Krepling: How Two Teens Co-Founded a Shopify Competitor
Liam Gerada is the co-founder and CEO of Krepling, an e-commerce platform for online stores.
In 2018, two teenage brothers in Malta wanted to start an agency.
They'd recently sold their Shopify store and decided that they wanted to help others running similar businesses. They spent a few months validating the idea but realized people didn't need an agency, they needed a better platform.
So Liam and Travis set out to build a Shopify competitor.
Neither of them was a developer, but Travis had taken some courses so knew just enough to start building something. After months of work, they shipped a product with a clunky backend and ugly user interface. But the product was free and they were still able to attract new users.
But as soon as they started charging, every user they had churned.
The brothers pushed on and tried anything they could think of to find customers e.g. posting on sites like Quora and Reddit, sending cold emails, etc. Eventually, they were able to find a handful of customers.
Fast forward to today, Liam is now 21 and Travis is 18.
The two brothers have made significant improvements to their product. They now have over 500 customers. And they've raised a pre-seed round from Jason Calacanis' Launch accelerator.
They still have a long way to go and a lot more work to do.
But I think they've accomplished a lot in the last couple of years. They're both still pretty young, don't have tons of experience, didn't know how to code, and live on a small island in the Mediterranean. But that hasn't stopped them from building their SaaS business and finding customers.
I hope you enjoy it.
Click to view transcript
[00:00:00] Omer Khan: Welcome to another episode of the SaaS podcast. I'm your host Omer Khan. And this is the show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights to help you build, launch and grow your SaaS. In this episode, I took to Liam Gerada the co-founder and CEO of Krepling an eCommerce platform for online stores.
[00:00:34] In 2018, two teenage brothers in Malta wanted to start an agency they'd recently sold their Shopify store and decided that they wanted to help others running similar businesses. They spent a few months validating the idea, but realized people didn't need an agency. They needed a better plan. So Liam and Travis set out to build a Shopify competitor neither of them were developers, but Travis had taken some courses, so knew just enough to start building something.
[00:01:07] And after months of work, they shipped a product with a clunky backend and an ugly user interface, but the product was free and it was still able to attract new users. But as soon as they started charging, pretty much every user they had, churned. The brothers pushed on and tried anything they could think of to find customers.
[00:01:29] For example, posting on sites like Quora and Reddit, sending cold emails, eventually they were able to find a handful of customers fast forward to today. Liam is now 21 and Travis is 18. The two brothers have made significant improvements to their product. They now have over 500 customers and they've raised a pre-seed round from Jason Calacanis' launched accelerator.
[00:01:57] They still have a long way to go and a lot more work to do, but I think they've accomplished a lot in the last couple of years. They're both still pretty young, didn't have tons of experience, didn't know how to code and live on a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean. But that hasn't stopped them from building their SaaS business and finding customers.
[00:02:19] So I hope you enjoy it, Liam. Welcome to the show.
[00:02:24] Liam Gerada: Hi. Yeah. Great to be here.
[00:02:26] Omer Khan: So, do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you or just gets you out of bed?
[00:02:32] Liam Gerada: Yeah, I wouldn't say I have a specific quote. I would say my brother and I both are highly motivated in, in solving problems particularly around what we love and enjoy be it eCommerce or just in general.
[00:02:45] And I think we really get excited about solving something and we were able to assemble a team of other people just enthusiastic about solving that problem, as we are. And I would say that that total really heavily motivates us to pursue whatever we are pursuing. So I think that's really the, the one thing that really gets us out of bed per se, every day is we were solving a problem that we really are passionate about and other people have joined us on this journey to help us solve this problem. And that's just good. What we do now. Even outside of what we do.
[00:03:15] Omer Khan: Awesome. So tell us about Krepling. What does the product do? Who is it for? And what's the main problem you're helping to solve?
[00:03:24] Liam Gerada: Yeah, essentially Krepling in a nutshell, brings together everything that's required to build an internet business and scale to global markets with ease.
[00:03:33] Krepling is a strictly, no code eCommerce platform that aims to solve one simple problem. And that is the decentralization that comes with building an online business. Krepling enables and empowers entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes no matter the technical background, no matter the scale of the business size of the business.
[00:03:53] If you're a first-time entrepreneur, just looking to test it out and build out your own eCommerce website or test out selling online, Krepling has you covered or even if you are a business doing $30,000 a month in sales and your enterprise by terms of scale, we can also cover you in that aspect as well. We enable businesses to sell in over 120 plus countries through a few clicks of a button.
[00:04:13] We take the user successful user base also very seriously. So, and that's one of the most important metrics we analyze even above our own revenue. And the problem is simple. I mean, we, we saw that when we started out only commerce store, we saw that the stitching together of disparate systems and paying for expensive third-party apps was a really poorly designed system.
