Hi! I’m Xabier Vicuña and I’m the CEO of Heepsy. Heepsy is an influencer marketing platform designed to help brands find influencers for their Instagram and Youtube campaigns. Our platform provides search and analytics for over 11 million influencers.
Our customers are mostly marketing agencies or brands looking to launch influencer strategies. We cater to both large and small brands, with different plans for diverse price points and needs.
I started the company in 2017 and one of my proudest moments as a CEO was when Heepsy broke even last year. For a startup to do that in 3 years is pretty great. Since then, we’ve been able to grow at a steady rate, doubling our monthly recurring revenue in 2020. We’ve also made ourselves a player on the global field quite quickly; despite being based in Spain, most of our clients come from the US.
If you want to see Heepsy in action, check out our video demo. It’s a short tutorial to introduce you to the platform and its features:
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’m from Bilbao, on the northern coast of Spain. After studying business here, I worked for a few years in banking in London. Then, after taking some time off and traveling around the world, I decided to get my MBA at Stanford. Being in the heart of Silicon Valley, the mecca of startups inspired me to step outside my comfort zone and open my own business.
I founded the company in 2017 with two other people, although it was quite different then. We created products and services for third parties, and we were promoting one of those products for a client when we first tried influencer marketing. That’s when we noticed the need for a better, tech-backed way for brands to connect with influencers.
That was the starting point. To move forward, we identified all the tools brands need to do influencer marketing well. In our opinion, the two biggest needs were search and analytics, and we, therefore, saw those areas as the greatest opportunities, too.
As we developed the company, we also decided that we wanted to create a tool that all brands could use. There were already some influencer marketing platforms on the market when I founded Heepsy, but they’re quite expensive.
We wanted to provide great value at an accessible price. For example, influencer marketing is a great way for small businesses to get their names out there, so we wanted to make sure what we created was an option for them, too.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
We followed the lean startup methodology. The goal of a lean startup is to shorten product development cycles and understand quickly if your idea and business model are viable.
If we fail, we analyze why, come up with another idea, and move on.
For Heepsy, that meant getting to know the state of influencer marketing and interviewing people who fit our user personae to find out about their pain points. From there we created an MVP and started to get feedback from our first users.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Once we had our MVP, we did a soft launch in Spain, with the product language in Spanish. This was the best option for us because as we didn’t have a brand yet, we were able to get more users from closer to home.
We collected feedback from these users about what they liked about the platform, what they felt was missing, what improvements they thought we could make, etc. From this feedback, we reworked the product to include lots of new features. At this point, we changed the language to English and launched internationally.
Since then we haven’t stopped looking for ways to get better and better. For example, here’s a screenshot of what our product used to look like. You can see it was pretty basic, with only an Instagram search, just a few search filters, and a pretty limited design, at least compared to what we have now.
The product as it is today has improved greatly. You can now use Heepsy to find Instagram influencers and Youtube influencers, and we’ve included a bunch more filters. We’ve also done a lot of UX revision through the years to make the platform as comfortable, attractive, and user-friendly as possible.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
For us, growth is a constant process of discovery. We try to go down as many avenues as possible, analyze results, and choose the ones that apply to the 80/20 rule.
Some of our marketing efforts that have proven successful in attracting new customers have been:
- SEO - We’ve pushed really hard to rank for our core keywords. And it’s working. We’ve increased our SEO traffic by 41%. We’ve achieved this through a mix of optimizations on our own site, backlink building, and producing useful content for our users.
- Partnerships and affiliates - In addition to the SEO-oriented content partnerships I mentioned above, we also regularly prepare online courses and webinars. We’ve even taught an influencer marketing class at The University of Barcelona. We also carefully tend to our affiliate network to make sure we have good relationships with the people who promote us.
We’ve also failed at plenty of things. For example, we tried to launch a PR strategy, first on our own submitting press releases to distribution services, and later with an agency. Both failed pretty miserably. I think the mistake here was looking for short-term results. PR seems to be more of a long game, and if we try it again in the future, we’ll keep this in mind.
