How Anthony Joiner validated his SaaS idea and won $120k at a startup competition

Product Stories
How Anthony Joiner validated his SaaS idea and won $120k at a startup competition
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Summary

In this episode of Product Stories, Victor Purolnik talks to Anthony Joiner, author, coach, entrepreneur, and founder of Blooksy, a Web-based book writing and publishing platform. He explains how he validated his SaaS idea and won $120k in a startup competition. Anthony shares how he came up with the idea, pre-sold the product, developed an MVP, had to switch developers, and even had to start over.

Episode Highlights/Topics:

  • Ghostwriters: Outsource to get books written and published in weeks, not months
  • Publishing Co.: Managing people (authors, editors) and tools (Asana, Trello) is hard
  • Why start Blooksy? To manage entire writing/publishing process assets from end to end
  • First Development Iteration: Started out swimmingly, but then started sinking
  • What you search for, you see more of (ask questions, check code to match talent)
  • Starting Over: Rewrite and repurpose what works to improve user experience/interface 
  • Start Sharing: Get validation of a problem from audience; are they willing to pay for it?
  • Road Map: Be intentional with next steps in process and productize, automize service
  • SaaS Entry Barrier: Competition is extremely high and crowded space 

Resources/Links:

Trustshoring

Blooksy

Blooksy on Instagram

Blooksy on Facebook

Anthony Joiner on Instagram

Startup Showdown

Penguin Random House

Gary Vaynerchuk

Upwork

Dribble

Fiverr

Read the transcript:

Victor [00:14]: Hey, welcome back everyone. Today’s guest is Anthony Joiner, founder of Blooksy, and he will share with us his jury of coming up with a SaaS idea, pre-selling the product, developing an MVP, having to switch developers in the middle of it, and even having to start over and finally having dozens of pay users sign up and he’s just won $120,000 at a start-up competition, no equity given away here, I recall and he will share with us his journey. Anthony, welcome to the show.

Anthony [00:48]: Thank you Victor for doing this. I’m happy to be here, man.

Victor [00:51]: Awesome. Awesome. Why don’t you tell everybody a bit about your background, because this is not an idea you’ve just had in your head essentially, but you have an existing running business. Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

Anthony [01:04]: I’ll just stick to the relevant stuff because there’s a lot there. But I spent probably close to 20 years in corporate America as a software project manager, software business analyst. I know how to do wireframes and things like that. So a bit of experience on the design side. And once I left corporate America, I started a digital marketing agency, which gave me experience in the marketing world. So I did that for people and media, so TV personalities, radio personalities, actors, so it sort of introduced me into that world. One of the things that I did very early to position myself in the market was I wrote books just on whatever the topic that I was talking about. So wrote a few books and what happened is after the third one; so the first book took 18 months to get done, just figuring things out. But once I figured it out, the second and third one took probably six to eight weeks each because instead of doing it all myself, I hired ghostwriters and I just documented the process. 

So that sort of led to people asking me, hey, how are you writing all these books and I’ll fast forward a little bit. So eventually I started coaching people through the process of writing books. I was very hands-on doing workshops and eventually, I did webinars and fast forward a little bit further, I was traveling across the country, doing something called Books Across America. So I go to different cities, I do one, two or three-day workshops and help people write and publish their books from a coaching perspective. Well, the pandemic happened and I’m sure that’s a narrative that we’ll all hear for the rest of our lives. Everybody had to stop traveling and go indoors. So I created a Facebook group. I threw all my authors into a private Facebook group. I started doing online trainings, of course, and my mentor told me probably two years earlier that I should start a publishing company and I said, hell no, because I don’t want to manage people, I’d rather just help people find the resources so that they can do it. 

Well more and more the author started asking me, hey, can we just pay you to help us publish the book? So I ended up starting the publishing company and very quickly I realized that number one, managing people is hard, because as a publisher or person who owned a publishing company, you have these resources that you’re managing, your editors, and different types of editors. You have your illustrators and different types of illustrators. Then you have your customer service people that are doing the communication between the editors and the authors and there’s all this back and forth and what the marketing world defaults to is sort of this clusey solution of it’s a mixture of Asana [www.asana.com] and Dropbox www.dropbox.com and Trello www.trello.com and Google Drive www.drive.google.com and Google docs and Microsoft office. So there are all these different tools that everybody uses and I sort of looked around and everybody was just doing it. 

