Rik Nauta - Lead Wizards
Rik Nauta - Lead Wizards
Describe yourself and your project. How did you get the idea?
We are building a new way of searching the internet and generating perfect B2B leads. The seed of the idea was actually handed to me by a mentor who I’d created several lead lists for. I got bored of the work and wrote a little web-crawler to automate the process. He helped me see and explore the business value in this, for me, simple idea…several diligent months later, Lead Wizards was founded!
Who are you? Previous education/jobs/ experiences etc.
My name is Rik Nauta, born and raised in the Netherlands and living in Sweden for the past eight years. I’m almost done with my Master in Engineering Physics but have been very diligent in exploring and trying out business ideas since I was little. Other than my barista jobs (who doesn’t want to get paid to learn how to make amazing coffee) I’ve always worked for myself, as a consultant, freelancer or entrepreneur. I might take a ‘real’ job at some point but only to build a network and experience in a field I’m considering for my next preneur.
What will you do during these three months? How will you spend the time?
We have several “Alpha” customers in Australia (where it’s mid-winter now) and we’ll continue to work closely with them to build the second Beta version of our tool. The ambition is to be able to offer a public-beta at the end of this summer so that the dozens of “Beta” customers in Sweden, once they return from holidays, can give Lead Wizards a spin (and bring in some more revenue). Our focus right now is on proving the business model, product-market-fit and determining the features for our MVP.
What do you expect to achieve during Leapfrogs?
We want to have five satisfied and fully-paid customers, proven the aspects of our business model, a clear MVP and we’ll be starting work on building investor relationships so that we can hire the best people to go from Beta to Launch…to World Domination!
Rik Nauta - Lead Wizards #2
Tell us what you have done on your project so far during the Leapfrogs time.
We have been iterating our product at a rapid pace with a focus on testing or proving our assumptions.There’s a lot of “fake it till you” make it involved especially since 90% of what we think of doesn’t make the final release. Each new feature idea or demo comes accompanied with in-depth interviews with our customers and together with them we have built a very clear picture and strategy of how we can release a public MVP so we can start testing with pricing and marketing and prove/build the final puzzle pieces so that we can start looking for investors to help us scale.
Has everything gone according to the plan? Has anything unexpected occurred? Has something been easier/harder than expected?
So far everything has gone beyond expectation and ahead of schedule! As a simple rule of thumb we make an internal estimate of time & costs and then multiply with Pi (3.14). We still keep our internal schedule to motivate and push us but always communicate the more realistic one to the outside world...we like under-promising and over delivering! That wow factor is difficult to get otherwise and we have such a strong internal drive that we have no problem kicking our own buts to get stuff done! What also has been a HUGE help is that we’ve been accepted into an Incubator program which includes a lot of mentoring (a special shout-out to Joel and Petra @Minc who have been amazing) and we even have a cool little office now! Complete with Espresso machine and motivational posters :P
Sweden’s no Silicon Valley yet, and is desperate for more entrepreneurial spirits. So if you can show that you have what it takes there’s so much support and goodwill to help you succeed, with relatively little competition.
What will you focus on during the remaining time? Will you follow your original plan or has anything changed along the way?
We’re just in the process of finishing up a public beta of our "basic/free plan" (ahead of schedule) that incorporates all of the best features, ideas and feedback from the past couple of weeks. Once we release it we can start experimenting and validating different marketing channels and pricing models. In contrast to what most people believe, marketing isn’t something you do for your product...it’s part OF your product. Especially if you’re looking for investors or even a takeover knowledge in that area is extremely valuable! We're not chasing typical customers but are trying to address a new group which means we can't really rely on best-practices. Hopefully our hunt for a "blue-ocean" will pay off though in the long run, since increasing the market as a whole and dominating the new segment is the best position you can put yourself in.
