Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighter. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. You know, those popups that you see on sites. And some of them just look, God awful. You’d never want to touch them.
And you feel almost embarrassed for the site to use them and others. It just looks so pretty that despite you not wanting to give the site, your email address, you fill them out anyway. Well, joining me as the entrepreneur who makes the latter ones, the ones that look pretty, the ones that look nice and ones that just are just smart.
The company’s called wise pops. And he did this, uh, as a bootstrap operation. He was so determined after his previous venture capital experience to bootstrap this business. That he got a job at Amazon and he worked at that job while he was building wise pops. And once it finally made enough money that he could survive, that he could actually, um, replace the salary.
He said, all right, I’m going to go all in and has been working at wise pops ever since his name is Benjamin Cohen. He is the founder of wise. Pottstown invited him here to talk about how he bootstrapped his company. And I also would like to learn what happened when he didn’t bootstrap his company back when he was running his previous business, which was venture funded and a little bit about the experience of working as an executive at Amazon, we could do it all.
Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you are hiring developers, the way that Benjamin did, he hired outside developers to build a software. You need good developers. Top top-down has the best, and you could get them at top talent.com/mixergy. And if you need a website for your business, including one that will work with wise pops, go to hostgator.com/mixergy.
But I’ll talk about those later first, Benjamin. Good to have you here.
Ben: Hey, great to be here. Nice to meet you.
Andrew: It’s kind of awkward to ask you because you’re a bootstrap company and because you’re French, but what’s your revenue. Give me a ballpark. Wow. So even since we’ve connected, you’ve grown tremendously about, about double since we first connected.
Andrew: What happened? How did you suddenly in the last, what? 12 months you’ve grown almost a million
Ben: No, no. It took us five years to get to 1 million and half that time to get to 2 million
Andrew: Got it. Wow. Phenomenal. And, um, how profitable are you
Ben: we’re profitable. We’ve been profitable since the early days,
Andrew: your previous company? Green Republic did, did what.
Ben: uh, lose money. It was, uh, it was, it was, uh, it was a Martin. It was an e-commerce website first and then a marketplace dedicated to eco-friendly product, uh, you know, organic and green products. So we, we, we, we thought there was a new way to, to produce, um, things that were happening and, and, and we wanted to be the, the store for that.
New, you know, con con new way to shop
Andrew: that you were selling that was organic, that represented this new organic mindset.
Ben: it. It was really day two, the products from, um, um, cosmetics, uh, baby products, uh, some clothing, some, some food also, um, uh, furniture. So, you know, like a lot of different range of products, but the common thing was this is made responsibly and it contributes to a better place. Yeah, we raised approximately 2 million, but we raised those two millions in many times.
So we started with business and jails and the first round was 200 K uh, euros. Um, it was not enough. And so it started a loop where we always needed to have new money coming in and, and, and so we raised 200 and then 300 and then 200 and then 100. And, and, and, and we got to 2 million without any share of the capital left for the funders.
Andrew: And, and that’s one of the reasons why you were turned off to venture capital. You said this is not a life that I want because
Ben: you know, I, I was spending 90% of my time pitching for investors and trying to get money and 10%, uh, doing what I wanted to do, which was, you know, uh, looking for new brands to distribute and doing the promotion of the website. Um, so yeah, I, I dunno, maybe it would have, it could have been differently, uh, with, with a different fun fundraising structure, but the way it happened, it just.
I just thought, okay. I don’t want to be, I don’t want to depend, I don’t want to rely on my external funding. I want to be able to fund a company that is profit to start a company that is profitable since the beginning, because this come with the freedom that I think is very important as an entrepreneur.
Andrew: Looking back, and we’re not going to reveal the whole story in this answer, but looking back now, since Y’s pops is bootstrapped, were you able to get the lifestyle that you wanted in life that you’re looking for?
Ben: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: Okay. And so go, going back then, one of the things that you tried to do at that business was you said, we need to find ways to grow sales and you didn’t have a lot of time to focus on sales because you’re focusing on raising money.
But one of the things that you tried to do was put up a pop-up on the site, right? And what’s the problem that you had putting up a freaking pop-up. That’s not that hard.
Ben: It was not that hard, but it was, the results were amazing. And, you know, I, I mean, I think every, uh, store owner has been there. Um, you see those pop-ups on all those websites and you say, okay. Yeah, but I don’t like it. I don’t want to have this kind of experience. It’s annoying and everything. And so we didn’t want to use one.
And at some point, you know, we had traffic, we had a great concept and I took like, people come to our website, but they don’t seem, they don’t create an account. They don’t sign up. And I was sure that we’d be interested in what we do. And so I was surprised that didn’t, you know, take action. And so I decided to test it, pop up a very simple one saying, Hey, welcome to our website.
And this is what we do. And you can create your account today if you’re interested, basically. And this very simple action, it tripled the number of account creation per day. So it was really
Andrew: homemade. You had your developers spend time creating it, right?
Ben: Absolutely. And so, you know, it, it took maybe one day to test it and do the development and then it was amazing.
Andrew: Um, and so you said you filed this away in the back of your head and you said, you know, this could be a thing when the business closed. It didn’t actually close. When you left, you just said, I don’t have equity here. I need to move on with my life. How did you know it was time to make that decision? That’s a hard decision to make, to say I’m moving on for my own
Ben: a very, yeah, it’s a very, very tough one. Um, I also had a co-founder and we were, so we had been doing things together for the whole time. I was no more motivated. I was starting to have new ideas of business that I wanted to do myself. And at some point I went to see him. It was the day before big holidays.
