carrotleads - How it came to beMon, 2 Sep 2013.
We have been working on a product called carrotleads.com to help Small and Medium businesses to receive quality business leads by putting to use their social media connections. This is primarily a web application with a native iOS and Android app in the pipeline. Companies subscribe to carrotleads.com, build a profile on the types of leads they are interested in, the rewards /commission they are willing to pay out and then invite their social contacts to provide leads.
Human memory being fallible I wish to document how we got here and hope it ends up being of some use and lets start at the No Big Bang beginning :) .
Prior to this, we had been "working" on a core idea to be an discreet social backup for people who liked to do their own thing and was not able to get enough traction working from home. So I bit the bullet, loosened our savings purse strings and booked an office at a business incubator in South East Melbourne.
The change of scenery did wonders and I was getting into the thick of things networking with small businesses around the place. I already had a couple of smaller nice ideas/solutions to problems I heard people voicing. I was slowly realising that I need to voice my solutions instead of holding them close to my chest, especially to people who posed the problem. This was the only way the solution developed and grew wings or else most times I am left with the seed of the idea. Conversely, the only way to know an idea is bad is by voicing them, watch the dumbfounded expressions and then you can kill it instead of wasting precious time. There is even google spreadsheet of ideas. So I did more of this talking about my ideas, in more detail to people who cared and was genuinely happier.
A business owner at the incubator had earlier pitched me to work on a Facebook App but it fell over when his clients pulled out. Keen to work on my network ninja skills I had a discussion with him on how he gets new business and from there we segued to a lead generation product I had worked on that allowed companies to bid on leads. Now it was hard for this one-man web design firm to get quality sales professionals to work on commissions as they wanted to be paid a monthly retainer. The business owner was reluctant to risk paying a retainer fee without being sure of the quality of sales professional. He still preferred the commission method as he then didn't have to come up with an upfront payment.
Most business owners go through a similar dilemma on when and how to crank up the sales levers and my new friend was no different. He was also a keen networker with many irons in fires who wished his social media connections and network would give him more quality leads. But something was preventing this from happening. We theorised that if his network contacts clearly knew upfront of his keenness to reward people with a flat % commission and his willingness to keep them updated, they are likely to champion his services more. I could see a gap in the market and went back to do my research with my good friend, google and found numerous lead generation products targeted at sales people but none that fit into the gap I had seen. I realised a solution to a common problem should be worth working on. I kept my friend informed of my research which unsurprisingly piqued his interest too and we were hooked.
Dilemma of co-founders
The idea of carrotleads.com was born and I worked with my new web designer friend to flesh out basic use cases and an interface. He bought some good skills in and I was keen to have him as a co-founder as was he. But once we did the brainstorming we hit the familiar hurdles co-founders hit. I was going 100% in after shelving my previous work while my friend could not commit the same given his business and personal commitments. Some good references on this subject of co-founders can be found here and here. To top it off a decent web calculator to work out founder share split and a excel sheet calculator for those who want to tweak it. We agreed to go our separate ways with a promise to pay him more than double for the time he had already spent helping me out if I strike it big as I run with this new shiny, my precious :). I still value my new friend's skill and hopefully I can be in a situation to ask for his services in future.
I resolved to drive the process off my own with the help of my programmer wife while keeping an eye out for prospective co-founders who can help me drive the product's success. At this stage all we had was couple of screenshots and use cases in Pencil.
I was once again being reminded that innovation is 1% invention and 99% iteration and we had not even begun iterating.
Its been a couple of month now and iterate we did and we are close to a demo run. But still long way to go.
I am now aware of at least 4-5 similar products, not to mention the numerous niche variants, some well ahead of carrotleads, some stagnant and some inexplicable. The prior art in this domain though stretches back to birth of sales and a mere google search on lead generation throws up 220 millions of hits.
It only proves that many people can have the same idea but what differentiates it all is going to be in the Execution.
What is carrotleads?
A brief explanation of the two use case contexts can be found here in my next blog.