So I had my own little solution, but about one out of every 25 or so of books would just go off the rails and whether it was my fault and I always took responsibility, but sometimes it wouldn’t be our fault. We have authors who were using, here’s a worst-case scenario. We had one author who had literally typed her first draft in a series of emails. So chapter one was one email, chapter two was another email. She didn’t even use Microsoft office. So when we talked to her and she said, hey, my manuscript is ready, I just need editing, et cetera and we were like, hey, email us your manuscript, she sent us 14 emails and each email was the chapter of her book. So now we have to take all those chapters combine them, whatever. So fast forward some more, I started asking myself after one particular project, why isn’t there a tool that manages the entire publishing process? Not just the writing process, because there are plenty of tools out there like Scrivener www.literatureandlatte.com and a few more. Why isn’t there something that manages the process end to end? 

So I started mapping it out. I pulled out my old software project manager and business analyst hat, and I mapped out on my wall, what would it look like for an author to either upload or start their manuscript in a software platform, have the ability to hire an editor, hire an illustrator, have the formatting already built into the tools so you didn’t have to hire someone to come in and do the formatting, design a layout that was very familiar to a book and have all the assets in one tool. I started mapping it out and that’s where Blooksy was born. So that night I sort of went on Upwork, which is everybody’s default and since I had experience doing this, I sort of just found developers and found the developers and hired them. I did a little due diligence, not a lot, but their work looked pretty good and we started actually doing mockups that night. I sent them all the screenshots and that’s where it started, man. 

Victor [05:52]: That’s awesome. Well, it’s interesting how your sort of pivot due to COVID led you to even realize these inefficiencies. It’s like, you need to be really deep into business, but then suddenly that becomes obvious, right? It’s so funny, people are around, especially developers, people like me are looking for these ideas of what to build but they can be so obvious if you are just within an industry. I see these all over where people with a software background, but mostly really deep in a specific niche come up with these really cool workflow solutions that actually fulfil a need. So you prepared very well. You drew up, I mean, I saw that at least once when we were speaking, in the background you had this gigantic whiteboard and everything laid out. That was super awesome to look at. So this is how you prepared, you created wireframes exactly as you should, that’s perfect. Did you somehow validate at this stage before you hired developers or did you ask around?

Anthony [06:57]: I had my membership group already, so what I did even that night and the, I remember the night like it was yesterday, I was doing all these mock-ups and I had the Facebook group, 250 plus people in there who I had already worked with, and probably over a hundred of the people in there I had already helped publish. So I just did a video and I put it in the group and I said, hey guys, I’ve helped a lot of you guys publish books, we’ve had some projects that went really bad and you guys, I always overcompensate when things go bad to try to at least save the relationships. But I said, listen, I want to build software to do this because it’s all these different resources. I know your most important priority is having your book done and my most important priority is making sure that you get that done, but it’s hard managing all these different resources and I started this publishing company to actually help you guys. I didn’t even want to start it. 

So I said if I built software that managed the process would you guys consider using it? And I just started telling them on the video what I thought it should be and then they started leaving feedback in the comments like, hey, could it do this? Could it do that? And a few days later, the first development team that I hired, they took my mock-ups and everything that I sketched out on the wall and I actually used the software tool. I can’t remember which one it was, but a free wireframing tool and I did a little wireframe and then they turned it into PDFs that actually looked like software. So I put that in the group, once they gave me those I did another video and I shared the PDFs and I was like, hey, this is the login screen and this is what it would look like to add chapters and I got feedback there. 

So every step along the way I validated but knew the problem existed because number one, I’d already written a book, so it was a pain in the butt. Then managing people through the process I knew it was a pain in a butt for them and then from the publishing perspective, I knew it was a pain in the butt because I had to manage editors and illustrators. Then it was also a pain in the butt for editors. Here’s what I mean. So when authors, in this particular case, when they’re writing a book and they submit it to be edited, well, if you’re using, most people are still using Microsoft Word, that’s just, I mean, that’s just where we are. So if someone submits book to me and my editor does the edits and they send it back to the author, seven times out of 10 the author will look at the changes that the editor had made and either accept them or leave it the same but then they will also go back to a chapter that was already approved and add more content there. 