As for retention, we just try to keep our customers as happy as possible by understanding their needs and responding to them. Marketing and Product work side-by-side to do user interviews, understand pain points and work to solve them. That may include installing new features, creating educational content, or reorganizing our help center.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We’re a SaaS company, so we measure our profits in MRR, as I mentioned above. Throughout 2020, we’ve been able to more than double our MRR. We’ve also doubled our team, which has opened up new opportunities in data, UX, content, and affiliate marketing.
Our goal for Heepsy is to keep growing our MRR and subscriber base by continuously improving and adding to our product. We want to be the best influencer marketing platform on the market. In the short term, our goal is to add a TikTok search to our platform. And in the longer term, we want to have search capacity for all the major social networks.
We’ve also got another product in the works and it’s going really well. We’re currently testing it in Spain but are excited to expand its market. For the long-term, we’re looking to become a provider of a wider range of influencer marketing services that help brands and influencers connect in organic, transparent, and fairways.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We were very lucky to be accepted into the Google for Startups program, which is quite selective and which offers support and training to startups. Through the program, we adopted the objectives and key results (OKRs) framework, and I think it’s helped us tremendously.
When we think according to OKRs, we can identify our goals and unite our teams as they strategize to achieve them. We set objectives every quarter and measure key results every week. This analytical approach lets us see which strategies are working and which aren’t, and reorient our efforts if necessary.
We also use Agile methodology throughout the entire company, both on the product and marketing sides. It works hand-in-hand with the OKRs system to give us both the ability to work independently and proactively as individuals, as well the flexibility to shift gears quickly as a team when a new opportunity, challenge, or problem arises.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use various tools from Google: Analytics for getting insight into our customers and their behavior, Ads for paid search campaigns, Search Console for our SEO strategies, and Optimize for running A/B tests and finding ways to improve our website. We also use Google Drive for managing all of our data and content and Meet for virtual meetings.
As a SaaS company, we also rely on ChartMogul to record and analyze our MRR. Fullstory helps us understand our user experience, and Figmahelps us design it. We use Pipedrive, Intercom, and Sendgridto manage relationships and stay in touch with our users.
Finally, I couldn’t answer this question without mentioning three tools that have allowed us to smoothly transition to remote work this year and last. Asanahas given us a space in which we can organize, prioritize and attack our tasks. Slack has made it easy and fun to keep in touch with colleagues near and far. Finally, Notion offered us the opportunity to create the type of company portal most startups don’t dream of. With these three tools, we’ve been able to maintain the collaborative environment that we feel is so important at our company.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries has been incredibly influential, as I mentioned we used the lean methodology to first launch our product.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
It sounds clichéd, but I firmly believe that if you want to succeed as a startup, you have to learn to not fear failure. With small teams, people often need to wear more than one hat. And that means sometimes stepping outside of your comfort zone.
The key is to not be afraid to do that. If we fail, we analyze why, come up with another idea, and move on. When we find strategies that work, we stick with them, but we don’t get complacent. We’re constantly testing out how we can improve on what we know already works and push for even better results.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t tell startups to work with influencers to get their name out there. Maybe I sound biased since it’s my product’s industry, but we’ve seen how well it works. And it’s important to understand that in 2021, the influencer doesn’t only mean the Kim Kardashians who charge exorbitant amounts for a single post.
There are influencers out there for all price points, including startups with not too much spare money in their marketing budget. If you want to give it a go, look for nano and micro-influencers, who have under 50K followers. Make sure they have high engagement rates. And negotiate with them to see if you can give them free products in exchange for publicity on social media.
If you’re interested in learning more about this, we’ve got lots of free content, like our influencer marketing guide, on Heepsy’s website to help you out.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are expanding our team quite a bit right now. We have both a few full-time and internship roles available:
- Marketing Growth Hacker
- Online Marketing Specialist
- Social Media Intern
- Senior Product Designer
We’ll also surely have additional roles opening in the future as the company and team continue to grow.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you’d like to learn more about us and what we do, feel free to visit any of the following links:
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to try out influencer marketing to grow your own startup, we’d like to offer you 15% off the first month of Heepsy’s Business or Gold Plan. Just use the code PN_STARTERSTORY_15_BG at checkout.
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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