David Darmanin – Founder of Hotjar: Q&A Session

Q&A Session: David Darmanin

David Darmanin Q&A Session is happening on Wednesday DEC. 16th 2015 (1pm EST)

David is an entrepreneur and consultant that has generated hundreds of millions of dollars for small to large businesses over the last 12 years. He has run hundreds of tests for his clients… across 19 languages, 12 currencies and 13 industries. In one of his most recent projects he generated $16 Million in life time value for an e-Commerce SaaS.

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David Darmanin – founder & CEO of Hotjar.com – Transcript

David Darmanin is a conversion and optimization expert and the founder & CEO of Hotjar.com.

The Q&A Session with David was held on December 16th, 2016. This transcript has been edited for punctuation, grammar, etc.

Hey everyone!!

Welcome! I’m a big fan of Hotjar. Active Pro user. What is currently your greatest driver of growth in user acquisitions (paid)?

Thanks guys – really looking forward to your questions… We don’t do a lot of paid, but Facebook rocks.

How far are you with session-based form analytics? Hence behind login.

Unfortunately, not moving as fast as we should on session-based fa. We built a prototype and it’s far more complex than we thought, but next year we’re re-inventing itto make it far more intelligentand customizable.

What’s the advantage you’ve found in calling your first users “founding members” as opposed to just users?

Founding members is a way to recognize beta users that took on a paid plan – it was a great driver for first customers – “upgrade and become a founding member.”

How did you chip your tooth?

Footie! I dribbled all the way into a goal post. haha

What are the main trends in E-commerce analytics?

That’s a tough one, so much is going on right now. I think there is a big push towards predictive stuffand personalization – but that’s less analyticsand more experience.

Did HotJar raise money?

Hotjar is privately funded – we’ve received 2 VC offers but for now we’ve chosen to boostrap. We invested around €600k into Hotjar.


Yup, after failing with two projects we wanted to think big.

Which Hotjar tool is the most widely used, and which is the biggest selling point for your software (if different)?

Heatmaps and Recordings are head to head – biggest selling point is ‘All-in-one’followed closely by affordability – no surprise about that one.

What was your biggest aid to gaining marketing traction in the very beginning?

  1. speed to build and go to market 2. fueled word of mouth with paid advertising

I loved your referral strategy to get your product into Beta. What tech powered your referral program when you were running the contest before launch?

We built it ourselves – I had a very specific vision of how I wanted it to work. I’d paid for that referral software.

“All-in-one” can be good, but how about methodology? How to analysedata coming from your E-commerce store – do you provide any or just selling SaaS product?

You can see our methodology here: http://www.hotjar.com/action-plan

Biggest lesson learned from your two failures?

Build fast and sell before you launch. Get feedback super fast – and only build MVP – iterative approach.

So fueled WoM – how’d you kick that off? Just personal networks, or any specific platforms?

Personal networks and Facebook – we were very lucky to get featured on Product Huntat the right time. I highly recommend using communities like https://erlibird.com/.

Who is the one person/organization that you’ve seen sign up and it made ecstatic?

Early on IKEA – they signed up, became customers and we didn’t even realize.


Awesome to see self-service work so well. My wife is Swedish, so I could show off!

Just have to say the way you have organizations setup for agencies and such is such a pleasure. I’m already onboarding a few clients with such a breeze, that I feel guilty for not paying more lol.

Thanks! We nailed that by using surveys. We noticed a lot of agencies sign up, so we asked them how they wanted Hotjar built… and we were getting it wrong. So we changed it completely.

What’s the most worried you’ve been in the last two years?

Whether any of our 20,000 beta users would buy Hotjar!

How’s the referral monthly leaderboard doing as far as generating business?

Very good in terms of exposure and visibility. We don’t measure ‘hard sales’ since we’ve seen that word of mouth is what powers that the most.

How do you “tag” word of mouth?

… and very difficult to attribute.


Well we use qualitative methods – surveys and speak to customers.


We recently signed on a huge firm (cannot mention the name) – they were testing it with a personal account for months, and we had no idea.


That’s why we offer same level of support to users / customers. That has really paid off. We don’t care who you are or where you are from. We aim to give the same level of service to everyone – might sound crazy. But if we can pull it off – wouldn’t that be amazing?

How big is your team, and are most of them remote, or based in Malta?

We’re completely remote – even the team in Malta. We just reached 10… and bringing on six new people over the coming weeks (we hope).

Which startup founder do you admire the most? And why?

Jason Fried

How big is the customer service team as compared to your sales/development team?I’ve noticed your response rates are quite high.

We all do customer service… including the CEO. It’s super organized and structured.

I noticed that, actually… so is it you responding when your face is in the intercom.io panel?


Not to brag but we do have some awesome people that you can reach out to for hire in our #hiring channel.