And I went to see him at night and I said, Hey, look, I think I, I don’t want to go on, so let’s have a discussion either. You want to go on without me, and that’s fine. Or you want to end, or you want me to. Cool and with you until for some time. And she was fine with me, you know, he felt that I was no longer motivated.
And so it went all right, but it’s definitely a very, very hard decision to make you, you don’t know if you’re right to do it.
Andrew: Harder one I would imagine is to say, I want to go and get a job at Amazon. When you run your own company, when you had experience for four years, working at a major venture capital firm. Did you go to Amazon after you had the idea for wise pops or before you knew what you were going to do next?
Ben: I had an idea when I left my first company, I had an ID. I worked on it for like one or two months, and then I realized it was very bad, the ID. And so I felt a little bit alone in the world and the. It was a, a marketplace for, um, where brands could give contests, um, to, you know, for, um, our challenges for people to participate.
It’s, it’s close to, what’s happened sometimes on Instagram where brands can, you know, say, Hey, I dunno, uh, uh, uh, recur, take a photo of yourself doing that. And there is a contest. And if you win, you will get either a one year free product of whatever. So I think the idea was interesting, but it was very complicated to launch and it would have needed money and I didn’t want that.
And so I started really thinking about, okay, now I have no, absolutely no idea of what I’m going to do. I don’t know. And so what can I do? And I started looking at, um, Y Combinator, uh, and other, uh, you know, um, incubators startup, To get ideas and get inspiration. And I found, I found the SAS model there and, and, and I loved the concept of having a software with a low price that you can subscribe to easily in a self-service mode.
I really liked that. And I said, it was very powerful and it didn’t take much time for me to connect with this type of experience that I had, because it was frustrating at the time the pop-up was doing very good. I wanted to do more with it and I could not.
Andrew: Because your developers were too busy to give you resources for a simple pop-up when they’re running a whole business.
Ben: yeah, yeah. We had the one developer for the whole website, so it was not easy to get more time.
Andrew: Yeah. Okay. And so you said I couldn’t do this in my own company. I had resources. I think this would work well for other companies. They may not even have my resources. I think this could be the thing. Once you had the idea, then you said I’m going to go to Amazon and get a job, or am I misunderstanding?
Ben: I did. I started to work on it. I thought, okay, this is not going to bring me any money before one year. So I have to find a job. Uh, I had kids and everything, so it was not possible for me to go on and I didn’t want to raise money again. So, yes. Uh, that’s how I started applying to, um, some e-commerce company and I had the opportunity to join them.
Andrew: How hard was it as an entrepreneur to go and get a job
Ben: I do. It was the idea of getting a job was somehow exciting because I thought, okay, maybe it’s, you know, it’s going to be a good opportunity to have a lot of things. And I was a little bit naive in the way that I thought I could be an entrepreneur in a big company.
Andrew: mean? Meaning be entrepreneurial within this company. Be a leader, not have a side gig entrepreneur. Got it. Okay. What did you imagine you’d be able to do?
Ben: no, no. I thought, I thought I could be an entrepreneur, but in the, in the larger game it is, you know, it’s just see what I mean. Um, larger resources and everything, and have an ID and work on new projects and everything.
Andrew: Like you could create the next AWS instead of be a part of But the job title was project manager. You said that the first day you get into the job, they say they start hitting you with, with the culture. And before they hit you with culture at Amazon, what did you think? What was your perception of culture at Amazon or culture in general?
Ben: Uh, I, you know, I used to think like culture is something very fake and, and, uh, a lot of, uh, you know, a lot of BS really. Uh, and I, I think it’s, it is in, in many companies, it is, um, I learned at Amazon that’s it, it was not the case for Amazon. Uh, the culture is very, very strong there and it’s a reality and you have to, you have to, yes, it’s a, I don’t know.
It’s, it’s something that you can, that, that is here in every meeting, in every decision in every thing you
Andrew: Really give me an example. How does their culture it penetrate a meeting? Do you have a specific meeting in mind?
Ben: Um, I’ll give you an example of how. Like when you, when you, I, you know, we, we’ve all done meeting, uh, meetings that last four hours and people that are talking and showing, uh, four points, four points slides for an hour. And, and, and, and you feel that the meeting is a little bit useless at Amazon. It is, um, every meeting starts with reading a document. So this is what they say. They say, we know that nobody’s going to read the document before the meeting. So let’s not assume that people have time to prepare the meeting. So whenever there is a meeting, the owner of the meeting must write to the command where he’s going to. Explain very sharply. The, the, the context of the problem, the solution that he’s proposing in one page or six page, when it’s big meetings and the meeting should start with everyone reading the documents, silence, and after everyone has read the document, then we can start with questions.
There is no reading together. There is no commencing the document. It just, we read. And then we go to questions. So the structure of every meeting at Amazon is very specific. I have never seen something like that in my life. And it’s super effective. No, it’s. So far two implements. Yes. And it’s, it’s very effective for large companies. Because, um, and I I’ve kept, you know, part of that, but I don’t need it today. I haven’t felt the need that we should do that, uh, yet, you know, at this stage, but we, we are, we are inspired from it. We use a lot of writing.
We don’t do PowerPoint slides. We timezone, you only use one document because bullet points are not specific enough. When you write something. When you write the full sentence, you are more specific than when you write the bullet points. And so that’s how you write that. And I’ve kept that.
Andrew: Okay, fair point. I understand how this makes sense. You’re there, you have your idea. You’re not a developer yourself though. Right? Who did you get to develop the site?
