Hi everyone, I hope you are not expecting something too formal for this blog post. My aim is to start a series about the relaunch of our startup Elokenz. My goal is to share insider view of what it is to re-build a project on the ashes of the previous version.
What went wrong on the first version?
Well, in the first version of Elokenz nothing really went wrong (at the time of publishing, the tool I’m talking about is still in production). We had early traction, organic customers (word of mouth + interest got us the first dozen of paying customers for free).
One of the images used for our Betalist promotion in 2016
Elokenz was a bootstraped business (and it still is). I didn’t want to take investors money to get more anxiety running a project I deeply love. I am already an anxious person by nature, and I try to avoid too much stress.
However, you can’t create a business when you can’t feed yourself. Therefore, when the project was ready to take off, I unfortunately had to switch to freelance work.
Some history of the first project
WordiZ (2013) initial version was supposed to be a marketplace to hire the best writers for a given topic. We used the authorship tagging technology, and what you see above is the free website we used to attract web creators to create our database.
After an intermediate pivot due to Google promoting then deprecating the concept of “Authorship” for webpages, I took almost a year to really decide what to build. I was joined by Fanny (Design) along the way. Around March 2016 we defined the main idea: Elokenz would be a tool that will help content marketer to generate more leads from their articles, by automatically surfacing and sharing the most relevant posts at a given time on social networks.
Elokenz in 2014 was still relying on Authorship tagging. It was supposed to be a CRM for authors, where they could find all people mentionning their work on social networks. Useful when you need to build an audience. All you had to do was signing up with Google+ and all the rest was done by importing the articles you tagged with your authorship markup. Only 10 minutes and you had a potential list of all your fans. That was POWERFUL.
It took us 6 full-time months to build the app and we opened the beta test in September 2016. We created a launch campaign on betalist, we added some landing pages, created a FAQ + training material with Fleeq, added an online chat with Drift for support, enabled online subscriptions with Chargebee and we tracked all this on Mixpanel and ActiveCampaign. Ahem… I just summarized months of work into one single sentence. But if you are curious about all our setup, please subscribe to this blog, because I will try to describe it in future blog posts.
Only one week after opening access, we had 200 users and our first paying customer. The app was really limited, but during the four following month, we improved it really a lot. Since then it hasn’t changed much. In Januray 2017 we had started acquisition campaigns, and we got around 1000 free users and 20 paying users. We were almost earning revenue. Our main expenses were related to server, marketing tools and banking fees.
Elokenz first year revenue: here you only see the paying customers. Note that we didn’t do any marketing action, and no sales’ activity. It was all on auto-pilot mode.
But neither Fanny nor I were able to sustain additional months of free work. So we stopped our involvment and started freelance gigs. But during this time, the app was still up and running. People kept subscribing and sending us warmful messages. Elokenz was helping them in their work and it was helping them to save time and to get more traffic on their content. That’s exactly the reason why I didn’t turn off the project completely.
Same player plays again
After more than two years without any involvment, I decided to start again. This time, I have more experience in online marketing than before (I’ve worked as inbound consultant), I have a main job that allows me to pay the bills and someone that I trust is building the tool. The only thing I have to do, is to focus on the Product and on the Marketing.
To give you some insider look, I am currently planing a “Pre-sell Campaign” to help us acquiring new customers for the coming version. We might indeed shut down the current version for a few weeks (undecided yet) because the hosting costs are too high. As you can expect, we will not continue to offer a free version.
We expect to release the new version before 2020. It will bring new collaboration features, and some new content tools.
My goal is to share my progress on this blog. First to share my learnings with the community (because this is mainly how I learned in the first place). Then, I hope to get some advices from my readers (yeah, it happens some time) on the problems that are new to me. I am considering my blog like a discussion forum where I’m the only one who can start a thread :)
Finally, blogging about my adventure is a way, for me, to build an audience again. Without an audience, a bootstrapped business means nothing. Since we don’t have millions of dollars to bait people in, we instead need to build trust and show people that we are building something for them. For the moment, I just use a simple newsletter: when I publish a new blog post, I will send you short a notification. Nothing fancy, just straight to the point.
I hope to bring you some value in the coming posts. My next topic of discussion will either be about the previous marketing/automation stack we used at Elokenz, or the coming pre-sell campaign. Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have a preference.