Web scraping as a business

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Today’s guest had been hearing about stories of entrepreneurship and finally he took the leap himself. And do you know what happened? He failed. Badly. You’ll hear that story in this interview and how he eventually got to where he is today.

Kevin Sahin is the founder of ScrapingBee, a web scraping API that provides tools to build web scrapers at scale.

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Kevin Sahin

Kevin Sahin

ScrapingBee

Kevin Sahin is the founder of ScrapingBee, a web scraping API that provides tools to build web scrapers at scale.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs for an audience of entrepreneurs. And joining me is someone who was working at a company at a good job that while the company was then acquired by another company and the job stayed good, but it was, I wouldn’t say boring is boring.

Fair to say, Kevin. Yeah. And meanwhile, in the back of his head is all these stories of entrepreneurs that he’s been hearing about that he knows now exist in the world. He can’t deny that that is out there and he’s drawn to it and he decides, all right, I’m going to go and take a leap. And he does. And he fails so badly largely because he ends up going for, well, you know, we’ll find out in this story, I’ll tell you this.

Eventually Kevin Seguin created scraping B, which did become a successful business. It helps developers extract data at scale. You probably don’t know about scraping B, but the companies that you use every day, every week that your family and everyone else around you users probably are using scraping be to get the data that.

That is a reason. People go to those sites. I invited him here to talk about how he did all this, about the challenges and what he learned along the way. There are a bunch of realizations that some of you are going to recognize, and there’s some realizations that you just won’t realize until you hear them come out of Kevin’s mouth.

And I invited him here to talk about the scraping B story and I could do it. Yeah. Thanks to my wonderful sponsor. It’s send in blue. They’ve done so well with my audience last year. They’ve come back again this year, and I’m excited to have them back here to tell you that if you’re doing email marketing, you need send in blue.com/mixergy.

But first, Kevin, good to have you here.

Kevin: Thanks for having me, Andrew.

Andrew: What’s a, what’s your revenue right now?

Kevin: Right now we are above 1 million and they are,

Andrew: How much? 1 million annual recurring revenue. How much outside?

Kevin: we raised a little around 100. $50,000 in 2020 from a tiny seed, which is, uh, an accelerator for, bootstrappers, which can sound a bit counter intuitive.

Andrew: ’cause the way it works is how they’re, they’re not looking for a big, I guess they do get a little bit of an upside if you sell an or exit as a unicorn, for example. Right. But along the way, don’t they get a little bit of your, of your profit. Am I right?

Kevin: Yeah. So they, it’s an, uh, equity, uh, based, uh, fundraising, which is a very classic, no different from a traditional VCs. But there are several things that are very, uh, uh, founder friendly. Their terms are open source. So you can, uh, uh, look at all the terms, uh, on their website, but, they, uh, allow you, to get a.

Uh, pretty, uh, comfortable, uh, salaries in there term shades. And, um, basically you are allowed to pay yourself up to $250,000 a year per founder and everything above that has to be in dividends. And so they get the dividends prorated to their equity ownership. Which is, around, 10%.

Like they, they take around 10% for all their, deals. It can vary a little, but it’s about that.

Andrew: And they get, they get so share the profits along the way, equity, and then isn’t there a way for you also to eliminate the equity down the road, or am I wrong?

Kevin: No, you’re, there’s no way to do

Andrew: Oh, so they get equity in the business and a share of profits.

Kevin: Yeah, but, in the end, if you sell the company you, um, deduct the parts that they took as dividends from the final outcome

Andrew: So what share of your business did they have now?

Kevin: around 10%.

Andrew: 10%. Okay. I see. Oh, wow. I didn’t realize that’s how they worked. Why did you go with them and give 10%, um, when you have to give part of your profits out along the way don’t other accelerators take.

Kevin: Well, it’s pretty, um, standard to have those kinds of, um, those kinds of deals. They are. Investing at a stage where most traditional investors don’t basically they are investing in companies that are doing almost zero in revenue. At the time that we applied to tiny seed, we were doing not even the $2,000 a month in revenue.

