Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. I do these interviews for real entrepreneurs. I’ve been real entrepreneur my whole life. Many of the people you hear me interview are people who’ve listened to these interviews, built up their companies, and now they’re back to talk about how they did it. I say all that because they want to establish why I get into so many details that frankly, most wannabe entrepreneurs are never going to give a rat’s ass about.
So I remember when I started selling on Mixergy, I created these simple web pages that were okay. They just had a WordPress feel to them, and WordPress makes it really easy to create a quick page. I think I used PayPal to collect payment and life was okay. But, you know, it wasn’t a long-term solution.
And then Noah Kagan offered to do me a bunch of favors. He helped me think through what I should be selling, what I should be creating. He offered to come on and do like this course with me and all kinds of stuff. And I remember thinking, “Noah is not going to be happy with the standard pages that I created. He’s not going to be proud of them. I wonder how I could do it. I wish that the business was producing enough money that I could hire a nice designer to create something that I’ve seen other people do.” And I refused to go into my own pocket because Mixergy had to stand on its own. And somehow I discovered Unbounce. And they had all these themes that I could just go in and pick from. And I clicked on one and I liked it, and I edited it, and I actually liked it more.
Usually when I edit something, I screw with it and I make it worse, but I liked it more. I still to this day can see that in my mind’s eye, and at times I go back and I see that page and I’m still proud of it. The way that my four-year-old will design something on a piece of paper and I’ll be proud of, except this is better. And I showed it to Noah Kagan. I said, “Noah, here’s the page I created because you’re going to be on to do this live thing.” And I saw that flash, that micro gesture, that immediate, he was proud to be associated with this and he didn’t think I could do it. I saw both those in his look, and it’s because they used Unbounce. And I started using Unbounce more and more, and I remember one of my guests, Dane Maxwell came on to do a thing and he said, “Oh, you’re using Unbounce. I wish I invested in that company. ”
And it wasn’t until then I thought about it. There’s a business behind this that these people are helping me look better, bring in more money, and, of course, there’s business behind this. Of course, they’re making money. I didn’t think that because frankly, they’re in Canada. I don’t think of Canadians [inaudible 00:02:34]. No, because they were a little outside Silicon Valley, because it’s like 700 different co-founders in this business and you think, “Why are they splitting their money? Could there be a business if they can’t decide on who should be a co-founder of what?”
Anyway, I’m kidding about a lot of this stuff, but I really was fascinated by the business. I invited the founder, one of the 7 billion co-founders of the business, Oli Gardner to come on here and talk about how he built this up and where’s the company going now that it’s about 10 years in. We’re recording this on their ninth year anniversary . . . excuse me, nine years into the business.
Unbounce, for those of you who don’t know it is, here’s what Oli gave me, a conversion platform to help marketers get more from their ad spend. I’m going to say yes. It will help you create beautiful pages that increase your conversions, for sure.
All right. This interview is sponsored by two great companies. The first is HostGator for hosting website. The second is Toptal for hiring developers. Oli, I did a lot of talking in there because I like your company. Let’s talk dollars. Let’s give you a chance to talk. How much revenue are you guys producing?
Oli: This year will be around $25 million annual.
Andrew: Twenty five million dollars. Twenty five million dollars. I don’t know why I never thought that you guys were much bigger than, a bigger company than I thought. What’s the deal with all these co-founders? How many co-founders do you have?
Oli: We have six.
Andrew: Six. Each one has equal, equal ownership?
Oli: We started that way, but, you know, when you begin things, different situations. So some had to get a small salary at the beginning. So others got sweat equity. So it’s changed a little bit. We all started off equally though.
Andrew: Are you all still friends? Will you have a beer together?
Oli: Yes. So four of us aren’t active operational, [inaudible 00:04:20], but it’s all good terms.
Andrew: You know, what I didn’t know about you is that you were close to bankruptcy when you started out. What got you close to bankruptcy? I’m looking at your LinkedIn profile. You’ve got a nice background. You’re doing a lot of work. How did you end up close to bankruptcy?
Oli: I was working in Costa Rica for a really dodgy, online casino.
Oli: No, no, no. Bodog was awesome. This was post-Bodog. This was just a gig that came up. Rick, our CEO and I, we went down there as consultants kind of, a small group of us to do some stuff for this. I was there for nine months, and halfway through it, when I went, I took these pills to like protect your gut from things, from the water the last six months. I didn’t take them after that. So then I got all of these horrible intestinal things. I mean, I was just . . . the doctor there he was like, I think is this. And he said, “You don’t want the drugs to fix that.” And I said, “I can’t survive. Give them to me.” And I was basically curled up in a floor for three weeks, unable to move, work. But anyway, so when I came back to Vancouver, I couldn’t work for six months. So, you know, income gone. I had to . . . it was a consumer proposal, which is like bankruptcy, a similar thing. It just goes off your record after a certain period of time rather than staying forever.
Andrew: You’ve been saving enough money, you were working for . . . the thing about working for dodgy companies is you do it, but because it’s dodgy, but you make money because it’s dodgy.
Oli: And it was all cash, yeah.
Andrew: And you didn’t have enough money saved up. Wow, what an economist? You didn’t have enough money saved up?
Oli: No. I’m really good at spending money. Not so good at saving.
Andrew: What do you spend your money on?
Oli: That’s a good question. Shoes.
Oli: No. I did for a while. Actually, ordered a pair today. But I’m really good at just like frequent spending. I will wake up in the morning and I’ll be like, “Oh, Amazon, they can deliver same day in Vancouver if I ordered before noon, maybe 11.” I’m like, “Ooh, what can I buy?”
Andrew: What’s the latest thing that you bought? I just bought a battery that I could plug into the wall and then like, it looks like the USB plug that comes with the iPad, but it’s a little bigger and it’s also a battery.
Oli: Right. My wife Nicole last night and Ben said, “Oh, we need more charger plugging things.” Because like the cables, they just wander off and disappear. [inaudible 00:06:59]. We have to have a fork amnesty once in a while to bring them back into the company. So I ordered some of those.
Andrew: All right. Wow wee. Did you feel bad about yourself for getting to the point where you were at this bankruptcy level?
Oli: Certainly I feel bad I was going through that situation. I felt bad for the people who didn’t get, the banks didn’t get all their money back. But I don’t think I really necessarily understood what was bad about getting into that situation. The danger of getting into situation. I was bailed out, so I felt lucky for that.
Andrew: You know, what is it about you that you have such a good like sense of self that you don’t feel bad about? I would literally overtip sometimes when I get pizza from Arizmendi and I go, “They don’t need you to pay $2. They’re just behind you and serving it up. How are you ever going to save enough money for whatever if you . . . ” Like, I do that and I’m not saving money for whatever, and the $2 is not getting me closer to anything. How is it that you are better at like managing yourself that that didn’t affect you? Honestly, think about yourself. Interesting.
Oli: I don’t think I am better than that. That was recklessness that got . . . Well, I got sick. Now that compounded my recklessness.
Andrew: Ah. So it was more like, it’s not me that’s a bad, bad with money. If I got sick, life happens. I feel bad for the people who didn’t get all the payment. Got it. Okay. I’m not capable of doing that. Even when I’m sick it’s, “Why didn’t you take the medicine? You could have done better.” You don’t have an inner gym teacher in your head.
