Leave a comment
Get the GH Bookmarklet

AMAs

Ryan is a marketer, musician, and self-taught developer. He's built more than 30 web apps in his spare time and hosts a live stream series where he builds new products from scratch in a day. In addition to running Fomo.com, he has a portfolio of small apps that generate over $1.6mm per year. His latest project, MicroAcquisitions.com, is an extensive course on learning how to buy, grow and sell small companies with little to no money upfront. Ryan has been traveling full-time for 8 months but has been based in NYC since 2013.

  • PC

    Pedro Clivati

    2 months ago #

    Hey @ryan, thanks for doing this - honored to have you here.
    I heard about your 'growth engineering missions' at Fomo.com and I'd love to learn more.
    A few questions that come to mind:
    (a) are all the missions focused on acquiring new customers or the growth lever varies?;
    (b) how do you choose the mission? Does everyone in the company can suggest a growth idea?
    (c) how long does the mission last? Is it normally done on a small scale to validate the numbers before rolling out on a larger scale?

    7 Share
    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      thanks Pedro. and it was nice meeting you ~4 years ago at Galvanize in San Francisco. :)

      for context, this is what Pedro's referring to.

      at Fomo i've hired & fired 5(!) marketers since launch in 2016. throughout this process i learned our core competence is product, so we might as well use it to grow. today this is dubbed "product-led" growth.

      a) i'm a fan of the AARRR framework popularized by Dave McClure. debating whether to link him since he was #MeToo'd. anyway, the idea is customers have 5 stages... acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and revenue. a lot of marketers wipe their hands after stage 1, but the best marketers switch contexts as needed. whenever i schedule growth missions, we generally one specific area. our most recent missions were exclusively focused on improving new user onboarding.

      b) we make a fair amount of decisions by-committee at Fomo, but growth isn't one of them. in the same way i don't determine what technologies to use, the engineers on my team do not determine marketing direction. i think this is right.

      c) i usually give a 2 week deadline. most missions are completed in 1-2 working days, sometimes longer if they require collaboration with another team member, e.g. our designer. we generally roll out results to all users immediately but can revoke changes as needed.

      i'll write more about our 40+ missions soon on the Fomo blog: https://blog.fomo.com

      3 Share
  • DL

    Daniel Levi

    3 months ago #

    What's the story behind the Fomo.com domain name acquisition? Great brand name!

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      while having dinner with my biz partner Justin Mares (author of Traction, founder of Kettle & Fire) in early 2016, we came up with the new Fomo. it just sounded fun.

      with a bleak attitude, i ran the search... is something already living on Fomo.com? doh!

      not thinking too much about it, we bought usefomo.com for $11.99 and got to work. i didn't like "try" or "get" because those felt less committal. more "startup-y." more like a mobile app website prefix.

      soon, as we began building the brand, some bloggers and customers began referring to us as "Use Fomo" or "UseFomo" which was obnoxious. protip: always Google a company's name (in quotes) and use whatever is in the title tag of their home page. makes for better cold email, and you look smarter too.

      anyway. i kept going back to fomo.com every month or so. i set up Google Alerts for mentions. and after about a year i received an alert that Fomo (the previous company) had been acquired by a PE fund.

      this was not good news at the time, because it meant the company now had even more resources with which to build its brand / maintain high search rankings.

      fast forward a couple more months and i learned the new owners were rebranding Fomo to a completely different name with 3 words. i was elated.

      i again sent my usual round of emails... webmaster@, it@, info@, and even the chairman's personal address, asking if we could acquire the domain.

      this time, i got a reply. the rest is history: http://ryanckulp.com/negotiate-a-domain-name/

      1 Share
  • JN

    Jason Ng

    3 months ago #

    I just signed up for your MicroAcquisitions.com course. Looking forward to getting through the material.

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      thanks Jason!

      i hope you read the course launch case study too.

      my key learning from this experience is that, even as someone who is considered a "good marketer," you never quite reach a 100% hit rate on things you THINK will be successful.

      my course on buying small companies is a humbling (and thankfully positive) example of this insight in action. i suppose it's similar to asking a "guru" for specific advice, thinking they must know the answer, and their reply is "i don't know."

      or as philosopher Drake says, "a wise man once said nothing at all."

      1 Share
  • CA

    Craft Atoms

    3 months ago #

    Is there a post about what it was like initially building the FOMO software? I don't believe I saw a post on your blog about it.

    What is your process for choosing an idea for a SaaS product? Marketing tools and B2B products seem to fit the profile for a good SaaS product.

    How do you factor in things like expected MRR, ARR, Churn, etc. when choosing a SaaS to build?

    What wells of information on the internet do you read/watch? Books that have your attention atm?

