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We’ve been working with Coinbase and Shopify for the last 3 months to get automatic bitcoin discounts to work across the platform (for everyone, not just us). It’s finally done.
Adam from Baron Fig here, over the past year I've posted about the different struggles we had in getting Bitcoin fully integrated into our site. Today’s update marks the finale of a lot of emailing, calling, and pressuring. In case you missed my last posts: First we wrangled with our ecommerce platform Squarespace to accept BTC. We wrote a post how we literally took a trip to their office to convince them to accept it. That didn't go so well, so we hacked together a workaround using Coinbase to start accepting coins. Thanks to your suggestions, we ended up switching to the more BTC-friendly platform, Shopify. A few months ago we hit another wall when we tried to give a permanent 5% discount to all Bitcoin transactions. (If we’re saving on the transaction costs, so should you.) Shopify didn’t have the capability to let us add discounts specifically for Bitcoin. When we tried giving discounts on Coinbase's end, there was an integration error between the two platforms that wouldn't properly recognize the purchase. Today, after a lot of work, I’m happy to let everyone know that Shopify and Coinbase now integrate properly so that we can choose to give a 5% discount to BTC transactions—not just for us, but for the millions of users who integrate both platforms. Both my co-founder Joey and I are full supporters of BTC. I recently posted that we hold our coins—we are in this for the long run. We keep all of our coins, and use them whenever we can for business. And we also suggest to every single manufacturing and supply partner that they use BTC, to raise awareness. As always, big thanks for the support from the bitcoin community. Today we're giving an additional 10% off (total 15% off when using Bitcoin) everything on our site (until midnight EST tonight) using code BITFIG10. Thank you for the continued support! Check out the notebooks, and use BITFIG10 during checkout >
Let me apologize upfront, because I know this is probably not the right subreddit for questions like this. But I tried googling and looking through various manuals and am still stumped. My brother and I have our own little Shopify webshop where we accept Bitcoin through Bitpay. We want to join the Bitcoin Black Friday thing, but before signing up there, I wanted to make sure we can set a special discount for Bitcoin payments. But I haven't been able to figure out how to do it ... Does anybody know how? EDIT: After some more investigating (Shopify Chat and Bitpay support) it turns out that, apparently, it's not possible. You can't create a discount for a specific payment option in Shopify and you can't add any discount in Bitplay. However, Bitpay told me that they're working on a discount feature that they'll introduce soon, but probably not in time for Bitcoin Black Friday.
I like Square as a company and see a lot of people are bullish about it. However, a few things stop me from investing. Be interested to hear thoughts but at the moment I am a Square bear. Management Jack Dorsey is a visionary. I don’t think this is controversial. However, his track record at Twitter is worrying for shareholders. Be it daily active user growth, ambition with acquisitions but ultimately failure to monetise a fantastic platform where you have big corporations, celebrities and even the President reaching out to 200m daily active users for free. With Square, the closed loop business model of businesses and consumers is again a fantastic concept that could break the power of Visa/Mastercard. Execution remains to be seen, of course. Competition Square operate in a highly competitive field for consumers and businesses. Let’s take consumers based on Square’s fast-growing Cash App. It offers things a normal bank does like deposits, ATM access, money transfer. If it becomes a fully-fledged bank offering loans, credit; it is competing against the likes of big incumbents (e.g. JP Morgan, Bank of America). Granted they’re dinosaur firms but they already have a huge customer base that are older and, therefore, have more money and deposits. This means it is much easier for them to monetise their customers resulting in high ARPU. Why would these lucrative customers, en-masse, want to uproot their finances to Square when their existing providers will be providing the same service by copying Square, as JP Morgan have done this week? Link For businesses, Square’s provides software offering (invoicing, PoS, online store) but face strong competition from the likes of Shopify who are taking a fully integrated service approach to SMEs which allows them to take their business online but also manage all their backend processes, including payments. This is a highly convenient service for entrepreneurs. Shopify already has 6% share of the online retail market. Square also provides hardware products which make it easy for SMEs, in particular, to take payments. However, there is evidence that retail is facing a more permanent shift in the US vs. the rest of the world with 60% less footfall today than a year ago Link. 58% of Square’s GPV is from food/drink, retail and professional services. Square may have good market share but it is a shrinking industry. And as a final piece, competitors in both spaces are generally in very healthy financial shape: Paypal, Shopify, Global Payments, Western Union and big banks are well-capitalised. Valuation Perhaps you can get over the above with the fact that Square has strong network effects and are able to win customers cheaply. However, in my opinion, Square is priced for perfection. Simply looking at a price/sales metric, it is trading 13x LTM. This is high but maybe relatively reasonable for a fast-growing business. However, 25% of Square’s revenue is accounted by Bitcoin “revenue”. This brings little value to Square (2% gross profit) and even Square themselves discount this revenue in their KPIs because it is “out of their control and not reflective of Square’s performance”. Now onto profits. It is not fair to be too hard on Square’s profitability. After all, it is in high growth phase and its marketing costs were its highest opex line item at roughly 35% for YTD. However, a cursory look at it is Enterprise Value / EBITDA (forward look to Dec2020), it is 242x. If we give credit for Square’s business plan for a further two years, today’s Enterprise Value over broker consensus forecast EBITDA for 2022, it is still a heady 77x. This is when Square is supposed to have EBITDA of $1bn which is three times more than it is forecast for Dec 2020. Priced to perfection. If you compare it to Paypal, it is trading at 39x and 27x EV / EBITDA for Dec 2020 and 2022. Conclusion Square has formidable backers like Ark Invest. I am also not a great believer in “dumb retail” overvaluing a stock for a prolonged period of time. But for reasons above, I am cautious with Square and yet it keeps climbing so please tell me what I am missing…
Mirror trading international | How to Make Money From Bitcoin Online
Mirror trading international Mirror trading international : It is currently the eve of 2018 and bitcoin is at the highest point of the mountain. The awful days is by all accounts gone, and albeit a bitcoin air pocket could happen whenever, there is no contending the cryptographic money is setting down deep roots. The sooner you get included into bringing in cash from bitcoin, the better ground you will have in 5 years when it turns into a built up money around the world. Mirror trading international : Also, if the Bubble alarms you, putting resources into bitcoin is only one of the alternatives, yet not alone. Air pocket or not you can at present make huge amounts of cash from bitcoin. Also, bubble or not, the worth will ascend later on in light of the fact that individuals are simply engaging in it. Make you claim Bitcoin Faucet : Mirror trading international Winning Potential: $50 to $800 per month. Mirror trading international – A bitcoin spigot is an undertaking wherein you make a site or application for clients to visit. You adapt the site with advertisements that pay in bitcoin. The promotions pay a limited quantity of bitcoins per site hit, snap or transformation. Mirror trading international : To empower a lot of guests to continue exploring the site on a day by day and hourly premise, you offer to part the income from the promotions with them, paying in Satoshi which are fundamentally bitcoin pennies. To guarantee their rewards the client needs to procure a specific measure of Satoshi and installments are led on a week after week premise. Mirror trading international : Fixtures are paying between 100,000 to 400,000 satoshi’s every hour. Some offer premium installments for position or undertakings accomplishments. Mirror trading international : Fixtures started to work with the tackling of captchas, and that’s it. An exhausting automated revenue task. New fixtures are working in games were clients murder outsiders, feed critters or execute robots to acquire satoshi, the more they advance in the game the more they gain. So this is an extraordinary thought for your own fixture. The day were each computer game player gets paid for playing is practically around the bend. Mull over that bitcoin spigots will in general default due to underfunding or liquidity. The proprietors of the spigot don’t get their installments sufficiently quick to pay a quickly developing client base. They likewise will in general be hot focuses for programmers. Produce Passive Income from Your Bitcoin Blog : Mirror trading international Since bitcoin is so new contrasted with other focused on content there’s loads of space for new bloggers and locales. New organizations identified with bitcoin spring up each day; anything from bitcoin trades, exchanging, play cash destinations, spigots, online shops and digging are devoted for your advertorial space. Making a bitcoin blog and adapting can be delayed toward the start, yet steady distributing of rich substance will get a few promoters keen on no under 9 months. You can join some associate projects or set up your own bitcoin shop. Bitcoin spigots, wallets and trades pay huge commissions per referral. Little Earnings from Bitcoin Faucets : Mirror trading international My first guidance included making your own special spigot. In the event that that is a piece excessively hard, at that point take a stab at going along with one and receiving off its rewards. Rather than making around $800 every month it would be progressively similar to $30 to $100 per month from a dreary errand, yet it’s still cash and an initial step to start developing your bank. Observe that bitcoin fixtures will in general be flawed and vanish extremely quick. So make a point to join some respectable ones like Robotcoin.com and BitcoinAlien.com. These are additionally fun since you find a good pace while gaining, my top most proposal would be robotcoin. Make a Bitcoin Product or Service Online Shop : Mirror trading international Bitcoin is still difficult to adapt into USD and other hard monetary forms. Not excessively it is very hard, yet promotions a few expenses and assessments to the procedure. Despite the fact that it is as yet perhaps the least expensive approaches to send cash to anyplace on the planet. Mirror trading international – Purchasing stuff with bitcoins is an extraordinary method for making something valuable out of them and helps avoid the charges and assessment of trades. Particularly on the off chance that you can, at that point exchange those merchandise and transform into hard money. Mirror trading international – There is an extraordinary business opportunity in selling merchandise addressed in bitcoin at low costs or discount. All you need is a bitcoin dealer for your Shopify or WooCommerce shop like BitPay.com. Shopify accompanies BitPay as of now.
How Screenist Rides The Waves of the Latest E-commerce Trends
As Screenist aims to be the pioneer of e-market advertising revolution, it’s definitely worth taking a closer look at the trends shaping consumer attitude, and to see what brings in plenty of money in terms of advertising on the e-market. Strong visual content In 2019, dynamic, unique animations – inspired by video games in the first place – are in the forefront. Just think about Etsy with its expressive animated e-mails and iconography, reflecting the idea behind the brand in a perfect way. Of course it’s important not to overdo it, as unique photos are videos also add up to the picture. Overused, low quality stock photos make your product look cheap, users prefer to see the item on a model in a 360 degree-angle, in great resolution. With Screenist, users get to see each product in a high resolution movie, and even have fun in the meanwhile. Mobile-commerce Beforehand, the cornerstone of e-commerce used to be the desktop, and mobile applications were customized for it. In the past few years this tendency seem to have changed, most companies these days set up the mobile application first and put less focus on other platforms. According to New York-based market research company Mordor Intelligence, the global m-commerce market is facing a staggering 24.41 percent growth, and according to a survey by Statista, e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to 2.3 trillion US dollars in 2017, and e-retail revenues are expected to grow to 4.88 trillion US dollars by 2021. Screenist is an application riding the wave of modern mobile users striving to make shopping easier than ever. Source: Pixabay Social shopping Pinterest and Instagram are getting more and more popular, and these two highly visual platforms get users to engage with the product without them even realizing it. High quality product-photos and -videos and creative applications address a wide number of social media users, and they are striving the obtain what they get to see on the screen – does this sound familiar to you? Sure, it’s also the concept behind Screenist: it links shopping facilities to the item on screen. “Modern users are not only reluctant to leave their appartment to get shopping done, but they don’t even want to close and app and open a new one” – Mark Kelso, director of Belfast-based web and marketing agency Glaze Digital points out. With Screenist, you don’t even need to close an app and open a new one to make a purchase, so shopping on your mobile phone is more convenient now than ever. Omnichannel marketing Multichannel-marketing used to be huge: companies were striving to address potential customers on as many platforms as possible. Omnichannel marketing, on the other hand is about viewing customer attitude as a one single process, running on multiple channels at the same time. Costumers are looking for solutions linkingonline stores to the physical one, as the physical store turns visitors into new customers, the conversion rate in a shop is 10 to 20 times higher than on the web. There is no need to close physical stores, we just need to link them to the proper online digital solutions. With the help of Screenist, everyone has the chance to turn even the newest Hollywood-blockbuster into their own shopping-window, andyou don’t even need dollar millions for that. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies Criptocurrencies are more important for commercial platforms than ever. All giants like Microsoft, Etsy, Shopify and Stripe are focusing on the area, you can pay in Bitcoin, too. Crypto-money has a wide rangre of advantages in retail: it’s perfect for microtransactions, safer than any currency in the world and there is practically zero chance for fraud. The usage of cryptocurrency is enabled by blockchain solutions, so the retail giants have long been experimenting with these payment solutions. Alibaba is using blockchain to track the origin of food products and reduce the amount of counterfeit products being sold, whereas Amazon keeps registering cryptocurrency web domains. Screenist is blockchain-based, too: each product is linked to the webshop offering the highest bid, and bids are perfectly transparent and easy to check, thus guarenteeing fair play on the market. If you want to be the first to find out about the latest Screenist-related news, or purchase a token with a discount, follow us atLinkedIn,sign up for ournewsletter,Telegramchannel orTwitter!
