The Marketer's Journey from Side Hustle to Startup: Jay Desai

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Jay Desai has always wanted to be an entrepreneur.

At 11-years-old, he had a newsletter business. In middle school, he was reselling sticks of gum bought at Costco.

While working for Trend, a B2B startup last year, Jay came upon a problem: how to collect content from around the Web for future reference.

One thing led to another and Jay created Swpely, which he describes as Pinterest for B2B. It's a free service that makes it easy to collect digital content, social media, updates, videos, and photos.

In this episode of Marketing Spark, Jay talks about the transition from full-time employee to entrepreneur, and how he plans to grow Swpely into a full-featured content aggregation platform.

I'm Mark Evans and welcome to marketing spark, the podcast that delivers insight from marketers and entrepreneurs and the trenches in twenty five minutes or less. Everyone seems to have a side hustle. It's not enough to just have a full time job anymore. Most sized hustles are at best hobbies or micro businesses, but sometimes a side hustle turns into a real business, and could I'm talking to Jada side, a BBB marketer who recently launched new business, swipee that has received an enthusiastic response. Welcome to marketing spark. Hey are great to be here, great to talk about, you know, swipely and everything else in between. So let's start at the beginning. It wasn't that long ago that you were a full time bdb marketer, mostly around creating content to drive leads. You were doing what a typical be to be marketer was supposed to do. But in the midst of the pandemic your you you developed a side Hustle and this side hustle turned into something else. So maybe we can give a little bit of a backstory about you, your track record as an entrepreneur and what how that evolution from full time employee to start up founder actually happened. Yeah, for sure. I think a lot of it goes back to my parents and my dad owns his own business and you know, just being around and that entrepreneurial environment, it kind of puts that spark into you when you see someone working every day to grow their business. You know, I did some things that some other entrepreneurs might have done in the past. So you know, and in the fifth grade I used to even have like this little newsletter that we made on Microsoft publisher. I don't know if it's still a real platform anymore, but we used to print these out and sell them and one thing that was super awesome is one day I was able to get up to to five employees and was able to pay them actually a dollar each, which was a really like awesome moment for me, is someone who is like eleven years old no concept of money. It was a really fun thing to do and so you know that that entrepreneurial spirit continue to manifest. You know, I sold gum in middle school. I go to Costco and get the big gum packs and resell the sticks to people in middle school to make a little money. And then, you know, I really knew I wanted to be a founder. Probably at the age of like fifteen. I knew I wanted to start a business and it was more so a matter of when, not if. Actually, you know, talking about Swipelee, that was another project that I started and before that I actually gave my chance at a full run at a business back in March. So I started a sports newsletter that epically failed, did not do so well, but you know, I spent way too much money then. I probably should have before validating, but I learned a lot of things from that and so I've been able to kind of translate that into my own business. And in terms of like the shift for...

...me, you know, I spent some time, a few years in marketing, just really getting my feetwat kind of understanding the the environment and like learning how to be a better marketer, and you know, it was kind of like a culmination of having that entrepreneurial fire in me and then also being able to be in a good financial position to take a business risk. Like anyone that's going to start their own business, obviously there's a risk involved because you have to spend money up front with no guarantee of return. So that's kind of how I ended up here at swifely. So let's take a step back and talk about what you were doing. What was your full time job? How long he'd had you been there? What did you like about it and how did the entrepreneurial it start to emerge? At what point did you recognize there was a problem? Maybe you look for other tools to sub that solve that problem and you couldn't find them and it suddenly dawned on you that maybe there it was time to shift from a full time job to a start up. Describe that journey last year. So your hard at work, it's the middle of a pandemic, you've got a full time job to do, but something's happening in the background. Can you give us the backstory? Yeah, for sure. So I've been in my last company, trend, for about a year and three months, I think. So you know, like I said, I I've always had this like entrepreneurial spirit. Maybe it's something that's in me. I like to be in control of my environment and so, you know, as someone who's working for someone, obviously you know you get a degree of autonomy and stuff like that, but I knew it one day. I kind of wanted to run the ship and and give it a shot and see if, you know, I could fight out there for myself to see how it successful, I could make it out there. So that was a big part of me that played into it and it was really just kind of you know, I've wanted to be a founder for a really long time and it was kind of just figuring out what that idea was. And in terms of Swipelie, you know, and a problem I face as I kind of entered you know, I've entered in Linkedin and I've kind of like been in that space now and creating content, and now I'm on twitter and creating content. So as someone in the bet to be creator economy, I kind of face the problem that's swipelee a solving myself. So I really had a hard time, you know, producing content after I gave away everything that I felt that I had. You know, was hard to to come up with content ideas and figure out how to repurpose stuff. And you know, even as a marketer at my old job, trend, we had a newsletter, we had a podcast, like constantly looking for ideas for that stuff and creating content. You really need to keep your ideas organized and really have a backlog, and so I think all of those factors together kind of created this this product over here, swipee. They just all kind of climax together and help put me in this position. We've talked about Swipe Lee. There's some mystery...

