How To Make It as a
First-Time Entrepreneur

How to Make it as a First-Time Entrepreneur

Traffic Bumps via Chartbeat

Vinicius Vacanti is co-founder and CEO of Yipit. Next posts on how to acquire users for free and how to raise a Series A. Don’t miss them by subscribing via email or via twitter.

Last Saturday, we woke up to a surprising alert from Chartbeat, we had a new record for most active visitors on our site Yipit.

It turns out that CNN had run a two minute segment profiling Yipit. By Sunday, they had aired the segment four times and we easily had our best ever two-day stretch across all key metrics including user sign-ups.

Did we get it because we had raised money, crossed 100,000 users or hired an expensive PR firm? No. The following is how it happened.

(If you’re having trouble with the video, try refreshing the page)

Listening to Our Customers

Yipit’s primary product is to aggregate the best daily deals in your city (Groupon, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe, Yelp, Scoop St and 160+ others) and email the best ones to you based on preferences you set.

Since launching Yipit in February, we’ve had a policy to reach out to users that unsubscribe to collect feedback. We send them an email explaining that we’re a startup and offer them a $10 amazon gift card to get on the phone with us for 10 minutes and explain what happened.

I know that sounds like a lot of work, but we actually use a virtual assistant to handle the entire process of setting up the call. We just have to do the calls and everyone on the team does the calls.

In June, we got an unsubscribe from someone with a gmail address. We reached out to him and he explained via email that he had unsubscribed because he lived in Connecticut and didn’t think he would be able to use the New York deals we were recommending. But, he also explained that he was an executive producer for CNN’s Money Unit and wanted to set up a call with us.

Customer Development Process Got Us Profiled

It turns out that he was really impressed with two aspects of how we were running Yipit:

  • We were reaching out to our unsatisfied customers to get their feedback on how to make Yipit better
  • We had pivoted from an overall deals and coupon aggregation service to just focusing on daily deals based  in part on those user feedback calls

After the call, he said they wanted to feature us on a series called “The Turnaround” that focuses on a business that makes a change that leads to more success. As he was telling us about the series, I was thinking to myself that the series really celebrated successful pivots, a key tenet of the customer development process popularized by Steve Blank and Eric Ries. We were getting profiled because we were following the customer development process!

Were We Just Lucky?

Clearly we had been very fortunate that one of the users that unsubscribed happened to be an executive producer at CNN. But, maybe we weren’t as lucky as it seems.

Isn’t the job of journalists to try out new services and report on them to their readers? I would expect that your earliest customers consists of not only early adopters but also a handful of influential tech journalists, magazines editors and executive producers.

In other words, aside from the many benefits of getting feedback from your early customers, yet another reason to talk to customers is an opportunity to have more meaningful conversations about your startup with the journalists who are trying it out. If you have good and meaningful conversations with them, they will probably be more likely to tell their audience about you.

Vinicius Vacanti is co-founder and CEO of Yipit. Next posts on how to acquire users for free and how to raise a Series A. Don’t miss them by subscribing via email or via twitter.

  • http://www.venturevoice.com gregory

    Congrats on the CNN piece! Great backstory and so true. Twitter's another great example of a service that didn't have a PR person or firm for a very long time, but built a service useful for journalists and got an inordinate amount of press as a result. We experienced a similar effect when we launched the Shorty Awards without a PR pro.By the way, Jim said in the video “We were in the business of … servicing clients in a very discrete manner.” What exactly did you guys do?!?

  • palbi

    serendipitous but much deserved

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    I like the marketing strategy of focusing on a product that helps journalists. Interesting thought.As for Jim's message, not sure what he was referring to either.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Thanks, appreciate it.

  • http://etagwerker.com etagwerker

    Great article, Vinny! That's a very good point: Having an effective feedback loop for people unsubscribing will be positive for pivoting or adjusting your product. Also, I think that the fact that you have raised money and crossed 100,000 users also helped to get Yipit featured on CNN. Congrats on the story! I'm happy to see Yipit and CDP on CNN.

  • http://unhub.com/jdmoran Jim Moran

    Vin and I both worked for Blackwater for many years. I really can't say any more.

  • http://epcostello.com/ e.p.c.

    Great article & congrats on the CNN piece!

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Thanks Ernesto! Clearly another benefit of following CDP!As for why we got it, they reached out to us in June before we raised funding and when we had just 20,000 users.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/jdp23 Jon Pincus

    Great article — and congrats! It's a really good illustration of how customer-focused organization can give huge benefits.

  • FrankDenbow

    I could use a gift card. Maybe I will just unsubscribe and we can talk on the phone about what I love about Yipit :-)Congrats on the piece!