Here's how you can increase your dropshipping margins by 15% by using Bitcoin
Hello, Dropshipping community! I'm a member of the cryptocurrency community, I wanted to share a method for increasing your dropshipping margins by using a service called Purse.io (non-ref link) to fulfill your orders (disclaimer: I work as a Support Rep for the website). Purse is a website that allows people to shop for Amazon products and pay with Bitcoin, and you get to choose your own discount (between 5 to 33%). How does this work? Well, when you place an order, it gets posted in an orderbook, people with Amazon gift cards can fulfill such orders and they get your Bitcoin in exchange for the Amazon items. The higher the discount, the longer your order will take to fulfill (as it's less attractive to the individuals who are ) This whole system works because Purse creates an Amazon Wish List with the items you want to buy, and the shipping address. Your Bitcoin gets locked in escrow to guarantee a safe transaction. If the items are not delivered, you get your funds back. Orders with less than 15% discount are typically fulfilled in hours, you will get an Amazon Order Number as soon as it is taken, tracking links will follow suit the next day. Here's a practical example, let's say you have a Shopify Store and you sell gardening hoses. When you receive an order via Shopify, you go to Purse and place an order with your shopper's address, item, and desired discount (let's say, 15%). With that discount, the order will be fulfilled the same day. The second it's purchased by someone in Amazon, you will get the Order Number. Please note that you are not exchanging Bitcoin for an Amazon Gift Card, in fact, someone is purchasing an Amazon Wish List and you get to pay them in Bitcoin.
He started with little to no product or business experience.
The product went somewhat viral - he sold all 1,000 units within 25 days of launch.
Has since launched hundreds of unique products.
Here's the interview - hope you enjoy:
Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?
Hi, my name is Jeff Phillips and I am the inventor of the Beardo beard hat. We started out with one product which is our patented hat with a detachable beard (the Beardo), but have since launched hundreds of unique products and have even moved into branded promotional products. Beardo really started out as a bit of a gamble and we never really took it that seriously. I knew the Beard hat was fun and functional and that I really liked it, but my friends weren’t so convinced that others would feel the same and actually purchase it. I really just trusted my gut and went for it. I am glad I did because within the first 25 days of launch we had sold out of our entire years stock of 1,000 units, and pulled in over $40,000. What our product looks like
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I suppose I get my creativity from my Dad and Grandpa. They both were always looking for ways to improve things and generally just liked working with their hands. I’ll never forget the day my dad designed a ‘can crusher’ so that our recycling didn’t take up so much space. He never wanted to put it to market or anything like that, but just wanted it for himself. When he saw that someone had released one a few months later and was probably making millions on it, he was pretty annoyed! Like Dad and Grandpa, I am constantly thinking of crazy inventions and edits around the house to make life simpler. It’s not something I can turn off, so I started writing my ideas down in a journal. I guess it was just a matter of time until one of us went into mass production with a crazy invention! The Beardo came about organically and out of sheer necessity. At the end of 2006, I was snowboarding in Whistler, and it was an absolute chiller of a day. We had made our way to the top of a run called ‘7th heaven’ and I was certain that the wind was going to be the end of me. I had this old brown knit scarf in my bag and had tied it around my face to stay warm. About halfway down we stopped on the side for a bit of break and instead of taking off the scarf, I just spread a hole in the knit and popped my water bottle through to take a drink… one of our group cracked up laughing because it looked like a real beard! I got back to where we were staying, cut the scarf up to refine the beard a bit and the first Beardo beard was born! I used it a few more times until I got some better prototypes knit, and the true form took shape into the World’s only hat with a foldaway, detachable and adjustable beard! I did keep the original though and I have been meaning to get it framed to hang on my wall!
Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.
Though I didn’t have any design experience, I had run a few small businesses before and knew a little about graphic design as well. I also had a couple degrees (B.A and a film and TV diploma) that gave me a lot of great experience and the know-how to do things myself. All of these experiences really came in handy while designing the beard hat because it helped limit the startup budget. When this really started to take off, I was living in a friends garage to save a bit of money. We had no internet and things were pretty tight. Getting Beardo off the ground with trademarks, patents, and web design was costly, so again I did a lot of it myself and leaned on friends for help when needed. I remember that I used to drive around the suburbs with my laptop open trying to find a wireless internet signal that was unlocked! Most of the designing, patents, and trademarks were created in my wagon. I remember one house must have picked up on what I was doing because I had been in front of their place for a week when they started to peer out the window and the next time I went back the free wifi was no more. The design process was pretty straightforward though, it was easy enough to get an actual knit prototype made and from there I went off looking on Google for manufacturers. My early focus was to stay in Canada, but after seeing the quality issues with the first round of samples and a price tag of more than I could sell them for, I had to look elsewhere. I ended up finding some great companies in asia who specialize in knitwear and went back and forth for a while before deciding that they were a great company to work with. After getting the patents, trademarks, website design and the first batch of beard hats, I had spent about $8,000 and was ready to launch. I still wasn’t sure what would happen, but I figured that at worst case, I could take the beard out of these really nice knit hats and sell them to a store for cost. That was my backdoor if the whole thing crashed and burned.
Describe the process of launching the online store/business.
I’ve seen a lot of changes since I started Beardo and there are definitely a lot more people launching sites and small brands. I think it’s great and it makes things that much easier to get going, but it also means you have a lot of competition and you need a point of difference. Luckily for me, I had created a unique product so I didn’t have to contend with any similar businesses. The best advice I can give is that before launching you need to have a rollout plan in place. A lot of people think that getting the site and product made is the hard part and that all you have to do is wait for orders to roll in. In reality, the launch and promotion are the hard parts. Before going live, you should be ready to contact media (local and otherwise), start advertisements, run promotions, send out free samples to bloggers and influencers and keep pushing and expanding your reach every day. For example, one major undertaking was to search for direct email contacts for all the magazine, Newspaper, TV, and University newspaper editors that I could find. Then one by one, I hit them up and try to get a story, collaboration or even a paid ad. Below is a short list of some of the neverending projects I would also work on in those early days:
Facebook Pages: Write on walls/hockey teams, fan clubs, and ski pages.
Bloggers: Find some and pitch them an angle (ie. winter is coming), free gear or reviews.
Free magazines to be included in (movie theatre mags etc)
Paid Magazine editors (UK, USA, CAN)
University/college paper editors - Stories or collaboration/contests.
Newspaper editors - Angle: "Lead into winter".
Playoff Beard Promos: Hit up hockey teams, shops, etc.
Ski Season Promos: Hit up slopes, shops, events, etc.
Look for and contact retailers for wholesale accounts.
Look into potential of running market stalls and mall kiosks.
Daily deal sites: Reach out to them.
Tradeshows: Organize and set some up.
Now I am not saying that you need to have everything ready to go before you launch, but you need a rough plan. Truth is you’ll never launch if you try to get everything all lined up. it’s going to be messy and constant and that’s ok. Just roll with it and keep planning and pushing. I had a pretty good plan in place but was really surprised when the first order came in - it was from South Korea! It seems my planning had worked and Beard hats were quickly picked up by global bloggers and the media, which was unreal! The best part was, after only one live-to-air interview on the Canadian news, it quickly went viral and more and more bloggers and ‘cool product’ sites started listing the Beardo.
What has worked to attract new customers?
Without a huge media boost, it can be tough to get new customers. I would always keep a list of ideas I had, or things I saw that other brands were doing that seemed to work. That pretty much became my neverending to-do list. The MOST exposure and returns we have seen were directly resulting from being featured by the big fish like ‘Good Morning America’, our Kickstarter, or our appearance on ‘Dragons Den’ and also having exposure from celebrities. A company called FAB (daily design deals) liked our product so much that they used it in their online campaign in 2011/12 which resulted in HUGE social media growth and a lot of sales. One thing leads to another though, so the more exposure you can get will almost certainly lead to more and more. It’s kind of a snowball effect, and that’s what you want. Out of everything we do, social media and SEO are consistently the best returns for us. When you set up your website, the first thing you should think about is SEO, and making a list of all your top keywords is just a small part of that. There are some really great google SEO guides out there and I recommend that anyone starting out should take night classes or online course for the basics, like: SEO. blogging for business, HTML, photoshop, photography. A good place to start for SEO are on the guides that Google provides. SEO is constant and you need to keep on top of it. Not only in terms of your site changes, but also google is constantly changing their own algorithms and with that, suggestions to improve your strategy. One thing I would recommend everyone do is to start following @SEOMOZ and even signing up for a trial. You’ll learn alot about SEO really quickly and it’s a great way to look into what your competitors are doing too.
How is everything going nowadays, and what are your plans for the future?
I joke with friends that I thought Beardo would be a short-lived business, and beard hats would be a fad that would be dead in 12 months. I don’t think anyone thought it would do so well, or be around so long. As long as I am still meeting people who have never seen it yet, there is always room to continue. Today, Beardo has warehouses in 5 countries and has a range of over 140 fun and functional winter headwear products and we are always coming up with new ideas! We do have plans for new products, but they are top secret!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
As I said earlier, I have seen a lot of changes in the e-commerce space and I think the number one regret I have is not blasting Facebook ads more. When I first started advertising beard hats on facebook it was just to grow the fanbase as the objectives today simply didn’t exist. I started out with about $10-20 a day and at a cost of about $0.01- 0.02 per fan - it grew really fast! Back then I thought $70-140 a week was quite a lot of money to spend on advertising, and kinda thought things would stay the same… I was dead wrong. Facebook changed their algorithm and cost per reach, which basically means to get that same fanbase growth you would have to spend thousands a day. It’s also now nearly impossible to speak to your own fans through organic reach with your posts without paying, so that’s a big bummer. Back when we had 10k fans, we would get 500-1000 likes per post. Now we have 330k and are lucky if we get 10 likes. We should have been focused more on channeling our fans into email subscription as it allows for a direct method for contact. I think there is no real model for success that covers all brands and products, you really never know what will work and what will fail and just because something works for one brand doesn’t mean it can be reproduced. You should try everything and don’t be afraid of failure and definitely don’t get hung up on failure. Move forward and try your next idea. If you are out of ideas, Google, follow others or ask around. I think a major attribute of a successful entrepreneur is not just driven but creativity and the ability to think outside of the box, so trust your weird ideas.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We now use Shopify because it is nearly impossible to crash it! We have tried and have even had hundreds of thousands of concurrent visitors on the site with no issues. Not even a flicker. One of my friends just had her bikini site crash last night because she wasn’t prepared for a big rush of visitors and it’s been down for nearly 15 hours now. Do yourself a favor and go with Shopify. We also use the Product Upsell App through Shopify as well as discounts, reviews, and BitPay which allows people to pay using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. We also accept Paypal and Shopify payments too.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources for your business?