So, um, traditional VCs weren’t an option for us and we weren’t. Uh, interested in doing the traditional VC way because you know, it’s a lot of pressure. It’s another expectations basically the whole VC model expect, uh, a unique audience because that’s how it works. And, they don’t like most traditional VCs aren’t interested.

And companies that can be a, you know, a seven or eight figures, uh, you know, the moonshots and that’s not what we wanted to do.

Andrew: it. You didn’t want to be pushed to be a billion dollar business or go bust. You want it to be accepted and happy if it was a $5 million a year business and your investors would be happy in this case because tiny seed would take a share of the profits with them. They would share with their limited partners.

I got it. Okay. All right. We should understand a little bit more about scraping B. Give me an example of how someone uses scraping be.

Kevin: Yeah. a significant part of our customers. Our developer teams and tech companies that are somehow extracting data from the web at scale. For example price comparison websites are extracting data from many, many e-commerce sites.

And in order to do that they need, some, uh, software components to help them do this. And

Andrew: it on their own, their whole businesses price comparison. Why, why do they need you? What’s the difficulty in scraping data

Kevin: so.

Andrew: prices across the board.

Kevin: There are many different challenge associated with extracting data from the web. The first one is JavaScript rendering. So JavaScript is a programming language that is more and more used on the web in order to make websites dynamic. And scraping JavaScript powered website is very challenging because you basically need a browser, but that runs on.

And it’s very hard for a tech team to do these. There are many technical challenges. It’s hard to scale. It cost a lot because you need powerful servers like, you can, um, uh, even from a consumer perspective, you can quickly understand that when you run a lot of stabs on your desktop browser, it starts slowing your computer a lot.

Well, that’s exactly what. When you do it on the server and it’s even worse. So, uh, that’s one thing where, uh, we help companies because basically it’s kind of a scraping, it’s kind of a browser on the cloud, so, uh, it’s much easier for. Companies to go through scraping me. The other thing that where we help uh, developers is with proxies.

So there are many websites that are internally internationalized, meaning the content they will show is depending on the country of your IP address. If you have a us IP address, for example, on an e-commerce website, you will get a price in dollars. If you have a European IP address, you will have the price in Europe.

And so we have with proxy management,

Andrew: Okay. So I was mentioning earlier that you worked at fiducial, uh, this was a company that you were getting bored with. They were acquired by someone else, and you essentially doing this for them, basically helping to scrape data on behalf of their clients for their software. You got bored. Did you just quit?

Kevin: No. So basically what happens is we, we got acquired in 2015. Uh, so I was, uh, uh, an employee. I don’t, I didn’t have any equity in the business. So, um, there are lots of funny things that happened at that time. The first thing is that. My ex bosses getting rich overnight and being very transparent about it.

So I learned,

Andrew: what did they get to do

Kevin: What do you mean after.

Andrew: when you say they were very transparent about being rich, were they talking about a publicly, did they suddenly come in with the, with the car? That was exciting?

Kevin: Yeah. I mean, they basically, uh, you know, so the acquire was the bank. So the acquisition cost, uh, was public because banks has to report it. basically, they explained us the whole process, the due diligence, the. Everything that happened during the transaction. And I learned a ton like, you know, living an acquisition is different than, um, reading about it.

You can see the distress, you can see, um, many things. and then of course, yeah, I, I was a very, uh, close to, um, my, before the acquisition, it was his first exit, so, um, it changed a lot of things in his life.

Andrew: Like what, give me a specific thing. What did you see that changed? Did he buy something?

Kevin: Yeah, of course he bought a lot. He bought a lot of real estate. he bought ’em he, she wasn’t psycho spending money. He was mostly investing it, but

Andrew: but you’re watching this person who had not had much money before suddenly go out and invest in real estate, suddenly make investments. His whole life changed. Meanwhile, you’re, they’re still building this, scraping this and scraping that software and you, and you don’t get any upside. And you say, I think I need this.

I’ve already studied and heard about entrepreneurship. I’ve seen what’s possible. Um, And then you, you quit your job or did you start the first side hustle?

Kevin: I, stayed at the job for two years.

Andrew: Okay. After the acquisition.

