Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Jae and I’m a spreadsheet nerd. 👊
Gorilla ROI is a Google Sheets add-on that connects Amazon Seller Central to Google Sheets.
If you sell on Amazon via FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon), our tool is for you.
We target sellers who are already using Google Sheets, but need to:
Supercharge and automate their existing Amazon sales and inventory spreadsheet models.
Eliminate the hassles and time of manually downloading CSV exports, cleaning it up, and creating pivot tables.
We started working on the idea in March 2018 and launched 6 months later in September 2018 as a barebones version, with 30% of the features we envisioned.
Fail quickly was the motto.
Fast forward 1.5 years and as of April 2020, we are at $12,000/mo and growing steadily with no marketing spend. We’ve identified a weakness in our scalability and growing any quicker would cause issues with our current architecture.
Thus, we are currently focusing on stability and scalability before we start any heavy push towards outbound marketing.
Our gross profit at the moment sits at 45%, which is bad for a software company. But not bad considering we continue to reinvest. Plus, I’m not a programmer and talented programmers are not cheap. I’ve also been reinvesting more into servers and technology which put us at break even.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’m sure you know that one person in the office who is a spreadsheet geek, right?
That person who can whip out some crazy complex spreadsheet without batting an eye and seems to enjoy playing around with thousands of little boxes on the screen.
How the business came about was a combination of two other businesses.
The Amazon Business
Since 2013, my wife and I have been selling products on Amazon and as the business continued to grow at triple-digit speeds, I found myself creating inventory management spreadsheets and projection models that worked really well for our needs.
The problem was that it kept getting bigger and more manual work was required to keep it up to date with all the sales inputs and other pieces of information that it required. It was starting to take longer and longer to update.
It was driving me insane.
There was barely any Amazon software around at that time, and even today, none that offers the flexibility that bigger sellers need.
Every eCommerce business has their unique way of calculating and measuring their KPI’s, and every time I tried an off the shelf solution, I wound up back to the old way of exporting data and then copying and pasting it into my models.
The Stock Analysis Business
The second part was that I also ran Old School Value from 2008 to 2018, which started as a Microsoft Excel-based automatic stock valuation and financial analysis tool and transitioned to a SaaS.
On the finance side, tons of money is made by aggregating and selling data. The data providers like S&P, Morningstar, Retuers, and Bloomberg charged at least $25-$30K a year for their basic data license.
Combining the best bits and pieces from both businesses, I knew there was an opportunity with the data side for Amazon and it was a neglected area. The sudden rush of new software for Amazon only focused on the tool itself, but not the data.
Amazon sellers are also not programmers, so the key was to make it for advanced users who didn’t program.
I’ve followed the Warren Buffett approach to the business of going after neglected, boring, and unsexy businesses.
Having run Old School Value for 10 years, I made countless mistakes, and having those mistakes well documented helped Gorilla ROI gain traction.
Gorilla ROI is essentially the same idea as the first one (Old School Value) but in a different industry.
The goal from the beginning was to make it into the pointiest feature set in order to be a hyper-focused solution rather than an all-in-one / master-of-none solution. I wanted to be the sought after “brain surgeon”, instead of the general family doctor.
I prefer to grow things slowly and steadily. Not a super-fast growth type of person because I like to sleep well at night :)
No funding was required. I’ve always had 2 streams of income and if one starts to outgrow the other, I would quit the slow one, build up the faster one and then find another side hustle with more potential until it exceeds the current one.
My day job fed and grew Old School Value and the Amazon business where we are currently on pace to do $3-4M in sales this year.
The Amazon business grew quickly so I sold Old School Value and reinvested the funds into Gorilla ROI.
Customers are always telling companies what they want, but the majority of companies don’t listen and don’t care because they are so in love with themselves and their idea.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Since Gorilla ROI was going to be a reboot of my first venture in Old School Value in a different industry, I had to make sure to not fall into the same start-up traps and failures again.
