Why My Team and I Joined 500 Startups

The following post was contributed by Chintu Parikh, CEO and Founder of KiteReaders (a Batch 6 company). Follow them online at AngelList, Twitter, and Facebook.

Since we began our endeavor over a year ago to launch our bootstrapped company, KiteReaders, we had been growing at a steady pace. We had customers that loved us, continued to give us steady business and referrals, and ever-growing revenue. Our team had expanded from an initial 3 members to 5 full-time as we continued to reinvest in the business and put forth efforts to expand our market. We had considerable proof that the product we were building was a market need and we were furiously working to meet the customer demands. However, we were also stretched thin.

As CEO, I was continuing to add to the number of “hats” I was wearing: Business development, financial growth, product fine-tuning, hiring, speaking engagements at conferences and so forth. Our business had reached a point that was ready to scale. I knew in order to scale effectively, I needed not only investment but also a network that enabled and supported an entrepreneur with drive to grow his/her business. It is daunting to go at it alone.

The opportunity to join 500 Startups’ accelerator program came at the perfect time. Not only did 500 have an outstanding reputation, but 500 and KiteReaders shared a very similar set of values. Specifically:

1. 500 encourages females founders and family tech.

One of the defining aspects of KiteReader’s founding team is that it is dominated by females, including my co-founder Aarti Parikh, who also serves as CTO. In addition, KiteReaders’ primary customers are children’s book authors and publishers, parents and children, and librarians and teachers, making it a family tech business. Already, our inclusion in 500 has enabled us the opportunity to present our platform at the Mama Bear Family Tech Conference.

2. 500 supports diversity.

We have a diverse team that works with both new and established authors and publishers from around the globe to serve readers everywhere. Having invested in over 35 countries (and growing), 500 Startups is a big believer in openness and diversity. 500 has funded more international startups than anyone else in the history of entrepreneurship.

3. The #500strong community.

With access to the extensive 500 network, our team has had the incredible opportunity to work alongside international batch mates, meet with the knowledgeable 500 staff, mentors, and partners, and connect with the 500 Startups viral community via its Dashboard platform. Within the first few weeks, the input we received around key metrics, pitches, design, and growth strategy has given us a laser-sharp focus. Our team is now working furiously towards driving the business with new approaches, quicker decision-making, and a faster iteration process.

We’re thrilled with our 500 Startups experience so far. Launching and growing a startup is all about the journey, not the destination, and we know our time here will be valuable in more ways than one.

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6 Ways To Steal Your Competitor’s Audience

This post is part of the ongoing Distribution Tuesday series. Every week the 500 Distribution Team highlights actionable resources for marketing your startup. Get even more tips by following @500Distribution on Twitter and subscribing to our email newsletter.

Competition is healthy, but completely decimating your competition is healthier, especially for your bottom line. So how can you siphon off some your competitor’s audience to grow your own product? By using a few old tricks and bending a few rules, of course. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Look Under the Hood

Over the years, I have gleaned a ton of insights from my competitors by simply hitting “View Source” on their websites. In some cases, their marketing and audience development techniques were right there in plain sight. Look for tracking pixels in the footer of the website that reveal what ad partners they’re working with. Sometimes this can also reveal other valuable information, such as how they A/B test their website.


Google Alerts

This one seems so simple, but for some reason many people skip it. Setting up Google Alerts for your competitor’s brand and/or domain names is the quickest and easiest way to monitor their marketing campaigns, and you get results in real time. This is especially useful if your competitor does a lot of blogger outreach. Now you can follow with a similar (or better) offer and try to convert their bloggers into your own. Be sure to select the “All results” option under volume when you set up your alerts.

SEO Tracking

By far the best way to track your competitors’ Google rankings (not to mention your own) is with MOZ.com. The site offers a simple dashboard that lets you compare keyword rankings over time with several competitors. This tracking service is available to members only, and pricing starts around $99 per month. However, anyone can use their Open Site Explorer to get high-level details about how they compare to a competitor. See how you stack up or uncover potential SEO honeypots your competition has already discovered.

Broken Link Redirects

If your competitor is a big old dinosaur, there’s a good chance that at least some links on the company’s website point to expired domains. What’s to stop you from purchasing those old domains and redirecting the URL to your homepage? It’s a dirty trick, sure, but it works, and the fact is the competition is not likely to ever notice. This thread on Stack Overflow has several techniques for finding some breakage.