Kevin: After the acquisition. Yeah. so there, there was a reason for this, uh, and I had a plan. in France we have a, a great, unemployment benefits when you launched your company, basically you are.

Yeah. When you lunch, when you get the job to launch a company, you have two years of unemployment benefits.

So you’re getting paid like 65% of your previous job salary for two

Andrew: no idea. Okay.

Kevin: like the France, the French government

Andrew: So you had to stay there for how long in order to get those benefits.

Kevin: I had to stay for two years.

Andrew: So you said I’m staying here for two years just to get that benefit, then you mostly,

Kevin: I would say that there is this, and also like my mindset was, I had to learn everything I can from those guys that made. So everything about a business where I could ask them, advices. I was doing it on the side I was, um, uh, reading lots of business books. Um,

Andrew: on the side or was it only started after?

Kevin: no, I started the blog. I started a blog about web scraping I had a lot of success with this blog, from a traffic perspective. Like it’s ranked like crazy on Google and at some point, so basically I went from zero to 4,000 visitors per month in about six.

And it blew my mind. And so I started learning, I started learning about SEO. And then, uh, people coming to my blog were asking for more articles about web scraping. And so I, I started writing an ebook about what stripping and after the two years, what was your initial questions? I forgot.

Andrew: I’ll continue going with it because the next step was you wrote a book called, which I have here in front of me, Java, Java, web, scraping hands.

Kevin: Yeah.

Andrew: I like how you sold that you didn’t just sell it as with the book price. You had multiple tiers. I see if I, let me see if I could find, I can’t find the old sales page, but you’re basically allowing people to pay you $65 if they wanted to versus just having a one price of 1995, right?

Kevin: Yeah. So I had this idea from reading authority, from Nathan Berry,

Andrew: yeah, yeah.

Kevin: a great book. If like, if you want to, uh, write a new book and sell it, I highly advise people to read it.

Andrew: I see it here, right? His, one of his points of view was that authors are underselling their stuff. There’s some people who just want to read the book, let them buy just the book. But there’s some people who want a more intense, more rigorous version of the book in addition to the book. And so he says, create that package for them and have it as an upsell.

And I see I’m on your website now it’s $29 for the book or $49 for a package. That has a little more and $69 for a package that has even more than that. All right. So you were doing that suddenly you became an entrepreneur through this book. You decide, I want to take this to the next step. Now let’s go and create software.

The next thing you did was create shop to list. What was that idea? That’s idea that I said earlier, just didn’t do well.

Kevin: basically the, it was a Chrome extension where you could save products online. Let’s say you’re browsing, uh, Amazon or whatever. E-commerce websites. There’s a product you interested in, but you don’t want to buy it right now. You save it through the Chrome extension and then every day, uh, we’re going to, um, refresh the price and.

Price drops. We’ll send you an email which of course has an affiliate link and we get a commission if you buy the product Yeah, basically we w so I launched this with my co-founder pair as, uh, side hobby project. We didn’t want to make money out of it. I mean, it wasn’t very serious, we got a lot of, initial traction on Reddit.

Like we posted the project on various sub Reddit and at some point. It blew off in, um, I think it was the frugal male fashion subreddits, like it had, uh, one thousands of a votes or something. And, um, in like 48 hours, we were I Pierre’s house in the south of France sitting on his couch. And we were looking at the signup numbers that we’re growing exponentially.

and we probably had something like two or 3000. Signups in 48 hours and we were a, you know, a very, um, and we just take about it. at forum and, um, slightly after the, the graphs are go to the ground. And, um, it was kind of the initial, uh, you know, um, launch was, over and the. It was a step back to reality where, um, we had to figure out a way to, uh, acquire, uh, users and make money.

And it was a much harder than expected. Um,

Andrew: why. So. I see the enthusiasm I’m actually on that subreddit and people love it. They’re there, there’s this one person who said I wanted something like this for so long going to check it out. Thanks for the hard work. 82 upvotes on that comment, right? Uh, it just goes on and on where people are saying, this makes so much sense for me.

So I get that they were using. I imagine you had, you had a business model here. So I imagine you were bringing in some revenue from this. These were people who were specifically saying they want to buy something. You’re telling them this, a lower price as a chance that lower price will go back up and be higher.

