Hiten Shah – co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg – Transcript
Hiten Shah is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg. He’s been creating and growing both self-funded and venture backed SaaS analytics businesses since 2005. Update: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hnshah/
The AMA with Hiten was held on May 28th, 2015. This transcript has been edited for punctuation, grammar, etc.
Who would you like to see do an AMA in this industry?
Great question. Andy Johns who works at Wealthfront would be great if we can get him in here. He used to work at Facebook, Twitter, Quora prior to Wealthfront. He’s a bad ass.
What is one product or service that you wish existed, but doesn’t?
I love things that feel like literal magic. I’m always on the hunt for that kind of software. So anything that just “tells me what do do” gets me excited.
So get a wife if you don’t already have one.
I already have one and she tells me what to do in my personal life.
What was the moment that you felt in which Crazy Egg turned from a side project to a full startup?
Pre-launch when we got over 23k emails for early access. Shit got real, because lots of people wanted it.
Do you use different social platforms to achieve different goals in your personal life?
Yes. Twitter is mostly for people I don’t quite know yet. I have hired people, made new friends and even solidified new friendships on Twitter. Facebook is for pics of my kids and family time. Pinterest I search for stuff like recipes, matte black things, etc… but don’t really discover people. Instagram helps me stay in touch with people who have an eye for pretty things.
What SaaS/app do you use to get customer feedback/surveys?
I use qualaroo.com, usertesting.com and intercom.io for feedback and surveys. I also use old-school email quite a bit and some homegrown stuff as well for getting qualitative feedback on funnel drop-offs…. Iforgot to mention my new obsession with http://typeform.com
What was your biggest personal and business accomplishment?
Oh, I don’t really think of things like that. I always feel like the best is yet to come. So I can’t even begin to name any that are the “biggest” since they all have been an important part of my journey, and I’ve still got a tremendously long way to go!!!
What inspired you to start Crazy Egg? KISSsmestrics?
We were providing marketing services for a ton of companies, both small and very large ones. We got frustrated with Urchin, Omniture and eventually Google Analytics and how it all worked. We wanted to solve problems we saw people having with it. That inspired both Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics, too.
What is one of the more surprising finds from results on Crazy Egg experiments or Kissmetrics data?
We learned at KISSmetrics that getting people to enter their URL on the homepage increased conversions by 30% compared to just having a Google auth button. It was the idea of getting people to invest and “personalize” upfront which worked, even though it required them to type stuff.
Besides Neil & the wifey who do you speak to the most?
I like to speak to my 5-year-old son and try to speak to my 1 year old daughter, but they don’t always pay attention to me. Outside of them, I’ve got 2 – 3 close friends I speak to all the time and a few people at Crazy Egg and Quick Sprout (our latest thing where we are building content marketing software) whom I talk to regularly.
Fav subreddit – too many to name + no comment.
Who was the client that contacted you that had you most surprised? Like having Twilio or WordPress contact you to use your product must have been awesome?
It is quite surprising how much help very large companies need. Can’t name specifics, but they tend to be slower, often less savvy and more dogmatic than smaller companies. That being said, they have been surprisingly open to feedback and outside help. It’s always awesome to get brand names using your product, at the same time my favorites are the mom and pops who we can often change their lives dramatically. Example: At Crazy Egg, we have a ton of mom and pop “small” ecommerce companies who exclusively use Crazy Egg instead of any other analytics-like tool, simply because of how easy it is to understand and how blatantly obvious website issues become with it.
I use several fancy tools on the market: CrazyEgg, Kiss, SessionCam, Gauges, Moz, etc. In this use, I am having trouble keeping up with the data silos. What do you use to centralize all your data streams?
Use less tools. I would not even try to centralize data streams. Instead, I recommend creating playbooks / workbooks that make processes repeatable. Just because it’s a “manual” process or something where there are silos of data doesn’t mean you can’t make it more efficient. Often times, just writing the process down can help make it repeatable and scalable. See the tip of the week at the bottom of this issue of my newsletter: http://hiten.com/issues/16
In the last 3-4 months our SaaS startup is facing two major challenges – reducing churn and maintaining the growth rate. Churn is at around 4-5% monthly. Can we safely assume that controlling churn is higher priority? We are a small team, so would like to hear from you if we would be mistaken to keep focus on both and lose out on the danger of increasing churn.
This is a whole blog post on exactly how we think about early access: http://hitenism.com/business-ideas/
Content marketing software – this is interesting. Have an email signup anywhere?
If you sign up at http://quicksprout.com that’s a start. Additionally, you can just email me and I’ll make sure you get access. We’re working very hard and doing magic for anyone doing content marketing.
I work in the Internet Radio industry. With you growing successful SaaS companies… you’re surely more experienced than I am. I’m quite young. What tips can you give to ensure that my company grows and develops whilst I balance my education too? (sorry, might be a tough question — always eager to learn about the successful guys though)
You or anyone else on here can email me with specific questions and more context about your business / personal info if you want: firstname.lastname@example.orgI’m *always* happy to help.
My team and I are building a travel startup focused on business travelers, called Roomino.com. I have two questions: We are building the product from Mexico, do you recommend to move to SV? And which could be the best approach to find advisors?
Mexico is great, I don’t necessarily recommend moving if you can find the right team members where you are and can execute on the problems you want to solve. The Bay area is great, but it isn’t a requirement for success. I’m here because there are more people here trying to create new things than anywhere else. I started my first few companies (ACS – consulting company, Crazy Egg and very early KISSmetrics) in Orange County, which had a non-existent tech scene.
How do you balance content intake (reading, learning what has worked for others) with just ignoring it and getting shit done even if it isn’t how others have done it?
