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 marketingspark, the podcast that delivers insight from marketers and entrepreneurs and the trenches intwenty five minutes or less. Everyone seems to have a side hustle. It'snot enough to just have a full time job anymore. Most sized hustles areat best hobbies or micro businesses, but sometimes a side hustle turns into areal business, and could I'm talking to Jada side, a BBB marketer whorecently launched new business, swipee that has received an enthusiastic response. Welcome tomarketing spark. Hey are great to be here, great to talk about,you know, swipely and everything else in between. So let's start at thebeginning. 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 beto be marketer was supposed to do. But in the midst of the pandemicyour you you developed a side Hustle and this side hustle turned into somethingelse. 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 timeemployee to start up founder actually happened. Yeah, for sure. I thinka lot of it goes back to my parents and my dad owns his ownbusiness and you know, just being around and that entrepreneurial environment, it kindof puts that spark into you when you see someone working every day to growtheir business. You know, I did some things that some other entrepreneurs mighthave done in the past. So you know, and in the fifth gradeI 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 usedto print these out and sell them and one thing that was super awesome isone day I was able to get up to to five employees and was ableto pay them actually a dollar each, which was a really like awesome momentfor 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 thatentrepreneurial 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 sticksto people in middle school to make a little money. And then, youknow, I really knew I wanted to be a founder. Probably at theage of like fifteen. I knew I wanted to start a business and itwas more so a matter of when, not if. Actually, you know, talking about Swipelee, that was another project that I started and before thatI 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 sowell, but you know, I spent way too much money then. Iprobably should have before validating, but I learned a lot of things from thatand 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 spentsome time, a few years in marketing, just really getting my feetwat kind ofunderstanding 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 entrepreneurialfire in me and then also being able to be in a good financial positionto 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 withno guarantee of return. So that's kind of how I ended up here atswifely. 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 toemerge? At what point did you recognize there was a problem? Maybe youlook for other tools to sub that solve that problem and you couldn't find themand it suddenly dawned on you that maybe there it was time to shift froma full time job to a start up. Describe that journey last year. Soyour hard at work, it's the middle of a pandemic, you've gota full time job to do, but something's happening in the background. Canyou give us the backstory? Yeah, for sure. So I've been inmy last company, trend, for about a year and three months, Ithink. So you know, like I said, I I've always had thislike entrepreneurial spirit. Maybe it's something that's in me. I like to bein control of my environment and so, you know, as someone who's workingfor someone, obviously you know you get a degree of autonomy and stuff likethat, but I knew it one day. I kind of wanted to run theship and and give it a shot and see if, you know,I could fight out there for myself to see how it successful, I couldmake it out there. So that was a big part of me that playedinto it and it was really just kind of you know, I've wanted tobe a founder for a really long time and it was kind of just figuringout 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 enteredin 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 thebet to be creator economy, I kind of face the problem that's swipelee asolving myself. So I really had a hard time, you know, producingcontent 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 torepurpose stuff. And you know, even as a marketer at my old job, trend, we had a newsletter, we had a podcast, like constantlylooking for ideas for that stuff and creating content. You really need to keepyour ideas organized and really have a backlog, and so I think all of thosefactors together kind of created this this product over here, swipee. Theyjust all kind of climax together and help put me in this position. We'vetalked about Swipe Lee. There's some mystery...

...still among the audience what swipe theactually is. So what is let Swipe Lee? What problems does it solveand how does it work and how much does it cost and where you atso far in terms of its launch for the audience? So swipelye is basicallythe way that I describe it, is pinterest for be to be, andI unpack that a little bit more. So it's a tool for you tobasically save all sorts of modern content. So I think you know, we'veall seen like a bookmark bar and have probably used like a bunch of bookmarkAPPs. Maybe we're also taking screenshots and doing like a linked ump and thingslike that. But content has really evolved over the past, ever since,you know that the ever since social media has entered the landscape, and youknow nowadays we have, you know, video podcast like this one, tweets, linkedin posts, all sorts of this modern content, and so when Ikind of think about traditional content, it's like your websites and images, andthat modern content is kind of everything that's come after that and there's not reallya solution that exists out there to be able to save modern content and reallyorganize it. And that's the piece that's really growing the most. Right peopleare writing blogs all the time, but I think I read this crazy statyou know, there's like five hundred million tweets that are going on in aday 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 outpacingmaybe traditional content by X. and so just being in that type ofenvironment and figuring out like micro content seems to be the play where a lotof people are leaning into shorter pieces of content. Is kind of why itbrought 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 ofcontent. I'm on Linkedin, I'm on twitter, I have a podcast andI create a lot of content is as well. I've used pocket, ever, note, notion, all kinds of different tools to collect and create contentand never found something that did the trick. And what I find surprising is thatthere wasn't something like Pinterest for be to be content. It's interesting tome 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 likethis tool. Will you surprise that there was a gap in the marketthat 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 goout and build it. I thought there might be something out there thatwould be helpful for solving that issue, but there really wasn't. And youknow, when you combine that with my with the entrepreneur real fire that Ihave, you know it was. It was pretty pretty I really wanted togo out and and go and do this and create swipely and create a toollike this and you know, it's actually...