[00:04:33] And eCommerce platforms weren't really built towards the eCommerce businesses of today. That really affected the backend and core functions of our online business. And when you have a decentralized backend, you automatically setting the odds of your business, scaling and succeeding against you. And that's essentially what we're solving with Krepling is this is a centralized platform, that's no-code friendly and is as simple and as easy as the internet should be.
[00:04:57] Omer Khan: So how Krepling different to other products that support running eCommerce businesses, you know, like the Shopify.
[00:05:07] Liam Gerada: Yeah, absolutely. I think we, we, we essentially, we, we started off as Shopify merchants ourselves. We built our first eCommerce store on Shopify.
[00:05:16] We, we, we tackle a few were built on Magento, Big Commerce. And essentially if I had to sum it up, Krepling differentiates from some of the bigger names in eCommerce in a number of different ways. The biggest being the way we tackle core eCommerce verticals in the no-code space.
[00:05:33] So Krepling has positioned itself as one of the more favorable options for business owners, looking for a centralized, no-code solution, it does everything you needed to do and more whilst being able to provide core value proposition across all eCommerce verticals. So whether if you're using it to build a business on Krepling you're not having to stitch together a bunch of disparate apps.
[00:05:55] You don't having to pay for a bunch of poorly designed integrations. It really is built for the eCommerce business of today. Not back in 2006, when essentially the only problem eCommerce had was there was no eCommerce. There was no way to sell online and these platforms made that possible since then times have evolved.
[00:06:13] ECommerce has evolved in the way you integrate and scale your business and evolve. And Krepling is really building for the businesses of this, this generation and this time of eCommerce there hasn't been many companies tackling the full scope of building online business, the same way Krepling has to date.
[00:06:28] I think this is really a pivot to the success of any new disruptive effort in the space today is being able to tackle the full scope of problems, integrations and that's really essentially what Krepling how Krepling differentiates from the likes of Shopify, Big Commerce and etc.
[00:06:45] Omer Khan: Okay. Great. And we'll get a little bit more into that because we're going to talk about some of the challenges you faced when you were running your own eCommerce business.
[00:06:55] But before we do that, give us a sense of the, the size of the business. So you guys spent most of 2019 doing validation, officially launched October, 2019. So you've been in business for I guess just under, coming up to two years now, what can you tell us in terms of, you know, customers, you know, size of the business, where are you guys?
[00:07:18] Liam Gerada: Yeah. So essentially to date we're powering businesses all across the world. We have businesses on all six different continents transacting and building on Krepling we have around 500 plus customers at the moment within our SaaS model. We are only currently realizing 25% of revenue potential in the sense that we haven't really built out towards the FinTech space just yet. That's something on our roadmap, definitely for the development this year. So we still only on the, on the SaaS side of eCommerce not towards the payment side, but that being said, our businesses finding success very quickly, they are producing actually a worldwide GMV of a $1 billion plus purely on Krepling so that's a huge reflection of the type of businesses we have that are transacting on Krepling and, and moving in our space.
[00:08:05] Omer Khan: So Liam, GMV is just like gross merchandise value. Right? Can you just explain to people who don't know about kind of eCommerce type stuff, what that means?
[00:08:15] Liam Gerada: Yeah, sure. So essentially GMV is the way we calculate essentially how our businesses are transacting on the platform.
[00:08:21] In, in layman's terms, it's just the term you use to indicate the local sales and monetary value of merchandise sold through a particular platform or business. It's just the way we sort of calculate exactly the type of, type of business that's going on the platform, the type of transactions we're seeing and the health and status of the companies using Krepling.
[00:08:42] So it's just the term we, we internally like to refer to is how our businesses are succeeding. It's not necessarily to say that they're doing tremendously better than others in other platform, but they are doing that in our own ecosystem. There's a large amount of eCommerce companies finding success on Krepling which as I said earlier, has a huge impact on us if our users find their success.
[00:09:04] Omer Khan: Great. Yeah. So, so over 500 paying customers and you guys have bootstrapped until quite recently, right? So
[00:09:15] Liam Gerada: Yes, essentially.
[00:09:16] Omer Khan: Are you going through like raising a seed round at the moment?
[00:09:19] Liam Gerada: Correct. So we actually, yeah, we'd be completely bootstrapped since launch, so we have a period of validation. And then October, we officially launched in 2019, we officially launched the beta product and have been through our MVP stage ever since. We've just opened our seed round it's a very exciting time for the company and a great reflection of the momentum and further excitement around the eCommerce space. We've just welcomed Jason Calacanis and his team at launch as, as our first seed investors who kind of kickstart around. And I strongly believe that eCommerce has one of the most investible sectors right now outside of vaccine pharma and general med tech.
[00:09:57] And our goal is to further our investments into our products and continuing to build off the success of our user base. As I, as I mentioned earlier, when you look at eCommerce today, there's a lot of disconnected solutions. Our goal is still to build a centralized foundation for our customers. So we really want to be investing in our products and to be able to power the new generation digital businesses and.