I really liked the 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris. It’s a bit of fiction, but gets you thinking out of the box! Besides that, I don’t really look for business motivation. I am more interested in design inspiration, so I just look at lots of strange art, and try to travel as much as possible to open my mind to new ideas.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
If you are looking to start out online, you should remember that simple is better. When designing your website try to make it as streamlined as possible. That goes for product design, packaging and ads as well! Simple is better and trial and error is the key, so keep testing. Some issues I see are things like spending too much money before you have even started. These days you can start with an idea and turn it into millions before you even have product! Just look at Kickstarter.com. It’s a perfect place to launch and trial your product or idea to see if others are even interested. If it gets funded, perfect! If not, you hopefully haven’t spent too much and can move to the next idea. We did a kickstarter of our own in 2013 and it was the reason we were able to launch our line of ski masks! You can also start out on the cheap by selling on a platform like Etsy and try to grow a fanbase and revenue that way before blowing your paycheque on a fancy website. Things like patents and trademarks are important but easily done without spending tens of thousands on legal fees. Trademarks are especially easy, so before getting a lawyer, check it out yourself! The most important thing is to trust your gut and go with it. There are lots of people out there with great ideas but who are too afraid to start. Interview at https://www.starterstory.com/beardo-beard-hat
Building a Digital Agency from Nothing - #1 - 2/12/18
EDIT: Here's part 2https://www.reddit.com/EntrepreneurRideAlong/comments/7xe6yc/building_a_digital_agency_from_nothing_2_21318/ Hello, I am starting a "digital agency" with 2 other guys. The agency really just sells websites right now. I've always been very good at marketing and growing businesses, however, I always thought the idea of an agency was pointless. Why work for someone else if you're so good at marketing? If you're SO good at building businesses, wouldn't you just be a bazillionaire and enjoy life on the beach? Anyway, I've come around to the fact that what I enjoy most is growing businesses and marketing - I like going from 0 to 100 more than I like going from 100 to 110. Anyway, I'm going to post here as well as on Medium throughout this. Not going to say daily but it could end up being daily. Will wait and see. Maybe a vlog will come, not sure how I feel about that. I spend most of my time on entrepreneur but this sub is beautiful and works perfectly for me. I was trying to figure out a way to document this journey and remembered this sub exists (plus entrepreneur just had a top post about how shit it was and how good this was). Document, don't create (Gary v!) Getting Started I decided to start off with websites as the main service offered for a number of reasons. For one, the barrier of entry is fairly low. While years of web dev experience can be useful, Wordpress and all the other sites out there make it so someone unfamiliar with frontend could quickly learn the necessary steps to creating websites. (You see this a lot with creatives nowadays - my dad has 30+ years experience in the video production world + said he sees 20-year-olds pumping out videos that look similar to his work. The main leverage he has is expertise and efficiency.) A low barrier of entry gives me room to move - I've been in high barrier of entry businesses before and I think they're more stressful and higher stakes. While I imagine this could eventually turn into a large-scale operation, I'd rather have cash flow and freedom to move around and work on different ideas for now. Another thing that's nice about websites? Low maintenance. I plan to offer a number of different site options to the client based on their business and what they're looking to accomplish. I believe some lower budget clients will be happy with more vanilla sites on wordpress and shopify. These will obviously take less time to create and provide a higher hourly rate than custom alternatives. They'll also be incredibly easy to maintain and update as necessary. Custom sites will certainly cost more and take longer - not sure how many "high end" clients I will have to start so I'm not thinking a ton about this right now. Focused on creating a portfolio and getting recommendations and references. Name So, I have a plan in place - build websites for businesses, help them grow, get paid. We used www.naminum.com/ to come up with a name - Akedar. It flows, I like the look, and names don’t matter. If you haven’t started your venture yet because you can’t think of a good name, you’re a bum. Poor excuse. I never spend more than a day on a name - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Venmo, PayPal, Dosh, Bitcoin, Wix…none of those are fucking words. The name won’t mean anything to people until you make it mean something. Also, Naminum is a word generator that a lot of tech startups use. If you’re wondering how people pull letters out of thin air that sound like words, they usually don’t. Website I whipped up a quick site after registering the domain. Spent roughly 3 hours getting it all set up from start to finish. Spent today refining the site and making modifications. I went for a one page layout (with an extra page for Jobs). It’s clean, simple, and shows what we have to offer. I think I’ll need to beef it up more later to provide viewers more value immediately. Blog posts may be useful - I can boost SEO through relevant articles (i.e. why you need a website, how an online site can boost your business, etc.) My only thought is there are a shit ton of articles like this already out there. May repost to Medium and LinkedIn in order to gain more exposure faster. Regardless, it’ll be fun to get creative and see what I can do. As for the jobs page, why not? I’m not sure how long it’ll take for us to get overloaded in work, but it’ll happen. The more prepared we are to scale, the better. I live in a college town so interns/undervalued work should be easy to come by. The more skills there are to go around, the easier it will be to provide more value to clients without drowning in the process. I’ve tried to do things all by myself before, especially when I was significantly younger. Guess what? There are actually people out there that are just as good, even BETTER than you. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are too hung up on everyone meeting their standard. If you’re really good, this is going to be difficult. Look at it this way - you might be better than that intern at 9/10 things, but boy are they strong with graphic design. Great, get them doing graphic design around the clock and remind yourself not to let them handle customer service again. P.S. Send me a message if you’re looking for freelance work or feel you can bring value to the team in some shape or form. First clients Getting the first clients will be fairly easy - without a portfolio or testimonials, I think the best route to take is to offer heavily discounted sites. If people hesitate still, I'll offer to do it for free. Regardless, I’ll be upfront and transparent to the fact that we’re just starting - if I can’t convince people to buy now, I’m sure I’ll be able to open doors for potential biz down the road. Offering your services free or heavily discounted is nice + people like free shit. Maybe the person you originally contacted doesn’t need/want anything, but they know someone that does and BECAUSE you offered such a nice discount and great deal, they’re willing to help you get their friend’s business. Most of the networking that goes down will be through cold calls, cold emails, Instagram DMs, Twitter messages, and Linkedin. There are so many horrible websites out there - opportunities are endless. The trick isn’t finding businesses - it’s convincing them that the service we provide will give them a positive ROI and is worth the time and money. I have no doubt in my mind every typical “old” business person has THOUGHT OF improving/making their site. For some reason, they think it’s not worth it. That’s either because of the niche they’re in, or because they don’t think the internet is worth the investment. Changing their minds will be fun + exciting. (Note to self - may want to juice up the site more with info on this right off the bat - leaves door open for people to come to us, rather than coming to them and explaining/convincing). The second the first client project is done, I will be creating a past work + testimonial section on the site. Testimonials are crucial to building a business - show people that others are confident in your product and that confidence will spread. Especially with something like digital marketing/web design - people want to see real world results and feel confident that they’ll receive similar results. I plan to use the first few weeks of gaining tractions and clients as a way to determine the gameplan for the future. I’ll analyze what the data is telling me - do I need to focus on higher end clients? Am I wasting time going after certain types of businesses? What’s working? What needs to change? Tim Ferris talks a lot about the Pareto principle - for example, the idea is 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients. Something to keep in mind - If we can work our way up to bigger clients, the ROI may be higher to keep the client base smaller and revenue higher. Again, we will wait and see. Conclusion Thanks for reading - respect to anyone that got this far. Please leave any feedback below! Was this too long? Too short? Just right? I'm hoping to post the site at some point as a way of receiving feedback (not promotion). Waiting to see how people react to this before I do that though - if you'd like to take a look feel free to send me a message and I'll link you (much appreciated). I enjoyed writing this and sharing my thought process - even if one other person liked reading it, that’s good enough for me to keep going. Thanks again for reading!
So someone told me if I accept bitcoins on my website, I get free advertising/upvotes from you guys?
I sell cosplay costumes through my Shopify site: www.cosforia.com. They just fully integrated with Bitpay, which lets me accept bitcoin payments while being insulated from exchange rate fluctuations. So I figured, why not, there's literally no harm to me for doing my part to support bitcoin adoption, and I might even get an extra sale or two. I'm also doing a Bitcoin Black Friday sale - 25% off everything with discount code: Satoshi. I only just started learning about this thing, but I'm already very excited to see where it goes! Edit: Thanks Shaypar from Shopify for enabling the bitcoin payment icon on my site!
Note: New Reddit look may not highlight links. See old look here. A copy is hosted on GitHub for better reading experience. Check it out, contains photo of the month! Also on Medium
dcrd: Significant optimization in signature hash calculation, bloom filters support was removed, 2x faster startup thanks to in-memory full block index, multipeer work advancing, stronger protection against majority hashpower attacks. Additionally, code refactoring and cleanup, code and test infrastructure improvements. In dcrd and dcrwallet developers have been experimenting with new modular dependency and versioning schemes using vgo. @orthomind is seeking feedback for his work on reproducible builds. Decrediton: 1.2.1 bugfix release, work on SPV has started, chart additions are in progress. Further simplification of the staking process is in the pipeline (slack). Politeia: new command line tool to interact with Politeia API, general development is ongoing. Help with testing will soon be welcome: this issue sets out a test plan, join #politeia to follow progress and participate in testing. dcrdata: work ongoing on improved design, adding more charts and improving Insight API support. Android: design work advancing. Decred's own DNS seeder (dcrseeder) was released. It is written in Go and it properly supports service bit filtering, which will allow SPV nodes to find full nodes that support compact filters. Ticket splitting service by @matheusd entered beta and demonstrated an 11-way split on mainnet. Help with testing is much appreciated, please join #ticket_splitting to participate in splits, but check this doc to learn about the risks. Reddit discussion here. Trezor support is expected to land in their next firmware update. Decred is now supported by Riemann, a toolbox from James Prestwich to construct transactions for many UTXO-based chains from human-readable strings. Atomic swap with Ethereum on testnet was demonstrated at Blockspot Conference LATAM. Two new faces were added to contributors page. Dev activity stats for May: 238 active PRs, 195 master commits, 32,831 added and 22,280 deleted lines spread across 8 repositories. Contributions came from 4-10 developers per repository. (chart)
Hashrate: rapid growth from ~4,000 TH/s at the beginning of the month to ~15,000 at the end with new all time high of 17,949. Interesting dynamic in hashrate distribution across mining pools: coinmine.pl share went down from 55% to 25% while F2Pool up from 2% to 44%. [Note: as of June 6, the hashrate continues to rise and has already passed 22,000 TH/s] Staking: 30-day average ticket price is 91.3 DCR (+0.8), stake participation is 46.9% (+0.8%) with 3.68 million DCR locked (+0.15). Min price was 85.56. On May 11 ticket price surged to 96.99, staying elevated for longer than usual after such a pump. Locked DCR peaked at 47.17%. jet_user on reddit suggested that the DCR for these tickets likely came from a miner with significant hashrate. Nodes: there are 226 public listening and 405 normal nodes per dcred.eu. Version distribution: 45% on v1.2.0 (up from 24% last month), 39% on v1.1.2, 15% on v1.1.0 and 1% running outdaded versions.