So there’s some incentive to buy quickly. I would imagine you’d make enough money there that you could then start using it to buy advertising and grow it and keep on going. What part of my am I getting wrong? Was it that people weren’t buying.

Kevin: Well, no people were buying. First thing, uh, we were doing this, uh, on, uh, our free time. So we didn’t spend a lot of time growing it and taking care of it. I would say that the, uh, uh, economics of this, uh, can work, but it can work only at a certain. Um, we were, um, doing about a 100 or $200 a month in commissions.

So I think that in order to make a, a company out of it, you need a, probably a hundred thousand or 1 million user, um, to, um, you know, to, um, to, to sustain, uh, uh, several employees. Um, and, um, we just didn’t know, uh, how to, uh, You know how to acquire more users. Like basically the only thing that we did in order to acquire users was to post on Reddit and get lucky.

Um,

Andrew: the users that you had, they weren’t profitable really to get only a hundred dollars a month from how many users did you have, who actually installed the Chrome plugin?

Kevin: I’d say a 5,000 something like that.

Andrew: Got it. So the conversions weren’t strong enough. Why do you think the conversions weren’t strong enough?

Kevin: I would say that, um, the product wasn’t polished at all, it was like, you know, the, kind of the software version of a kid that drawing something. So that’s one explanation. Um, and like, uh, we didn’t knew anything about conversion rate optimization. Uh, we didn’t like we had no idea what we’re doing. So, uh, I think it explains, um, um, the project’s failure,

Andrew: What’d you still working full time?

Kevin: uh, at the time, um, Sarah was working full time. Uh,

Andrew: So you were already, so you weren’t focused on this full time

on shop to list you weren’t where, where was your attention?

Kevin: I was working on my book, uh, and I was also, um, doing some freelance freelance consulting on this.

Andrew: Okay. So if I were to just analyze this, this idea, it seems like it makes sense. The challenge was you didn’t have enough time to talk to your users and find out why they weren’t buying more. When you say it wasn’t polished enough, that’s that’s helpful. It could be more polished. What might be more helpful is to understand what features are they missing or why they not using it, or was it just for stuff that they were longing for and not really looking to buy or, or whatever it was.

Is that fair to say?

Kevin: it is, we’d like talk to ’em, no one from our customer list. not customer user list. so yeah.

Andrew: And you weren’t, it seems like also talking to other entrepreneurs to see what could you do to find out more about what your users were doing about search engine optimization? You guys have become incredible at content. You weren’t talking, learning about that either. Am I right

Kevin: No, no, we weren’t like at the time we weren’t into any community, weren’t talking to a. It was just, um, some kind of hobby project, we just had this idea 30, it was fun and decided to build it over a weekend, a lunch date and see how it went. but it was actually, it was really a good experience.

We learned about, you know, Reddit, we learned about, deal real software, that is used by, uh, thousands of users. So,

Andrew: yeah.

I get that. So now you learn more about how to become real entrepreneurs. The kind that you now are right now, Kevin, you and UNP are still working together. Right?

Kevin: yeah.

Andrew: Okay. Let me take a moment. I want to talk about my, my sponsor send in blue. I saw your eyes light up. Kevin. When I mentioned them, do you know, send them.

Kevin: I’ve heard about.

Andrew: Let me tell you why my, I wasn’t sure if they would do well with my audience, to be honest with you. And then I started talking to my interviewees and my audience and I understood here’s the problem. What sending blue does is they do email marketing in the email marketing space. You either get really inexpensive or frankly, even free email software.

That’s very basic. Or you get more sophisticated software that does smart things. Like if somebody buys from you, it automatically stops sending them offers to buy again. And it definitely doesn’t send them offers to buy again at a discount that’s lower than the price that they already bought. Right.

Those little, if the person does this, then we do that. Those transactional emails, the segmentation, those things are reserved for the more expensive software. The problem with email marketing. The S the expensive software companies will come in with a bait and switch price. Now it’s not a lie. It’s up on their website.

