Today I'm excited to bring you a podcast interview with Mark Thompson from PayKickStart.
Mark is someone that I have known online for a long time (in internet years). Going back to around early 2013, Mark helped with me a big affiliate promotion for Long Tail Pro. The first promotion went so well, that we did another one in 2015.
Mark got started selling a variety of products online, but really got into the swing of things when he started selling software. However, it was more than just launching 12 to 14 software products that made him successful. He and his partner, Matt Callen, both figured out the product launch formula extremely well to make sure their Digital Kickstart brand did well.
Mark and Matt could continue to launch more software products, but they created PayKickStart and see the big potential that it has. As a result, they are focusing their energy and attention on this flag ship product and doing everything they can to grow it.
PayKickStart is set to break the $1 million Annual Recurring Revenue milestone this year and it continues to grow.
PayKickStart is a shopping cart and affiliate management platform. Not only does it allow you to create an entire funnel process to easy sell your products online to your customers, but it also has an affiliate management platform built in. In addition, if you are selling a software product, PayKickStart has a software licensing system built in that will verify that your paying customers are still paying, or the license key will go inactive.
You can check out PayKickStart.com here.
Overall, Mark has a ton of great tips to share regarding creating software products, marketing your products, and how to take good care of your customers.
Tune in to hear some of Mark's growth strategies and business tips.
Topics covered in this episode:
- Digital Kickstart
- Warrior Forum
- List Eruption
- Easy VSL
- Long Tail Pro
- Active Campaign
Enjoy the interview!
Spencer: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the Niche Pursuits Podcast. I’m your host, Spencer Haws from nichepursuits.com. Before we jump into today’s interview, I wanted to remind you that my new WordPress plugin, Link Whisper, is now available. I have just launched it. If you go to linkwhisper.com, you can check it out and see what it does exactly. Overall, it makes building smart internal links much easier and much faster.
I really do believe it’s a revolutionary WordPress plugin that’s going to help you speed up the process and it’s going to help you rank better in Google. It gives you very small suggestions that can provide big results. Link Whisper quietly and quickly suggest contextual internal links that can both help your readers better find content on your site and helps Google rank your site better due to the improved link structure of your site. It gives you automated link suggestions as you write your content, it provide smart anchor text that you have complete control over so if you want to change that, you can or you can just go with the suggestions.
It also gives you full internal links reporting. It tells you if you have any orphaned content out there. Do pages that you haven’t even built any internal links to? You can quickly see that and then you can just as quickly click add, check a box, and add new internal links based on the suggestions. It will save you, or your authors, or your virtual assistant a ton of time. It’s going to make your site perform better and have better internal linking structure. I hope that you’ll go check it out at linkwhisper.com.
In today’s episode, I have Mark Thompson from paykickstart.com. Mark and I go way back. We’ve known each other for several years online. In fact, Mark helped me do a couple of large promotions for Long Tail Pro. This is way back in the days of the Warrior Forum, JVZoo, and doing these big affiliate promotions. We’ve been in touch ever since throughout the years. I’ve watched what Mark has been doing. He’s been very involved as well in lots of different kinds of products.
He’s launched, initially, information products, then moved to software products, and now he’s done through his DigitalKickstart brand, I think something like 12 different software products. He’s got very, very good at the launch process, but as well as just coming up with new ideas. Now after launching all these products, he’s come along with PayKickstart which really has become he and his partner’s focus. It is something that has a lot of potential. We dive into that in the interview here of how he’s gone from launching lots of different software products to now focusing mostly just on one. Specifically, we also dive into the marketing strategies he has used, the paid advertising, the email funnels, affiliate promotions, and why that has worked so well for PayKickstart.
Mark is somebody that has sold over $20 million worth of products online. His new business, PayKickstart—not new; it’s been around for about three years—is now up to the $1 million annual recurring revenue as you’ll hear throughout this interview. If you’re looking for tips to market your own software product, this is a great interview. Just in general, online marketing, Mark has a lot of great tips.