Obelisk team posted an update. Current hashrate estimate of DCR1 is 1200 GH/s at 500 W and may still change. The chips came back at 40% the speed of the simulated results, it is still unknown why. Batch 1 units may get delayed 1-2 weeks past June 30. See discussions on decred and on siacoin. @SiaBillionaire estimated that 7940 DCR1 units were sold in Batches 1-5, while Lynmar13 shared his projections of DCR1 profitability (reddit). A new Chinese miner for pre-order was noticed by our Telegram group. Woodpecker WB2 specs 1.5 TH/s at 1200 W, costs 15,000 CNY (~2,340 USD) and the initial 150 units are expected to ship on Aug 15. (pow8.com – translated) Another new miner is iBelink DSM6T: 6 TH/s at 2100 W costing $6,300 (ibelink.co). Shipping starts from June 5. Some concerns and links were posted in these twothreads.
A new mining pool is available now: altpool.net. It uses PPLNS model and takes 1% fee. Another infrastructure addition is tokensmart.io, a newly audited stake pool with 0.8% fee. There are a total of 14 stake pools now. Exchange integrations:
Upbit added DCKRW and DCUSDT pairs. A user reported that DCR deposits and withdrawals are now available.
CoinEx announced the launch of DCBTC and DCBCH pairs.
Bleutrade added DCUSDT pair. Note their reply to our tweet. It was the first exchange to list Decred minutes after launch.
Brazilian exchange OmniTradeadded DCBRL fiat pair following a poll. Worth noting that it is one of the first to integrate Trezor sign-in.
There are reports that DCR was added to Abucoins and Tor Exchange but we don't know much about them.
OpenBazaar released an update that allows one to trade cryptocurrencies, including DCR. @i2Rav from i2trading is now offering two sided OTC market liquidity on DCUSD in #trading channel. Paytomat, payments solution for point of sale and e-commerce, integrated Decred. (missed in April issue) CoinPayments, a payment processor supporting Decred, developed an integration with @Shopify that allows connected merchants to accept cryptocurrencies in exchange for goods.
michae2xl: Voto Legal: CEO Thiago Rondon of Appcívico, has already been contacted by 800 politicians and negotiations have started with four pre-candidates for the presidency (slack, source tweet)
Blockfolio rolled out Signal Beta with Decred in the list. Users who own or watch a coin will automatically receive updates pushed by project teams. Nice to see this Journal made it to the screenshot! Placeholder Ventures announced that Decred is their first public investment. Their Investment Thesis is a clear and well researched overview of Decred. Among other great points it noted the less obvious benefit of not doing an ICO:
By choosing not to pre-sell coins to speculators, the financial rewards from Decred’s growth most favor those who work for the network.
One project that stands out at #Consensus2018 is @decredproject. Not annoying. Real tech. Humble team. #BUIDL is strong with them. (@PallerJohn)
Token Summit in New York, USA. @cburniske and @jmonegro from Placeholder talked "Governance and Cryptoeconomics" and spoke highly of Decred. (twitter coverage: 12, video, video (from 32 min)) Campus Party in Bahia, Brazil. João Ferreira aka @girino and Gabriel @Rhama were introducing Decred, talking about governance and teaching to perform atomic swaps. (photos) Decred was introduced to the delegates from Shanghai's Caohejing Hi-Tech Park, organized by @ybfventures. Second Decred meetup in Hangzhou, China. (photos) Madison Blockchain in Madison, USA. "Lots of in-depth questions. The Q&A lasted longer than the presentation!". (photo) Blockspot Conference Latam in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (photos: 1, 2) Upcoming events:
The Long-Term Bullish Case for Decred by Ben Davidow (medium.com)
Hardware Companies Are Launching Dedicated ASIC Miners for Decred (btcmanager.com)
Iterative Capital partner Chris Dannen and journalist Ben Schiller speak with Marco and Jonathan from Decred at Consensus 2018 (soundcloud)
Decred Review: What is DCR, the Decred Community & Possible Challenges by BitBoy Crypto (youtube)
Decred Founder: Bitcoin Paved Way, Phase 2 Will Shock You! (Marco Peereboom) by Pure Blockchain Wealth (youtube)
Decred & Blocknet: Revolutionary governance for every community feat. JZ at Consensus 2018 (youtube)
Decred coin - Will it be better than Bitcoin? by Bitassist (youtube)
Community stats: Twitter 39,118 (+742), Reddit 8,167 (+277), Slack 5,658 (+160). Difference is between May 5 and May 31. Reddit highlights: transparent up/down voting on Politeia, combining LN and atomic swaps, minimum viable superorganism, the controversial debate on Decred contractor model (people wondered about true motives behind the thread), tx size and fees discussion, hard moderation case, impact of ASICs on price, another "Why Decred?" thread with another excellent pitch by solar, fee analysis showing how ticket price algorithm change was controversial with ~100x cut in miner profits, impact of ticket splitting on ticket price, recommendations on promoting Decred, security against double spends and custom voting policies. @R3VoLuT1OneR posted a preview of a proposal from his company for Decred to offer scholarships for students. dcrtrader gained a couple of new moderators, weekly automatic threads were reconfigured to monthly and empty threads were removed. Currently most trading talk happens on #trading and some leaks to decred. A separate trading sub offers some advantages: unlimited trading talk, broad range of allowed topics, free speech and transparent moderation, in addition to standard reddit threaded discussion, permanent history and search. Forum: potential social attacks on Decred. Slack: the #governance channel created last month has seen many intelligent conversations on topics including: finite attention of decision makers, why stakeholders can make good decisions (opposed to a common narrative than only developers are capable of making good decisions), proposal funding and contractor pre-qualification, Cardano and Dash treasuries, quadratic voting, equality of outcome vs equality of opportunity, and much more. One particularly important issue being discussed is the growing number of posts arguing that on-chain governance and coin voting is bad. Just a few examples from Twitter: Decred is solving an imagined problem (decent response by @jm_buirski), we convince ourselves that we need governance and ticket price algo vote was not controversial, on-chain governance hurts node operators and it is too early for it, it robs node operators of their role, crypto risks being captured by the wealthy, it is a huge threat to the whole public blockchain space, coin holders should not own the blockchain. Some responses were posted here and here on Twitter, as well as this article by Noah Pierau.
The month of May has seen Decred earn some much deserved attention in the markets. DCR started the month around 0.009 BTC and finished around 0.0125 with interim high of 0.0165 on Bittrex. In USD terms it started around $81 and finished around $92, temporarily rising to $118. During a period in which most altcoins suffered, Decred has performed well; rising from rank #45 to #30 on Coinmarketcap. The addition of a much awaited KRW pair on Upbit saw the price briefly double on some exchanges. This pair opens up direct DCR to fiat trading in one of the largest cryptocurrency markets in the world. An update from @i2Rav:
We have begun trading DCR in large volume daily. The interest around DCR has really started to grow in terms of OTC quote requests. More and more customers are asking about trading it.
Like in previous month, Decred scores high by "% down from ATH" indicator being #2 on onchainfx as of June 6.
David Vorick (@taek) published lots of insights into the world of ASIC manufacturing (reddit). Bitmain replied. Bitmain released an ASIC for Equihash (archived), an algorithm thought to be somewhat ASIC-resistant 2 years ago. Threepure PoWcoins were attacked this month, one attempting to be ASIC resistant. This shows the importance of Decred's PoS layer that exerts control over miners and allows Decred to welcome ASIC miners for more PoW security without sacrificing sovereignty to them. Upbit was raided over suspected fraud and put under investigation. Following news reported no illicit activity was found and suggested and raid was premature and damaged trust in local exchanges. Circle, the new owner of Poloniex, announced a USD-backed stablecoin and Bitmain partnership. The plan is to make USDC available as a primary market on Poloniex. More details in the FAQ. Poloniex announced lower trading fees. Bittrex plans to offer USD trading pairs. @sumiflow made good progress on correcting Decred market cap on several sites:
speaking of market cap, I got it corrected on coingecko, cryptocompare, and worldcoinindex onchainfx, livecoinwatch, and cryptoindex.co said they would update it about a month ago but haven't yet I messaged coinlib.io today but haven't got a response yet coinmarketcap refused to correct it until they can verify certain funds have moved from dev wallets which is most likely forever unknowable (slack)
About This Issue
Some source links point to Slack messages. Although Slack hides history older than ~5 days, you can read individual messages if you paste the message link into chat with yourself. Digging the full conversation is hard but possible. The history of all channels bridged to Matrix is saved in Matrix. Therefore it is possible to dig history in Matrix if you know the timestamp of the first message. Slack links encode the timestamp: https://decred.slack.com/archives/C5H9Z63AA/p1525528370000062 => 1525528370 => 2018-05-05 13:52:50. Most information from third parties is relayed directly from source after a minimal sanity check. The authors of Decred Journal have no ability to verify all claims. Please beware of scams and do your own research. Your feedback is precious. You can post on GitHub, comment on Reddit or message us in #writers_room channel. Credits (Slack names, alphabetical order): bee, Richard-Red, snr01 and solar.