You can see, but when you’re just starting out, you say, all right, I’ll just sign up for this email company. They have the features we want. It’s not that expensive. And yet if I move this slider all the way to the end, it becomes expensive. If I’m moving all the way to the end, I’ll figure it out. Then what you don’t realize is a lot of businesses, Kevin just become big.

Email-wise where the list just grows and grows. And even if you people have unsubscribed, the company will still consider them part of your email list. So your email list is growing when people unsubscribe or staying the same one now unsubscribe, and it’s growing when people add and meanwhile, your prices going up and up and up and up.

And you want to switch and you know, you could, because they always say emails, your lists, you can move it anywhere you want. But there, there are all kinds of issues with switching, where if you go to another company and you say these people have double opted in the other company may not accept it. If you start sending email from a different server, from a different company, your email may not get this same deliverability.

People may actually certainly consider it spam. Maybe they suddenly didn’t get it before, but they are getting it now because the new email company has better deliverability and your email gets in, reaches them and they go, I don’t remember signing up and they hit the spam button on you and they hit it so much that the new spam, the new company says, you’re a spammer.

We don’t want you on all these issues come up. And so, you know, as a company that uses. It’s all right, I’ll just stick with this. And yes, it’s expensive. We’ll eat it. It sucks. And now email becomes our biggest expense after people in and office, but I suppose we’re making money from it. So you accept it.

So the reason that people who I interview when people, my audience likes send in blue is they have all these features. And if you move the slider up all the way, you can see that the price is still very reasonable because here’s the secret. Email, it does not cost a lot of money to send we’re talking of not pennies, but fractions of pennies per email, these companies are only using the money for more marketing.

They’re only using the money to bring in more people who then they trapped forever. All right. That’s why people like send them blue. I’m going to tell you that if you use my URL, you’re going to get an even lower price. They’re cutting off 50% for three months from their already low plan. And they’ll see that you like this idea that what they’re doing makes sense, send them blue, go research them highly funded, highly successful company.

And if you use my URL, you’re going to end up with a great price from a great company. It’s send in blue.com/mixergy. Anyone who’s starting a company, they should be considering sending blue for email marketing. Kevin. That was a long ad, but I saw your eyes. You recognize this when I’m on a roll. I just keep on going.

Kevin: It’s funny because, um, you know, when you talk about. Company is, um, email marketing companies that are, um, uh, baling, people with, um, the lower, plants. I have a great meme that comes to my head. So

Andrew: Even you want to make a meme about it?

Kevin: no, there is existing meme

Andrew: the army was about these email companies that come in bait and switch that’s. Oh, I didn’t realize the problem was already so meaningful.

Kevin: They are like, especially about, um, uh, one specific company that keeps raising that keeps raising its prices every year with a famous emails. I don’t know if I’m allowed to cite the company, but.

Andrew: All right. So continuing on with the story, what’s the next thing that you created? Was it priced by.

Kevin: Yeah, so we realized. With sharp lists, we had some users that’s where adding, um, a substantial amount of products, like hundreds of products and like we asked ourselves what are they doing? are they a compulsive buyers? What’s happening here? And we realized that it was not the usual, users, but in fact, those users were e-commerce owners that were using shop lists as a way to monitor their competitors.

And they were doing it in order to get their own pricing. Right. we were like, okay. That’s a wonderful, uh, finding though might be something to do in this space because basically a peer and I, we wanted to, uh, uh, launch something. We wanted to create our own company.

And we thought that this was a signal and an opportunity to launch a B2B site. That would monitor e-commerce prices. that’s where the, um, pricing, but idea came from. I think we did a, a lot of, uh, mistakes afterward, even with, the process the, the thinking process about this idea.

Andrew: Y, this makes total sense, though. You were dealing with consumers before consumers are not going to spend money for your software. You’re hoping that eventually they’ll use it to buy something from somewhere else, but frankly, if they’re cheap enough that they’re using your software, maybe they’re so cheap that they find another way to go in and get an even better deal than you’re offering them or whatever.

Right. Meanwhile, businesses they’ll pay for this and you’re seeing that they use it. What’s The, problem. What didn’t you understand?

Kevin: The, um, the problem we, we, we discovered it afterwards after building it. It’s as in many cases in entrepreneurship, I would say We didn’t have any idea on how to get those customers, the distribution. Wasn’t something that we thought about and we had to learn it the hard way.