Oli: Yeah. Maybe there’s nothing else I could do in that moment. But I was reckless to get in debt to begin with, but, you know, shit happens.
Andrew: You know what’s so funny? My wife and I are watching “Succession.” We just finished the first season. Every time the dad does something like yell at the kids, he gets rid of them from the company and so on. My wife goes, “Oh, that’s so awful.” I go, “I would have loved a dad like that. My dad was too loving.” He would come and hug me. I go, “Dad, I don’t want a hug. I don’t want a kiss. I don’t want to say I love you.” I guess, you know, everyone has their own personality. All right. So then, where did the idea come from for Unbounce?
Oli: Well, you mentioned Bodog, five of the founders worked there. And Rick, he had, basically, he was running the creative team. I was working on that team with him and Carl, our CTO was in the tech side of the company. We needed landing pages and marketing and creative, and they had to build them. We had to pass through them and say, “Hey, can you get us a landing page?” Like, “No. We have two quarters booked up for our dev resources. We don’t want to work on your marketing garbage.” So that was the very visible pain, and that was Bodog. We did a lot of kinds of campaigns, a lot of landing pages needs. So that was kind of the genesis. But then we did a bunch of research into who else is feeling this pain as a marketer. And it was universal. Every single marketer who knew what the landing page was, was like, “I need them.”
Andrew: You know, for people who don’t know, Bodog is an online betting site, right? Sports betting mostly, but also casino.
Oli: Sports casino and poker.
Andrew: Okay. All right. And that was legal in Canada at the time?
Oli: Yeah. So it was born in Vancouver, that’s where they’re from, and it was here, always has been, still is, until the DOJ in the U.S. shut that down there. Yeah, you wake up one day and the bodog.com had gone. The DOJ had taken it, and we had to [inaudible 00:10:34] overnight to boddoglife.com.
Andrew: I remember that. Right, right, right. So they would advertise Bodog Life, which was like a lifestyle brand that essentially was pumping people to bodog.com.
Oli: Yeah. At that point, they branched out to have an entertainment arm. So we had Bodog fights with an MMA league, like the UFC, a record label, and all kinds of stuff. Yeah.
Andrew: The thing about Bodog was they just always had really good style. They appealed to the part of a man that wants to be James Bond or would feel comfortable being in a room with James Bond, right?
Oli: Certainly. Branding is all about that. And it was an amazing place to work. If you look around the Vancouver tech scene, where people came from, there is so many people who started or get kind of, like, entrepreneurs who were kind of empowered by how awesome things were to kind of move on from there. So it was a great place to work.
Andrew: All right. So you’re saying that you’re checking to see who else needed this? How did you do that? How did you know other marketers? What process did you go through to ask?
Oli: There was some just conversations, but it was about six months prior to us beginning. Rick was, you know, wrangling a bunch of us. We were all talking about who should be involved and like this idea. He had two ideas. The other one wasn’t as good. We kind of forget what that was. Did a bunch of Facebook stuff, you know, just, you know, lean startup, like, is this something you need? Like, is there’s something behind this, but like, you know, just validating the idea of some of that. We just never had a single marketer say, “No.”
Andrew: Okay, I get it. Right. When you’re a marketer, whether you have a team or not, this makes sense. And did you do anything like try to pre-sell them or any of that?
Oli: No. Yeah. It just . . . we were just very confident. It just seemed like such a no-brainer. We lived the pain. We lived the solution, the slow solution, the manual way of doing things, and we were just really confident that we got the idea right.
Andrew: Okay. How does a guy who has no money have enough money to go off and start this business?
Oli: So yeah. Like I said, this split. So a few of us needed like a little salary just to kind of squeak by. So we did a friends and family round. We raised about 50k, I believe, Canadian, like 20 bucks U.S. That got us through a few months.
Andrew: Did you quit Bodog to do this?
Oli: Yeah. Bodog was like a year and a half before. So the Costa Rica thing was right before this. Then there was like a . . .
Andrew: Oh, I see. You were at the time user experience of Silver Oak Casino.
Oli: Yes. I was post-Bodog and I was like, “Let’s just go and make some money with other gambling companies while we figure stuff out.”
Andrew: Why gambling?
Oli: Well, I got drawn to it by Rick and one of our other co-founders, Justin, because they were working at Bodog Riptown. There were many names covering that the agency that ran this thing.
Andrew: That’s how they operated? There was like a separate agency that they did the work, so that the agency was safe?
Oli: Yeah, that kind of thing.
Andrew: From the issues with gambling. Okay. All right.
Oli: Yeah. And they just called on me and like, “Hey, come work here.” So I went and worked there because it seemed like a good thing. And then it was just incredible. It was the most creative, fun, innovative, freedom to push yourself job I’ve ever worked in. I had six roles there, I think. I was running the usability team. No. I was an interaction designer and there was a job posting for usability lead. We needed a usability team. So I ran to . . . Rick was my boss at the time. I ran to his boss, his room. I just sprinted through the company, and I barged into his office, and he’s in the middle of a meeting. I’m like, “We need to talk.” And they’re winding down. So he kind of shooed them out and he’s like, “All right. What’s going on?” I’m like, “That job posting, usability, take it down. It’s mine.”
He was like, “Okay. Sit down. Tell me why.” So we spent 10 minutes. I convinced him, and then I had to go back and say, “Hey, Rick, I don’t work for you anymore.” And I took that job, created a usability team. It was really fun because we were empowered to do excellent work. I ran some usability studies, and I presented like a highlight reel overview to the head of the sports book and Calvin Ayre, who was the CEO, showing that it took . . . The test I got people to do is place a bet for your favorite football team to win their next game. That’s easy. That’s easy, right? It took people on average seven minutes to do that. But I showed him the video. The head of the sports book fell off his chair. And then Calvin said, “Turn it off.” Hire as many people as you want.
Andrew: And what was it that he liked about the video? Was it that people were so engaged with the process?
Oli: No. It was that hard. The fact that it took that long to do such a simple task, they’re like . . . yeah.
Andrew: Oh, because the site was bad. It wasn’t that the people are stupid. It was the site was bad.
Oli: The process was that convoluted?
Andrew: Got it.
Oli: Yeah. It needed some radical change. Yeah.
Andrew: Okay. Let me take a moment to talk about my first sponsor and then come back in and jump in and ask you about why you need six different co-founders to start a company, seven, seven company. Oh, it’s total of six. Okay. Six co-founders.
The first sponsor is a company called HostGator. Let me ask you this, Oli. You now see so many people come to your site. You see conversions. You guys see what works and what doesn’t. Is there a type of website that can be built on WordPress that you still see to this day is doing well? This is part of the ad for HostGator. Whatever it is that you’re seeing doing well, I’m going to recommend that anyone who’s sitting on the fence and hasn’t started a business, jump into HostGator and go start it.
Oli: Well, people do right with a website like a . . .
Andrew: Yeah. There’s a type of website that now is doing especially well. Is it the be a guru site that’s still doing well? Is it the directory? Remember when directory sites were doing especially well and you saw those do well because what they would do is do affiliate commissions.
Oli: Honestly, I think it’s come down to simple sites, smaller sites often just like three-page micro-sites or one, big, giant long page with navigation, with simple value proposition, the days of . . .
Andrew: And what are they offering right now?