Ben: I had to find someone a developer. Uh, I would, I didn’t want to take the risks to find, uh, an external developer that I didn’t know. And so I had to work with an agency. That’s what I, I said, okay. I have to find a solid, uh, development agency that I can rely on. And that’s. And so I started looking in, in France and I, I quickly came to a very, very strong development agency, reach out to.
Andrew: well, most people would tell you if you’re building software, your key competence, your key strength needs to be building software. And if you outsource it to someone else, then it’s, it’s not, it’s not, it’s not a real business. You decided I don’t want a technical co-founder. I can’t hire someone full time.
Why, why didn’t you want to do one of the alternatives that is recommended?
Ben: Um, I would have loved to find a technical co-founder, but I, I didn’t knew one and I, I could not evaluate one. Um, and I had nothing to offer him, uh, like no money, so just an ID. So I felt okay. I’m, you know, it’s okay. I can do without it. And I can do it with an agency and we will, I will find a technical, um, co you know, technical leader later.
Um, I met with an agency. It was a small team. I talk with the founder and he was super enthusiastic about the ID. Uh, he told me, Hey, we have a lot of clients asking for a pop-ups and, um, at some stage. And so I can clearly see the need and I think we can make something great. And so we started working together.
That’s as simple.
Andrew: Did you talk to any clients? Did you see that other people saw the need or did you just know? I saw how effective it was myself. If other people knew how effective I could convince. Yeah. That’s what it was. The second.
Ben: That’s the great part. I think of my story. I had the luck to be fully confidence. I didn’t need to talk to anyone. I knew that it was a need and I knew it, it was making sense. So, and actually, you know, I’ve met, that’s something for entrepreneurs I’ve, I’ve had, I’ve had discussion like that. Potential clients.
And most of them told me, well, I don’t know. I don’t know if I would use a tool like that, but there is also, there is already something that exists that looks like that, you know, it’s, I think it’s, it’s really good to have discussion, um, to validate your ideas, but it’s also good to have, uh, to step back and make sure that you don’t rely completely on the feedback that you’re going to get.
It could have, make me stop. Uh, if I had learned to listen too much to what, the feedback that I got.
Andrew: Just thinking about pop-ups as we’ve used them at Mixergy. And, um, and to some degree we do still use them today. It’s something that everybody fights against until, until they see the results. And it’s just so overwhelmingly effective that despite all the hesitance or the ha as despite how much you might hesitate, you, you have to, as a business owner, acknowledge that it works and you need to take, you need to take it seriously.
What about working with the agency? How much were they going to charge you for it? I’ve heard so many examples of entrepreneurs. Who’ve turned to agencies and said you build my first product. And because they didn’t have real customers yet, because they didn’t have a real clear understanding of how to work with an agency.
And so many other reasons, it just bombed. They ended up with 20, $30,000, um, expenses that didn’t go anywhere. What was it about yours that worked your relationship with them?
Ben: it was expensive. It was way more expensive that anything that you could have
Andrew: How much,
Ben: Oh, the first, the first version, it cost 50 K while it was supposed to cost 20 K
Andrew: Yeah. That’s a lot for pop-up software. That’s a lot. And it’s because of what, what would you say that that was.
Ben: just development time. And you, you think, you know, as, as they move on, you realize that some stuff are missing in the, in the, in the specification. And so you have to add more features and also it takes longer than expected and it’s always the same, you know? And so yeah, at the end it costs, it cost higher.
And then the, the craziest thing is that you believe that when you’ve spent the 50 K you have your tool and you can start going on the market, but that’s not true. You have the, you have the first version of your tool and then you go to the market and you realize that you’re missing like 90% of the product.
So yeah, I had to took a loan to take a loan
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Top towel. Um, you, uh, you had the first version you needed to, what did the first version have, and then I’ll ask about how you got your first customers, but what could it.
Ben: Uh, you could, you could, you could build a pop up a very simple one. Um, you had very few analytics, uh, you had very few targeting options. Uh, you were, it was enabling you to collect emails, but then you can answer, you could not send those emails to MailChimp and sending the email to mansion, for example, was a feature that I had to wait approximately for one year, um, because there were, because there were other things to do, like bugs to fix and everything.
And, but mansion was very critical. And when I, when I, when I added MailChimp, uh, it, it started. You know, th th the revenue care started to go up a little bit.
Andrew: Meaning you, I think you didn’t realize how important it was for people to get the data directly into email software. Right? You said, I’m
Ben: I realized it after.
Andrew: I’m giving you a file and it took many customers telling you, you need this, I need this for you find, say, okay, great.
Ben: No, I, I, yeah. I had like three customers telling me I need it. And I said, okay, we need it to the agency. But then the agency was full with other requests that were even more important because, you know, something was not working and it was not moving fast enough. We didn’t have enough developer and I didn’t have the money to hire a new developer.
So it just took time. It wasn’t priority, but it took time.
Andrew: I would even say, if we went back before you launched, you started blogging about pot, about pop-ups you started. Wow. That was awkward. I had to sneeze for like the last 20 minutes you started, you started blogging about it, which I thought was interesting. You said, let me tell you my experience. And in a few blog posts, you just kept going over and saying, you’re not going to believe this, but here’s data.
Here’s. Here’s like my chart to show you where our registrations were before and after. And then you became the guy who goes to, I remember bliss Mo bliss Mo um, was really popular within the techie community because of the founder. You said, look, blue bliss mode. When they, uh, when they’re selling their bliss mow box, they have a pop-up you showed urban Outfitters.
