Movers & Shakers
$250,000 Site Sale on eBay, Killing Goats for 6 Hours, and a Healthy "No"
Richard White, Founder and CEO of UserVoice
Our latest ZURBsoapbox was a hit last Friday with Richard White of UserVoice. Richard joined us to share his story of how UserVoice was born, how it gained traction, and some of the lessons learned along the way.
You can listen to the entire podcast below or download it on iTunes. We've put together our favorite highlights below.
Genesis of UserVoice
A few years back Richard came across a group of folks in Cambridge, MA trying to build the first Ajax calendar (pre Google calendar timeframe). He instantly loved the functionality of the product, but the site looked like "s***!" They had gotten their TechCrunch post early on and were surprised to hear poor feedback. Richard ended up joining these folks and it turned into Kiko.com.
As the product developed, keeping track of customer feedback got real messy at Kiko. Customers left their suggestions in all sorts of ways: forums, emails, blog comments, and voicemails. It was really tough for the internal team to communicate with all the customers and understand their pain points. Richard was eyeing this service called Reddit.com which allowed people to vote stories up and down (similar to Digg).
Long story short, Justin Kan (Justin.tv) ended up suggesting that the team put Kiko.com on eBay to sell. After plenty of laughes, there was an actual auction and what do you know? The site was sold for $250,000! To date it has been the largest single website sale on eBay.
After Kiko was sold, Richard was inspired by combining the idea of Reddit and their troubles of customer suggestions at Kiko. Energized by Joel Spolsky's article, he decided to substitute points instead of Spolsky's $50 and open it up to all the users of the product. UserVoice was born.
"It's amazing what happens when you just talk to people" Richard says. There are a few things to remember:
1. Talking to people on Twitter early on really works! When you don't have access to influencers this is a best tactic to spread the initial word.
2. Reaching influential bloggers and writers is key to scaling your efforts. "You talk to one guy he gets you in front of 4,000 people—now that scales!"
3. Creating a brand through something like the UserVoice feedback tab or a "Twitter" logo on as many pages out there as possible opens up lots of doors. "After a while, people see the feedback tab everywhere, and they can say—yeah I've seen it! So when we come to large companies they no longer give us the cold shoulder."
4. People in California are extremely nice and hardly say no to a product demo. "We had all investors and entrepreneurs come over from Europe and ask, 'What's so special about CA?' My answer was that nobody says no to meeting or a demo."
Saying "No" the Healthy Way
Richard mentioned that the number one customer suggestion for UserVoice (ability to vote ideas down) will not be implemented. The reason is simple: the company is not about voting things down. StackOverflow, one of UserVoice's clients, declined 60% of their customer suggestions. "This is a key indication of how healthy the company is," Richard says.
"Saying no is great, but it's better to do it in public. Just say no publicly. It's more of a healthy kind of no. Customers understand why we are not doing it."
Innovations from Customers?
"Users won't give you major innovations. You have to get that one yourself. Users will give you incremental innovations which might prove pretty important." Richard said.
"What's the difference between Blackberry and iPhone? It's the last mile. Last 10-15% of the product. Both make calls, both do email, but that 1 mile of difference! That last mile is the innovation which comes from customers."
People have to relate to pain points in order to innovate. Feedback such as: "I've been killing goats for 5 hours on level 35 here" sparks a note with other users, they feel the pain point and want to innovate.
We had a blast and enjoyed Richard's talk—we hope you did, too! We'll be posting details of our next ZURBsoapbox shortly. In the mean time, be sure to check out the rest of the photos from Richard's ZURBsoapbox on Flickr. See you next time!