So what happens is you get into this loop of the editors making changes that we’ve already approved because it’s their book, you can’t tell them not to. So you get into this loop where you do your estimate based on one set of criteria, but then all of a sudden they’re making changes that are outside of the scope and when you explain to them like, hey, your changes, and it’s just like software, you keep requesting changes, you’re requesting changes that are outside of what we clearly defined but you expect us to maintain the same deadline. But they never understood that and rightfully so because they’re customers, they don’t know that. They just think, hey, I’m just adding one paragraph but now the editor has to read that paragraph in context with the whole book. So there was this process of sort of doing it iteratively, and getting feedback along the way from the people that were in my membership group. So I knew the problem intimately and then I had a test group of people who could give me real-time feedback.

Victor [10:30]: That’s awesome. So I’m not surprised this has worked out so well for you, but what hasn’t worked out quite that well was your first iteration of development. How did that go?

Anthony [10:42]: Well, it started out swimmingly. So I found a team and again, when you’re on Upwork, you kind of get what you pay for. 

Victor [10:50]: As everywhere.

Anthony [10:53]: As everywhere, and again, it’s not a knock on Upwork www.upwork.com, but I looked out and of course you look at people’s work history and you look at their reviews and then you sort of do an interview. So it started out everything is going really well and the initial PDF that they made based on my sketches and my wireframes, they did really well with that. Sort of standing up a bare bones, sort of a click-through prototype, they did that. But then as we continued development, after probably three weeks I realized that we were doing two meetings a week and the meetings would start to sound the same. Hey, we’re doing things, you’re not going to notice a change on the front end because we’re doing things behind the scenes that you won’t see right away. 

So again, I had experience doing this already, and I know that does happen and we’d get an update and we’d say, hey, these are the things that happen behind the scenes but after about the third week, I said, hey, this has been going on a while. I’m paying 40 hours a week for all this work, but I don’t see anything, by now I should start to see things. They assured, I got the project manager and then sort of the program manager got on the call and they’re like, yes, we promised, things are going, just behind the scenes but now my attention which you focus on, you can kind of manage a little bit better. So now it’s like, okay, well we need to ramp up the meetings too. We need to check in every day, at least for 15 minutes so that I can see the progress and initially, they were like, okay, so the next day they were on the meeting, but then they’re like, hey, we can’t today because of X, Y, Z and then they kept postponing meetings. 

So finally, I don’t even remember, I think, oh, here’s what I did and this is very important for anyone listening. Whenever I take on a different challenge, I immerse myself into that world and here’s what I mean. I went out and I found software groups on Reddit, then I went and I joined software groups on Facebook. I went and I joined software groups on LinkedIn. I set my settings in Quora to get updates from software groups. I have a few apps on my phone that I get notifications from. I set it to, I wanted to get software updates so that I could understand what’s going on in the world best practices and sort of surround myself with other experts because although I did it in corporate America, I wanted to be immersed in what was happening at the current moment or how things were going then. So now all of a sudden I’m building software, but all the signals that are coming into me on every platform, they’re all software because the algorithm works is what you search for you see more of and I understood that. 

So now my timeline was full with SaaS people, and Reddit is SaaS and my email, I’ve signed up for email newsletters. So I put a signal out in one of the groups and I said, hey, so I’ve been working with this team now for about two months and it seems things have stalled, any of you guys ran into something like this? And I saw an interview that you did in one of the groups. I can’t remember which one it was, but you talked about how you were able to find talent in different countries and match the talent to the need of the person who needed software built. So you and I had a conversation and honestly, and again, I’m not overselling or anything like that, but really when you came in you gave a lot of your time, you went and looked at the code, you looked at my wireframes. I explained the direction that I wanted to go, the vision. I kind of shared a lot of different things with you and I mean, you told me the questions that I should ask, you showed the code to me that they were actually building and you showed me that they really just built a shell and there was maybe one or two lines of code, but it appeared to be a lot more than it was, but there was really nothing there. 

So then I called all hands on deck meeting with the other team, I paused everything, then all of a sudden they started doing stuff, they were like, oh, look what we did and it literally all happened within like 48 hours, they built out all this stuff. I was like, well, no, we’ve already wasted this amount of time. The downside was, and again, it’s a net positive, but the downside was all the money that I paid them from December up until the end of February, I won’t say a dollar amount, but it was pretty significant, I wasn’t able to get any of the money back and the other thing that I had someone on my team on Upwork, it tracks their work if you set it to record their screens and I had someone from my team, who’s sort of understood code go back and look at their work history and what she pointed out was that they were spending most of their time Skyping with someone else asking questions about what to do next and searching for solutions but because I wasn’t paying attention at that level, I missed a lot of that. So really I paid for a very low-level developer to learn on my dime. 