...pretty interesting. I think content isconstantly evolving and I think even for swipely as it exists today. The thingthat 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'ssomething that a lot of platforms still struggle with, and so I think there'sgoing 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 goingon. I mean, you're seeing you apps like clubhouse come in that arejust audio only. So I think there's always going to be opportunity for peopleto come in and there's always going to be some sort of market gap thatneeds to be filled. I think it's a matter of how do you fillthat gap and then how do you continue to keep feeling the different gaps thatpull up right next to you? What I'm curious about is, when youhave 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 andsocial media, how do you go from coming up with this idea to actuallydeveloping the product, the vision for it in the strategy for when you're whenyou'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 anidea into reality? Yeah, it was really hard. You know, Idon't think I mentioned that earlier, but the company I was working at,trend, was also a startup itself. You know, there was five ofus. 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 teamand really managing everything, and building any startup is a is a lot ofwork. Trying to build two startups is something I would not recommend anyone outthere. But you know, it really started out with me thinking from thatexperience that I have with the sports newsletter, like how do I create a moreminified version of what I have? And so, you know, Ihad this grand idea for Pinterest, for be tob and I really had tosit down and kind of unpack that, like how do we get to somethingthat that's that big? Right? Pinterest as a I think they are publiclytraded company. They are. Yeah, there are publicly traded company and theydo millions and millions of dollars in revenue. So you know, you can't justbuild that in one day. They've done tons of rounds of funding andand all of that stuff, and so what I really had to sit downwas, okay, how do we get there, like what can we doas like a first step to move closer to that? And so I reallyhad to work through that and kind of landed on our first version, whichis what you see currently going on, which is or chrome extension linked toour dashboard for content saving. So, you know, I figured hey,if we can save the content, then we can start continuing to keep addingstuff that are there. We don't have to get anyone to create new thingsreinvent the wheel, and so it was really just figuring out what's that minimumstep and then going out and basically doing...

...as little as I possibly could toget 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 aproduct take a lot of time. It's very easy to underestimate that. Andso by taking a step backwards and thinking, Hey, how do I provide thethe 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 asketch book that's sitting in my cabinet over here. I sketched the idea outthe last week of October. Put together a single page website, just grabbedit from a template, change some things out, you know, put togethera text only logo that was pretty easy to build and then just put itout to the network to see. And so, you know, the productwasn't even in the getting built right now. What I saw was we were ableto get a lot of market validation. You know, we had a lotof people sign up for the weight list. There was a lot ofinterest generated over there, and so I actually had to go back to myone of my friends who's a developer, and I called them up. Ihad think maybe after we hit a hundred people on the weightlist and I waslike hey, I have this product that I haven't built. I put itout into my network. People kind of validated and said they'd be interested andI have a hundred people looking for this product that doesn't exist. And soafter 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 oneemail that got fired right after you signed up, and you know, occasionallywe'd send out one email a week. We ran like a small giveaway thatwas really like low stakes, and so it was a lot of low stakesthings that allowed me to keep working on my full time job and kind ofjust plug into Swipe Lee where I could. And obviously I've taken more responsibility inthat sense, but you know, that's how we're still operating. Wealways ask ourselves like is this something we actually need to do, like isthere a way to take a step back on this? Is there a simplerway to do this that'll provide, you know, maybe only seventy percent ofimpact, is maybe like the fullblown thing, but it's going to take us,you know, like thirty percent less time, and so those are thekinds of things that I'm thinking through as we're running the business. I thinkit's really interesting because I can remember when you threw that idea I wout onLinkedin 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 wayto 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 evolvedthe idea, as you developed the product and it became a reality, someof the things that went well, some of the things that you would dodifferently next time? I think the biggest advice that I would give to anyoneis you your product or whatever your offering...

