In perhaps our most radical month to date in the Virtual Valley journey, April saw us:
- Bring on a new Technical Cofounder
- Release a new Slackbot called Tina
- Travel to the Philippines to meet Zandro and the boiz in person for the FIRST time
And despite these “distractions” the platform actually saw it’s largest month on month growth, but how?
Let’s find out…
A reminder of the goals that we are working towards over the next two years:
And each metric we are tracking along the way:
MRR/Hours Charged – We saw strong growth in MRR and Hours Charged towards the end of April to reach $5,223 for the platform by the end of the month which equates to 47% of the monthly revenue goal we have for July of this year as shown by the pyramid above.
Blog Subscribers – We grew by just 25 over the month hitting 23% of the quarterly goal, expect significant growth during the month of May as I focus further on content for the Virtual Valley Blog.
Guest Content Spots – Steady growth in guest content spots which puts us well on the way to hitting 100 by the end of the quarter, this will give a solid foundation of traffic and SEO as we move to marketing Phase 2.
Twitter Followers – As per our learnings from #garyvee last week, we will discontinuing this vanity metric in Q3 despite the steady growth.
In other news, podcast downloads seem to be increasing slightly on average:
And finally, I made a cute little graph to show our progression in hours charged and revenue since launch day:
In addition, we also released:
With Tina, the mission of the company remains the same:
To give Entrepreneurs back 1 million hours of their time by 2018.
Yet, we believe we are solving the “management problem” to a greater extent than with Virtual Valley.
Tina is effectively a “black hole” for admin tasks, essentially eradicating the requirement for an entrepreneur to manage a virtual assistant. Both direct and indirect feedback from our current entrepreneurs has shown that this is one of the biggest challenges our entrepreneurs are facing with outsourcing.
Since launch day 29 Slack Teams have integrated her and 4 of these have subscribed to Tina at $197 per month (for unlimited small admin tasks 24/5).
This has been achieved with a total of 4 hours promotion from myself (more on this in a later blog post).
So we are now left with a quality problem…
Which validated business model should we focus on?
Wil (our new technical cofounder) and I discussed this at length in the past week and have decided to continue with both business models and then review growth at the end of the quarter.
That said, going forward we will combine and track the combined MRR and Hours Charged metrics for both business models.
Three Key Learnings
MEET YOUR VIRTUAL TEAM IN PERSON
In April, I went to Hong Kong to set up a bank account for our new parent company: One Million Hours Limited:
And how could I NOT jump over to the Philippines to see the team that I had been working with (virtually) for the past 8 months.
Here is Zandro (Virtual Valley Manager) and his assistant Stephen:
And even during this past week since I have returned to Europe, the productivity efficiencies gained through the deepening of the relationship have become apparent.
Therefore, if you have the opportunity, I would strongly recommend to meet regularly with your virtual team.
2. ALWAYS LOOK FOR GROWTH HACKING OPPORTUNITIES
As will be shared fully in an upcoming blog post…
We managed to get 45 Entrepreneurs to integrate our new Slackbot Tina into their Slack Teams with a grand total of 4 hours of my time spent on promotion on launch day.
We drove people from the Virtual Valley audience, Facebook and Slack Communities to our Product Hunt entry that was posted by an awesome influencer (See Jeffrey Needles below).
However, I don’t believe any of those actions were directly responsible for the 45 signs ups (and 4 customers), I believe that there is something else at play…
This is the message that Tina sends to ALL members of a Slack Team when she is integrated.
To make this clear, one person within the Slack Team clicks the two links required to integrate Tina as we automatically get exposure to the full team (sometimes up to 500 people)?
This is the reason for our organic growth with minimal effort (and is also the reason that Apple adds: “Sent from iPhone” to the end of all your emails sent from your phone).
3. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY BIAS TOWARDS ACTION
We had the idea for Tina 3 weeks ago, now she is live and we have 4 paying customers
2 weeks ago we thought it would be a good idea to register a parent company in Hong Kong, now we have a parent company set up in Hong Kong.
We had the idea for the 0-$4 Million podcast, 30 days later we were #1 in iTunes New & Noteworthy for business
And all becuase we try to maintain a bias toward actions when we believe we have enough information to make a decision.
To maximise learning.
Two years ago, I gave a TEDx talk about this.