If you want to check out what Mark is working on, if you are a software vendor, or an information product vendor and you need a tool to help you sell that product, to checkout cart, manage affiliates, manage license keys, and do a whole lot more in the process of selling that product, you should check out paykickstart.com. That’s the tool that Mark has built and that we’re talking about, you can check that out at paykickstart.com.
Hey, Mark. Welcome to the Niche Pursuits Podcast.
Mark: Thank you for having me, Spencer, I appreciate it.
Spencer: It is great to have you on the podcast. We actually go way back. We’ve known each other for quite a while. I don’t even remember the year, probably maybe 2013, something like that. You helped me with a big affiliate promotion for Long Tail Pro.
Mark: Yeah, it was right around then. So, we’ve known each other for a while. It’s been exciting to see what you’ve been working on and watching you grow also. It’s cool.
Spencer: I don’t even remember exactly how we connected. I think I just saw you doing a lot of other promotions and things were going really well. I reached out to you and said, “Do you want to help me out doing a big promotion for Long Tail Pro?” You were game for that and we’ve been in touch ever since.
Mark: I think at the time I had really nailed down the product launch formula because I had launched a bunch of different products. I think I may have reached out to you. I know I was looking on ClickBank or some other marketplace and trying to find some products that maybe were underperforming or had more potential. I started connecting with a bunch of product creators and Long Tail Pro spiked my interest. I think that’s originally how we connected.
Spencer: It’s very possible. We ended up doing two launches together, both went extremely well. Thanks again for the help, doing that for sure. Let’s get a little bit of your history, though. What was your first online business venture ever?
Mark: I started in the offline world, I work for a few different marketing agencies. I did that for about five years. That’s really where I was in the trenches just learning. Everything I learned was self-taught. At least at the time when I went to college, there wasn’t an internet marketing degree. I went to school for marketing but they don’t really teach you much about driving traffic and generating leads and sales. Everything I learned was self-taught. I worked for a few different marketing agencies and I helped local businesses just with things like search engine optimization, pay per click, email marketing, social media. I did that for about five years, that really laid the foundation for really understanding how the internet works and how to create a business online.
In 2011, I would say, maybe even 2010, is when I started to learn about this whole world of creating products, creating information products or software and launching them out to the marketplace and having people buy them. I stumbled onto the Warrior Forum, I saw all these people selling thousands of units of their products in a week’s time and I’m like, “How are they doing this?” They’re generating hundreds of thousands of dollars. That just spiked my interest. I started to reverse engineer what these guys were doing.
To make the long story short, I got fired from my last job with one of the marketing agencies that I worked for and I just dove head first. I had one foot out the doors anyways because I was learning more and more about how to take your knowledge and wrap it into a training program that people will buy. That was how I first got started. I started to create information program, just teaching people what I knew. That evolved over the years to learning about software which I knew nothing about. I’m not a developer, I’m not really that technical.
I hired a development team to create a piece of software for me and I realized that software was where I wanted to be. I noticed that software was an easier sell and people would pay more for, there’s more perceived value. Over the last five years or so is really where I found my sweet spot, and that’s creating software.
Spencer: What was your first software product that you launched?
Mark: The first was a WordPress plugin called List Eruption. It’s a viral list building tool. I hired a development team, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of PopUp Domination, that was an old school popup. I actually found out who developed that product because I really liked it and I used it. I hired that development team to build List Eruption. I had the idea for this product but I didn’t really know the process of creating the software so I was just like, “Here’s my idea, here’s the concept, here’s the functionality that I want in it. Tell me how much it’s going to cost?” I think I paid like $30,000. At that time that was a major risk on my part because my bank account was pretty low, I put a lot of eggs into that basket.
They built out this tool, but the one thing I realized was that I didn’t really know how to market it, either. I had to learn the hard way. I’ve launched it and it didn’t do that well initially. I realized that I needed to hire a mentor or a partner to help me, just really show me the ropes on how to build relationships with affiliate partners and learn about this one particular marketplace. At the time it was the Warrior Forum, just learn how it functioned, how it ticked, and how people are doing it.