You showed Everlane, you just showed how other people are doing pop-ups to almost make, Oh yeah, you were trying to say, this does make sense. And truthfully, you know, who that type of thing spoke to is people like me. And because if, if you looked at pop-ups back in, when, when you were launching 2013, There was a lot of hate for them in, in everyone, in, in the tech software community, for sure.
Andrew: people who love them, where the people who are in the info marketing world and the people who quietly were doing them were the big brands. Like you mentioned, I’m just mentioned some on your site, but frankly, the New York times I think was doing them. You’d go to these. The New York times still does it.
Right? These high brands do it. People don’t pay attention to them. The info marketers do are people obsessed and say it’s only of their world. And everyone else says it’s not for me. And you wanted to say, this makes sense. I’m going to start evangelizing. So you did it. You had a thing that led people create their first.
Pop-up very little from what I could see, um, customization, but I could have my own pop-up box. And then I think I, us as the user, I would get a file with the email addresses that were collected for me. Right. That’s version one. How did you
Ben: I could never have imagined at that time that she would mention those blog posts. I was really absolutely certain that no one in the world was reading this. Um, it’s true. The context was very different. Like popups were nowhere. And I had to, there was that kind of doubt that okay, will pop up, exist in two, three, five years.
And it was not obvious now it’s just that it, you know, it’s, it’s part of the marketing stack of any e-commerce website. It was not
Andrew: So how’d you get customers?
Ben: probably, you know, just, uh, aye the, in the world, people that we look for pop up tool. And so I, I start writing our lending page and doing, you know, uh, optimizing it for, in Google, for pop-ups. And so our, our headline was the Butler builder, and it was all about products. And I had this blog about popups and I it’s at some, it started to, to, to come up in the, in the, in the Google searches.
And, and so that’s how first customers came in. Every email that I sent to sell and promote, or do some outreach about why pups failed, um, people were not interested, but people that were needing, uh, in the need of the pop-up tool, they, they, they started to found us. And that was very exciting.
Andrew: So that’s, um, that’s something that you also learned from your previous business, previous business, you were an organics, you said to your team, look, people it’s not sexy to say we sell organic stuff, even though people, well, you tell me what, how did you come to that conclusion that you were wrong in your analysis?
What was going
Ben: no. Yeah, that’s exactly it. Um, I wanted to sell it in my first company. I wanted to sell a concept. I wanted to build a brand and have something sexy and everything. And people were looking in Google for organic products and it was more than organic products, what we were doing. But at the end, the people who are looking for organic product.
And so I learned that and when I started the waist stuff, I said, okay, I’m not going to make that same mistake. I’m not going to sell a marketing tool and a new technology or whatever. I’m just going to set up a tool, which is what we’re doing. And I guess that, that answers a need. And, and that works.
Andrew: And that was you being much more practical than you were at the first time. You’re now a second time entrepreneur, much more mature, much more practical. And I guess also then all those blog posts were also helping you start SEO. Um, and then it paid off later on when you launched. The other thing that I, I understood you were hoping for was you worked with an agency, they had clients, they told you this makes sense that their clients could use it.
Did you get their clients as customers of wise pops?
Ben: I don’t know. I dunno. It’s always like that. You know, you never, I never expected anyone to bring me customers. Um, I don’t know. It just didn’t happen.
Andrew: you know, one of your competitors was, um, they were, they went to these people who are in the F who are affiliate marketers, and they said, we’ll give you a commission. Whenever somebody signs up, just start writing blog posts. And at the time there were all these blog posts being written about at least one, if not multiple pop-up apps, you never got into that.
And my sense is that you were watching that happen though, right? My sense is you didn’t get into it because. To respond to that quickly would have meant having a developer on hand who could understand how the affiliate product works, who could recreate the affiliate product and jump in fast enough that you could go back to, I don’t know who was a John chow at the time and others and say, run my thing.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. And I was at Amazon. So, you know, I didn’t have much time. Uh, I was working a lot at Amazon. I had to manage the customer support for white stops. And on my personal time, I also had to write down the specifications for the new feature to the agency. I have to do the accounting, I have to do everything.
And so I didn’t have much time left. And also on top of that, I didn’t have much resources, as you said. So not much development team, no flexibility, no reactivity. So yeah, there is a lot of things that I would have done differently, but I just couldn’t. Yeah.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s a very slow approach to building. When you saw others get into your space, the one that you had to say makes sense, and now they’re getting all the credit for it. How, how did that feel? I imagine it was frustrating.
Ben: Yeah, it’s frustrating. Yes, definitely. It’s frustrating. But, um, no, it is, it
Andrew: Weren’t you scared that they would run away with the business and you’d be completely forgotten.
Ben: uh, I was a little bit scared, but I was also, I must admit I was also protected by Amazon. So, you know, it was a kind of a hedge, uh, I knew I meaning.
Andrew: You’re not going bankrupt. Your family gets to eat, right? You have your job. So it doesn’t freak you out in the middle of the night. It’s just a nagging irritation, not a thing that keeps you from going to sleep.
Ben: Yes, exactly. Which is important, right? I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s something to know that you have a backup and, and, and being at Amazon is kind of good backup. It’s not a bad one. So, so, so I, I, it was okay for me. I, it was frustrating and I was just, you know, hoping that. Undecided. I mean the white spot was still growing.
And so I, I w I was confident that someday we could, we could match bridge the gap, but it took a lot of time to bridge that gap. And, you know, five years to get 1 million, I guess we have probably competitors went faster, but we will see on the, on the long run.