Ad Spend Tracking

Ad spend tracking has been around for a while now. With it, you can track your competitor’s media spend across platforms like AdWords, Facebook, and various display networks. You can also get copies of ad creative used. That way you can get a head start on your own ads by understanding what is already resonating with your competitor’s audience. You may also find some new ad channels and techniques to target the same customers they are already targeting. Some the time-tested tools to track ad spend include Spy Fu, KeywordSpy, and What Runs Where.

Scrape It Till You Make It

Many a startup has used some form of scraping to get that initial push. I would list them all, but I would probably need to build a scraper to go out and find all the countless tales. Scraping might not be the most glamorous way to start a business, but it’s damn effective. Let’s say you have an opportunity to gather email addresses, Facebook IDs, or other similar data from your competition. Do it. If you need some help getting started, reach out to my friends over at The Scraping Hub. It’ll be our little secret.

Are you a 500 company who needs help with distribution? Let’s talk.

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Distribution Tuesday: Two Quick Ways to Get More Conversions with Retargeting

This post is part of the ongoing Distribution Tuesday series. Every week the 500 Distribution Team highlights actionable resources for marketing your startup. Get even more tips by following @500Distribution on Twitter and subscribing to our email newsletter.

Retargeting advertisements online has been around for a while, but it’s just starting to get interesting—thanks in part to new services and the continued evolution of Facebook’s advertiser products. Shit just got real for startups that want to use this marketing channel.

“On average, 98% of web visitors don’t convert during their first visit.”

If you’re not familiar with retargeting, it’s when you visit a website and are later served extremely targeted ads by that same website. When you see an ad that’s so well-tailored to you that it’s spooky, congrats, you’ve been retargeted. When it feels like a brand is following you all over web, that’s also retargeting. When you hear clicks on the phone–sorry, wait, never mind—I’m being told that’s just the NSA.

It may feel a little creepy, but you work hard to get those visitors to your website; sadly, it doesn’t always work out the first time. Sometimes you need to bring them back a few times before they’re ready to commit, and  this is especially the case when you’re an early-stage startup developing brand recognition. It takes time to build trust. Since the one thing you have isn’t time, you need really good marketing.

That’s where retargeting comes in. Lucky for you, it’s now incredibly simple to get started and more powerful than ever. On average, 98% of web visitors don’t convert during their first visit. Here are two quick ways to bring them back with retargeting ads on the web and Facebook.

Using AdRoll

The first way to easily roll out retargeting ads is to use AdRoll. I recommend this company to most early-stage startups looking to get their feet wet with retargeting. It’s great for budgets of $100 per month or $10,000 per month, and AdRoll makes everything drop-dead simple. Finally, its staff is extremely helpful should you ever need a little push in the right direction.

To get started, create an account on AdRoll and add its tracking pixel to your website. This will allow you to start building your audience list for retargeting both on the web and Facebook. This type of Facebook retargeting (called Facebook Exchange) has only recently become available to the public. It’s incredibly powerful, simple to manage and allows your retargeting ads to appear in the right rail or newsfeed of Facebook.


AdRoll uses their own platform to retarget their customers. Meta alert!

During setup, you may want to also consider setting up audience segments. You can also segment your audience to track different site actions or exclude users from ads, for example, when a conversion or sale takes place. The segmentation can make a big impact on your ad campaign performance, so it’s worth putting some time behind it and gaining a better understanding.

For the campaigns themselves, you’ll need standard IAB unit (300×250, 160×600 and 728×90) banner ads for the web and for Facebook, images that are 100×72. Just like with any banner- based campaign, you want to try several iterations of designs to determine what performs best.

In addition to AdRoll, I also recommend checking out SteelHouse, Retargeter and Perfect Audience. Good luck and happy retargeting.

Additional Reading:






Using Custom Audiences on Facebook


Next is a feature on Facebook that can dramatically improve the performance of  your ad campaigns. Using the Custom Audience feature of the Facebook Power Tool editor, you can easily create custom audiences based on your existing user data. You do this by uploading an export of your user’s email addresses, Facebook Ids, or phone numbers. You can target those users with a high level of precision and if done right, much higher performance than standard ad targeting.


6-17-2013 12-32-44 PM

The incredibly powerful upload tool for creating customer audiences on Facebook.

