Andrew: Listen up. I hate to have commercials interrupt this interview, so I’m going to tell you about three sponsors ,quickly now. Then we’re going to go right into the program. Starting with Walker Corporate Law. If you need a lawyer who understands the startup world and the tech community, I want you to go to walkercorporatelaw.com.
Next I want to tell you about Shopify. When your friend asks you, how can I sell something online? I want you to send them to Shopify, and explain to them that Shopify stores are easy to set up. They increase sales, and they’ll make your friend’s products look great. Shopify.
Finally, I want to tell you about Grasshopper. Do you want a phone number that people can call, and then press one for sales, two for tech support, etc., and have all of the calls be routed to the right person’s cell phone. Well, get your number from grasshopper.com.
All right. Let’s get started. Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I am the founder of mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. Look at the smile on my face, the pride that I have in running this site now. In the beginning it used to be, hey, I’m Andrew. I’m running the site. Now that I see how much power it has, how many people have been influenced by it, I’m really proud that I’m a part of it. Let alone that I get to do these interviews.
Sometimes people ask me how I get these fantastic interviewees on Mixergy, so I’ll tell you how I met today’s guest. I met him through an email that I got from a past Mixergy interviewee. Nathan Latka of Heyo, said to me, hey, I wanted you to meet Thomas Kjeldgaard. He bootstrapped Pagemodo by taking a loan on his parent’s house, grew it to 80,000 users with no ad span, and then sold it to webs.com after eight months.
He’s a really smart entrepreneur who’s now building Splashpost with no, quote, real education. I think he’ll provide a lot of value to the Mixergy folks. Here he is, direct from Bangkok, Thailand, I’m proud to meet Thomas. Thomas, thanks for doing this interview.
Thomas: It’s a pleasure, Andrew.
Andrew: You’re a fan and a Mixergy Premium member, so I’m especially proud to have you on here. I’m especially eager for the audience to hear why the first version of your site had on it a fake video.
Thomas: Well, the reason that we had a fake video was simply because we didn’t have a product yet. We . . .
Andrew: What was the fake video then?
Thomas: The fake video was some graphic, and then we put together a video that showed the product that didn’t exist yet. It was, literally, just to test out the market before we moved on, because we didn’t really have a lot of money. Before we actually wanted to really build it, we just simply put together some graphic. Really crappy website. Some graphic off of Pagebuilder. Then we just put together a video that looks like this tool actually was working.
Andrew: If the tool actually did work, what was it supposed to do?
Thomas: It was supposed to let people custom design their Facebook pages based on templates. That was in 2010. It was really, really hot at that time for businesses to get on Facebook. The time when Facebook hadn’t killed the landing pages yet.
Thomas: People weren’t able to software to service, so anyone can use it. No technical skills needed. You go in. You then select template. After you select template, you then go in and you design the template. Simply like you do with any website. [??] Then you just publish on Facebook. Apparently, we wasn’t really sure if this was possible, because no one did it before. Anyway, we needed to get some traction to find out if people actually want this.
We put together a fake video, a crappy website. You can probably find it out there if you search for it. It looks really crappy, but we get it out there. Then we did grow a little bit of traffic by going to forms, and so on. I think we maybe have spent, I don’t know, 20 bucks, maybe just in the cheap countries. We didn’t really have enough money to market ads in the U.S. We then sent people to the site, and showed them the video. Then we told them, we’re so sorry. It is almost ready. However, if you are interested in this tool, please opt-in below, and we’ll contact you when we launch. That was the . . .
Andrew: First you were saying the tool doesn’t exist, and then you asked for the email address? Or first did you ask for the email address and say, ‘Sorry, the tool doesn’t exist yet. It will soon.’
Thomas: I’m pretty sure we ask for the email first.
Andrew: That’s what I thought. Here’s the thing. Don’t people get upset when they see a video of a product that they want, that they’re ready to use, they trust you with their email address and then you say, ‘It’s not ready yet’?
Thomas: We didn’t really get any bad feedback. I see what you’re saying and if it’s been in the States, if you actually run the ads in the States, maybe they would have because they’re a little more into the Internet marketing. Again, I’m not 100 percent sure if we ask for the email first but I think so. I am not sure though.
Andrew: Regardless, people do do that even in the U.S. and I’m amazed by how common it is and how accepting users are. It’s like, ‘You know what? I’m OK with waiting.’ Are you in Thailand right now because you went to a cheap part of the world just to start a business?
Thomas: No. Not at all. I live in Bangkok, we’ve been here four years so the reason I ended up here was complete coincidence. I was back in Denmark. I had a house, the cat and the girlfriend. A real life, if you can call it that, and I had a job in an auto diesel company and things didn’t really work out as I want them to be. Me and my that time girlfriend we split up, so on, so I’m thinking, ‘You know what? This is just not for me. I need to get away.’ I sold the car. I sold the house, literally everything. I gave away the cats though, I didn’t sell them. Then I bought a backpack.
I wanted to dive so I went to Thailand because there’s great diving here and my plan was to go around in southeast Asia. I didn’t really get that far, so I ended up here in Bangkok spending a lot of time here and also down South, up north [sounds like]. Then I was going to Malaysia and I’m in Malaysia for diving as well as great diving and I met a girl there who lived in Bangkok.
Then while I was on the road I did a lot of self studying and I actually ended up having a small startup south of India while I was down here.
Andrew: What kind of studying? You told April, who pre-interviewed you for us here at Mixergy, that you did a lot of online courses. What kind of courses? What were you trying to do?
Thomas: All kind of courses because I literally didn’t know anything at that time. I’m pretty stubborn and when there’s something I want to learn, I’m learning it and I’m on it like full time.
Andrew: Can you give me an example of something that you learned on your own?
Andrew: Like what?
Thomas: Everything from UI, UX, tracking, some basic coding, code architecture.
Andrew: I see. You were saying, ‘I’m going to be an Internet entrepreneur here. I need to learn the basic stuff. How do you get conversions. How do you do user experience? That kind of thing.