And the other problem is that we didn’t experience. This problem ourselves. And so lots of that we didn’t know about. and, that’s something that led to many problems, uh, with pricing books.

Andrew: Like what, give me an example of a subtlety that you didn’t know about.

Kevin: For example, the product matching. So for example in the e-commerce space like the same product can have different names and different product code or SKU across many different online vendors. And it’s really, really hard to do the matching. Like a, it’s almost like it’s a problem that haven’t been solved assault even by a big.

Marketplaces, like for example, Walmart, they published a paper, like their engineering team published a paper on this. They basically, they have some clues on how to do it, but it doesn’t work for you. Well, and so obviously and I, uh, tour engineers in the south of France, it was difficult for us to solve this problem.

So it was one of the many problems from the product side. And then there were many product problems on the marketing.

Andrew: It seems like. The, if I’m right about it, the example is like mattresses growing up, we used to hear all these mattress ads on the radio and they would say, no, one’s going to beat our price on the Sila, whatever Serta perfect sleeper. And it wasn’t till later on that we realized, of course, no one could, because each one of these mattress stores gets the exact same mattress with a different name so that they could have the lowest price on that one.

But they also are the only ones selling that mattress. I’m guessing. That’s what you’re talking about. That it’s that type of a thing that is hard to deal with.

Kevin: Yeah, that that’s, um, that’s one of the things that is, uh, hard to do. there were, um, uh, many others, but like basically we, when we launched uh, pricing, but we managed to get to around 500 or $1,000 in monthly recurring revenue. But, the churn was high. We hadn’t any clue on how to build a system to acquire customers in a repeatable way.

It was really hard for us to acquire them through SEO, even though, even at the time we had some solid base. In SEO, but it was really hard because we weren’t e-commerce experts and we didn’t experienced there issues and you know, it’s hard to. even if you’re the best SEO out there and you come up with great keyword research, uh, with, uh, et cetera, et cetera, that the articles that you are going to write about.

If you don’t know, if you’re not an expert on the subject, they will lack a substance. They will let you know the thing that makes reader steak and that make your article and a deep. For the reader and that’s basically what SEO is about.

Andrew: Okay, so now you say we need to rethink this and come up with another idea and you say we are web scraper. You Kevin have now done this at three different companies, one professionally, and then two that were startups that you were building, you know, the problems of scraping the internet, you may be, could solve it.

And that’s what the idea for scraping B was born from this idea that you understand this problem, that people who scrape data hub, but what is the problem? And are there other people like you? How did you see it at the time?

Kevin: when we built, pricing, but, and also with. sharp list. We, um, experienced a lot of issues with two things. The first one is, as I mentioned earlier in the podcast, JavaScript rendered. It’s a fairly, uh, deep technical issue at everyone’s scraping the internet face. the other one was proxy management.

There were existing solution on the market that we use both for, uh, shop to list and pricing, but, but we re weren’t satisfied at all.

Andrew: Oh, Kevin. So you weren’t doing your own scraping in those companies. You were just using other services and you said we’re not, we’re not getting what we want out of it. Is that right? I thought you were doing your own scraping there.

Kevin: It was a mix like we were, we had, we had some scraping. uh, We also had to use some third parties in order to speed up our process. the great thing about that is that we experienced the whole thing, building it. In-house using third party API APIs and proxies, et cetera.

And so, um, that’s what made us That there were a huge opportunity, uh, to come up with a simple product that does the job well. And like we, as I said, we, we could have been a customer of this kind of, uh, service. So we really, like, we really knew what we wanted to build. We really, and the other thing that made the star.

Is that we also knew exactly how to distribute it because I, myself, wrote many blog posts on my own blog about web scraping. So, um, I knew, like I knew exactly how to market it. the thing is we started, blogging and we started all our SEO efforts even before having the actual products so that when we launched, we already had existing traffic on our blog, which is, uh, like, every startup dream.

Andrew: Yeah, that makes sense. Can I get people who are interested in scraping and need new software for it even pay attention. And of course, yeah, you had a whole blog on it and these people were reading you already.

