We caught up with the CEO of a budding Dublin-based tech startup to discuss the stages of a new business, incentivising users and the importance of having a performance marketing plan.
We hear so much about tech startups, but how do they really get from A to B? What do they know about performance marketing? Who funds them and do the founders still hold down regular jobs? That is why we caught up with ex-Google and YouTube employee, Gaston Irigoyen, to get the lowdown on his current venture.
Argentinean Irigoyen launched the Guidecentral app and website last year, with fellow co-founders; Francisco Miranda, from Argentina, and Israel San Jose Gonzalez, from Spain.
Guidecentral is a free iPhone app which allows users to create, share and discover projects and tutorials on topics they love - including handmade crafts, home decor and improvement, fashion and beauty tips, homemade recipes and other DIY ideas.
Once downloaded, the user can easily create how-to guides using the in-app camera and by adding text to each stage of the process. Users can then share the guide with the Guidecentral community – and with friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or via email.
CEO Irigoyen, who met Francisco when at school and Israel through a mutual friend at Google, said the app provides a visual way to create, discover and share how-to guides and DIY projects.
The trio worked together on a few successful iPhone apps before founding Guidecentral and together with community manager, Elizabeth Gleeson, they began working full-time on Guidecentral from April 2012. The app went live six months later in October 2012.
Having participated in an accelerator programme with Latin American company NXTP Labs, they then raised a seed round from Enzyme Venture Capital and several angel investors, including serial entrepreneurs and Google/Facebook executives.
Q: We all dream about inventing ‘one app to rule them all’ so we can set up our own Google-esque startup studios. As CEO, has this always been your ambition and how has business been since launching?
GI: Having worked at Google and YouTube, I'm indeed inspired to grow our startup into a big company that changes people's lives.
Our vision is to help people live from what they love doing. If you are a part-time crafter and Guidecentral can help you quit your job and make a living by selling crafts, then that'd be a success story for us. The business has been growing steadily since the launch, and we continue to build and improve the product based on our user needs and feedback.
Q: One moment you have that initial fledgling business idea and the next you have launched an app and website and have become CEO and co-founder, can you take us through the key stages of planning this process?
GI: It happened naturally. On the one hand, we developed a few mobile apps working at night and during weekends. They reached the top 10 on the App Store and one of them was acquired by KIA Motors. On the other hand, I worked for YouTube helping creators build sustainable businesses on the platform, and gained some experience with content production and distribution.
We basically had a solid team and experience working with apps and online content, so we left our jobs and started working on Guidecentral as soon as we could.
Q: You recently decided to develop a new contest-style platform to reward users who create and share the most content. How does this work? Why incentivise users and what changes have you noticed since you adopted this approach?
GI: Each Guidecentral user starts with zero points at the beginning of every month. The contest allows users to collect points in lots of ways like creating guides and gaining followers. At the end of each month, we grant prizes (Amazon gift cards ) to those in first, second and third places on the leaderboard. For example, if you publish a new guide you get 2,500 points, if someone comments on your guide you get 250 points, and so on.
Guidecentral, as with YouTube, Flickr or Pinterest, is driven by user-generated content and therefore it's very important to incentivise the creation of high quality content. Good content engages people and makes them come back. It also helps us build a better community. As a result, we believe it's important to reward our best makers, and the contest feature is only the first step in that direction. We've seen an impressive increase in engagement and content creation since we first launched contests. We are now working with our users to improve it and make it more appealing to them.
Q: How does performance marketing fit into your business? Or what, if any elements of performance marketing would you use/look to introduce as the company progresses?
GI: All our growth to date has been organic, but we understand that it may be necessary to run CPI (cost-per-install or download) campaigns at some point. Distribution is one of the biggest challenges for app developers, especially nowadays with so many new apps, and therefore having a performance marketing plan is important. We also pay a lot of attention to unpaid techniques such as App Store optimisation, app reviews, press releases, etc. It's important to build an online presence beyond the App Store.
Q: Can you reveal any stats about your users and their access paths to Guidecentral?
GI: We have thousands of monthly active users and the number is growing by double digits every month. They use our mobile app and, to a lesser extent, our website - which is optimised for tablets and smartphones as well.
In terms of demographics, 75% of our users are 20-50-year-old women, living in the US, UK, Ireland and other English speaking countries. They tend to be social influencers / thought leaders and deeply involved in DIY communities.
Q: Are you generating revenue from the app? Or if not what plans do you have for monetising the app?
GI: No, we've been focused on getting the product right as well as nurturing our community. They are helping us understand their real needs as well as potential revenue streams. We have several ideas and we'll be happy to discuss them in more detail as we add them to the product.
Q: How has working at huge tech companies such as Google and YouTube helped you in shaping Guidecentral?
GI: It helped in many different ways, from having a global vision and a metric-driven mentality, to numerous business connections and access to some really intelligent people who are willing to join the company, invest their personal money or contribute with ideas and feedback.
Q: How do you plan on taking the business further and growth-wise, where would like the business to be this time next year?
GI: We have high expectations for the next 12 months. We'll continue to improve the product and hire people accordingly. We'll also launch new features and platforms, although it's important to stay focused on building a world-class product. We aren't looking for funding at the moment, as we currently have enough cash and a very solid team capable of delivering against our goals.