Andrew: What happened to the business that you started in India?
Thomas: The Indian business, I wasn’t happy with the team there so I backed out of it. I said, ‘I don’t care. I’m still going to do this.’ It was similar to [??], which we end up starting.
Andrew: You mean you were going to start some kind of Facebook page creation business?
Andrew: What do you mean by, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’m so eager to hear this story I’m now talking over you. I’ve got to pull back a little bit. What do you mean by, ‘I wasn’t happy with the team in India’?
Thomas: When you have partners, this is what I’ve learned, it is so fricking important who [??] actually partnering up with. You can easily great people, great developers, great marketing people, whatever. If they don’t have the right mindset as you have and just ready to work [??] butt off 24 hours a day, and if you don’t have the same passion, it’s not going to work. I tried it afterwards as well with a few small projects. Then it’s not going to work.
Andrew: How were you and how were they? Were you like the guy who was at work early and working hard and they were just casually coming in when they felt like it and talking about how their big startups were really doing nothing?
Thomas: [??] was the one who was pushing. I was the one who was running things. I had a big passion for it because I just wanted to do this and then it didn’t really work out so I just tell them, ‘You know what? No problem. I’m just going to back out.’ [??] OK. I was in Bangkok. No problem. I’m still going to do this. We wasn’t 100 percent sure yet what it’s going to be. The one in India was a little bit different than [??]. Then I was just here in Thailand, say, ‘I’m just still going to do this.’ Then by complete coincidence I met my co-founder at Pagemodo, Jay [??], here in Bangkok.
Andrew: How did you meet your co-founder?
Thomas: There was a Danish broadcast for entrepreneurs. So I was listening to that. And there was one guy, he was in Thailand, doing a start- up in Thailand, so I think, hey, I am going to hook up with him. So I went down to see him, and Jacob wasn’t working with him at that time. And we get along pretty good together. And I told him about what I was doing and then we just agreed on let’s do this together. So we just ended up doing it together. He’s from Denmark as well, but I’ve never seen the guy in Denmark before. The first time I saw him was here.
Andrew: Wow, so because you heard someone in a podcast, and you connected with him, you ended up finding your co-founder.
Andrew: So now, you have a co-founder. You have a lot of knowledge, and you have some experience that shows you what you don’t want to do. You don’t want to partner with people who aren’t as committed as you are. It’s time to get that idea. Where is the idea for Pagemodo come from?
Thomas: So the first idea was that, because we were in Thailand, Facebook pages were starting to get pretty hot at that time, like the big brands and so on was most of the people who actually had it. So we saw actually there was a need to this. People were using it. So we are thinking, we are in Thailand, just going to do the same, you know, going to start this service company that’s going to deliver these Facebook pages. We can do it pretty cheap, ‘cos we are here. So that was the first initial idea. We were looking at it and so on, like, and that’s scalable, and these kind of thing, you know, trying really to put it down. And then we met with another guy who had he had a builder for building a small, I think it was PDFs or something like that for his business. We saw his tool, and he was actually an old friend of Jacob’s from Denmark, or his dad. And we saw this tool, and we were like, that’s a lot better and it’s scalable. Let’s do that. And then just differentiate ourselves a little bit based on the templates, so we have the template and so on, which no one ever did before. So that was, that was how we got started.
Andrew: And this guy had a PDF tool that created PDFs?
Thomas: Something like that.
Andrew: And wasn’t creating Facebook pages.
Thomas: No, no Facebook pages. It was just, we just saw this builder, and then like, hah, we got to do a builder that’s scalable. It’s a lot better. So then we ended up doing the builder instead.
Andrew: OK. So April asked you about the mistakes that you made with that first version which, by the way, I am looking at the original first version of your site. I don’t agree that it’s crappy. I do agree that it’s a very basic site. It looks templated.
Thomas: I’m not sure, OK, the one you are looking at, does it have a, because there was two. There’s one that is yellow in the left or right hand corner, and then there is one that is blue with three steps at the bottom where there’s in the left hand corner, there is something about creating games, Facebook games. That was like the first one.
Andrew: This is the one with the blue buttons at the top of the page.
Thomas: I think that’s the one.
Andrew: Oh, so I think I am looking at a little…I guess I can’t get an early, early, early version of it. It says promote your products, 100% customized, embed photos and videos, publish instantly, branded Facebook games, custom Facebook pages, enter your email address and hit submit.
Thomas: Oh, maybe you’re on that one.
Andrew: Maybe it is. Good. I see what you mean. It’s not the prettiest but it’s not the ugliest site that I’ve seen. The mistake though, that, she, as she was pushing you, I mean, we pushed you a lot. We push you on the interviews, we push you in the pre-interviews, we push you at the research. You told her that the big mistake that you made was that you didn’t keep your leads warm. Why, before I understand, why didn’t you do that?
Thomas: Because we didn’t know better. Simple like that.
Andrew: You got the email address and then you spent months building the product and then you told them, hey, it’s up? Is that the problem?
Thomas: Yeah. That was the big problem.
Andrew: How many months?
Thomas: I think 3 months before we had…
Andrew: Three months is enough for the leads to go cold.
Thomas: I’ll say so, yeah.
Thomas: Simply because, if we had done what I would have done today just like getting the leads, and then giving people some content that actually mattered too. Because we knew they were interested in Facebook marketing. They must have a business on Facebook. If not, they will not sign up. So, if we just have sent them, you know, content on Facebook marketing, like reality, all these kinds of things. We would have been, like, on top of their minds, uh, the day that we launched, uh, which we weren’t, because we didn’t really keep up the communication.
Andrew: I see, so you were just so deep in build it mode, but…
Thomas: We were deep in building mode and also, it was just a mistake. I will definitely just recommend keep your leads warm.
Andrew: So, you are also not a developer, and as I understand it, neither is Jacob.
Andrew: How did you guys, then, build this first version of the site that you promised people, if neither one of you is a developer?