I hired a mentor. He helped me start to generate sales for it. I think we did a six-figure launch which was life changing revenue for me, I had never done anything like that before. I was just like, “Man, this is amazing.” I just learned that whole strategy, that whole product launch formula and I started to create other apps as well.
Spencer: I have a whole lot that I want to ask you about down the road, maybe we’ll fast forward a little bit here. To date, if you know the number, how many software products have you launched in total?
Mark: Internally we’ve launched probably 12–14 different applications, some were obviously larger than other and some were just very simple, WordPress plugins or simple SaaS applications. Over the years, I collaborated with a whole bunch of people just to help launch their own products. I probably did that, maybe 10 times, where we will take their product that just had a really good system in place to help expose that product to a large market of buyers. I did as well for about three years.
Spencer: The software products that you’ve created, I think you said 12–14, those all fit under the DigitalKickstart brand, correct?
Mark: Yeah. DigitalKickstart is our parent company for all the different products that we’ve created over the years.
Spencer: Maybe just tell us about your business right now because you went through this process, doing a lot of launches for other people, and then you created your own products under DigitalKickstart. Where are you now and what are you focusing on?
Mark: Where we are now is we’ve evolved a lot over the years. I can briefly touch on the evolution. PayKickstart, it’s a set, we’ve branched it out, it’s a separate company. It’s our shopping cart and affiliate management solution. When we were launching all these products, we’ve used lots of different shopping carts to sell our products. We were just never really satisfied with what was available. We actually created our own internal shopping cart to accept payments and at the time it was using Infusionsoft only to manage the affiliate partners because we didn’t have an affiliate management part of our internal tool.
Over the years we started to create all of these added features that we needed to run our business. We quickly realized that other people were having the same challenges, pains, and struggles that we were having. So we were like, “Man, let’s take this internal tool that we’re using to sell our products. Let’s relaunch it, we’ll skim it and we’ll brand it,” and that’s what we did. PayKickstart has been around for about three years now and it’s evolved. It’s completely different than when we had it for our own internal use.
Now vendors can use the platform to launch their products. We work with SaaS companies, we work with information marketers, we work with service-based companies like coaches. That’s really our bread and butter. It’s just evolved over the years from when we first launched it and now, there’s just so much flexibility to it. There’s everything under the sun from all different checkout page designs, to one click upsells, to coupon codes, to tax management, really everything you need to start selling your products and services online.
Spencer: I think a lot of people maybe don’t realize, that haven’t launched their own information products or software products, everything that goes in to launching that product. A lot of times you think, “I just need to create a sales page and I’m good to go.” No, there’s so much going on on the backend, the checkout system, managing affiliates, how do you deliver license codes when people activate their software. Anyways, PayKickstart does really all of that backend stuff which is very, very cool.
I didn’t give you a warning, but one thing I do like to do on my podcast here is I like to ask about how successful people’s businesses are. Whatever you’re comfortable sharing so that people can understand the success of your business, that can either be with PayKickstart or if you want to talk more about the success you had with DigitalKickstart and all of those brands, either income numbers or traffic numbers, whatever you’re willing to share there.
Mark: We’ve generated about $20 million online from everything, from DigitalKickstart, PayKickstart. That includes from our product sales to also helping our partners that were launching products with them on their behalf. We’re also affiliates. Whenever you’re a product creator, kind of affiliate marketing as a by-product of being a product creator because you start to build a list of customers, to start to build relationships with those customers, and you can start to promote other products that you think are relevant to that customer list.
We’ve been fortunate enough to generate about $20 million in sales from all these different avenues in our business. I would say today, with PayKickstart, we’re right around the $1 million ARR number. It’s been a milestone for us to get to that point. That’s where we’re at right now.
