Andrew: I’ll ask you in a moment how you got those customers and how you got customers in the future, but first I’m curious, you just talked about the upside of living in India, and that is, that you’re not getting paid that much anyway at work, you can probably hire other people with similar, past salaries, excuse me.

What about the distance? Here you are reading these guys on Hacker News, many of them are in Silicon Valley, they’re almost all, it feels to me sometimes, in the U.S., and they’re having these conversations, and they’re talking about people who they had dinner with who are investors, who are advisers and you’re left out of all of it. All you can do is e-mail Patrick McKenzie during his day, your night. Actually he’s in Japan so the hours are a little different. But all you can do is e-mail a few people. Tell me how you felt about being left out and how it impacted the way that you proceeded?

Paras: I don’t think I felt left out at all because my focus really was to make an application that made money. It was a very simple [XXX]. To be honest, I didn’t start out with a proposition to make a huge, huge business. I wanted to make enough money to support myself and to support a small team and that was what I was after. So the VCs, the angels and the other financial parts of it was not really relevant because I knew in order to support myself my requirements were not that huge. As I just said, I was making about $1200 and if I had made $1200 from the application I made which was Visual Website Optimizer I was really happy because I was producing something of economic value to other people. And that was my very simple goal. So it wasn’t a distraction at all. I didn’t find myself left out because my goals were very simple back then.

Andrew: Okay. So how did you get the first 25 customers?

Paras: The product was in beta for long. It was in beta for about six months. And in beta it was free and I had built a waiting list, also. It was an invite kind of sign up that people had to use. The beta users were using the tool, they were giving feedback and when we launched we had enough beta users that some of them converted.

Andrew: You launch, you have beta users, you didn’t get any complaints from people who said, ‘I used this for free, you should grandfather me in. I used this for free, I was on your list, you should let me use it for free.’

Paras: In fact, I did get that. I got a couple of angry e-mails, ‘I thought this will be free forever. You are a cheat.’ Something like that. I felt really shocked. Clearly I had always mentioned this was in beta, this won’t be free forever. I have to support myself only unlike other companies which can afford. People naturally compared it with Google Website Optimizer which was free. So they said, ‘While Google Website Optimizer is free why are you charging for this?’ Yeah, there were certain users who said that. It was shocking but when I got paying customer too I realized that people do realize the value this tool is providing.

Andrew: Before your product came along, I don’t want to come across like I’m too fawning but clearly I think you’ve got a great product because I’m a customer but the whole idea of simplifying A/B testing is exciting to me. Before I used to talk with guys like Neil Patel and they’d say, ‘Andrew, you’ve got to use Google Website Optimizer; here’s how I’m testing a button color in Google Website Optimizer.’ They’d walk me through the process. I’d go, ‘This is so much work for such a little bit of lift I don’t want to get carried away. I’ve got another whole business to run, another passion to spend time on. I can’t figure out Google Website Optimizer.’ When you came out not only did you make it easier for me but you made it easy for me to realize, ‘I’m not an idiot. It’s not me. It’s them. It’s Google’s product that’s too difficult. It’s Google product that requires people to spend way too much time on it. I’m not looking to be an employee of Google and figure out their software. I’m looking to run my own life.’

Paras: Right. Most businesses are too distracted to understand a tool, to spend maybe hours and hours figuring out how a tools works. If you simplify that so instead of hours it requires just five or ten minutes you’re providing a lot of value. And it’s not just about small businesses. When you think about large enterprises as well if you as a marketer require involvement of your IT team every time you need to do an A/B test this means it’s weeks, if not months, of time that will be sunk in order to get a simple A/B test done. When Visual Website Optimizer comes, a marketer in large companies is very happy. All he needs to do is log in to our application and make a quick A/B test and it goes [XXX] without asking their IT department to do code changes which could take weeks and months depending on how [XXX] large enterprise is laid out.

Andrew: You quit your job though before you got your customers, right?

Paras: Yes, that’s right.

Andrew: Why take such a risk?

Paras: The beta list was growing. The numbers of users who were using tool [??] was also growing. When I think about it, I think I quit because there was simply too much support to do, during evenings or during weekends. A lot of people were asking questions. A lot of people were asking for new features for their reporting [??]. There was simply too much to do while continuing my job. [??]

Andrew: How did your family feel when you quit your job to start your own company? And you didn’t even have any money, you weren’t making money with the business when you quit your job.

Paras: They were very okay with this. They also knew that I was not a kind of guy who would want to live a very traditional life, so as to say. So I’ll give you a simple example. During my college days I had a great internship opportunity from a lab in Cambridge University. They also offered me an internship, a paid internship of 1700 pounds. But I rejected that, because I wanted to do a startup. So the startups were a very…startups were a passion for me. And when I told them I’ll be leaving a job, they said, “It’s okay. It’s your decision to do.” So, they were cool, thankfully.

