When you’re in start-up mode with a new business, especially one your boot-strapping yourself or with a few partners, it’s tempting to go all out: long hours, no time off, just work. But, shares Demio Co-Founder David Abrams, that’s actually a recipe for disaster. By slowing down, you can focus on your business and find the clarity to solve problems… and fine-tune your long-term strategy for growth and profitability.
Slowing down and simplifying their product and process is how David and his partner created their game-changing webinar platform. Demio makes setting up and running webinars easy… where it was once hard. That’s a lesson for any product or service you offer and for any start-up.
Check out the episode now to discover…
- The key difference between macro patience and micro hustle
- An easy way to avoid burnout in a start-up business
- Why taking time off can actually help you turn a profit sooner
- The power of simple as a unique selling proposition
- When it’s best to start all over rather than keep going
David Abrams | Going Slow to Achieve Long-Term Success
In this episode, we're talking with David Abrams. David is the co-founder and CEO of Demio. It's a neat and new webinar platform. We've been using it and I'm just really excited about what they've created and I can't wait to talk to him a little bit about that. David, welcome to The Unstoppable CEO Podcast.
Thanks so much for having me. It's really a privilege to be here and I'm excited to talk with you.
You're in a business that's relatively young. You've been through the startup mode and I know you've probably been through some challenges in getting it off the ground. One of the things we'd like to focus on here are the different mindsets, the frameworks that CEOs use to push through because we all know this isn't a straight-line sprint. You get all kinds of obstacles thrown in front of you. Tell us a little bit first about how you got started in business and then I'd love to hear how you have persisted through some of the challenges that you've come through.
I have a lot to contribute here because our journey was very, very hard. We hit nearly every obstacle you could think of. We probably hit it, got through it somehow. I don't even know how we survived. I'm going to give you a background of my own journey. I didn't know what I wanted to do after I graduated college. I was traveling the world. I ran out of money and I wanted to do something unique. I took an internship and really fell in love with marketing in this internship. I worked with this company, grew into marketing director position. This journey is similar to a lot of people, learning this job. I learned as much as I could in marketing. Then I left and said, "I could do this on my own." First, I was freelancing for web design and development. The agency life wasn't for me. I wanted to go off and do something where I worked on a product or a service. Something that I could actually scale. Agency life is really not a scalable business. It's really a person scaling. If you want it to go larger, you have to hire more people. I just wanted someone that we could focus on with recurring revenue that was able to grow.
I got really into software at this time and really started to learn about how to build and grow software and created some smaller ones. Demio ended up being my first majorsoftware SaaS company along with my co-founder who's absolutely genius at this stuff. We've been able to get in and we've created a great application. It took us about two years to get to a free beta period. From that free beta period, we then launched to the public. It's been almost a year. Along the way, in that two years, people think about that straight-line journey, it is nonstop. We hit so many things. First and foremost, it was lack of technical leadership. We had hired an agency team to come in. We flew them from Turkey to Tampa. We met with them. We planned for a week. We didn't have a really tight MVP. We had this very large, robust software and three months in, we realized that they hadn't built anything. We're out about six figures. We were investing our own capital in this.
We really got screwed here. We had to restart about six months in. We brought in a whole bunch of people. We started working really fast. We're like, "We're so behind." We're building this huge thing again. Another four months went by, we had our first MVP. When I say MVP, this thing was gigantic and it wasn't great. It was okay because we had so much stuff. We realized our streaming was a little bit behind. We have taken so long to build this. We missed the boat on joining this other streaming technology. We made the hardest decision we've ever had to do, which was dumping our MVP, which already was at 2.2000 MRR. Monthly revenue was already coming in. We refunded everyone. We stopped it. We had to fire half of our team and start over. We brought in great people. We really started simple. We started light and went after building a very light MVP and then getting that out to free beta. Now, it was the big crucial moment.
To talk about some of the major hurdles I guess was through hiring, to not having that technical leadership, to going too fast. Having this pressure behind us that we felt we had to get this out now so you make really fast decisions or you hire too fast. You bring too many people on and you’re not working really smart. You're not making strategic decisions, you're just going fast. You feel that there's a lot of pressure.There really wasn't any pressure. We put that on ourselves because we had gotten screwed before. Up to that free beta period, we’ve put in nearly $400,000 in our own money literally to get this project off the ground. There was a lot of pressure on us. My co-founder faced a really bad burnout. I faced a really bad burnout. We didn't know if we're going to make it. We are literally at the ends of our bootstrap funds to get this free beta period and our grand opening launch actually propelled us into profitability and to make some money.