Andrew: You told her producer, truthfully, this created a lot of head trash. Let’s be open here. What you, what type of head trash, what was going on in your head? As you’re watching companies raise money at hundred million dollar valuations, because they didn’t call themselves a tool. Right? They said that they were this marketing, whatever.
What, what was going on in your head at the time?
Ben: Um, I was wondering if that was a better option. I was wondering if I, you know, as you said, if, if, if it, if it would kill wise, thoughts really are not, um, I was reassured by the fact that we had customers who love the product. And so it gives you confidence. That’s very important, but still on the market point of view, we were, we were nowhere.
And so, and, and being at Amazon and having this side project, you don’t feel that you’re an entrepreneur. You cannot say you are an entrepreneur, you don’t exist as an entrepreneur and your company is not a company. So, uh, yeah, that was frustrating. And truly it was a, uh, it was a major change for me when I, I could get full time on it
Andrew: How long did it take you to be able to do full-time
Ben: three years.
Andrew: three years. Wow. And then was it just constant slow growth or did you, did you find a few milestones that helps you grow your audience? I know the MailChimp integration was a huge one. How long did that take? What year?
Ben: Yeah a year and then after no, there wasn’t, it was the constant growth. Uh, pricing was a very good, very powerful lever because when I started Y’s website was, you know, you’re more, more afraid to lose customers rather than, you know, so I started to use a preplan and then the first one was six months. And then the second price was 12 months, you know, I just, it was very, it was way too low.
And, and, and, um, and when I started increasing the price as we grew, um, and I saw that was working, it helped accelerate the business.
Andrew: When you increase it, I imagine you increase it on a new customers. Old customers were
Ben: Yeah, of course.
Andrew: the design of the site has always looked good from the beginning. This was the agency that did it.
Ben: Design. No, it was myself.
Andrew: You personally, you’re a
Ben: Well you most, I’m not, but I, I like design, so I’m, I’m uh, I’m, uh, I’m better in design
Andrew: How could you, you communicate your design desires to the developers?
Ben: I’ve I’ve, I’ve made like a, a thousands of mock-ups and I was sending them to designers, just asking them to police, police shit a little bit and not rethink the whole thing. Uh, and this is how it worked
Andrew: What were you
Ben: quite well. What, which software, um, sketch as long as I can, as far as I can remember, I’ve used sketch a lot.
Andrew: And then you’d hire a designer and you’d say, give me your input. How would you make this look better?
Ben: Yeah. Uh, I’m an MFR. You’re a professional. Can you make it look pro? Okay.
Andrew: Can I say the one negative about the design of your site throughout the years is I feel like you haven’t decided whether the, the P in pops should be capitalized at first peak. Right? Sometimes I see, I was
Ben: We had that discussion the one week ago.
Andrew: about whether to do it. So sometimes it’s wise capital P pops, sometimes it’s wise lower P what did, what did you settle up?
Ben: no, no capital, uh, no,
Andrew: Why’d you decide no capital.
Ben: way I prefer it’s easy to, easier to read. That’s something I’ve done that time as a, make it easy to read.
Andrew: Uh, okay. And so, and that’s the way it is also in your logo. It’s all lowercase in the logo. But I thought to, I know some founders get really frustrated when you get the capitalization wrong. And I was looking at my notes and I said, what happened to my team? How do we have it one way? And then I see it on his side another way.
And then I realized as I was reading through it’s every different way on a site.
Ben: We we’ve been, um, you know, it was a side project wise pops, and then it was a side project turning into a stop that slowly, and then from a startup to a company. And right now we are become a real company and we have a much senior team. And so those things are being taken care of much more professionally that it used to be.
Andrew: The time. When would you say that it became like a professional company, as you say,
Ben: Uh, honestly, I think it’s, it’s a, it happened in the last few months.
Andrew: really? Because.
Ben: Because, uh, because I, I, because of the, of the team, so I’ve been working, um, When I last time as in, I was alone for a year, also with this agency, and then I hired one, one, my first employee, um, which was amazing guy. We were doing almost everything like the product to growth, the customer success.
And I was also working on a product and we had the agents and then we, it took us one year to bring the development in-house and hire our development team. And we’ve been, and, and, and trying to bridge this competition gap that we were talking about before. And that took us like two, two years. And it led us where we ended the last year, end of last year, this first employee, he left, I had to replace him.
And, um, as he were doing many things in the company, as I said, product. Um, customer success, um, and growth. I hired, uh, three senior guys for each of those positions and it changes everything. And so, because, you know, it brings seniority experiences and focus where we, and that’s how I think what articulates the change from startup to company
Andrew: Ask about the senior. I’ve been, I’ve been making notes here to come back and ask you about hiring. Let me take a moment to talk about my second sponsor and then we’ll come back and talk about hiring and why senior level people and how that worked out for you. My second sponsor is HostGator for hosting websites.
Benjamin. Let me, let me ask you this. You’ve seen a lot of websites that do well. Have are there any sites that you’ve seen us do, especially well that we can give my audience as examples or, or ideas that will spark, uh, business ideas for them?
Ben: waste. I’d like, like what, like concept
Andrew: well? Who was, uh, who, what types of businesses have you seen do well as someone who through wise pops gets to see multiple businesses, you get to see their analytics. Is there a content business you’ve seen do well, give me an idea of what’s doing well so that we can spark some ideas for our audience.