  • http://www.venturevoice.com gregory

    Congrats on the CNN piece! Great backstory and so true.

    Twitter’s another great example of a service that didn’t have a PR person or firm for a very long time, but built a service useful for journalists and got an inordinate amount of press as a result. We experienced a similar effect when we launched the Shorty Awards without a PR pro.

    By the way, Jim said in the video “We were in the business of … servicing clients in a very discrete manner.” What exactly did you guys do?!?

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I like the marketing strategy of focusing on a product that helps journalists. Interesting thought.

      As for Jim’s message, not sure what he was referring to either.

    • http://twitter.com/jdmoran Jim Moran

      Vin and I both worked for Blackwater for many years. I really can’t say any more.

      • http://blog.jwegener.com Jonathan Wegener

        {shivers running up my spine}

  • http://www.venturevoice.com gregory

    Congrats on the CNN piece! Great backstory and so true.

    Twitter’s another great example of a service that didn’t have a PR person or firm for a very long time, but built a service useful for journalists and got an inordinate amount of press as a result. We experienced a similar effect when we launched the Shorty Awards without a PR pro.

    By the way, Jim said in the video “We were in the business of … servicing clients in a very discrete manner.” What exactly did you guys do?!?

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I like the marketing strategy of focusing on a product that helps journalists. Interesting thought.

      As for Jim’s message, not sure what he was referring to either.

    • http://unhub.com/jdmoran Jim Moran

      Vin and I both worked for Blackwater for many years. I really can’t say any more.

      • http://blog.jwegener.com Jonathan Wegener

        {shivers running up my spine}

  • palbi

    serendipitous but much deserved

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks, appreciate it.

  • palbi

    serendipitous but much deserved

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks, appreciate it.

  • http://kennethreitz.com Kenneth Reitz

    I see django!

  • Adrian

    Congrads! Pieces like this are great to hear about – especially when the coverage was not sought-after in particular.

  • http://etagwerker.com etagwerker

    Great article, Vinny! That’s a very good point: Having an effective feedback loop for people unsubscribing will be positive for pivoting or adjusting your product. Also, I think that the fact that you have raised money and crossed 100,000 users also helped to get Yipit featured on CNN. Congrats on the story! I’m happy to see Yipit and some CDP concepts on CNN.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Ernesto! Clearly another benefit of following CDP!

      As for why we got it, they reached out to us in June before we raised funding and when we had just 20,000 users.

  • http://etagwerker.com etagwerker

    Great article, Vinny! That’s a very good point: Having an effective feedback loop for people unsubscribing will be positive for pivoting or adjusting your product. Also, I think that the fact that you have raised money and crossed 100,000 users also helped to get Yipit featured on CNN. Congrats on the story! I’m happy to see Yipit and some CDP concepts on CNN.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Ernesto! Clearly another benefit of following CDP!

      As for why we got it, they reached out to us in June before we raised funding and when we had just 20,000 users.

  • http://epcostello.com/ e.p.c.

    Great article & congrats on the CNN piece!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks!

  • http://epcostello.com/ e.p.c.

    Great article & congrats on the CNN piece!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks!

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Just another of many reasons to talk to your customers.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Ha. Yeah, I hope people don't start unsubscribing just to get the $10 gift card.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    We love django and are looking for django developers: http://yipit.com/about/jobs

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Yeah, it was a really nice surprise.

  • http://twitter.com/jdp23 Jon Pincus

    Great article — and congrats! It’s a really good illustration of how customer-focused organization can give huge benefits.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Just another of many reasons to talk to your customers.

  • http://twitter.com/jdp23 Jon Pincus

    Great article — and congrats! It’s a really good illustration of how customer-focused organization can give huge benefits.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Just another of many reasons to talk to your customers.

  • Anonymous

    I could use a gift card. Maybe I will just unsubscribe and we can talk on the phone about what I love about Yipit :-)

    Congrats on the piece!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Ha. Yeah, I hope people don’t start unsubscribing just to get the $10 gift card.

      • jamesmcinerney

        I’m curious, did you worry at all about people subscribing and unsubscribing with multiple emails to get more rewards?

  • http://www.frankdenbow.com Frank Denbow

    I could use a gift card. Maybe I will just unsubscribe and we can talk on the phone about what I love about Yipit :-)

    Congrats on the piece!

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Ha. Yeah, I hope people don’t start unsubscribing just to get the $10 gift card.

      • jamesmcinerney

        I’m curious, did you worry at all about people subscribing and unsubscribing with multiple emails to get more rewards?

  • http://blog.jwegener.com Jonathan Wegener

    {shivers running up my spine}

  • http://kennethreitz.com Kenneth Reitz

    I see django!