...still among the audience what swipe the actually is. So what is let Swipe Lee? What problems does it solve and how does it work and how much does it cost and where you at so far in terms of its launch for the audience? So swipelye is basically the way that I describe it, is pinterest for be to be, and I unpack that a little bit more. So it's a tool for you to basically save all sorts of modern content. So I think you know, we've all seen like a bookmark bar and have probably used like a bunch of bookmark APPs. Maybe we're also taking screenshots and doing like a linked ump and things like that. But content has really evolved over the past, ever since, you know that the ever since social media has entered the landscape, and you know nowadays we have, you know, video podcast like this one, tweets, linkedin posts, all sorts of this modern content, and so when I kind of think about traditional content, it's like your websites and images, and that modern content is kind of everything that's come after that and there's not really a solution that exists out there to be able to save modern content and really organize it. And that's the piece that's really growing the most. Right people are writing blogs all the time, but I think I read this crazy stat you know, there's like five hundred million tweets that are going on in a day and only like maybe fifty million blog post that are posted a day. So that's a really big discrepancy over there, where you're saying like modern content outpacing maybe traditional content by X. and so just being in that type of environment and figuring out like micro content seems to be the play where a lot of people are leaning into shorter pieces of content. Is kind of why it brought me into an interest for Swipelye. I just face this problem myself and, you know, I was really looking to go out and solve it. You know, it's interesting because as someone like myself who creates a lot of content. I'm on Linkedin, I'm on twitter, I have a podcast and I create a lot of content is as well. I've used pocket, ever, note, notion, all kinds of different tools to collect and create content and never found something that did the trick. And what I find surprising is that there wasn't something like Pinterest for be to be content. It's interesting to me that swipeling didn't exist before and all sudden you came on the scene, had this problem and discovered that, hey, there's an opening here for something like this tool. Will you surprise that there was a gap in the market that you could just walk into? Yeah, maybe a little bit. You know, I did some research as someone who was a collector like I was, I was looking for that solution myself. Right I didn't expect to to go out and build it. I thought there might be something out there that would be helpful for solving that issue, but there really wasn't. And you know, when you combine that with my with the entrepreneur real fire that I have, you know it was. It was pretty pretty I really wanted to go out and and go and do this and create swipely and create a tool like this and you know, it's actually...

...pretty interesting. I think content is constantly evolving and I think even for swipely as it exists today. The thing that we're going to have to decide and look at is, you know, how can we stay up to date with the evolution of content? And that's something that a lot of platforms still struggle with, and so I think there's going to be a lot of openings, not just today but in the future, for tools that have a hard time keeping up with changes that are going on. I mean, you're seeing you apps like clubhouse come in that are just audio only. So I think there's always going to be opportunity for people to come in and there's always going to be some sort of market gap that needs to be filled. I think it's a matter of how do you fill that gap and then how do you continue to keep feeling the different gaps that pull up right next to you? What I'm curious about is, when you have a full time job these days, being a be to be marketers, you're on all the time and you're trying to create content and publish content and social media, how do you go from coming up with this idea to actually developing the product, the vision for it in the strategy for when you're when you're spending so much time at work. How did you allocate the time? Who did you collaborate with? What was the process to turn it from an idea into reality? Yeah, it was really hard. You know, I don't think I mentioned that earlier, but the company I was working at, trend, was also a startup itself. You know, there was five of us. It's a team of five. Obviously there's a lot of work. I was basically doing a lot, like most of the marketing for the team and really managing everything, and building any startup is a is a lot of work. Trying to build two startups is something I would not recommend anyone out there. But you know, it really started out with me thinking from that experience that I have with the sports newsletter, like how do I create a more minified version of what I have? And so, you know, I had this grand idea for Pinterest, for be tob and I really had to sit down and kind of unpack that, like how do we get to something that that's that big? Right? Pinterest as a I think they are publicly traded company. They are. Yeah, there are publicly traded company and they do millions and millions of dollars in revenue. So you know, you can't just build that in one day. They've done tons of rounds of funding and and all of that stuff, and so what I really had to sit down was, okay, how do we get there, like what can we do as like a first step to move closer to that? And so I really had to work through that and kind of landed on our first version, which is what you see currently going on, which is or chrome extension linked to our dashboard for content saving. So, you know, I figured hey, if we can save the content, then we can start continuing to keep adding stuff that are there. We don't have to get anyone to create new things reinvent the wheel, and so it was really just figuring out what's that minimum step and then going out and basically doing...