Spence: That’s huge. Obviously, I’ve seen the success that we had with Long Tail Pro and I’ve seen what you’ve done with the launches so I know you’ve been very successful over the years. It’s great to have you on and pick your brain a little bit as well. I do want to just ask one final question about DigitalKickstart. What’s the future there? You mentioned that you’ve separated PayKickstart to its own separate company. What’s going on with all the other products you got there?
Mark: We took a step back a couple years ago when we really started to get serious about PayKickstart. We did shift some resources like development resources and some of our time and energy over to PayKickstart. That’s really been our core driver, our main business that we’re focused on. We still have DigitalKickstart and it’s been such a great asset for us for so many years. There’s still that 80/20 rule, 20% of our products drive 80% of our revenue. Out of that suites of products, that portfolio that we have of products, they’ve reached their life cycle.
We still sell them and we still support them. If there’s bugs or there’s updating that needs to be done, we totally still do that. The last time we want to do is create a product, promise our customers, and then have it just pull it right off the market or not allowed them access. We still allow them to use it and it still does exactly what it was promised to do, but then there’s the three or four applications that are really our best sellers. We have a product called EasyVSL which is probably one of our best-selling products. For that one, we’re still innovating, we’re still adding new features. That’s really what we try to do, is put more focus on some of our best sellers.
Just because it’s hard, you can just spread yourself too thin if you’re trying to work on a dozen different applications all at one time. What we try to do is shift those resources towards our top selling products and that’s really what we’re doing today with DigitalKickstart. We have it somewhat on autopilot. We have a team in place that manages each of those products from a product perspective, a support perspective which allows me and my business partner to spend the majority of our time over on PayKickstart.
Spencer: That’s fair enough. That makes sense. This is maybe a selfish question because I am in the process of creating a new software tool and I’ve got lots of other ideas. In my own mind I’m thinking, “How long do I wait before I try this second idea or the third idea?” Maybe you can talk a little bit about the pros or the cons of launching multiple software products and managing multiple software products.
Mark: It’s a really good question and it’s a hard question to answer. There’s definitely pros and cons. I’ve learned the hard way. Here’s the thing, if you create lots of different products, one thing you may want to think about is making them related to each other which will help with everything that you’re doing, your marketing, specifically your sales funnels. If they buy your initial product that you’re selling and you have another product, you could build that as an upsell or cross sell and it’ll just be like a natural progression. If they buy product A, then there’s a good chance they’re going to want to buy product B.
Whereas if you build two, or three, or four products and they’re unrelated, then it’s not really a natural flow to insert them into a sales funnel whether it’s initially trying to sell them right after they purchased the product or in some email autoresponder sequence. The problem is that when you start to create lots of different applications, especially if you’re doing a one-time price, you’re really doing everybody a disservice because what happens is you generate a nice influx of sales initially, and then there’s really not an incentive for the vendor to continuously evolve that product.
One thing I learned the hard way was, I was like, “Oh man, we can generate a good amount of revenue from this one product launch and then we can do another launch.” What happens is, each product is its own living organism. It needs to be evolved and no product is ever perfect. This happens to all sorts of product creators out there. They’ll create a product, they’ll generate a lot of revenue from it, and then they’ll just leave it. Many of them don’t even support them after the fact. That’s why you see so many products that are created and then they don’t even work months later.
One thing that we try to do—we’ve obviously made mistakes—is we’ll continue to support our products. We may not evolve them and add new features to them. That was one problem that we had early on, was we created so much. We had so many ideas that we didn’t actually just stopped and think like, “Hey, maybe we could just take this one product, try to have it evolve, and add new feature sets to it. In turn, people will start to pay you more money as the product matures.” There’s pros and cons.
The pros are you can start to generate a nice influx of capital which that really helped us to reinvest that money into other products or other programs that we created, but you have to have a good system in place. You need to be efficient, you need to still support those products, and still back up your promise or else it can have a negative impact that can actually hurt your brand and people won’t want to buy from you in the future.
