Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Claudio Pires, co-founder of Visualmodo. With Jared Dias, we started an internet business to sell quality codes and share useful content to let everybody create their online space. Visualmodo started as a WordPress theme development company, but now we do media, content, plugins and are still doing WordPress themes.
We’re from Brazil and based in Brazil. When the business started I was 18yr and Jared was 24yr. Most of the people here at this time simply do not understand the true potential of the internet (Sometimes it seems like they still do not get it) and that is why our target market is global, and not local.
We have a 360k business selling themes, plugins, and services and the market is growing, but at the start, we did 1 or 2 sales (of 49USD each) per week and things did take a lot of time to show some results.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Tech’s a quite complicated topic here in Brazil (Radio internet connection) only during the weekends and once it was too expensive, we also have too many fees (govern taxes) and delays because most of the gadgets come from America, we also did need to learn a second language so we can learn from the ones who build the technology, there was no content in Brazil related to it. but we grew up watching sci-fi movies and reading tech articles. We have been amazed by big personalities' stories like Bill Gates or Jobs. and These difficulties made us love the internet, and understand the value of this simple connection that can help people to find things, understand other languages and connect people across the globe.
Our very first adventure as partners was a sportive social media in 2008 but the focus was on Brazil and it did not grow well with problems of monetization and servers/hosting quality. But the good part was the experienced coding and optimizing codes to serve people. We did learn how to write codes, content, manage sites, and survive the difficulties that persons have to run a digital business.
So, in 2009 we decided to close this social media to start building a coding company called “infiniteGrids’ that 1 year later became Visualmodo. With a focus on the globe and not only in Brazil.
Fail fast, learn from it, and do it again in another method.
We know that it was the right way because we were moving and offering solutions for problems that would appear 10 years later. The idea in mind was to be a company that supports and engages in the internet moving process, site-building process, consulting, and training for today's ‘Digital age’.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
We did find a marketplace that can help us to sell more in 2011, but they have put codes into boxes, calling them templates, almost like coding only to build a blog, and a video only to build a login page. And we did start putting everything in these boxes, separating things to make it simple to use and customize for the final user. A lot of tries and fails in the first years. Especially in mobile browsers, which was a quite new thing for us in 2011.
We did use the WordPress org forum community to see the WP users' pains and share/learn knowledge base, we also used a lot of GitHub and StackOverflow to have other people testing and feedbacking our codes.
But once again, our belief in the future guided us on that almost uncovered market. After noticing that more and more people are trying to build sites and not everybody wants to deal with codes we evolved these templates as Themes for a new trending CMS called WordPress (the now powers 35% of all the sites on the internet) and after a lot of know-how collected from WordPress (developing and using), we started to build plugins to enlarge the power of our themes, for the ones who know how to code and for those who don’t.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We only got a low budget, no investors, only our own money and time. Like most businesses I imagine. We also need to fight against the Brazilian complicated laws of businesses, especially the ones who make money outside of Brazil. Tons of reading and back-office help were needed. Our first website no longer exists and we have no screenshots of it, but the domain was one of the founder's names (jaredsdias dot com) and after this, we moved to 8grids dot com.
The entire process at this time did cost something like 5,000USD that was a big amount of money for us (Brazilian currency is undervalued against the dollar) and to save money and keep the dream alive we needed to learn most of the things instead of contracting more people, like logo design, icons design, SEO, writing. All learned on YouTube and free courses in a language that isn’t our native one.
We looked at the first client on the internet. Hiring sites, Facebook. Orkut. Some local businesses who we can contact needed websites. We believe that every single business would need their own space online at some moment, and having only a Facebook page is almost like building your dream house on rented land. We also looked at the developers and designers who were always looking for better methods to do their jobs.
The process took almost 2 years. Facebook design and development groups, communities, online forums like WordPress org forum.
Collected some services, like host migrations, website speed optimization.
And always asked for the customers to recommend us, we even offered discounts for recommendations. It wasn’t easy.
We built the entire website and portfolio, social media, design, all on our own, before investing, we did learn how to do it. If we need a logo, we learned how to make one, same for illustrations. Did all the marketing on developers and design communities.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We do love the branded content, we do offer something for free, like free icon packs, images, photos, training videos, documentation, how-tos, as much content as possible helps a lot to become an authority on your field and make it easier for potential clients to find you. This is normally called a ‘freemium’ strategy, almost like when someone will give you an ebook but wants your email to send you marketing material.
We did invest in content, SEO strategy, and good support to make our actual client recommend us to a new one (designers know other designers). Almost like referral marketing.
But the real work is to keep the customer, once the internet changes, the products that we sell need to be upgraded, optimized, more and more features added, and the user sees value in it and keeps believing in you.
If you want to use Facebook to promote your brand, you need to do it every day. If you want to share branding content on Youtube, you need to do it 2 times per week. People will not find you if you stop so keep going.
In addition, customer care (support) 7 days per week to answer questions, offer help and insights to the customers building their online presence is essential to make the actual clients happy with our services.
We believe the people doing their first site prefer a good WordPress theme with excellent support and documentation instead of an excellent theme with no material or support. So, if I need to write a recommendation, please take care of your customers' questions.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
After all these turbulent times it seems like more and more businesses are finally noticing the importance of the ‘online’ world, so, I.T., persons, developers, and programmers are in more and more need. So, we’re doing well and preparing a free WordPress theme for WordPress org called Anzu, among a free WP plugin called Borderless or empower creators.
We’re also preparing a new platform that will be a community of content creators and designers. We also have started a pure news blog called Cyberculture.net and are working in free photos sharing community for amateurs and pro photographers. In addition, we have Expo, which is a free CSS gallery where people can promote their websites for free and find other site creators. The beta holding site is unicorp.global.
We plan to become a goldmine of internet tools from the ones who want to read to the ones who want to learn and create online. Covering all the stages of online business, site building, SEO, ads, content, training, and resources.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Yes, a couple of things. At the very first it's quite obvious but we need to say it. We need to be nimble. Web changes fast, and the web does not care if you spent a year developing some tool, if the trends change, you just lost your time. So, if you have an idea and can do an MVP (minimum viable product), launch it as soon as possible and add more time to it according to the feedback. Add on your mind that there’s no ‘perfect’ on the internet business, and that’s why Microsoft and Apple keep updating that software.
Another lesson is about constancy. Commitment. If you want to use Facebook to promote your brand, you need to do it every day. If you want to share branding content on youtube, you need to do it 2 times per week. People will not find you if you stop so keep going.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
In the beginning, when we had not much to invest we only used a cheat host platform and WordPress, now we use more tools and premium versions of ones like Bootstrap. AWS, Google Clouds. Mailchimp, G Suite. Vultr. Alexa, React, Slack, semrush, Google analytics. CloudFlare.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Factfulness, Good to Great, Start with Why, and a podcast about the influence of a big Brazilian seller who owns Orlando City soccer team called Flavio Augosto. In addition to a movie from 1999 called Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Fail fast, learn from it and do it again in another method. See your product or service from another side of view, try to explain what you do to your friends and family if it takes too much time to make people buy the idea or understand you may need to make it simpler. Find a pain to fix, a problem to solve and success will find you too.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We recently contracted 2 new designers and one blogger so we aren't hiring right now but are always collecting CVs for possible future projects and looking for good persons to work with, companies to partner with, and joint ventures. Check our Linkedin profit or contact us on our site.
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.
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