To get started:



    1. Add the Facebook Power Tool Editor extension for Chrome.


    1. Fire it up and select “Audiences” from the left navigation.


    1. Select “Create Audience” and then “Custom Audience.”


    1. Upload your data (CSV format with one entry per line).


    1. Pat yourself on the back; you just created a custom audience!


    1. When creating your next ad campaigns, plug in the list you just created under Audience>Advanced Options>Custom Audiences in the same Power Editor tool.

Here are some potential custom audiences you may want to create to get started:

These are active users of your product whom you want to message, for example, to highlight a new product. This also works in reverse should you want to exclude them from your campaigns, saving your ad dollars for new customers instead.

This includes previous users of your product who are no longer engaged. Load them into a custom audience and entice them back. While the return rates are typically fairly low, it’s always worth a shot.

Funnel Droppers and Shopping Cart Abandoners
These are the bane of most online marketers—those users who don’t convert. Now you can get a second chance to bring them back in with the aid of a Facebook ad.

In general, the Facebook ad marketplace has a long way to go when compared with, say, Google AdWords. However, it’s quickly becoming one of the most important channels for most early stage start-ups. Now’s the time to better understand and master its power.

Additional Reading:






Are you a 500 company who needs help with distribution? Let’s talk.

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Email Marketing for Fun and Profit – a Talk by Patrick McKenzie at 500 Startups

In this post, 500’s distribution intern Samantha Siow summarizes Patrick McKenzie’srecent talk on how to boost your startup’s email efforts. Follow her at @samanthassiow

Take a chill pill with the spending on random marketing biz, bro, and take a look at these awesome tips to up your SWAG MONEY FACTOR*.

*I regret using this term already.

On Wednesday, Patrick McKenzie, a mentor at 500, came by the office to give a talk titled “Email Marketing for Fun and Profit.”  The talk focused on educating B2B and/or SaaS businesses on how to educate, persuade and sell their products via email and eventually improve customer acquisition, decrease cost per acquisition, decrease churn, and increase average revenue per account.

McKenzie started his talk by stating that there are two ways to sell software.


    • Low Touch Sales: These are demand driven and tend to convert customers at scale via web, email, etc. The end user is often the buyer. Lower price points are characteristic of this type of sales.


    • High Touch Sales: These are demand driven and tend to convert customers one at a time. The end user is probably not the buyer and there are most likely multiple decision makers in the buying process. Higher price points (see: EXTREMELY HIGH) are characteristic of this type of sale.

Modern Software as a Service Models


    • Monthly billing is a core innovation


    • Thousands of dollars worth in customer lifetime values can be acquired at low-touch.


    • Hybrid models are possible (E.g., your initial plan may state $200/month for small businesses, but if you were to semi-pivot once it proves value at this self-serve volume to fit enterprise sales, you could make the big bucks!)

Types of Email Marketing


    • Newsletters
        • Pros: Hit the entire subscriber list biweekly/monthly
        • Cons: Passive (there’s little you can do to optimize how many users open the email), and not very targeted at the user.


    • Drip Email
        • This is where a user chooses to give you their email address and in return, you give them a time-released series of content (e.g. 6 emails over the course of one month).
        • Pros: Users will have a predictable relationship with the company. Over time, they will become higher trust, higher engagement, higher revenue users.


    • Lifecycle emails
        • These emails are specific to customer behavior in terms of the relationship between customer and company.
        • Cons: The content must constantly meet the needs of the customer.
        • Pros: Extremely high open rates and conversion rates; No abusive emails.

McKenzie then went on to give his “single most actionable tip”…


With any SaaS or B2B-type company, there is a 10-20% organic signup through direct visits. By using email, you can gain another 10-20%, thereby doubling your signups through the magic of email!

How? Let me show you the ways—


    • Send a single one time email offering a discount (e.g., 1 month free if there’s a switch to annual billing)


    • Offer it to loyal customers over email


    • One click + confirmation that completes the switch


    • Conversion rate of 10-25%!

This results in an immediate revenue of $200 per email sent! Thus, you can greatly decrease churn rate while increasing money over the year! IS THIS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?! NO. This is a great option for startups that are often capital constrained as it allows them to gain immediate payment from the customer.


Ethics! You have permission to:


    • Send emails to people you have a pre-existing business relationship with


    • Send people exactly the email they affirmatively ask for (with a double opt-in option, where the user has to confirm twice that they are subscribing)

Drip emails

Problem: Low conversion to trial?

Solution: Sell via email!