  • Adrian

    Congrads! Pieces like this are great to hear about – especially when the coverage was not sought-after in particular.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Yeah, it was a really nice surprise.

  • http://kennethreitz.com Kenneth Reitz

    I see django!

  • Adrian

    Congrads! Pieces like this are great to hear about – especially when the coverage was not sought-after in particular.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Yeah, it was a really nice surprise.

  • Dave Whittemore

    Congrats on the CNN piece, Vin!Managing the customer experience the way you guys do goes beyond just the customer development phase of a startup though. Creating WOW experiences can extend throughout the life of a company, and can be a differentiator if it's part of your core company culture – look at Zappos. Then every customer experience becomes a marketing & PR opportunity that can lead to a small blog article or tweet or even a major CNN piece, and you'll never need a specific “PR” effort.(Yes as you might have guessed I just finished reading “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh from Zappos, and am little bit of a Zappos fanboy right now).

  • http://twitter.com/medwezys Medwezys

    Am I the only one who noticed this? :)) You should definitely regenerate your api key if you haven't already.http://imgur.com/v1zC3.png

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    This post was on hacker news and they definitely noticed it as well:http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1779840That code was from the summer and we don't use that key anymore. Regardless, hilarious that it got exposed to everyone on CNN.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Thanks Dave! I also recently read Tony's book and am definitely a fanboy.

  • Dave Whittemore

    Congrats on the CNN piece, Vin!Managing the customer experience the way you guys do goes beyond just the customer development phase of a startup though. Creating WOW experiences can extend throughout the life of a company, and can be a differentiator if it’s part of your core company culture – look at Zappos. Then every customer experience becomes a marketing & PR opportunity that can lead to a small blog article or tweet or even a major CNN piece, and you’ll never need a specific “PR” effort.(Yes as you might have guessed I just finished reading “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh from Zappos, and am little bit of a Zappos fanboy right now).

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Dave! I also recently read Tony’s book and am definitely a fanboy.

  • Dave Whittemore

    Congrats on the CNN piece, Vin!Managing the customer experience the way you guys do goes beyond just the customer development phase of a startup though. Creating WOW experiences can extend throughout the life of a company, and can be a differentiator if it’s part of your core company culture – look at Zappos. Then every customer experience becomes a marketing & PR opportunity that can lead to a small blog article or tweet or even a major CNN piece, and you’ll never need a specific “PR” effort.(Yes as you might have guessed I just finished reading “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh from Zappos, and am little bit of a Zappos fanboy right now).

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Dave! I also recently read Tony’s book and am definitely a fanboy.

  • http://twitter.com/medwezys Medwezys

    Am I the only one who noticed this? :)) You should definitely regenerate your api key if you haven’t already.
    http://imgur.com/v1zC3.png

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      This post was on hacker news and they definitely noticed it as well:
      http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1779840

      That code was from the summer and we don’t use that key anymore. Regardless, hilarious that it got exposed to everyone on CNN.

  • http://twitter.com/medwezys Medwezys

    Am I the only one who noticed this? :)) You should definitely regenerate your api key if you haven’t already.
    http://imgur.com/v1zC3.png

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      This post was on hacker news and they definitely noticed it as well:
      http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1779840

      That code was from the summer and we don’t use that key anymore. Regardless, hilarious that it got exposed to everyone on CNN.

  • Will Norman

    Your two postulations are solid, and your blog post does make one pause to examine one's view on customer service.

  • Will Norman

    Your two postulations are solid, and your blog post does make one pause to examine one’s view on customer service.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Will! Highly recommend talking to your users.

  • Will Norman

    Your two postulations are solid, and your blog post does make one pause to examine one’s view on customer service.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks Will! Highly recommend talking to your users.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Thanks Will! Highly recommend talking to your users.

  • http://technbiz.blogspot.com paramendra

    Great!

  • http://technbiz.blogspot.com paramendra

    Great!

  • http://technbiz.blogspot.com paramendra

    Great!

  • BuyGiftsItems

    I know that sounds like a lot of work, but we actually use a
    virtual assistant to handle the entire process of setting up the call.
    One Day One Deal

  • BuyGiftsItems

    I know that sounds like a lot of work, but we actually use a
    virtual assistant to handle the entire process of setting up the call.
    One Day One Deal

  • SideSkills

    @guy you can use WAMP or LAMP (I use WAMP) to run a server on your local machine for development.

  • http://www.bloggerscompete.com Pavan Katepalli

    Vin how many calls did you make a week?

  • http://www.autocarloansearch.com/ Auto Loan Companies

    A service useful for journalists and got an inordinate amount of press as a result.