Thomas: We hired a developer here. We hired a few, and they built it for us. We did all the UI, planned the whole thing, how it’s going to be. And then we simply hired people. There was one day actually where we ended up with, I think we are probably around 40% done or something like that, and everyone just quit. So…
Andrew: 40% done and your developer quits.
Thomas: Yeah, and the designer as well.
Thomas: Well, they weren’t really happy. For some reason, we were staying outside Bangkok at the time and we were just too far away from his family. And so, we just sat at the office…We actually had a townhouse at that time, Jacob and I. So we had the office on the ground floor, and I stayed on the first, Jacob on the second. We just sat there in the morning, there was no one else at the office than us, but there was only one way. Get out there again.
Andrew: Get out there and do what? Now you have a 40% finished product?
Thomas: We need a new developer. We need a new designer.
Andrew: How did you find a new developer and a new designer in this foreign country?
Thomas: It’s not easy but we were lucky, let’s say it that way.
Andrew: What did you do?
Thomas: For the designer, we actually found him online. It was, yeah, just complete coincidence. He actually just came back from UK and worked in UK. So we got him. And the developer was actually another guy who’s been working a little bit for us on and off. He had some freelance and side line and so on. We then went to him and said, dude, we got a problem. Luckily, he was pretty passionate about it and also a little bored with the freelance stuff that he did. So he said, OK, let’s do it. So it didn’t really take that long, maybe a week, before we were up and running, if you can say that. But still, you know, even now with 40% code, you need new code to take over. It’d still take a long time before they get into it- what was the product about, what [??] these kinds of things.
Andrew: I see. What did it cost you to get that first version of the site up?
Thomas: …What did it cost? You mean, with the….
Andrew: Roughly, because I know you weren’t flush with cash…
Thomas: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You mean, with the builder actually working, like…
Thomas: …yeah. I can find out from probably. Can’t even remember our burning rate. So let’s see. Let’s say it took less than 3 months. I’m calculating in Baht here, so I need to get it in US. Roughly, let’s say, about [pause] that’s including our rent, right, we had that office and so on, was…
Thomas: Three months, that is [??] which is then in US will be, let me see here…
Andrew: He is doing his month on his iPhone 5. Just a rough estimate. It doesn’t even have, but as long as …
Thomas: I mean, it’s around $13,000.
Thomas: Yeah, 13.
Andrew: For the first three months of work and rent.
Andrew: OK. Where did you get that money?
Thomas: Well, the thing was that, we had actually had an investor in the beginning. So we got this guy, he believed in Jacob and I. He wanted to be a part of it He believed in the idea. So he came and said, guys, you know what? I have an office. You can stay here for free. Then I got the office. Everything is just set for you. Just come here. I pay all the expenses. You just come here and you just got to start working. OK. It sounds great. Let’s do that. So we then went there and pretty fast we found out that we were just not a right match for him.
Andrew: And you already gave him a piece of your business?
Thomas: We already gave him a piece of our business. However, because he was a little bit too lazy, you can say we didn’t any contract yet. Even we were, like, pushing to get it done, but we didn’t get it.
Thomas: Luckily for us. Then one day we just turned out that this was not the right match. So, what we did was we told them, you know what, this is not going to work. We had to pay him back the money that he already spent, and we already collected the leads telling us they were interested in what we were doing. We needed some money. I didn’t really have a dime, more or less.
Thomas: You know, I called my mom back in Denmark, saying, mom, you know what, I’m here in Thailand doing this awesome startup. I need some money. Not a lot, but I need some. My mom and dad, they are not rich. Luckily they wanted to help me. They said, okay, we don’t have the money, but we can talk to the bank. I talked to the bank.
The bank then agreed on if they put their house on the table, I can get some money. I then got some money out, so I borrowed the money from the bank in Denmark. We paid back the investor. We got our new townhouse where we stayed together, Jacob and I, with the office. That was how I got the first money and then . . .
Andrew: Wow! Your parents risked their house on this idea.
Thomas: Yeah. At least a part of it.
Andrew: How many email addresses did you get from that test where you were seeing if anyone was interested in this idea?
Thomas: Well, if you ask me today, we didn’t get enough. We were eager to do this. Probably a thousand plus.
Andrew: A thousand plus. That’s not bad at all.
Thomas: That’s not bad at all.
Andrew: For just a couple of bucks advertising. What it told you was there was an interest in this idea that you had. People wanted it.
Thomas: It did tell us there was an interest in the product. One important thing to remember here also is Facebook pages was already out there, but it was only big brands who had the money to do it. There was things showed that things are going this direction off Facebook pages and so on. It was like a mix of emails and of course looking at the market on a research, of course, that leaped to end up doing it.
Andrew: I see. You’re saying, hey look, Facebook fan pages are getting big. People obviously have pages for themselves, but businesses, brands don’t yet own, the big ones do. The small entrepreneurs don’t know how to create their own Facebook pages. We’ll create a tool for them.
Before I ask the next question, you’re on a Mac. Let’s put your Skype on ‘do not disturb.’ If you move your mouse to the top of your screen to the left of the clock, there’s a bubble. Kind of looks green or has . . .
Andrew: . . . a checkmark. Select that and go to the ‘do not disturb’ section.
Thomas: All right.
Andrew: That way when your friends come on Skpe, we won’t hear that bubble. I just wanted to explain to people why we were hearing that noise. Great. Now your mom puts the house up. You’re on the line. You’ve got your developer. You’re ready to launch. You go to your list of a thousand people who said, plus or minus a thousand, who say, I want this. What’s their reaction?
Thomas: The opening raid wasn’t really that good. I don’t remember exact numbers.
Thomas: Some people came to the tool. We started to get a few users, not a lot at all. As I mentioned earlier, most of them probably already forgot who we were, you know.
Andrew: Could you even collect credit cards at that point?
Thomas: No, we couldn’t.
Andrew: Was it free?
Thomas: It was free. Actually, the truth is what happened was that was one night we went out, and I think Jacob, he came home alone. He was probably a little bit tipsy would be my guess. Then, as I mentioned, we were in the townhouse, so he has to go through the office to get to this room. He’s, obviously, the tech guy so, of course, he had to check some news, or whatever, even though it was 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. in the morning. He went to TechParts and I think he saw this banner, or whatever, do you have a startup reads out, something like that.