We actually started the company growth from there. What I learned I should say from that and how I was able to get through it, was really starting to understand the balance between macro patience and micro hustle. Really understanding that this is a long-term game. If you're going into a SaaS or software company, you're looking at a five to seven-year ride if you're going to do it right. Understand that this is going to be long-term game. Don't feel pressured and so rushed to get these things out instantly. Some of this growth stuff, customer validation, customer market fit, those stuffs take some time. Go small initially. Learn and then grow it. Don't go really big and then try to figure out what is right and what's not. The micro hustle is day–to-day. Look at what you can do in that day. What's one to three things you can get done. Don't do a hundred things. Don't put your energy all over the place. What are just some key things you can get done and focus on those. Really, focus is a key thing across the board for us. When we went simple, it allowed us to focus more. When we focused on individual, one marketing initiative at a time, it really helped us to put our best effort forward.
The other major thing I think from the burnout experience from us was understanding thatbusiness is a balance. It's a game of balance, 100%. We were literally twelve to fifteen hours a day on the computer every day. Just focusing on work, ignoring other parts of our life, and the stress was so high. It was so bad that it eats you up and it destroys a lot of your mental brain power and your energy throughout the day. Recognizing that fitness, having time for the gym or running or whatever it is, eating right, spending time with your family. For me, spending time with my girlfriend, leisure time, whether that's reading or for me, watching movies and stuff like that and allowing yourself in the time that you are working, a critical time to focus. Cut out all the other distractions, get what you need to have done and then you can move on to other things. That was a really big breakthrough for us.
It's interesting when you put constraints on how much you're going to work. It forces you to get focused. I love that word. We see that again and again and again when we're working with a business. They're in a position where they need to get new clients or they're trying to get forward progress. They may come to us and they're all scattered. They're everywhere, if we can convince them. Sometimes it's hard to convince an entrepreneur who thinks they need to do everything to get going, to get focused, but the minute that they focused, they speed up. It's a little bit counterintuitive because you start to close off certain avenues, certain opportunities to focus on what you think is the most promising, but you make progress that much faster. The really interesting decision that you had to make, I know you went over it quickly you're all the way through and then you've got to basically scrap all the work that you've done. You were a year into it at that point, or maybe a little more and invested a lot of money, too. What does it take to sit therewith your partner and say, "We can't go any further with this. If we're going to do this, we've got to start from scratch again." That's a big deal.
The real raw emotions we were going through was like nauseating, anxiety. Is this the right move? Is this not the right move? I don't think there's ever easy choices in those positions. You have two options and you just got to go with the one that you feel is best. For us, the long-term decision was if we're going to play the long game, we got to go with technology that's going to be the future technology. Not one that's just safe now and it's a safe route. If we really want to do this, we have to be on the cutting edge because there are so many other competitors out there. The decision-making process is hard. You have to ultimately say, "There may not ever be a perfect decision ever in business." There's not going to be like, "This decision is perfect and this one isn't, so we're going to take this decision." You just take the facts that you have and the knowledge that you have at that moment. You just have to make the best decision that you think intuitively is going to be the best.
Sometimes you're wrong, and that's okay. You can be wrong when making these decisions. That's a learning experience. You're going to learn through and grow through it, but you're going to take the facts that you have right now. Take some time to think about it, digest what you have on deck, and then make a decision and then live with that decision. That was for us and how we had to do it. It's easy to say that now and look back, but it was a difficult decision. It was days of back and forth. It was days of talking to people and like clarity FM, like expert consultants and trying to get all these different opinions. At the end of the day, it was like, "This is a big company undertaking." We had to tell our team and all that stuff. Once you make that decision, you got to be behind it 100% and then just go all in on it.
You started over and then went to build somethingreally more focused and smaller in scope. What was the catalyst for reigning it in a little bit?
One of the key things is that we now don’t even think about it just in a business perspective, but our own life perspective is the concept of simplicity. For us, Demio as a platform, we want it to be the simplest and easiest to use webinar platform. We want to get rid of technical overwhelm. We want to make it easy for you to engage with your audience. That's our mission, creating simplicity. When we started to look at our platform and we saw not only why the technology was, but how big our platform had become and all the possible issues that could happen in different situations, this could happen, this could happen, this could happen, we said, "If our unique selling proposition and our values are based on simplicity, then we need to have the platform also mimic that same thing. We've put it into our own lives. That would be simplicity in our lives as well
That was the catalyst to do that. We pulled out a lot of features. We pulled out a lot of stuff. We said, "How do we just make this simple,? How to make this focused?" We want the user experience to be the key thing that talks a lot for our product. The simplicity aspect really paid off. It was a bet that we went on and when we had the beta customers come in, they loved it. They loved the fact that it was simple. They loved the fact that there's not a thousand features that you may use one or two times in the history of your entire time in the platform. This has what you need when you need it and then we just built on the things that they wanted after that. I think the key thing was understanding what simplicity really meant. I think the guys over at base camp did a really good job with that as well. They make sacrifices in their product and they say, "These are the areas we're not going to go. We're going to be this and we're going to be great at this and we're going to be very simple when we do it." We learned a lot from them.
