How to Track Mobile Campaigns, Get 500 Users to Talk to You, & Other Magic Tricks

I recently spoke with Vijay Ramani, CEO and co-founder of Totspot, a mom-to-mom mobile marketplace for buying and selling kids’ fashion.

Totspot came in to Batch 9 with decent traction, great product market fit and an experienced team — in other words, in the awesome category of early stage companies.

They walked away with new acquisition channels, actionable tracking, more users and more commerce.

Here’s how they did it.

Who were you pre-Accelerator?

We had a product live, and were growing around 20% month over month for about 3 months running. We were in the app store and having some growth already because we’d tried a bunch of things.

What was an early “aha” moment?

We had early product market fit when we came into the batch, so that helped us focus on fine-tuning the product and on growth.

We were using Flurry before, but when we got to the Accelerator, everyone at 500 was big on Mixpanel.

We actually took a full week to implement Mixpanel from the ground up, but it was worth it. That changed everything for us. Mixpanel showed us that we were doing some things right, and some things not so right.

Let’s be real. There are a lot of choices for an early stage company these days. Why here, why now?

First, access to capital and investors.

Second, it was about access to knowledge. We were a small team doing a few different things for distribution, so we had some background. But we were looking for input and validation from people who’d done it many times before, who had built companies before. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for a while myself, and so I talked to my mentors here, and it was unanimous — do it, apply.

The 500 mentor network was priceless. There were mentors who had done mobile distribution before. A few people looked at our funnel and suggested that we take one layer at the top of our funnel and just optimize that first.

So we segmented just at the top of the funnel, and started focusing on subsegments.

Growth is a huge focus of the Accelerator. During our Batch, we had Marketing Hell Week (editor’s note: this has since been “toned down” to Marketing Days), which had workshops and talks covering various parts of distribution and growth.

Before we joined 500, I obviously knew what drip campaigns were and what they could do, but I’ll admit that I wasn’t thinking about it actively.

After the Hell Week session on drip email, it became obvious that drip campaigns were essential for driving engagement and repeat behavior, and for staying top of mind with users.

It really moved the needle for us, and now we’re even hiring for a role just to do drip campaigns and email marketing.

Would say Sean’s browbeating inspired you to make changes?

It was a Come to Jesus moment for us.

In our case, email was one of the biggest takeaways, and yes it inspired us to hire a dedicated email marketer even though we’re a mobile app.

Before, since we were adding new users organically and through word of mouth, we thought we were in an ok place for growth. But going through Hell Week showed us all the things we were missing, and gave us a systematic process to actually fill it in.

Did you have any distribution experiment that paid off especially well?

Instagram. Instagram now converts very well for us, and we wouldn’t have discovered it without 500.

In the very beginning of the Batch, Sean came over to tell us that he’d built a similar business and acquired a lot of users via Instagram. At the time, we were focused on Facebook but when we added Instagram to the mix, we suddenly saw things change.

We’re a mobile community marketplace for moms to shop and sell kids fashion. The key is that we’re both a community and a marketplace. So, in addition to being a place where you buy and sell, it’s also a community where you hang out and build virtual BFFs.

The community is very active within our own product and within the app.

But what we wanted, and what we were missing, was to see our users share Totspot across their social media profiles. We want them to talk about Totspot as the place where they’re not only buying and selling but also making new relevant connections, so that their friends would come back join our community.

We ran campaigns like #outfitoftheday, which helped with engagement, social sharing and downloads. The efficiency of a channel such as Instagram is hard to measure because Instagram doesn’t have direct links, but here’s how we did it.

For one week, we were religious about looking at each username that registered. We would then search for those users on Instagram, and we would count. Yup, just count. We saw a high correlation, and it was enough data to tell us that the channel had good potential for us.

Since then, we’ve gotten a little smarter. We now use signup codes and promotional codes that are tagged with various parameters (including different activities within the app) so we know which campaign and channel is converting into signups or into commerce.

By the way, we also do this for mobile install ads on Facebook.

This is how we determine which channels are working not just for installs but also for commerce and purchases within the app.

How do you get inside the heads of your target audience?

Haha, we were actually passed up for investment opportunities early on because no one believed we could understand the market. While most investors were excited about the potential, they doubted that two immigrant parents would be able to build a product that could be loved and used by moms in America.

We started the business when we ran into the problem of a closet full of barely used kids’ stuff as our own kids grew. We had no place to sell or shop for used fashion. But I guess we did not look like the moms our app was targeting.

So over the last year, we’ve personally talked to our first 500 users to understand everyone’s problems and motivations. However we could segment them, we’ve talked to them.

