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Vulnerable Founder Vulnerable Founder

#13: What's keeping me up at night - Team

John Dodson 11 hours
It's getting late, but HR is on my mind. Well, not exactly since we are just a team of two people. We have been able to accomplish so much on our own, but if we had another person or two working with us, we could accomplish so much more. Or at least I'd like to think so. Yeah, we would.

We started our company with four cofounders, but chose to dissolve that team as we ended up deciding to scrap the idea we had been working on. Fortunately for me, I was able to retain a tech cofounder since she's married to me and is in a position where she really needs me to get things going with Pivvt!

There are a number of things on the horizon, especially as we focus at this stage to bring in customers. The more people that use our app, the more holes they will poke in it, and the more features they will demand. As mentioned in the last episode of the podcast, if we are able to secure a spot in one of the top accelerators, we would benefit by having another developer or two to help us grow faster.

I have worked in software for a number of years now, but most of my friends are fairly risk intolerant, so it has been hard to get someone to bite. You really need someone to trust in the vision, and someone that can be as excited and motivated to push forward with you, especially when you don't have the funds to pay salaries quite yet.

We are fortunate to be able to handle the needs of our business up until this point in time, but finding the right person has definitely been on my mind and is keeping me up at night.

Photo by Charles Forerunner on Unsplash

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#12: It's startup accelerator season

John Dodson 21 hours
Time for episode 2 of the podcast where I introduce the topic of startup accelerators, my experience with two programs, and what's next for Pivvt.

I participated in the inaugural cohort for Newchip, an online accelerator out of Austin, and went through the free Startup School online program. I learned a lot between the two and am ready to prepare for the big leagues.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash


Applications for Y Combinator just opened for summer 2021 and Techstars and 500 Startups have year round programs that they interview for. I will be working toward landing a spot in one of these, and I'll be sure to post updates on how that process goes here on the blog.

These programs are a mix of investment capital and mentorship, and with what we are doing now, it will be a great springboard as we would be able to tap into the respective network of the program we eventually land at. Crossing my fingers for good luck in the application and selection process!
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#11: Sometimes you just have to...react

John Dodson 2 days
2020 was quite a year for us at Pivvt. We began the year by diving in headfirst, completely turning away from a reliable salary, and started working full-time on our idea as a couple. Little did we know that the year would be bookended by a global pandemic and political turmoil in the United States.

I recorded episode 1 of our podcast and shared some brief reflections on what was going on in our mind and what we had to deal with in such a tumultuous year.

One thing I forgot to point out is that all of these changes were out of our control. We had to forge on with what we were doing and keep on grinding forward. Sometimes simply reacting is what you just have to do. And that is exactly what we did.
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#10: Introducing the Vulnerable Founder Podcast!

John Dodson 2 days
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
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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

Pivvt 4 days

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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#9: Learning from others

John Dodson 1 week
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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#8: Am I chasing after the right thing?

John Dodson 1 week
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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#7: What's keeping me up at night - Product vision

John Dodson 1 week
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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#6: Running lean ... financially, part 2

John Dodson 2 weeks
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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#5: What's keeping me up at night - Branding

John Dodson 2 weeks
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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