[00:10:19] Business owners and enterprises. So that's hence the move forward, the seed round. And we just feel that, yeah. I mean, if you're going to move the speed speedy, be commerce you've, you've got to have the right tools to, to do that. So that's essentially how we've sort of the momentum around our seed round.
[00:10:34] Omer Khan: Great. So yeah, I think you know, there was a few things that sort of kind of interested me about this interview. You know, you guys have got some, some decent traction from bootstrapping. You've got, you know, some, some good investment coming through now with your seed round, but also you're, you're running this business from Malta, which is about as far away as you could probably get from, from Silicon valley. And the company was founded by you and your brother. It's Travis, right?
[00:11:09] Liam Gerada: Yeah, that's it.
[00:11:10] Omer Khan: And, and how old are you guys?
[00:11:12] Liam Gerada: Yeah, I'm I'm 21 years old. Travis is 18 years old. So kind of on the younger side of the, of the Silicon valley, stereotypical entrepreneurs slash whatever, but I mean, it's a passion, we've had it for a long time, so we've, we like to consider ourselves at least slightly knowledgeable in the eCommerce space and that sense and yeah, it's, it's, it's turned into from a passion to, to full-time. So we, we, we like to use rather focus on that as opposed to just being, you know, typical young young kids disrupting a space.
[00:11:48] Omer Khan: All right. So I think that this, the story here starts when you were running your own eCommerce business a few years ago. So can you kind of set the scene for us and tell us a little bit about what you were doing then.
[00:12:01] Liam Gerada: So essentially, we got this idea. We actually want, I say myself originally, I was a huge fan of sneakers. And then within that sort of. I was interested in, in, you know, purchasing sneakers and reselling sneakers.
[00:12:14] W what I discovered was essentially that there was this, this, this gap in the market for an eCommerce consignment marketplace. Short-term I would say short-term business we could build, and there wasn't really think much of it as we essentially, what we're trying to do is democratize the way sneakers were sold online.
[00:12:33] What we planned on doing was creating a consumer marketplace where we would charge fair value to customers and not charge the resale price of sneakers. And that was essentially that baseline idea got us into the eCommerce space, got us to build our first Shopify store and Magento store as well.
[00:12:49] And get into the eCommerce space in general. And yeah, that started off as a passion for sneakers. And we quickly discovered how exciting eCommerce is. Our store did quite well. We bounced the scale to most of Europe through organic word of mouth. We were on the latest drops. We were able to, to outsource a lot of the latest products and really just provide sneakers at a fair price.
[00:13:11] And hence the name of the store was the King's Fair comes after a King's fair price. And that was essentially how the store was built and what the value proposition we were providing. And as we scaled, we would be, we were going to come accustomed eCommerce we came to discover what eCommerce was like, and we encountered some, some problems along the way.
[00:13:29] We discovered essentially how difficult it is to integrate your store, how difficult it is to scale your store and how the process can become quite tricky. If you're not really in the coding space, especially as your business begins to grow and you begin to open different stores and you can to discover the possibility of headless commerce and, and what have you. So it was those challenges that, that got us to start thinking about, you know, what, what could a fundamental eCommerce platform built with today's problems in mind look like. We didn't think much of it until later on our store actually got acquired. We were able to sort of, luckily time was right and be able to, through that acquisition, we're able to pivot towards helping other eCommerce to help them solve problems in the space.
[00:14:14] And what we did was we essentially looked at starting our own eCommerce agency. And then what we looked at doing was helping other eCommerce goers build out their stores, correct the mistakes we made from the mistakes we made, help them discover the correct those mistakes and find success similar to the way we did.
[00:14:32] And we knew that in eCommerce there was a lot of stores, not funny success, really silly reasons that we felt we could help. And we started off, we start off our agency, we just thought it would be a good idea to get a feel for the market, validate what sort of segments to tackle and we've we went out surveyed, eCommerce go.
[00:14:50] As we knew eCommerce platform companies we worked with, and what we discovered was essentially that there was some major fragmentation between what eCommerce platforms were providing. And what eCommerce goers were looking for. And that came up with a great idea. Why don't we actually be the ones to build the new product built for the problems that our eCommerce stores are facing today. So it was from that very love for sneakers that we went into Krepling.
[00:15:19] Omer Khan: Got it. So, so you didn't set out when you did that validation to build a SaaS product. You were trying to understand the market and how you could provide a service as an agency. And then you sort of stumbled across this opportunity.
[00:15:34] Liam Gerada: Exactly. We just, we were actually looking just to, in even simpler than that, we're actually just looking to when we were pre-launched our agency site, what services could we offer? I mean, we were just my brother and myself. We couldn't exactly offer the full suite of SEO right down to website design.
[00:15:50] You know, we wanted to sort of really niche out the what kind of services we're offering. We want wanted to dim it down to around five problems that we could offer. And when we did that survey, we actually discovered that listen, a lot of eCommerce goers have problems, integrations. A lot of eCommerce goers are having problems with scaling on these platforms and finding the right platform to fit their business, find the right integration to fit their business.