Main problems to avoid:
- Not solving an existing problem
- Falling in love with your idea and getting emotionally attached, making you blind to your own ugly baby
- Not validating first
- Spending too much time and money on designing, prototyping
- Wanting perfection
- Becoming another me-too product (no Unique Selling Proposition USP)
The solution I applied to each of the above points was as follows:
B2C: Go for B2B which is more consistent, better LTV, less churn.
Not solving an existing problem: Do keyword research and scour through forums where your ideal customers hang out to determine if the problem you are trying to solve is valid
Falling in love with your idea: Let the user base determine the direction and development of the product via feedback and requests.
Not validating first: Posted our idea on Amazon forums and Reddit and got immediate feedback. It wasn’t a lot, but enough to give us confidence that it was a need.
Spending too much time and money on designing, prototyping: Google Sheets was the perfect platform as no UI is required. This meant I didn’t have to hire a designer and sped up development time by 4x. What would have taken 1 year with a designer and developer took 2-3 months only to launch.
Wanting perfection: Launched with the barest set of features. Enough for people to grasp the potential it could provide.
Becoming another me-too product (no Unique Selling Proposition USP): Rather than becoming a software, our goal is to become a data provider. We want to be the source of anyone wanting to use Google Sheets with their Amazon seller data.
What I knew already worked:
- A very good free-forever product with limitations to gain traffic and links
- Mega resource posts with free templates to download
- A way to collect emails as easily and quickly as possible
- Leveraging a big name platform for easier marketing
And here’s what we did:
A very good free-forever product with limitations: Anyone can use the addon for free with all the features, but it is limited to 3 SKUs. If you have 100 products that you sell, you could test it out with any 3 products, but to get the data for the rest, you would have to sign up.
Mega resource posts with free templates to download: A lot of energy was spent on creating Free Amazon spreadsheet templates* for Amazon sellers. This page still drives 80% of the traffic, brings in organic backlinks and social media shares.*
A way to collect emails as easily and quickly as possible: Rather than using landing pages, we are able to get emails directly from the addon as the user connects it to their Google account.
Leveraging a big name platform for easier marketing: The addon is available on the Chrome store and people can find us by just typing in “Amazon”.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Our launch was very soft.
Let’s call it ultra plush because the goal for launching was to see whether the idea was worth pursuing further.
- Keyword research showed there was zero traffic for the terms I needed.
- Don’t expect Reddit to bring in many sales.
- I didn’t have a network that would push the product from the get-go.
We followed the typical lean approach to launching:
- Created a simple landing page (which is here) showing the product and an email capture form. The button has since been changed to redirect to the addon page instead of an email capture form.
- Drive traffic to the landing page by posting relevant content in forums
- Capture emails
- Send pleasantly infrequent email updates to subscribers and get them excited
- Got beta testers out of the email subscribers
- Convert beta testers into paying customers from day 1
Initial customers were captured by converting them from beta.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Based on feedback since launch, we kept adding more customized data for users and started the SEO process and inbound marketing has been the main driver of customers.
If a user suggested a great idea, we quickly updated or added some features within a week, pushed it out, and then let people know about it thanking the user who brought it up.
This built up a lot of credibilities as users realized we actually listened and gave people what they wanted. This was only possible because we don’t have a UI to design.
We can slice and dice and create new datasets 5x quicker than trying to design, code, test the UX, and then launch.
As we started to gain traction, we shifted to SEO. Because there is literally no keyword volume for something like “Amazon connect Google Sheets” we rank in the top 3 for nearly everything we target.
It’s bad in the sense that volume is tiny or doesn’t exist. The good thing is that anyone who searches for such a term is a very high intent visitor and such visitors convert at a great percentage.
The keyword volume isn’t there, but the LTV more than makes up for it and it's a niche that we’ve developed and dominate. Google understands this. Our hyper-focused and siloed content ranks quickly on Google.
Lately, there has been an increase in word of mouth as a huge number of people are on Facebook Amazon groups and they have been recommending our product. By not trying to be too much, our core user raves about our service as it fills the void that is present in their Amazon business.
