Leverage on your partners ecosystems to create a multiplier effect
Michael Martin Co-Founded Audvisor along with Rajesh Setty. Although he came from of a technology background in Artificial Intelligence and in Computer Science, he always had the entrepreneur bug. When he first moved to Southern California after college, he started Mike Martin’s Tennis Academy which was recognized as the largest summer long junior tennis program in the region by LA Magazine. He eventually joined McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) and was selected to be in the high potential program where they take less than 0.5% of the company and groom them to be future leaders of the company. While working in the Engineering division, he continued his entrepreneurial spirit and created something internally that other airlines became interested in buying. This impressed his mentor so much that when his mentor at Boeing left to become president of publicly traded Systems Integration company, he recruited Mike to join the company as a Vice President. At this company, Mike started a division and after 2 years was recorded as the fastest growing and most profitable business in the history of the company.
Mike met Rajesh Setty through a mutual friend in the early 2000’s and almost instantly became great friends. Rajesh had many ventures and Mike became an investor in a few of those. In 2011, they realized that there is a diminishing trend in the way people were consuming non-fictional books. People are turning to internet to learn but the traditional way of learning from long content was a big obstacle for people in this fast paced world and the never ending growth of content on the internet also makes it impossible for people to locate the right content which will help them in continuous learning. They figured out that people were willing to digest smaller chunks of information that is disseminated and that is how Twitter had grown. People pay for value and for convenience and they thought of coming up with a solution to fill this void. They went to a friend who was a VC and discussed the idea. He bought in the idea and he invested because he believed in Mike and that was the starting point of Audvisor.
Even though they were very sure about the success of their idea because of the success of Twitter and Spotify, they still spoke with several people they knew before they started and got the confirmation that they are on the right path. The task of putting together an application for this idea was anybody’s game as it was only technology, but the trick was in getting the content. They decided to play the game in a big way and decided to on-board only the top thought leaders and experts to deliver the content. The problem was that the shortlisted experts were NewYorkTimes best-selling authors, award winning speakers, and executive coaches. The challenge was to convince them to lend the content and spend time in contributing content to the startup. There were many sceptics who kept telling them that they will have trouble in getting the experts. Rajesh stepped in to form the community of the experts.
Rajesh had written around 15 books and one of his earliest books attracted Tom Peters who had written a foreword to the book. Rajesh had built his contacts over the past 15 years. That helped them to speak with a few experts. Since Rajesh had built such a great rapport with this community, many of them gladly accepted but there was a bit of resistance from a few of them as expected. When they went into an expert who was a 10 times NewYorkTimes best-selling author, the first thing he would ask for is a platform in which his content will be distributed but there was no product at that point in time. This was also a bit of a concept and hence producing screenshots or wireframes were very challenging. Many experts will come in only when there is a 10 or a 20 Million audience but they had no audience with them as they were building the platform by iteration. They had to slowly build the contributors side one after the other with a combination of friends, reference and finally hard selling the business plan of entering a huge global underserved market.
On the platform, there are little aspects of lots of things that were there but they wanted to create something unique. Their goal was to “WOW” the audience of Audvisor with the Product, Experts, Insights and Experience. They wanted a product that was cool and easy to use. The first version that they developed was not what the final product is today. The product was very easy to use but did not have any great flair. The platform was highly functional and it worked where you can play the insights and you can also search with multiple filters but did not have any kind of a great look & feel. Mike makes the correlation to the difference in getting a to-go order from a restaurant versus the experience you get when dining at the restaurant and experiencing the great ambience, great service, and great food. Mike wanted to have the Audvisor user base get that same feeling as dining at a great restaurant. Mike says that it was his gut feel that made him change the look and feel. He says that the best way to do a check is ask yourself first if you would use it as a customer. He separated himself from his product looked at the app from a user’s perspective and even though he was so tempted to say YES, he had to say NO because he was not sure if he would be impressed with the product as a user. He realized that if he is not excited about the product himself, he will not able to convince others to use it. The current product as you will see is extremely easy to use yet it has a “coolness” aspect where the insight cards fly off the screen when advancing to the next insight or flip around when looking at the expert’s profile. Essential, Mike and Raj have developed the world’s first push-button learning app that makes it easy and cool for anyone to use.
On Marketing – they just literally had a soft launch a few weeks ago and they created a multiplier by leveraging the huge fan following of their experts and incorporated a social aspect of Audvisor by allowing users to share insights. The experts have begun pushing out their 3 minute or less pieces of wisdom on Audvisor because they have provided a great content exclusive to Audvisor and they were eager to spread the word to their followers who had earlier purchased their books or have listened to their speech. Each expert has their own ways of reaching to their fan following that they built over the last 15 to 20 years.
Mikes Advice to startup entrepreneurs – People pay for value and convenience. Make sure that you are solving a real problem and/or adding real value to people or corporations. Be very sure of your idea and just make sure that you vet out what your belief is with some people but don’t get so overwhelmed if many of them do not like what you are doing. Have an ability to manoeuvre to adjust your product as you learn more about the needs of your user as no one will know everything till they launch. The world is filled with Nay Sayer’s and they also said the same thing to Google and to Apple. Believe in yourself when you begin and stick to your guts and you will succeed. As they say “Iterate Fast and Fail Fast” – Try out many things but constantly keep adopting to make something what people would want.
Audvisor has now created the world’s first Push Button learning app. They have over 100 experts with 1000 exclusive insights in a free version which is being downloaded by 1000s of people. They will be launching a paid version soon with around 1000 experts more than anyone can listen to in their life.