[00:16:12] And we took a look at the survey and the kind of results we have. Wow. I mean, this is a problem we thought was a problem is bigger than it already is. So there might actually be a potential fit here for taking on this market as a new eCommerce platform. We originally knew there was something there, but now we sort of had a clear as day that maybe we could be the ones to do it, even though we had no background in tech. So that was just that initial validation. Yeah.
[00:16:38] Omer Khan: Okay, great. So the validation period, which is about. 10 months in 2019, help you to get to a point where you were able to launch an MVP. Tell me a little bit about the experience of going through that because you know, you and I talked earlier and it wasn't as straightforward as it sort of sounds right.
[00:17:01] In terms of, well, yeah, we did, we did this, we sent this survey out and we found this opportunity straight away, which was like build this product and, you know we'll live happily ever after. So, so tell us a little bit about the challenges you had along the way when you were trying to validate the potential opportunities in that market.
[00:17:17] Liam Gerada: Yeah. You know exactly. I mean, I wish it were as simple as that, I think we definitely had the mindset that it was going to be as simple as that. And we were eager to get started little. Did we know that obviously, a survey doesn't exactly translate to a clear-cut problem and a clear-cut solution. Humans are more complex. Problems are more complex and thus we needed to be more complex in the way we thought of solutions.
[00:17:39] So I hate to admit it. We didn't really think of that straight away. We actually went out and we decided to start building this platform. We took as little coding knowledge, as we knew really little, we sort of looked at a few courses, took a bit of knowledge and my brother was more on the coding space than I am.
[00:17:55] He was more of a developer than I was. So we kind of built out this product and we discovered that essentially this wasn't actually totally anything. It was more or less complicating, a lot more things. So we really need to take a step back and think, okay, What exactly are these problems and how can we really solve these problems through a platform not just as an agency. I mean, initially we were asking these questions as an agency, not as a new platform. So we really need to tackle this and look at it as a bigger picture. And what we essentially did was we actually took a step back and we said, okay. So if eCommerce growers are expressing these problems towards an agency type survey, are they expressing similar problems to a platform type survey and the answer was no, there was a discrepancy, there was a difference between what agencies were providing and what platforms were providing and the problems they would express. So we need to take a step back and look at the industry as a whole and see exactly what, what kind of solution would solve the major pain points in a way that sounds much, much more doable and as much more and still we're from within the no-code space.
[00:19:01] So what we were able to sum that up to, you know, for the users, having difficulty finding the right platform from users, having a bunch of broken integrations, paying for extra add-ons having to figure out which type of platform catered towards the development space, which will doesn't have good space.
[00:19:19] What we discovered was that. Indication here is there's a lack of centralization. There's a lack of a platform that is no code friendly is centralized, easy to use and is essentially tackling the core verticals of eCommerce the right way, not just built out from solving one problem and is now providing a marketplace for you.
[00:19:40] There is a platform there's a need for a platform that centralizes the eCommerce experience, and that is built towards what the problems in mind of the eCommerce goes up today. Whereas back in 2006 and beyond where the Shopify came in, There were only really was one problem. And that was, we couldn't sell online.
[00:19:57] We needed a platform to do that. Now there's a foster air platform. So with that bear in mind, we, we sort of took the validation to a different phase. We initiated a beta product. We call the beta V1. It was a free product where we had the initial survey people or anyone who wanted to sign up could come on and test the product.
[00:20:16] And we just watched see which customers were willing to pay, see which customers just turned. And we use that as a stepping stone to validating the product further. And what we discovered was when that initial stages was the customers that were, we were solving for a vast array of problems, we're sticking on the customers that felt the centralization was working for them.
[00:20:34] Integrations made sense. They stuck on. Whereas the customers who were example, we provided tools that allow them to sell subscriptions and digital products. That was kind of a niche problem we were solving. So they kind of turned and went off to another platform. So within that scope, we sort of built our beta products around those early days of testing and validation until it happened right up until October. So almost the whole year validation. And we were able to customize UI and make the small tweaks as well on the side, mental eventually being satisfied with the product and launching an official beta paid MVP in October, 2009.
[00:21:10] Omer Khan: So what did this, this first version of the product actually do?
[00:21:14] Liam Gerada: It essentially just helped with integrations and it made you able to sell different products a lot easier.
[00:21:20] So you were able to sell subscriptions, digital products. It was kind of layered. So we product more or less catered towards the type of plan you purchased. Whereas if you purchase a plan just to sell digital products and subscriptions, you kind of report to a front end that solves that problem. Whereas, if you're looking for better integrations, you would purchase a different plan and you'd have the integrations working a lot better.
[00:21:42] So there were actually plans, platforms catered towards different plans just to get a feel for what customers were feeling and what the initial first purchase look like. In terms of UI, it was a disaster. It wasn't the greatest. We didn't really have much to build on and we kind of just essentially stitched together a backend that we thought made sense and initially go to market the test.
