A Candid Interview with Laurent Pellegrino, the Solo Founder of Noticeable.io, A User Engagement Platform

I am Laurent, a 30 years old entrepreneur who founded Noticeable, a changelog and newsfeed as a service to help companies to keep their audience updated on what’s new. Before Noticeable, I have created Medical ID on Android.

My background is mainly about software engineering in distributed systems. I am also a cryptocurrencies opportunist who really love playing with new technologies. In my free time, I appreciate going jogging ?

Monthly Revenue

I recently had a bad experience with revenue transparency. Although most people are encouraging and nice, a few are really jealous, especially here in France. As a consequence, I think sharing revenue numbers when you are too young may be a hurdle to grow.

Date Started / Years in Business

I started working on Noticeable in April 2017. A first MVP was available in early November for early testers. The road to a first stable version was quite long. The official launch was in January 2018. Additionally, we are currently based in the French Riviera (Cagnes-sur-mer, France).

Number of Employees

My girlfriend gives me some help with support requests but I am the only one working full time on Noticeable right now.

During the launch phase, did you maintain a full-time job? (or even currently)

Although I consider Noticeable as my main work activity I try dedicating about 1/4 of the week to other activities such as maintaining the Medical ID Android app, investing in cryptocurrencies, but also checking for new opportunities to create more streams of income.

How did you acquire customers/subscribers/users?

Marketing and sales were quite new to me. The first attempt was with cold emails. It was a big failure. The main mistake I made was to target customers of an existing competitor (who didn’t update its product for a long time) without anticipating possible requests.

At the time of the launch, Noticeable already had enough features to differentiate from main competitors but it seems this was not enough. Especially, we didn’t provide a one-click solution to move content from the competitor to our solution. That’s now fixed ๐Ÿ˜‰

Another strategy was to publish on social media and platforms. As many tech-oriented companies, I published on HackerNews. This last has brought a lot of traffic along with our first customers. First customers asked new features, I prioritized and implemented most of the requests in a few weeks (nights were really short :D). This has had the effect to make customers really happy, which in turns has generated new customers by word of mouth.

Almost at the same time, targeting forums for people who may have an interest in what our service solves have generated a decent traffic to our main page. Besides, I dedicated a small budget for ads on Google Adwords and LinkedIn Ads. It helped a bit with acquisition but less than other methods.

I think I made the mistake of not fully realizing who was looking for Noticeable and how, or which problems potential customers needed to get solved first, or at what point the purchasing decision was made. Also, most probably, the budget was too small. That’s something I will retry in the future.

What software / platforms / tools have you utilized since launch?

From a backend point of view and as a solo founder, I decided from the start to use managed solutions only. The purpose was to save time with development, deployment but also maintenance. My first sight was turned to Amazon and Firebase/Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

I already used both platforms in the past. My preference was for Firebase due to its well-integrated solution (authentication, storage, database, etc.).

I was a bit afraid of the price of Firebase real-time database. Hopefully, in May 2017 I got an early access to the alpha preview of Firestore, which after a few testing confirmed my idea to continue with Firebase/GCP. Also, one of the strong benefits is that Firebase offers a generous free tier (in addition to GCP credits) that allows bootstrapping up to a few hundreds of users with 0 pennies.

From a frontend point of view and as a new technologies adopter, I decided to make use of Web components. They provide encapsulation which offers reusability and saves time.

There already exists an extensive library at webcomponents.org where you can pick and try components. Also, page styles do not leak in components, which is really perfect for the Widget that is at the heart of Noticeable. This technology choice is really appreciated by customers.

In terms of libraries, I make use of Polymer 2 to simplify web components development. The library is really fantastic, from development to testing and deployment. However, as all cutting-edge technologies, it has some drawbacks.

The main I noticed was about the polyfills it requires to work on some browsers. It slow downs the page loading, especially on mobile devices, which affects user experience. Hopefully, browser related technologies evolve very quickly and polyfills are replaced by native support.

From a testing point of view, I underestimated the impact of browser extensions. Noticeable pages were not loading on browsers that make use of the LastPass extension. All that due to a bug in LastPass itself. It took months for LastPass to fix the issue. As a consequence, I lost some customers.

I recommend Stripe for implementing subscriptions. Their API is really fantastic. As a French resident, I suggest TransferWire to get a virtual US account to receive payments in dollars and reduce fees.

For chatting with customers, I started with Crisp, then when I needed to create an help centre, I looked at other alternatives. I fall on Intercom. Their service is not cheap, even for early startups but it is cheaper than Crisp and I find Intercom usage incredibly simple with much more valuable features. Furthermore, their “Inbox” product to send a message based on your own conditions is really a killer feature that allows saving hours of development.

How did you fund your startup and how do you make money/revenue?

Bootstrapped from scratch. Revenue is based on subscriptions.

To date, what have been your biggest challenges as a company? What have you done to overcome them?

The biggest challenges were to prioritize tasks and keep a good work/life balance. Regarding the former, I have learned to continuously question myself. About the latter, I have the chance to have a really supportive immediate family ๐Ÿ™‚

If you had to do it all over again, would you? What would you do differently?

Offering a free plan from day 1. As a solo founder, I was scared by the extra time required to handle tasks related to a free plan but I think it’s worth the pain in order to ease conversion and really become viral. Another point, not neglecting content marketing. Demonstrating expertise in the domain is essential (best practices, use cases, helpful tips, etc.). That’s something I still need to work on.

Lastly, if anyone reading this wants to know more about your companyโ€ฆ where do we send them?

To our website -> noticeable.io ๐Ÿ˜‰ We also answer all requests by email.

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