    • Conversions via visitor -> customer signup = 1% (users are skeptical of payment on the internet—think of the last time you gave your credit card number to some random website!)


    • Conversions via visitor -> email submission = 20-40%, particularly if you offer a decent incentive! (giving someone your email is consideredmore “safe” in comparison to giving them a credit card number)


    • Therefore, the best option would be to send people a drip campaign. This might consist of a one month long free course, delivered over 6-8 emails. This course should serve to educate, persuade and eventually sell the product.

Keys to Landing Page Design (different from your homepage because it should explain the product and have a focused pitch to increase the conversion rate)


    • Offer an immediate incentive. Immediacy = High value! This can include reports/white papers or one-off tools that are tangible to the user.


    • Have one clear call to action! Use action-related wording to capture the viewer and make them DO SOMETHING.


    • Provide social proof! This can come in the form of other customers you’ve had in the past that are well known (people like big names, Google, Walmart, Samuel L. Jackson!) or testimonials from satisfied users.


    • Sell the value of taking this action. Teach them what they’d gain from using your product! TIP: put this as the sign-up button!

UX Improvements for a Double Opt-In

Because 40-60% of viewers will not continue after the verification (and even higher on mobile devices), it’s important to add a note to give incentive. McKenzie stated that the following phrase worked very well for him, “Thanks for your email, but we’re very serious about not spamming our subscribers so please verify if you’re interested!” and it has halved the number of people lost by the double opt-in.

A great tip is to guess their email provider (from their sign up address) and provide a link to that website.

Drip Marketing

Customers often lack trust to immediately get into a commercial relationship. When you choose provide them with time-released content, you can increased their trust and demonstrate your knowledge!

Scheduling the Drip Campaign


    • Start by building credibility!
        • Begin with 2 emails to keep you at the top of their mind for the 1st week.
        • Engagement close
        • Introduce your solution. Tie it to problems they may have and state how you would address it with YOUR AMAZING SERVICE.
        • Return back to education. You are the master!
        • Down sell. If they haven’t bought your product by now, they may have problems with the pricing or product. By down selling, you can capture the market with a cheaper product that may be more appropriate for their needs.
        •  Transition to a long term relationship. (BFFs for life! Except with money.)

What should I write about in the email?


    • Anything that would make a decent blog post would make an excellent email.


    • Most users are not experts (and don’t target the experts!)


    • Play up the exclusivity angle.


    • Recycle things you’ve used elsewhere (e.g. older blog posts)

Writing non-salesy emails!


    • Target consumption time of 5-15 minutes. (Less is more, unless your users are extremely interested in your content.)


    • 3 elaborated points via linked pages.


    • Use the engagement close. (e.g.  “I love talking to our customers, hit reply and tell me one thing you learned in this email or one thing you’d like to hear about! I read everything and respond to most.”) Guaranteed to pull in customers!

Writing sales emails!


    • Tie the email to previous educational content.


    • Pitch the benefits of your product, not the feaures.


    • Never try to sell more than one decision at once.


    • Send them to a dedicated purchase page.


    • Offer an incentive if they take action on it immediately.

Lifecycle emails!

The Basic Principles:


    • Right person. Right email. Right time.


    • People perceive outsized value from personalized advice.


    • You’ll get double the deliverability/open rates/click virtually for free!


    • Mapping each email to one specific “small sell” makes it much more likely that you’ll successfully influence their behavior! Small sells are easily accomplishable to the viewer and after that, you can ask for bigger actions to be taken!

At a one time production cost, you can provide something specific to the needs of each customer.

Examples of lifecycle email


    • A personalized welcome from the CEO when the client starts using the software.


    • If the client looks like they’ll cancel, send them a rescue email.


    • If the client doesn’t use a particular feature, send a getting started guide.


    • If the client is getting to a decision point, send them an ROI calculation (e.g. how much you’re saving them!)

Aim for your lifecycle emails to be simple and short. Use a HTML template for the emails (branded by you) and aim to have a targeted reading time of 1 minute or less with exactly one desired action. It’s also very important that you write the email as if it’s from one person to another! Don’t be a bot!

Several situations of a lifecycle email:



    • Establish expectation for trial


    • Getting Started guide


    • Introduce yourself and ask for them to email you with questions!

Personalized welcome:


    • Styled to look like it’s sent from a person to another


    • Announce your availability to chat!

Free trial’s going well? GREAT!


    • Simple heuristic


    • Do an ROI calculation


    • Close sale (or mention that it is automatic, and if not, give an immediate incentive!)