[00:22:05] Our logo was also kind of built on an idea that it was a monkey initially, which was built on the idea that eCommerce should be as easy as from monkey able to be able to do it. So even the logo itself kind of spoke volume to what the first version of the product looked like.
[00:22:19] And yeah, essentially I wouldn't exactly call it the most a good looking product on the market. That's for sure..
[00:22:26] Omer Khan: So when you say centralized it, I'm not sure if I've understood this correctly. It's like if you go to use a Shopify, there are probably thousands of third party apps that you can integrate with your eCommerce site.
[00:22:44] But often there's a bunch of tips to kind of get it working seamlessly. It's not that straightforward and it might involve some coding and so. So with Krepling you kind of saying, when you talk about centralized, you're saying all of that functionality or the core functionality is built into the platform. You don't need to go out and integrate these third party apps into Krepling?
[00:23:07] Liam Gerada: Essentially we don't claim to do it all. So we don't claim to provide an in-house solution for all the problems we just claim to integrate more effectively. So in the sense that Shopify would provide an app for almost every different type of function.
[00:23:21] Simple functions would require an app and more streamlined functions will be in-house. We essentially are providing integrations that are much easier. There's no need for purchasing 500 apps to do one basic task and integrations are one-click install. So there's no need for complex disjointed backends or disjointed integrations.
[00:23:41] It's a much more streamlined integration process. Folks of competitive to the likes of Zapier and what have you. So we've just streamlined integration process. We've essentially moved a lot of barriers. So the platforms tend to be much more expensive when you go into the, the integration side. For example, there's lots of Kajabi who have provided a vast, vast variety of integrations and have sort of got an idea for what, what the fragmented experience looks like, but they're much more on the high-end enterprise space. So we've kind of also gone towards the, the less expensive route as well. So, and being on top of that with a disjointed less disjointed backend and with the cherry on top being that it's completely no code, no code friendly and no code is at the heart of everything. So every integration is, is streamlined and it's easy to use.
[00:24:32] Even those integrations we don't provide in house and we haven't yet provide an app for that just yet. It's still much easier to integrate using code if you need to. So it's just a far more streamlined easy to navigate a centralized experience. So although centralized is a vague word, we like to use it because it really sums up what eCommerce should be in 2021 and beyond.
[00:24:54] Omer Khan: Yep. Okay, great. So when you launched the MVP, initially, I think he said it was free. And then how did you go about getting your first 10 customers. How long did you keep the product running for free? What point did you introduce a paid plan? How did your users react to that?
[00:25:14] Liam Gerada: Yeah, essentially, we actually brought in a pay plan pretty, pretty early on.
[00:25:18] We started off from the first month or so as a free plan, just to kind of see how that works. We just felt that with a free plan, we really weren't getting the enough data to validate the product just yet. So we actually pivoted to a pay plan pretty quickly. And as you can imagine, I think every user churned at that point, I think we lost most of our users, but we felt that, that was a good step. We felt that if, you know, if we're going to really going to be solving a big problem, again, taking on a very competitive market, we've got to come in with a solid ground and we've got to come in with a real solution, a real product differentiation, and that has to speak for itself.
[00:25:55] It has to be in a position where customers are willing to pay for that early on. If that's not happening, it's our fault, not the customer's fault. So we pivoted to a paid model early on, and as a result we saw data coming in a lot easier. So with, we obviously share the product within our ecosystem. We shared one on forums. We shared it with other eCommerce goers. We did a bit of cold selling every now and then, and that brought up the first five or 10 and so on customers. And that allowed us to start validating some moving, moving through that, those phases. And they obviously recommended other people. What we discovered through that phase was a lot of eCommerce growers is quite quite common in the eCommerce space for eCommerce growers to share their experience on their site, how they build this business. If the business is exceeding how they got it to succeed, that document their experience, be it on other social channels, forums, and what have you. And that put a lot of eyes on Krepling that brought a lot of people on Krepling.
[00:26:47] So that worked well in our favor in terms of word of mouth. Another route was our ability to partner with agencies. A lot of agencies, particularly in eCommerce were also expressing similar similar problems that we had addressed the sense that they also felt the likes of Shopify, Big Commerce and co really weren't really weren't disruptive enough and built towards the later new, new versions of eCommerce and that they could also benefit from building their customer, their client's websites on Krepling bearing in mind that integrations is a lot easier.
[00:27:18] It's much more no-code friendly, so they're offboarding for the giving over the product phase was a lot easier and almost streamlined. So that initially brought a lot of agencies to us. We partnered with a lot of third-party agencies and that brought a lot of customers to Krepling to love agencies with build those sites on Krepling, the customer sites on Krepling.
[00:27:35] I don't know if clients would start off on Krepling and even find an agency. So it worked both ways. And that was essentially word of mouth and agencies that got us to to where we are. We spend very little on paid advertising, not because we didn't want to, because we simply couldn't early on with the bootstrapped.