I listen to audio books at 3x speed on audible and 2x on podcasts. I am super hungry to take in information and learn. I also get shit done mostly through other people on my teams, which is my way of getting the most leverage on my time so I can do the hard things and / or the things I love. More on being an infovore here:
https://hitenism.com/hacks-for-infovores/ BTW, if I’m linking to my blog posts, it’s only because they are relevant. I prefer to not repeat myself and also provide value by linking to things, and will link to other people’s stuff if and when it makes sense in the AMA.
What do you think of building wide versus building deep – I mean when you have products like KISSMetrics&CrazyEgg- both pretty awesome and successful? How do you balance as a startup to dive deep within the same product or adding a new vertical/complimentary product? Can one do both at same time?
This question deserves a very long answer. High-level, I would suggest doing the right thing for your market opportunity, and that requires you to first understand the market and the opportunity you uniquely see in it. Then you have to deliver the right product to these customers. I like how the folks at Intercom think about product management and mostly agree with what they say – check their free ebook out here: https://www.intercom.io/books/product-management
Intercom on Product Management book
How do you think we can fight inbound fatigue? Seems there are thousands of “ultimate guides to X” ebooks already. It feels it becomes difficult to stand out on first sight. What is your idea about the future?
There are two sides to this – the reader perspective and the writer perspective. Taking the reader’s perspective, you should find ways to assess the quality of something really fast. I tend to be pretty good at that, and that’s why I curate a weekly newsletter and tweet a lot of links. From the writer’s perspective, with all the content out there, it’s all about finding your unique audience and creating the *best* possible content for them. Not just better content but hands down the best content for them.
I should add that it’s the best content for the audience, so make sure you compare the content you create or want to create with the content in the space. For example, certain audiences you can get away with shorter, less meaty posts and they’ll love it, while for others (like marketers), the content has to be pretty awesome.
What do you think about remote working for early stage startups?
I think it all has to do with company culture and style of the founder(s). At my companies, we are distributed and we make it work. I don’t necessarily advocate it, but it works really well for us and provides us with a lot of benefits. We’ve got around the disadvantages by doing more hangouts with video and things like that, so we can actually see each other (and sometimes our kids in the background). I think the right thing to do is to match your style of work as a founder with the culture you want to create on your team. Remote isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely a fast growing minority, currently.
Have you worked w/ angels/VCs? or do you prefer to bootstrap?
I consider it very simply. I don’t prefer either. I’ve worked with investors at KISSmetrics and have self-funded at Crazy Egg and now Quick Sprout. If your goal is to grow a business, in an ideal world you’d have a business before you raise money. If you don’t have the money, skills or resources to do it without money, there are more ways than just investors to get money. What if you did consulting / freelance work to fund your product?
I agree w/ you re: bootstrapping and being creative in early phase, but then there’s a phase where you’ve bootstrapped and find there’s a larger opportunity to capture. It seems like you hit that with KISSMetrics at some point, so you took funding on. Could you see that happening with QuickSprout as well, i.e. taking money on just to accelerate growth?
Yes, if and when it makes sense.
OK, cool, thx!Follow-up question: do you aim to be cash flow positive with your businesses? Wayne Chang (Crashlytics) talked about how he got to an exit in under two years after founding. His point was, take money on and spend it as quickly as possible to accelerate your growth. So for him, cash flow positive would be bad.
Already cash-flow positive. We don’t plan on raising money any time soon for Crazy Egg or Quick Sprout.
OK, so reading your response, CF+ is a goal that you try to reach. It’s interesting b/c for the startup I’m building, we’re about to be CF+ but I’m not sure that’s a “good” thing. OK, thx for the insight!
It’s a good thing if you haven’t raised money. This post might help you think about it: https://hitenism.com/self-funding-versus-raising-money/
Which ones are the startups or companies in the enterprise market that you could refer to as examples of “Growth Hacking Companies?” I read about the B2C2B strategy here and this looks like great advice: http://tomtunguz.com/b2c2b/ What do you think?
What do you mean by “growth hacking companies?”
Examples of enterprise companies using Growth Hacking strategies… that could inspire…
http://growthhackers.com I really like their case studies.
As an advisor and investor, what are the first things that you see in founders and their approach? Thanks!
Do you have any advice on tracking TV ads? I am trying to track ads (and the effects on web traffic) across multiple networks and am having trouble producing anything more than causal data.
This was written about on the KISSmetrics blog: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/offline-marketing-tracking/
Thanks, I read that earlier. The problem is the ads have already run, so custom domains and landing pages are out and our brand name gets a fair amount of direct traffic, making tracking that way complex. Corporate wants to know the effect of one network, and I’m out of ideas on tracking.
Correlation is the best you can do. Discounting direct traffic that is “normal” versus a new bump can be helpful. Otherwise, you might be SOL for this round of campaigns. Do the next better.
Thanks, I was afraid this would be the answer.
Should ad spend depend on the money business makes? How to allocate budget for marketing?
That’s the type of question that leads me to ask more questions than give an answer. Inshort, yes you should make more money than you spend on your marketing. Profit = revenue – costs.
What is one area that you didn’t focus on early on that brought you the most traction as far as getting customer/clients. Coupons and stuff?
Directly emailing people. Alright. I’m still here. Anyone have any more questions?!
How long before one knows a campaign is not working? And while you’re at it, when do you call a campaign successful?
Tricky question. Depends on the ad platform you are using and the volume you are able to get. When a campaign is working, it is making you money, a positive ROI basically. You can consider that successful. At the same time, if it’s something like Adwords or Facebook ads, you still have to keep monitoring it to ensure it remains profitable for you and you keep tuning it.
Thank you @hiten it was really a great AMA. Thanks to all the OG’s for the awesome questions.
Thanks for having me!
I encourage everyone who’s not – to follow Hiten:https://twitter.com/hnshah He shares some pretty awesome content.