Our goal for the beta is to find out is what range of features bring enough additional value for us to convert an early-adopter percentage of high-value customers to our (payed) plans. In a couple of months we'll be approaching a point where we'll have to make a lot of investments to get to the next level and so it's good to start saving up but also build a track record that will WOW potential investors. However, we’re as realistic about finding investors as we are about our product-timeline and finding someone not just for money, but also for experience, connections AND someone with the right heart can easily take more than a year. Especially since we believe it isn’t unlikely that by the time we need an investor there’s another “bubble burst” given the current trend of over-valuations and under-performance of most startups. So figuring out how we can increase our profit this early on will help us grow in a sustainable way until we are ready to scale whilst staying ahead of everyone else!
Rik Nauta - Lead Wizards #3
How did you experience the three months?
Last week, after many hours of hard work and going back and forth for feedback we’ve officially launched our product to the public. This monday we’re going to start pushing it out to the dozens of businesses, mentors and people we’ve been talking to the last couple of months and start sales & marketing. And you know what...It’s f#%€ng scary!
These last couple of leapfrog months have been a safe (and welcome) cocoon. We could go out and talk to people, figure out if we were on the right track and spend time working on our product and not really worry about anything else. But after our launch it really feels like the safety cables have dropped. Every dollar that we earn has to be brought in by chasing them down, every dollar we spend is a dollar we can’t spend again. This is it! It’s scary but also exhilarating. I’m just so thankful for all the support we’ve received from people who actually care if we succeed. And I’ve become more determined than ever to make this business thrive!
What has been hardest/most enjoyable?
For me the most enjoyable thing by far has been being in control of my life, my business and myself. It’s the scariest/hardest thing to know that if you mess up there is no-one else to blame but yourself but it’s also the most liberating thought in the world. I think people have become too accustomed to blaming others and their environment for the bad things that happen…”If only this person had done this right”, “oh, but I couldn’t help that the printer was broken”, “Nobody could foresee that market crash”. But you realise when running your own business there are no excuses to hide behind. You either make it work or you don’t. And if life throws a curveball….deal with it or go home. It’s a lesson that I learned a few years back and it feels good incorporating it into my life in such a fundamental level. Because by not giving away responsibility for my mistakes...I am also keeping responsibility for my successes. And you know what, I’d much rather bet on myself to make it happen than to think others are going to do it for me, however true that may seem at times.
Did it go as expected? Will you continue working on your project in the future?
It has gone beyond expectation. We managed to push forward our launch by several months and have received amazing feedback so far. We’re just getting started on sales and fine tuning our MVP but things are looking promising and we’ve even received some investor interest already (which we won’t be taking for now though).
And to answer if we’ll be working on this in the future...you should have asked that (and ask yourself) at the beginning of your adventure. Because your business is like a marriage, if you’re not willing to make that lifelong commitment, to absolutely and unequivocally love and care for it, to be with it through good AND BAD...you’re better of doing something else. So for me...I do!
What would you say is the most important lesson learnt while working on your project?
The most important lesson for me has been to learn how to be a good and healthy CEO. It means putting effort into training your team even when that means things seem to be going slower at first. It means learning how to hand things off whilst knowing exactly where they’re at. It means accepting that you don’t know everything and being humble enough to go out, talk to people and ask for help. It means setting strict work boundaries and making sure I give energy towards my beautiful wife and my health. It mean sleeping even though you missed a deadline. It means not reacting in emotion when things don’t go the way you want them to but responding with wisdom and strength. And none of these things come naturally to anyone, you just have to keep practicing and making it a priority to do so.
Do you have any tips to other ”new” entrepreneurs?
Don’t do it! Seriously don’t!
Now that I’ve filtered out 95% of the people that shouldn’t be doing this anyways I hope to be talking to the 1 or 2 people that should! Realise that what you’re signing up for is not some sort of joke. Of course there’s plenty of goofballs around that have given themselves the title of entrepreneur but really aren’t. Our fundamental job as entrepreneurs is to look at the world and figure out how we can make it a better place. But if there’s a voice in your head that tells you that you should pursue this have the courage to do it. And have the courage to reach out to other people in business (you can drop me an e-mail as well rik [at] leadwizards [dot] io) or your field to help you. There are so many amazing people out there who, if you’re serious about what you’re doing will help you more than you ever thought possible. Entrepeneurship has been described as “jumping of a cliff and only then assembling your airplane”...so my tip would be to make sure you get good building instructions before you do so!