Oli: Oh, anything. I mean, we have so many varied customers. I mean, it’s just about clarity of your value prop.
Andrew: Okay. So whatever it is you’re doing, make sure you’re super clear. I remember actually, even blogs as a home page is too confusing. Have a clear home page that says, “Here is what we do.” We don’t assume you know us. “Click this link to go take the next step.”
All right? One of the things that obviously always works, whether it’s today or 10 years ago, 20 years ago or 50 years from now, is if there’s something that you do especially well and that other people want to do it, teach them. I just interviewed an entrepreneur. He now has a company that he wants to take to a billion dollars. What they do is software to help businesses with their hiring processes. I said, “How did it start?” He said, “Well, I used to be a recruiter.” I said, “Okay, great. How did it start?” He said, “What I did was I took all the systems that I had as a recruiter. I put it in a PDF. People bought those PDFs. And then they said, ‘Well, what we actually need is this process to manage.'” He said, “Okay, I’ll build that. And then I’ll build the next thing, and the next thing after that.”
So simple PDFs lead to a successful business. All you have to do is go to hostgator.com/mixergy where you going to get up to 60% off their already low prices. I’d speed through that because really it’s not about the price, it’s about the ease. Once you do that, you’re going to easily be able to set yourself up with a website that you can edit, that if you don’t like them, you could take to a competitor and you could continue to build. Whatever it is that you know well, go create a website with HostGator and start to teach it, sell it. And if you don’t like your hosting company, switch to HostGator, hostgator.com/mixergy, hostgator.com/mixergy to get the big discount that they don’t offer everyone else.
All right, I get that you guys liked each other and you work well together. Why did you need to be seven co-founders? Am I the only one who’s hung up on this?
Oli: Not hung up on, but it’s definitely a conversation topic. I mean, we’ve all had the . . . well, some of us have the entrepreneurial spirit, but I don’t think we could understand really what it meant to have a certain number of co-founders. What I do know is that because we had six, we didn’t need anyone for the first two years. There’s not a single possible thing we needed to do as a company we could not do because of the spectrum of our talents and what we were able to do. There’s a lot of crossover, technical and creative between all of us in many different roles, but there’s nothing we couldn’t do. So from that perspective, getting us started, it was amazing, and I wouldn’t change anything because of what it has led to. Now, sure, what I like at some point in the future, we exit or whatever we do. So if there’s two founders, of course, you get more money. But, you know, we wouldn’t be who we are, you know.
Andrew: You can say, “Hey Justin Stacy, listen. You’re really good at product. We need to hire someone who’s got a product. We can’t pay you much money right now, but we’ll give you a little bit of equity.” Or, “We’ll pay you a little bit later when we can.”
Oli: Exactly. As long as . . .
Andrew: You couldn’t. Because that’s where I feel like maybe you guys are too nice.
Oli: Well, we are. We’re a Canadian company with half of us are Brits, which the apology things runs right through our core. But . . .
Andrew: Okay. So you are feeling like, “Well, no, actually it’s true.” Usually there’s someone who’s so freaking hungry who says, “I know I need all of you, but I’m going to Machiavelli this. I’m going to come up with a way for you to be happy temporarily. Two years later you’ll be pissed at me because some vesting thing.” But that’s what you have to do to make it in this world. You don’t have any of that?
Oli: No, none of that. And honestly, we wouldn’t be the company we are just for the fact that historical reasons we are, you know, because of that. But the checks and balances as, we’re very people-first, employee-first company, and if you only have one person, two people, you might get away from that. I mean, not necessarily, but I think our collective has helped keep us on the kind of path we want to be on as a, you know, a human focus company.
Andrew: And truthfully, really, you’d have to off more than one person because I think each person that you off would only give you another . . . well, the first person you off will only give you another 3.232% extra equity. If it’s not even . . . I think that’s the math. All right. Here’s the thing that I remember. I talked to Gabriel Weinberg, but when he was starting DuckDuckGo. He and I were texting or we were emailing a lot. And I remember one of the things that was interesting about his book, “Traction” . . . Gabriel, by the way, was the guy who started the search engine DuckDuckGo. One of the things about his book “Traction” that interested me was he said, “When you guys were building out your product, you are also building out the marketing.” And it was specifically this guide, right? Is that [inaudible 00:22:10]?
Oli: At the beginning?
Andrew: Yeah. Were you building your marketing in conjunction with the software?
Oli: Yes. So I was our marketing. So I started the blog on like day nine of the company. We didn’t have a product. So I was, you know, writing about landing pages. I’ve written 300 blog posts for landing pages. So I just started that right away. So that by the time, you know, we were ready to launch six months down the road we would have something. But it began with I needed an ebook because we needed to generate leads so that we had someone to write to. And when we launched, you know, our co-founder, Carl, our CTO, I backstory heard that he said to Rick, “Really? Oli’s going to go and spend two weeks writing an ebook. Like, he’s got to work on the website.” So I’m building a website, I’m spending six hours a day on social, and I’m building that. I’m doing all these things. And so I heard that and I’m really competitive. So I held a brainstorm for two hours. I covered the long stickies, all this stuff. I went home and pulled an all-nighter, came back with 100 more landing page optimization tips ebook, 27 pages, thousands, thousands of words. That was like, “Screw you.” There’s our ebook to one day. And then that was our lead gen for the six, seven months till we made some kind of launch.
Andrew: Wow. I’m looking at a page of it. This is from my notes from when Gabriel talked about how to get traction here on Mixergy. He did a course, “101 Landing Page Optimization Tips.” Here’s your copy. Landing pages are an established part of online marketing conversation funnel typically arrived at from banner or Google AdWords ad. You’ve written better like copy than that, but this is the original. I can also laugh at the fact that there was a delicious button back there. [inaudible 00:24:02]. But I’m not going to, I’m just saying this is the way the things work. But it made a lot of sense. “Our free 26 page landing page ebook contains 101 ways to do just that. If you use it, we’d love it if you share it around with your colleagues and maybe give us a retweet love if you love Twitter.” I’m even looking at the very first blog post. August 30th, 2009. You guys started August 14th, 2009?
Oli: Yes, yeah.
Andrew: So August 30th. Hello, everyone. Welcome to Unbounce. Unbounce is a new platform for building and managing your online landing pages. We’re currently in the midst of creating what will be the industry’s best service for helping online marketers to improve the performance and return on investment of campaigns such as pay-per-click. We’re going to be posting a lot of content. Please contact us if you’d like any advance information about what we’re creating. Zero comments, zero interaction.
Oli: One of the early ones, other than the fact that we were, you know, invisible and there were none, a lot of that stuff got wiped out as we’ve changed from like different commenting systems. So like these [inaudible 00:25:07].
Andrew: Oh, okay. All right. i thought wow, wow. These guys are starting out, not even like a mom or friend saying, “Welcome. Congratulations.” The thing is though, that the reason that I bring this up is, as I understand it, you guys really valued content marketing from the beginning, and you’re expressing that in lots of different ways. I don’t see it in your background. How did you know the content was going to be the answer where I thought Bodog was really big, and the companies you work with are really good at buying ads, doing affiliate programs, that kind of thing.