[00:27:50] And that's essentially got us to where we are today is just word of mouth, organic and, and being upfront with the customer and then just being able to help every step of the way. So combination of all those three.
[00:28:02] Omer Khan: Okay, great. So I want to talk a little bit about you, you introduce the pricing plan about a month into know, kind of launching that first version of the product.
[00:28:13] Now with many founders there's I think there's two challenges that often come up. When you, when you think about pricing, number one is you look at where your product is right now compared to where you think it should be. And you see this big gap in terms of the, the features that you believe need to be there to have a great product.
[00:28:32] That on his own kind of can hold people back from saying, okay. I don't think that there's enough there to start charging for it. The second challenge is that they look externally, and they look at competitors like Shopify and they say, I don't know why I built this product. Like in the last few months, Shopify has been doing this for years.
[00:28:51] Why would anybody pay to use my product when they could use Shopify? And it has all of this functionality. So did you, did you kind of have go through similar thoughts and what pushed you kind of forward to still introduce that? That paid plan so early on.
[00:29:09] Liam Gerada: Absolutely. I think for sure, we definitely had those thoughts. I think we were essentially; we came to the conclusion, I think right from the beginning that there's no ways we can charge anywhere near shop of what Shopify charging for a product that is just been on the market for even not less than a couple of months. So we were, no, we weren't looking to go towards that pricing point whatsoever.
[00:29:29] We also fundamentally believed that eCommerce my brother and I really believed early on, even when we started on our eCommerce store, that it should be free. I think starting an eCommerce store should be free. It should be for everyone given that the eCommerce customer, essentially us, us, us as well. We, when we started our store, initially, we didn't have any capital to put into this.
[00:29:49] We weren't, we couldn't afford to pay $29 a month for a store that was making no revenue. So. Big pain point eCommerce covers that when, you know, when they're paying for a price for plan and they're not making sales, they tend to churn. So we a big believer in a being free, but we also a big believer in making a product, validating a product validating that, that, that source, that the source product.
[00:30:09] And we were eager to validate that product as early as possible. So it was a tough choice where to go in with a complete free product from the beginning and stick with what we believed in or going with a paid version. Now. I'll take at the time, couldn't support a free trial. So we really had to make a decision.
[00:30:24] And we started with a free plan and we just felt that the, the, the initial customers were getting once initially that were turning quite quickly. They weren't sure they weren't actually taking time to look at the product. See if it's within their, within their range, try out the product, help their business to find success and really spend time building their eCommerce store and really trying all the features we we'd built.
[00:30:47] Essentially when we, we decided let's, if we could try and move to a paid version, we'll get a stronger sense of customers coming in that are more within the eCommerce space and a more willing to try and build a store given that, those, that pricing point. So it really was the decision that was mainly based on validation, more than anything else.
[00:31:05] I think our core belief as eCommerce being as free and as cheap as possible, and to this day, we actually have never put our prices up beyond Shopify's range or any of our competitors ranges fundamentally because we still believe there should be a policy point and we charge $15 a month to pay $5 a month on purpose, because we believe customers should start off in the $50 a month range or possibly free and move up and scale as their business scales.
[00:31:29] So it's the same way we had that problem. I agree. I think it's a tough choice to make. And I think it really is product-dependent. I think we were in a space where pricing really has a lot to do with, with how and how the usable use the products and how they will sort of go about creating the business with the tools we're providing.
[00:31:51] And we felt that with a free trial, we w we weren't getting enough validation. And we felt that that process wasn't streamlined enough, so a tough choice to make, but I think in the long-term, it's certainly benefited our ability to cater towards better problems and validate markets more effectively.
[00:32:08] Omer Khan: Great. And kind of in terms of attracting customers, you talked about, it was kind of mostly word of mouth. And tell me a little bit about that. Like where were you going online to tell people about the product and how are you doing it in a way which wasn't coming across as douche, right?
[00:32:27] Liam Gerada: Yeah, no, exactly. And that's the one thing we didn't want to do this.
[00:32:30] I think that was tough. I think what we did initially was being eCommerce merchants ourselves, we often were quite loudmouth about the problems we faced and we would often join forums and complain about if Shopify were to rise certain fees on payment fees or that there was a certain conversion. We didn't really on an app that didn't work.
[00:32:49] So we, in that in a negative way, we were very loudmouth but problems in eCommerce and that allowed us to sort of talk to other eCommerce growers with those problems. And essentially when we initiated the, we, we started building Krepling, we went out to those people, those people, we shared those problems with them.
[00:33:07] Listen, we're working on a solution to solve the problem we faced and we shared with you and, and, and those when I say forums, I simply mean, you know, places like Reddit, places like Quora or places where people have issues and openly discuss them. And that's where we were. We were when we started off. And that's where we went back to when we launched Krepling.