Want To Build Smart & Relevant Internal Links...Quickly?
Link Whisper makes it simple to boost your site’s authority in the eyes of Google. You can use Link Whisper to:
- Bring out your orphaned content that isn’t ranking
- Create smart, relevant, and fast internal links
- Simple yet effective internal links reporting: what has lots of links and what pages need more links?
Spencer: That makes a lot of sense. As part of that question, do you think that launching multiple products and that entire progression that you had there is part of the reason that you came up with the idea for PayKickstart?
Mark: Yeah, part of it was. One thing we realized is that, it wasn’t sustainable. I don’t think to just continuously reinvent the wheel and create new products. We had built so many products that, again, it was getting hard to manage all of them. We felt like, “Hey, let’s focus on one application, one platform and let’s try to make it go mainstream, really put everything we have into it, and really compete with some of these large companies that are VC backed.” Everything we’ve done has been bootstrap, so we haven’t taken any funding from any outside investors.
In order to do that, we needed the revenue from the other products so that we can reinvest it into the platform and the platform wouldn’t be where it is today if we didn’t do those things beforehand. We felt that in order to do this, we need to focus on the recurring billing model in order for people to pay us month after month, year after year. We need to continuously evolve the platform, add to it, and provide outstanding customer support because if we don’t do that, then churns are going to go through the roof, people are just going to leave, and it won’t be a long term plan.
Spencer: You saw a big potential here with PayKickstart. Obviously, it had the recurring revenue model, but also, just the market size is potentially much bigger. Either you’ve looked at competitors or you just can see the market that this is a big opportunity here. The main focus is there now. Why do you think that PayKickstart has been successful up to this point? Is there a specific marketing tactic or something else that has made it successful?
Mark: To be honest with you, I don’t think it’s been a specific marketing tactic. I think it’s just been really having the customer’s best interest at heart and really listening to them. I think that’s something that we’ve done from day one. I think we’ve been doing it the right way, is really listening to our vendors. The platform is evolving based all around just the feedback from our vendors. Everything is driven based on what they say. Any new features, new improvements in the user interface, the pricing model, all that stuff is driven based on our vendors.
One thing we try to do is just provide outstanding customer support. We have 24/7 live chat, we have our helpdesk. I’m pretty confident, anybody that’s using the platform, if they’ve reached out to our customer service team, they’ve had a great experience or at least the majority of them are because that’s been such a big emphasis. We’ve been able to get a lot of word-of-mouth, of people saying, “Oh my God. You guys got to try this platform.” Not only is it robust, but it wouldn’t be to where it is today if we didn’t stay focused on the long-term plan.
It wasn’t our main revenue driver for a number of years but now it’s starting to have that snowball effect where people are using the system, we’re getting more and more people and they’re sticking with the system because they love it and we continue to evolve it every single day and every single month.
Spencer: Quality product, listening to your customers, constantly iterating and updating the product, great customer service, sounds like really being focused on the customer and making sure they’re getting the product they want, they’re being serviced properly, of course all great tips. What have been the marketing strategies that you’ve used to make it successful?
Mark: We’ve tried a whole bunch of different things. We’ve tried doing a webinar or offering, so we just drive people on our webinar and we’d sell at that way. We had mixed results with the webinars. The good news was that we have an internal email list of people that have purchased our other products so we were able to promote to them. That was the low-hanging fruit for us to say people have purchased one product or multiple products in the past. There’s a good chance that they want to buy our product. That was the low-hanging fruit and one of the first things that we did and we drove a lot of those to a webinar.
We also worked with some affiliate partners. We did the product launch formula which helped to generate some initial buzz, get our brand on the map just so people knew who we were. Nowadays, it’s more of a long-term approach. We’re doing more of a content strategy. We’re going back to the old school of online marketing which is a lot of blog content. We’re doing some engagement in Quora. If you’ve ever heard of Quora which is a great question and answer forum, we’re doing that.