Oli: Yeah, and that’s the gambling space. But for this, there was a huge amount of education needed. Because the massive portion of the market who don’t know they need it needed to be taught about the reason why they needed it. You know, the obvious reasons, but also, I mean, it was our only mechanism, and content marketing as a, you know, it wasn’t really a thing back then. There were some people. There was like, you know, 5 established companies or 10 that we’re doing this kind of thing. And it was much easier to stand out doing that back then.
But because we get no comments, because we were small, my strategy was to . . . So I was doing a lot of guest posting, but the most important one was doing it on Moz. At the time their community was huge, and they didn’t have the barrier to entry that most publications have with the editorial process and be approved, or, you know, go through all that crap.
They have the YouMoz blog. If it’s successful, but anyone can publish there. If it is successful, it gets pushed to the main blog. So I wrote a post that I called the 12-step landing page rehab program, which was kind of . . . In the beginning, I always trying to be funny in my writing like to entertain people because, let’s face it, we’re, you know, learning can be boring.
And that did really well. So Rand said, “Hey, you’re going to come back and do another one?” And I said, “Yeah. It’s going to be epic.” So I succeed. This is a pattern in my career when I tell people what I’m going to do, I’m way better at actually getting there. So then I did the noob guide to online marketing, which was our big . . . That was the thing that changed everything for us from . . . there were two things. There was [inaudible 00:27:14] creations. So it was a 15,000 word, 50 million pixel infographic. Basically, if you printed out the infographic, it was six feet long. We had photos and people who had it printed out on their walls and translated into 12 different languages, downloaded like a million times. It broke every record on their blog for three years. It’s smashed everything.
Andrew: What was that one called? I’m kind of following along and looking at it. Like, for example, I do see the 12-step landing page rehab program.
Oli: It’s the noob guide. The noob guide to online marketing.
Andrew: New guide to online marketing and you published it on Moz?
Oli: Yeah. It was basically a six month referential, self-referential journey of me becoming a marketer because I’ve been a marketer before. I became a marketer day one. So it was like me teaching people how to do it when they hadn’t done it before.
Andrew: I see it. Okay. And “The Noob Guide to Online Marketing (With Giant Infographic)” by Oli Gardner. I mean that’s actually in the headline on Moz. Holy. Yeah. Yeah. I see. Okay. All right. And this is really in-depth, and this is you saying we’re going to from day one establish ourselves as the people who teach you about how to create landing pages, and then you’re going to want to know to come to us to sign up. Meanwhile, you create the first version. How long did it take you guys to get the first version of the software up?
Oli: A couple months, not long. We didn’t turn pricing on for six months because, you know, we wanted people to tell us that they valued it. But, you know, it was I think three months or four months and we had something that people could use.
Andrew: So one of the things that I remember about my very first experience with Unbounce was it started out as a template, but you could do anything. You could move anything to anywhere you want versus . . . wasn’t Optimost around at the time before you guys? It was. It’s like a 2001 company.
Oli: I’m not sure about them. We only had two competitors. One was Ion Interactive, and they were more enterprise hands-on. So they were like a frenemy. We’d refer up, they’d refer down, actually, just friends. That’s actually [inaudible 00:29:27]. But then, the Performable was another company. That’s all right.
Andrew: Performable by David Cancel?
Oli: Yes. Exactly the same time as us, but . . . They were doing a lot of things right. But they made one little mistake in their implementation that made it hard. They had like a markup language. So it wasn’t easy enough. Then they pivoted to be an analytics company, got bought by HubSpot and, you know, now he’s off doing Drift now. But, yeah.
Andrew: So there weren’t a lot. I thought there were a handful players like . . .
Andrew: All right. So there was nothing there, wow. Okay. And the way you knew about it was you needed this yourself. All right.
And so you’re putting it together. That first version, was it the, you could do anything you want version? Or was it more like Optimost’s first version? David Cancel told me you couldn’t do anything. You could label the fields, that’s it.
Oli: Right? It was always, you could do anything. It was always, I mean, which is a blessing and a curse, because I’m a pretty good designer, but I can make some really ugly landing pages given too much freedom. But anyway, yeah again, it was always like full power seat, completely customizable because we care about brand. You know, we came from that perspective of professional brand, professional marketers. We didn’t want people to be sticking themselves inside a template that they couldn’t change to look exactly like their website, their brand, that kind of thing. So it was always very important to us that we, excuse me, allow people to do that. But we didn’t even have forms in the first iteration. Like, I remember Rick just saying, “We just need a page or the background image and a button.”
Andrew: And then when somebody pressed the button, where would that go?
Oli: Somewhere else?
Andrew: I got it. So it’s a landing page. It says, “Do you want to buy this thing?” And they press the button and then it goes to a page on their site where you buy it.
Oli: Exactly. Yeah.
Andrew: So I remember you guys didn’t even have much interaction or integrations. And maybe frankly I didn’t need integrations because I wasn’t doing much. I could just take a form from whatever I was using and put it in there, right? With the . . .
Oli: You know, we’ve always had the custom HTML widget that you can put anything in there. But no, integrations, that was the other half of our kind of launch success. One was the content, the noob guide, and the other was our, 10th integration was with MailChimp. So when we had forms, because everyone was like, “We need forms.” This is primarily B2B. So everybody need forms. We put that in there, and we needed integrations. We chose MailChimp, which is still by far the number of integrations with MailChimp from Unbounce outweighs every other integration combined.
Andrew: Still to this day?
Andrew: Wow. Did you think about maybe getting rid of, like, no, creating our own email software, considering how many people use your software just to grow MailChimp list.
Andrew: Some of your competitors have done that.
Oli: I know, but I think the reason we’re successful at owning this space is because we’ve had a relentless focus on it. And honestly, what I’m learning recently is, when we think about content is there’s a tendency to look for the shiny new object or a new channel. “We need a new channel. We need to do, da, da, da.” No. We need to focus on the basics because there’s a new person every day. Hundreds of thousands of new people every day who have that same problem and they need the same content that explains why they . . . how to do that? Because you get bored right in the same thing, so you try and do more advanced stuff and other things, which is great. But if you forget the fundamentals, then you’re going to start getting one of these trends for people finding you for the fundamentals, which is still the thing they need most to get started with us.
Andrew: Still, Russel Brunson’s company does chase the new thing, right? They just did this thing. I teach people that create chatbots. They created a landing page that says, “You don’t need Andrew anymore because we created chatbots off that is so easy to use.” Like, I said to him, “Russell, you know me. You’re creating a landing page against me?” He goes, “I had no idea. I don’t know.” Because he’s jumping on everything. He’s even creating chatbots. He’s like $70 to $80 million this year. Do you feel like maybe you guys should be chasing more revenue sources to [inaudible 00:33:36].
Oli: Oh, we are, but that’s, you know, we are focused more on the machine learning AI side of conversion automation. That’s kind of where we want to take our current products.
Andrew: You know what? I was kicking myself mentally because this is who I am — this is not you — for saying in the intro I said it creates landing pages, but that’s the beauty of it. That’s the best part. But it’s the A/B testing and the test, “Will this messaging work better than that messaging?” That’s really interesting. It was built in. So that’s what you want to spend more of your time. How do we create better? Am I right or no?
Oli: Well, that was there from day one.
Andrew: No, the A/B testing. But you’re saying you don’t want to enhance your product by creating email marketing. You want to enhance your product by making it better and optimize the conversion. That’s you.
