Recently at How To Write a Business Plan we caught up with Baydin founder Alex Moore. Here he shares with us his journey of creating our beloved email productivity tool - Boomerang - as well as some valuable insight on the business planning process. Baydin is a graduate of Techstars program and is funded by 500Startups.
Tell us what Baydin’s all about.
We’re about helping people be more productive. We’re more distracted, have more responsibilities, and use our electronic devices in really different ways than we used to. We think there’s a huge opportunity to help navigate that landscape in a more effective way, using context and behavioral science to nudge ourselves toward productivity.
How did you come up with the idea for Baydin (Boomerang)?
We were working on another project (an automatic, contextual, email-driven search engine for internal company data, how’s that for a mouthful?). As we built the product and showed it to customers, we realized that before we could help them use email to facilitate better collaboration, we needed to help them use email more effectively. So we switched over to building workflow tools that we wanted to have.
Can you tell us if / how you gained consumer insight before launching?
We “ate our own dogfood” by using the product intensely before we launched. The great thing about email is that it’s universal, so we could build a product that we wanted to use ourselves.
What metrics or numbers were most important in validating the demand for Boomerang? How did you get this data?
The most important number was the 70k downloads that we got the month after we launched. Since then, we’ve looked very carefully at retention and paid conversion rates as our main guideposts for how we’re doing.
What were some of the challenges that you faced starting a company?
When they say startups are a roller coaster, they’re really not kidding. For a while I was a single-founder, which is incredibly tough – there’s nobody else around who’s as passionate and committed as you are, so you have to ride the good and the bad out without a good feedback loop to keep yourself sane.We also nearly ran out of money a couple months after Boomerang’s launch. Between server expenses, keeping ourselves fed and sheltered, and our difficulty raising money in Boston, we got really close to the wire before we took a very fortunate car ride (great story).
You were part of Techstars, what difference do you feel being part of an accelerator makes to your company?
The most important part is the other people in the program. Every time you have an issue, someone else is either having it too, or has had it before and understands where you’re coming from. It’s also really motivating to watch great things happening to the other companies in your batch – it makes you want to ship faster, sell harder, get out there more often, so you can keep up.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur looking to get their company into an accelerator program?
Start making progress before you get in. The most important thing we did was work really hard during the application period so that we could show that we were going to be creating good results no matter what. That kind of entrepreneurial spirit makes a big difference.
So it looks like you left a comfy job before going full throttle with Baydin? How did you know it was time to take the leap?
We got into TechStars . We’d been working on our ideas beforehand, but we’d stayed part time until then. I think in retrospect, we’d probably have taken the leap earlier, as soon as we knew we were serious about doing it for real.
“Where” does Boomerang hope to be in the next year (progress wise). Anything crazy coming up?
We’re hoping to have Boomerang expanded from a useful workflow tool into a contextual productivity suite. Boomerang Calendar is our first step in this direction.
What advice would you like to give to an entrepreneur thinking about writing their first business plan?
Don’t spend much time on it. Spend a day thinking through whether or not your demographics could possibly make sense, and then move on. Make something you think people want, get it in the market quickly, and learn from your customers. That’s the best validation out there.
Anything else entrepreneurs should keep in mind?
Enjoy it and make sure you take time to celebrate the victories. When you get your first paying customer, take the team out to dinner. Have a company outing when you build the first “sticky” thing you put together. Remember that most folks never even get to the point of starting something, so really relish moving past that point.