We’re also doing some paid acquisition as well. We’re doing some Facebook ads to some of our top lead magnets that convert well and then send them through an automated sequence. We’re even doing some cold email outreach. We’re doing some unique things that we haven’t done in the past which is more in line with what mainstream SaaS companies have done and have been successful with. We’re still learning along the way because direct response marketing has been our bread and butter for so many years. We’re starting to dip into a whole bunch of other marketing strategies just to see what works.
Spencer: Let’s talk a little bit about Facebook advertising because I’ve seen some of your Facebook ads for either PayKickstart or other products that you have. It seems like you’re using Facebook advertising across lots of different products that you have or at least a few of them. Maybe just give us a little bit more of an outline of the funnel that you’re using or what’s working well with Facebook advertising.
Mark: Another good question. One thing that we have currently is a churn problem. Our churn is much higher than we want it to be. One thing that we are not doing is we’re not investing a lot into Facebook ads, at least for PayKickstart. One thing we are working on is how do we improve the on-boarding experience for each vendor. For so many years we focused on the feature set that we actually didn’t focus on the onboarding experience and getting the new vendor to first value as quickly as possible. That’s something that we’re working on right now in hopes that it dramatically decreases our churn.
For anyone doing paid ads, the last thing you want to do is just spend all this money on driving traffic when your churn is high. If we can fix churn, that in itself is going to drive more revenue for us. We do some retargeting ads for PayKickstart for people that have been exposed to our solution or our brands, but we’re being very careful because you can waste a ton of money on not just Facebook ads, but many types of paid media if you don’t know your numbers.
Our goal over the next quarter is to really improve that onboarding experience, to get people the first value, really hold their hand so that once they see the first value, they’re never going to want to leave and our churn can decrease. Once our churn can decrease, then we can really start to increase our spend because we’re confident that once we get a new free trial customer, we can lead them to being a paid customer much more efficiently.
Spencer: That makes sense. What about your email follow ups? Whether you get a free trial customer or somehow get people onto a warm leads list, how often are you emailing them? Are you sending them to the sales page, et cetera? What does that funnel look like for your emails?
Mark: Currently, if you sign-up for a free trial, it’s 14 days. What we did was we actually created a 14-day sequence where each day they get a link which goes to a landing page and it has a video. It’s introducing them to a different part of the platform. One thing that we found with this strategy was that it wasn’t a one-email-sequence-fits-all. It wasn’t tailored to where they are inside the platform. Part of this new onboarding experience that we’re working on is creating more of a hyper targeted email sequence and it’s dynamic based on what they’re doing inside the platform.
If they’ve already done the first goal that we want them to and they’re stuck on the second goal, then we dynamically send them an email that helps them get over that hurdle. We feel that that’s one thing that we’re going to be improving on in the future. Instead of just sending them the same emails regardless of who they are or what they’re doing in the platform, we feel that that’s going to help improve our experience.
In terms of people that haven’t signed up for our free trial, what we usually do is we’ll send them to some sort of a lead magnet, we’ll give them a lead magnet, and then I think we have a 21-day email sequence. We’re not emailing them everyday, but we’ll expose them to some other content, some case studies as well as a webinar, a general webinar showing them what you can do. One thing that we want to do in the future is start to segment all of these people who are signing up for lead magnets because a SaaS company is much different than an information marketer selling video training. That’s much different than a coach selling their services.
Of course this is an evolution over time but we’re starting to see different pockets and different segments of our users. We want to start to give them a more personalized experience. That’s something we’re in the process of working on as well.
Spencer: What email software tool are you using to segment, tag, and send different content to different email subscribers?
Mark: We use ActiveCampaign for our main auto responder and then we also have Intercom as well, we also do some segmenting through Intercom.
Spencer: Very cool. What would you say is one feature or one reason that people come to the PayKickstart platform? Is there one particular reason that most users are either switching from a current provider or just new users coming on?
