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I had a conversation with my cousin, an aspiring entrepreneur, this morning that reminded me of how “lean” our start really was, so I thought I’d publish it here.  The conversation was on gchat and I just copied and pasted it here which is why the format and punctuation are weird.

Twepto was the name of the company before we pivoted into GoChime.

Cousin:

“I feel like I’ve asked you this before, maybe not. But we’re in this catch 22 where investors want to see that people will buy our product, but we need money to be able to develop it and show it to customers

we’re kind of stuck”

Me:

i don’t know how it would work with your app but you need to prove traction even if you aren’t putting something “real” in front of people.

here is what josh and i did (and maybe you can get some ideas):

we literally searched twitter for expressions of intent, then manually sent affiliate links to those people based on that intent.  we used bit.ly links so we could also track clicks.

from there we had enough data to know that it was working well and i asked a few startup friends if they knew anyone who would be interested in the service.

we made the landing page for www.twepto.com with no real backend or app

got 3-4 clients who were willing to try it out and pay us (via paypal)

when volume went up we used some third party tools to capture the tweets and then mass upload response @mentions to them (hootsuite)

we did that for a long time because we weren’t developers.  we used some of the money we made to pay contractors to build the actual functionality behind it.

the point being: we asked people to pay when we didn’t have anything real behind it.  we did it manually.

Obviously, a lot has happened since the time I’m talking about in this conversation.  We’ve found a rockstar technical cofounder, went through the TechStars program, and raised a significant seed round of financing.  The startup game is a rollercoaster of ups and downs and when you look back you realize just how far you’ve come.  I love working in this industry.  I couldn’t see myself having more fun doing something else.