Andrew: By the way, you told Inc. Magazine, I’m looking here at my research from Ari, that you had 900 paying customers. This is in January 2012, so you’ve grown since even then, and 13,000 users. What’s a user as opposed to a paying customer? You have a free version?

Paras: So, yeah, we have a free trial version that people can sign up for. And once the free trial is over, they’re registered with a mailing list where we keep e-mailing case studies. We keep e-mailing interesting articles on the EP testing. So these are the users who have a least one touch point with us. [??] trying out the software.

Andrew: So they don’t get to keep using the software after the free trial period expires, but you get to stay in touch with them and tell them about AB testing and teach them what you’ve learned.

Paras: Right. We keep in tracking[??] with them. A lot of free trial users are too busy to evaluate software in 30 days. So they’ll come back, maybe three months later. They say, “I signed up back then. Can you please extend my trial?” So we call them users because anytime they can get their trial extended again. And we, anyway, keep sending them informative case studies and articles on AB testing.

Andrew: OK. All right, so, I see where you are. You’re finally making a…not finally charged [??], and almost instantly within a week, you make as much money with your new company as you did working at a salary job. Now it’s time for you to grow this thing. Where do you go next? Do you improve the product? Do you start looking for new users?

Paras: So, I focused on improving the product. There were a lot of interesting features [??] in the product and the key focus back then was to make the existing user base satisfied, and that was the key feature that helped our user base grow. So most of our user base comes from word-of-mouth. People like our software, people like our approach with AB testing. And the marketing community is very close-knit. They’ll tell each other what new and interesting tools are coming in the market. So I just focused on the product for a while, and that helped grab us new users.

Andrew: What did you learn now that you had real customers with real opinions and, you know, real sense of entitlement for the product to improve because they’re paying you? What did you learn at that point?

Paras: Can you reframe your question? What are you really asking?

Andrew: After you came out from beta and starting charging, what did you learn?

Paras: OK, so the biggest lesson I learned, was that there are certain kinds of users who would simply use the tool because it is new. But, a small segment of them really care about your tool, and they’ll go at great lengths to provide feedback to you. They’ll go great lengths at recommending your tool. Some users have genuine interest in making you succeed, while the other ones are simply there because they find something novel and interesting. And you ought to focus on the users that really care about your tool. So I found that segment of users, I interacted with them, and that really helped the tool grow and evolve, in terms of, number of features, in terms of, what we should be focusing next, and in all sorts of aspects. Right, some marketing too, product development…

Andrew: How did you talk with them? Guy Kawasaki told me that he calls those guys his thunder lizards. These are people who are just really passionate about the product and want to help improve it almost like, in fact more than, the founder at some times. How do you nurture them? How do you stay in touch with them and get their feedback and show them appreciation and build the product with them?

Paras: So you are to give something to them. You are to give some exclusivity so the V-Dub [SP] features that were coming in visual optimizer, they are first shown to such an exclusive list of users. So they’ll be the first ones to see those features, give feedback on them and after we take the feedback into consideration and improve the feature, only then will we release it in the public. So they get a kind of a sneak peek into the product.

Also, we have a lot of channels in terms of communicating with users. So when we send our support replies, every support reply goes with a link that says ‘Rate this support reply from 1 to 5.’ So at any point of time any user has an opportunity to interact with our team to show what they want us to improve on and what they love about the product. So there’s a lot of opportunity for users to give us feedback, to tell us how we are doing.

Andrew: So you make it easy for them to give you feedback and interact with you and you also give them, or at least in the early days, you gave them something that you didn’t give to other people which was inside access to features that the rest of the community didn’t get. Do you still do that? Do you still give people who are your thunder lizards access? Do you still give them features? Do you still give them something that you don’t give the rest of us?

Paras: So we eventually give access to all features to everybody. It’s just about when are you giving that. So, in fact, providing early access to a small segment of users is really important because if that new feature is way off the target you better make that feature better before releasing it for all the users. So it helps you improve that feature before you release it. And, again, it’s a win-win for both, for us and for them, they get to use those features early on.

Andrew: Right. OK. Let’s talk about how you got new users in. What did you do? Did you start buying ads or did you do something else to get them?

Paras: We do not buy ads. We do not do paid advertising. I think what I did was to write to a lot of blogs and I asked them to review the tool. I also gave them exclusive subscriptions to award to their users and to award to their readers so they’ll see this new tool, they’ll like it and then they’ll do a review of it and also provide a few free licenses for their own readers to sign up a free account with and that really helped. And the second aspect is we focus on SEO, Search Engine Optimization. Early on I figured that this is a very important part of marketing strategy because with paid advertising you need to pay again and again and again, for everything. But if you get your SEO right, it’s a good one time investment that can pay huge dividends for the future.