But fast forward to the positive, after you looked at the code and you told me that, hey, you probably should pause this. And again, you were very nice in the way that you did it. But you introduced me to, I think maybe three teams initially and then we narrowed it down to two. So I, that the work from both of the teams and I understood how they operated and I decided to go with one of your more boutique teams because I could be more hands on with not only the owner of the company, but the head developer, and now they’ve actually grown. So they took over that project, the end of February, beginning of March and within three weeks they had taken the code that existed and they developed a working prototype that actually had a lot of functionality and I was actually able to launch that prototype with paid users with very little functionality. I think initially I let 10 people in and all 10 of those people paid me 20 bucks because just with that little bit of functionality it added value to them. 

So very early on I had was that $200 MRR because these are people that I had been communicating with from the beginning. So they were sort of anxious to see it and they were really cheering me on because they understood that I was innovating in the space and showed my group sort of all the tools that were out there, the Scriveners and all the other tools that were out there and how mine was going to be different and better even. So it worked out well and literally since I’ve hired the team that you introduced me to, things have just taken off, 100% taken off. As a matter of a fact, when I get an opportunity, I’m going to the Ukraine to actually just hang out with those guys.

Victor [17:39]: That’s awesome, you totally should. It’s a tip that we give literally everyone, even though you’re not, we work with a lot of Europeans and Americans that obviously if someone’s in Europe that’s closer to Ukraine versus for you, it’s quite a flight, but we highly recommend that for everyone working longer with their team, because that builds the in-depth knowledge, that builds this communication in between the lines, you get each other with less documentation, with less communication, with less explanation. You built the ability to brainstorm a little bit more, that all happens essentially over beers or whatever your preferred beverage is. But in the end, that is a very impressive story. I mean, especially since you were able to really quickly launch something and validate it, that’s really awesome.

What I want to just point out at this point is that during this entire process, especially in the beginning, because a lot of people do that, they look at code and they say, oh, no, it’s bad. We need to rewrite it. That’s actually a fear that a lot of people have. I’m going to ask somebody else to look at what I have, and they’re just going to say, oh, you need to do it again. But when we were speaking in the beginning, I actually encouraged you to continue with your existing team to implement best practices, the standups that you mentioned, looking at what’s being pushed every single day and while noticing there isn’t that much. And only that really led us to the realization that something needs to change and then we moved on with everything else. So I think that’s just fair for everybody and it’s important to mention that just because things are going wrong, you don’t need to throw everything overboard. Also with you, you were able to launch the existing thing initially and really validate stuff and reuse it. So that’s awesome. But then you did do a rewrite, correct?

Anthony [19:38]: I did. I did. So again, your point is really true. So I got in with the team and initially, when they saw what the code that they were able to reuse, they did had repurpose that, and we immediately, while they were doing that, I started to sort of mock up because now I had something to work from. Here’s the difference, or here’s how it progressed. We started out with sketches, then I did sort of a very high level wireframe, then they built something. Now it gave something that I could look at and understand how it worked and now when I saw how it worked, I thought visually how it could be improved, so I had to have something to improve upon. So while we put the first version out and we had 10 people that were paying 20 bucks a month, I looked at it and I said, okay, I started to go to other, and again, this is just me because I’m sort of a digger.

I started to dig up UI. I went to www.dribble.com and I started to look up UX and UI design. I went to icons eight and I started to look up UX, UI designs. I started Googling, I created a folder with all these different design layouts so that I could improve upon what we had so that when I went to my new development team, I gave them three examples of designs that I loved. I found some other software that wasn’t book writing or publishing software but I loved the way that it looked and the way that it was organized, as a matter of fact, Evernote www.evernote.com was one of the examples that I gave them. So I showed them Evernote and I was like, you know what? I like the way that this is organized and yada yada yada. So I gave them examples and then we were able to improve upon the initial MVP and launch with a totally new user experience, a totally new user interface and the advantage that I had is that when we had the first working prototype, I did videos and I shared that not only with my group, but I shared it publicly on social media and I shared it on Instagram. 