Oli: Exactly. We want to be able to, you press a button and you will automatically start getting more conversions by doing smart things with, and I can talk much more about that because that’s our R&D that we are trying to productize.
Andrew: That’s what you’re trying to figure out.
Oli: We’re figuring it out, and then we’re trying to productize it right now, but it’s fascinating because the algorithms we’re writing that can look at a landing page and look at the copy and be able to predict whether it’s going to be a high converter or a low converter.
Andrew: And change it based on that.
Oli: That’s the stuff we’re working on. You know, like how to shift things. And that’s to do with content. It’s also to do with traffic. It’s to do with many things like how we can shoogle things around. That’s a Scottish word, shoogle. But yeah, we want to make the fundamental thing perform better than anyone else’s fundamental thing.
Andrew: And your fundamental thing is increasing conversions. It’s not funnel creation, it’s conversion. And that’s why when I asked you what’s one sentence you would use to create, to describe your company, you didn’t say the one that we had, which my documentation was something about landing pages. It was a platform that allows you, that allows companies to build and test custom landing pages. That’s what my team put together. You eventually said a conversion platform to help marketers get more from their ad spend.
Oli: Yeah. So we used to be just landing pages. Now we have popups and sticky bars. So other things which are, that’s kind of like our foray into getting on your website. So we can, you know, so it’s more convergent wherever you are, basically. Landing pages will continue to be the core, but, you know, throughout all of this, we’re using the data, we’re learning and everything to just conversion automation is what we want to do in the future.
Andrew: Okay. So you wrote those blog posts and the books and the infographics, and all the other stuff to get people on your mailing list. Once they’re on your mailing list, you were able to say from day one when you launch, Gabriel Weinberg told me, we launched, here’s the product and get a bunch of people to try it at first and then buy it later. Once they tried it, what’s the feedback that they gave you that was unexpected, that made you think, “Oh, we could have created this a little bit differently if we talked to them before”?
Oli: Not a lot honestly. Well, the first thing is just get forms. We’re like, “Yeah, yeah, Okay, we get it.” But we knew what we were doing. What sidelined us a little bit early on was that we have people that are on Fridays, local Vancouver companies, we get them to come down, we show them the demo, been trying to use it. So we do like live usability testing with, you know, these people. And some of them were bigger companies and they start going, “Oh, we need this. Oh, well, you know, we’ll throw a load of money at you if you can customize this, this, this.” Of course, we’re like, “Oh, shining your money, like, “That’s amazing.” Like thinking that that was a smart thing to do, but it’s the worst thing we can do. You know, we went down this path a little bit of some of the things they wanted to do, which took our focus away from [inaudible 00:37:35].
Andrew: Like what? What’s one thing? So listening to the customer in your case actually, it wasn’t helpful because they were each sending you into their own unique world. What’s one example of that?
Oli: You know what? I don’t remember specifics, but it was just very tailored features. It’s nine years ago.
Andrew: But it’s individual and you would code it up just for them or coded into the product for everyone else to try to use.
Oli: We would start the process of what it would take to make this and then just catch ourselves and go, “This is ridiculous.” We’re putting our eggs in the basket of someone who’s just one company just because they throw around, you know, the amount of money that we had from friends and family. I was like for a contract or something. And it was a terrible idea to listen to the occasional person who happened to be part of a big company, who had a specific need. We knew what we needed to build. We got derailed by, you know, paying attention to that kind of thing. So, yeah. We just delayed it a little bit, but not by a long, you know, weeks or something, but we learned that that was not the right way to do it. Let’s just stick to what already knew we needed to do.
Andrew: I’m actually on an early version of your site. I’m literally getting chills as I look at it. It takes me back to that time. It’s so weird.
Oli: Are you on Wayback Machine?
Andrew: Yeah. In a way that I look at pictures of myself from 10 years ago. I don’t have the same experience like when Facebook brings it up. But I’m looking at this and then suddenly, this is why I kind of froze up. I’m suddenly taken back to who I was back in 2010.
Oli: Is it the black background one?
Andrew: The black background, which I like. The button that looks like a button, yeah, tilted to the side for sign up.
Oli: Like a diamond shreddie.
Andrew: [inaudible 00:39:19] remember it says a lot.
Oli: That’s my favorite marketing campaign of all time, Diamond Shreddies. They just rotated about 45 degrees, creating a new product that in the moment [inaudible 00:39:30].
Andrew: Wait, you just by turning the button from a square to kind of a squarish diamond?
Oli: No. Shreddies like the breakfast cereal.
Andrew: Oh, got it. Got it.
Oli: Yes. They just said new diamond shreddies, but they’re all square. They just rotate [inaudible 00:39:47].
Andrew: Oh, it’s the same thing [inaudible 00:39:48] Yeah. Your button had that type of thing on the side, but it was all really well-designed. I also see that you guys were really good about creating like the SEO on the site was from day one really strong. Who knew that? Who on the team had that kind of expertise?
Oli: That was all me. I did [inaudible 00:40:10].
Andrew: It was just you reading Moz.
Oli: Just yeah, just reading everything. I mean, 16-hour days, you know, just absorbing, like learning. Like I said, I hadn’t been a marketer before. I had very strong opinions about what was good and what sucks, and I’ve done a lot of related things, but I’d never . . . actually, while I was in Costa Rica, I started making some gambling affiliate sites. I had a site called sexandpoker.com, and I started doing a lot of writing for that. That’s kind of what got me into the writing thing and understanding a little bit about, you know, writing about search, about all that kind of stuff. So that kind of teed it up.
Andrew: Ah, okay. All right. That makes sense. What was the name at the site? Sex and what?
Oli: Sexandpoker.com [inaudible 00:41:00]
Andrew: You were making like $60 per person you’d get to go play on a poker site?
Oli: I was trying. I got a couple of like, yeah, it’s weird. I hired a guy. So I put a thing out on Elance or whatever at the time. I needed a writer because I was doing a lot for that. I paid a guy, from Seattle, $500 to write 100 blog posts. Not someone in India or somewhere where that actually scales. He did about a hundred of them, but I was giving him critiques and getting him to make edits.
Andrew: With that much money? Little money.
Oli: [inaudible 00:41:37]. He did about a hundred and I said, “You’re awesome. You get all the money. Let’s stop.”
Andrew: All right. I’m going to take a moment to talk about my second sponsor. The second sponsor is a company called Toptal. As you were saying, Oli, we’ve got all these ideas for how we could automatically increase conversions. I was thinking of things like machine learning and thinking, “Oh man, I’m in awe. Of course, they get to that point.” And I could understand somebody in my audience going, “Oh, that’s way far. I can’t compete at that level.”
And then you think about a site like Toptal where I just typed in machine learning, and I found that they have developers who are not just aware of machine learning but experts in machine learning. And you know it because they passed the Toptal test that 97% of people cannot pass. They hire the top 3% at Toptal. And so anyone who’s listening to me who says, “Hey, I see this in the future, but we don’t have expertise in it” shame on you. You’re an entrepreneur. You don’t have to have expertise in it. You could just call up Toptal.