...as little as I possibly could to get this idea out there, and not in the sense of, you know, I didn't want to support the idea or do any of that stuff. It's just that launching a product and the more things that you add to a product take a lot of time. It's very easy to underestimate that. And so by taking a step backwards and thinking, Hey, how do I provide the the most minified like experience and still kind of plug in some value there. And so, you know, even for when we started the product, you know, it started out as a as a sketch. I have a sketch book that's sitting in my cabinet over here. I sketched the idea out the last week of October. Put together a single page website, just grabbed it from a template, change some things out, you know, put together a text only logo that was pretty easy to build and then just put it out to the network to see. And so, you know, the product wasn't even in the getting built right now. What I saw was we were able to get a lot of market validation. You know, we had a lot of people sign up for the weight list. There was a lot of interest generated over there, and so I actually had to go back to my one of my friends who's a developer, and I called them up. I had think maybe after we hit a hundred people on the weightlist and I was like hey, I have this product that I haven't built. I put it out into my network. People kind of validated and said they'd be interested and I have a hundred people looking for this product that doesn't exist. And so after that we kind of got into building the product and really working backwards. and even our email sequence, like, I think I only had a one email that got fired right after you signed up, and you know, occasionally we'd send out one email a week. We ran like a small giveaway that was really like low stakes, and so it was a lot of low stakes things that allowed me to keep working on my full time job and kind of just plug into Swipe Lee where I could. And obviously I've taken more responsibility in that sense, but you know, that's how we're still operating. We always ask ourselves like is this something we actually need to do, like is there a way to take a step back on this? Is there a simpler way to do this that'll provide, you know, maybe only seventy percent of impact, is maybe like the fullblown thing, but it's going to take us, you know, like thirty percent less time, and so those are the kinds of things that I'm thinking through as we're running the business. I think it's really interesting because I can remember when you threw that idea I wout on Linkedin and the reaction to it. Obviously there's a lot of marketers on Linkedin, so it was a it was a great target audience for your great way to throw out the ide and see if it if it had any traction. And what are some of the lessons you've learned along the way as you evolved the idea, as you developed the product and it became a reality, some of the things that went well, some of the things that you would do differently next time? I think the biggest advice that I would give to anyone is you your product or whatever your offering...

...doesn't need to be as complex or perfect as you think it is, and that's really like easier said than done. But the only person who's going to know what the end product is supposed to be is you. You know, the people that are viewing your product are only going to see the product as is. In terms of like what I would do different, I honestly would say there there would be nothing that I would do different. You know, I'm thinking about it right now, but you know we've made some mistakes in terms of things that we've done and things that you know I quote unquote, maybe wished I did different, but I actually probably wouldn't change those because without those failures over there there wouldn't have been whatever. The lesson that's learned and so, you know, in terms of like missteps, and we really haven't done very much. You know, it's great that we've been able to promote the product without sharing that much. You know, even the the website that I put together, the first iteration of it, the single page site that got a hundred people to sign up, there was no pictures of the product on the website at all. There is literally nothing, and so, you know, I just tell everybody to it, to take a step back and don't let those false subjections like don't let yourself disqualify you from launching something because you think something's missing or you know something needs to be a little bit better. You'd be surprised at what people would love to jump into. And the only person that knows what that end thing is supposed to look like is you. That's what I would say there. And the traction has been incredible. I mean we've seen some great growth, which I'm happy to jump into as well, but it's just been an awesome, awesome experience and I wouldn't really change anything because it's really just gotten us here today and I've learned so much from any of the mistakes that I've made. So maybe you can talk a little bit about the growth, because obviously there's demand for this type of product. There's lots of people creating all kinds of content these days. Content marketing landscape is shifting, as you talked about, with more micro content being developed to what do you seen on the platform so far? Right now, the big thing that we're tracking is activations, so user growth. Think I don't know when this episode is going to air, but for for context, right now we're about ten days over here into our in by only Beta launch and the last user count I checked was at five hundred and twenty five, which is absolutely crazy for for ten days. Our big goal is to hit a thousand users and thirty days, which I'm feeling really good about our chances on. But it's just been incredible. I mean user activation is the main thing and and kind of we're working back as we have a little bit of a product market fit survey as well in the application that we're taking a look at. But right now it's really just getting people in and and getting them to not only get in, but selling them on not what swipelee is today, selling them on what it can be tomorrow, and so that's something that's really big to me too, is, you know, every user that comes into...

