From MVP to $10M Exit in 18 Months
Happy Saturday to the 6,302 builders, marketers and unicorns reading this newsletter.
Today we're going to break down the Influencer as Co-Founder growth strategy.
If you don't have a marketing budget or access to your target audience, partnering with an influencer in your space can be a scalable growth strategy.
Time to read: 4 minutes
Difficulty level: easy (anyone with a good product can apply this strategy)
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It's early 2020. You're a young software engineer and just quit your job to travel the world.
And then - COVID hits.
So what do you do?
Tom said "Hell yeah," and they were off.
MVPs and Quick Experiments
Tibo and Tom committed to launching a new product each week until they found something that got traction. They ended up shipping 11 products in 4 months.
The last one was Tweet Hunter:
Tweet Hunter solves a painful problem for a lot of people:
How to build a Twitter audience faster.
The product's main features are:
- A.I.-generated content suggestions
- access to a viral content library
- a Tweet scheduler
The challenge at this point for Tibo and Tom was: they had no social following to promote Tweet Hunter at scale.
A.K.A. - the builder's dilemma:
As the quote above from the founder of DuckDuckGo points out, it's hard to get traction without a way to get your product in front of users.
Tibo and Tom could have bought paid ads, but their goal was to bootstrap and focus on profitability from the outset.
The Influencer Growth Strategy
Partnering with an influencer gets you access to their audience and uses their influence to persuade the audience to buy.
How it works: leverage the influencer's reach and credibility to get in front of a receptive and relevant audience.
The key here is to find an influencer whose audience has a problem that your product solves.
Tweet Hunter partnered with JK Molina, a Twitter influencer who had an audience of about 25K followers at the time and was running a ghostwriting agency.
JK's audience is full of people who want to use content on Twitter as a way of attracting clients. Their biggest problem? Creating good content and packaging it effectively.
JK's infamous motto, "Likes ain't cash", describes how growing an untargeted audience won't result in revenue. Instead, you need a content strategy that's hyper-focused on solving the problems of your core customer. The partnership makes a lot of sense because Tweet Hunter gives you the tools you need to build an effective content strategy.
How to Trade Equity for Influence
Rather than receiving a typical affiliate share of revenue, Molina negotiated a founder stake in Tweet Hunter. The deal was structured as:
- 10% equity at launch (~$10k monthly run rate (MRR))
- 15% equity at $15K/month revenue
- 25% equity at $40K/month revenue
A typical influencer partnership is usually much less valuable to the influencer.
What made the JK Molina partnership more effective (and worth the equity) was that JK's coaching biz + Tweet Hunter creates a virtuous flywheel:
- Tweet Hunter helps JK's clients develop and monetize their audiences more effectively.
- The success of his clients helps grow his audience and increase his credibility
- As his audience grows, more prospects enter his marketing funnel and encounter CTAs for Tweet Hunter
Here's an example of how JK promoted Tweet Hunter within his coaching emails:
The Influencer as Co-Founder Strategy allowed Tibo and Tom to reduce their upfront risk.
Rather than paying for ads, they traded equity in the company.
For JK's full take on the partnership and deal see his YouTube video.
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Building an audience is HARD. Tweethunter and Taplio can accelerate your audience growth by providing content ideas, a viral content library and post scheduling. We negotiated a 50% discount for Unicorn Growth Strategies readers for their first month with Tweet Hunter and Taplio. Use promo code BRIAN50. (I'm not making money from this - I just wanted to give my unicorn community a good deal).
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Copy-Paste Influencer Strategy for Taplio
The problem that Tweet Hunter solves for Twitter users also exists for LinkedIn creators.
Tibo repurposed most of the Tweet Hunter code base to make a similar product for LinkedIn users, Taplio.
They pursued a similar influencer as co-founder strategy, partnering in this case with Alex Berman.
Additional Growth Strategies
Tweet Hunter's growth wasn't simply the result of Molina's effort.
He did help them jump quickly from $10K/MRR to $20K/MRR, but Tibo and Tom used several other growth strategies to scale.
Tweet Hunter launched some free tools as growth tactics:
A.I. Tweet Generator: choose a Twitter creator and generate tweets in their tone
Tweethunter acquired Twemex, the Twitter sidebar Chrome extension. Twemex fills the top of the marketing funnel with users looking to study high performing tweets.
It's clear from this AHREFs breakdown that they've focused on scaling up organic content, and have seen a proportional growth in organic traffic.
This article on Twitter's tip jar feature gets 2.5K visits / month.
Product Hunt Launch
The Tweet Hunter & Taplio Acquisition
Tibo and Tom were able to secure a 10x valuation across Taplio + Tweet Hunter based on their high growth rate. Receiving the full $10 million will depend on them hitting growth targets over the next 2 years.
Words of Wisdom from Tweet Hunter's Tom:
🤑 "One thing we had right from the start was a revenue mindset...We always wanted to validate our products with revenue...It may not lead as easily to become a unicorn, but at least you're building a profitable company from the start."
🤝 "Every major thing that happened to us happened by building relationships."
🛠️"We're not big fans of traditional marketing. We're big fans of product, shipping, building. What we did was - how do we turn marketing into something we do like? And that turned into our side product strategy."
Source: Tom's interview on YouTube
How likely are you to partner with an influencer?
✨ That's it for today.
The Influencer as Co-Founder strategy is a great way to reach a receptive audience if your product solves their audience's problem and enhances the influencer's credibility.
If you're working with a limited budget, it may be a great option for your startup.
That's it for this week.
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