No Traditional Business Plan Needed: Interview With Jenn Vargas, Founder Of Accompl.sh

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By Doreen Bloch (Author, The Coolest Startups in America)

I met Jenn Vargas, the founder of Accompl.sh, when we were both college interns at Yahoo! Inc in 2007.

Since then, she’s been a star product manager at Yahoo! and Etsy, and now has her own venture, Accompl.sh.

Jenn is a powerhouse developer-entrepreneur, and I look up to her immensely as an inspiring female founder. She dishes to me on her strategies for user engagement, why she’ll never write a business plan, and what female founder she admires most.

Here are 10 questions (and answers!) with Jenn:

Women 2.0: What’s the best thing about being a female entrepreneur?

Jenn Vargas: The surprise factor. Sometimes I catch people off guard. They’re surprised that I did everything from soup-to-nuts, and it’s fun to see people’s reactions to that.

Women 2.0: How has the vision for Accompl.sh evolved?

Jenn Vargas: I had been building Accompl.sh as a tool for myself, as a side project, for years. Since quitting my day job [at Etsy] in October 2011, it’s been an interesting few months discovering the business for Accompl.sh. It’s about bringing the site to next level.

Women 2.0: How did you quit your day job to launch a startup?

Jenn Vargas: It was funny really; I didn’t expect to do it! I’d been building Accompl.sh as a tool for myself because I didn’t want to keep my goals list on my blog anymore. It grew as a side project but at the end of 2011, I decided I wanted to give it a shot and make it a real thing. I was sitting at work [at Etsy] and I just did it – I told my boss that I was leaving in two weeks and that was it! I had done some planning. Quitting was in the back of my mind, but the action itself was sudden. I surprised myself.

Women 2.0: Did you write a business plan?

Jenn Vargas: No. I have slides, but no traditional business plan. I hope to never write one. I’m approaching the capital-raise process as relationship-building. I take a lot of meetings to build relationships with potential advisors and investors in the hope that when the time comes that I’ll need to raise money, I’ll be able to get what I need.

Women 2.0: What is the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur?

Jenn Vargas: Surviving the rollercoaster. Especially when you’re a solo founder, there’s a lot more on your shoulders that you can’t spread to others. When there’s a bad day, you’re responsible for getting yourself out of the funk. When there’s a great day, you have to call someone to celebrate. Keeping a balance is the way to stay sane.

Women 2.0: What fellow founder do you admire and why?

Jenn Vargas: Caterina Fake. I’ve worked for almost all of her companies in some way – she’s on the Board of Etsy.com and founded Flickr. She has a great product sense and infuses her products with personality. Her businesses are about real people. I’d be a happy camper if I could have a career like hers.

Women 2.0: Accompl.sh has stellar user engagement. How do you do it?

Jenn Vargas: I think about user engagement as how many times a day I can get a user to come back to the site. And, are they producing value? I deem any interaction to be worthwhile if it enhances the site in some way. The more they’re coming back to the site, the more likely they’re going to be to achieve their goals. The metrics I look at each day include how many likes, comments and unique commenters are on the site.

Women 2.0: What is your best tip for user acquisition?

Jenn Vargas: On the user acquisition side, make sure you have your funnel refined. Getting people into the funnel is more of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” strategy. Sometimes I try to get Accompl.sh featured on a blog or I’ll tweet at anyone who mentions the word “goal” on Twitter; try a lot of tactics to see what works best. Once you get them to your landing page, test to discover what’s most effective.

Women 2.0: What is Accompl.sh?

Jenn Vargas: Accompl.sh is an online community for people to achieve their goals.

Women 2.0: Where do you hope Accompl.sh will be in one year?

Jenn Vargas: I hope Accompl.sh will reach one million goals on the site by next year. Given the goal completion ratio on Accompl.sh that means users will have completed hundreds of thousands of goals by then! Also, I hope to bring users more content and partnerships. For example, if a user has a finance goal, I hope for Accompl.sh to partner with Mint.com or LearnVest. If a user is into fitness, I’d like to link up to FitBit or Withings. I want Accompl.sh to be the place where people can aggregate their goals.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.

Photo credit: Jenn Vargas on Flickr.

About the guest blogger: Doreen Bloch is the author of The Coolest Startups in America, and Founder and CEO of Poshly (launching in 2012). Doreen is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, where she was awarded the Jack Larson Fellowship for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Doreen is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council, and she regularly contributes to Forbes Women, The Huffington Post and more. Follow her on Twitter at @DoreenBloch.