That would be fantastic!! in the meantime spread the love: hotjar.com/careers But we believe that we should be speaking to our users.

Among your other tasks, how do you fit that in without disrupting your day?

I isolate it to specific times of the day. I also have a theme for every day of the week and block out times for calls.

You have some pretty good content on your blog as well. Are there any good inbound leads/users coming in from that?

Our blog is horrible – we’re working on getting that on track.

LOL. Looking for a content/growth guy?

Right now it helps more to spread the word about our culture. Really helps recruit great people. We just recruited a VP of Marketing, so content comes next.If we had the time we would focus on offering much better content against an email and do some lead nurturing – no time!

I guess that’s a good problem to have.

Yes it is – thing is, it’s very easy to see other companies creating awesome tools and sites and content. Important to keep in mind they have been building the business for years.

Any tips for hiring?

Write about your culture and ethos and then advertise – make them come to you!I think it’s super important to be very structured about hiring. Define well what you need and then interview only people that match that. Resist the impulse to go for a ‘great opportunity’ or anything less than your objective.

What is more important to grow the business according to you:

– Lead Generation / Marketing

– Customer Success & Enablement

Talking about SaaS…

We created an org chart that will serve us for the next 2 years.

If you had to create a big impact on Hotjar, what would you choose from those two and why?

Well – hard numbers growth comes from marketing. But the ultimate growth is no churn… so you cannot have one without the other.If I had to choose it would be Customer Success.


But when you are in a self-service model with low pricing, that is VERY challenging, so it depends a lot on your deal size, model and space / industry.


Any questions about using Hotjar / tools like Hotjar?

Why is Hotjar the best? Is it your product or your people?

It’s the people… and the timing. We hit the market at the right time with the right learnings.

I use HJ a lot for the heatmaps, but noticed that the sampling doesn’t happen “throughout the day” as I thought it would (read that somewhere). It’s sort of a first-come first-serve. Any ideas why?

Sample rate is distributed – that’s how overall data is collected.Heatmaps collect data for that page on first come first serve based on the sample rate.


We did this so you can get results super-fast and create unlimited heatmaps.

If you just start out with using Hotjar, where/how can you get the ‘quickest & biggest’ wins?

That’s a great question. I would start with a survey to your existing users / customers. Huge wins with that – so underrated. But I have put a lot of thought into this and created a 9-step action plan: http://www.hotjar.com/action-plan

I’m on the side of thinking there is going to be an analyticspocalypse as Ad Blockers are now blocking analytics programs for tracking. HotJar is blocked by AdBlock+ (w/EasyPrivacy), uBlock, etc. how are you dealing with that?

We don’t deal with it – we respect it. We also respect do not track in browsers. We don’t think you need ALL data to get actionable insights and grow your business. The qualitative approach is much more powerful.In fact, most wins for our users / customers come from the aha moments of understanding what really happens…. you will see this even if you are collecting data from a small sample of data.I think other tools will have bigger problems with this though – the more quantitative tools. However, you would be surprised how minimal the impact on data collection really is.

The stats people just twitched a bit.

I’m sure they did – the key is to make a distinction between accuracy and consistency.we could spend an hour just discussing that… If you need super accuracy nothing beats ‘server side’ tracking. But for qualitative insights, a sample is enough.

I was curious about the impact of the data and you answered my question.haha

Awesome! Hehe

What tools of your competitors do you use for ‘inspiration’ (to laugh at or to reinvent)?

I’ve used quite a lot of them in the past, since I worked with so many clients. We have huge respect for them – but in general our rule is to completely ignore the competition. We have a particular product vision which is probably very different than theirs… To win you want your competitors to be looking at you – not vice versa.

I know, but you do check them out. Some angles are stupidly implemented, but can be used for inspiration.

With competitors, it’s key to understand the customer experience more than seeing the details of the solution itself.

These AMAs/talks/guest posts that you do around the ecosystem of marketing/growth…what *value* do you gain from them? (aside from brand lift)

No clue! Attribution is a bitch… the key is to really take every opportunity that comes your way.

LOL. I’m quoting you.

That would be a pleasure!

What’s the difference between you guys and Mouseflow?

I have never used Mouseflow – but I think we have a very different path ahead – we’re more interested in the connection between feedback and analytics. I think they are more focused on the analytics side.

What’s the next _big_ feature you think would add the greatest value to current HJ users?(something for us to tell our friends about)

Remote user testing – on demand!! That would be awesome… let’s just say we’re playing around with that idea.


Any last questions? If not would love to connect on twitter – https://twitter.com/daviddarmanin feel free to drop me any questions there. I’ll be tweeting all my upcoming blog posts of how we built and grew Hotjar. Working on the first in the series right now – “from MVP to 60,000 users.”

Thanks for hanging out with us for a bit – hope you have a good evening and we send good vibes your way!

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