But I would say the only, the most important activity that helped us get new users was to focus on product. We did not do a lot of active marketing we just focused on making product better and better every time and that helped drive word of mouth and that helped grab new customers.

Andrew: All right, I want to dig into what you did do to get customers and to get the word out to blogs. A lot of entrepreneurs reach out to bloggers and they ask to get write-ups and they just get ignored. What did you do to ensure that you got the word out? I understand you gave out freebies, but what else did you do?

Paras: I think I kept reminding them about the tool. So even if they don’t reply the first time, they’re too busy, they get lots and lots of e-mails every day so even if your e-mail goes off the inbox one day you can always follow up the second or third day and then after a week, and then after a month. So the key idea is to not to really give up until the blogger tells you that ‘I am not interested.’ So I think I did a lot of diligent follow-up with the bloggers and that helped us get a review in a lot of blogs.

Andrew: OK. And what did you say? Did you say anything that got them to say yes? I know you were testing a lot, right? I imagine you were testing a lot. What worked?

Paras: Of course I tested a lot of different kinds of e-mails. What I found out was to start out with a very short e-mail, just telling what Visual Website Optimizer is one or two lines and asking whether or not you are interested in reviewing such a tool. We can also give you a couple of free accounts to your readers. If you provide a link to a blogger and your initial one or two sentence pitch makes it interesting, he’ll eventually go to your site, and if your site impresses him, he will follow up with you. Keeping e-mail short was a key to getting replies, to at least start the conversation going. Earlier I used to write very long e-mails, five or six paragraphs. I imagine a blogger would simply freak out looking at that e-mail. If you and me get long e-mails, the natural instinct is to simply postpone it for the future.

Andrew: I hate long e-mails, and you’re right. That’s what we do. We just postpone them for the future, and then we never get to read them. So, you also said SEO and Patrick McKenzie is huge in SEO. I imagine he must have urged you to do it and given you some insight into what you should do. What did you do for search engine optimization?

Paras: What I did was really simple. There a lot of good SEO articles on the internet. My source of all those articles is Hacker News. There is a lot good wisdom flowing there. All I did was to focus on getting the titles right, getting the URLs right, getting the content structure right. It was just the basics that I did. Even that proved to be really helpful as far as SEO is concerned. So, what I focused on was just the basics. When I see a lot of startups now, I see that they’re not even focusing on basics, let alone very advanced topics on SEO. If they just do the basics right, it would help them to be ranking good on Google.

Andrew: You did find specific keywords first that you wanted to target, right? Like A/B testing was one of them. What else did you decide you were going to go after?

Paras: A/B testing, a lot of people also call it split testing. Then there’s multivariate testing, so I focused on these keywords like A/B tool, A/B testing software testing tool. There is a great tool by Google, called Google keyword search, and it will throw up all suggestions. If you simply enter A/B testing, that my site is about A/B testing, it will tell you what other people are searching on for keywords related to A/B testing. I found out that people search not for A/B testing per se, but they will search for A/B testing tool or A/B testing software. The keyword of choice should not be A/B testing, it should A/B testing tool.

Andrew: Interesting. That is one of the basics.

Paras: The keyword is [??] and broad. A/B testing could mean anything. Someone wants to search for A/B testing case studies or A/B testing guide. The A/B testing tool is very focused, and if you are ranking well on A/B testing tool, it means the person is actually looking for an A/B testing tool.

Andrew: On the title tag of your site of visualwebsiteoptimizer.com, you’ve got that?

Paras: Yes. If you search for A/B testing tool, we should be in the top three positions right now.

Andrew: The title tag is A/B testing tool, split testing and multivariate testing software, Visual Website Optimizer.

Paras: Right. I tried to incorporate both keywords, tool and software.

Andrew: Here’s another thing that I notice you do really well. You blog. In fact, you’re phenomenal. Do you write your own blog posts? Honestly, just you and me now talking.

Paras: Yes, I do.

Andrew: You’re a phenomenal writer. The case studies, which we’ll get to in a moment, are just written like you hired a professional case study writer to create. How are you, a guy in India, writing better articles than people who are native born English speakers in American schools where they’re it’s just pounded into their heads how to write to get attention and how to write in a way that’s interesting? How do you do it?

Paras: I love writing. I’ve been writing since I remember. I’ve been writing my blog for a long, long time. I was writing articles before that. I think it’s a kind of skill that develops with time. I did not just decide that I’ll be a better writer. It happened with my personal blog and personal website. Then when I transformed into writing blogs for Visual Website Optimizer. It showed. The key thing is that I enjoy writing, so when I write case studies, I write my blog articles, I really enjoy the process. I enjoy imagine what the output will be like, and how the readers would appreciate whatever I’m writing. That helps.