UPDATE: CNBC gave me $1,000 to start a business in 14 days, so I launched a crypto apparel line
In a strange, one-of-a-kind assignment, I was given $1,000 and told to launch a business -- any business. The only requirement was that it had to go live in two weeks and that all profits would be donated to charity. After spending $500 to get the site up and running with the design feedback of a bunch of my friends in /Bitcoin - I'm stoked to say sales at https://cryptocrow.co/ just crossed the $2,000 mark in just two weeks. Not only that, but about 15% of orders were paid for in bitcoin, which gives me huge hope that other Shopify stores will follow my lead in accepting crypto as a form of payment. It took some sleepless nights, but every suggestion from the last thread got added to the store, so please keep throwing ideas out there if you got them! As a thank you to everyone who helped me out, I'm sharing the discount code that's equal to the discount I gave my coworkers. Please don't tell my boss or share it outside the subreddit :) Use "RedditBitcoinFam" at checkout for 15% Off. Thanks in advance for any thoughts! Backstory: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/20/crypto-crow-how-to-launch-an-online-business-with-very-little-money.html
Building a Digital Agency from Nothing - #1 - 2/12/18
Note - this is a repost from EntrepreneurRideAlong and was originally written for that subreddit. If you'd like to follow along with this series I will be posting them on the RideAlong subreddit as well as Medium (https://medium.com/@akedar). My first post gained a lot of interest on EntrepreneurRideAlong so I figured why not post here as well. Hello, I am starting a "digital agency" with 2 other guys. The agency really just sells websites right now. I've always been very good at marketing and growing businesses, however, I always thought the idea of an agency was pointless. Why work for someone else if you're so good at marketing? If you're SO good at building businesses, wouldn't you just be a bazillionaire and enjoy life on the beach? Anyway, I've come around to the fact that what I enjoy most is growing businesses and marketing - I like going from 0 to 100 more than I like going from 100 to 110. Anyway, I'm going to post here as well as on Medium throughout this. Not going to say daily but it could end up being daily. Will wait and see. Maybe a vlog will come, not sure how I feel about that. I spend most of my time on entrepreneur but this sub is beautiful and works perfectly for me. I was trying to figure out a way to document this journey and remembered this sub exists (plus entrepreneur just had a top post about how shit it was and how good this was). Document, don't create (Gary v!) Getting Started I decided to start off with websites as the main service offered for a number of reasons. For one, the barrier of entry is fairly low. While years of web dev experience can be useful, Wordpress and all the other sites out there make it so someone unfamiliar with frontend could quickly learn the necessary steps to creating websites. (You see this a lot with creatives nowadays - my dad has 30+ years experience in the video production world + said he sees 20-year-olds pumping out videos that look similar to his work. The main leverage he has is expertise and efficiency.) A low barrier of entry gives me room to move - I've been in high barrier of entry businesses before and I think they're more stressful and higher stakes. While I imagine this could eventually turn into a large-scale operation, I'd rather have cash flow and freedom to move around and work on different ideas for now. Another thing that's nice about websites? Low maintenance. I plan to offer a number of different site options to the client based on their business and what they're looking to accomplish. I believe some lower budget clients will be happy with more vanilla sites on wordpress and shopify. These will obviously take less time to create and provide a higher hourly rate than custom alternatives. They'll also be incredibly easy to maintain and update as necessary. Custom sites will certainly cost more and take longer - not sure how many "high end" clients I will have to start so I'm not thinking a ton about this right now. Focused on creating a portfolio and getting recommendations and references. Name So, I have a plan in place - build websites for businesses, help them grow, get paid. We used www.naminum.com/ to come up with a name - Akedar. It flows, I like the look, and names don’t matter. If you haven’t started your venture yet because you can’t think of a good name, you’re a bum. Poor excuse. I never spend more than a day on a name - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Venmo, PayPal, Dosh, Bitcoin, Wix…none of those are fucking words. The name won’t mean anything to people until you make it mean something. Also, Naminum is a word generator that a lot of tech startups use. If you’re wondering how people pull letters out of thin air that sound like words, they usually don’t. Website I whipped up a quick site after registering the domain. Spent roughly 3 hours getting it all set up from start to finish. Spent today refining the site and making modifications. I went for a one page layout (with an extra page for Jobs). It’s clean, simple, and shows what we have to offer. I think I’ll need to beef it up more later to provide viewers more value immediately. Blog posts may be useful - I can boost SEO through relevant articles (i.e. why you need a website, how an online site can boost your business, etc.) My only thought is there are a shit ton of articles like this already out there. May repost to Medium and LinkedIn in order to gain more exposure faster. Regardless, it’ll be fun to get creative and see what I can do. As for the jobs page, why not? I’m not sure how long it’ll take for us to get overloaded in work, but it’ll happen. The more prepared we are to scale, the better. I live in a college town so interns/undervalued work should be easy to come by. The more skills there are to go around, the easier it will be to provide more value to clients without drowning in the process. I’ve tried to do things all by myself before, especially when I was significantly younger. Guess what? There are actually people out there that are just as good, even BETTER than you. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are too hung up on everyone meeting their standard. If you’re really good, this is going to be difficult. Look at it this way - you might be better than that intern at 9/10 things, but boy are they strong with graphic design. Great, get them doing graphic design around the clock and remind yourself not to let them handle customer service again. P.S. Send me a message if you’re looking for freelance work or feel you can bring value to the team in some shape or form. First clients Getting the first clients will be fairly easy - without a portfolio or testimonials, I think the best route to take is to offer heavily discounted sites. If people hesitate still, I'll offer to do it for free. Regardless, I’ll be upfront and transparent to the fact that we’re just starting - if I can’t convince people to buy now, I’m sure I’ll be able to open doors for potential biz down the road. Offering your services free or heavily discounted is nice + people like free shit. Maybe the person you originally contacted doesn’t need/want anything, but they know someone that does and BECAUSE you offered such a nice discount and great deal, they’re willing to help you get their friend’s business. Most of the networking that goes down will be through cold calls, cold emails, Instagram DMs, Twitter messages, and Linkedin. There are so many horrible websites out there - opportunities are endless. The trick isn’t finding businesses - it’s convincing them that the service we provide will give them a positive ROI and is worth the time and money. I have no doubt in my mind every typical “old” business person has THOUGHT OF improving/making their site. For some reason, they think it’s not worth it. That’s either because of the niche they’re in, or because they don’t think the internet is worth the investment. Changing their minds will be fun + exciting. (Note to self - may want to juice up the site more with info on this right off the bat - leaves door open for people to come to us, rather than coming to them and explaining/convincing). The second the first client project is done, I will be creating a past work + testimonial section on the site. Testimonials are crucial to building a business - show people that others are confident in your product and that confidence will spread. Especially with something like digital marketing/web design - people want to see real world results and feel confident that they’ll receive similar results. I plan to use the first few weeks of gaining tractions and clients as a way to determine the gameplan for the future. I’ll analyze what the data is telling me - do I need to focus on higher end clients? Am I wasting time going after certain types of businesses? What’s working? What needs to change? Tim Ferris talks a lot about the Pareto principle - for example, the idea is 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients. Something to keep in mind - If we can work our way up to bigger clients, the ROI may be higher to keep the client base smaller and revenue higher. Again, we will wait and see. Conclusion Thanks for reading - respect to anyone that got this far. Please leave any feedback below! Was this too long? Too short? Just right? I'm hoping to post the site at some point as a way of receiving feedback (not promotion). Waiting to see how people react to this before I do that though - if you'd like to take a look feel free to send me a message and I'll link you (much appreciated). I enjoyed writing this and sharing my thought process - even if one other person liked reading it, that’s good enough for me to keep going. Thanks again for reading!
Adam from Baron Fig here. I'm an ex-Wall Street guy turned startup co-founder. Ever since hearing about BTC I've loved the implications of it, and I'm a full supporter. I wanted to do my small part by accepting BTC, and we've worked hard to make it happen. (Harder than we should have to.) A couple of months ago my co-founder Joey wrote a post about how we pressured our ecommerce platform, Squarespace, to accept Bitcoin. We literally took a trip to their offices to try and convince them that BTC is a good thing. We went around them and managed to hack together support using Coinbase buttons, but it was far from ideal. Your advice was spot on—we spent the last two months redoing our entire site using the Shopify platform, and now we're finally fully integrated. Our site is officially BTC friendly, the transaction is as smooth as butter—and yes, we hold our coins. To date we've sold almost 2 Bitcoin worth of books. Really appreciate everyones support. We're passing the savings along to you and giving a one day discount of 10% off for Bitcoin orders with code FIGCOINS10. Check out the notebooks, and use FIGCOINS10 during checkout > Edit: Due to popular request, our public wallet link is https://blockchain.info/address/1MPApwwGQSiVe5TS6GuUeYuCsFj2NAkE6M. Keep in mind, BitPay batches all payments at end of day. So transaction activity from today will show up then.
Community-led Discord AMA Transcript - October 12th, 2018
On October 12, our CEO - Marshall, Director of Product - Patrick, Director of Business Operations - Kristal, and Senior iOS Engineer - Ephraim stopped by the community-led Discord channel to answer your questions. Here’s a transcript of the questions and answers.
meakkineni: Can you give us some Crumbs stats? Like the number of downloads, total amount managed by Crumbs etc
Patrick: Unfortunately cannot go into detail but we are into the thousands of users.
meakkineni: From the jobs postings looks like you are recruiting more people for Crumbs. Can you tell us about some of the exciting new features that are going to be implemented?
Patrick: Expect to see on-demand purchase of crypto bundles, mainnet deposits and withdraws, integration with Metal Pay, and more coins! Over the coming months, we plan to offer lower fees for MTL holders, unlock features, and more!
Abu: Is Crumbs going to include any gamification aspects in the future? How is the marketing strategy for Crumbs differ from pay?
Patrick: Yes, we will add an element of gamification in the future, the current focus is user acquisition Marshall: Yes big surprise coming here, but I'll save that one for later. the marketing strategy will be closely tied together for both apps as they are tied together, and you will see this from a technical and feature perspective as time progresses
On Metal Pay…
red: How come we don't have referrals yet? Are we holding the feature back for some reason?
Ephraim: Referrals is one of the most exciting features we have in the works, because not only is it a technical challenge on both front-end and back-end, but it also introduces a new way to earn Pop. In fact, we’re just about wrapping up and finalizing the details for this feature, while making plans to translate the tech to support even more ways to earn rewards in the app. Something to look out for in version 1.1.0 😏
flumpson: My biggest hurdle in getting people to sign up is that their bank doesn’t work. In my case it was Citi. When will there be router and account number signup for people who aren’t served by plaid?
Ephraim: Currently the app integrates Plaid, a bank-linking SDK that supports over 90% of U.S. banking customers and is used by some of the biggest names in FinTech. We are aware however that online banking is required with your financial institution, and one way around that is routing/account number input. This feature is on our roadmap as a new service that will verify your account via micro-deposit. TLDR; it’s definitely coming!
Mondo: How do you see Metal Pay taking market share from the more popular apps like Venmo and CashApp? What will convince new users to switch over?
Marshall: I really believe through innovation, amazing user experience and specifically the value proposition to users on new behaviors and new technology. Specifically, I believe PoPP and the interactions with crypto to be completely new behaviors that the mass market is yet to be introduced to. Being paid (currency not points) for making a payment? I think this is a new concept and one that Metal owns. What will convince them? This is the hard question. A viral campaign that gets our apps out there, with proper messaging and the right endorsements I believe is key. Finding the viral loop, increasing our K factor (number of invites that every new user brings). When I started this company I recognized that design, user interface, user experience, incentives, and proper information were the biggest holes in cryptocurrency. We are hitting on all of these pieces.
Mondo: “A viral campaign that gets our apps out there, with proper messaging and the right endorsements I believe is key. Finding the viral loop, increasing our K factor (number of invites that every new user brings)" - is there an estimated date for this campaign? I'm sure your community would love to help where possible as well.
Marshall: We are in the process now of smoke testing our campaign strategies, and we will certainly be involving the community as we begin.
biyamin: "I am not okay putting my social security number in [Metal Pay]. Is there another way?"
Ephraim: This is one of mostly heard feedback, and we’re aware of the friction it can cause among new users. However, it is due to our financial partners' requirements, U.S. law, and FDIC insured Cash balance (we create a bank account on behalf of users) that prompt us to ask for SSN during on-boarding. Rest assured, we have a plan in placed to make onboarding as streamlined as possible, especially when SSN no longer serves as a fool-proof means of identity verification, due to recent security breaches by large firms. Finally, we have in our roadmap to allow users onto the Metal platform with limited KYC. Marshall: Yes in the future you will be able to skip over this requirement, however linking in personal information will make you eligible for PoPP (this serves as the anchor), without it you won't be able to access those rewards and some special features like having a bank account with us.
jake_eisenberg11: When will Metal Pay release in New York happen?
Marshall: This is a tough one, it will happen upon one of two things coming to fruition. An exchange partner joins us who has a Bitlicense and will deeply integrate their back-end with us or us acquiring our Money Transmission License for NY and the accompanying Bitlicense (which if this is the case will take at least 1 year). That being said we're shooting for the former obviously, a partner to help us fast track and we've got a few in the pipeline
[A bunch of different people]: When will Metal Pay release in [insert location here]?
Kristal: I can assist with all the WHEN will Metal Pay release in MY STATE or COUNTRY. We have no firm timelines on either, but we are pursuing all states and expanding to Europe/Asia simultaneously… Ditto for Crumbs.
Jan: Quick one - Metal Pay debit cards?
Marshall: VERY SOON, it's next up on our feature roadmap
redruggles5: Really excited about Metal Pay for merchants, particularly micro-business. Are you able to tell us how that will look and where in the timeline that is? Do you have plans to integrate with current bookkeeping software like QuickBooks, plans for accepting credit cards/integration with Pay, etc? The biggest objection I get is in regards to integration with their current system, the ability to accept cards, addition of QR codes or another private way for customers to pay besides their phone number. Lastly, will there be a separate referral system for merchants?
Marshall: We are very excited as well, in terms of merchants we are going to start with the integrations into existing POS. Integrating with QuickBooks and Intuit are a must for crypto record keeping for S/M/L business, we have ambitious plans for this. Referral system for merchants via consumer - YES.
ekasu: Is there a possibility to increase the Metal Pay bank transfer speed (from 1 day or so currently to within the same day like Venmo) to increase competitiveness/attraction?