Mark: That’s a good question. The answer to that is it depends on who the customer is. If you’re a SaaS company, you’re mainly interested in the subscription-based features like being able to customize the pricing and do things like add-on pricing or a usage pricing, that type of thing, lots of built-in functionality to allow customers to subscribe to your service. Also, you can add add-ons. We have an API that’s really flexible, that allows you to really do almost any type of pricing you could possibly want. From a SaaS vendor, being able to have that flexibility is really important.
How I Built A Niche Site That Makes $2,985 Per Month
Want to start a niche site that can bring in $3,000 per month… or more? Here I discuss:
- The tools you’ll need
- How to start on a budget
- Best ways to generate an income fast
From an information marketer, maybe you’re running a membership site. Having things like obviously the subscription stuff is really important, allowing people to pay with PayPal, credit card, or ACH wire transfer, that’s really nice. We also have a customer billing portal which allows the customer to manage their subscription themselves. So, it’s all automated. We have a dunning management sequence as well. Say that customer’s credit card expires, they can go and update their billing details. Or if they wanted to upgrade or downgrade to a different membership level, all that stuff is automated for you. We’ve built in all that functionality for those membership services that are also still focused on the recurring model as well.
There’s literally so much. If you’re focused more on affiliate marketers, we have the affiliate management where you can do things like instant commissions where you can pay out those commissions to an affiliate right at the point of sale when the customer purchases. We make it really easy to manage all those payouts. We have a built-in marketing material, you can provide email swipes and banners to those affiliates.
Back on the vendor side, there's a coupon code management, there’s one click upsells, there’s tax management, there’s built-in licensing. I think it’s one of the reasons that you’re using the platform. If you’re selling a WordPress plugin or a WordPress theme to have license keys that you can send over to a customer to activate the plugin or the software. There’s all that added functionality. I think one of the biggest things is just the flexibility that there is.
Spencer: Like you said, I had a chance to look at the platform, dive in, and see everything that’s available and there is a lot. There is a lot there, it’s very flexible, and it can work across a lot of different use cases for different types of vendors. It is a great tool.
Shifting gears slightly here, just talking about developers, do you have a team of your own full time developers or is that still outsourced somewhere? What is your development team look like?
Mark: They’re all full time; they’re spread out over the world. We have a virtual office. We’ve always done it virtually. We’ve gotten pretty good at working with people from all over the world. We actually have a small office in Russia with four guys there, then we have a small office in South Africa. What we typically find is if we can find one or two developers in the same location, they usually know of other developers in that location as well. We’ve been able to make a little satellite offices all around the world. That’s been really nice.
Our development team, we have about eight full-time developers then we have two designers, we have a full time QA guy just nothing but testing and automated test, and then we have four first line support guys.
Spencer: How do you find a good developer? What was your process of finding at least those initial one or two developers?
Mark: There’s definitely an art to finding solid developers. The first part is just having good communication with them, which can sometimes be very hard especially if you’re working with people overseas. Some people I can communicate with over the phone, other people I just strictly chat with them on Skype or on Slack. I guess one thing that’s really important, at least for us, we have an amazing CTO, he’s super knowledgeable. He’s able to vet these people whereas myself and my business partner, we’re not technical, we’re not coders.
A developer could just say all sorts of stuff, we wouldn’t really know what he’s talking about. Once we were able to get a CTO that we really trust and who’s able to manage that, that was really helpful for us. Early on, we used to go through developers really quickly especially before PayKickstart just because you found out the hard way, you found out that they didn’t know what they were doing or the approach that they took wasn’t the ideal way and you have to rebuild stuff. It was really annoying.
What I would try to do early on was to get as many referrals as possible which can be easier said than done because a lot of vendors, once they find a developer that is solid, they never let them go. We learned the hard way, so we were able to get a couple solid developers. The good news is—knock on wood—a lot of the guys that have been with us, they’ve been with us for years, they’ve been with us for five or seven years. It’s been good.
