Recently we managed to catch up with Crowdbooster Co-Founder & CEO, Rickey Yean. During the interview, Rickey introduces us to Crowdbooster while also sharing advice abut the business plan process and applying to an accelerator program. Crowdbooster is a graduate of the Y Combinator accelerator program that you can check out through this link.
Rickey will also be appearing in our book Accelerate, which just went live on Kickstarter last night. If you would like to share and support the book or even just check it out click here.
What is Crowdbooster all about?
Crowdbooster is about helping people understand how to use social media to effectively communicate with their audience. You can’t just say something and expect people to hear you anymore. You can’t even buy their attention if you have the resources. Our attention is way too divided today. If you want to get noticed, get retweeted, shared, and liked, you have to figure out how to use social media in a more optimal way. That’s where we come in. We give you analytics that helps you achieve an understanding of what’s working and not working for you, without having to dig really deep into the data. We then supply you with simple tools to analyze the data yourself, but we also go an extra step to come up with suggestions of what you can do differently to make what you say on Twitter and Facebook more engaging.
How did you come up with the idea for Crowdbooster?
Facebook came out when we were in high school. Twitter started getting popular when I was in college. Just by being young, we were able to see the trend of the world going in that direction because we started relying on these social services to communicate with our friends. When we decided to tackle a big problem, we immediately went to social media. We built several projects before Crowdbooster related to social, none of which were successful. We got into Y Combinator, had a little bit of cash in the bank from that, but not enough to feel comfortable, so we decided to consult for a local coffee shop called Coupa Cafe to help them manage their Twitter to make some money while we explore more ideas. Turns out, it’s really hard to make a coffee shop sound interesting, and Coupa Cafe is probably one of the most interesting coffee shops out there. That’s when we decided to look for analytics to help us get more scientific about our consulting work, but nothing out there really worked for us, so we built one.
What were some of the challenges that you faced starting a company?
Everything’s a challenge. I think one of the biggest challenges is learning how to overcome the busy work to focus on what truly matters. By definition you are under-resourced, and so you have to do everything. For us, we have pretty high standards for the quality of work we put out. That takes time, so you don’t want to be spending time on things that don’t matter because you can’t afford to, and detecting what matters is the trickiest thing ever. When in doubt, let the customers tell you and you can’t fall too far from the target.
You took part in the Y Combinator accelerator program, what difference do you feel being part of an accelerator made to your company?
Huge difference. A lot of YC alumni say the network and the advice from the partners are the most valuable things. That’s undeniably true. Paul Graham has been looking out for us and giving us some really valuable advice, even 2.5 years out of the program. He just seems to know the right thing to remind us about. The network is also great. You’re basically in a “founders union,” which gives you some power whereas typically power lies with the money (i.e. investors). It’s also a fraternity of sorts, and that really helps because the default is a failure, so you need all the help you can get. Feeling like you’re in this together is great for that, too. That’s why you have co-founders, and the rest of YC is sort of like an extended co-founder family. If David had a bunch of friends who were also Davids, then he would’ve felt more confident about taking on Goliath to execute better and more precisely.
The biggest thing for me though? I remember when I first got to Stanford, I felt like I didn’t belong because everyone was so amazing. I felt like that again when I got into YC, and everyone was amazing about the thing I’m most passionate about – making a difference in the world through technology by creating great products that people want. Everyone in my batch was an expert at it, some have already created successful products in the past. That was incredibly motivating.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur looking to get their company into an accelerator program?
Be a cockroach. Basically have the attitude that you can’t be killed, regardless of this accelerator or that accelerator, you’re going to get there and build a successful company. When accelerators smell that, they should want you. At least I think that was true for us and that’s still true for us today, 2.5 years out.
What advice would you like to give to an entrepreneur thinking about writing their first business plan?
Don’t stress about the details. You don’t know what you don’t know, so stop making them up. Just write down a rough plan and go do it. Don’t get stuck behind your computer trying to imagine the scenarios, because your imagination stinks. Stay behind the computer only as long as you are building something to put in front of customers. The key is to always find a way to exert yourself in the real world through your product. That’s how you learn what you don’t know about the world and validate whatever plan it is you’ve come up with.