Ben: Okay. So the ID, I think, is Brent, uh, any business that is able to create a strong brand, a strong identity, do something, but do it differently. And that’s very true in e-commerce. Um, this works very well because businesses are, can be very dependent. Um, very, yeah, it depends on, on, on, you know, on platforms like Google Facebook to, to, to drive acquisition and.
The businesses that are able to create a brand that makes people come back to the website because they want the look for the brand. Uh, they create a sustainable loop and, and, um, and the success loop and it works very well. So I don’t have any name that I can share, but a lot of, um, a lot of Shopify stores, for example, that are doing very well are pretty great inspiration for any new business starting.
Andrew: So, what you’re suggesting is brand develop, develop the brand and then people will continue. Right. I’m noticing that too, that there was a period there where every consumer product that we had at my house growing up was some kind of major brand, like a general mills type brand. My cereal, my launch, my everything.
And if we ever got anything that was not one of the major big company brands, we felt our mother was cheating us by going for the cheapo route. Even if there was, you know, more substance in it, even if it had more nutrients, then it became this anger towards those bigger companies and more appreciation for the people who deliver this stuff to you think about like Amazon, right?
For some people, it was more Walmart, but there’s a thing that that’s your place for others. It was, it was whole foods and we can go into the clothing and so on, uh, to a different degree. But now it is the individual brand of the person who’s making it. Ideally they’re focused on this one little thing and.
And, and then the bigger companies are trying to fake it. Right. And it started with micro brews, but it’s gone on to shavers. Um, a friend of mine just bought a, uh, uh, a beauty brand for men and he sent it over to me. Think of me, like I’m not a beauty person, but he sent it over to me and I could see the care that they take in developing their brands.
You’re saying that’s what it is. Let me suggest this for anyone who has an idea or a passion for brands. And they don’t have a business yet. I think one thing they could do is do what you did, which is just start documenting the different brand experiences that they’re seeing. And then let that create a sensitivity to branding and allow them to then either get clients will hire them to do better branding for them or to then say, well, why is there no brand in this one place?
I can’t write about it. So here’s my idea. If you are listening to me and you want to go to HostGator and get a website for something, one great idea is to just sensitize yourself to the brands as they’re being created, by creating a website where all you’re doing is just documenting and collecting these newer brands and how they’re working and how they’re building up.
One of my friends, Brian Harris did that. He said, I want to see how online marketers are doing, doing things, how they’re closing sales with these new funnels, right? He went in and he started documenting other people’s funnels, including mine. And that’s how I kind of got to know the way he thinks he wanted.
He saw here’s how Andrew takes a stranger, turns to them into an email subscriber, nurtures them, and then sells them. And he laid the whole thing out in a blog post. And he did that over and over. And then people now are hiring him to basically, we do that for them to teach them how to do it and that’s his business.
Um, so if you’re listening to me and you want to go to HostGator, I think you should go to hostgator.com/mixergy to start this business or any other business you’ll need a website. And if you use that URL HostGator, we’ll get you the best possible price. It’s hostgator.com/mixergy, great price, great service.
I’m happy to be a customer of theirs. hostgator.com/mixergy. Let’s talk about hiring. The very first person is more of a generalist. Like you said, you, then when you replaced them, I could understand it since he was I’ll trade, you needed multiple people to do his work. Why did you go senior? Instead of saying, I’m going to take junior people, I’m going to train them up and then.
And then maybe later on I’ll hire managers for them with more experience. Why did you start top down instead of bottom up?
Ben: Well, first of all, seniors, senior people are not necessarily managers, right? They can be, um, um, individual contributor.
Andrew: people. It’s not necessarily a customer service manager who will eventually hire people. It’s more like someone who has deep customer service experience, who could tell you here’s what we did at these last companies and how you could do it. Well, here is that
Ben: Yes, we are a remote company and that’s important because as we’re remote, we need to, it’s really important for me to work with people that have experienced that I can trust that are autonomous. And, and that’s how I like to work. Also. Um, I have this, I don’t know, vision for the company that we want to stay a small team.
So ideally we prefer to be 10, uh, and 20 people expert people doing, um, what we love and working together like that rather than having managers and hiring like tens of people below, you know? Uh, so that’s a kind of the company model that you want, you know, and, and, and this is very important for me. It’s very important for the members and the team.
And, and truly it’s, it’s, it’s working very well. We love working the way we do so we don’t want to change that. Um, yeah. So that’s why, you know, looking for experienced people,
Andrew: Is there something that you’ve learned from them that you implemented that you can share? Just to give me an example of how hiring a senior person brings in their expertise and experience?
Ben: um, it’s, it’s very new, right? So as we speak this, these people, most half of them are, are, are, are joining the teams. But what I can say is that they, they have methodology, they put on a framework, they, they are very organized and their methodology goes so it’s step by step and set up the metric, take action, measure the impact and.
It, you know, it, it, that’s why I said it was getting professional. Um, it changed a lot.
Andrew: switching from the agency to a developer who now needs to take on work that other people had done over a course of multiple years, that can’t be easy. How did you find the right person and how was the transition
Ben: We hired the, our project manager in the agency. Actually, we started a new project called whisper, which is a notification to make basically similar to what we’re doing with pop-ups. But on the notification side
Andrew: notification? Meaning, uh, I didn’t see this Chrome notification or what.
Ben: No, it’s not. It’s, um, notification, a notifications feed that is embedded in, um, our customer’s website.
So when you land on the website, you will see a small bell and you can click on that and then you will have your messages. It’s basically inspired from what we’re used to, you know, in faith, Facebook, or LinkedIn, um, the notification feed, but it’s one that is designed for EMS and optimized for e-commerce messaging and conversion.