Spencer: The CTO that you have, was he initially brought on as a developer and he was just really great and now you use him to manage other developers as well?
Mark: Yeah. He’s from South Africa, and he actually had a couple developers in an office there. We initially connected with him, he started helping just as a developer and then we just saw his talent and he quickly rose to the top. We’re just like, “We’d love for you to be our CTO and manage the overall team.” That’s how it happened; it was just a natural progression there.
Spencer: That’s awesome. You’ve mentioned that you have a partner in PayKickstart and that’s Matt Callen; a lot of people may be familiar with as well. Why did you go with a partnership on this business? Was it an idea that you guys came up with together? Who came up with the idea? Why the partnership?
Mark: Matt and I, we’ve met years ago now. We actually are partners on the other business, on DigitalKickstart. One thing I learned early on was that you can’t do everything yourself. You always need to bring in talented people, like-minded people that have the same vision as you. Matt and I had worked on a project early on years ago. I just really enjoyed working with him, he’s super laid back, he’s easy to talk to, and more importantly, his strengths are my weaknesses and vice-versa, we complement each other really, really well.
We worked on a few projects together; we just work really well together. We just felt that it made sense for us to partner on this. I think the most important thing is just that we complement each other very well. He’s more of an analytical guy, behind-the-scenes, like a numbers guy and I’m not. We were able to delegate our roles and responsibilities very easily.
Spencer: It sounds like the partnership has gone pretty well; no issues there. I know a lot of people talk about partnerships that don’t go right, but it sounds like things have gone well.
Mark: Yeah. I’ve had probably four partners, Matt’s been really great to work with. It’s like a marriage, really. Anyone that has worked with a partner, it’s like a marriage. Of course you’re going to have your ups and downs, of course there’s going to be disputes and arguments about stuff and disagreements, but what’s really nice is if both of you are reasonable and you’re both listening to each other, then it makes it just that much easier to come to a consensus. Again, it’s just like having a spouse.
Spencer: Very good. Basically, just one or two more questions here, just give you a chance to give any final tips or advice for online entrepreneurs. That can be anything that are looking to launch their own product or do anything else, just any general business advice or tips for online entrepreneurs.
Mark: I think the two biggest things are getting out there, meeting people, and starting to build that network. When I say network, it could be mentors, just people you look up to and ask for advice, it could be partners that you’re working with on a product or a business, it could just be like meeting talented people, talented developers, designers, support people just to start to build that foundation, that framework for your business and just surround yourself around those people.
The other thing would be just to start taking imperfect action. Too many times I see entrepreneurs or people trying to create a product that they just want perfection. I think it’s in our DNA as entrepreneurs to be perfect. Unfortunately, no product is perfect. There’s always that evolution, there’s always going to be improvements that need to be made. It’s the people that try to create something and instead of it being six months, it takes two years, or three years, or four years. Before you know it, you’ve run out of money and you don’t know what to do, you have to go back to a nine-to-five job. So, just taking that imperfect action and it’s okay that it’s not perfect. But as long as you’re willing to listen, fix things, and improve on things, then you’ll be just fine.
Spencer: Finally, if people want to stay in touch with you, is there a place they can go or a place they can reach out to you?
Mark: For me, personally, you can go on Facebook. We have a group, just search PayKickstart. We have a Facebook group there. I’m active there, my business partner is there, we have our support team, and a whole bunch of other vendors and affiliates that are using the platform are all in there. Feel free to request to join our Facebook group. Feel free, you can tag me. If you have any questions, I’m more than happy to respond there. Or you can always go to paykickstart.com. We have our blog there and we have our support team there as well. If you have any questions specific to the platform, I’m more than happy to connect there.
Spencer: Perfect. If people want to check out PayKickstart that you’ve been working on and putting your focus on, they can go to paykickstart.com overall market. It’s great to finally have you on the podcast. We’ve known each other for so long, but I appreciate you making some time and sharing your thoughts here.
Mark: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Spencer: Thanks a lot.