He was putting in a email, I think I have something you guys would be interested in. He went to sleep and didn’t ever think about it. A few days later, we got contacted by TechParts saying that, hey, yeah, that sounds interesting. We’re definitely up for doing an article with you guys. It was freaking awesome. And I was like, Jacob, we cannot even collect any money yet. Oh, yeah. That’s right. So what we’re going to do is publish on Sunday, which means if we treat this right and put some of the other features on hold, we can integrate a Paypal solution with a one year early- bird for 19 bucks, just to see if people are actually going to pay us money. We got that integrated and we’re going to TechCrunch and, yeah, we got some sales.
Andrew: What kind of sales do you get from TechCrunch?
Thomas: Almost like the early-bird sales, so it was like 19 bucks for a year which… the pricing we ended up, I think, was like paid on a monthly basis. 9 bucks a month; 18 bucks a month, and 59 bucks a month. Just to check if someone wants to pay us money, and there’s a few people actually who want to pay, which is awesome. [laughs]
Andrew: Do you remember your first order?
Thomas: Yeah, like… there was not a lot. Maybe 20, 25?
Andrew: Your first orders came in from TechCrunch?
Thomas: Yeah, it did.
Andrew: And it was 25 bucks or so that people paid?
Thomas: 19 bucks.
Andrew: –that the person. Wow.
Thomas: Yeah. Just for an early bird. Just to check if people actually– . The tool wasn’t really ready yet.
Andrew: What was missing from it?
Thomas: The sites and the templates didn’t really look that good. There was a lot of [??]. Scalability. But of course, you just have to get out there. I mean, we didn’t do anything wrong. We could have probably waited just a little bit going [??]. However, it was the right time. Definitely it was, and the market was just ready. You’ve just got to get out there, so, yeah. I think it’s okay.
Andrew: Your call to action soon after that was–. First of all, you had TechCrunch code on your homepage very quickly. TechCrunch was your source for authority.
Andrew: But you also were quick to have a button on the side that said “Click here to connect with Facebook.”
Andrew: That was intentional.
Thomas: Because you need to connect to Facebook simply just to connect two pages and if you have a third-party app, you need to connect to Facebook before you can do that integration with Facebook.
Andrew: But you didn’t try to get their name and email address first on your site. You didn’t try to make–. You wanted it to be as smooth as possible. In fact, I think your early ads say something like… or your early call… your early headline said something like, “One step and we create the page for you.” You wanted to make it super easy.
Thomas: Yeah, so we did that, and we actually had–. At that time we had two options to use for login. The big button where the call to action was; that was a Facebook-connect button, but people actually also had an option to log in by email. It caused us some issues afterwards and so on, and that’s why when we did page [??] 2.0 we just had a Facebook connect button. However, what I know today by doing SplashPost and so on… yeah… I mean, there’s no rules here, right. But it’s… You probably want to [??] if you can because some people just want to get in first, you know, and won’t allow commissions and so on. But it really wasn’t that huge drop-off rate that we had.
Andrew: OK. At your height, how much revenue were you generating?
Thomas: When we sold it, I can’t remember, but I don’t think we had all our expenses covered. We maybe made [??]. I don’t know. I’m not really sure, honestly.
Andrew: We’re talking about ten, twenty thousand, more a month in revenue?
Thomas: No. Maybe less than that.
Andrew: Less than ten, even?
Thomas: I think so. I’m not even sure. It’s two years ago.
Andrew: Ok. Roughly. Can we say roughly ten thousand and be right?
Thomas: I mean, in the first–. We grew pretty fast in the beginning, right. So… it was probably in the beginning year we grew very fast, then of course then we get the pages out there, we make more, but, I mean, it would be wrong of me to say, “Ok, we can say that number because I, initially I [??].”
Andrew: You just don’t even remember to that degree?
Thomas: No. I don’t.
Andrew: How do you know for sure it wasn’t more than 20,000 a month?
Thomas: I’ll say that. At least in the first three months after launch.
Andrew: By the time you sold it did it hit 20,000 a month?
Thomas: I don’t remember it actually, and I’m not sure if I’m allowed to disclose those numbers.
Andrew: What did you sell the business for?
Thomas: I’m not allowed to say that.
Andrew: Are you a millionaire now as a result of that?
Thomas: I’m doing OK. Say it that way, however, I will say it this way. I still have to work. If you ask my old friends home in Denmark, they’ll say, ‘That’s a lot of money,’ however I still have to work. That’s [??] why I’m doing Slashpost [sounds like]. Slashpost is not my last startup.
Andrew: Do your friends know how much you sold the business for?
Thomas: Some of them in Denmark. My close friends, but mostly we aren’t allowed to disclose [??]
Andrew: Would you put it in the Skype chat. Just put the number. I won’t reveal to anyone. Just give me a sense of what a business like this could sell for. I’m on record completely here. I lose my credibility completely if I reveal it.
Thomas: If I say it, I’ll tell it to you here, I’ll be breaking the contract which is this thick.
Andrew: They said, ‘Don’t tell anyone what you sold the business for’?
Thomas: I’m pretty sure. Yes.
Andrew: Can you say in the Skype chat, yes or no, are you now a millionaire as a result of this sale? I see you’re typing. I’m not going to tell the audience anything. I’m not going to say anything. You’re not even going to see it on my face. I just need to know where things are so that I can evaluate other interviewees. Does it feel weird that you just told me that?
Thomas: I’m cool.
Andrew: You’re cool with it.
Thomas: [??] disclosure. Lawyers for these kind of things, big contracts, it’s really not my thing. I just want to be passionate, do things, these kind of things but you need it. Where I come from a handshake is a handshake, which unfortunately that’s not how it is in real life.
Andrew: We’re talking about eight months in. You found a great idea. Our mutual friend Nathan is raising money and building his business still and he was in a similar product to yours and he’s just growing and growing. Why did you decide to sell it?