So people saw the first version and they loved it and I had people, even more people, as a matter of fact, more people paid the 20 bucks a month for the first version and I was able to sort of promote or roll out saying, hey, we’re going to have a totally different version with a totally new user experience, a totally new user interface. So people were sort of anticipating this new release, and we called the first one alpha. So they were actually anticipating the initial private beta. So when we went into private beta, we went from 10 and we added probably 15 more users. So now I had 25 people paying 20 bucks a month for our beta. 10 people for alpha and then we had 15 more people for beta. So we weren’t even close to launching, or we still haven’t even launched really. So the private beta, we were at 25 paid users because I sort of brought them from the beginning and I brought them along the journey. So they were invested in seeing my success. They almost felt like it was theirs.

As a matter of fact, and we’ll get to this in a minute, even now I have people that are championing the software and connecting me with different people because they feel like I remember when this was an idea that AJ shared with me. So they’re like, yes, he had this idea and he mocked it up. I actually helped ask them to help me come up with a name for it, I didn’t even have a name. So my group actually played a part in naming the software. So it was bringing them along every step of the way but then, again, when you brought in the other team and we built the wireframe out, it just made the anticipation of the release that much better. 

Victor [23:20]: That’s very interesting. Do you have that from publishing where you built that anticipation to a launch or something like that, is that kind of in parallel? Because seems you’ve done that very well.

Anthony [23:31]: Yes, and here’s the other thing, I’m still looking at this as, even though now we’re over a hundred paid users and this is still paying the $20 a month. So I’m letting people know now we’re in paid public beta, but I’m only letting 5, 10 people in at a time. So everybody that’s getting in they’re still excited because they’re in, before the thing goes live, even though it’s technically live. So it’s sort of this parallel, bring people along with you and it’s very similar to what people talk about when you to Gary V and you know, all these guys, and they’re like share the journey, share the journey. It was sort of doing some of that, but I wasn’t thinking about it like sharing the journey. I was really thinking about it as getting real feedback from real people and I wanted to know very early would people actually pay for this?

So I was very intentional about not letting people on for free, because again, several people said, why don’t you do free, let 300 people on free and yada, yada, yada and I was like, no, I want to know if people will pay for this and I was even willing to go down to like 10 bucks or even five bucks, but I started with 20 and since people didn’t complain about it, and here’s what people said, if it’s less than a $20 bill, I’m not going to think about it and that’s the only feedback that I got. They were like, hey, if it’s less than $20 bill, I’m not going to think about it. So I was like, okay, well, $20 and that’s where we’ve been. So now I think I haven’t looked at the numbers today, I actually had about 11 people sign up yesterday, so that will put us around 135 users and again, this is still beta.

So I have a waiting list. I think we have about 700 people on the waiting list that I haven’t even sent an email out to. We have our Instagram account. We’re doing some LinkedIn sort of gray hat stuff on LinkedIn. But again, we’re targeting people who are C-suite executives, who are interested in writing and publishing books and again, with the tool that we’re using we’re able to market directly with them with their email address and we’re planning to launch a podcast called Front Matter where we’re interviewing people, talking for 10-minute interviews with people who are executives to ask them about not only their book, but then share the process of writing their book. So the first part we’re focusing on them, the second part we’re focusing on the process so that way we can plug Blooksy in. We’re also going to sponsor book writing pockets. 

So we have all these different things that we’re working on along the way. But again, I think the biggest takeaway here is to start sharing as early as possible. What I’ve seen in a lot of the groups are people who have these tools that are already built and now they’re looking for customers. I’ve seen that so many times and I’m like, Jesus Christ, I can’t imagine having spent a year building something, but I’ve done that before. I’ve done that with a course. I spent a year making a course and then nobody bought it, I think two people bought it. So if you’re thinking about this, find Facebook groups that have your target audience very early, don’t go out and develop a full tool, a complete tool, do a PDF, do a landing page with a mockup of what your software is going to do and ask people to sign up.

Mailchimp www.mailchimp.com is free, set up a MailChimp landing page and go to Fiverr and get someone to mock up a box with your software on the front of it, a mock-up of what it would look like, and see if people would be willing to pay and say, Hey, I let you guys in for a dollar and when it launches it’ll be $5 a month, something, but get validation from the audience is first. I can’t stress that enough because just because you see something as a problem doesn’t mean that it’s a problem that people are willing to pay for.

