Qureet.com : Find Customers On Twitter

The Bootstrapped Startup’s Most Powerful Tool

The Bootstrapped Startup’s Most Powerful Tool


The blog-o-sphere is replete with articles promising “10 Must-Have Free Tools For Every Startup”, “The 5 Online Tools That Will Turbo-Boost Your Startup Marketing”. And so on. And so forth.

I’ve got a different take. The Bootstrapped Startup’s most powerful tool … is actually hiding in plain sight. And actually, it’s so obvious – that we barely even notice it.

There are countless posts online, each of which details how an erstwhile startup 1) made a calculated bet… 2) which paid off BIG, leading to 3) hockey-stick growth. Cue an elaborate, self-congratulatory blog-post sporting attractive charts and dreamy “five things I wish I knew then” lists.


It all sounds lovely. But survivor bias is everywhere we look in the startup world. Do any of these dreary, sycophantic odes-to-our-greatness actually HELP the reader?

Here’s a dirty little secret about the life of a bootstrapper. There’s an overwhelming number of tasks to perform. It’s easy to drown. To the outside eye, the issues we struggle with each day might seem mundane – trivial, even – in their simplicity.

But trying to manage them all at once? Well, it’s like trying to keep fifteen plates spinning. Whilst preparing a soufflé. And putting icing on your kid’s birthday cake. All at the same time. With one hand tied behind your back.


Enter Google Calendar: every bootstrapper’s best friend.

This is not a joke.

I’m a big fan (and avid user) of many excellent online tools, including Trello, Dropbox and – of course – the indomitable WordPress platform (courtesy of which you are reading this very blog post). But when it comes to project management, I’ve yet to discover anything which rivals the sheer power and versatility of Google Calendar.


The Bootstrapper’s Life Of Experimentation

You’ve heard this platitude before in startup circles. I’ll repeat it again here:

As a startup, you’re trying to build a viable business in an environment of extreme uncertainty.

Another way of saying this is that we are agents of experimentation – trying to test one hypothesis after another, in an effort to know something concrete about an as-yet-unknown market.

In the case of my startup – a tool that finds new customers for businesses on Twitter – that great “unknown” is the Twit-O-Sphere. Qureet’s remit is to connect businesses with potential customers on Twitter who are signalling behavioural intent for that business’s products. When a new account is created at Qureet, our task is to put that promise into action as effectively as possible for the business owner.

Qureet learns about the products & services of each new vendor who signs up with us. It then monitors Twitter to find potential customers. Those prospects are classified as such when Qureet decides they have tweeted something which indicates that they are primed for a solution being offered by that vendor.

Sound simple? Believe me – it ain’t. Natural Language Processing is an entire field of Artificial Intelligence. It is entirely dedicated to solving the problem that language is fuzzy, unclear, and frequently relies on second-order knowledge to gain a degree of semantic clarity.

Tweets are a microcosm of this challenge. People make ambiguous statements in a myriad of different ways. They use anachronistic vocabulary. They spell and abbreviate words unusually. They use colloquialisms … and on, and on.

What’s a lead-generation startup to do, in such uncertain terrain? The answer, dear reader, is to experiment. My day mostly consists of setting up experiments on the Qureet platform – and then observing how they pay off. I form a theory, then build an experiment to test that theory. Later – after some period of time has elapsed – I come back, collate the results, and try to answer the question “was that theory correct?”

It sounds straightforward. But welcome to the real world of online technology. I’ll wager that anyone who writes code and deals with the product and release cycle of an online SaaS product will attest to a hard fact of life: the process of creating and maintaining an online product is replete with complications.

You make errors. You introduce bugs. Some of these bugs might only be discovered months after a feature is rolled out. If the bug is discovered at all, that is. Without knowing it, you forget a crucial piece of configuration when setting up your experiment. And so on.

All of this means that it’s not just a case of

1. Setup new experiment

2. Wait a predefined number of days/weeks/months, then

3. Observe results.

That would be lovely. But there are a huge number of intermediate steps. These mostly reduce to monitoring tasks. Checking that an experiment is correctly underway. That all the required data is being recorded. That various API throttles, standards and requirements are all being adhered to. Day after day. Month after month. And yes – sometimes even year after year.

And it’s here that Google Calendar truly shines. In a world where a startup entrepreneur has to wear multiple hats every day, the hopes of remembering each experiment’s minutiae without documentation? LESS THAN ZERO.

So when a new experiment starts, I create a Google Calendar event. In it, I record the details of the experiment. When it was started. What data I plan to record. And which question I hope the experiment will eventually answer.

Then, I set the date of that event to be the next day on which I want to check in on this experiment. It might be the next day, or one week later – or even three months from now. Then, I set the event so I get an email reminder event at 8am on the day-of. Click Save, and I’m done.

This simple sequence of steps turns out to be a LIFE-SAVER in terms of workflow and organisational streamlining. Now that I’ve clicked Save on this event, I don’t have to remember the experiment any more. It is recorded, documented, codified. What’s more, I will get a reminder of all of that information in the email reminder itself. When? On the next day that I need to check in on this particular experiment.

Remember those countless intermediate “monitoring tasks” I mentioned above? No problem. On the due day, I get an email reminder in my Inbox. I check in, discover some inevitable errors and omissions I made on the day of setup. I fix them, and update the calendar event’s notes to reflect the change. I set a new check-in date, kick the experiment back into the Twit-O-Sphere – and Boom. We’re done.

Sometimes, it’s not even that drastic. It’s just a case of verifying that “everything looks OK ” with the experiment – but that more time is needed to let it bake. I just update the Calendar Event with a note to reflect this observation. Then, I reset the event’s date to be some new date one day/week/month/whatever into the future. I click Save … and Boom. We’re done again.

Seeing a pattern here? This is a huge part of my life as a startup entrepreneur. Bear in mind that – in addition to all of this – the myriad other mundane tasks of startup life have to be performed as well. I’m talking customer acquisition, marketing, blogging, business development, user onboarding, customer support & relations, bug-fixing, product development, long-term strategy …. and so on. This list is endless. Once again: it’s SO easy to drown.

And that’s the power of Google Calendar. It allows you to organize your startup-experimenter’s life around your countless other obligations – whatever they may be.

Best of all? Each morning – when I sit at my desk at the break of day – my email Inbox is filled with a list of ToDo’s for the day. Each one corresponds to an ongoing task or experiment in my startup life.

Fantastic: my working day just got organized - automatically.

This is a simply fantastic way to prioritize your tasks in such an “environment of extreme uncertainty”. It is data-driven, and every task corresponds to a specific goal. Those goals each being experiments or tasks. Each of which is designed to drive your startup’s bottom line forward. (You ARE choosing experiments and tasks designed to drive your bottom line forward … right?)

Can you tell me one other tool out there that actually delivers on a promise like that? Go on – I challenge you :)

As far as I’m concerned, this is worth more than any marketing automation, customer relationship or project-management tool could ever hope to bring to the table.

That’s priceless. And best of all? Google Calendar is Free.


(Many thanks go to Ralph Corderoy for reading a draft of this blog post).

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