Free trial’s not going well? RESCUE!


    • Simple heuristic


    • Figure out why they aren’t doing well and try to fix it!


    • Set up a dialogue to find out what are their problems and integrate into the product roadmap if it agrees with general demand.


    • Great opportunity for customer development.

Weekly checkup


    • High perceived value


    • Great engagement


    • Creates “ongoing earned media” via the option to embed announcements, links, etc.


    • Makes ROI discussion academic. Tell them how great they’re doing because of you! It’s all because of your AMAZING PRODUCT that their lives are now 110% better! (Or make it seem that way.)

Email Optimization


    • Subject Lines!!!!! Very, VERY important in the performance of email campaigns, particularly drip/newsletters. A/B test thisafter you reach scale.


    • Everything else (e.g. time of day, to/from, mail copy, collateral) is less important but should still be considered.

Metrics that Matter!


    • Sign up conversions (e.g. views of squeeze page, conversion rate to email submit)


    • Open rates


    • Clicks (e.g. of tagged URLS, google analytics within parameters)


    • Actions taken subsequent to email (e.g. dedicated landing pages, kissMetrics, etc.)

Pricing SaaS!!


    • Price based on your value to the customer, not on the cost to you! Anchors are very important (e.g. know your worth within the market and price accordingly.) One way to use this is with the phrase “pays for itself in one saved appointment” which has a value anchored in the customer’s minds.


    • Segment to capture customer value. (e.g. price higher for enterprises, lower for small businesses_


    • The 4-plan pricing page


    • Always remember, it’s not their money that they are spending so it’s easier for them to spend it!

And lastly, CHARGE MORE! Most SaaS-based companies tend to under charge but people (should) need your product, so abuse the heck out of that fact!

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How to 10x Your Growth if You’re a Startup with Early Traction

he BlueJay count on Team 500 has grown to 3 with our new intern! Samantha Siow is a rising junior studying Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins. This summer, she’s taking a hiatus from wearing lab coats and safety goggles to something just as explosive (but less risk of chemical burn) – working with the 500 Distribution Team. In this blog post, she summarizes Ilya Lichenstein’s recent talk on how to 10x your growth in her own unique way. Follow her at @samanthassiow


GOTTA GROW FAST amirite amirite har har har ok i’ll stop

I recently watched the talk by Ilya Lichenstein, the CEO and co-founder of MixRank.  MixRank, a “spy tool for contextual and display ads”, is used to find out where your competitors are buying traffic and which of their ads are most effective. Lichenstein covered the topic of accelerating growth through simple market strategies for startups with some early traction.

Lichenstein started by saying that before you decide to focus on growth, you have to figure out whether your startup is ready to enter that stage. While growth is extremely important (because eventually you’ll want to grow to the point of becoming a successful business), it is important to keep in mind that this growth must be sustainable. In order to do so, you need to make sure that it is the right time to grow.

“When is it the right time?? I gotta go fast, gotta get to the top, make the big $$, yo!”

Slow down, son! First, you’ve got to make sure you fit some key characteristics.

    • You have to have initial product/market fit. This means that you’ve got your product ready and you know what is your target market and where they are.
    • You need to be able to understand key metrics. If you don’t, you’re not going to know what metrics to focus on, what to do with them and how to use them to your advantage.
    • Your numbers make sense. You don’t want to be spending money on traffic that won’t be helping your business and you should be able to monetize this traffic now or eventually.
    • Note: Lichenstein stated that sometimes, this monetization strategy may not be profitable in the short term, but it should eventually be able to make money. If not, you’re going to need to find a way to make your numbers make sense!
    • You should check that organic demand matches your roadmap. The plan for your future should match up with your users demands. If you’re users say, “make these Cheetos spicier! I love the feeling of having a mini campfire in my mouth!”, and your next step was to make the Cheetos spicier, then GOOD JOB. You’re on your way to being super awesome and you can both bring in new users and keep current users interested when you’ve hit the next milestone in your product design.
    • Focus on growth when you see opportunities to scale. Take advantage of traffic sources and trends in the market. If you see an untapped traffic source that offers cheap, high volume traffic that is appropriate to your product, you can consider starting to invest in scalable marketing. This was extremely effective on the mobile platform where cheap traffic was highly available (e.g. placing an ad on Candy Crush Saga) and as long as you can monetize it, you can PROFIT!

