Hello everyone, it’s KP. Welcome to the 4th edition of “How I Built This In Public“, a special series that features top founders and creators who’re boldly building their projects, startups and creative ventures in public. My intention is to ask them a consistent set of simple questions and distill insights and lessons so we can all learn from their experiments.
Without further ado, here’s the full interview. Enjoy :)
“I’m Olly and I’ve roasted 800 SaaS landing pages with Roast My Landing Page, and now help awesome founders, creators and business owners collect and share beautiful social proof with Senja.io. Our customers’ social proof is viewed over 2,000,000 times a month and we’ve grown to 4,000 MRR in less than a year.”
1. At what point in your startup journey did you begin your “build in public” journey and why?
For my co-founder Wilson, before launching. Me on joining a few months later. We were looking to create awareness for Senja, grow accountability, and share what we were learning. It also seemed like the trendy thing to do, so why not?
We intend to continue building in public until it is uncomfortable to do so - but we will see. I imagine people are more supportive when you’re trying to reach ramen profitability, than buying your first yacht.
2. What personal / business benefits do you believe you attracted from building in public?
1 in 3 sign ups and 1 in 4 paying customers come from Twitter and build in public.
These people are often strong advocates for our platform.
But it’s also connected us to people building great businesses we probably would not have met otherwise, motivated us to keep going when things have been tougher, and generally been a rewarding and fun way to create a business.
3. In the early days, did you have any specific challenges or hesitations on whether you should build in public or not? If so — what were they and how did you overcome them?
Me and my co-founder Wilson agreed one thing. We would share both positive and negative news, insights and progress. We saw that some of the most popular build in public posts were screengrabs of revenue milestones, and some makers only posted them. We nicknamed these people “milestone men”.
We wanted to ensure we were adding more value through context and insights, but of course post our milestones too.
4. Are there any myths or misconceptions about building in public from before that were debunked by your personal experience?
It’s easier to build in public if you’re creating a product for other makers who are already engaged in build in public conversations.
If you’re targeting a different buyer, you’re going to need to embed yourself in their world - whether that’s on Twitter. Facebook groups or real-life. It’s not impossible.
Finally, even if you’re making for makers it can take months to start generating sales from build in public.
5. What are your 3 tips for someone who’s just starting their “build in public” journey?
- Post your wins AND your losses - they build trust and credibility
- On Twitter, reply to popular accounts with insights, questions, or support
- A lot more is happening in DMs than you think - especially around launches
6. In your experience, how did the 80-20 rule play out? What few vital activities of BIP do you believe have resulted in high leverage outcomes for you?
- Milestones always work
- Longer blog posts don’t get strong Twitter engagement but allow you to explain more deeply, and readers feel more connected to your story
- Sharing highlights into communities leads to a large amount of referral
- Consistency - start with one tweet and two replies a day for 45 days
7. How much time do you allocate for building in public on a daily/weekly basis?
Hard to capture because it’s part of my workflow rather than planned. If I have something helpful or insightful to share, I do. If not, I don’t tend to sit and think of things to write, although I’ve felt that pressure.
I’d say about 7 hours / week. Along with SEO it’s the best ROI marketing work.
8. How did you stay motivated in the early days when generally you don’t see quick results or super high engagement as you begin building in public?
I wasn’t starting from 0. In terms of build in public, I had a small existing audience through Roast My Landing Page.
But in terms of Senja’s early days, having my co-founder Wilson has helped with that. Early days we could have a moan, laugh, and then push each other to focus. We could also celebrate the small wins like early customers and shoutouts. On reflection, it was a really fun part of creating the business.
9. How did you handle copycats while you built in public?
I’m a petty person so I would rant extensively about them to Wilson, occasionally call them out, and then get on with building a business I could love working in. We are also a copycat - we were originally inspired by Testimonial.to. We continued building because we felt we could offer something different, and we have. Most new players disappear in months, if not weeks, so longevity is a marketing tactic in itself.
10. Who are 3 people you would recommend for others to follow in the BIP niche?
- Marie at Tally, who was interviewed here previously
- James at Userloop who has slowly and steadily been building an impressive ecommerce tool without code
- Adam great founder who shares technical progress
Other blog posts and Twitter threads where we can learn more about you/your story?
That’s a wrap for now! Hope you enjoyed this piece.