I first met James & Henley in December 2013, just as the snowflakes started to fall in New York. We agreed to turn the early version of BuzzSumo, which they were developing in their spare time, into a business. We formed the company in March 2014, and during the year we all left our previous jobs to focus on BuzzSumo. We have no investors, I bootstrapped the business financially, and we launched our BuzzSumo Pro product in late September 2014.
At the end of 2015, our first full financial year, we had over 160,000 freemium subscribers but more importantly 2,000 paying customers and an annual revenue run rate of over $2.5m. We are also profitable, so overall it was a successful first financial year.
How did we do it and what have we learnt?
The important thing to remember with any business is that luck plays a part. We were lucky to launch a content marketing tool as adblocking grew and businesses focused more than ever on content to engage with their audiences.
Here are 22 things we have learnt during our first full year.
The product matters more than marketing
Spend every dollar you have on creating a great product–not marketing. A great product will generate far more awareness through sharing and advocacy than any marketing spend. This approach is also far more sustainable as you may run out of marketing dollars.
Employ the very best staff you can afford
We were lucky to have a good balance of skills across the three of us, from backend and server skills, to front end design skills, to marketing and to experience of setting up, growing and selling successful businesses. Without wanting to make Henley and James blush they are simply some of the very best people in the business and what they have achieved with the BuzzSumo product is nothing short of amazing.
As we have grown we have employed more staff in Susan, Raymond, Matthew and Michael, who joined us this week. We are still a very small team, just 7 of us from this week, but a smart team that works hard and achieves far more than many teams ten times our size. In my view it is better to wait and get the very best person than make a compromise appointment. A great team member in my view is not just a little bit better than an average person but ten times as productive.