And when we started that project, we hired, um, a CTO and hiring a CTO, um, motivated our project manager in the agency to join us. She said, Oh no, that you start to have a development team. I would be happy to and interesting to join full-time. And that was like the beginning of everything.
Andrew: the CTO’s role was going to be to take over all the work that you’ve done for wise pops, or to just start this new project
Ben: No just on the new project and the new product.
Andrew: And so now the person who has been working on wise pop said, you have someone there. It’s not just going to be me. I’d like to work with them. We can work on this new, uh, alerting process.
But also I can take over with wise pops, did the agency have an issue with you taking on one of their people?
Andrew: And so how’d you handle that? I bet.
Ben: no, but eventually it was a little bit harder than we had several discussions, but at the end it went all right.
Andrew: pay them. I am assuming buyout as contract or pay to Sue things over. No.
Ben: It’s a complex relationship. There, there was like, there was a lot of discussion going on. So eventually I would say that I think it went all right. And we have no hard feelings now. Um, so. Yeah, it’s, it’s not an easy step for sure. Um, but the 23rd, right.
Andrew: To know what to build for these customers. You said you needed to just keep looking to your customers and understand what they wanted. And that’s how you found out. For example, the people want to play with credit cards, not with just with PayPal. We talked about a CRM integration, like MailChimp. How did you even have the time to go and talk to your customers?
You’re working a full-time job. You’re managing this. When you say talk to customers, do you just mean responding to customer service, email and understanding what they need or were you actually getting on calls?
Ben: Uh, doing the customer support and taking up the opportunity to have the customer support, to have larger discussion and then understand them needs. But really when you do yourself, the customer support. Um, you learn a lot because you, you quickly see where people are having pain fonts, what could make their experience better.
And you, you get to let you understand their needs, what they’re trying to do, you can add them. So it’s, it’s fantastic. Um, uh, if there is one thing you must do as a founder, I think it’s, it’s customer support to get started. It’s so
Andrew: just answering the customer support email that comes in. That’s the way that you mostly do it.
Ben: Yeah, it was email. And then, and then chat. But first, the first email,
Andrew: You mean like, like WhatsApp or something with a customer?
Ben: uh, no, like Intercom, you know, we’re, we’ve been using tech,
Ben: but, but at first it was email on the email.
Andrew: What’s another example of something that’s non-obvious that came to you because you kept doing customer support.
Ben: Um, A lot of techniques, technological, uh, advanced targeting. Uh, I, you know, I, I was, I’m not a developer. I’m not a growth hiker I had, no, I had in mind, simple use case pop-ups um, it turns out that, um, we found marketers that had very complex and amazing idea of how to connect, why their pop-ups with their website experience.
Andrew: Like what the, the one obvious thing that I can imagine you could think of is if somebody has seen the pop-up twice, don’t keep showing it to them for the rest of their lives. Let the, let the site owner and the pop-up creator decide how often to show a pop-up and when to show it. And that’s it, what’s, what’s a more complex non-obvious thing that your has helped you understand that they need.
Ben: None of just one, but I remember it was an early one. It was enabling the visitors to decide, Hey, don’t show me any popups for 30 days. And, you know, that’s the kind of features that you wouldn’t think out maybe by yourself until the time where a customer asks for it very strongly, then it starts to make sense.
Now we also have way more complex integration where we can, um, you know, do some product upsells or customize the text within the popups, depending on where the visitor is coming from, or, you know, what page he’s looking at. Or, and so that’s, that’s getting more technical.
Andrew: Uh, yeah, like, um, you’re saying if someone comes in from an, from instruct, well, they wouldn’t come in from Instagram, but they might come in from Google. They might come in from a paid ad on Instagram, et cetera. And you want to acknowledge it.
Ben: Exactly. He can come from an ad words or paid ad, and then we will adjust the content of the pop-up based under the ad that he has clicked on. It’s it’s really looking after personalization mostly.
Andrew: this going? I feel like there was a period there. I remember talking to the founder of BounceX he was killing it because he had a few really, really great ideas. Like when someone’s about to leave the site, he, they, there was exit intent. He created these exit intent. Pop-ups right. They killed it with that.
He had a bunch of others. I don’t want to say that. That’s it. But today exit intent, it’s part of why’s pops. It’s, it’s a thing that’s now accepted. What are you seeing now that we wouldn’t know about yet, but it’s coming down and it’s working really well. The thing that we, we should be aware of.
Ben: Um, it is, um, it is several aspects. The first one is the, I think the big trend is the ability to, to match, um, To think not only at puppet level, but at, at customer level and try to define the, the, the, the experience that the customer will have and what pop-up, or what messages, because it’s not only pop up.
Now we do pop-ups and banners, bars, embedded forms, notifications. So what are the messages that he’s going to see through his experience, uh, depending on what he’s going to do on the website. And we can be very, very powerful. It can be very powerful when you, when you start to really like, um, you know, uh, adapt your messaging to the customer experience.
And, and this, this has a, uh, a very big impact on conversions.
Andrew: What’s an, and it’s all done manually where, where the marketer has to say on these pages. I want these pop-ups. I want this pop-up right.
Ben: This is done manually today. And we started doing more automatically and, and we, we recently hired a head of data science, for example, in under to be more relevant and more, um, um, you know, go further in the way we collect that, organize it and enable our brands to do it. Basically, you know, there’s a lot of customer that our platform today, I dunno if you follow that trend, but there’s a lot of, uh, tools, uh, platform marketing platform selling you the ability to build experience for your customers.