Thomas: The reason we decided to sell was simply because the market was growing, however we were still working on someone else’s platform, which also I’m doing today, which is dangerous because you’re also piggy backing on someone else’s success. That means that we were looking into it and we’re like, ‘How do we believe in three years? Will Facebook pages still be big?’ We came to the conclusion that we weren’t sure and today you can see we were actually right.
Andrew: Because soon after you sold, what happened? Tell people who aren’t as aware of it.
Thomas: What happened was that previously when you go to any Facebook page, Facebook has the default landing page, which was the one you were customizing. Facebook then decided, ‘We don’t want that anymore. We want people to land on our new timeline.’ They, the [??] just killed the landing pages, which means now for people to drive traffic there they have to drive it directly there where about before, when you just went to the Facebook page, Facebook just sent it direct. It’s a default landing [??]
Andrew: It was an amazing time. People went to Facebook.com/mixergy and they could see the page exactly as I want them to see it. I can ask for an email address before they do anything else. I could have a video but I decided the experience. Now it’s whatever I happen to have done lately is what people will see. The first time Webs came to you and said, ‘We are interested in buying your company,’ how did they even find you?
Thomas: They just Googled us. We were the one with the brand. We were the biggest at that time. We had a brand and I think they actually talked with a few others as well.
Andrew: They just said, ‘We need to buy,’ just like people come to Webs.com to create web pages, they need to come to our site and be able to create Facebook fan pages. That could be the future. They Googled. They said, ‘Who’s around?’ Literally Googling is how they discovered you. [??] think
Thomas: [??] Googling and then they sell the [??]. The strange thing was that because of the exact timing and so on and because everyone was so hyped about social media and Facebook. I mean that TechCrunch article just made us grow like really, really fast. People just keep reading, reposting, rewriting new articles, asking for interviews, asking for interviews, all these kind of things. We had a lot of ingoing links, and so on.
Andrew: Okay. Okay. The first time, what was your response to them when they came and said, hey, we’re interested in buying you?
Thomas: We think that’s too early. That’s too early, because we didn’t really had thought at that time about even selling. We didn’t think of buying some kind of cash cow. That means that we just said no. They’d freak. They said okay. Actually, they gave an offer, but we said, no thanks.
We moved on. Then, I think, three months after or something, they came back to us. They said guys, we had a board meeting. We need to talk again. They we talked again, and we came to an agreement. I’m very, very happy that we did, because I feel very, very happy to have been a part of the [??] team. They are amazing people.
Haroon [SP] is two brothers. They are really, really amazing, and I’m very happy that I got the opportunity to work with them. We were there for one a half year. It’s been amazing, and I would not be able to do what I’m doing today if we did not sell to them, because I learned a lot of stuff.
Andrew: By the way, I wanted to ask you what you learned from them, but I’ve got to tell you that your histories are very similar. Haroon too, his first website also had features that didn’t exist yet. He talked about it on Mixergy. He said, look, I’ve got to be honest. A lot of the features that we put on the site weren’t around when we launched. Even later, much, much later, we still didn’t build them. We just put those features up to see if anyone cared. Very similar to you. What did you learn from him? That’s what I learned from him.
Thomas: Oh. Haroon is such a good product guy. Say that way. He’s a lovely person. He’s just a good product guy. He’s good at keeping calm, looking at things from different kind of perspectives. He’s just a really, really bright guy. The same as his two brothers, as well, that take care of the coding. They’re also highly skilled. There’s a great team. There’s also a reason that Vistaprint came and acquired them, and Pagemodo. That was also the reason that we only were there one and a half years.
Andrew: Were you supposed to stay there longer?
Thomas: Yeah, we were supposed to be there four years visiting our options.
Andrew: Four years?
Thomas: Yeah. For visiting our options. Because they got acquired by Vistaprint, things changed. We made some negotiations, but it was cool. You know, I also think those guys from Vistaprint, they’re thinking, you know what, we don’t want to have those two young guys sitting around there in Bangkok. You know?
Andrew: Yeah. It is one of those strange things that a company buys out another company, and then they say well, why do you guys have an office in Bangkok again?
Andrew: Who wants to party? By the way, I introduced you, and I guess maybe it was before we started, I said, you’re in Thailand, right? And you said, I’m in Bangkok.
Andrew: Almost correcting me. There’s a difference. Why is it important to say Bangkok and not Thailand?
Thomas: Well, I’m not sure there is a big difference. However, it really depends on what comes to the top of people’s mind. A lot of people, if you say Thailand, some people might just think about, oh, Thailand is the place of prostitution, partying only. Which you definitely can get here.
However, there is also a big, big community of business guys here. The cool thing about being in Bangkok is most of the people, especially the foreigners here, they are here because they are similar to you. They have a different lifestyle than the one that just have a normal job, so on.
You have so much more in common with the people you meet here, because people moved here to do some things. You can maybe go out a little late in the night, if you want to, even if it’s Tuesday, or whatever, because it’s up to you when you go to the office. If you work from 8:00, or you work from 11:00 and you stay on till 11:00 at night, it doesn’t really matter.
Andrew: You’re saying hours are flexible because people come here to work, and then they’ll squeeze the non-work part of their lives around whatever work schedule they pick for themselves.
Thomas: There are a lot of entrepreneurs here. There is a lot of entrepreneurs. Most of the people I know here which I meet, my friends, all have their own business somehow.
Andrew: What’s the advantage of working out of Thailand that we in the U.S. or Europe aren’t aware of?
Thomas: The weather.
Andrew: The weather’s better.
Thomas: The weather is a lot better. Of course, that’s not like a big advantage. I’ll say that it is cheaper here to get developers. However, I will also say that it is still hard to find talent that is as good as you can find in the U.S., for example. To where almost all people are [??] getting talent there in San Fran, D.C., so on. Which we are also doing here. We also [??] here.
Andrew: Just to give me a sense of prices, what would a nice townhouse cost? What did the one that you rent go for?