Kevin: Yeah, exactly.

Andrew: Okay. And the other thing that you wanted was you wanted to make sure that you are unlike shop too.

You wanted to make sure that you are making money quickly. And so did you pre-sell before you created the software.

Kevin: Nope. we did a, an open better which was free and got, um, I dunno, the specific number, maybe a 50 or a hundred better users. But we didn’t, presale the product. We, um, we, we launched it pretty quickly after building our better. But we didn’t.

Andrew: Okay. All right. I did see on your site, you said we want to ask for money as early as possible. Why didn’t.

you start charging before you finished it?

Kevin: Because we basically had the the, the timeframe we had to launch was pretty short. Like we knew we could come up uh, with something in a four to six months period, and we. we didn’t, um, put much, thought about it. We were just like, we build it. And then we launched and people will pay a function.

Andrew: Did you try other things to do, to get customers beyond blogging and.

Kevin: Fourth answer is at the beginning. You said that you, you mean.

Andrew: Uh, I guess then beginning it was blog post on your personal blog. That’s what brought in the first customers. Did you try anything else?

No, you just said we’re going to stick to the one thing that’s working for us. We’re not going to learn about how to use Reddit to get scraping customers. We’re not going to go to conferences and learn how to get there and then speak and how to convert

Kevin: We, yeah, we basically, we, we were from the beginning and so-called open startup, meaning that we tweeted at at about our progress, even our revenue numbers. Our traffic, the different things that we did. So it drained some customers at the beginning, we were very active on the indie hackers. And community, which is great.

And I highly encourage people to, uh, hang there. but no, we didn’t do any, um, cold outreach. we didn’t, uh, went to any conferences. the one thing, that we did. Was that we’re very active on, communities, even, some French, communities like, uh, there is some, a forum in France called the growth hackers.fr, uh, which is, uh, as its name suggests a forum for growth hackers.

And so w we got, uh, some early customer. But I would say that 80 to 90% of our customers came from our blog and content.

Andrew: All right. And then one thing that you did, I hadn’t seen any other entrepreneur do it. You, you had the same challenge we all do is how do you get customers on the phone? People don’t want to get on a phone with you. How many times do you hear some guru say talk to your customers? And yes, I guess customers, once they’re buying there, they’re happy to talk to you.

They want better products. They want to meet the people who they’re sending money to, but before. They don’t want to talk to a company. They think it’s gonna be a sales call. They think it’s going to be an endless sales follow-up. And so what you did was, well, actually, maybe I should tee that up and have you explain it, what was it that you did?

Do you know what I’m talking

Kevin: Yeah. So basically we had the banner on our dashboard. So the dashboard is where when you log in you, you arrive to the dashboard and the banner said something like Hey, um, if you uh, jump on a call with us, you’ll get a 10,000 free credit, three API credits. And, um, it was a great incentive.

For people to jump on a call and explain to me there are problems, uh, what their company was trying to achieve, et cetera, et cetera. And I did this in a. Like it was not a pushy sales call. think I’m, I’m no, I’m, I’m, uh, an introvert and not really, um, good nor experienced at sales, but I think it’s a great thing because it makes me ask a lot of questions.

Uh, Listen to. And I think, a great sales process is about, like knowing as much as you can about who your potential customers, uh, see if there is a fit. And, um, more than that, when you are in the early stage you can really learn a lot about, uh, many different industries and many use cases.

Uh, have imagined and I have some specifics, uh,

Andrew: was going to ask you, what did you learn from the calls that, you didn’t know?

Kevin: yeah, for example there is this one customer. I can’t, uh, name the company, but it’s um, government agency, uh, in Europe. that’s a market, a regulator, that, looks for, ads about unregistered securities through scraping.

So there are scraping different websites where there is, there are ads and there are checking those ads and, uh, looking at, if those ads are selling, earn registered security. And basically are doing some fraud monitoring through scraping. I couldn’t have imagined about this use case that you cannot invent it unless you talk to, to touch, you know, to, uh, the potential customer and domain counselors, examples like this, where, um, like a win you know, I, I had to, um, uh, stop doing it as time passed, because I had enough calls to get a sense of the market and then it was taking too much time, for me, like basically at some point my calendar was full of those customer interviews and I couldn’t do it anymore.

