Today we sit down with 3x Entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of Task Pigeon Paul Towers.
Paul has an interesting story. Not only is he a non-technical, solo founder but he is also building a transparent startup where he shares everything he learns while getting his startup off the ground. He also publicly releases his revenue, expenditure and user statistics.
Paul dives into this and more during out interview. In particular, Startup Founders will get a lot of learning how Paul:
- Built and launched his MVP in just 7 weeks as a non-tech founder
- Achieved a cost per engagement of only 2 cents on a recent Facebook marketing campaign
- And overcame a set back of needing to find a new development team.
Please introduce yourself (any co-founders) and your startup?
Hi, my name is Paul Towers and I am a 3x Entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of the free task management tool, Task Pigeon.
Task Pigeon was created to solve my own need. I had struggled to find a task management tool that worked just the way I wanted it to.
As a result I went through a process to validate the idea and prove that the task management space was big enough to support another player before building Task Pigeon.
While I am non-technical founder I have successfully bought this product to market and we have seen some solid growth after recently launching the V2 of our product in August 2017.
How did you go from idea, to MVP and launch?
Coming up with ideas is easy, proving there is a market and executing on them is where it gets tough!
I knew the first thing everyone would say to me was how crowded the task management space is. There is Trello, Asana, Wrike, Excel spreadsheets, pen and paper and countless other ways to track and manage tasks.
My first point of call was to therefore to see if everyone felt as if there task management needs were already catered to. I began by reaching out to my own network to get feedback on what they thought of Task Pigeon and the angle I wanted to take.
I knew not many people would jump out straight away and say it was awesome from the get go. People rarely do. But what I was looking forward was nuggets of information that there may be something there.
Sure enough I found them.
A number of people said that they had tried tools like Trello but weren’t satisfied, never found a task management tool that worked for them, or just preferred the look/feel of what I was offering with Task Pigeon.
Speaking to people I knew was one thing however. I needed to expand my audience and could only take their feedback with a grain of salt. These people weren’t all close friends but they did know me in some way.
The next group of people I contacted I didn’t know. I reached out to Team Leaders, Managers and Startup Founders on Linkedin and asked for their feedback.
Surprisingly there feedback matched the earlier responses I received. Some people had a tool they already used, others chopped and changed because they hadn’t found what really worked for them.
This gave me enough confidence to press ahead and get some additional mock ups design. I outsourced this via Upwork to keep costs low and improved my landing page based on the feedback I had received. Following this I was then able to list Task Pigeon on Betalist.
This bought in over 80+ beta users who I sent a simple email and asked “what interested you enough to sign up for Task Pigeon”.
The response was fantastic with a number of people clearly articulating that they loved the design and vision we had for Task Pigeon.
The final piece of the puzzle was to try and pre-sell some licences. Collecting emails is one thing, but getting people to pay is another. While this is harder said than done I did get some positive signals from this process and committed to building Task Pigeon.
As a non-technical founder I then needed to find someone with the skills to build the thing. I considered a number of options but ultimately settled on a hiring a Computer Science Graduate with experience at a YC Backed startup as a Full Stack Web Developer.
Seven weeks later we had our beta ready to go and launched with some decent press coverage. We also managed to get hunted on Product Hunt where we stayed on the front page for the entire day. This pulled in hundreds of sign ups and exposed us to a diverse audience of people interested in trying new products and services.
What challenges did you face during this period and how did you overcome them?
This part of the process was all relatively straight forward. As a non-technical founder I knew my short coming would be making sure I could find and hire the appropriate technical talent to execute on the idea.
As a result, I reached out to my network and got put in touch with an experienced full stack developer who was able to advise on the appropriate technologies to use and review the various proposals I received.
The challenges for me came post launch of our MVP. We only ran a short beta program of ~4 weeks, so the public release of Task Pigeon was in March 2017.
I then had a bunch of additional features and improvements to make so that we could offer even better value to our customers and start to encourage users to upgrade to our paid plans.
While my original developer was very responsive and hard working he eventually needed to find a long term role paying a regular wage. As a result it became apparent that he wouldn’t be able to put in the effort required to take Task Pigeon forward.
Essentially, I had to find a new team. In doing so it also became clear that some of the steps we had taken to get to MVP quickly were perhaps not in the best interest of the product long term so we ended up re-writing the application.
This has put us in a great position for our future success and made the application much more responsive. We have also created a foundation that will allow us to add our next set of features in a much more time efficient manner.
During this journey to build and launch your startup what is one thing you look back on with a sense of achievement?
That’s a tough question because there are so many startups that have achieved crazy levels of success in such a short amount of time.
At the end of the day though I have learned that you have to believe in yourself and just keep going. I have seen since the launch of our V2 that things are starting to fall into place. Traffic to our website is up 100%, new users are signing up each day, and engagement is increasing.
In terms of specifying one particular thing however I think that I am proud that I have been able to design, launch and grow a software based product as a solo, non-technical founder.
There are so many strong opinions out there that you need to have a founding team of two or more, and in-house technical expertise that I think a lot of startup founders get disillusioned. I’m not saying its easier to do it alone, or even the best option for every founder, but if you believe in yourself and want to do something, don’t let the opinions of other founders (or investors) sway you otherwise.
Just get out there and do it. Try and prove them wrong and see where the road ahead takes you.
Offer us one insight, tip, marketing strategy or growth hack that has worked really well for you and your startup?
When I set about building Task Pigeon I decided to embrace a concept of transparency. I regularly write about the up’s and down’s of building a startup and also publish all of my revenue, expenditure and traffic statistics.
While some many think this is a little crazy I have been blown away by the amount of people who have written to me to support me, offer assistance and advice because of what I am doing.
Most of my highest trafficked blog posts also come from where I share these experiences as I believe other startup founders and people in business can see that I am genuinely trying to provide value to other people first.
I also recently figured out how to make Facebook marketing effective for me. For years (across various projects) I had never been able to get a decent cost per click or engagement.
But on a recent post I wrote about Elon Musk’s to do list I managed to get my cost per engagement down to just 2 cents!
I achieved this by using the “Narrow” audience feature in Facebook to find Elon Musk “Super Fans” who I believed would be interested in the post. In particular, I targeted people who:
- Had an interest in Elon Musk
- And Tesla
- And Hyperloop
- And SpaceX
I also tested this campaign out on a management/leadership blog post and still achieved a solid result of 10 cents per click.
How is your startup going and what do you aim to achieve in the next 3, 6, 12 months?
A couple of weeks back I set a “30 in 30 day” challenge to coincide with the launch of the V2 of Task Pigeon. We are off to a good start with a solid increase in web traffic and new users.
Over the next 3 months I am going to be testing and trialing different acquisition strategies to position Task Pigeon for future and sustained growth. As part of this process I am looking to get out first paying customers on a recurring basis. We already have over 150 paying customers (on a special lifetime plan we offered at launch).
6 months out I want to be in a position where I can point to solid and consistent growth in user numbers and revenue. Ideally we will be at, at least $5,000 in Monthly Recurring Revenue. I will then start commencing more detailed conversations with Angel Investors so that they can learn more about Task Pigeon as we march towards $10k MRR.
Once we hit that milestone I believe the timing will be right to start to seek out investment for our first round of external financing.
If we can achieve all that, then by the end of the 12 month period we should be in a solid position to build out the team to take advantage of new marketing opportunities and further accelerate the development of Task Pigeon.