Andrew: On your blog, what kinds of things did you write about to get yourself trained to write? Because writing is one thing, but writing on the internet where it’s permanent, where anyone can see it, where you don’t even know who’s reading your stuff, and who’s judging you, is a whole other way of writing. Where people can be trolls, and people can take things the wrong way. It does take a lot of practice, I think. I know it does for me. That’s why I created my own personal blog so that I could practice writing in public this way. What did you write about to practice?

Paras: I think I started way back in 2002. I don’t remember. It was a long, long time ago. Back then I was very passionate about arcane topics like artificial intelligence or immortality or machine learning or biotechnology or bio-hacking. All these topics are very science focused, very technology focused. I would simply report the news and latest that was happening. I would also propose my wild theories. Back then it was just free flow of ideas. I didn’t care about readership. I didn’t care about who was reading. I would simply write for its own sake. Eventually that grew into reporting events that were happening. Finally when I got into the startup scene, I started writing about startups. It’s a skill that you have to develop, I guess.

Andrew: When I discovered you first was through the case studies. Can you tell people what these case studies are like so they get an understanding of them? Then I’d like to find out how you used case studies to get new customers for Visual Website Optimizer. What are your case studies like?

Paras: Our case studies are usually success stories of our customers. We provide histories on how a customer of ours did a change in their website landing page or home page and gained x person increase on conversions and sales. To give you a simple example, a customer like Hyundai. They will simply enlarge a photograph of a car on the landing page, and their requests for test drives would go up by 72%. Then I’ll blog it, having a title like, ‘How Hyundai increased S Drive leads by 72% just by doing this simple change.’ It’s a kind of title that generates interest in the reader’s mind. What could they have changed in order to see such a dramatic increase.

Then I would just follow up with a hypothesis that what Hyundai wanted to do, what they did, and what results they got. Finally, what they think about the tool they used, which was Visual Website Optimizer. So, it follows a very simple framework which is effective in telling people that doing simple changes, doing AB testing can have dramatic impacts on businesses bottom line.

Andrew: I’ve also found that if you have an outline for writing things and you’re not just trying to riff and create a brand new approach every time you blog, then it becomes a lot easier. That’s why I start all my interviews with a question. That’s why I have a specific way that I say what the company name is. So what’s your outline for the case studies? I want other people who are considering using this for marketing to use your outline if they can.

Paras: Our outline goes something like this. I spent a lot of time making sure headlines are good. Headlines can make or break a case study. If your headline is very boring, nobody would even bother clicking onto it or clicking on Facebook to get to your case study in the first place. I’ll ask our teammates, ‘What do you think about this headline.’ It gets revised again and again and again. I think I’m spending as much time on headline as I would be spending on the whole case study in the first place.

Andrew: Let me give you a little feedback on what I’m noticing about your headlines. Almost always, there’s a specific percentage increase that happened. There’s almost always a company name, and some times there’s, ‘by doing something’. For example, 50% increase in signups by using pop up forms. 47% increase in click throughs by A/B testing call to action buttons. Live call widget increases signups by 31%. It’s like, to do this and get this specific result. In fact, I don’t see the company names in there often enough. I guess if they’re big, they’re in the headline. Hyundai increases conversion rate by 62%. That’s the headline. Big impact because of doing one specific thing and sometimes a company name if it draws attention. What about the body?

Paras: The body starts with having a little background. If the history is about changing color, it will be about how colors impact psychology, how colors impact customer decisions in the real world, how color is relevant. It will be about what the case history is going to be about. If the case history is about call to action buttons, it will be about examples of call to action buttons, how they matter, why they matter. So, a little background is built on what is coming next in the case study. Then we profile the company in question. We’ll tell about the company. What it does.

Then we start with the A/B testing in question. In the A/B testing part, we’ll first tell about what the original page looked like. Then we’ll talk about what the problem was that the company was trying to solve, whether they were trying to increase their signups, whether they were trying to increase their conversion rate, or whether they were trying to reduce their abandonment rate.

Every AB test has an objective that you’re trying to optimize. You present their original page, then you tell what the company was trying to do with that page. Then you show the variation and what exactly they changed with the variation. You’ll tell about the reason for doing that change. If the company changed the color of a button, you’ll tell that the company had a hypothesis that a red color catches more attention, or that the red color was popping out from the page. Or they’ll contrast bigger calls to action with other small elements. You’ll tell the reason behind doing that change.