And literally, I say call up. I mean, you go to toptal.com/mixergy. There’s a green button, you press the button, you schedule a call with someone at Toptal, and it’s, I think they still use Skype or maybe they’ve moved to Zoom. Whatever it is that they use, you get on with them and you say, “Here’s the thing. I heard Oli’s doing this thing. I need that kind of expertise internally. We don’t have it. Do you have someone who’s an expert, who’s not an expert because he read books and went to school on it, but who’s built it?” And be an asshole about it. When they say, “Here’s the person,” Say, “What have you done? Show me what you’ve done. Here’s what Oli’s thinking. How do we implement this in our business?”
And then if you like them, if they jive with you, you can hire them. Let’s take back the being an asshole thing. This is a very human experience when you’re talking to Toptal. Be a gentleman about it.
But the rest that I said absolutely 100% true. Go to toptal.com/mixergy. That’s top as in top of your head, tal as in talent.com/mixergy, where Mixergy listeners are going to get . . . let me say this, “We had to cross out Mixergy listeners and replace it with Mixergy listeners and interviewees because so many interviewees sign up for them. Mixergy listeners and interviewees will get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when they pay for their first 80 hours in addition to a no-risk trial period of up to two weeks.
I read that so fast, Oli, like it’s like fine print designed to take stuff away from you, maybe hours. I just think, “I’d read this 5 billion different times. I can’t keep reading it.” Guys, go to toptal.com/mixergy and read it.
And Oli, if your team gets stuck, remember toptal.com/mixergy. Not only will get you the best deal on Toptal, but since you like sex and poker, the model on that website is super sizzling hot, but I’ll leave it for everyone else to go check it out. Toptal.com/mixergy. All right. Let’s . . .
Oli: I will say don’t ever go to the site. It’s not one I built. That was years ago. It disappeared since then.
Andrew: No, no, no. I never even think to go to sex and poker. I’m talking about toptal.com/mixergy. [inaudible 00:44:20].
Okay. I see that you’re starting to go in the wrong, you’re starting to inch towards the wrong direction, but you guys snap yourselves back and say, “No, we’re going to be in the SaaS business. We’re going to start SaaSifying our product. It has to be something that works for a lot of people.” You start charging. How was the reaction to charging?
Oli: Pretty painless, honestly. Just because, I mean, at that point, it was pretty cheap. We had $10 and $25 a month tiers, which was a mistake. But, yeah . . .
Andrew: Talk to me about why that’s a mistake, because when people charge that little, like I’m obsessed with the founder of Mailshake for charging 15 bucks a month. But I can’t, if I talk to him at dinner, first of all, I won’t talk to them about that. I’ll pretend that I like everything he does. But if I were to . . . and he’d say, “Why do you have such a problem with $15 a month?” I wouldn’t have an answer for him. Why is that a bad idea? How do I explain that?
Oli: I mean, pricing comes down to finding the people who are going to be your ideal customer. That’s a big part of it. And we want professional marketers because professional marketers with a budget, people doing PPC, that is the fastest path to realizing ROI calculation in your own head. Seeing it quickly. Like, if you’re doing email marketing and landing page for that, that’s great and you should be doing that. But it’s not as easy to measure the impact as when you do paid advertising is very quickly obvious how well this landing page is performing compared to send it to your homepage.
Andrew: Can’t they just as easily buy for 15 bucks or 10 bucks a month along with the people who could only afford 10, 15 bucks?
Oli: Well, yeah, we started that way, but then those people are not going to continue to spend with you. They’re not going to be professional marketers. They’re going to be a burden on your support team. We have had this client called [Lamar 00:46:18]. He was about 70, 80. He would call us every day for about two hours. I think he was just lonely, but that’s the kind of thing, we were sucked . . .
Andrew: He was a seven or eight year old kid?
Oli: No 70.
Andrew: Oh, 70. Got it. He was just kind of lonely. But he was a customer of yours and he felt like, “Look, I’m paying these guys money. They need to teach me how to use this product and it’s magically supposed to increase my conversions. Where’s the magic?”
Oli: Right. It needs to teach me how to do marketing. Because he wasn’t a marketer. He was trying to get a page on the internet, and that is not what we’re trying to get people to do. We want marketers to be more successful. So when you price it into the range where people who don’t necessarily understand the value prop and you start getting customers who are not really going to be customers that it impacts your churn, it impacts your support, overheads, it’s just not good situation. So, eventually, you take those tiers away, you price to a point where, you know, you find, you look at your lifetime value, all that kind of stuff, and you figure out which plans work best, what people are doing and why they’re sticking around, which integrations are setting up and you can kind of learn the behavior behind who is actually a good customer.
Andrew: Okay. What were you doing to understand the good customers? Were you guys calling them doing . . . is there online analytics that you do? What do you do to tell who’s the good customer and what they want? What they need?
Oli: It’s obvious just observations over time? But a lot of it was the backend metrics that we, a lot of it was pulled manually. You know, we look at, yeah, just, you know, the churn and the cohorts that were sticking around. The people who were sticking around, what’s the reason? Like, what have they done behaviorally? Was it that they hooked up an integration that always x pages instead of tests? So we manually pulled that kind of stuff to get some insights into the people who are successful and don’t cancel the subscription, oh, it’s because they did these things.
Andrew: Oh, because you’re saying, “Who’s been with us the longest? What are they doing?” and you look and you start to see what. What were you noticing?
Oli: Patterns that they had published pages, they had driven . . . you know, we had our baseline metrics. If they published a page, they’ve driven more than 200 visitors to that, they had set up an integration with MailChimp, Infusionsoft, Salesforce, whatever it is, they’ve done those things that lead to higher retention, higher lifetime value. And you can see, you know, so that also then impacts your on-boarding because once you discover those success metrics, you can start guiding more people towards those aha moments, or those things that make the tools sticky for them and get them there faster, get more people to that.
Andrew: So you see somebody who does integration is more likely to stick with you?
Andrew: One of the on-boarding steps is now integrated with your email provider.
Oli: Yeah, so wherever, you know, wherever you need to send your leads, it communicates the fact that we allow you to integrate with tool so you can do that, yeah.
Andrew: Okay. What about domain mapping? The sub-domain mapping was one of the first things that I saw on the site. That meant that I could have unbounce.mixergy.com or email@example.com. I can give it whatever sub-domain I want. I always felt like that was really good because it’s hard to tear out a page that’s in the domain, in the link structure. Right?
Oli: The main reason we did that was because we wanted to, again, as the brand part of it, we wanted people to have our pages on their domain. Yeah, we do the hosting infrastructure, everything. That’s all us. We want it on your domain. We have competitors who until not long ago, it was still in their domain. That’s not professional. You can’t exist as a professional brand if you have your marketing on someone else’s domain.
Andrew: But they allowed it. They allowed it on people’s sub-domains and on people’s folder structure or URL structure in some way, right?
Oli: Yeah. You could publish a page on our on unbouncepages.com is where they would live by default.
Andrew: Right, Wait, unbouncepages.com, right? Any page. Here’s the other thing I wonder about you, Oli. I love you guys, but I wonder if maybe this is where you guys are not killers. This is maybe where it’s in my head that you’re not killers because some of your competitors will slap their logo on everybody’s site on the bottom because who gives a rip? Most people are not going to bounce out of the page because they see that this page was built by Unbounce. Marketers are going to see this page as beautiful, wonder how did I do it. And then they’ll say, “Oh, it’s Unbounce who did it.” So because you guys are saving your customers that little bit of eye distraction that they probably don’t even care about or notice, you are missing out on marketers discovering you and recognizing this beautiful page is built with Unbounce.
