Jordan AyanSerial entrepreneur-innovator-author-brainstormer

Subscribermail Co-founder (with spouse) Early SAAS email marketing company (sold to public company). Jordan and Jan Ayan are serial entrepreneurs that have been Married with Business for the past 20 years. Together they bootstrapped and built several companies using Lean Start Up techniques and Growth Hacking before either term was defined. One of their companies was involved in the early stages of the Lean Six-Sigma movement and consulted and trained numerous Fortune 500 companies in the use of the techniques. In 2000 they launched a new technology company focused on helping any business create and send permission-based email communications with ease. They received a patent on their unique email concept (US Patent - 6,769,002) which they also licensed to others in the industry. The company, SubscriberMail, was a pioneer in the non-spam email marketing space. On December 31, 2009 they were acquired by a public company who was also a client. At that time, their customers ranged from start-ups to Fortune 10 companies (including two of the few brands people actually tattoo on their bodies – Apple (who originally found them through an orgnic search on Google) and Harley-Davidson). Their business was based in Chicago, but after the sale and tired of shoveling snow, they moved their permanent home to Scottsdale. Today they have a consulting practice that helps businesses quickly identify growth and company issues, and develop innovative implementable solutions.

Recent Answers

Hi, having built multiple businesses, the first question should not be how do you raise funds, but what is it that needs funding, and over what period of time do you need funds. Related to this is how soon can you turn flow and how quickly can that become your funding resource. We have bootstrapped all of our business. Not always easy, but very rewarding. We exited our last business by selling to a public company, and had no investors to pay off in the end. Let me know if you would like to discuss further.

Depends on how you define big, but the easy answer is yes. We built our last company from nothing into a successful business. We were in the B2B space. Our customers when we sold included Apple, Xerox, Harley-Davidson,Chicago Bulls and many more. Never took a penny from VC's or Angels. When we closed the sale we owed nothing. We kept a line of credit, but never used it. When we closed it was for an eight figure amount. If you want to discuss more we are happy to set up a call.

Every business is a bit different, but we bootstrapped several very successful companies in the B2B space and here are the milestones we hit. Some were planned goals, others I can see clearly in retrospect. I will say that as a bootstrapper, the single most significant milestone is positive cash flow. It was our goal from day one and almost everything we did at the start was driven by that goal

1 Beta test
2 Product launch
3 Users (hopefully paid but not always)
4 Paid users
5 First employee
6 positive customer feedback
7 Marquis customer (for us Apple and Harley Davidson)
8 Significant volume or dollar goals (ie first 100 customers, first month gross over $100,000. First month profitable, first $1,000,000 etc).
9 First time Vc's or private equity guys call to see if you need money.
10 If it is what you are planning, successful exit at a high multiple.

There were many more goals that we set along the way that were very specific to our business, but it was critical that we set them and shared them very visibly for the most part with the company. We also made sure when we hit one that we celebrates the success.

Hope this helps, would be happy to do a brief call to discuss your business specifically and talk about any goals you should set. Good luck it is a fun (albeit sometimes hard) ride.

Tough question. There are many underlining questions that need to be asked. For example what is the market need for your product, if you have customers and they are satisfied, why are you failing to gain traction. How effective is your marketing and business development. In my mind you have to determine is what has to happen to attain the goals you set that will define success. $150,000 is a lot of money, but you don't want to walk away if you are close to making it. The other side is you don't want to invest another. $150k and be no further along

In our business we always point to a day two years in where our accountant said "well you have made a good go at it, but you just aren't going to make it and should go look for jobs." We were so sure and committed that we doubled our effort. Telling us to quit was the best thing he could have done because it forced us to figure it out. Years later when we sold the company to a public firm, this same accountant worked with us on due diligence. I reminded him of the conversation and let him know he was wrong.

If we can help, don't hesitate to set up a call.

This isn't an easy question to answer the way you have posed it. There are many elements that go into starting a company, and you haven't sharedwhat the company would do. Is it going to have a product, or is it a way to sell your coding skills. Also, knowing revenue and profit potential of a business vs. starting salary for coders with similar skills would help you weigh the economics of both. In either case, good luck, and if you would like to brainstorm this question, please schedule a call.

I saw this post, and don't know if you ever connected with anyone who could help you. I staarted in the direct marketing business 30+ years ago, my wife and I built one of the earliest email marketing platforms (which we sold to a public company a few years ago). We definitely understand the space and would be interested in helping you if we fit the bill.

Good question. Somewhere in my limbic brain going back to my early days in traditional direct mail, I read about a pricing test over time, and prices ending in 8 won. While I can don't even have a clue where I read this, I have followed it most of my business life, and it has worked. I subsequently learned that the number 8 in Chinese numerology is considered "auspicious." Be that as it may, I think much more important than the pricing number, is what is the value perception of what you are trying to sell. In selling a can of corn, 99 cents may sell many more cans that $1.01 - but in other areas, value will drive sales pricing is important but whether the price ends in a 1,2,3,6,8,0,,,probably doesn't matter if the value is there.

I think a fundamental question is are your trying to sell something specifically, or are you interested in selling as a career and trying to figure out how to go about doing so.

While I agree getting out there and just doing it can work, I think the basic elements of sales that can be learned in a short period of training (and cut down the learning curve) - when I first started selling it was Xerox's sales training, and there are many more options available today, but these course teach the fundamentals of sales, which are definitely a critical part to success in sales (ie - you have to ask for the order, listen for objections, learn to overcome them, etc).

There is another part of learning to sell that is not easy to learn, and my experience is some people have it and some don't, and if they don't you can't teach it. This is the way you intuitively listen and understand customer's needs, know when to ask questions, know when to shut up and listen, and when to close the deal. I have been out with many sales people over my career. Some are genius when it comes to these elements. Some can't figure them out after years of experience.
Good luck and if you want to talk more about this, let me know.

Cool product, but I would want to understands what differentiates your product from other similar ones on the market - ie . Do you offer something different? Do you have a patent? Without strong differentiation, or a very unique niche, it will be hard to justify the $50 cost over the $15 Gamewheel. It will also make your claim of "The First Tabletop Gaming Wheel for the iPod".

Never want to shoot someone's dream down, but you have to be aware of market realities. Marketing this with little or no money is going to be a challenge against a low-priced competitor who appears to have deep pockets.

This being said, if you can carve out a different niche for your product that considers your wheel the one they have to use, or you have better design or functionality. It would be interesting to know what you mean when you say that you validated the concept using SEO only. Have they purchased, or just signed up to be notified when the product is going to be available.

Having had several businesses where we had to deal with the issue of sales compensation early in our business development, I think the better question might be what is the best sales and compensation structure for a sales and business development position in your industry (or related one).

Then the key question is can you be competitive and offer an attractive package to pull in the best candidates. We always looked to stay competitive for sales candidates, with a big focus on the incentive side of closing the deal. Great sales people are always incentive driven. This does not necessarily mean you have to dip into equity to pay them. In fact the business development people that were always trying to get a piece of the company for coming on board, were always the ones that didn't click.

Business development compensation is always something that as you develop and grow you have to re-evaluate, as well as determining are they type of people you hired in early stage, the same type of people you need two or three years down the road. We had an innovative product and in the beginning, our business development team had business dropping out of the sky (Apple called us after seeing us on Google and became an early customer). As the years progressed and our market and competition changed, we needed a much different and more aggressive type of person. In our case, we realized it, but it took a while to re-adjust the sails (pun intended).

Be happy to talk to you more if we can help.

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