Thomas: It really depends on the location. Location really means a lot. The one that I live in now, where I am now. let me just calculate again. Including expenses, this is in the high end. That’s around $2400 a month.
Andrew: How many bedrooms?
Andrew: Two. I was living in Argentina. We had this beautiful one bedroom, but it was huge living room, huge place. The outdoor area was overlooking a park. Hot tub on there. Enough space that we would have people for brunch out there. For about 1200 bucks.
Thomas: Oh, that’s nice.
Andrew: Unbelievable. I hear prices have changed a lot since then. There’s so many advantages to leaving the country. I feel like price is one. Another one that I found is focus. When I wasn’t working out of the U.S., I was able to focus more. Do you find that?
Thomas: Yeah, I definitely do. Also, because I’m surrounded with people with the same mindset. You could talk about things, even when you go out.
Andrew: Are you still with the girl who was from Thailand?
Thomas: Nope, I’m not. I’m not . . .
Andrew: No. So you’re not with here, but . . . Sorry.
Thomas: I’m not with her. My girlfriend now, she’s also half Thai, half Chinese. It’s not the same girlfriend. Let’s say this way, when I did Pagemodo, I think that screwed up that relationship.
Thomas: I wasn’t there.
Andrew: Because you were working all the time and you were hardly ever home?
Thomas: Yeah. Seems like that. I was also, probably, maybe just wasn’t right. Because most of the time, things happen for a reason. It’s not always, at the moment, it’s easy to see that reason. As time pass, and I look back at my past one, all things happen for a reason. At least that’s my belief.
Andrew: We’re friends here. Let me ask you this question. Is it worth it?
Andrew: Or, I’m going to ask. It is worth it, right? Yes, you lost the girlfriend. Hopefully, she’s doing well, but you can find another girlfriend, and you have. It was worth focusing so much, that you even lost your relationship over it.
Thomas: I’m sure.
Andrew: I appreciate you saying that. What else do I need to know? Here’s what else I need to know, since we’re just talking as friends. What is it with Nathan Latka? You guys are competitors. What kind of angel dust does he sprinkle on people that makes them like him?
Thomas: Well, Nathan is a nice guy. Even your competitors in any kind of space, I so still think that being friends is just a better way of getting around in life. I don’t see any reason about being arrogant, or these kind of things, right?
Andrew: First of all, how does he connect with you? I’m assuming he emails you first?
Thomas: I know Nathan from when we were in Washington. Actually, it was Jacob who first had the relationship with Nathan. Then, through Jacob, I then got in contact with Nathan, and then we met a few month back in San Francisco. Two month ago, something like that. He text me, and he said, hey, I think I just saw you at this event here. I said, yeah, I’m here. Okay, let’s go out. So we met out, went out, had a beer and a little food, talked. then we just actually talked about you. I’m saying, oh, yeah. He said, no problem. You could easily do an intro. I said, oh, that would be awesome. You know, I’m subscribed . . .
Andrew: Oh, you asked for the intro for the interview?
Thomas: Yeah. I asked.
Andrew: Oh, cool.
Thomas: Because . . .
Andrew: First of all, I appreciate that you guys talk about me, but I’m curious about what he talks to you about. Does he push and say, hey, what are these guys at Webs really like, or does he push you and say, hey, when we were doing this, what were you guys really doing at the time?
Thomas: No. What he talked about that time was, more or less, the whole journey we had with Pagemodo, about selling to reps, working with them. We also talked a little bit about what worked for them now, what Heyo is focusing on now.
Andrew: He’s not going to pry information out of you. He’s not trying to get help from you with his business?
Thomas: Not really. I mean we talked about what I’m doing now with splashpost, and what they’re doing with Heyo. I gave some feedback to him. He gave some feedback to me. No, there was not any ‘try to get some insight’, and all this stuff. No . . .
Thomas: . . . we were just hanging out. You also got to respect each other, right, with who you’re working with, and so on. People have partners, and so on. As long as you just hang out as friends, I think that’s cool. I definitely want to recommend that, even if you’re direct competitors.
Andrew: I remember the first time I met a direct, maybe not the first time, one of the first times was this guy, Ryan Scott, who now runs Causecast. He came to our office, and he started looking at our servers, and our computer system, and all that. We started hearing about what he was doing.
It was so insightful to see that we solved the same problem, because we were in the same business, email newsletters. We solved the same problems in totally different ways, and it opened our eyes to possibilities that we weren’t aware of just from those conversations.
Andrew: I want to find out about what you’re working on now. I’ve got to quickly ask about a couple of other things. First, you’re not a developer. Things break. What do you do? Tell me about a time when things broke so I can learn from you.
Thomas: Yeah. There was one time when, that was Pagemodo, before we sold it. We grow and we grow pretty fast. There was one Friday, I think, Friday, or something like that. We changed the office and, oh, I remember, we had to switch server. We were starting the transaction, and so on. Then, suddenly, half of the pages were missing. They were just gone. They were gone. What are we going to do?
We ended up until, I think, until Sunday, like two whole days, where our developer was sitting there, more or less 24 hours. He slept there at the office. We brought him food and so on, because we couldn’t really do anything than just sitting on the side, and trying to think logical. What happened? Contact common friends, or friends that knew about these kind of things. That was a tough weekend. Luckily, as far as I know, none of the users every found out.
Andrew: How do you solve a problem like that then? You just ask your friends and they figure it out for you?
Thomas: Yeah. I mean we were just supporting our developer. We couldn’t do any coding, so we can just support him. [ringing sound] Ask some friends that we had around. Let me just turn this one off. Ask friends that was developers, and so on. Yeah. He ended up fixing it.
Andrew: Well, what else do I need to know? I need to know about how you got users. I understand maybe a thousand people come because you buy some ads. This was a desperate situation. People were dying to get on Facebook and Clearfan pages. At some point, there are other people doing this, and it’s hard for you to get noticed. How did you get more users?
Thomas: There’s like two things we did with Pagemodo which was just right on spot.