A lot of them are our friends now! Even though they live in Cleveland, or Florida or Texas, they text or email us to keep in touch.

Beyond this, we’re building a team that has an even better understanding of the audience than we do. Our VP of marketing is a mom with 10 years of experience marketing to moms, and our community director is a godmother and a former fashion editor.

Everyone knows they’re supposed to talk to their users, but it can be awkward if you don’t like talking to people. Even if you’re non-awkward, it can still be very difficult to get users to respond to insights outreach….

How did you get 500 people to talk to you?

We launched it as a private beta for 100 moms in the Bay Area. I myself went to 60 of their homes and talked to them in person about how they used the app. Asked them what they would like to see for it to be extremely useful to them for selling and buying kids items.

How did we get them to talk to us? We incentivized the participation in the beta, and by agreeing to participate, they were also agreeing up front to have those conversations with us.

I’ve learned so much from my users, and not just about our product. The best part is that they are all actually GREAT people.

It was an eye opener for me, being an immigrant parent and not originally from the U.S. For example, we learned that lot of our users (moms) in the midwest get a weekly spend budget, between $30 – 40 a week, to shop for their kids. Totspot will see a spike between Thursday evenings and Saturdays because many of the dads in that region get paid on Thursday afternoon.

We learned this from having those many direct conversations, and it’s rewarding because it not only lets us make the product and commerce experience better, but also shows us that we are building something for real people and families.

Ok, we know that all of 500 Startups is amaaaazing, but what was your favorite part?

The 500 Network, definitely. We had people we could talk to. Some of these people have looked at so many startups — why wouldn’t you leverage a network of people who have done it and know it?

Our success with the Accelerator was a combination of us wanting to build a really good business with lots of discipline, plus the sincerity of mentors.

When someone’s going out of their way — driving from San Francisco to Mountain View through peak traffic just for their meeting with you, or doing a call with us at midnight London time because that’s when we could do it — you want to be sincere and do your best.

We were very humbled by the sincerity that the mentors showed us. It’s about not accountability so much. If you don’t do something, no mentor is going to come after you.

Not only are they subject matter experts, but they’re spending their time with you when they could be with friends or family or building their own business.

Now I want to give back to the other founders. So come talk to me about unit economics or cohort analysis or distribution for your mobile app!

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International Marketing for Startups – 3 Steps to Improve Your Visibility

The following post was contributed by Anji Ismail, co-founder of DOZ.

After a successful seed round, my cofounder Faouzi and I decided it was time to start thinking international. Beyond simply translating our site, we also had to think about localization of online marketing to our target market.

We hope we can offer some insight into strategies for improving your visibility when taking your business to an international market. Here are three things you should consider.

Overcome the language barrier 

First thing’s first: localization of language to the target market. Even though it is said that one in four people speak English to some level of competency, you will want to make sure your site is available in the main language of the country you are targeting. If you don’t know where to start with language translation, know that there are plenty of ways to overcome the language barrier and take your website to another market.

If you use live chat to service questions from your visitors, take a look at Zopim. Zopim (now part of Zendesk) offers automatic translation and detects your users’ language quickly. Your users can write in their mother tongue, and you can write back in English: both sides of the conversation will be translated.


Adapt your on-site strategy 

Even though translating your offering is a great first step, stopping there won’t give you any visibility in a new market. To take your startup to an international market, you will need to adapt your on-site strategy and work on your search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is not the same from country to country – keywords differ depending on the market you are targeting. Though Google is the most widely used search engine, some search engines like China’s Baidu work with different algorithms, which you will need to adapt to.

So how do you adapt your SEO strategy?

First, be local and use the right top-level domain (TLD). If you are targeting France, use the extension .fr or use a subdomain such as

Second, pay attention to meta tags. Use them to signal to search engines the country and language your site is intended for. For example:

Third, target the right keywords. I can’t stress this point enough. You need to know your market’s terminology and keywords.

Fourth, pay attention to the details. You’d be surprised, but the little things do matter such as correct date format. In the United States, the common format is mm/dd/yyyy, in France the format is dd/mm/yyyy.

Fifth, geolocate your site. If possible use a local IP address and specify the targeted country in Google Webmasters.

Finally, secure high quality inbound links from sites and blogs in your targeted country. More about this next.

Optimize your off-site strategy 

Once your site is localized, you will need to get the word out to your target audience. To do so, you will need content that establishes your brand and social media that promotes your offering to local audiences as well as targeted SEO actions.

First, register your website on a local database. Make sure you choose a directory relevant to your industry and your market. For a greater impact: use targeted keywords in the title and in the description.

