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Blood, sweat, and tears – The Startup Journey
by Ben Gabler on
It always starts with an idea…
Starting a new business is never easy. Lucky for us, WordPress Hosting isn’t all that new to us. While that doesn’t mean it’s easy by any means, it really allowed us to launch Rocket with confidence in our Platform and offering.
With plenty of sweat (and definitely some tears) we were able to launch our business within ninety days of purchasing the domain.
Now, ninety days may seem scary… What about testing? How reliable can it be!? Being as our founding team has been doing this for 30+ years, we knew exactly what we had to do. We already had the relationships for Product Development, UI/UX Design & Research, and years of experience from building several successful products and companies.
Personally, I’ve seen WordPress at Scale. Back in 2014 I was a part of the team that relaunched all of the hosting products at GoDaddy. It was a huge part of my career and something I’m extremely proud of. With that said, I also learned from a lot of mistakes we made. I realized… I’ve been testing a WordPress specific Platform since 2014, we got this! Wait… who’s we?
It takes a village.. but not just any village
When I set out on this journey, I knew I needed a solid team to really pull it off. The last time I built a hosting company from scratch, I was 21 and living off of redbull and McDonalds. This time around, I’m 35 years old and happily married with a beautiful 14 month old daughter… needless to say times have changed and I knew I could not do this alone.
So, I made some phone calls and ultimately assembled what I like to refer as the “Dream Team”. Okay, I know that’s cliche, but it’s true. When it comes to the Web Hosting Industry, I can assure you this is the best of the best.
It’s extremely important that you find the right team to help you achieve the mission of your startup. It’s always important to remember it’s not just about technology, or design, or marketing, or even sales… it’s about all of it. So find people that are like minded, hungry, and are considered “unicorns”.
With over 30 years of combined experience, the founding team is comprised of Product, Software Engineering, UI/UX Design & Research, UX Engineering, Business Development, Marketing, and Sales – specifically specializing in Hosting/Internet business.
The Mythical MVP
Minimal Viable Product. I started outlining our MVP in February 2020 and am extremely proud of how quickly it came together. Being a bootstrapped company, I knew I had to find a way for us to get to market as quickly as possible, but also knew we couldn’t cut corners.
While defining your MVP, try to focus on time to market. The longer you spend seeking “feature parity” and/or the “perfect” product, the more opportunity you’re missing out on. In fact, if you have the “perfect product” then you’ve launched too late.
But how do you know? What’s the right MVP? This is one of the most common questions in Product Management – What is an MVP? There is no one size fits all Minimal Viable Product as it’s different for every project. Typically folks will say “If you’re not embarrassed of your MVP, you failed” and while it can be hard to stomach – I agree.
Now you’re probably asking “Okay… but how embarrassed?”, so let’s get to the part about drawing the line in the sand. I always like to start with a timeframe and work backwards to see what can be done in that block of time.
With Rocket, I set a pretty aggressive goal of getting our MVP out within ninety days of breaking ground. Now that I had my deadline, it was time to build the infamous PRD (Product Requirements Document). This is where it gets tricky. I knew how much time I had, but what features make the cut? Where do we start? Time to break out my competitive analysis.
A very important part of Product Management is having a strong “competitive analysis”. Not only does this help you understand your competitive landscape, but it also really helps you understand the common offerings across the market.
However, one thing to always keep in mind – your competitors did not build their product overnight. Instead of trying to match every feature 1:1, outline the core requirements then find the problems your competitors are not solving.
What are your competitors not solving for your target audience? In Rocket’s case, our core requirement was “Reliable WordPress Hosting” and the problems we wanted to solve were around ease of use, speed/scale, and security.
How did we know what our competitors were not solving? I started looking at their public forums, blog posts, job openings, social media profiles & ad’s. You’d be surprised at what you can find out even from a job posting. I also took to some public forums related to hosting (in our case webhostingtalk.com) and searched through various requests/complaints around WordPress hosting. After doing my own research, I took out my rolodex and started contacting people I knew were running WordPress to validate my findings.
Fast forward a few days, our PRD was complete with what we needed for our MVP. The team felt very confident with our feature-set and timeline, so we kicked off development and were off to the races.
It’s launch time!
With many late nights, early mornings, and weeks of development we were finally ready. In May, 2020 we launched our MVP – Managed WordPress Hosting at the Edge of the Cloud. We took the password off our website, and opened up the doors to our network. In the first thirty days we onboarded several paying customers ranging from Publicly Traded companies, to individual web developers and small business owners looking to maximize the speed and security of their WordPress websites.
In June, 2020 we did our official Public Launch Announcement and kicked off our first marketing campaigns. These efforts brought many new customers to the platform and so far the feedback has been nothing short of amazing.
BTW, service has been great. no issues, cache seems strong. Hit me up if I forget in another week or two of testing and I’ll give you a review/testimonial, whatever you need. Always happy to help a newer startup (I have been in the startup space for 20 years).
Hearing our customers say things like “it’s so easy to get started”, “this is the easiest WordPress control panel I’ve ever used”, “the cache is rock solid”, and much more – we knew we hit it out of the park. We’re extremely proud of the Product we’ve brought to market and look forward to making an impact for the greater good in the WordPress community.
What’s next for Rocket?
We have some exciting features on the Roadmap – some from pre-launch and some from our customers. I’ve always believed in customer-centric Product Development. Steve Jobs once said “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them” and I think that only goes so far with digital experiences. Once you solve an underlying need your customer has with your MVP (in our case the ability to host a WordPress website fast and securely) you have to listen to their feedback to solve their pain points.
Now, this doesn’t mean there is no internal Product Innovation or Feature development planned at Rocket, but a large chunk of our Roadmap is customer driven – especially as a bootstrapped company. We’ve already received a handful of requests from our customers and are working hard on them.
When building features and/or functionality not directly tied to a customer request, I always ask myself “Would someone cancel over this?” or “How many customers actually need this to be successful with our Product”
At Rocket, we don’t just listen to our customers, but we hear our customers. I personally take chats, work tickets, and answer the phone… a good Product Manager should always be involved in the front line and living the customer experience. Trust me… it makes a big difference when it comes to managing your Product(s).
We will continue to post about our Journey as we continue to grow our business. We will discuss startup challenges, how we built our Product, marketing tactics, UI/UX design process, and of course useful information related to WordPress.