...doesn't need to be as complex orperfect 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 supposedto be is you. You know, the people that are viewing your productare only going to see the product as is. In terms of like whatI would do different, I honestly would say there there would be nothing thatI 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 andthings that you know I quote unquote, maybe wished I did different, butI actually probably wouldn't change those because without those failures over there there wouldn't havebeen whatever. The lesson that's learned and so, you know, in termsof 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 iterationof 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. Thereis literally nothing, and so, you know, I just tell everybody toit, to take a step back and don't let those false subjections like don'tlet yourself disqualify you from launching something because you think something's missing or you knowsomething needs to be a little bit better. You'd be surprised at what people wouldlove to jump into. And the only person that knows what that endthing 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 anawesome, awesome experience and I wouldn't really change anything because it's really just gottenus here today and I've learned so much from any of the mistakes that I'vemade. So maybe you can talk a little bit about the growth, becauseobviously there's demand for this type of product. There's lots of people creating all kindsof content these days. Content marketing landscape is shifting, as you talkedabout, with more micro content being developed to what do you seen on theplatform 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 toair, but for for context, right now we're about ten days over hereinto our in by only Beta launch and the last user count I checked wasat 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, whichI'm feeling really good about our chances on. But it's just been incredible. Imean user activation is the main thing and and kind of we're working backas we have a little bit of a product market fit survey as well inthe application that we're taking a look at. But right now it's really just gettingpeople in and and getting them to not only get in, but sellingthem on not what swipelee is today, selling them on what it can betomorrow, 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 moderncontent saving tool as it is right now. Like you know, we're saving images, videos, podcast tweets, linkedin post websites. That stuff is allcool, but we still have a lot more to go and I really wantpeople to buy into the long term vision because, and actually one of theemails 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. Iwant to be completely transparent and get people to buy into the vision and sayhey, 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'mtrying 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 leastfor now. Give any thoughts about how you monetize the platform? Is itsomething 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 anews to for revenue. Yeah, there's definitely a monetization plan. I thinkthe 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'swhat's coming next on the Swipelie Road Map is, you know, we're goingto offer a full social solution and we'll probably plug in a little bit ofadvertising. 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 thatmight 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 fewtimes, but or more than a few times. But one thing I dothink, and this is what I love about ads, is when you getthe 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 anad that I'd want to see again, and so, you know, that'ssomething that I'm constantly thinking about, is how can we create those like purposefulexperiences so that's a big part of it. And then another big part is wereally want to empower creator. So with that advertising revenue, I thinkwe're probably going to be taking a different approach to most companies in the senseof I want to empower everyone in the Bob Creator economy to be able toget a piece of that ad revenue without having to do very much other thanjust creating your audience. So that's something that's important to me. We've gota couple other plans in terms of like Apis that we can offer a morecontent features and more content saving that we can do, maybe even like privateswipe 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'suser growth and you can't have you can't monetize anything without the users there inthe first place. I'm planning on keeping...

...the show free for as long asI can run it. I mean we have like no operating costs. We'respending like fifteen bucks a month on our website, six months a month onmy email. We have our server costs, but they're basically credited because we haveaws credit, so that hads basically free, and then I've got likea Zappier integration that I'm paying like twenty five bucks a month on. Sowe could realistically run this thing for a really long time for free. Forme it's about how do I create more purposeful experiences for everyone, and thenthe money part. I think it's going to happen at some point. I'mnot super concerned about it, but right now, to me what's most importantit's just providing an incredible experience for everyone that's on there. Well, it'sa very exciting proposition and I'm really fascinated by the transition from full time employeeto side hustle to start up. Where can people learn more about you andSwipelie? Yeah, so you can head over to swipe lecom. It's SWPLYCOM, so swipe without the eye and then lcom. Go ahead and jump onthere. Will actually give you a Promo code as well, so you canskip 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 theproduct. So definitely take advantage of that code and get in there mess aroundwith it and we have a lot more things coming. The more users wecan 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, butyeah, check it out. We save a lot of content right now, a lot more to come in the future and would love to have youas a user on swipely. Awesome. That's Jay, and anybody who's interestedin Jay can go to Linkedin. He's got a pretty good presence there aswell well. Thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If youenjoyed the conversation, leave a review and subscribe by Itunes spotify. We're yourfavorite podcast APP. For show notes of today's conversation and information about J VisitMarketing Spark Dot Cola blog. If you'd like to learn more about how ithelp BEBB SASS companies as a fractional CMO, strategic advisor and coach, send anemail to mark at marketing sparkcom. I'll talk to you next time.

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