Next on the list is to identify your problems and figure out whether they are growth or product problems.

When something isn’t working, DON’T ROLL WITH IT. The problem is not going to magically be fixed if you start fiddling around with your product and trying to change things about it in an effort to make people realize that your product is fantastic.

    • Focus on finding out the fundamental reason why users are not converting. Don’t spend time fixing things that are completely okay or adding things that no one wants.
    • There will always be product problems. Yes, you may think you’ve made the most amazing product in the universe. But not every one is going to think so. There’s always going to be something you can improve on or change with your product and you’re going to have to figure out what people want and how to achieve that.
    • Are there people who want what you’re making badly enough? You’re going to need people who are desperate for your product. So desperate that if you decide to make jellybeans instead of Hot Cheetos, there will be riots and picketing and stalkers waiting in your attic to find the secret recipe. They also need to want it badly enough that they’ll be willing to deal with your product going through phases of being totally crap and to stay on until it gets better.
    • You cannot create demand. Sure, you may think that your product is the most fantastic thing out there, but if no one thinks so, you’re screwed! It costs millions and millions of dollars to spend money on marketing, press, brand recognition and as a startup, that isn’t available to you. Your only option is to find existing demand that is not satisfied and align your product. THEN GROW, SON.
    • Use growth hacking to accelerate existing processes. The problem with most startups is that when they start growing, they choose to scale the wrong things. They may throw money at bad traffic, optimize non-core product features, get too caught up in the marketing side when the problem lies with their product… STOP THIS!!!!!! There’s a lot of pressure on startups to get as much traction and growth in as short a time as possible but this means nothing if the numbers are wrong and everything isn’t sustainable! Good traffic demands engagement and quality and leads to scalable growth. Non-scalable processes include blog posts, celebrity tweets, some press… this isn’t going to be spitting out money on a regular basis! Find a scalable way that produces more money constantly when you throw money in.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! *drumroll*


    1. Qualify the best users: who are they; what is unique about them; what makes them valuable.
    1. Identify where they go online; what draws their attention.
    1. Access distribution channels; how do we get them in those places?
    1. Automate existing processes; scale it up!

Let’s go through it step by step.


    • Predictive metrics for revenue potential.
    • Engagement may not be the best indicator of revenue. Reliable consistent subscribers are more valuable than high usage, non paying users.
    • First party data. Use different kinds of analytics. (Don’t just focus on page views! Which pages are being visited and where are the users going can be very important in deciding your next step.)
    • Third party data. Append and pull in other data sources about your users to understand and qualify them. Know as much as you can about them so that you can give them what they want where they want it!
    • Track cross-channel activity. If you’re sending out regular email ads, find out who opens the email, what time they open it, where they’re opening it from and use that to target that market through targeting-type campaigns (e.g. banner ads.)
    • Cohort analysis. Separate users into well-defined groups that have something in common in terms of the metrics you’re optimizing for. (e.g. group all the users in a certain demographic and figure out what works best for them)


    • Psychographics (their interests, occupation, things you can retrieve from their facebook profile!) > Demographics (e.g. not all girls like Barbies. But most people who like dolls would like Barbies)
    • Find adjacent markets. Who else is marketing to these people?  Consider making a distribution deal or partnership with them.
    • What are they talking about now? (e.g. track their twitter feed! What key words are they using?)
    • Where do they spend their time?
    • Who’s marketing to them? What other content/ads do your users see along side yours? Who are your competitors?


Traffic Quality Is Everything! Low quality, cheap traffic with low monetization or no access to your product DROOLS. High quality, more expensive traffic with high monetization potential and easy access to your product RULES.

    • High monetization potential. Don’t focus on getting cheaper clicks or a higher click through rate at the beginning, focus on ways to get a higher conversion rate! (But the former becomes more important after the user has converted so you can differentiate and gain leverage).
    • Example: Groupon scaled quickly using highly untargeted, extra-cheap traffic across many different sites, but differentiated using locations in order to monetize untargeted traffic. Within these locations, the offers had wide enough appeal that allowed it to be scaled quickly!
    • High share of voice. This is the % of the marketing messages out there that belong to you. E.g. If I own 1 out of 10 ads on a page, my share of voice is 10%. Aim for as high a share of voice so you can gain people’s attention.
    • Low overlap with existing audiences. Within a certain site’s audience, 5-10% of the traffic has a high conversion. You want to find these people and target them. A great way to do this is through spreading your ads across many different audiences across many different sources, hone in the small percentage each time that converts and this will all add up to a massive, awesome conversion party for you. Track your users and find the ones with the most valuable/highest conversion/biggest potential! (e.g. avoid early adopters who are low retention, consider focusing on less tech savvy/international markets where users are less saturated!)
    • Low opportunity to test. It should be easy for you to test, get in and out of the market quickly, and then move on. Don’t make commitments to big media buys yet!