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      there isn't a post, perhaps because my motivations weren't exactly pure. here's what i mean.

      i began learning to code in September 2015. we bought Notify (Shopify app) in March 2016. i barely knew Ruby and a little JavaScript. Notify was built in PHP.

      so i hired a dev shop. they were a YC alumni, previously a B2C photo app like Instagram but since pivoted. their specialty happened to be Ruby, so naturally they began rebuilding it to fit their own style.

      this is my "untold story" about learning how to code. building Fomo in a language i could understand was also a good business decision. we didn't make enough money to pay full time developers to implement all the features i wanted, so i spent 100s of hours (learning to code) building some of them myself.

      when choosing a SaaS to build, i try to make it expensive enough i don't need thousands of customers, but cheap enough i don't have to get on phone calls with them. i'd personally rather have a few smaller SaaS co's than 1 "main baby." just a personal hedging strategy, not prescribing this to anyone else.

      information i consume... i've read ~30 books so far in 2019 and you can find some of my favorites here: https://www.ryanckulp.com/now-reading/

      2 Share
      • JM

        Jorge Mesa

        about 1 month ago #

        I feel like this part is so under rated. You want to filter out the customers/clients from hell LOL.

        "when choosing a SaaS to build, i try to make it expensive enough i don't need thousands of customers, but cheap enough i don't have to get on phone calls with them."

  • AB

    Alec Barrett-Wilsdon

    2 months ago #

    what (if any) paid social channels are you bullish on?

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      none. the challenge w/ paid is the equal to the opportunity: scalability.

      once something is scalable and "figured out," everyone (marketers) flock to it. this drives up prices and resets the hunt for the next* low-CPA channel.

      put this way, advertising is a hedonic treadmill. and the cycles (low / medium / high CPA) keep getting shorter since marketers love to share exactly how we do things.

      i'm a lot more bullish on WOM (word of mouth), aka things that don't change. social media is just a tool. human nature is the channel.

      3 Share
      • AY

        Alex Yumas

        about 1 month ago #

        This.

        "once something is "figured out," everyone flock to it"

        So true.

        Thanks for the AMA btw. Also say hi to Justin really enjoyed his talk at Microconf

  • NV

    Nicolás Vargas

    2 months ago #

    Hi Ryan! Thanks for the AMA

    1) What advice would you give to a college student about to enter the “Growth Marketing/Startup World”? What advice should they ignore?
    2) What are one to three books that have greatly influenced your career?

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      1. ignore advice about negotiating job offers. i see so many cocky 22-year-olds fretting over $80k vs $120k starting salaries as a jr engineer at XYZ startup. optimize for learning instead. my first FT job in tech paid $43k. i quit on Day 365 and 90 days later was making > $200k /year. making money is easy. prioritize skill development first.

      2. Innovator's Dilemma, War of Art, Switch

      2 Share
  • JL

    Julien Le Coupanec

    2 months ago #

    Hello Ryan,

    What are the most surprising growth experiments you have seen eCommerce bootstrappers run?

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      between my companies Fomo and Cross Sell i've observed thousands of ecommerce stores' marketing strategies.

      a few things stuck out as successful and somewhat novel:

      1. selling an [actually] limited supply of a product and marking "sold out" with ability to subscribe via email for restock alert. most companies will sell you anything, anytime, and use fake inventory counters to trick consumers. this is not only evil, it strips the company of tapping into the human spirit's affinity toward exclusivity (which increases conversions).

      2. bootstrapped or not, profitable or not, you could spend $10k on ads that will disappear in a week. spend that same $10k on a short film and you get playback value forever. Blendtec's "Will it Bland" case study exemplifies this strategy.

      3. in-person sales and by-hand delivery. i once bought a $4 cup of cold brew at Smorgasburg, a food fair every summer in Brooklyn. a few days later i found their Shopify store and bought more. the founder hand-delivered it to my apartment in Manhattan. so i bought even more. then some more.

  • AD

    Arthur De

    2 months ago #

    What social media monitoring tool do you recommend for companies (can be B2B or agencies or big brands) to use? Falcon.io, Hootsuite, Buffer,...? Why should a company or agency use this to monitor all their channels?

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      none.

      in my experience working with dozens of venture funded B2B startups, social media has never moved the needle. yes, i've set up "follow / like" bots. yes, i've helped amass thousands of followers. yes, i love social media (personally) and Tweet 15-20x /day.

      but consider this: if i go to a small networking event on a Tuesday night, shake 8 hands, and have just 2-3 good conversations with prospective customers, i'll always close more deals than spending that same hour tweeting from a company account.

      if you're referring to B2C i can't help, have only worked on a couple B2C brands.

  • NV

    Nick Vitucci

    about 2 months ago #

    Ryan, what's your "why"?

  • SB

    san bah

    2 months ago #

    Hey @ryan,
    Can you suggest me to increase website traffic and SEO ?

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      well played with the vague question!

      you've lumped "traffic AND seo" together, but they can be decoupled.

      my personal blog gets pretty good traffic, horrible SEO. my company blog has great SEO, lower traffic. how?

      it's because one is a destination people want to go to. another simply plays nice with Google. determine which kind of site you want to have.

  • CH

    Corey Haines

    2 months ago #

    Yo!

    1. Do you plan on doing tech/startup stuff forever? Or if you had enough cash/investments, would you do music/hobbies? I guess I'm sort of alluding to: how much personal wealth is "enough" for you?