Charge more than you think you are worth. I don’t know about you, but I tend to undermine our service and prices below what we should be charging.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are profitable, but choosing to reinvest everything back into the business.
Funding isn’t an issue as we have funds from the sale of our first venture and also the Amazon side of the business to support us in a worst-case scenario.
However, we are purposely suppressing growth at this stage because I know we can’t handle it.
Most people who sign up are not great with spreadsheets, so there is a learning curve for these people. There are also specific Google Sheet nuances that we have to explain and go over.
The onboarding process isn’t as smooth as it should be, so any faster growth will overwhelm our team.
We are working on improving our scalability as we need to get to a point where we can easily handle calculating a hundred million data points a day.
Once we get through this and turn to outbound marketing, growth shouldn’t be a problem.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I have a few business principles.
Note the word “principles” because it is broad and focused on mindset which changes the game.
New entrepreneurs always ask for a step-by-step guide to doing something. On the Amazon size, people constantly ask for a step-by-step process to get to where we are. Everyone needs to go through the failures themselves in order to figure things out.
There is no such thing as a step-by-step guide. Get over it - please.
People with skills work for people with ideas.
Want to be like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk? They no longer sit on their computer, removing photo backgrounds. Delegate or hire someone who can do it faster and better than you.
Focus on developing your idea/vision and get people to execute it.
What’s important is never urgent, and what’s urgent is never important.
Entrepreneurs get too caught up in what seems urgent. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t lead to anything impactful and no one cares. It’s just being busy for the sake of being busy.
Use the matrix below to figure out whether the work you are doing is going to make a dent.
Charge more than you think you are worth.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to undermine our service and prices below what we should be charging.
With Old School Value, my very first spreadsheet model was priced at $6.95.
I went through a long process over 10 years of continually raising prices as I added value. It took a huge amount of courage to increase prices from 6.95 to 15.95. Then as more sales and demand came, I slowly raised it over the years to 25, then 49 to 100, 200, 399, 499, 699, and even sold some packages in the thousands.
Make your price reflect your value and don’t be ashamed - but you must provide value.
Find ways to add specialty-focused value to charge more
This is the other side of increasing prices. Look for ways you can charge higher. Not everyone wants to buy the Toyota Corolla with no options.
People want to add more to their purchases. By not providing it, you are telling them to find another business that will give it to them. Create a mid and upper-tier for people who demand the best, don’t have the time, or want to stand out. Create special packages or limited editions because people want it.
Give people what they want, not what you think they want
This is the opposite of falling in love with your idea. Customers are always telling companies what they want, but the majority of companies don’t listen and don’t care because they are so in love with themselves and their idea.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We don’t need many tools to run Gorilla ROI. It’s a very lean and focused business without much fat.
- WordPress with Brizy page builder - Drag and drop page builder. The code is messy, but I don’t care about that. Our rankings prove that the messy code doesn’t matter.
- Zapier- We zap and automate everything we can.
- Appsumo - Killer lifetime software deals from other startups.
- Freshdesk - Customer support.
- Stackpath - CDN and WAF.
- Slack - Communication.
- Trello and Jira - Work boards for projects and team members.
- Google Sheets - of course.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
10 min booklet. It’s a Christian book and is the basis for many other time management books that came after like “The 7 habits of highly successful people”.
An easy book to read and remember. The bullseye chart of the different distribution channels alone will improve your business.
A classic book on operations and constraints that I wish I had read a decade ago. Business fiction that is engaging, relatable, and actionable.
There’s nothing I can add about this book. Timeless advice that you can read over and over.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
The risks are never as big as it seems.
You can start a business with $0. Don’t be fooled by the glamor entrepreneur stories where you have to drop out of college, live in the garage eating ramen, and spend a million dollars on lawyers, patents, and inventory to get started.
A business is as low risk and easy as:
- Identifying a problem
- Solving the solution
- Finding people who have the same problem
- Sell the solution
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
A content writer who is an expert with Amazon and spreadsheets.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
GORILLA ROI has provided an update on their business!
Over 1 year ago, we followed up with GORILLA ROI to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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