Oli: We started that way. We had on every free plan. And if you weren’t paying, every single page had that. So we began that way, but you will not get a professional serious brand accepting that as an option.
Andrew: They’ll take it off. You give them the checkbox that removes it. The thing is, that you guys don’t have that in your blood. You smile when you tell me about poker and sex website or whatever, because it’s part of your fun past, but when I ask things like this, I only do it because I want to get a sense of your reaction from it. There’s not one time that you’re kind of enjoying that I’m taking you to a place where Unbounce [inaudible 00:51:49]. That’s just not who you are.
Oli: No, it’s not.
Andrew: No. I should have known. Like, no guy who is spending so much time and money on shoes is going to be okay with some like logo slapped on his customer’s site. Right. So far we’ve given a very happy-go-lucky interview. I love you. You love you. You guys went from bankruptcy where people can cheer for your success to highs and then more highs. We haven’t had a big of setback. What’s the biggest setback that you had?
Oli: It’s funny, from a business perspective, from the first five years when people ask me that, I’d say nothing. Nothing went wrong. Everything was great. Then, you know, you deal with scaling, and it’s going to be true for every person. If you go from 50 people, you go to 75, you know, 125, that’s where everything screws up. You have too many people. Your productivity, everything goes down. You’re making less money per person, you’re getting less work done, but your ego gets in the way. Head count is an ego metric that every founder will go through at some point . . . Because we’re growing so fast, our revenue, our head count, duh, duh, duh. It’s not a good metric to look at. And then, you know, you’ve learn that once you mature as a company, as a person, but . . .
Andrew: And so what numbers, from where to where did you go? And then what happened?
Oli: I would say it’s fairly typical when you go like the journey from 75 to 150 or something, or 125.
Andrew: And that’s what it was for you. How many people are you up to now?
Oli: One hundred and sixty right now.
Andrew: Okay. And then what happened specifically? Do you have an example of something that broke down that was especially frustrating for?
Oli: No. Nothing specific there. It’s more just communications. As soon as we went from one floor to many floors, you lose a little bit of the instant connection, the identity, like knowing who everybody is, all that kind of stuff, and it does silo things and does slow things down. But we’re an amazing company, and, you know, we’ve got through a lot of that. We’ve hired some amazing senior execs to solve some of these problems, and everything’s great right now. But that’s just humans need to be aware of that when they go through that fast growth part of the middle.
Andrew: And you’re telling me that all that happened was, it was just a little bit difficult for a short period of time, but you’ve got a couple . . .
Oli: [inaudible 00:54:08]
Andrew: That’s it? What makes you guys . . .
Oli: [inaudible 00:54:10]
Oli: Well, as a company. I mean, there was a personal low point along the way, but yes, but as a company . . .
Andrew: What was your personal low point along the way? Let’s make people root for you and not feel like you’re just some guy with [inaudible 00:54:20] thing.
Oli: It’s weird because I’ve talked about I think about three times now. I actually blanked it from my memory because it was actually quite traumatic when it happened and describe it that way. But really early on, you know, so we had a little bit of money and we ran out, and we realized our runway was ending. There’s no way we could go like another three, four months on the money we had. So we had, you know, the decision was like someone has to step away. We can’t afford to do this, and we can’t start building the product. So marketing has to go away. I was going to have to step away from the company, go find something else to do, which was heartbreaking at the time.
And then I went home, and honestly I don’t remember what I did, but I think reading some numbers, I did some thinking. I came back with some creative way that we could make it work. I honestly don’t know what I did. Like I say, I blanked all this from my memory for years. And we found a way, and we were like, “Yeah, we can solve this problem.” And we did it. But at the time, that was like the thought of not continuing, doing something else, and then maybe coming back, who knows? But we would have failed if that happened. There is no way we would have ever succeeded without our initial marketing. And that’s a good thing that . . .
Andrew: Yes. Right, I can see that.
Oli: [inaudible 00:55:56]. Yeah. It only sucked for 48 hours. But after beginning something like this, to then the idea of it, you know.
Andrew: So this was kind of an easy deal. Easy business to run, easy business to launch.
Oli: How do you mean?
Andrew: Well, it seems like it was just kind of an easy thing, Once you hit on the idea just kind of worked itself.
Oli: In terms of the concept? Yeah. I mean, the hard thing about not having money and all that kind of stuff, and like long hours, honestly, that was just super exciting.
Andrew: All right. You guys did have . . . I didn’t invest. I wasn’t fast enough to . . . It took me a long time to realize. I’m telling you, I thought, “What an interesting idea by a bunch of designers, artists.” But you raised $850,000. 500 startups was in on it, Social Leverage, few other VC . . .
Oli: Real Ventures was the main . . .
Andrew: Who was the one?
Oli: Real Ventures.
Andrew: Real Ventures, okay. I see them in here from Montreal, right?
Oli: Yeah. Less than a million Canadian totally or something.
Andrew: That’s amazing.
Oli: Yeah. We’ve always said we’ll raise money if we have a really smart way of using it. We’re not just going to jump on that, you know, the VC Valley bandwagon just for the sake of it. That’s one of the biggest mistakes people make, that ego part, one of the bucket list items is to raise money. There’s no success in raising money. The success in spending that money appropriately or not doing it in the first place.
Andrew: It’s kind of exciting though when Dave McClure hugs you and like, you know, Dave McClure and suddenly guy goes from being the blogger that everyone talks about being in your life or whatever. I mean, not anymore, but . . .
Andrew: I get it. I get the [inaudible 00:57:46].
Oli: It’s a trip, for sure. Raising money, yeah. There’s nothing wrong with it as long as you do it for the right reason. We feel that pressure when we did, but not so much as if you’re in the Valley, like everybody just wants to like, you know, fuel the hypergrowth model and not the kind of smart sustainable grow, you know.
Andrew: Yeah. You know what? I was thinking of sending my kid out — he’s four years old — to Mission Dolores Park with lemonade. Instead, I’m going to send him out there with a pitch deck. Oh, that’s [inaudible 00:58:21]. Gosh, he’s going to be so happy. [Get all the candy 00:58:24] he wants. Hey, I kind of cut you off earlier. You said the first thing that brought in traffic was the content marketing that you did both on your site and other sites. And then you started to say integrations was the next big thing for getting customers. How does integrations bring people into your world?
Oli: Yeah. Well, then you’ve got a share their customer base. But the reason it’s successful is because we chose wisely. Oh, yes. So I mean, you know, fundamentally, we have landing pages. An email marketing company wants to send emails to landing pages. They want to collect email addresses from [inaudible 00:58:56] to use cases, and then there’s other things, CRMs, Salesforce, all that kind of stuff, passing leads around. So it’s an important middle place that was landing page there.
But the way we chose it was important. So what we did, we have this wall we put every, not every, but all of the tech marketing technology companies we could find, discover, think of, on stickies on the wall, and it’s not like Scott Brinker’s 5,000 right now, but it was [inaudible 00:59:25] back then. And we went through all of them and we used compete.com and Alexa to figure out a multiple, like, based solely on the traffic volume that was represented by what those tools could figure out.