I've used probably every webinar platform out there and done hundreds of webinars over the last ten years. That's a spot in the market that doesn't exist or didn't exist before you staked it out. There is really nothing out there that's simple. That has fewer but the right options in there. I want to talk more about Demio. I want to talk a little bit more about webinars. I've been hearing lately that webinars are dead and I'm sure you have an opinion on that.
We're here with David Abrams of Demio. We're talking about this transition you made from your first version of the product where you had to scrap it and refund customers money. Rebuild and relaunch with this much similar version that is what people will see in Demio now. You're making some big bets there. You're betting first of all on webinars as a means for people delivering their message and you're also betting that people will come to this and say, "I want a tool that doesn't have every bell and every whistle." You’ve been out with that version for about a year now, what's the response been and what's your take on this whole idea that webinars are dead that we start hearing now?
The feedback for us has been incredible. Every time you're building a company, basically, you have an MVP. You have a hypothesis of what you think is going to work. No matter what plan you create, you're going to learn by customer validation. That's the only way you're actually going to know, "Is my product solving a pain? Am I doing this right? Is this what they need?" You need to learn and you adapt. For us, we made this hypothesis that simplicity was going to work and simplicity was what people needed because that's what we wanted. This bet paid off really well. The feedback has been fantastic. People love simplicity. We do have some people that want specific features.
Now, we record all the features that they want and we notate who asks for them and how many people. Then we look at, "When we plan out future releases, what are the features that we need to add in? What are the things that are important to our users?" That's not possible to do, not every feature, but what are the key ones that add value that we can also do in a simple way? It's not just, "They want this feature, let's throw it on." It's, "Let's think about this critically. How do we make this even simpler? How do we make a feature that they want work better or give them more results?" A lot of what we do takes deep thought behind it. I think people really liked that. I think this is a good lesson, is that removing technical overwhelm from people is always a great thing. What people want is the result of your software. They want to go in there, get whatever result or solution that you're offering. They don't want to go in there and play with software for30 minutes and try to figure something out just to get an end result that helps them in some way. They would rather get in there quickly and easily, knock it out, and then be on to do something else. Nobody wants to play with your software. They just want to get the results.
That's been the feedback is that it's just nice and easy. It's so easy to connect. They love that they don't have to be technical, that they can just click point attendees who can join and it creates a great experience. A great experience on a webinar is all about engaging your prospect, having a conversation. That's what's so good about webinars. I don't think webinars are dead at all. In fact, we see huge companies still doing webinars. I think you can use webinars in all types of facets, from training, to Q&A, to onboarding, to one-on-one demos, to sales webinars, and marketing webinars. For us, we see webinars as communication devices, having conversations. Getting away from just being a prospect talking to a company and being a prospect engaging with the company. Learning about those people and having real relationships because nothing builds trust and authority and sales–driven conversations than a face-to-face or a personal atmosphere where they're learning, they're gaining knowledge and then possibly getting a sale at the end. That's why webinars are so good. It's not just some static video or a static website or anything like that. It's, "We're having a conversation. You're a person, I'm a person you can learn, we can engage and that's what's so great."
The idea of pooling people together, pooling potential customers together. If we're talking about in a sales and marketing context and giving them some persuasive presentation to get them to buy something, that's not a new concept. That's not a new way to sell. That way of selling isn't going away. All we've done is we've changed the medium. They don't have to be in the room with you. The medium may change again and we may call it something different four or five years from now. The idea that you can do that without having to be in the same location is really, really powerful. I've probably personally done easily, hundreds of webinars and just that ability to be able to connect with somebody. We've had people that have become customers of ours from the other part of the planet.
When I first got out of college in 1994, we didn't have the Internet at my company when we started. Our most sophisticated communication technology was the fax machine. Nobody in the company had cell phones. That's where we were at the time. Sometimes I think we take it for granted, both how incredible it is to be able to do that and how recent it really is to be able to do all of this. It's a very powerful tool that I think not enough businesses are taking advantage of. You can use it in all phases of your business from sales, to onboarding, to customer retention and training of your staff. I think it's really, really important.
You are focused on simplicity and I've used Demio now. We did our first webinar with it about two weeks ago and we had a great experience. One of the big frustrations I've always had with the other tools out there is that if you want to do a webinar, it's a significant project to get one set up, to link. You got to link with all the other marketing tools to get people there. I don't even think we'd done the demo yet. I went in and I set one up and it took about 30 minutes, start to finish and I didn't know what I was doing. I really appreciated that because it just made everything so simple.