Once you’ve registered your website, you should focus your efforts on producing great content. With content marketing, you can create and deliver unique and rich experiences to your foreign audiences. Content published outside of your site contributes to your PageRank and therefore, to your SEO strategy.

Third, work on your network of links. To do so, reach out to users to obtain links pointing back to your site. This network of localized links increases visibility on foreign markets since search engines look for quality signals (i.e good content marketing).

Finally, in addition to great, localized, content, you also need to think about how to deliver your message via a targeted social media marketing strategy. Why? Because content without promotion won’t get you anywhere. To obtain inbound links, you need to spread the word and build a strong community around your product. A well-tailored social media strategy can turn into an amazing source of traffic for your startup and can drive user interest through word of mouth.


So how do you easily reach out to a foreign audience? Know where you are going and what you are getting yourself into. Language is a barrier but translation, by itself, is not enough. To get visibility in a foreign market, your service must be supported by a localized online marketing strategy that includes search engine optimization, content creation and social media strategy.

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More Funding for Female Founders – Our First 500 Women Syndicate Startups

Earlier this year, we announced 500 Women, one of our first AngelList syndicates. This was an important step for us in supporting women-led companies and encouraging more women to grab a seat on the other side of the table as angel investors. Today, we’re excited to share news about the first two companies we’ve selected for the syndicate – FameBit and Wanderable.

FameBit, our first 500 Women company, is a platform to hire and work with YouTube Influencers. They’re from our 8th batch of companies, and have grown by leaps and bounds since leaving the program. In July alone, FameBit hit some major milestones and produced over 1,000 videos for companies while paying out over $250,000 to YouTube Content Creators. They’re now working with top brands that include L’Oreal, JustFab, ShoeDazzle, eSalon, and Dollar Shave Club among many others.

Our second company, Wanderable, modernizes the honeymoon-planning process by allowing couples to easily discover and fund their dream honeymoon trip online and through an awesome mobile app. So far, they have 21,000 couples creating registries and 700 merchants in the marketplace. They’re currently focused on building strategic partnerships and creating exclusive activities, like private yacht cruises with a personal chef, and private viewings of the Crown Jewels in London. It’s a really exciting company, and we’re excited to open up the 500 Women syndicate with them today.

Both FameBit and Wanderable have awesome women on the founding team, and we can’t wait to support them and even more entrepreneurs through our syndicates. We already have some fantastic syndicate backers (like high profile investors that also invested in Zappos and Uber), and would love to have more folks in the community – both women and men – join us to support female founders.

If you believe in fixing the gender imbalance in tech, we encourage you to put your money where your mouth is :). To back our syndicate and support awesome companies, visit


I’ve been at 500 Startups for nearly two years now, and one of the best things about working here is our team’s real commitment to inclusivity. At 500, we don’t just slap a poster on the wall about diversity – we know that LGBT founders, mentors, and investors are a huge part of what makes our #500Strong family so great. This past year, we even launched Rainbow Round to highlight great entrepreneurs and do more community outreach.

Today, we’re excited to announce the 500 LGBT syndicate. We’re very passionate about is getting more LGBT folks on both sides of the table, and launching this syndicate will help us fund more great founders, while also encouraging people in the LGBT community to participate as angel syndicate backers. We already have some amazing LGBT-run companies in our portfolio, like Dattch, Hornet, and Whim. We can’t wait to support even more.

So what’s the deal? Over the next year, 500 Startups will invest $1M total in 10 LGBT-backed startups (or about $100K each). Backers of the 500 LGBT syndicate will invest additional capital in these companies as well.

This is our fourth AngelList Syndicate, and we plan to launch more in the future that focus on investment areas, industries and demographics we care about.

Interested in backing the 500 LGBT syndicate? Send an email to We’re excited to hear from you!

Local Businesses Are Your Friends … And Customers

This Growth guest post comes from Rick Kawamura at LocBox, a company that helps local businesses grow by providing end-to-end online marketing tools and services. LocBox is a 500 Startups portfolio company.

Many of us in the “startup world” lump small-to-medium sized businesses and local businesses into a singular market, ready to be automated and conquered.

In reality, SMBs and local businesses make up a promising but highly diverse market of customers — not archaic competitors — that most startups haven’t even begun to tap into.

In this post, we’re going to share the 24 questions we used at LocBox to begin to filter and convert high-quality leads in the lucrative, but elusive, SMB and local business owner market.

The Elusive Local Business Owner

First thing to know: Local Business owners are busy.  They founded their businesses often out of a passion for their trade — they love cooking, styling hair, or martial arts.

