Revisiting a Start-Up
Last year I wrote about visiting Startup Incubator DreamIT ventures (5 Questions for a Start-up accelerator), and about meeting the team from Posting. At the time, Postling told me they wanted to help 'a small business with limited time and resources manage their social media presences.'
Since we left the Postling team, they've launched their product, taken feedback from the market and shifted their product to better match the needs they heard in the market. As part of this shift, they also raised money from investors via the AngelList (which was covered last month in 5 Questions for an Angel Investor.)
I spoke with Dave Lifson, CEO and Co-Founder of Posting, to learn about their new investment and their new direction.
HG: What is the new mission for Posting?
Dave Lifson: We are creating a dashboard for local businesses that brings together the best social media tools in the business, and teaches them how to use those tools most effectively. The whole goal is to drive more people to your door.
HG: Give me an example.
DL: There's a building management company using our tools. They have 45 buildings, each has it's own social media accounts. One woman manages all of this outreach and listening. Using Postling, she is managing all the comments on Facebook pages for each of the building communities.
For other small businesses, we think Postling can help them save time, seeing comments and their presences in one place instead of going from site to site.
HG: What are some future features your customers would like to see?
DL: We're now letting them track Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Citisearch, and post to these sites plus Wordpress and Tumblr. We believe there are 100's of great tools available for small businesses. We plan on taking the best ones and integrating them into Postling, creating a one-stop-shop for busy small business owners who don't have time to learn how to use 100 different sites.
HG: What can other startups learn from your experience of creating a product, then shifting to a new direction?
DL: Listen to your customers and don't be afraid to try things that might fail. Early stage startups are not arrows flying straight to a target, but instead are bloodhounds hunting for the right trail. I blogged about creating the 3.0 version of our product and how we got there.
HG: How did you learn what the market needed from you?
DL: It was taking us 4 months to close a sale, as the PR firms and agencies we were targeting simply weren't able to make decisions quickly. The space was highly competitive and commoditizing quickly - more and more tools were being offered for free, and the companies who wanted to pay for a tool were in such high demand they could ask for all kinds of customizations. And when you give in to customizations, you stop being a startup…We also heard from VCs that, while they loved the founding team, they also didn't see what was so special about us. Yes, we had some features other players didn't, but features can be duplicated. What makes a startup truly special? That's a question every founder needs to understand.
HG: How did you tell your story so Angel investors would listen?
DL: It's all about having your elevator pitch down pat. Skip the details; answer "What problem are you solving? Who are you? Why does it matter if you solve that problem?" It should take you no more than 60 seconds to answer all of that. For us, it was "We're building a dashboard for local businesses that puts the best tools in one place and teaches them how to use them effectively. I'm an engineer turned product manager from Amazon.com and Etsy, and my co-founders were the engineers who built Etsy. The SMB market is huge, and our experience at Etsy makes us uniquely able to build the grassroots communities necessary to reach those SMBs without a huge expensive salesforce."
Congratulations to Postling for raising their Angel investment and for changing to meet their market. Let us know how you changed your game in the comments below.