...swipelee isn't just joining for this modern content saving tool as it is right now. Like you know, we're saving images, videos, podcast tweets, linkedin post websites. That stuff is all cool, but we still have a lot more to go and I really want people to buy into the long term vision because, and actually one of the emails in our on boarding sequence, that mark you'll probably get at some point, is basically a list of the next things we're planning on building. I want to be completely transparent and get people to buy into the vision and say hey, if you can help us bring one or two people to swipely, we can build all of this stuff for you, and that's really what I'm trying to sell on, and so that's the stuff that's really important to me. The next obvious question would be how are you going to make money, because, from what I understands, wipe please a free product, at least for now. Give any thoughts about how you monetize the platform? Is it something that you thought about from the beginning when you had this great idea, or is it still work in progress when it comes to identifying the different a news to for revenue. Yeah, there's definitely a monetization plan. I think the big one that we're going to have is probably ad revenue at some point, and that's when we kind of turn on our social functionality. So that's what's coming next on the Swipelie Road Map is, you know, we're going to offer a full social solution and we'll probably plug in a little bit of advertising. But one thing that's really important to me is having like purposeful advertising. I think a lot of advertising nowadays on social media is like stuff that might be like irrelevant and and stuff that you're just not really interested in. And you know, I hate getting bombarded with the same ad like a few times, but or more than a few times. But one thing I do think, and this is what I love about ads, is when you get the right ad at the right time, like, let's say, you know, I was on a website with a cool like pair of shorts or something, or someone set me this website for a cool new product. That's an ad that I'd want to see again, and so, you know, that's something that I'm constantly thinking about, is how can we create those like purposeful experiences so that's a big part of it. And then another big part is we really want to empower creator. So with that advertising revenue, I think we're probably going to be taking a different approach to most companies in the sense of I want to empower everyone in the Bob Creator economy to be able to get a piece of that ad revenue without having to do very much other than just creating your audience. So that's something that's important to me. We've got a couple other plans in terms of like Apis that we can offer a more content features and more content saving that we can do, maybe even like private swipe files. I mean, there's just a whole bunch of different directions. I'm not super concerned on the monetization piece right now because right now it's it's user growth and you can't have you can't monetize anything without the users there in the first place. I'm planning on keeping...

...the show free for as long as I can run it. I mean we have like no operating costs. We're spending like fifteen bucks a month on our website, six months a month on my email. We have our server costs, but they're basically credited because we have aws credit, so that hads basically free, and then I've got like a Zappier integration that I'm paying like twenty five bucks a month on. So we could realistically run this thing for a really long time for free. For me it's about how do I create more purposeful experiences for everyone, and then the money part. I think it's going to happen at some point. I'm not super concerned about it, but right now, to me what's most important it's just providing an incredible experience for everyone that's on there. Well, it's a very exciting proposition and I'm really fascinated by the transition from full time employee to side hustle to start up. Where can people learn more about you and Swipelie? Yeah, so you can head over to swipe lecom. It's SWPLYCOM, so swipe without the eye and then lcom. Go ahead and jump on there. Will actually give you a Promo code as well, so you can skip the weight list over here. If you use mark's name, Mark Evans, you'll actually be able to skip the weight list and go straight into the product. So definitely take advantage of that code and get in there mess around with it and we have a lot more things coming. The more users we can bring to the platform, the more I can build for everyone that's listening. So that's what makes me really excited. It is the building piece, but yeah, check it out. We save a lot of content right now, a lot more to come in the future and would love to have you as a user on swipely. Awesome. That's Jay, and anybody who's interested in Jay can go to Linkedin. He's got a pretty good presence there as well well. Thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review and subscribe by Itunes spotify. We're your favorite podcast APP. For show notes of today's conversation and information about J Visit Marketing Spark Dot Cola blog. If you'd like to learn more about how it help BEBB SASS companies as a fractional CMO, strategic advisor and coach, send an email to mark at marketing sparkcom. I'll talk to you next time.

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