Finally, you’ll have another section on what dramatic increase the simple change had. Then we follow up with what lessons a company drew from this test. They’ll say that we realized that the color of a button makes a lot of difference in the conversion rate, and other companies should do the same test just because this is so easy to set up. Then, we’ll finally ask them to give us a testimonial about Visual Website Optimizer. Last, but not least, we’ll encourage our readers to do such an AB test using Visual Website Optimizer. It follows a very defined structure. Every case study.

Andrew: It’s much shorter than it seems in the way that you described it. In your outline it feels like there are so many sections and so much text. It’s really short. I’m looking GetResponse. Here’s a headline, ‘Whoa. Free trial button did not increase paid signups, but increased trial signups by 158%.’ You actually have a shorter headline for that somewhere else, but that’s the one I’m looking at. It’s really short. At the bottom you say, ‘She further added, “Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) is a great tool that lets us test different variations of the homepage on a small sample of visitors. Thanks to VWO, we managed to find out the perfect combination of CTAs on GetResponse homepage and increase the overall conversion”.’ So there’s the quote. And you do something clever too, where if I run a test on Visual Website Optimizer, and I end up with a clear winner, I get an alert that says, ‘We’d potentially like to write a case study on you. Please click here to e-mail us.’ And the e-mail goes to you and you consider whether to write about them or not.

Paras: Yes, that’s right. We encourage our users to share their success stories with us. It is not required for them to share, but a lot of them are very happy to tell the world the kind of gains they have got. It has worked really well for us.

Andrew: On the course that you did on Mixergy, you said, ‘If you don’t yet have case studies of people who are using your software, your product, look for case studies of people who are using the tactics and techniques that your product employs.’ So, for example, if you didn’t have any users who used Visual Website Optimizer, and you wanted to still do case studies, you would do case studies of companies that were using A/B testing and saw increases.

It wouldn’t be how GetResponse got 158% trial signups by using Visual Website Optimizer, it would be how A/B testing increased their trial signups. I love that course, by the way. The audio was still a little bit shaky because it was one of our first ones but the content was rock-frickin-solid. All right, so that’s how you create the case studies. How do you get anyone to read them?

Paras: With the case studies we started just simply blogging about it. When you think about case studies by their inherent nature they’re very attractive. People want to understand what is working in the world, marketers want to know what is working for other companies. When you throw the case study right there on your blog, you tweet about it, you put it on your Facebook, you put it on one or two forums, it will automatically gather a lot of interest. Just because you have a case study that clearly tells this is what they did and these are the kind of results they got. It’s a very practical kind of document. Unlike a blog post that goes into theory about what could happen this tells you what actually happened.

Case studies attracted interest slowly and steadily. We make sure we are very regular in publishing studies. Our goal is to publish one case study every week. By now we have about 35 or 40 case studies. When you’re publishing case studies week after week your readers (inaudible) and they await your new case study every week. It informs them on something, it educates them. That is how readership built on Twitter, built on our Word Press blog. Yes, this kind of creates a feedback loop. With more readers you get more exposure, you get more tweets, you get more Facebook likes and it keeps on growing.

Andrew: OK. How did you get, I mentioned at the top of the interview that you had customers like Microsoft and I forget which other ones, I saw back at the time. Let’s see what’s on there right now. Microsoft, GE Money, AMD, Groupon, AWeber, LoveFilm.com. I don’t know LoveFilm but I know the other ones really well. How did you get these big companies to sign up for your product?

Paras: They’ll come to our site and they’ll sign up for it. This is as simple as that. When I started the objective was simply to cater to small and medium businesses. But what I did not realize that this is also a huge time saver for big enterprises. When they discovered my tool from blogs and other places they tried it. They found that when they are paying thousands of dollars for enterprise tool they could be using Visual Website Optimizer for $50 per month, for example.

Andrew: I’m just looking at your customer list and seeing Groupon.com and think oh, Groupon’s a customer. I should reach out to them and make sure it’s not someone who’s using his work e-mail address to sign up for this but Groupon that’s really interested and find out why and so on. They just found you like that? And you found them by going through your customer list?

Paras: Yes, they’ll sign up from an e-mail address like Groupon.com, JB or AMD.com and then we’ll know that they have signed up from a corporate ID so they must be the real company. That how we import it. A lot of times they will also e-mail us that we are interested in your tool, why don’t you arrange for a demo? Then we’ll arrange for a demo. Most of the enterprise customers that you see there, they have signed up directly and upgraded to become a paid customer.

Andrew: All right. Let’s see, we talked about how you came up with the product. We talked about how the product evolved. We talked about how you got customers. We talked about how you figured out pricing. We talked about, what else? Here’s one thing that we didn’t talk about yet. How did you hire? You’re a single entrepreneur. You hire the wrong guy and he brings down the company. You hire eight wrong guys and the company is over. I know you haven’t had that much experience hiring people but you’ve had enough to tell us what you’ve learned so far and how you put together a solid team.

