Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Travis Chappell, and I am the founder of Guestio and the host of the Build Your Network Podcast. Guestio is a Saas marketplace that connects podcast guests to podcast hosts for better conversations. We have our software subscription that enables you to create a press kit that is publicly listed in our marketplace, send up to 50 pitches a month using audio and video, communicate with those you are pitching or those who are pitching you, and even help you charge for your time or audience. We also have an agency that does everything the software does but on a done-for-you basis.
In the agency, we typically work with 7-9 figure founders and help them get booked on top podcasts for publicity, authority, credibility, and traffic. We raised a 1.3 million dollar pre-seed round last year and just clocked in a $220k month in August of 2022.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My career started when I got recruited to a door-to-door sales team in college. I immediately took to it and started to improve as much as I could. Even after I graduated from college, I stayed in door-to-door sales until I realized that I didn’t want to be doing that long-term.
At that point, I decided to start searching for what I wanted to do next, and that’s when I dove into personal development for the first time. I started reading books, listening to audio and found podcasting. I loved the medium and decided to start a show myself. After a couple of years, the show started doing pretty well and people started to ask me about how we did it.
I started a company teaching podcasting to entrepreneurs, and that’s how I came across the problem that Guestio solves. No one knew how to get good guests or get booked on good shows to promote their business or show. Guestio became the solution to that problem.
The awesome thing about starting the podcast before the software company was that we had an audience of warm buyers to test the market with. We gained our first 1,000 users within a couple of months completely organically and spent the rest of 2021 listening to users and implementing improvements based on feedback.
Take us through the process of creating the product and launching the business.
Since this was my first software development process as a nontechnical founder, I had to enlist the help of someone I trusted. A friend of mine had just had a micro acquisition of a small software tool he had developed and got hired in the acquisition at this $500mill company, and through that process had decided to start his software development firm. I became their second client ever and they got to work building out the initial designs and product. See the screenshot of the first home page wireframe.
One of the biggest lessons I learned as a nontechnical founder was the true definition of an MVP. We spent 6 months and $90,000 on 0% interest credit cards building the first version of the product and building out too many features at first. It slowed us down in our launch and prevented us from getting feedback from users. For instance, I was adamant about including a scheduling feature like calendly in the service. I knew that I used that tool and wanted Guestio to eliminate the need for outside help. After launching, however, we learned that people weren’t comfortable leaving their availability open without confirming the interview first. That one mistake was a $20,000 feature build that we ended up shutting down weeks into the launch. We intend on bringing it back at some point, but it was not necessary for MVP.
Our first iteration was all about helping podcasters land big guests on their shows in a Cameo style marketplace where you pay for people’s time like a podcast speaking fee. But after months of testing, we started to realize there was a much bigger market and way more demand for the opposite side of the marketplace. We needed a way for people who were trying to promote something whether it was a book, their podcast, their company, etc to get booked on podcasts so they could talk about what they were trying to promote in front of a warm audience of people. Making this one shift helped us kick off our revenue with a bang in 2022.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
For the first 12 months, we grew organically just from my warm audience and from people sharing the platform, but in Q1 of 2022, we launched our first paid marketing campaign. Within 60 days of launching, we went from $0 to $15k/mo in MRR. If you want to see what that acquisition funnel looks like simply visit this link.
We offered a $1 two-week trial of our platform, had a $27 order bump on the $1 trial page, and then dramatically increased our AOV (average order value) by offering an annual subscription to the platform for $497 which is 60% off what our website says, and then if they turn that down, we offer them quarterly payment option at $197/quarter.
By the time they left the funnel, our AOV was around $100 which was almost what our CPA (cost per acquisition) or CAC (cost to acquire a customer) was.
Then, to boot, we had a VSL on our thank you page that sent qualified customers to an application for our agency services which start around $4,000/mo.
This one funnel brought us to $15k in software MRR (monthly recurring revenue) and over $50k in agency MRR.
We also got some traction from this viral feature in Bloomberg.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, Guestio is looking to expand both agency services and software capabilities. Our team is growing and eager to set the standard for what podcast bookings look like moving forward. As of June 2022, we are profitable thanks to our agency services, and as of August 2022, we passed $1 mill in revenue with a growth rate that suggests we will come close to $2 million in revenue for the year.
Now we are simply trying to hire some key roles in product development and operations so that we can keep up with our growing user base and private client list.
Don’t just focus on the goal, focus on becoming the person that is capable of achieving the goal.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
There are too many lessons to count, but here are a couple of things:
1) In software, try to enter the battlefield with a co-founder that is good at something at which you are not. It’s tough to build any business, especially when it comes to building something that you don’t know how to build and aren’t even sure what the demand will be. Ideally, you have one person who will market and sell the product and one person who will build and provide fulfillment/support. I would have saved tens of thousands of dollars and lots of stress from the start had I gone this route.
2) Always pick a starving and growing market. Choosing a market that is both starving and growing will help make up for your lack of experience, knowledge, or information. When we first started, the market we selected was growing but not starving. When we switched to people who needed traffic and promotion, we found a market that was starving. Coupling those two things has helped us in more ways than one. The Bloomberg feature we got wouldn’t have happened without being in a growing market that is trending upward.
3) Solve a problem you are best suited to solve. It would have been much more difficult for me to build Guestio had I not been a podcaster and podcast coach/course creator for multiple years prior. Having insight into the industry is what allowed me to raise capital without having a big team or a long track record of successful software startups. People trusted I knew how to solve the problem best because I had so much experience dealing with that problem.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use a combination of a few things. For productivity, we use ClickUp and Slack. For marketing, we use Active Campaign and ClickFunnels. For internal, collaborative team projects, we use Google docs, slides, and sheets. For podcast production, we use Descript and RedCircle.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
For building the business, I would recommend The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. This is perfect for anyone building a product (especially software). The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is fantastic as well. For marketing, I would recommend Influence by Robert Cialdini, the Secrets Trilogy by Russell Brunson, and 100 Million Dollar Offers by Alex Hormozi.
I gotta recommend my podcast Build Your Network as it has 800 episodes with some of the brightest minds around including Shaquille O’Neal, Rob Dyrdek, Molly Bloom, Jasmine Star, Roland Frasier, and hundreds more.
Some of my favorites to listen to would be the Jordan Harbinger show, Impact Theory, Joe Rogan, Conan O’Brien needs a Friend, and Culture Camp with Jason Haugen.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
The best advice I can give to someone starting up is that it’s not one size fits all. The journey looks different for everyone, so focus on investing in yourself and the skills that will make you successful over the long term. Don’t just focus on the goal, focus on becoming the person that is capable of achieving the goal. Skills like commitment, focus, and delayed gratification will serve you well no matter what your build looks like right now.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are looking to hire for a couple of director-level positions in product, tech, and operations, and several other starter roles in sales, marketing, and ops, so if you’re looking to join a growing company in the creator economy, simply shoot an email over to [email protected] with your resume and what position you would be interested in.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.