A lot of the things that you had to do with two or three tools went away and it was all right there. You talked about base camp earlier, one of their philosophies is having these opinionated defaults and it looks like you have really taken that philosophy and applied that into the solution. A lot of the things that people are going to want just right off the bat are already just there. You don't have to think about it. How has that influenced the way that you built the tool?
You mean what our opinion of what we think people need?
One of the things that I was really impressed with was to set up a registration page, if you wanted to set up a nice looking one that converted well, you'd have to go to a tool like Leadpages or ClickFunnels or you'd have to have a designer create one. Then you'd have to link that with, if you're going to do GoToWebinar with their API or you'd have to link it with whatever other tool you were using and get people registered. That's usually multiple steps and you've got to gothrough all this stuff. It was really, really easy when we go in. You have a really nicely designed registration page. It's a little thing but it's there and the design follows the best practices for a conversion on a webinar page. There's not a lot of thinking that has to be done at that point. You just go in, put the headline, add the other copy that's got to be in there and you're done. You're ready to go.
I would say a lot of this came about because me and my co-founder had our own online marketing companies prior to this. That's where some of this bootstrapped funds came from. We were using webinars in that aspect of our business and we had our own pains from this. The exact pains that you're talking about. We have three systems to set up. It takes two hours to create a webinar campaign. It's just so frustrating. In my company, we were doing consulting and done-for-you marketing for companies like this doing these exact things. They were so hard to set up and we said, "When we do this, this is the pain that we want to solve." We were really looking to solve the pain that we had ourselves. I think for anyone creating a product, like I said before, you want to know what pains that customer have and you want to solve those pains in your product.
For us, we knew that was one of the pains. One of them was creating it. One of them was trusting the reliability of the system. Another one was like making sure you don't forget to record your webinars. We have automated recordings. We wanted to have all of these different things and said, "We listed out all the pains and we said, how do we solve these things?" One of them was integration. We put in native integrations. Other one was triggering based on what happened on the webinar. We have our automated rules that trigger based on that. Our registration pages, we knew that there was bad registration out there on other platforms. We wanted to have a high converting using marketing practices page.
We went out and designed that and made it easy to customize. We also put an embed form so you can copy and paste those into ClickFunnels or Leadpages because people have different steps. Not everyone wants to use ours. We just looked at the pain and we said, "How do we solve these things?" A lot of that was during those initial days after we left the agency and we said, "How do we make this product the way we want it?" We just looked at the pain in the marketplace, and honestly there was a lot of people talking about pain in the marketplace. They were letting us know already and validating to us the problems that they're having. We were able to build that into the product.
It's such a smart approach whether it's a software business or any other business. We see so few taking the approach. Most people show up and say, "This is what we do and we're going to go do it." Instead of really looking at the problems that their customers are facing and diving deep and dissecting this. I think you have done a good job with that. David, I know that a lot of our audience are doing webinars or want to do webinarsand I really encourage them to go check out the platform and give it a shot. One of the things that we teach all of our clients is that the best way, if you want to use a presentation as a way to get new sales appointments and get them consistently, is you've got to show up and you've got to do a webinar on a regular basis.
Whether that means monthly or every other week or weekly, you need to be doing them consistently. We see a lot of people that they'll show up and because it's so much work on some of these other platforms to get one going, they'll do one and then nothing for four, five, six months. One of the things that I think they'll get benefit out of in checking out Demio is you'll be able to increase the frequency with which you're doing webinars because there's a lot less friction in the process. Our ultimate goal, and hopefully you can facilitate this for us, is we just want to write it on the calendar, this is when we want to do and we just want to show up and present. As a business person, that's ideally what you want to do. For those who are either thinking about doing webinars or are doing them now, who want to check it out, where can they go and learn a bit more about Demio?
Come check us out at Demio.com. We have live chat on our website. I love to say this because we love to communicate with all of you. If you want to come check us out, come grab us on live chat and say hello.Me and my co-founder are in that chat all the time talking to customers and stuff like that. I'm happy to get on a live demo with you. Show you around the platform or you can grab us on Facebook.com/MeetDemio or Twitter.com/MeetDemio. We love chatting with people, we love making sure that you're taken care of and you are able to utilize the system and see the system. Come check us out. Come and say hello and to add onto what you were saying. We wanted to make it as simple as possible to get these up and running, make it as simple as possible to get you connecting with your audience faster. Then, also giving your audience a great experience as well. Constantly something that we're striving for and that's really the main part of the system that we really enjoyed making.
I encourage everybody to go check it out and their live chat is great. You actually will get a response from David most of the time. He's probably sick of seeing my name pop up there when I asked questions. For right now, you can get him on the live chat and you are really responsive and very helpful. Go check them out at Demio.com. David, thanks so much for being on the podcast.
You’re so welcome. Thank you so much for your time and thank you everyone.