Paras: The kind of people we have hired, we have stressed on cultural match much more than the technical skills. When a new person comes in for an interview we really want to make sure that he fits into the kind of culture we want to build and we genuinely like him. It’s more on a personal level, that like. Once we feel that this person is good on a personal level the second thing is to, of course, see that the person is right for this job. We really do not do a lot of [puzzle] kind of things. We do not do live coding or traditional methods of hiring. What we want to see if whether this person has written code in the past. If the person has written code in the past.

So if a person has written a code in the past, and that too, without any external pressure. If the person has contributed something to open source community, he has returned code just for its own pleasure, then I think that person is a very good programmer. And he will contribute a lot. And we’ll do a basic technical interview and just hire him, because he has written code in the past and we have seen the code and it’s okay.

Andrew: You said cultural fit. What is the culture of the company?

Paras: Our culture is a typical college project, off a typical college project. So we all are in our 20s. So nobody’s in 30s yet, luckily. So we have a very college kind of atmosphere, where we’ll work together, we’ll joke at each other. And it’s a very laid-back kind of atmosphere. There is no hierarchy, and of course, there couldn’t be, we’re a small team. But even in the future, I don’t see any hierarchy coming up. Because we love working together as you would do in a college project, and that’s what we want to make sure.

If a person wants to go with a typical corporate job, he has typical expectations. He has expectations of having processes. He has expectations of working in a very typical 9 to 5 kind of job, and having clearly well-defined work to do. But here, we have, it’s kind of work that we’re all doing together. We’re all here doing work, having fun, and, yeah, that is what we really look for. If a person enjoys our company, we enjoy his company. Then he’ll be a good fit.

Andrew: You’re in your home right now because we started out this interview at 9 p.m. It’s now, I’m sure your time, what 10:15?

Paras: Yeah, it’s actually 10:45.

Andrew: Right. It’s weird, by the way, I thought the time zones all over the world were the same, you know, except, how do I even express this? I thought everyone was roughly the same minutes, but different hours. India is different. What about hiring beyond…Oh, wait, I was asking about you’re home. I can’t forget that. You’re in your home. Where do you work? You get an office yet?

Paras: Yes, we have an office. And we have an office very close by. I just walk to my office everyday and that’s one of the biggest benefits of having a startup. Earlier I had to commute about two hours everyday just to get to my workplace. But now when I’m working for myself, I can have an office that’s close by. So, that’s the biggest benefit for me, not having to commute.

Andrew: What city are you in?

Paras: Sorry?

Andrew: What city are you in?

Paras: Delhi, New Delhi.

Andrew: So if we have entrepreneurs who are listening to us, who are in the area, is there a way for them to connect with you?

Paras: Yeah, sure, our office is in Rohini part of New Delhi. And if they want, they can always come to our office, have a chat, have a coffee. We always love the company of other entrepreneurs, and we would love to host lunch or coffee for them.

Andrew: Beyond developers, who else did you hire?

Paras: We recently made an offer to the first sales and development guy. And recently we were eight people, all of us engineers. We stressed a lot on product development, on features, but I realize we need to, at least, start growing our sales NPD team also. So we’ve extended one offer to a sales and marketing guy. And we hope in one year we’ll have a decent team of sales and marketing, as well, that can focus on doing outbound marketing. Until now everything was inbound, everything was organically generated, but in order to grow, we certainly need to have a team that does active marketing and sales. That’s the focus.

Andrew: Who’s answering customer service? When I e-mail that I have a problem, who’s responding to me?

Paras: The engineers.

Andrew: OK.

Paras: So we make sure every engineer does support. And that will be our focus, even when we grow. Engineers know the product closely, and with typical support stuff, they’ll give you very generic replies. And it’s usually a huge source of frustration with a lot of users. And support is one of the aspects that defines a company. And we want to make sure our priorities are right as far as support is concerned. That is why we require every engineer to do the support. In fact, the way we train when a new person, new engineer joins us, is to have him do support for at least a month or so. He gets to understand the product. You get to understand the limitations of the product and it gives him a really good base for him to then start contributing to product.

Andrew: All right, by the way, a moment ago, someone came in with a box, with a package, there it is, let’s open it in the interview. I don’t know if I should be doing this, but I did it once and it’s kind of fun. Let’s see. You tell me, Paras. You’re a serious entrepreneur, you listen to mix, is this a distraction for me to open up packages as they come in?

Paras: No. Not at all.