Marshall: Yes with Instant ACH for US customers, a feature we will be adding and is in the PF board on Jira
Bitcoinbella: Are there any plans for retail stores to use Metal yet?
Marshall: Yes, a big part of our plan of attack here is to launch first with the debit card so we can go anywhere Visa/MC is accepted. The next step is to go after small business with technical integrations through payment partners as well as simple QR codes at the register similar to Wechat/Alipay (China really inspires me). Technical integrations - this means WooCommerce, WordPress, Shopify, Authorize.net, etc, and for physical brick and mortar stores working directly with processors (lots of them see Square as a threat and are much larger, eventually Square will go to cut out interchange and stick it to the credit card companies, many partnership opportunities abound)
jake_eisenberg11: When cannabis merchant service?!?!?!
Marshall: We have pivoted away from high-risk merchants, that being said crypto is like cash and is permission-less. The bank poses no restrictions on what you do with cash withdrawn from the ATM unless you are doing something that could be considered illegal or pose harm to the bank. Very similar to us, replace paper cash with crypto.
ekasu: What is the deadline looking for these features: (a) transfer Metal to erc20 wallet/Metal vault; (b) use Metal Pay with merchants
Marshall: Mainnet deposit/withdrawal early end of this year or January. Metal merchants will kick off with our card integration for consumers, integrations for Merchant will start next year (upon hiring more developers) Glenn very early on built a very cool WordPress plugin for WooCommerce. These integrations for WP, Shopify, etc will come first and most likely early in 2019.
meakkineni: Looking at things so far, I have a feeling that PoPP score implementation has barely started. What is the time frame we are looking for it to go live?
Marshall: PoPP score is implemented just not integrated into the UI, this is a high priority one for us.
Decoder1: There's been talk about making the MTL token more prominent in both Crumbs and MetalPay. Some things which have been mentioned are discounted fee's, moving it to the top of the buy list, unlocking special features and obviously the increased POPP score which has already been confirmed. Are these still in the works or have they been shelved? If so are there any other bonus features Metal are considering?
Marshall: I'm really looking forward to adding these additional features to highlight the special function of MTL inside the Metal ecosystem of apps. Some things that have not been talked about yet are early access on special features for users with a MTL balance, gamified features to unlock surge PoPP, partner integrations and more.
NilesCrane: What will be the utility of the MTL token when other tokens are available to be popped? What will being the 'native currency' for the Metallicus apps involve and why would you expect this to drive the token price higher when other tokens are available in the same network? kt: When will we start to see some other utilities for the MTL token through pay and Crumbs etc, other than the existing PoPP mechanism, and what are they likely to be?
Ephraim: We have a grand vision of how Metal and Pop will play a role in your daily experience on the Metal platform. Although we can’t go into too much detail into the features we have in our roadmap, we can say that MTL token will be an essential part of the Metal platform and overall ecosystem. Earning Pop when making payments is the stepping stone to realizing this vision, as we become the best, most rewarding, and user-friendly payments/crypto platform on the market.
Deaethtofiat: Will Metal's [ticker] still be changing?
Marshall: That [$XMT] is something we want to do upon announcing our mainnet chain.
Tblgu: Did Metal pay a fee for Bittrex relisting?
Kristal: Simple answer is no. We haven't seen any American-based exchanges charging for listings, and we believe the Bittrex re-listing was based entirely on the merits of our company.
marc0o: I know it might take a while until Metal reaches Europe. My favorite and IMO very promising exchange (Lykke) often gets the question whether PayPal can be used to deposit EUR or FIAT in general. Do you think it would be possible and useful to partner up with exchanges to provide FIAT deposits/withdraws?
Marshall: Yes we absolutely do and are talking to top exchanges right now, there are so many exchanges that are crypto/crypto only and we think we make a very nice fit for an integration to be the onramp/offramp, p2p payments, spending and link to the merchant world. This is a critical part of our business model and so far we are seeing HEAVY interest.
lemme: Why is Metal selling so much $MTL from the operational pool for such a low price?
Marshall: Selling and spending are two different things, so I think one of the assumptions is that selling = spending which is not the case. Yes, we are selling MTL to fund our operating bank, but not spending it at the rate that we are selling it. We are doing this because of three reasons: (1) We raised a very small amount last year to build out our apps (which arguably we have delivered) $3m vs most crypto startups raising $20m+ and we have delivered much, much more. (2) We need to demonstrate a full year of burn in the bank account to close the audit. (3) We need to close the audit to retain our money transmission licenses to get all fifty states, Europe as well, in addition to certain features like in app-exchange that we do directly. We're actively growing the company and as soon as we close Series A we will stop selling and focus on accumulating (not only MTL, but certainly as much MTL as we can get our hands on while diversifying).
ekasu: How likely is that more MTL is taken out of the operational pool in the short term, which can decrease the price much more?
Marshall: MTL will be taken out of the operational pool until the successful closing of our financing round which we are in the process of right now
meakkineni: Have you come up with any other significant use cases for MTL apart from BNB style use case in Crumbs and building a better PoPP score?
Marshall: Yes, and you will be hearing more about that as we plan to release an updated paper showcasing the fully decentralized aspects of the chain we are building.
marc0o: I hope I remember it right. A while ago Marshall talked about Metal being a service targeting people that do not have a bank account. Is this still on the roadmap?
Marshall: Yes it is. I know it may not appear that way right now but I firmly believe a good product keeps a narrow execution and a large vision. So the first part of the network and what will eventually become decentralized is starting on the equivalent of testnet or centralized (this is not too different than Bitcoin or Ethereum in the early days). We’re starting with linked bank accounts and moving to keep that as an option that people can skip over and opt to choose a stable coin, all while creating a Metal profile and [obtaining a] PoPP score.
Parker: Would Metal consider doing token buybacks (a la BNB)? Are they even legal in the U.S.? Could doing so make Metal a security?
Marshall: As a company, we will buy different cryptocurrencies at different times depending upon the market situation, buying MTL is something that we will do, as far as any guarantee to x amount being bought back per quarter or percentage of profit, that is most likely indefinitely off the table for a US company.
CryptoSheffield: Do you “own” the PoPP concept?
Marshall: We own trademarks yes, the first mention of media and are working on a provisional patent. This type of thing is very hard to get a patent for even harder to defend right now.
Future: Some people noticed Sid no longer on the website. Has he moved on? If so what's the story there?
Kristal: Sid put together some beautiful designs and helped shape and create the early stages of Metal until it's launch. As we move into the next stage of post-launch, we amicably parted ways with Sid and wish him continued success wherever he goes. As a company, we're on the hunt for a Principal Designer to continue our progress on great design and user interface, to push us into the next phase of our product. Marshall: I'd also like to add design is incredibly important to me and the reason I hired Sid. If you follow my work from my first crypto/fintech startup I've always been a stickler for amazing user experience and design, specifically with Metal I'm going above and beyond and creating what I believe to be a work of art, something that will be on showcase in the Moma in 20 years from now on a design exhibit.
SciGuy: You guys still thinking of launching in Korea? Of all the places, this is where I'm actually going to be paying very close attention. Korea loves crypto.
Marshall: BIG TIME. We want to enter the Korean market ASAP as we know we have quite a few fans there. The goal is to quickly enter the international market by the end of this year. Now that Nebula is working the next hurdles are bank/FI partners, licensing, localization and marketing (its more complicated than that but those are the critical pieces to expansion). Keep in mind we will be allowing anyone in the world to sign up in the future and skip bank while choosing a stablecoin as their "bank" fiat choice. This goes back to the unbanked question. If we just release a crypto wallet and say tada we've banked the unbanked... have we really? I'm serious when I say it. And you can see it in the progression with our products and the vision. Gotta link existing banked citizens along with merchants and unbanked, they all must be in the same ecosystem. Otherwise, the dream can't become a reality.
andrea: I would like to ask about timing. I remember there was a talk about things that could be done before EOY such as new crypto implementing PoPP; debit card, series A round.
Marshall: Yes, I'm happy to say this is all on track. In terms of fundraising round, I believe the missing link for us is demonstrating user growth and b2b client acquisition, something we are working on fiercely right now. One of the things I saw in Dogecoin community that was really awesome was the involvement of the community in viral campaigns (especially for good) such as NascaJosh Wise, Doge for water, Sending the Jamaican bobsled team to the Winter Olympics.
nofomo: Anything you can share about things to look forward to before EOY? Any big partnerships, etc.? From a marketing perspective, are there ways that MTL can showcase or communicate SEC compliance more? Not to flaunt it, but as people scramble out of bad projects/Tether, etc., it might help to get more info out there. When Desk, and can we expect to see USD/MTL pairs?
Marshall: We have quite a few new features coming: PoPP in under ten minutes always, PoPP notifier so you can know if a payment is PoPP eligible, API for other companies (exchanges, cryptos, FIs), adding more cryptos for PoPP funnel, buy functionality, mainnet deposit/withdrawal. Partnerships we have a few big ones in the pipeline 😉 In terms of compliance I think our actions speak louder than words, we operated very differently than 99% of the other companies in the space and focused heavily on compliance in a rapidly evolving landscape. We were chastised initially for keeping the token offering private and to accredited but in the long run this was the correct way to operate and we're seeing that now. Desk/Vault is postponed until next year as we have more than enough to conquer right now on Pay/Crumbs... USD/MTL pairs, soon!!! Not just with us, but on other exchanges we anticipate.
meakkineni: Has any other banks shown interest in Metal lately?
Marshall: Yes, a few big ones, as well as smaller tier 2 banks
meakkineni: Is there any tangible benefit Metal has gained so far by sponsoring Necker Cup?
Marshall: Yes, quite a bit with partners we are in talks with now, in addition to bringing in investors in our next financing round... Not to forget influencers!
cryptoandcannabis: Is there any institutional support for Metal being shown, even in preliminary stages? Now that traditional asset custodians such as Fidelity are in the mix maybe MTL can become a slice of people's crypto asset class
Marshall: We are starting to see interest from the big custodians in the space, very exciting times. Fidelity recently entering has really helped this, in addition, several trust companies are opening up.
On Metal Blockchain…
1Chance: Will [Metal] consider supporting any of the stablecoins?
Marshall: Yes, all of the good ones we will be supporting.
Yannik: Will be some parts of the new Metal Blockchain open source? And based on Stellar?
Marshall: Yes it most certainly will be open source and anyone can connect to our public network. Based on Stellar? Where are you getting this information? 😛
Québécoiserie: Are you working on Metal Blockchain now or has it not started yet?
Marshall: We are in the very beginning phases and testing the assumptions for PoPP on our centralized back-end. Additionally, we are in the process of raising a funding round, The Metal Foundation will be running the open source initiative when we launch it next year.
Decoder1: There is a lot of talk about a Metal blockchain - this sounds exciting but also quite ambitious because it can take years to achieve the fine tuning and security required to develop a new blockchain. Would it be PoW? PoS? Wouldn't it be easier to build a side chain on Ethereum like Loom, or build something on Cosmos SDK to take advantage of existing layer 1 security solutions? If you plan to one day PoPP with other tokens Cosmos might be a good idea. My concern is that with a small team and many things like Desk, Merchant, revamped Vault, new features on the App, Android, new regions, that Metal might be biting off more than it can chew. So if you could elaborate more on these plans that would be great!