[00:33:26] And we felt that we got a good array of customers just willing to try it out simply because we were also, eCommerce growers and we, we experienced those pain points, you know? So. That was initially how we started off from then on. We actually built out systems that allowed customers to increase their, their ability to share the product.
[00:33:45] So when we discovered the word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, especially with, with, with eCommerce in general we create assistance like the affiliate, our affiliate system, our partner system, and we gave the incentive for customers to share the product and talk about the product. We actually create, we had a lot of businesses and entrepreneurs who would build out a website on Krepling and actually have that built out agency on Krepling to be able to, to build other clients' websites and build web design websites and refer people to Krepling. So there was entire ecosystem businesses, referring people to Krepling building, Krepling businesses and providing Krepling rates and services.
[00:34:20] So that worked out pretty nicely. And we just, we were focused on scaling what worked early on, you know, as word of mouth was five or 10 customers that let's make that the next 10 or a hundred customers. So we, we, we, we stuck with that mindset and we weren't rushing to get into paid ads or get into things we didn't know enough enough about. And that worked in our favor in that sense, at least.
[00:34:43] Omer Khan: Yeah. And I also think working with agencies is pretty smart because, you know, everyone agency, it could result in multiple new customers. So, so how did you connect with agencies? How did you start to build. Those kind of partnerships.
[00:34:59] Liam Gerada: Yeah. I think the first thing we did was essentially connect with the clients first. So see what type of problems the clients risk, what we're reporting, what type of difficulties they were facing. And we weren't necessarily going and pitching the agency. Listen, we have this new platform take all your customers, take your hundred customers you spent years building on Shopify and moving them over to us.
[00:35:21] That wasn't essentially the way we thought about doing it. We essentially just went up to agencies and say, listen, what are the top problems you are facing as an agency. And what are the top problems your customers are facing as eCommerce growers and what we found out was there was a similar type of feel. You know, the agencies were battling to, to provide certain systems and code and build certain websites that function the way the customer liked it.
[00:35:43] Whereas the customer was saying I'm having certain problems with, with my website looks pretty pretty, not doesn't look as well as it should. And I'm fine. I'm struggling to find agency within my price range that provides that. So what we're seeing there is a fragmentation, you know, the platforms aren't allowing the agencies to build better websites and the customers on being able to build a better website using no code.
[00:36:03] So there's this connection then we said, okay, well, why don't you try our platform and build out your website and see how it looks, don't pay for anything. And if it works, we'll do the migration for free. And that initially got the first agency on board. And as you said, once, they've sort of seen how one product.
[00:36:17] Any other customer-facing a website design problem and SEO-related problem, way, product selling-related problem, gateway-related problem. They able to move to Krepling too, because there's this there's a solution here that brings both parties together. And once you initiate that initial, you demonstrate that solution to an agency.
[00:36:35] They kind of see the reason to move up to Krepling and that provides a sound partnership. That's completely transparent from the beginning. That's not based around price, not based around commissions, it's purely based on solving problems and, and that sort of translates nicely when you you've other agencies in their network.
[00:36:51] So it was that simple as that. And that got us to a large amount of customers, especially when we initially launched looking to scale towards our fundraising. So that definitely helped.
[00:37:02] Omer Khan: Now, you know, running a, an eCommerce business is very different to building an eCommerce platform and you know, between you and Travis sounded like there was enough knowledge and skills there to be able to build an MVP and, and get going.
[00:37:21] I know you told me that you still kind of had a tough transition as a non-technical founder in terms of building a product to technology business. Tell us briefly a little bit about what kind of challenges you faced and what you've learned from that experience that might be helpful for other founders who are also non-technical.
[00:37:43] Liam Gerada: Yeah, I essentially, I think the biggest challenge was creating a team around, around bringing this product together. I mean, we were able to, to get people excited enough to join us and pursue this journey with us and who also passionate about the problem, but when it came to the technical side of it, you need more than just a passion and ability to, to see a problem you've got to be able to, to build this thing, code this thing. And, and that's something we knew nothing about. My brother was more technical than I am, but I promise you I knew nothing. So I knew the real big challenge was, was finding the right people to, to bring on this journey with us and make a part of Krepling make, make them one with us within this solution we're trying to bring up.
[00:38:24] And I think in the early days, trying to hire the right people and trying to find the right talent was, was very, very difficult. I think we really struggle in terms of what type of qualifications we're looking for, what type of skills we were looking for. And eventually it got to the point where we were just, we, we really had to expand our knowledge within, within the tech space and really try things out for ourselves. And my brother was lucky enough to do he's more in the tech space than I am. And he was able to sort of bring the skills he had and, and make those and bring those to the, to the, to the talent field and say, listen, you know, can you solve this problem?