Andrew: So, I get a lot of books here, as you can see, it looks like the author of Taking People with you, has sent me his book for a potential upcoming interview. David Novack, thank you. Oh. chairman and CEO of Young Brand. Young Brands huge food outlet here. KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell is owned by this guy. Let’s see if we can have him on to do an interview. Let me do a quick plug and then I’ll ask you one final question. And the plug is for Mixergy Premium. As you’ve hear in this interview, Paras did a course on Mixergy Premium and the idea behind Mixergy Premium is to have guys like Paras, guys who really know their stuff, come on and teach entrepreneurs like you. I saw significant results by following what Paras taught. I had my notes, I followed them step by step and I experiment with every one of them and saw that my orders jumped up. I’ve seen the same thing happen from others who have taken his courses.

So if you’re a premium member, at the end of this interview and go and watch the Paras course. If you not a Mixergy Premium member go sign up at mixergy.com/premium. You’re going to see the same results or I promise I will give your money back. I’m so confident that I want you to sign up and see these results and if doesn’t work out for you, if you not 100% satisfied I want you to pay nothing. So Mixergy.com/premium.

All right, final question, Paras, which is this: you’re a solo entrepreneur, you are, now you’ve got a whole team behind you, but you didn’t have the funding, you didn’t have the investors, you did have the support, you did have the location. You didn’t have all those things going for you and you still made it. For someone out there, who’s in a similar situation, who’s not backed by the big name, who’s not going to the top conferences every week, who’s where you were. What piece of advice do you have for him or for her as they listen to you right now?

Paras: I think the advice I would give is to really focus on creating values for others. That has worked for me. Nothing else really matters. The kind of conferences you go, if you have investors or not or better life’s really working out for you or now. If you want to do a start up, the sole focus should be creating value for others, finding out what is currently lacking in the market, what your customers are frustrated about and delivering that value.

So, with software companies right now, the cost of starting a software company has come down so it’s all about finding the right problem and solving it, at least for a small segment of users. You, of course, cannot satisfy the whole market at once. When you’re starting you just want to grab that little share of market. And once you grab that little share of market, you’ll always have opportunities to expand your product line, to introduce new product. But to grab that small piece, you need to find the problem, or what your customer wants.

Andrew: And you’ve done it and I really appreciate you coming out here and doing this interview and telling us about your story. I know that there are other people out in the audience to who have similar stories who’ve I told to hold off until the time is right. If we haven’t talked and you are aware of where Paras was about a year ago when he and I talked, shoot me an e-mail, I want to find out about you, I want to get to know you, I want to help you along the way and hopefully at some point, if it makes sense for you, I want you to come on here and do an interview.

And if you got anything out of this interview I hope you reach out to Paras. Paras, how can people say thank you? How can they connect with you, of course if there in New Delhi they can reach out and hopefully see you in person, but if there not, what’s a good way for them to say “Dude I got so much out of this interview. Thank you.”?

Paras: They can simply e-mail me. I’m available at Paras@wingify.com. P-A-R-A-S@wingify.com. They can also just simply go to my site it will have my contact details. I’d be really glad to help anyone who wants my feedback on maybe the landing pages, home page or even general solid advice. I love helping people.

Andrew: All right, I’m going to call myself out on something here, did I just misplace the emphasis on you name? I keep saying Paras and you said Paras?

Paras: No, you said Paras. I say Paras.

Andrew: Paras. So I’ve been emphasizing the wrong syllable.

Paras: [laughs] It’s a non-traditional name, so that’s OK.

Andrew: Now that I know your name, I’ll feel a little more comfortable e-mailing you and asking for more feedback on my stuff. And if there’s anything I can do to help you and show my appreciation, let me know. I’m glad you and I have got this relationship. We’ve been friends on Skype now and on e-mail and I’m really glad.

Paras: I’m really glad to know you. You’ve really help out a lot connecting with people. It’s really amazing how large your network is. So any entrepreneur out there, I really recommend you get in touch with you. You can be helpful in a lot of different ways.

Andrew: I appreciate you saying that. Thank you and I’m glad to do it. The website is Visualwebsiteoptimizer.com. I’m a customer. I urge you guys to check it out and I get no percentage. I don’t want any percentage, I don’t want anything ruining the fact that when I have someone on here, I do it because I really appreciate their story and I think you guys can learn from them and if I tell you to go check out Visual Website Optimizer I just want you to know that it’s coming from a pure place. Thank you for doing the interview and thank you for watching.

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  • Anonymous

    Paras has been fabulous to us at riptapparel.com.  He has personally responded to my emails and walked me through setting up our A/B testing.  Great guy, great interview!

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Your site looks like it has a super-clear conversion process.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Andrew, love the show.  Keep it up.  Great choice with Paras!

  • Sean

    Nice interview. Y-Combinator would insist on a co-founder and Paras is an exception to that kind of rule.

