Hello ! Who are you and what are you working on?
My name is Micah Iverson, I'm a designer and maker working on many different projects. I have a design and development company, I build small side projects for fun and I have a house painting company. If you are interested, you can check out http://www.krazier.com to get a full list of everything I'm focused on. First 100 Influencers (https://www.first100influencers.com) has been a big focus for me this past year, it's a site to discover Influencers, Founders, Makers, Entrepreneurs and Passionate People.
What motivated you to get started with? How did you come up with the idea?
I created First 100 Influencers because wanted to create a site for discovering a wide range of interesting people who are committed to their industry. In addition to that, I build multiple projects and wanted a central place to push out updates about my projects and make it easy for others to do the same.
I had the idea for quite a while but wasn't quite sure how I wanted to approach it until I saw: https://www.hundredunderhundred.com, the pricing model was unique and a perfect fit for what I wanted in a simple experience. I took the general foundation and added my own features and functionality to flush out my idea. In hindsight I wish I had pushed the design further to make it more unique, I hope to do that sometime this year.
Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?
We launched the site with fairly barebone functionality, all we had we 4 different profile types (people, companies, apps and websites), and within each of those we have about 30 categories. The pricing starts out at $1 per profile, per category and goes up by $1 each time a profile is added to a category. Each category has a limit of 100 paid profiles.
During the next 12 months we have continued to add new features that we had already planned, but we also added some features based on feedback from our users. Some things we have added are a Top 100 viewed profiles list, Broadcasts (which are basically mini blog posts by users), Interviews, Jobs (which we have now pulled out into a separate project). Some of the requests we had from users was to make the user dashboard area easier to use, the ability to add profiles in multiple categories and to add more social media profile types for streamers. We have gradually built up the site to try and continually add value for our members.
What has been your biggest failure or struggle?
Overall the site hasn't done quite as well as I had hoped, I think part of this is due to the name. People seem to be weeding themselves out from joining because they think they're not influencers. While the original goal was to get mainly influencers on the site, almost immediately after launch I realised it was a bad approach and regretted picking the name I did. Who knows, maybe we'll have a new name later this year too.
The biggest struggle has been getting the recurring traffic that you need to really sustain a site. Even today, despite the new features we are held back by lack of recurring users. To be honest, there really isn't a lot of reason to visit the site more than a few times a month, so it's a constant battle to try and find those new visitors. This is a big reason I want to do a rebuild, as it will allow the site to expand and become a more dynamic community. The core structure of the site though just isn't flexible enough to do that without a rebuild.
And what has been your biggest achievement or success?
I'm quite happy with the types of people we have on the site, we have a wide range of true influencers down to people who are just kind of starting their journey. It's allowed me to meet some interesting people that I would never have met otherwise, which basically fulfils my primary goal for the site. In general, the site has been extremely stable, people seem to understand how to use it and we have driven quite a bit of traffic to many of our members.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
In our first year I think we had only a few people delete their accounts before their annual membership renewed. In February when profiles started renewing, we have had a bit more leave but it's not a lot. Most of our users are paying less than $10/year to be listed, so it's a pretty inexpensive membership for some extra exposure.
Attracting new users has been more difficult than I expected, I think part of it is just lack of eyeballs on the site. When we get a bump in traffic due to a blog post or retweet or something we will get a few new members. The key is we just need more of those high traffic days to continue growing, as every startup struggles with.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Once the plan was flushed out, everything came together pretty quickly. I did the design and hired someone to do the html/css for the homepage and a couple other pages (which typically I'd just do myself), when I got the code back I did a bunch of refinements and built out the remaining pages. I then handed it off to my backend developer to flush out the functionality. I think from design to launch it was only a couple months (if that even) and that was only working on it part-time.
I also brought on a marketing guy to reach out to some real influencers to help pre-populate the site so it wasn't a wasteland when we launched to the public, this was quite beneficial. After going live, we promoted the site and our member's profiles as much as we could, anywhere we could.
Did you use Betalist or PH or other Startup Launching Platform for Launching ? How was that experience ?
Yes, we launched on Betalist, Product Hunt and quite a few other "startup listing" sites. This was the first project where I used a 3rd party service to list on various sites, which helped a bit with getting traffic but not nearly as much as I would have expected. Product Hunt was the primary traffic source by far, this was also the first product I had really launched on Product Hunt and I didn't fully understand how to use it to my advantage but we still did fairly well.
What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
As I mentioned earlier, profiles start at an annual rate of $1 and go up by $1 per new profile added in each category, so the most any one user would pay is $100 for one profile in one category. The idea here was to make it very approachable to join, but also make it a bit urgent to join as the earlier you got in the better price you got. To help populate the site early on, we gave some people free profiles in return for some promotion on launch day.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? What are your goals for the future?
When we first launched, much of the social media wasn't automated yet so it was a lot of effort to push out content from the site. We have a few better tools today, but we could do even better. And again, just sustaining traffic is a challenge and seems like it needs constant attention to stay in the public eye. I have actually stepped back from much of the marketing I was doing before just so I can see what kind of "organic", self-sustaining traffic we are actually getting so I have a better idea where to focus next.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Recently the site has been on the backburner as we focus our energy on some other projects we plan to launch over the next few months. I am hoping to rebuild the site this year from the ground up with a new design, better user experience and a few useful features in an effort to make it more of a community rather than just a "directory" of profiles.
I want this site to be a community for people to come and talk about the things they are working on, to help others and simply be a resource of smart, talented, motivated people.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Business is hard, I don't think it matters what size business you are. Do the simple small things to keep yourself from dealing with issues in the future. If you setup an actual company, set it up correctly. Hire a good accountant and keep good records of transactions. Respond to people (both the good and the bad), people will get mad at you, listen to them and try to solve the problem. Losing a few dollars because a customer isn't happy with your service after joining, it isn't the end of the world, just thank them for their business and feedback and move on.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I'm a member of https://www.getmakerlog.com and have found this community to be very inspiring and helpful. There are lots of people building many great things but at the end of the day we all have the same types of struggles, fears, anxiety, joys and goals. It's refreshing to be surrounded by those types of people who support and grow with you.
What’s your advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneur who are just starting out?
If you are just starting out on your own, the best thing to do is K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple Stupid!) This is a difficult thing to do but it's so critical. Many of the startups you attempt will fail, so it's best fail small and learn and then move forward. Expect to fail, a lot! As I tell my kids, you will fail far more times in life than you will succeed. Learn and grow from it. Don't spend 6-12 months trying to build this huge perfect thing, launch small and then grow if it makes sense. Plus, if you launch new features gradually, it gives you great content to push out every month which helps boost your traffic. Good things take time, don't expect overnight success, it could easily take years before a project starts to be fruitful, so don't give up too early!