    • Any one on your team can be a growth hacker! Excel is a great resource.
    • Explore non-tech solutions! Coding may seem like a great way to go, but cheap outsourcing may be a better way to solve problems.
    • Avoid building from scratch! Put your pride away for a bit and try to use other products or channels that may be more effective.
    • Accomplish anything by gluing together external products. Integrate!
  • Does it scale? Is this something that can give me leverage!? Can I get a disproportionate about of benefit from these people?! Focus on the ones with the most potential and who’s benefits are most scalable.
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5 SEO Wins that Take 5 Minutes

This post is part of the ongoing Distribution Tuesday series. Every week the 500 Distribution Team highlights actionable resources for marketing your startup. Get even more tips by following @500Distribution on Twitter and subscribing to our email newsletter.

In the early days of your startup, it’s tough to make time to invest in SEO (Search Engine Optimization). You have enough to worry about, and now SEO is more complex than ever thanks to ongoing changes at Google. And with so much shifting to social, maybe it doesn’t feel like a strong channel for your business. Finally, you typically don’t see immediate results with SEO investments –  it might take months to see the real impact.

However it’s still important to nail the basics when you get started. Here are the top 5 quick SEO wins your startup needs. These should each less than 5 minutes to setup, so think of this as a simple checklist for any new domain you launch on the web. Now let’s get started:

Verify your Page Titles

One of the more important wins for SEO is properly formatted page titles. These should be wrapped in <H1> headline tags so Google knows to classify the text as a page title. Open up a few pages (especially the important ones) and make sure this is setup correctly site wide. Use solid titles for all your pages and include modifiers (2013, guide, how-to) when applicable to help with longer tail search terms.

Setup Google Webmasters Tools

Visit www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ to setup your domain(s) in Google Webmaster Tools. You’ll need to verify ownership of your site through a <head> tag or by placing a file on your server. After that Google hands over a treasure trove of valuable data about your website. The truth is Google wants you to do SEO, and they’re happy to help provide some guidance right here in Webmasters Tools.

Add a Site Map

Once you’re setup in Webmasters Tools you can also submit an XML Site Map. This is a list of all the URLs on your domain(s). Ideally this is a dynamically generated file that updates whenever new URLs are created on your domain. If you’re unable to create a dynamic sitemap file today use http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ to get started. This service will crawl your site and pull out the first 500 URLs it finds. Eventually you’ll want a dynamic solution but this at least gets you started. Adding a good site map is a must for any site with deep content  (any URLs that may be hidden behind several levels of navigation).

Google Yourself

You can never Google yourself enough these days. In addition to searching for your brand name try searching “site:www.youdomain.com” in Google sometime. This shows you the majority of URLs Google has indexed from your site.

Page one of the results also represents what Google interprets as some of the more important pages of your site. See anything here that doesn’t belong? Be sure to remove those URLs or add “noindex” tags to the <head> of that document. For example, you’re likely to see your privacy or terms of service URLs here since those are typically linked to on every page of your site. Since they bring little to no SEO value you may want to “noindex” these URLs. Cleaning up irrelevant or low value content can help keep Google focused on your more meaningful pages

Link Out

Stop being so selfish! Most sites do not link out to external sites, especially from their homepage. However doing this actually helps with SEO as it signals to Google what sites you associate yourself with. That helps them know what “neighborhood” to place you in. For example, you may want to link to the official websites of a few brands you carry if your an e-commerce website selling those products. I recommend healthy external linking both on your homepage and other internal content pages like company blog posts.

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Startup Founders Podcast – Episode 9

This week, I'm very excited not have two co-founders on the show to talk about their startup! Carlos González de Villaumbrosia and Álvaro Sanmartín, are the co-founders of Floqq, a startup that's focused on changing education through online video courses in Spanish, English, and Portuguese. In this interview, they talk about building the right team, coming to the US from Spain, and what excites them about education tech. You can follow them on Twitter @AlvaroSanmartin and @Villaumbrosia.


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