    2. What's the most challenging thing you've worked on?

    3. Biggest pet peeve in the world of marketing/sales/growth?

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      great questions. peeling back all my layers.

      1. i hope not. HBO's Silicon Valley is too real. so i try to think about my tombstone, what it will say. the words are blurry but, "technologist" will not be one of them. i'm also not sure i'll ever have enough, which i think is OK. my rough plan is to automate more of my revenue streams, then spend more time (attention) creating music and writing books.

      2. learning to code was the most challenging, because it required daily confrontations with myself about my abilities. constantly facing my inadequacies. constantly telling myself i couldn't do it. until i did, and nothing has been the same since.

      3. dishonesty. charlatans. which is why i've spent a lot of profit that could have gone in my pocket, on HonestMarketer.com.

  • DH

    Darjan Hren

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Ryan!
    How do you keep focus, productivity and prioritisation in place with all the projects you’re doing?

    How do you balance launching quickly vs product quality?

    What’s your usual timeframe for a product build and launch?

    Thanks

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      i learned to focus through a process of elimination.

      here are a few things i removed from my life over the past couple years: laundry, cooking, car, boss, apartment, razor, carbs, outfits, fat, most entertainment, most drinking, most friends, some email.

      once your headspace and schedule is empty, you get to fill it back up again, with more intention and thoughtfulness.

      launch new ideas quickly and often and you'll launch higher quality ideas quickly and often. speed is not an alternative* to quality, it begets* quality.

      usually i rip an MVP in 1-3 days, tweet it, and based on early traction/feedback determine whether to continue building.

      if the product is something i'll use myself, like my Simple FAQ tool, i'll keep building even if nobody else cares.

  • GA

    Gaurav Arora

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Ryan,
    Thanks for doing this!

    Just one question that comes to my mind right now:

    Which one is a long-term growth strategy - Acquisition or Retention?

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      retention always.

      in acquisition-land you have to constantly adopt to changes. new strategies, new tactics, new channels, new tools. innovation moves at break neck speed.

      in retention-land you get to rely on things that don't change (human nature). off the top, Craigslist / reddit / many others didn't touch a line of CSS code for years. they focused on retention.

      acquisition is exceeding expectations for things that don't exist yet. retention is meeting expectations for things that are already understood.

      a final aside, specific to my situation as a micro PE portfolio manager. i can't afford to spend time talking to strangers on the internet (prospects), but i can always make time for paying customers. serving the latter group is retention.

      • GA

        Gaurav Arora

        about 2 months ago #

        Amazing @Ryan! Never thought of retention from this perspective. Outstanding. Thanks!

  • CA

    Craft Atoms

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Ryan,

    I think this is my most valued post from you https://www.ryanckulp.com/saas-io-framework/

    Have you added any new thoughts on building a Q3 product since it was written?

    It's the benchmark of my framework I've put together to build my first Saas.

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      thanks for reading.

      in my opinion, it's easy to devise Q4 projects. most first-time-entrepreneur ideas live here. "what if we built a platform that could order groceries, pick up your kids from school, and pay your taxes on time every month?!"

      it's not until we read books, experiment (Learn The Hard Way), and get punched in the face a few times that we begin to refine Q4 ideas into something feasible. or at least, something that can be bootstrapped. you can come back to Q4 after you've made your first million.

      so one way to come up with a Q3 idea is to take something in Q4 and water it down.

      using the Q4 examples from my post (Shopify, Google Data Studio, CRMs), what about:

      Shopify >> Florist invoicing tool
      Google Data Studio >> charts add-on for Google Sheets
      CRM >> iPhone contacts app with push notifications for friend's birthdays

      here we've reduced otherwise ambitious ideas to something we could build in a weekend. if we got traction we could always expand the scope and vision later (or not).

      • CA

        Craft Atoms

        about 2 months ago #

        Thank you so much for the direction Ryan.

      • KS

        KimSia Sim

        about 2 months ago #

        Was this answer cut short? I saw in the last lines:

        using the Q4 examples from my post (Shopify, Google Data Studio, CRMs), what about:

        * Shopify -->

        Not sure what that meant

  • KS

    KimSia Sim

    about 2 months ago #

    Already bought your micrope course a while back. Not based in US. Based in Singapore. Was wondering if you have a way for fellow alumni to connect with one another in the same city?

    • RK

      Ryan Kulp

      about 2 months ago #

      i'm going to use your question to highlight something i've been thinking about a lot lately: networking.

      a lot of people assume i have a great network, but i'm actually a bit of a recluse. yet i'm far beyond Dunbar's Law. i could easily recite a couple 100 full names and job titles of colleagues or partners if you held a gun to my head.

      so i realized: networking is not shaking hands. it's not going to events. it's not catch-up calls or BCC email lists or Slack community memberships. it's just adding value to people.

      and you can do that at scale without any borders, or handshakes, or conversations of any kind, online. thus i'm bearish on connecting people in the same city. if you work in tech, Singapore is just a country code. it's not a network.

      3 Share

Join over 70,000 growth pros from companies like Uber, Pinterest & Twitter

Get Weekly Top Posts
High five! You’re in.
SHARE
123
123