Victor [27:11]: The so-called problem worth solving, it might be a problem, it might not be worth solving. Very, very good insight and you’re a hundred percent spot on with this. Your benefit, of course, be having your own community, this is invaluable. What also a lot of other people say is, and I like that approach is to, well, of course, build a community first, but how would you build a community just for fun. You’re not really going to do that, but what a lot of people say is your first business doesn’t have to be a SaaS. It can be essentially what you did, a service to productized service and from that you gain insight, you gain connections, you can ask people, it’s invaluable. When you’ve been in business for a few years and you think of something and you can just open up an email and from the top of your head, five to ten people you can ask about, this is invaluable and a lot of people just starting out, don’t have it. So yes, your first business doesn’t have to be SaaS, but when it is having that community makes all the difference.

Anthony [28:15]: Do it manually first. I think that if there’s an opportunity, I mean, if it’s an API or something that where it’s really technical, that’s one thing, but even then there may be an opportunity to do it manually and if you can do it manually and people will pay for you to do it as a service, then see if you can automate pieces of it. Because right now what we’ve launched to the world, people can only go in and create a book and write their content in there and do their transcription, speak their book into the software, but they can’t export it right now, they can’t publish it, they can’t do any of that, but they’re happy because they have a very small piece of functionality that’s valuable to them. And this is, July 29th, I think was when we did our sort of private-public beta and people have been paying for it, this is what September, October. So it’s only a couple of months, but people are happy with just that small piece of functionality. 

So now I’m having to ask myself the question, what is the next most important feature that we need to build that will help them? Because I have this huge roadmap, but I don’t want to make the mistake that I’m wanting you guys against making and going build out all these features because I think they’re cool. So I’m being very intentional about what is the next step in the process that will be helpful to them. So again, do it manually first, if possible, and then productize your service and then see if you can automate that product.

Victor [29:40]: That works surprisingly well, of course not for every idea you can’t do it for every idea, but for a different big SaaS that would’ve been a huge software initially. We have actually built a 12 person data entry team in Eastern Europe that is just manually doing behind the scenes what the software might likely deliver almost instantly. But in this case, instant wasn’t so important as long as it was done within a few days, it made no difference. So instead of developing software for three years with an entire team, so this was really complex requirement, they were able to start with just two, three people who were able to get running immediately with a landing page and just learn from existing customers, built that report. So this is an amazing approach but for you, it ended up being a big success. Now you don’t just have 123 paying customers at the moment, but you’ve also won a store of competition. Which one is that?

Anthony [30:45]: Again, the part of the immersing yourself into the audience that you’re serving, you start to learn more things that are going on in the marketplace. So I started to see these different pitch competitions where VCs, or even sometimes it would be grants, right? You present your slide deck and initially this started out as me just mailing in a deck. So I had to put together a deck to say, what’s the problem I’m solving and you can Google that and find your decks. But it was a deck, I submitted it to this competition and it said, hey, it’s 120 grand and it ended up being hundreds of people from all across the United States. So I submitted my deck and it was probably the second competition that I entered and I got confirmation that, hey, out of the few hundred, you made it to the top 25. So I was like, oh crap. So I was happy about that because I bootstrapped everything right from the beginning. So when I made it to the top 10, they were like, okay, so here are the next steps. Now you have to actually pitch. So I had to get on and it was just like, we’re doing now as a video conference

So I pitched, and then I found out the next day I made it to the top 10. So at that point, they brought you in front of other venture capitalists, this huge panel type situation, and I made it to the top five and then they offered coaching. So when you made it to the top five, they brought pitch coaches in, there were VCs, marketing people, public speaking people, all these different people to help you hone your pitch and you did your final pitch, it’s called startupshowdown.vc, you guys can go there if you have software idea and you want to pitch it. But it was for equities, so it was a Y Combinator, if you guys are familiar, it’s the same rules of Y Combinator where they take a percentage of your company, but this has been great and here’s what I would recommend. They send you the Y Combinator contract, which is a very sort of rudimentary, basic entry-level type contract. But because I already had traction, because I already had a roadmap of where I was going with, or without them, I was able to negotiate their initial deal. 

Initially, it was 20K for 6%, which valued my company at $333,000. So we re-negotiated the deal and I ended up getting 120K the entire amount for 7%, which values my company at 1.7 million. Initially it was a hun, it was 20K and then the other 100K was a safe note. So again, I was able to increase the value of my company because I had traction and I was able to show them like, when I pitched them in the beginning, it was the beginning of July, but it was the end of July, middle of August when I made it to the top five and in that time I had gone, gone from 25 users to 50 or so users or something like that at the beginning of August, yes, it was 50 or so users. So my MRR was now whatever that is, a thousand bucks a month, which is 12 grand a year and I had this waiting list and I said, listen. 