[00:38:58] And can you build this out? W we'd use those tests, you know, essentially, as opposed to just looking for so-and-so, series of qualifications and a space that we know nothing about. Let's give them a real problem to solve in a way we believe could be solved. And that's essentially how we found how we found talent early on, but it was a real, it was a real challenge for us I think being as thing two founders who are, non-technical moving to a completely different model, I think it, the result of that challenge was definitely longer time develop the product and there were validation problems, glitches like you can't believe. And I essentially, I think, yeah, I mean, it was a huge problem, but I guess in a way, our non-technical ability as well allowed us to see things from a different perspective, maybe that helped too. So…
[00:39:42] Omer Khan: Yeah,. Yeah. That's a good, good lesson there. I think that, you know, the one hand, if, if you are non-technical and you're, you're looking to hire. You know, a developer or developers giving them a standalone piece of work, something that you can actually give them a problem and see how they solve it can be a good way to, to figure out if you've got the right person.
[00:40:06] And if you can do that with a couple of people, at least you have kind of like an apples-to-apples comparison in terms of, wow, this person was much better at kind of going through this, understanding the problem, coming up with a solution, communicating it versus, you know, this other person, the challenge, obviously being, if you're a bootstrapped, you don't have the luxury of just saying, let me run these human AB tests to figure out who the right person is.
[00:40:30] So I think definitely, probably the skills that Travis has or, or kind of being able to lean on somebody, at least who can provide some technical validation, I think is also an important part of that.
[00:40:42] Liam Gerada: Absolutely. Absolutely.
[00:40:43] Omer Khan: All right. Great. So look, we should, we should wrap up, so let's get onto the lightning round. I'm gonna ask you a seven quick fire questions. Ready to go?
[00:40:53] Liam Gerada: Perfect. Yeah, sure.
[00:40:54] Omer Khan: Okay. What's the best piece of business advice you've ever had?
[00:40:57] Liam Gerada: I would probably say to put the customer first at all times. I think that's one advice we've been given a lot that I think goes a long way.
[00:41:07] Omer Khan: I agree. What book would you recommend to our audience and why?
[00:41:11] Liam Gerada: I think probably Superintelligence, Past Dangers and Strategies by Nick Bostrom. I think it's a really interesting book. It's not really in the business space, but it really shows how the world's changing and how innovation is great. But to bear in mind, the downside risk of AI taking over the world.
[00:41:28] Omer Khan: Yeah, what's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?
[00:41:33] Liam Gerada: I would say it's the ability to get excited about something early on. Especially when a lot of people aren't excited and being able to excite other people about what it is you've discovered and being able to build a team around that.
[00:41:45] I think a real characteristic to have any, anyone looking to solve a problem nowadays, for sure.
[00:41:50] Omer Khan: What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?
[00:41:54] Liam Gerada: I don't even have a favorite productivity tool, but I think a good habit that I think everyone should have is being able to find the good in little things you do.
[00:42:02] No one necessarily has to change the world to do good, but to build things I think really go a long way and making doing good habits can change a lot of small things for a lot of people.
[00:42:12] Omer Khan: What's a new or crazy business idea. You'd love to pursue. If you had the extra time?
[00:42:15] Liam Gerada: I've always wanted to go into the Eco-tech. Well, sustainability sector definitely would like to pursue more of that. If I had more time, it's definitely one of the things I'm more or less passionate about and that I set aside time for whether it be in a personal level, even internal projects within Krepling I think. Yeah. It's definitely one thing I'd love to pursue more.
[00:42:34] Omer Khan: What's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know?
[00:42:39] Liam Gerada: Well, I think maybe it's fact that I really do enjoy design actually. Yeah. Maybe don't let people know that.
[00:42:48] Omer Khan: Well, I think, I think the Krepling site looks like pretty, pretty darn good. Compared to how you were describing the first version of the product.
[00:42:57] Liam Gerada: Yeah.
[00:42:59] Omer Khan: And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work?
[00:43:02] Liam Gerada: Ah, I think I speak on behalf of my brother and I as well. I think I say our passion really has always been solving problems and building things online. I would say we're definitely one of the lucky ones that it's been able to be our work as well.
[00:43:14] But yeah, people have told us it's unhealthy, but an unhealthy habit, but I mean, and then I need to find a new hobby, but I mean, yeah, it's commonly find a new hobby, can you?
[00:43:24] Omer Khan: Love it. Cool, Liam, thank you for joining me today and sharing a story. Congratulations on the, the traction you got in in the first year and a half or so, bootstrapping this business and now, and raising your, your seed rounds, looking forward to seeing where you take this business over the next couple of years if people want to find out more about Krepling they can go to Krepling that's k-r-e-p-l-i-n-g dot com. And if folks want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?
[00:43:55] Liam Gerada: Yeah. Any way possible email, liam [at] krepling [dot] com. LinkedIn, Twitter. Twitter is good place probably anywhere I'm not unreachable.
[00:44:06] Omer Khan: All right. Cool. Well, thanks. Thanks for joining me. And I wish you Travis and the rest of the team, the best of success.
[00:44:11] Liam Gerada: Thanks a lot. Really appreciate it.
[00:44:13] Omer Khan: Cheers.
The Show Notes