Andrew: Hit me.
Thomas: Yeah. First of all, of course, the timing. It was 2010. People already had, or brands already had Facebook pages. There was a sign this is something that going to grow. The timing, when we launched it, was just exact timing, correct timing. It wasn’t too early, and it wasn’t too late. It was just perfect. I would say whenever you do any kind of startup, new thing, that no one did before, timing is so important. Really, really important.
Andrew: Okay. Okay. What else did you do? I could see, in this case, absolutely huge impact.
Thomas: Secondly, we built the system so when users, they come in, they have to take action once. Literally, after they take action once, they will have added link online back to our website. We have the free model, so it’s a basic system. There was one on the plan that was free. So free users, then came in, they created the page. One time, they published that page. That page go to their Facebook page. Even if they never came back, that link will literally stay there forever until the day they delete their Facebook page. I’ll say those two things made us skyrocket.
Andrew: Yeah, [??].
Thomas: Put that into any kind of startup, one action. Because I’m doing the same as SplashPost, but the problem with SplashPost is that post on Facebook’s news feed. Even if have the footer, the post is going to last five hours, so people need to go in and do whatever it’s in, where about on Pagemodo’s it’s just once.
Andrew: All right. I’ve got to ask you about this. I’m on the site.
Andrew: I know what it does. Maybe you could tell the audience, your new business, what does Splashpost do?
Thomas: Yeah. Splashpost lets, I’ll say this first. We built Pagemodo. We helped a lot of people get their fanpage up running, and get a lot of likes, or fans, to the page.
Thomas: So then I realized, okay, now you got all those fans at your Facebook page. A new problem literally came up, because how are we going to engage those fans? What are you going to do with them? How are you actually going to turn them into actually leads and sales?
Thomas: I think came up with the idea for Splashpost, which would then let those Facebook page owners, and actually, by yesterday, also just people who just have a profile, go in and you select a template, and you can then create interactive new speed posts. Means that you can go in and collect emails from your fans. You can turn them into leads.
Andrew: I can collect emails from my fans within my timeline?
Thomas: Within your timeline, yeah. The way it works is that you just go in the exact same style as Pagemoto. It’s so easy to use. You go in and select template, whatever you want, or if you want to have a video with an opt-in form below, or just an opt-in form. If you want to have a coupon code, a contest, like a video with integrated buttons, different kind of templates we have.
Thomas: So you go in and select that template. You click around a little bit. You just change it. No technical school is needed. You hit a button, and then it goes out in the news feed. You can then, literally, just engage with the fans directly in the feed. They don’t have to leave the feed any more for you to . . .
Andrew: It’s in the feed I can collect an email address?
Thomas: Yeah. You can collect an email address in the news feed. You can do a contest in the news feed. You can do coupon code in the news feed. It’s just a little [??], 398 times 398 pixel. That just opens up.
Andrew: Before I do this, though, as you’ve been talking, I’ve been creating it, and now I’m on a video that is saying, welcome to Splashpost. Where do I now start to create these news feed items?
Thomas: Are you on the homepage, or did you already connect with Facebook?
Andrew: I already connected.
Thomas: You’re inside, I guess you see, what do you want to offer your fans, something like that?
Andrew: No, it says, discover how to maximize Facebook profits.
Thomas: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Gotcha. Because we actually have a one dollar trial. You’re a new user. At the moment, you’re watching a video with a one dollar trial. If I can ask you just to go to the . . .
Thomas: . . . address bar. Go to the address bar, and just type in splashpost.com again.
Thomas: You’ll get past the one dollar trial. We actually offer new users a one dollar trial at the moment, but if you go up and just reload splashpost.com, you will see where it’s at.
Andrew: The design is frikkin’ beautiful. Except for that part. It’s beautiful.
Thomas: Thank you.
Andrew: Now all I do is click here to edit, click there to edit, subscribe. Oh, I see the templates. This is a test next. Let’s see. I didn’t even know you could do this on Facebook. Did I just learn something?
Thomas: Nope. No. See, that’s the thing. No one ever did it before. Actually, the first competitor came two days ago. We are so much more awesome than them.
Andrew: Don’t tell me you’re friends with them like you’re friends with Nathan? Don’t let them sprinkle this fairy dust on you.
Thomas: I didn’t know them. Maybe it will.
Andrew: Then where do the email addresses go? Do you connect them directly to whatever service I use? MailChimp or whatever.
Thomas: Yeah. Yeah. Connect them to whoever, MailChimp. Now we’re integrating Fusionsoft, Getresponse, iContact, so on. Or you can just export them as [??].
Andrew: That is fantastic.
Andrew: It’s splashpost.com. I didn’t realize it was possible. I would say, go check it out before Facebook makes it not possible. Then it looks like you have other templates that we can use if Facebook changes [??].
Thomas: I’ll find a way around it. I haven’t though. One thing I can tell you, that was what I mentioned earlier, about having your business on someone else platform. I think two weeks ago, it was Tuesday, I just work up in the morning. I went in there at the office as I normally do, before I went to the real office. Sitting there, grousing around a little bit. I was, like, shoot, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. What? Okay, enough.
I’m calling around, contacting developers. It doesn’t work. I went to the office, and for seven hours, I literally thought that I had to shut down. For seven hours. It was a hard day. Then I actually found a way around it. There’s different kind of way that you do the posts. I found a way around it. Then we’d been contacting Facebook. Then the day after, it turned out it was Facebook who [??] made a buck. It was their fault, not our fault. They fixed it. I’m in contact with Facebook, and I’ve talked to them about . . .
Andrew: I’m sorry to say this, but I’m fairly paying attention to you, because I keep checking out the website. I love the design. I hate when I start to fawn over guests, because then I feel like it takes away from the interview. I love how I could put a video on the news feed, how you show me where it’s going to show up in the timeline, and how the email address can pop in under the video. I’m not going to give it justice, guys. Just check a look. Here’s the page that I like.
Everything else is interesting, but the one that’s especially interesting is splashpost.com/editor. You might need to sign oin to see it . . .