They are often unprepared for the parts of their business that fall outside of the trade itself — accounting, operations, finance, sales, or marketing. Inevitably, they find themselves swamped with the daily tasks of running their business that take them further and further away from their passion.

The second key to understanding LBOs has to do with spending.

LBOs spend money like it’s their own, and often charge business subscription fees or services on their personal credit card.  They scrutinize their purchases and check their credit card balances every month and manage cash flow stringently.

Third, with most local businesses, getting through to the business owner can be difficult. They’re typically protected by a very well-trained front desk staff suspicious of cold-calling, well-intentioned marketing consultants and software companies.

Finally, know that many local businesses receive hundreds of unsolicited emails and calls monthly for software solutions, consulting services, daily deals, and advertising opportunities.

What exactly is a “Local Business”?

The common misconception is that a Local Business is simply a smaller scale SMB operating locally. But let’s take a closer look.

Consider a 50-person B2B SaaS company in Austin vs. a day spa in San Francisco with 6 employees.

The SaaS company has a CEO, several VPs and Directors, engineers, sales reps, marketers, and staff, all active on Linkedin and found in, Radius, or Hoover’s databases.

The Day Spa has a business owner, front desk staff, and a handful of estheticians, none whom are on LinkedIn.

When you do find contact information for local businesses, it’s often only a generic email address such as, a far cry from the rich graph of data you’d find for the SaaS company’s employees.

A Local Business is generally defined as being locally owned and serving a local population.

So this eliminates ecommerce companies other businesses focused on selling to non-local customers, whether those are SMBs or others. And as pertains to investors and start-up executives, let’s also eliminate sole proprietors (no employees) and business owners who don’t have a store-front (hair stylists renting a station).

Even with this narrower definition of a Local Business there are multiple micro-segments of markets.  Consider a Nail Salon in Portland versus a Restaurant in NY versus a Plastic Surgeon in LA.  How you find, market to, and connect to these different segments will vary greatly.

How do you begin to get to know and appropriately filter this disjointed market where blanket SMB and B2B marketing isn’t going to cut it?

24 Qualifiers for Finding High Quality Local Business Leads

You can grab a decent amount of info on your lead targets through web research and common sense. At LocBox, we found it helpful to structure our approach using the following 24 qualifiers as a starting point for understanding the LBO customers we were looking to reach.

1. Do they have a website?

2. Do they offer gift certificates on their website?

3. Do they offer specials on their website?

4. Are they using a reservation, appointment, or calendaring system?

5. Do they have a blog?

6. How often do the blog?

7. Do they get comments on their blogs?

8. Are they on social media?

9. How many fans, followers do they have?

10. How well do they engage their followers and fans?

11. How often do they post or tweet?

12. How many response actions (comments, likes, and shares) do they get?

13. Do they have an online reputation and are they actively managing it?

14. How many reviews do they have?

15. What’s their rating?

16. Are they advertising or paying for services?

17. Do they do email marketing?

18. Have the tried Daily Deals?  Do they continue to do so?

19. Do they have an ecommerce function?

20. What’s their site traffic (estimate)?

21. Are they doing paid advertising?

22. What types: Google, FB, retargeting?

23. What does their funnel look like?

24. Some “predictive” companies claim to have compiled over 1000 data points. Of all the data you end up gathering, which “predictors” best help you determine that a potential lead is a good fit for your sales model?

The Local Business Market Opportunity – Go Micro

We find that with many executives we interview, investors we pitch to, or other startup founders we network with, the local business opportunity is still not a well understood market.

Many see SMB as a singular market encompassing local business, when in reality it’s a collection of many smaller verticals, each with unique needs and pain points.

For example, Local Business Owners don’t necessarily consider themselves local businesses. A restaurant owner is much more likely to search “restaurant marketing ideas” and very unlikely to search “local business marketing ideas.” The same holds true across categories, with Spas, Dentists, Salons, etc. each searching for their own business solutions by category.

Startups take note:

This should be guiding how you choose keywords, media channels, influencers, digital hangouts, etc. to find the right leads and start building that relationship.

What’s the solution, then?

Sharpen your everything — positioning, messaging, CTAs — on a micro level so they make sense to the pain points of LBOs you want to reach.

Here’s something to look out for that can save you some time: a lot of the pain points can be similar within a category (ex:  Spas using MindBody Online or Dentists using DemandForce) or there can be similarities across categories based on behavior (frustrations with having run a Groupon or dealing with negative reviews on Yelp for example) where one can build value propositions for a service or solution.

Focus on pain points on a micro level, don’t assume all local businesses are the same, and make more friends!

This guest post comes from Rick Kawamura, VP of Marketing at LocBox. Learn more about LocBox here.

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