Marshall: This is a correct assumption and we are already doing a lot, there is a reason we have put Vault/Desk on hold while we focus on Crumbs and Pay. In terms of the blockchain side, we are staying agnostic and specifically with the consensus mechanism we are looking at lots of options. We will, without a doubt, be leveraging other chains for interoperability. Jae Kwon is a good friend of mine and I think Cosmos has a lot of potential (I'm an investor full disclosure), I also look at the work that has been done with Komodo leveraging the bitcoin blockchain, I find this very interesting as well. The idea here is that this will be a non-profit initiative under The Metal Foundation and not directly intertwined with Metallicus Inc. the private company.
meakkineni: Lately we have been talking more about Metal Blockchain than Metal Merchant. Has the focus shifted?
Marshall: The focus has not shifted, one of the things that did change from the inception of the project until now is that we've decided to stay away from re-inventing POS and merchant software, we feel that it is better to partner with processors than try to replace them ala Square
Sporklin: I did warn I came with a vital question. @Marshall Shoes, you are known in the crypto space for having good taste in clothes. What is on your feet at the moment?
Hey - Pat from StarterStory.com here with a writeup from Ahmad Iqbal. Ahmad was one of the first people I interviewed at Starter Story for his bidet business. Now he's working on building Shopify apps and wrote this awesome post about his transition: One of the best pieces of advice I was given was to Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. And it wasn’t until I came across a big problem that I realized how perfect this advice is. My name is Ahmad Iqbal and I’m currently running two online businesses. I am both an Ecommerce Merchant as well as an Ecommerce App Developer. The first of the two is my online store where I sell hand-held bidets. The later business, borne of the need to increase bidet sales, guided me to designing and developing apps for other merchants, like me. In this post I want to illustrate how I made the leap from selling bidets online, to building an app design and development team. It’s strange for me to say it out loud, "how does one go from selling butt cleaning appliances to building and marketing apps?" So when Pat from Starter Story reached out to do a follow-up piece to my original post I was happy to try and put my experiences into words. Not just for others to read, but for myself in documenting my journey. If the title hasn’t already given it away, this will be about my relationship with Problems. I'm going to start at the middle (quiting my job) and then go to 2015 when this 'starter story' actually started, followed by the meat and potatos of the frameworks we use in our app development model. My desk and kanban board
Quitting my Job & Making Money through Shopify Apps
From 2015 to 2017 I was working full-time at a global Big Four firm as a Senior Technology Consultant. My job was to help Fortune 1000 companies get their products to market faster. During my time growing my bidet store, I was starting to become more and more immersed in growth marketing. So much so, that I spun out a marketing framework I used for myself and called it the "Agile Marketing Framework" for the firm. Everything I was learning on my own time for growing my own business, was helping me be better for my big clients at my job. But even though doing well at work felt great, it was WAY more fun helping small businesses. In 2017 I had decided the world needs better small businesses, not bigger big businesses. But in order to quit my job (my Nadeef bidet sales were taking a hit with my attention now diverted between my demanding full-time job, app design/development, and supporting Scout merchants) I needed to figure out if building apps on Shopify would be a viable business model. Was it even possible to earn a living selling apps full time? It seemed like a tough proposition. I would need thousands of merchants paying at least $20/month to create a successful business. I didn’t think it would be possible, until I came across the Bold Commerce story. This four person team in Winnipeg, Manitoba, had almost the same story as us. Merchants first, identified gaps in the app store, and deciding to build apps on Shopify. Bold Commerce now employs almost 300 people, with no outside funding to date, and with their growth solely on the Shopify platform. This case study was enough to convince us to take the leap, I wanted us to be like Bold. Having decided it was in fact possible to build positive cash flows through app subscriptions on Shopify, next thing we had to do was get our financing organized. We decided to take three months to prepare and think about if this problem was something we wanted to dedicate the next several years of our lives to. This three month period was my time to save as much money as I could, and test my own conviction. This time was a constant decision making cycle, where I continually asked myself if the market was big enough, if the problem was widespread enough, and if I had the right pieces in place. It was an important lesson from my first startup attempt almost seven years earlier. In my first startup we picked the wrong market, at the wrong time, with no experience or resources, and the result was a four year uphill campaign that left us in pieces. So before quitting my job, every dollar of income was saved, Bitcoins were cashed, plans to move out of my parent’s basement were halted, and I started creating a partner network across the ecommerce ecosystem. We had enough to focus on building our apps for 36 months without worrying about money or raising venture capital. Today we’re on month 12 out of 36.
Let's Talk About the Failure First
Instead of jupming straight into Scout (the first app we built and the main subject of this post) let me first tell you about one of our apps that did not do well. Our "hand-written" notes app was attempted after the initial success of Scout, but it was a wake up call to stay focused on the problem, not the solution. After quitting my job, and landing on the bigger problem of customer experience as our company mandate (more on this later), we decided to offer hand-written note services. We figured customers would love getting a handwritten note from merchants, so with little else research, or testing, we went ahead and started building out this crazy printer. A video about how it worked The app would connect to your Shopify backend, identify your VIP customers, and then convert that customer information into a special Adobe Illustrator script that would feed into the printer. The printer then would proceed to start writing the notes in a handwritten style font (both the letter copy and the addresses on the envelope). We rolled this app out as an added skill to Scout. Basically, when Scout would alert you about the previous days’ VIP customers, it now offered an additional button labeled "Send Handwrote Card" which when pressed would instigate our printer. When the card was printed, I’d just have to put the postage stamp on it and drop it off at the post office which was across the street from our co-working space. I believe this idea failed because I fell in love with the solution (cool looking robotic handwriting printer) rather than the problem it was designed to solve. I still believe there is value in this idea, but by overbuilding the solution first, we lost track of what was most important. If I had to do it again I would have done a few things differently: 1. Manually write and fulfill the cards myself while doing the merchant discovery Because there exists an intimate relationship between selling the service, and having to manually having to fulfill the service. It gives you more appreciation for the process and what’s important to do it successfully. Like with Scout, where I called my customers up manually through finding their details myself, and only after seeing how to do it well proceeded to systemize it with an app. 2. Personally talk to each merchant who wanted cards written This would have been the best (only?) way to validate the value of the service. How important is this service for merchants? What else do they wish they could give as 'thank you's? What price would they be willing to pay on high volume handwritten cards? How much does it bother them that the cards are not personally written by the brand, and hence not authentic? 3. Write 0 lines of new code Why divert precious development time and resources on something if A) it’s possible to do manually, and B) there is no guarantee that it’s a lucrative idea? Thinking back, this idea was destined to fail for several reasons. Writing notes is very time consuming, there isn’t enough volume in the merchants who wanted to use it, the authenticity of the cards dies if customers figure out it’s not actually written by a person (even though it fooled almost anyone who looked at it). Even if we had done this the lean way and manually tested first, I still think we would have stopped offering the solution. But if I had just followed my four step Identify, Test, Build, Measure framework we would have saved the $4,000 we ended up spending designing and developing the software, and sourcing this printer and it’s parts. I would have found out in the Test section of the cycle that this is way too time consuming and merchants have too many questions about it to feel comfortable signing off on handwritten notes on high volume. The handwritten note printer is now a piece of decoration at our office, but hey, at least it makes for a good conversation! And it taught me what I'm about to share with you today...
Identifying a Problem
Rewind back to 2015, a few months after opening my Nadeef hand-held bidet store on Shopify I found myself tackling the abandoned checkout problem, something every merchants probably faces. For every three potential customers that reached the final stage of checkout, one wasn’t pulling out their credit card. The way I saw it, I was leaking 33% of my sales in the final, most crucial, "moment of truth." I was new to this field, I didn’t know the jargon or the best practices, all I knew was I needed to plug this hole. I went down a rabbit hole of recommendations, blog posts, forum threads, apps and YouTube videos. I tried many tactics, with varying degrees of "success" but later I realized I was asking myself the wrong question. Instead of asking "How can I recovery these sales?" I should have been asking “Why are customer abandoning their checkout?” At first I tried to extrapolate why they abandoned through the default go-to answers most blog posts claim are the reasons, like shipping timeframes, pricing, return policies, etc. But I knew these weren’t the real issues causing the abandoned cart because I would address them in my auto-recovery emails, exit-popups, Facebook retargeting campaigns, or all the other ways I would try to reduce abandons. As simple as those recovery tactics may seem, I now know I was overthinking it. There was only one thing I could do to figure out why someone abandoned their checkout. Pick up the phone, and ask them one-on-one. Before I go on, I should state that my recovery rate at this point was around 10%. And Shopify’s dashboard told me this was a good thing. I just didn’t think that was good at all. It meant that for every 10 people who reached the final stage of their checkout only one person actually returned to buy? Sure it's better than $0, but what about the other 90% who aren't returning? Surely we could do better than 1/10... ...and I wanted to talk to those nine people. Calling my abandoned checkout customers changed everything. It changed my whole perspective about how to do business, and it continues to change it even now. At first, there was hesitation to call up a customer out of the blue, but the desire to figure out the problem far outweighed any "worst-case" awkward conversation. Not to mention, they weren’t cold leads, these were highly interested customer who reached the final steps of making a purchase. In my head I kept telling myself this was exactly as if someone walked into a store, grabbed some items, placed them on the checkout counter, but just as they were about to pull out their wallet, they turned around and walked out the door. Wouldn’t the store owner ask what’s up? So I just smiled and dialled. The results were tremendous. I went from recovering 10% of my abandoned checkouts from auto-emails, to recovering 55% when I got them on the phone. Not only that but by gathering feedback and identifying holes in my offering the percentage of abandons slowly decreased as well. I’ve outlined my learnings from calling customers in this diagram
Creating a Solution
I saw my process was working, but now I needed to systemize it so I could maintain consistency in my callbacks. I quickly learned that the longer I waited to call the abandoned customer back the less likely I would be able to recover the sale. I really just needed an alert app, one that would push notify me as soon as someone abandoned, tell me what products they left, and their phone number. There was nothing in the app store that provided this function. Don’t get me wrong, there were tonnes of cart recovery apps available. The top results, the "Top 10" lists, all relied on exit-popups, and auto-emails. I didn’t want an app to take an auto-action by auto-sending an email, or auto-sending a Facebook message. I wanted to be told, so I could take action on it personally. I needed this because I learned how important the one-on-one relationship with my own customer was. So I called up one of my friends, who was also the developer on my first start-up, and one weekend later Scout was born. It was stupid simple. 20 minutes after an abandoned checkout, Scout would email me with the key details I needed. When I got this email all I had to do was tap the phone number in the email and my phone would automatically start dialling. It wasn’t an exciting or sexy process. It wasn’t even very hard. There was no user interface to design, there was no website to develop, it was just a hacked prototype with one simple, useful, function. If an abandoned checkout, then email me. And it just took a weekend to build. I used this prototype of Scout for my own needs for several months. It was easier to manage because I was push notified when I needed to take an action. It maintained my high recovery rate. And most importantly, it was fun to know when an abandon happened in real-time, it made my site feel more alive. Bend the conversion curve Having used it for a few months and not seeing any slowdown in its utility for my store, we decided this was a tactic every merchant should have in their sales strategy. We iterated on the first version of the email-only alert channel and made it a Facebook Messenger bot, sort of like a customer relationship focused personal assistant. Scout's job would be to alert merchants when a customer abandoned their checkout, and give you their checkout details. So we published the free app in the Shopify App Store and one review at a time, we realized it was as useful for many others as it was for us. Merchants were sending thank you emails to us, and it was here we felt we had found our first glimmer of that ever illusive "Product-Market Fit." You have to remember, during this time both my friend and I had full-time jobs, and I was also running my bidet store. Scout was in no way near something resembling a business. And we didn’t approach it at all to be its own business. We just wanted to put something out into the world that would have an impact. Plain and simple. Our first few installs came organically from the Shopify App Store, and a few weeks later we had a small spike as a result of Felix Thea’s Shopify Masters Podcast where, as a guest I spoke about Nadeef and mentioned Scout. We didn’t do any marketing for it until we reached about 1,000 merchants through organic search, which took over a year to achieve. It felt good making an impact for so many entrepreneurs, but we didn’t feel we had anything to quit our jobs for, yet…
What is "Product-Market Fit"?
