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Vulnerable Founder Vulnerable Founder

#10: Introducing the Vulnerable Founder Podcast!

John Dodson 2 months
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Hello friends of VF, I just kicked off a new podcast to go alongside this blog community! Check out the introduction trailer on this post, and keep an eye out for upcoming episodes on all your favorite podcast networks (coming soon!)

Direct link at anchor.fm

Share Your Support Support the development of Pivvt through this donation form

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Inside Pivvt Inside Pivvt

Digital advertising has broken the internet

John Dodson 2 months

Background

I spent almost two and a half years working in digital advertising at Yahoo and Rakuten. I learned a lot as I managed ad-tech platforms on both the demand and supply side of the ecosystem—but I struggled because I hated our products. I hated how online ads work.

During my last months at Rakuten, I spent time doing research on ad blocking and how publishers were dealing with the threat to their revenue model. During that period, it was very clear to me that it was a losing battle and that the fundamental model of digital advertising was broken. I left the industry a short time later, and the first thing I did after leaving was install an ad blocker on my laptop.

Wrong Incentives

The use of online advertising has helped to keep content "free" but it never has been free. Users are the product of online businesses, and advertisers their customers. Advertisers spend a lot of money to get their ads in front of users, often using data to target who is most likely to click on the ad or buy something.

Ads are how web sites and apps make a lot of their revenue, so their incentive is to get users to view and click on as many ads as possible. This has led to a large amount of click bait articles full of ads, articles split up into multiple pages with new ads for each "next" you click, and an increase of volume of content over quality.

The desire to serve more ads has also led to apps and sites focusing on addictive behaviors to keep users in their app for as long as possible. This is why the feed is the primary user interface you see in apps today, like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and yes, even LinkedIn. Once you open up the app, it is easy to find yourself endlessly scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling.

Need for Change

This is the very reason why Pivvt is focusing on this industry. The negative impacts of what advertising has left us with is prevalent, including tech addiction, ideology bubbles, and depression. The internet has so much potential for good, but the current model has led to the degradation of our wellbeing as humans.

We believe that there is a better way, and that we do not need to settle for what we have. The big players are deeply entrenched in this advertising model, but our goal is to break away from that with a solution that creates value for everyone: Users, creators, and sponsors/advertisers.

Follow along our startup journey as we build out a better internet, for everyone.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

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Vulnerable Founder Vulnerable Founder

#9: Learning from others

John Dodson 3 months
Today I had the chance to speak with one of my favorite content creators on YouTube, CaffeineMan. I first came across his videos when looking up reviews comparing Bang and Reign energy drinks (video below). I enjoy his content so much that in order to support his channel, I sent him a few drinks for him to do reviews on, which is how we first connected.

As a software product manager it is critical to do "customer interviews" to learn about the experience of those using or who may use your product. Entrepreneurship is no different, as it is even more critical to understand your target audience and their motivations and pain-points, to make sure you are building the right thing.

We ended up having a great conversation, but even beyond the details I was seeking for, I left the call inspired.

I am building Pivvt to help out creators just like him, and each and every one of these creators are entrepreneurs in their own right. We are all out there giving our best to build something great and I am energized seeing the success of others, as we all seek after the true American Dream.

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Vulnerable Founder Vulnerable Founder

#8: Am I chasing after the right thing?

John Dodson 3 months
I came across this video in my YouTube stream and it really helped to solidify the reasoning behind what I'm trying to do with Pivvt. I have felt strongly that the solutions that exist out there are insufficient and that the internet monetization model is broken, but his perspective really helped to give a boost into what I have been thinking about these past weeks.

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Vulnerable Founder Vulnerable Founder

#7: What's keeping me up at night - Product vision

John Dodson 3 months
I am laying here in bed and my mind is racing, you know, the usual. A new year has begun and I’m at the point where we really have to get things going. I have so many ideas and a vision of what I hope Pivvt to become.

I have spent the majority of my career as a product manager, but as an entrepreneur this is my first time where it is up to me to call all of the shots. The ideas are endless but I really have to focus, because we have to be selective about who we target as our first customers. Additionally, having limited resources is not a new challenge, but the cost of waste is considerably higher.

Pivvt is effectively a marketplace of content creators and their audience, so I have to balance the chicken and the egg dilemma where we have to build our product to provide value for both sides. In our case content creators, or supply, is going to be most critical for us to get started with.