Andrew: . . . but what I like about that is I can see all the different templates.
Thomas: Yeah, sign in.
Andrew: All right. I better step away from fawning about your product, and quickly tell people about my product. Then we have a list from you that we specifically asked for. Books that you recommend, because people in the audience asked. Since you’re a guy who taught yourself a lot about business, I want to hear from you especially.
But first, let me say this, if you like this interview, and you want to do some of the stuff that you’ve heard here. You should understand that Mixergy is interviews where entrepreneurs tell their stories, and courses where they teach what they do best.
One of the course leaders is Nathan Latka. Since we’re talking about him, I might as well talk up his course. He taught how he got his customers. Even if you watch no part of that because you’re not a course person, I urge you to take that course, fast forward at least to the end when Nathan shows you his sales pitch for his webinars. He walks you through how he pitches webinars because Nathan sells his business largely through webinars. At least he did when he taught this course.
To watch him sell and to see how he sells is a work of art, and if you don’t get any lesson from that, you probably will not learn anything from Mixergy. So cancel your membership right away, if you don’t like that. My guess is you’re going to love that, you’re going to love Nathan, and you’re going to want to take other courses.
I’m urging you, if you watch this interview, to go to mixergypremium.com and check out Nathan Latka’s course. If you’re not a member, sign up for premium. You’ll love it, I guarantee. If you are a member, make sure to check that one out. Mixergypremium.com.
All right. There are three books that you recommended. Do you remember what they are, or I can put them in on Skype chat, and you can, of course, change them if you want to. What books do you recommend?
Thomas: This was actually one of the first books that I was reading when I did all my studying, called Marketing Warfare. It teaches you how to act Like you’re in a military mission, when you’re actually running a startup or running a company. If everybody run to the right, run to the left. Make your way around it. That’s one book that I really liked.
Andrew: It’s called Marketing Warfare?
Thomas: Yeah, Marketing Warfare.
Andrew: You know what. I’m surprised I never heard of this book, because this is by Al Ries whose other book is fantastic.
Andrew: Positioning. A past interviewee recommended that to me. All right. Great choice. I’ve got to check that out. Marketing Warfare. Which apparently works, unless Nathan Latka is your friend, in which case, you take down the arms and just hang out with him over a drink. All right. What else?
Thomas: Another one which was also in my early days, because, unfortunately, I don’t have enough time right now to read, and also watch as many Mixergies as I’m supposed to. However, when I sell the next business, I’ll probably take a few months off. Anyways, the other one is not really so much about business, it’s mostly about mindset. Which I also think is very important when you do business or whatever you do in life, you need the right mindset. The other one is called ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’, by David Swartz. And, it’s just a matter of believing in yourself, thinking big, and it really made me see things like, I can do this.
Andrew: Great choice, The Magic of Thinking Big. Apparently very popular on Amazon too, I’ve been looking at it. Alright, and then there is other one.
Thomas: Yeah, the other one is by Seth Godin. I love everything that Seth Godin did, I’ve been through all his books. But I think The Purple Cow, especially also was a really good one that made you see out of the box; do something that catches attention when people see it, say it that way. [??]
Andrew: Purple Cow’s a great one and of course people have been talking about Purple Cow and using his expression a lot and so if people hadn’t read that, that’s a good one to check out. Seth Golden in general is just a good writer. You can just fly through his books.
Thomas: Yeah, He’s a really good writer.
Andrew: Alright, this is the time in the interview where I usually say to the audience that if you got anything of value from this, don’t be the person that just sits back and watches this, that’s not what Mixegry is about. You sit back and maybe watch rolling stones, maybe you watch Justin Bieber, or maybe you watch some crazy YouTube video. But with Mixergy, you do something about it, and that means use something that you learned and connect with the guest, like you can see in this example, in this interview alone, we see an example of the value of doing that. You Thomas, you reached out to someone who you heard in a podcast and you earned a business partner from it.
Andrew: Did you feel any hesitation by the way about reaching out and saying hey, I just heard you on the podcast or none at all?
Thomas: No way. And I’ll definitely encourage anyone who also watches this to reach out to me because I’ll be happy to say hello if you come to Bangkok, if you literally need some kind of feedback or whatever. Honestly, I really love start ups. I do a lot of mentoring here as well, in Asia, in Singapore, because I just love start ups.
Andrew: What’s a great way for them [??] to say thank you for doing this interview?
Thomas: Sorry. Yeah.
Andrew: How do they say it? How do they connect with you?
Thomas: Oh, just hit me up on email or LinkedIn. My email email@example.com, you can probably put it below or after or find me at LinkedIn. Just say hi, I’ll definitely reply. It’s not about making any money or any jobs [??], I just love start ups. Just say it that way[??].
Andrew: It’s a great feeling. I’m mean, look at this. I’m actually holding a card in my hand. One of the cool things about San Francisco is, well it happened this past Sunday. I went for a long run, and on my run, this guy pulls over in the car and says, “Hey Andrew, Andrew?”. I thought well, who is it? And he hands me his card, there it is, this is his new business and he wanted me to see it. I’m going to show his, can I show his phone number? Maybe I shouldn’t show his phone number, but I’ll show his email address since he gave me the card. I can do whatever I want with it right? There’s his business right there, it’s Matt Morales. He started a new company called swigme.com [SP], where you can buy alcohol in the middle of the night and have it delivered to your house. Anyway, it was so cool; he just stopped me on the road and did that. On my runs, people will occasionally see me and go hey, you’re the guy from Mixergy. I feel great about it; if you were having any freaking hesitation with any other guest about reaching out and saying thank you, Thomas is the last person you should have that hesitation for. You should put it all aside for Thomas and say hey you know what, he met his friend through a business partner, I’m not going to bug him and ask him too much, I’m just going to say thank you to him. And I’m going to do that right now. Thomas, thank you, and I hope i get to you see sometimes in person, too.
Thomas: Me too, it’s been a real pleasure.
Andrew: Cool. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy you guys. Bye