A Masterclass in Entrepreneurship
For any of you considering a foray into the startup world, please consider that what we are witnessing here on beBee is a Masterclass in Entrepreneurship.
So put down your Peter Thiel book, stop watching Gary Vaynerchuk video blogs. As a member of the beBee community, we have the privilege of watching Co-Founders, Javier Cámara Rica and Juan Imaz teach us in real-time what it takes to build a successful startup.
beBee has attracted over 11 million users in just over a year.
The success we are witnessing is no fluke.
Juan Imax founded Mixmail, Spain’s first free web based email service, back in 1996, and sold it to Deutsche Telecom in 1999 - just before the dotcom bubble burst.
Their first venture together, an email marketing company called Canalmail, resulted in one of Spain’s largest technology exits just 8 years after founding.
That €60 million exit was back in 2008, and Juan stayed on as CEO of the new group whilst Javier started working on new projects building professional and vertical networks to help people find jobs. The pair stayed in close contact, and it was during a lunch in the summer of 2014 that they formulated a plan for what would be their biggest project to date.
Now whilst I have no doubt that if I asked Javier and Juan to grant me an interview, they would oblige. I would then be able to offer the inside track on their success. But then this article might come off as mere marketing. Instead, I have elected to draw lessons from their actions as an outside observer. This article is not about promoting beBee. It is about entrepreneurship.
The problem statement was simple: People were engaging less and less as they are being bombarded with clutter and noise. The buzzword for Juan and Javier was relevance. Instead of mining and crunching data and having algorithms decide what relevant content users should see, why not just give the power to the users?
Strategic positioning: Juan and Javier identified not just a gap, but a gaping hole waiting to be filled. This was the intersection between professional and personal, LinkedIn and Facebook. They understood that our professional and personal relationships are often not mutually exclusive - that it is often easier to strike up a relationship with someone you share common interests with.
TAM: No need to crunch numbers here, the Total Addressable Market is huge.
Identifying a Niche: They knew they planned to go Global, but understood that this is an almost impossible task for a startup with limited funding. In order to gain initial traction, they focused their limited advertising budget on a much overlooked demographic in social media, the Spanish-speaking world. With a small initial following from their legacy projects, they managed to grow their userbase to 10 million within the first year. They are now positioned well to tackle the English-speaking world and early signs are extremely promising.
Product Market Fit: By analyzing existing platforms and listening to negative user feedback on those platforms, Team beBee were able to build a product from the ground up that satisfies user concerns.
User experience: From the day we first signed on as newBees, we were made to feel welcome. The founders not only mobilized their amazing team to come out and greet us, but very often the founders themselves would join the conversations, welcome individuals, invite feedback. “Users first” Javier has been known to say, and that is certainly the mantra we have come to know beBee for. We, the users, are made to feel special. If we found a bug, or spotted a functionality that could be improved, we could set aside our frustrations and tell them. And they would listen and respond. We are willing Guinea Pigs, willing to dedicate time to providing feedback. Bugs did not discourage us, as we knew that by reporting them, the team word go to work fixing that bug immediately. We felt important. As far as I can see, they did away with the need for AB testing. They could do this as they created an environment where they encouraged open feedback. Why waste money on AB testing which yields mixed results on a focused choice when you can have your finger on the pulse and receive constant feedback on all functionality?
Marketing: By making us feel special, they got our support and an army of brand ambassadors who were willing and wanting to spread the word. In marketing, there is no more cost effective strategy than word of mouth. In addition, the beBee team has successfully managed to leave a substantial digital footprint via social media. Other tools, such as contests, a forthcoming brand ambassador program in return for equity have also attracted substantial traffic.
Iterate, Iterate, Iterate: Their apparent mindset is not your typical “We will decide what you want”, but “Tell us what you want, tell us how we can improve”. As a result, we see constant improvements almost on a weekly basis, many of which are as a direct result of a user comment in our feeds.
Now before I finish, there is one topic that I have purposely omitted, and that is monetization. I do not care to comment on their plans for monetization and will not hazard a guess. I am quite certain their plans are laid out quite clearly in a pitch deck, but with social media, there are so many ways to monetize – marketing solutions, premium subscriptions, big data analytics to name a few. It is clear that Co-Founders Juan Imaz and Javier Cámara Rica understand the priority is to build a huge userbase first. Shortsighted investors will want a detailed plan and exit strategy. Peter Thiel (Co-Founder of Paypal and one of the first outside investors in Facebook) would jump right in once he understood the concepts and saw the traction.
As a first time entrepreneur myself, I am finding the whole beBee experience an invaluable lesson. Sorry Peter, your book Zero to One has been relegated to my drawer. I have a live show to watch.
Dean Owen is Co-Founder of Quimojo, a revolutionary new concept in Global Campus Recruitment.
This was far from a Bond scene. No black tie show ...
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