We gave them multiples. So they’re 10 times Unbounce, they’re 0.5 times that. They’re 400 times us. And we found companies that were a little bit bigger than us, not too big, because if they’re too big, they wouldn’t be interested in us. And even if we integrate, they wouldn’t do cool marketing. So we found people a little bit bigger than us that had similar values and so MailChimp was fairly well aligned with us in terms of who they were as a company and the size of them at the time, a little bit bigger than us, much bigger now. So it was a good cultural fit, and it was an excellent co-marketing opportunity. So that’s how we decided.
Andrew: Integration if done properly is a company going to their customers and saying, “Check out this tool that will help you.” And then what did you do that was special with MailChimp or someone else that’s beyond what most people think about?
Oli: Well, we did just a lot of co-marketing, a bunch of webinars when webinars were successful. And we did some ebooks together about the tools together, and we used a fairly consistent period of co-marketing events. So like it was really, it wasn’t just the one time, “Hey, by the way.” It was a fairly consistent pattern for a short period of time that really brought a lot of customers in both directions. So it was just a very smart choice as our first integration.
Andrew: And then what’s the third thing that worked well? We’ll close it out with that. Actually, we won’t close it out with that. We’ll close it out with, I happened to, as I was typing in Unbounce pages into my URL to discover something that you happen to have autofill fill it in with one of the pages I created. Like the second or third one that I created on your site. I’ll show the URL. But what’s the third thing that worked for bringing in new users for you?
Oli: I would say it was the people. A few of the people we hired. Ryan Engley, some of the very early people. We hired Ryan and Jackie to run our customer success team. We’ve always believed that if we look after employees, they look after the customers, customers look after the investors. So doing it that way meant we always had very great relationships with our customers, which increased. So word of mouth, I would say, it was a big part of the initial thing because of our reputation for how we treated people.
Andrew: Ryan was a massage therapist before he worked with you guys.
Oli: [inaudible 01:02:11]
Andrew: He came in [inaudible 01:02:12] customer service and now he does, and then he did a bunch of other things. Then product marketing. What does he do?
Oli: He’s VP of Product Marketing.
Oli: He’s the VP of Product Marketing right now. He works on that positioning and a lot of that kind of thing. But, yeah, we sometimes call him the seventh co-founder, just a special person.
Andrew: And what he does is, and the reason I’m bringing up that he was a massage therapist is, it’s not like you said, “We stole the best guy from HubSpot who did their marketing, and, as a result, we got good marketing.” You somehow discovered someone who wouldn’t be easy to understand, could lead to this. He started out customer service, director of customer service and kept expanding. And it was you guys who recognized what he could do. And then what I’m trying to get at is, what could he do that helped bring in new customers? Was it just the way that he was responding to customer service?
Oli: I think that’s a big part of it because, you know, we’ll have customers now, always will, who will leave us for competitors for price or whatever reason, and a lot of them just come right back, just like the next week, the next day. Like, “Sorry, we left. We love you guys.” Yeah, we’re just people first. So I think that spreads, and, you know, no matter what we do from a marketing perspective, technology perspective, you have to have the human perspective too. And we do that really well, and I think that’s the thing that is undefendable.
Andrew: So here’s what I was looking for. I wanted to see in the source code, a lot of people will hide the brand. You’re smiling, you know, one of your competitors does that. I think it makes sense, right? Because marketers will look at the source code to see how a page was built, and then they’ll see a big logo for the site that built it, and then they’ll go and create an account. You guys don’t have that. That’s what brought me to look at unbouncepages.com to see if I could find a site that maybe would have it. You guys don’t have any of that marketing in your source code. Right?
Andrew: Marketers can figure it out if they need it though, but you know.
Oli: Yeah,m you can use like BuiltWith or whatever.
Andrew: Oh, and look at this. I can’t even do a search for site colon unbouncepages.com to come up with the pages on your site. Even when I went to . . .
Oli: Well, that’s it. We can’t index that stuff. That’s opt-in. Like, we do not index pages by default. You have to choose that because there’s no . . . that would be irresponsible because all of our customers, most are doing paid advertising. You cannot have organic traffic accidentally go into a page, a landing page for paid ads, because it’ll skew analytics. It’ll mess everything up. Yeah, it’s just not indexed by default. So doing paid ads, they shouldn’t be indexed anyway. It’s just bad.
Andrew:I was checking that out to see if that was a hint. I can’t even tell by going to SimilarWeb because I don’t have the paid account anymore on SimilarWeb. They stuck me up with like a big account just because they loved how much I was using it and I became an addict. But, oh well, I can see as the top five sources of traffic. And there’s nothing that stands out as direct traffic is by far the biggest one and there’s Google search we understand why and, you know, and Facebook. Okay. Here’s the page that I ended up coming up with to hunt through the source code. It’s unbouncepages.com/facebook. That was a course that I created with someone from Eighth Bridge . . .
Oli: I’m looking at it [inaudible 01:05:33].
Andrew: . . . to talk about what he did that work incredibly well for Facebook ads. This is not even my best design on your site.
Oli: Is that Zuck?
Andrew: It’s the person who was teaching it with Mark Zuckerberg back when Mark Zuckerberg was more accessible. And you could see this is not the most beautiful page that I created on your site, but if you want to get a sense of what my design eye looks like versus your design eye, press the big button that says, [inaudible 01:05:58] now and look at that piece of garbage. This is what I’m capable of creating. That page is dead, guys. Don’t even try to buy it. Go in and just out of curiosity, but don’t. If you put down your money, it’s a mistake.
Oli: I’ll just click through.
Andrew: You see, I told you it goes to PayPal. It goes freaking straight to PayPal. It’s goes to my own personal PayPal, so don’t . . . take a look at it and you guys get a sense of what the site did for my design eye. All right. The website is unbouncepages.com because the pages will look so good, your users will not bounce.
Oli: No, not unbouncepages.com.
Andrew: Oh, no. unbounce.com. Unbouncepages.com is the URL that they give you if you need it. Actually, if I go to unbouncepages.com, it’s going to take me someplace jerky. Where does it take me to? Conversion platform for marketers. That’s not bad. Oh, it takes me right back to Unbounce. Right. Unbounce is the name of the business. Unbounce.com is the URL. Having way too much fun. I know you’re the one who had a little champagne to celebrate your nine-year anniversary. I’m the one who feels like he’s had champagne. But I enjoyed talking to you. I enjoy seeing your company. Frankly, I think there’s something about you guys that it’s the polish that I admire, and it’s the fact that I’ve seen you now for nine years and it’s as easy to talk to you now as it was nine years ago.
Meanwhile, hot Lou who was in the photo with Mark Zuckerberg, he can’t get Mark Zuckerberg text messages. All right. Unbounce.com. Thank you so much for doing this interview and thank you all for checking it out. The two sponsors for this interview are, the software company that hosts your website right, it’s called HostGator, and the company that will help you hire developers and designers, it’s called Toptal. Check them out at toptal.com/mixergy. Oli, thanks so much for doing this.
Oli: Thanks for having me on, Andrew.
Andrew: You bet. Thank you all. Bye. All right. Just to close it out, can you just tap on your mic now?
Oli: It’s not very loud.
Andrew: No. I think it turned off.
Oli: No, it’s still here.
Andrew: Oh, it is? Okay. No, no, don’t break it. It’s a good mic. All right. Cool. Thanks. I was just looking for a tap as a way for her to connect the audio to the video. Cool, man. Thanks.