And they are very expensive. Like you, you, you would not even get a price for their services. If you get on the website, you need to talk to a sales rep, you know, and we, we, we, we see the opportunity to do what they’re doing, like 80% of what. Like 20% of what they do that drives the 80% of the results and to do it with at a way lower price for all, you know, uh, small brands and, and that’s where we see a lot of value.
Andrew: So, what do they, what do they do now? It’s, they’re using, they’re using date data to have an art, I guess I hate to say AI, but they’re using artificial intelligence to understand what’s going on at the site and know.
Ben: No, it’s not really AI, just helping you. When, when you’re a brand, you’re not really doing anything from your data, you know, that you should collect your, that are organized and have a CRM and everything, but you don’t have the time. You don’t have the resources to do that. And so what we’re trying to do is help you as a, as a business owner or a, um, a marketer get to the, again, the, the, the, the best.
Collect what you need to collect in order to be effective. It’s not, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Andrew: So for example, if somebody has been clicking on my emails on a regular basis, I obviously shouldn’t be asking them for their email address the next time they’re on my site. Right.
Ben: Yes. And if you’ve visited the website many times and you didn’t sign up, maybe there is, um, some strategies to test to make you sign up, you know, and, and, and.
Andrew: You know what else I’m seeing. Tell me what you think of this. I’m seeing that there’s some people who would like more coordination among multiple sites. So why should I just know, based on the fact that somebody come to me and I know this is a privacy issue too, so we’ve got two things going on where software wants to go and where privacy needs to go.
One is where software wants to go. Seems to be, to say, if someone is constantly clicking on male beauty products on other sites, and we have both male and female beauty products, why are we showing them just the female beauty products instead of showing them the male products. Right? And so that’s a simple thing that you could do if you know what people are doing across multiple sites.
Do you see that happening? Do you see that coming up?
Ben: Uh, it happened, it exists today. There is a privacy issue, which is major. And in Europe, we are very, you know, there is a very strong pressure from the. Regulation on the under privacy. So this cannot be done here and should not be done. Um, so our approach is that we don’t, we don’t need to invest on that, but we can learn from what the visitors is doing on the website.
So it will take one iteration, but when a new visitor come to your store and click on the men product, then we know that he’s interested in men and that is that we can store. And that is the, that we can provide you with. So that in your, on your new campaign, you’re able to leverage it.
Andrew: within a specific site all the day. You’re saying we don’t have to go beyond the site. We could stay within the site. If somebody is doing something on the site, one time. Let’s remember it for the next time they come back up. Got it. I think I see where you’re going with this. All right. The why the website for anyone who wants to go check it out, it’s why’s pops.com.
Do you regret now that you’ve stuck with pop-up in the name now because you are doing so much more with than popups, like you said, you’ve got forms and so on.
Ben: No, no, no, no. It’s a, it’s, it’s a great, it’s, it’s, it’s a great name. Uh, we, we keep it and, um, and we’re w you know, we, it’s, we’re focused on onsite marketing, so helping the website are very static and they need a marketing layer on top of it, where you can push messages and push personalization, and it has to be easy.
And perhaps I think it, it does the job for that in, in helping people understand what it is about.
Andrew: your site is just absolutely. The popups that you’re showing on your site is beautiful. Everything on your side is super clear. I’d love a button that I could press to bring up these popups as examples. I could see them in real time. Like when you show a video, pop-up it looks so elegant.
So clear. Instead of seeing a screenshot, I’d love to just press a button and see it come up so that I can actually experience it. Does that make sense?
Ben: That makes sense. That’s the magic.
Andrew: Now that you’ve got a big team working on it, but throughout I’m telling you, I’ve seen the site over the years, there is absolute taste here and I enjoyed seeing it and, um, uh, enjoy seeing the growth in the business for anyone who wants to go check it out. It’s Ys pops.com. I want to thank the two sponsors made this interview happen in the first.
If you’re hiring a developer, professionalizing your business, and you want the best of the best, really go, Google them, go research them, go find out about them. Top towel is the place to go. And if you want a great deal on them, go to top talent.com/mixergy, where customers will get 80 hours of developer credit when they pay for the first 80 hours.
That’s top tal.com/m I Z R G Y. By the way, it occurred to me Benjamin. These ads are like, pop-ups right? Like you’re listening to the, to the interview. And then boom, I pop up with an ad. No wonder it works. Um, the second sponsor. Right. I guess radio broadcasters were the first pop-up advertising people like Howard stern would talk and then suddenly go.
Now, let me tell you about the Jewish singles weekend on long Island. And then he’d go into that. Um, no kidding. He used to actually, I don’t know, you probably don’t know Howard stern, but he was like the shock talk in America. He used to do these
Ben: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: do know the dude used to do ads. I used to listen to New York.
He used to do these ads for. For like camp weekends, and then he tell you how he was a loser going to school. But when he went to camp, he got to be cool. And girls with datum and you should go and sign up for camp. And suddenly this thing that sounded like what an odd thing to advertise on the radio camp for adults.
And they go, well, maybe I shouldn’t be doing camp for adults anyway. Um, hopefully the same thing’s happening for somebody who’s listening to us. Who said, you know what? I didn’t think I needed a website, but this whole host Gator idea. Yeah, let’s go do it. And if you want to go do it, use my URL, give me credit and get the best possible price.
Only available at hostgator.com/mixergy. Benjamin. Thanks so much for staying up late with me. I know it’s late where you are
Ben: Thanks a lot for your time. It was great discussion.
Andrew: right on.