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Yeah. Now that you mentioned it, I should have asked him about the challenges of building without a co-founder.

  • http://www.JiansNet.com Jian

    I like their way of hiring developers, cultural fit, rather than giving puzzles. One thing I hate about Google/Amazon etc. companies is that, they just don’t look at what you have done in the past, and give the same interview questions over and over again. Some people are good at that kind of SAT GRE type of interviews, but others are better examined by accomplishments and commitment to work.

  • http://twitter.com/cspritch76 cspritch76

    Great interview.  I love this stuff.  The advancements that are happening in the A/B web test area are impressive.

    Andew/Paras – On @mixergy lately, there has been a lot of attention on using videos to help with conversions, such as those discussed with @grumomedia.  While I have heard that this greatly adds to the conversions, are there some metrics that can be shared in this area?

    Thanks!

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  • http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/ Paras Chopra

    We have a couple of A/B testing case studies that involve video: 

    1. Sales increased by 216% after adding introductory video  http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/split-testing-blog/video-increases-sales/

    2. Video converts and here is the proof: 46% increase in conversion rate http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/split-testing-blog/video-conversion-rate/

    3. How to increase newsletter signups by 28%? Ask users to ‘watch a video’ or ‘get instant access’ http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/split-testing-blog/increase-newsletter-signups-watch-a-video/

    Hope you find these useful!

  • http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/ Paras Chopra

    Yes, I myself hate puzzles. Good programmers like to take time thinking of a good architecture, structuring their code, and making sure what they produce is of highest quality. Solving puzzles under time pressure does not test for that. So I always wonder why companies use such puzzles during interviews.

  • http://www.impactlogos.com.au Logo Design

    Awesome I live all these conversion testing interviews and Paras was great once again.

  • http://www.EntrepreneursUnpluggd.com Tim Jahn

    Andrew, you should interview TJ.  He’s one of those amazing entrepreneurs that you normally don’t hear about, but that folks like you and I like to highlight.

  • http://www.bidsketch.com Ruben

    Really enjoyed this interview. Hearing how he continues to follow up with bloggers until he gets some sort of response really makes me think differently about when I send those emails. I’m pretty good with following up with personal connections, but haven’t been as persistent with bloggers for some reason. 

  • http://collaborable.com Eric Ingram

    Hey, Ript looks pretty awesome. Interesting the way you added Facebook comments. Feels a bit like redtagcrazy.com used to be. What checkout system are you using?

    Andrew, great interview with Paras!

  • http://www.facebook.com/fumioura Fumi Oura

    For me, opening a book is a little distraction.

  • Anonymous

    This guy is so smart! Im glad Andrew interviewed him. If anyone noticed he keeps talking about costumers feedback and adjusting his product to fit them. Most startups don’t do that… Its so simple. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Sharper/100000807088310 Matt Sharper

    who is tj?

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Thanks Eric.

  • http://twitter.com/patio11 Patrick McKenzie

    Paras is entirely too kind about my contribution — he was CLEARLY onto something with VWO from the first time I saw it. I gave him some fairly minor suggestions regarding the pricing and found him some early customers, but I knew within five seconds of playing with it that this app was going to do great things.

    If you ever do a follow-up with him, ask him about the earlier all-in-one analytics package his company put out, and what he learned by focusing down just to VWO. I think that’s the single best decision he made.

  • Penuel

    Great interview, so much to learn & know how people work. Simply amazing!

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    I’m sorry, but I don’t think that’s true.

    When I talked to him last year in private, he went into more detail about how your view of his business changed everything.

  • http://www.bidsketch.com Ruben

    What Paras mentioned sounds similar to my experience with Patrick. In the very early stages of Bidsketch (before launch), I was questioning whether my product was too niche and considering throwing in the towel. His response to my email to him convinced made me to move forward and changed the way I thought about the market. I suspect others have the same experience. 

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    When I started Mixergy Premium, he encouraged me to keep going when it seemed like a terrible idea to everyone else. Now it’s fueling every other part of Mixergy.

  • http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/ Paras Chopra

    Yep, Patrick is always so humble :)

  • Bhargav Patel

    include that in the next interview when Paras gets 10,000 customers. Shouldn’t take that long now, I am considering using VWO myself as soon as I buy a domain -_-

  • Bhargav Patel

    you must’ve tested restlessly to get a conversion friendly interface like that. congrats!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/aditya.shukla Aditya Shukla

    Very thoughtful and intelligent interview. I love Paras’s clarity of thought.

  • Ken Singh

    Excellent choice to interview Paras, reminds me of old days at Mixergy. Great interview and lots of good useful info. came out of it.

    Ken Singh

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    I do too.