By Carina Koo (Co-Founder, Momentus Media)
Now that we’re a startup with some success, we meet a lot of people who want to learn from our story. Since we started playing with Facebook over a year ago, we’ve built Facebook apps and marketing campaigns used by millions of people. But one of the things people find most interesting is how we are bootstrapped.
The short version: We built a simple product that was meant to be sold right from the get-go.
Our mission was to help spread brand messages on Facebook by leveraging our experience in building viral Facebook apps. We wanted to leverage that experience in a scalable way, so we built a Facebook app publishing tool for Facebook Page managers. It was an attempt to templatize our success with viral Facebook apps so that other organizations could apply their own content and enjoy similar success. We hypothesized that non-profits and political campaigns had the benefit of emotionally charged content necessary to make apps viral. We sold a few subscriptions, but we quickly gained two important learnings:
- Virality cannot be templatized. Even in the passionate world of social causes and politics, there are very few brands sexy enough to be viral without custom finesse.
- When it comes to new technology, businesses need a lot of hand-holding.
Trough of Sorrow with Income
It wasn’t what we had hoped, but we did have income that we wouldn’t have had with a consumer product. Consumers are not willing to pay for a product that hasn’t been tested and proven by the masses. Businesses are, because that need for trust can be fulfilled through a more personal business relationship. And because we were already offering custom services on top of the publisher, it was easy to shift our focus to consulting, offering custom and more effective Facebook campaigns.
It’s common to fund startups through consulting, but in contrast with B2B, consumer product startups must bridge the gap from serving nameless users to building a client list from scratch, not to mention building very different products. This necessarily dilutes your efforts: half of your resources are spent building a consulting business and serving other people’s missions, with little benefit to your own.
As a B2B business, we are able to find paying customers for many of our initiatives, and the consulting work we do contributes to our mission rather than distracting from it. We have benefited from client relationships that allow us to understand them as users and as a market. In this way, consulting has given us the gift of funded market research, allowing us to explore how best to achieve our mission.
It’s understood that great startup ideas are not light bulbs that appear out of thin air. They come from intuition cultivated from expertise and experience. So it takes time and practice, and that is what we’ve created for ourselves.
This post was originally posted at MomentusMedia.com.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Carina Koo is Co-Founder of Momentus Media, a Facebook marketing agency specializing in viral campaigns and software connecting brands with their customers on Facebook. She previously worked at Microsoft on natural language processing and localization for chatbots. Carina holds a B.S. in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University. Follow her on Twitter at @carinacarinakoo and her startup at @momentus_media.