Actually during the negotiation phase, we’ve added even more users. So it gave me more leverage to negotiate the contract. So if you have leverage, or if you have traction they’re more willing to negotiate the contract. But again, if there are pitch competitions out there and there are, there’s a lot of money out there right now, but you have to put together a deck and find someone who can coach you through the process and get out there and find some money. So you don’t have to pay for it by yourself.

Victor [34:19]: Wonderful. Yes, use OPM, other people’s money, essentially. Congratulations again, that’s a big deal. I have a question for you because you might be able to tell now, a lot of people say that the entry barrier to SaaS is extremely high today. That competition is extremely high and I look a bit at the SaaS space and a lot of it is SaaS for SaaS, marketers trying to build another martech tool, it’s a very crowded space. Of course, every developer out there, including myself, has already built their own to-do app obviously, is obligatory. If you haven’t done that, you’re not an actual software developer. So question back to you, do you really think there’s a high entry barrier for SaaS or does it rather need a good idea in a distribution channel?

Anthony [35:05]: I think there’s a downside to immersing yourself into the marketplace as well. It’s the echo chamber because you can get caught up in talking to other SaaS people versus talking to actual customers and I would recommend staying away from and crowded spaces. There are a crapload of asanas and project management tools. There are a crapload of to-do lists. There are a crapload of location-based event-type stuff. Again, maybe it takes you getting outside of your immediate circle, finding a problem that it really exists that someone’s struggling with and it’s not so hard and you find things that people are complaining about outside of Asana, outside of Slack, outside of productivity type tools, there’s a whole world. As a matter of fact, I have two more ideas that are really solid that are literally just on the shelf waiting because now that I’m focused on this, I just want to do this, but these are industries where people are struggling with this stuff and I’m like, wow, and I’m holding myself back from having my team sort of like, hey, can you work on this a little bit?

Because I go to the development world when I need development help, or I have development questions. Other than that, I’m with people who actually have problems who are out there doing things in other industries, because that’s where you’re going to win and the other part is you want to talk to people who aren’t technical people because when you’re talking to someone technical, they’re already trying to figure out like, how can I develop this thing or whatever, when you talk to people who aren’t technical and they’re just struggling through a process like the publishing industry, hasn’t had real innovation outside of writing tools and actually, there is no other tool that goes to end to end in publishing. I talk to, and again, this is a fact of me immersing myself in the industry. I met with penguin random house and they said, this is the number one publishing company in the world, I believe. They’re like AJ, you’re solving a problem that everybody has just learned to deal with. But it’s because I’m not listening to developers, I’m listening to people who are writing books, I’m listening to those people. So it’s only crowded if you’re in a circle of people who are trying to solve the same problem. Fish where the fish are not where the fishermen are.

Victor [37:27]: Very, very valuable. I think this is so true. Thank you so much for this. This has been a pleasure. Where can people find out more about you and Blooksy?

Anthony [37:37]: I’m on Instagram at AJ Joiner, A J J O I N E R and Blooksy is at Blooksy books, B L O O K S Y books. And man, I cannot stress how much you’ve helped me. I’ve bragged about you to so many different people, but if you need a development team or you’re struggling with the team that you, and he’s not paying me for doing this. But honestly, man, your help sort of catapulted me into like real motion because I was sort of spinning my wheels with those, with that particular development team. Now I feel like I’m off to the races and even with the 120K they’re recommending I have developers that they recommend and they’re going to try to find free developers in the US and I’m like, I want to keep the same, even if I have to continue to pay, I’d rather pay the team that I have because we have a relationship now. They’re brainstorming ideas and sending them to me based on how they can make things better. But Victor, you’ve been very helpful and you’ve literally turned my business completely around. So thank you so much for that and thank you for doing this.

Victor [38:44]: I thank you so much for these kind words. I didn’t even expect that. So it’s not why I’m doing what I do, but the show. Thank you so much. Thanks again for coming on. I wish you all the best with your business, it can just go upwards from here. It’s going to be a nice journey and hope to speak soon. 

Anthony [39:05]: Thank you so much, man. 

 

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