Do we have all the right features to get things going? I am using our product right now to create this post, and my hope is that our prospects will find it as useful as it is for me.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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Vulnerable Founder Vulnerable Founder

#6: Running lean ... financially, part 2

John Dodson 3 months
Last night was my last visit as a member of my gym. I had been a member for the past five years, and I am better for it. Unlike normal people, however, my new year's goals included the cancelation of my gym membership.

I was not able to get the value I hoped for because of the commitment of time required to utilize the gym in the way I would have liked, but I also have to tighten up our personal finances to extend our startup runway as long as possible. Now it's up to what I can do to keep my fitness up to par with some kettlebells in a garage.

I gave up my gym membership. Things are serious. Here's to a productive 2021!

One last look at the gym floor before heading out.

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Vulnerable Founder Vulnerable Founder

#5: What's keeping me up at night - Branding

John Dodson 3 months
I was laying in bed and my mind was racing; this is typical behavior for me. This time around I couldn't get the idea of brand language, phrases, colors, and imaging out of my head. With our most recent pivot, what I had used prior didn't quite fit anymore.

I did more reading into brand voice and brand archetypes, but I came across the shared video. I've listened to James Currier speak a bunch of times, but despite being four years old, this speech really hit the spot. For the first time, I heard someone speak at depth about the power of language and name in the context of startups.

Next is figuring out a new brand voice for Pivvt...

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Vulnerable Founder Vulnerable Founder

#4: Running lean ... financially

John Dodson 3 months
One thing that you probably hear about entrepreneurs is that they have to cut back spending a ton, where some even end up sleeping under their desks and eat instant ramen everyday. There is definite truth in having to save up so your fledgling company can survive its earliest days.

We are no different, but being an older founder with a family does not make a lot of sense to cut back so drastically. Feeding a child ramen day in and day out would likely be considered neglect and frowned upon. However, the reality of a tight runway is no different in my case.

With the ongoing holiday season, and with the pandemic environment, we decided to keep expenses to a minimum and opted to not buy a Christmas tree and keep presents to a minimum. I had a last minute idea for a gift for my son, so I went out to search to see if any stock was left anywhere. After a number of stops, I came home with a free tree and a steeply discounted gift. We have certainly been blessed.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and a Happy Holidays for whatever else you may celebrate!

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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Vulnerable Founder Vulnerable Founder

#3: Discovering and working with a mentor

John Dodson 3 months
My earliest attempt at entrepreneurship revolved around careers, and mentorship was a major focus of what I was trying to build. As I have spent time as an entrepreneur, the value of a mentor remains just as relevant to startups.

I have interacted with a number of people over these past couple of years and some have been very influential, and others while very helpful, were clearly not as interested in the relationship. What has been surprising is that I have found the most support in someone that I did not even imagine being a mentor. This relationship is one that naturally evolved into one of respect and support.

Having someone to bounce ideas off of, ask quick questions, and be accountable to with occasional updates, has been a huge boost to my focus and productivity. Even more important has been the realization that mentors will give advice, but I still have to filter through feedback and make decisions and execute on them. Effectively utilizing a mentor goes beyond using them as a crutch, relying on what they can give to you, but leveraging every interaction as a focused energy boost to help you move forward.

In the end, your success is entirely up to you. Mentors are like coaches sitting on the sidelines of a tennis match--on match day, their work is complete. You are the player and it is up to you to play the game.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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Vulnerable Founder Vulnerable Founder

#2: Building a startup in the middle of a pandemic

John Dodson 3 months
I began exploring my original concept for Pivvt in the fall of 2019, and we committed to it full-time in January 2020. Little did we realize that a global pandemic would cause a massive disruption in our country, including the early stay at home directive we experienced locally.

On the plus side, we as a team had already opted to sequester ourselves to a small home office and live off of savings for the time being. No problem there. However, our target customers faced major disruptions, which could have ended up being good or bad for us.

Due to the circumstances, we decided to work with the customer intel we had, and began building the alpha version of our software. We had the time and nowhere to go, so we decided to go faster than originally anticipated. We strayed a little from Lean Startup because of this, but surely the methodology did not consider a pandemic in decision making?

The shutdown of competition created a massive revenue need for our customers, which seemed like a huge opportunity for us, but... But with that disruption came contraction and even less desire from customers to take risk to try something new.

So here we are with a pivot in our business model, with an expanded focus of our customer base. What a ride 2020 has been, and now with a vaccine making its way across the country, we shall see what 2021 brings.

Photo by Alexas_Fotos on Unsplash

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