So I felt. And I filtered on industries that I didn’t knew a lot about for, for example each time a university, uh, registered to scraping, I was offering a car to understand better how scaping B can be used or how web scraping in general is used by researchers. And I also learned a thumbs up.

Yeah, I mean, it was really a gold mine, not just, in terms of, um, closing customers, but more like, uh, learning about their use cases.

Andrew: What do you do with that? So if you’re talking to a customer who suddenly says that they found some random use for your software, what do you do? Do you start to look to see if there are others like them? Do you start to see if there’s a market there or are you just filing it away in your.

Kevin: the first, the direct application for us was to have content ideas. Like w when you learned about what are the biggest challenge, uh, for your customers, then you can write about. And if you realize that many people share the same challenge, then obviously it’s going to be a big search volume and it’s great.

And the issue when you you’re doing SEO for. Deep technical products like us is that all the keyword research tool there is on the markets. Aren’t precise enough to get you the real estimation of the volume, like basically should go to H refs or whatever, and type some very technical keyword.

It will say there is a, I don’t know, 20 or a hundred. Volume monthly volume on the steward, but in many cases, vastly under estimated and, the one way we, um, that we found, to get content ideas with that. And then there is also, uh, many other benefits, for example. You can, improve your onboarding with the right content to push, to help them solve their problems, et cetera, et cetera.

So it’s great on many aspects.

Andrew: Okay. You wrote on your site that one of the things that happened to you in 2020 was you. To this. Um, I forget the phrase you used, but you are going through the loop of working hard to talk to customers, right? Content add to the product. It was the grind year. You called it.

Kevin: Yeah.

Andrew: I’m looking at the charts because you’re pretty public about your revenue over time.

Eventually I see a spike in revenue. I, I, I guess it’s towards the end of 2020, where did that come from? Why did suddenly more people start to find scrape?

Kevin: I think that there are many, uh, factors that, explain, this. So the first one is that SEO started like, you know, the, the compound effect of SEO started kicking in and we really starting getting, more and more traffic to our books. Uh, one thing, the other thing is that we made a lot of iterations around our pricing It’s kind of a mindblowing how it works.

Like, uh, you know, there are many, uh, SAS gurus out there that says, uh, increase your pricing. And like as an entrepreneur, uh, it’s really hard to do because you have lots of fears. You are. Thinking to yourself that uh, no it’s going to hurt my conversion rate. Um, my, customers are going to churn more et cetera, et cetera, but depending on, uh, who you are target customers are, especially when it’s big companies and you move, markets.

I think that we, learn, along the way called price insensitivity, like basically a big company that is, uh, using scraping B for them paying a a hundred dollar or a $250 a month. It’s a rounding error. Like. Most of the time that you don’t even have to go through the classic purchasing process.

They just have, you know, allowance on their credit card and they just don’t care. and basically we, we made some experiments. We, increased our pricing several times, several times and, um, it, grew our revenue significantly. and then there is also. The fact that the product, uh, we were adding more uh, requested features and we had more and more expansion revenue, which is kind of the, um, end goal for assess businesses, the golden, uh, negative churn.

Andrew: Meaning they’re using you for more things each month because you’re adding more. And I think the way you charge is per per API call.

So basically per use. And so the more they’re using you, the more they’re paying.

Kevin: Yeah.

Andrew: Got it. Okay. What was the company? Was it called something else in the past?

Kevin: Yeah. It was called scraping.

Andrew: Scraping ninja. Okay. Congratulations on doing this. I can see you’ve got one employee plus two co-founders right. It’s just a three-person team, a million dollars in sales. You’ve hit the number you’ve grown. You’ve got a company that you could be proud of. And that makes sense. Thanks so much for coming on here, Kevin and talking about it.

Kevin: Thanks for having me.

Andrew: Cool. All right. The company is scraping B and again, my sponsor, if you need an email company email marketing has done right over it. Send in blue.com/mixergy. Go sign up and let me know what you think. Bye. Bye everyone.

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