Finding product-market fit is a term used very frequently in the startup or entrepreneurial circles. If you’ve found product-market fit, it means you’ve figured out how to consistently deliver value to a group of people (and get paid as a result). The two components in this equation are Product and Market. In my experience, the key is to start with the market. It’s important to start with the market because that’s the big immovable environment you’re in. It’s uncertain, it’s changing, there are producers and consumers operating in it already. One can’t create a market, one can only play in it, and so the market is the "hard part." The product side of the equation is the easy part. These days if you can dream it, you can figure out how to make it, or get it made. For example, if you want to build a skateboard that can be converted into a surfboard, you could probably figure that out. Let's assume you've done that, it looks great, and has tonnes of cool features like an intergrated smartphone app! Awesome, great work! But now that it's built, who’s going to buy it? Where do they live, what's the population of all the surf-friendly cities? Who suffers badly enough from carrying two boards? How big is the problem? How much are people willing to pay for this? How often do they need to buy parts/replace their boards? The point is, if you confident in your answers to the above questions and your ability to establish a distribution and marketing strategy to your ideal target market, then it makes sense to start product developerment. The same rules apply for app development. I will clarify that I didn’t think Scout had enough of a product-market fit at the time. I thought we had found some fit, but we still had (have) a long way to go. After all, it is a free app and no one pays for it, so we don’t really have a way to measure if it valuable enough that people pay for it. The way this went down for us was simple. We were trying to solve my problem first. Being one of the participants in the "market" that had a problem with online sales, I slowly learned what I needed. And when I saw it helped/worked/was awesome, I had de-risked the product enough to feel comfortable going to market with it. In my case, it was as simple as publishing Scout to the app store AFTER knowing it was working for me. Build, measure, learn diagram This is again, why the advice of falling in love with the problem, is so great. Because it forces you to think about the market, and its needs, first.
Iterating the Product
Fast forward about a year after using Scout. I was looking through my list of customers, ordered from highest Lifetime Value (LTV) to lowest, and noticed something really fascinating. Eight out of my top 10 customers had originally abandoned their checkout and were individuals I had personally reached out over the phone. This means that by calling my abandoned checkout customers I was not only recovering the sale, but as a result they were turning into VIP customers. This was a huge wake up call because it helped me understand the real problem in my online sales strategy. If calling my abandoned checkout customers resulted in them becoming loyal customers, what if I also called those who bought without abandoning? If the one-on-one phone call is the common denominator for the high retention rate, why not apply it to more customers? Thinking back to the phone conversations over the previous 12 months I realized the most valuable bi-product of asking for feedback was not the sale itself. Rather, it was the lasting brand impression that a friendly, pre-sale service call had on my customer. Suddenly my high recovery rate made so much sense. The phone call earned trust with my customers and they were happy to come back and do business with me. With this realization came clarity about our app focus. Creating customer conversations. Customer relationships are today's small business competitive advantage. And so Scout had its first major iteration, the opportunity we've decided to pursue is to enable customer relationships. We decided Scout’s job for each and every merchant that installs it, is to identify these relationship building opportunities and turn them into one-on-one conversations. I like the below diagram (as opposed to the one earlier above) for explaining the concept in more detail because it outlines another key step, which is to test your hypothesis. Once you’ve identifying a new problem you want to solve, next thing you should do is run a test to see if your solution will work. If you can solve it, then you should build something to systemize it. If you can’t at least prove your hypothesis is true even a little bit, then I wouldn’t recommend investing more time in building a systemized solution (the product). Identify/test/build/learn diagram Once you’ve gone through the loop at least once, you should have identified opportunities for improvements, and this is where Scout is today. Currently we feel we’re on the Learn phase in our third loop. For those who are interested in the math of our second "Measure" step as it related to my store’s results after 12 months using using Scout: My top 10 customers had spent at least $600 on my store, through an average of 3 or more purchases. My top three had spent at least $1,000 in 5+ orders. As a comparison, the average customer LTV is $100. Eight out of my top 10 overall customers were originally abandoned checkouts that I had called and recovered. They went on to be way more likely to become returning and word-of-mouth customers. Based on this, it was safe to say I needed to focus on getting more people on the phone, regardless of whether they abandoned first or not. This was the most recent learning which fueled the next round of product iterations.
The Shopify App Store is pretty saturated today. There are so many apps on there already, many popular apps even have dozens of copycats. This makes it hard to market apps to merchants, because there is so much noise that’s keeping them from finding your app. I wish I had some secret formula we used to grow our installs. What I will say is that the vast majority of installs come straight from app store ranking, which I believe is mostly dependant on the number of 5 star reviews and your usable of the right keywords. I’ve added a screenshot of our first 9 months below to show you what the growth looked like in the early days. first 9 months of installs You can see that for the first 4 months, we only generated 20 installs. And three of those were from my own store and a couple friends’. The other 17 I believe probably came from the Shopify Master Podcast that I was featured on. To be fair, remember that at this time we were not focused on Scout at all. I had my full-time job, as well as my bidet store, so there were no marketing efforts put into Scout whatsoever. So how did the growth suddenly pick up in January 2017? I believe it had a lot to do with positive merchant reviews of the app. I think the app store’s algorithms started picking up the reviews we were generating and this caused a sort of upward cycle. Based on this, my advice would be, in order to grow your app installs, focus on your merchant support. Offer the best customer support you possibly can, and keep providing this level of support. It’s worked for us in the past, and it continues to work for us. Every few weeks when we generate several positive reviews in quick succession we watch our installs over the next few days, and it is noticeably larger. Just like the theme of our apps, of enabling merchants to provide great customer experience, we do the same for our service. We are an app development merchant to business owners. We saw it working in terms of making product sales online, why wouldn’t it work for app companies trying to sell to other businesses? So far the story checks out.
Customer Experience is Important (because it’s hard)
In my research around ecommerce success stories, I came across Zappos. Their business model was so on point I had to create some content around it in the form of several vlogs. Our series of vlogs talks about several topics around small businesses, especially the advantage that we have as small businesses. Hint: it has a lot to do with our ability to provide a superior customer experience. To get back to Zappos, Zappos is an online shoe store based in Las Vegas, Nevada, that was eventually acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion. It just sold shoes, the same shoes you’d find in any regular store, but it did so with a militant focus on the customer experience. They do this so well that their business has a 75% repurchase rate. Even though it's an online retail business model, I strongly feel the same principles apply to all sorts of models, including SaaS, consulting, whatever. So how did Zappos do this? They did this by reinvesting a portion of each sale’s revenue, back into the customer’s experience. So instead of taking $20 from $100 sale and giving it to Facebook or Google ads in the hope of acquiring a new customer, they would use that $20 to upgrade their shipping to overnight, send a free pizza, or offer unlimited free returns. This not only made sure they retained the customer (repurchasing customers spent more and bought more frequently), but they also created free word-of-mouth customers through the advocate marketing as a result of the great experience. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos went on to write a book called Delivering Happiness about this idea, which I would highly reccommend for all merchants. Speaking of great books, another book also further opened my eyes to the lost opportunities at businesses who don’t focus on the customer experience. Joey Coleman’s Never Lose a Customer Again opening chapter highlights an interesting ratio of 43:1. For every 43 books about sales or marketing, there is only one book about customer service, experience, or retention. That means the education around creating a customer far outweighs the education around keeping the customer. But why? It's a known fact retention provides more profitability than new acqusitions. Thinking about why this is, I believe it has less to do with the difficulty of creating "wow" customer experiences, and more to do with how ridiculously easy it is to automate ads and marketing campaigns. I don’t think we’re against doing hard things, but when presented with the easy option, that’s what merchants will take. Cycle of momentum If the "orthodox" marketing tactics can be automated (and they can), you should also incorporate the unorthodox campaigns. Things like sending a free pizza and handwritten thank you notes, will close the loop for a complete marketing strategy. Whether you’re marketing physical goods, or SaaS apps, or even professional services, it’s easy to want to automate everything. Automating Facebook and Google ads, automating email campaigns, automating chatbots, automating discounts, popups, and special offers, automating dropshipping; it’s really easy to do this, and the app stores are overflowing with apps that automate. It’s clear automation is the future, but there is no competitive advantage here. And so in order to stand out, I’ve learned you can’t automate the hard things. You should try to do the important hard things personally, because it’s in those moments that you will build brand reputation and value.
More than One Solution (to the Problem)
We went from running a Shopify store earning several thousand dollars per month, to developing a suite of apps used by over 10,000 merchants. Working on Scout, and seeing the success from it, we started ideating other ways of getting customers on the phone. Why does only an abandoned checkout need to result in the phone call? What if a customer is interested in purchasing but hasn’t clicked "add to cart" yet? To capture these unrealized leads we developed the callback app called Raven Callback. Raven turns website visits into qualified sales calls. It helped tremendously on my store, because it started to capture more leads due to its lightweight nature. I didn't think the contact/email form was working for me because it’s too much stuff for customers to type, and they perceive replies would take up to 48 hours, so why bother? Same with the livechat, since majority of small businesses don’t reply immediately. The “immediate” callback did wonders and customers continuously commented it was the best customer service they’ve experienced. So, we ran with Raven as well, based on the success I had with my own store we published it on the Shopify App Store. Raven only has a few dozen merchants on our paid plans, but just those merchants have directly generated over $500,000 for themselves in sales over the past 3 months since we launched. Again, we’re seeing the phone channel as a great medium to close sales, and it works really well for certain products and services. I think any store that wants to have one-on-one conversations with customers, especially those who sell products over $200, should seriously consider the phone as a sales channel.
Now we’re working on publishing our third app, again, inspired from running my bidet store. It’s not phone related, but it is related to customer experience and building a relationship with your VIP customers. The app is called Pizza Party, and it sends free pizzas to those VIP customers. Based on the learnings from the "failed" hand-written note product, this time, I'm focusing on more customer conversations about it before going ahead and publishing the app. We're not sure yet when we'll officially launch it, it's about half-way done, but I'm happy to chat with anyone who wants to use it for their store. It’s really fun and easy to use. When merchants install it they just outline the parameters of a "great" customer, like order value, lifetime value or order frequency, and then confirm which customers to send to. For example, if you consider any customer who spends at least $200 per order on your store as a “VIP” customer, then Pizza Party will send a free “thank you” pizza to that customer on your behalf. The merchant pays for the pizza, and we take a small percentage, but it’s super easy to get started and really fun to use. The feedback I was getting from my bidet customers who I sent free pizzas was just too awesome to pass up on this app idea. I sent free large cheese pizzas to customers who bought a few hundred dollars worth of bidets last winter and that small token of my appreciation turned into a few hundred dollars in more revenue; it was triple digit ROI. Customers said it was the best customer service they’ve ever had, ended up sharing the story with their friends, which then resulted in word-of-mouth sales. If you’ve read this far you’ve probably put together the pattern here. I tried a marketing experiment for my Nadeef Bidet store, and if it worked really well I tried to systemize it. By focusing on solving our own problems first, we now have 3 apps, 3 more in private beta, and plans to roll out for several other platforms very soon. And thanks for reading! If you want to get in touch, or have any quetions, feel free to reach out via email or Instagram I’ll sign off with a Haiku: What better problem Than the one you yourself face To solve for others too Liked this text interview? Check out the full interview with photos.
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