Three Key People
1. JEFF NEEDLES
To give you every chance of succeeding on Product Hunt, it is often a good idea to request that an influencer post your product for you.
Therefore, I went through ALL of the Slackbots that had received 200+ up votes on PH in the past few months and then decided to reach out to a select few to see if they would like to post Tina.
And becuase Jeff is such a legend, he agreed:
And here we are:
2. HARRY HUANG/ED MOYSE – PROFILE HOPPER
When I read awesome content, I almost always attempt to reach out to the creator to connect and share my thoughts:
Which is exactly what happened when I read this post by Ed Moyse.
Which ultimately lead to a very enjoyable coffee with his business partner Harry in Hong Kong last week.
These guys are product machines, bringing out Hey Press, Journorequests and Profile Hopper in quick succession and I highly recommend following their journey on their Medium blog.
3. CHRIS HELLER
Each month we like to pick out our favourite entrepreneur that has used Virtual Valley, and this time we have a special one for you…
Check out the branding on Chris’s social media marketing agency:
Pretty sweet right?
Chris hired a Virtual Valley Virtual Assistant to aid his research efforts and in theory, will expand his team in the future!
Three Key Tools
Slack’s growth is ridiculous:
So it isn’t like they need the massive exposure being featured on the Virtual Valley Blog will bring them.
But I thought I would send them some love seeing as they so gracefully enabled us to build Tina on their platform.
Somewhat self promotional but we love her.
Tina is a feisty Slackbot that will handle all of your admins needs for just $197 per month (though we may be increasing this monthly rate soon).
If you have a Slack Team, want to be more productive AND think that your increased productivity by having an unlimited admin assistant is worth more than $197…
Then let’s get started.
3. POMODORO ONE
It seems to me that the success of an entrepreneur (or any person) hinges almost exclusively on their ability to direct their focus.
Your focus is your biggest asset and must be protected stringently against the external time vampires (your friends, Facebook and phone) if you are going to be able build a sustainable business.
The fortunate thing is that you don’t actually have to invest a massive amount of focussed time in order to get ahead (as so many people don’t actually invest any focussed time themselves).
To ensure that I am able to invest focussed time into projects like Virtual Valley and AskTina is due to the fact that I carefully track my focussed time with a simplistic desktop app called: Pomodoro One.
I have the settings tuned to:
- 50 Focus
- 10 Min Rest
- 50 Min Focus
- 30 Min Rest
Bearing in mind that focussed work is without email, Slack, Skype, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin… the list goes on.
If I achieve 2 full cycles of the above in 1 day, it is deemed a success.
Three Key Focus Areas
1. ASKTINA MARKETING
We reached the dizzying height of 4 customers paying the monthly rate of $197 in 10 days with just 4-6 hours of my time in promotion.
Now we have secured the delivery of Tina’s tasks, we can look to grow this number of subscribed customers significantly during the month of May, but how?
Tina has no blog, Twitter handle or even email form submission on her site, though what she does have is the ability to direct message all of the people within the Slack Team that she is integrated into.
And if we supercharge this growth hack with a double sided referral schemed fueled by free tasks, I believe Tina can grow to 10 paid Slack Teams by the end of Q2.
2. ASKTINA DELIVERY
As per the growth forecasted above, Tina will need to have a solid delivery model in order to deal with this influx of tasks.
Currently tasks are delivered through Tina with the following model:
- Automation – Tina speaks with Entrepreneur to gather task info
- Admin – Clarifies task requirements and either completes the task if has capacity/delegates to an assistant
- Virtual Assistant – Completes the task and returns to the admin for review
We currently have just one admin shift in place during our busiest time (80% of tasks are submitted to Tina during PST office hours) meaning that tasks are just completed by ad-hoc assistants during downtime.
As we grow, we will need 1 or more admins working 24/5 with a pool of assistants waiting in the wings to pick up tasks. The whole model will also need to be built into a flawless system that operates completely independently of Tina’s two founders.
3. UPGRADING VIRTUAL VALLEY BASED ON FEEDBACK
And don’t worry, we haven’t forgot the platform that we started this journey with…
Over the next month we will be requesting feedback from each of our 19 paying customers in the month of April and will prioritise the updates to be made to improve the Virtual Valley experience.
In summary a solid month with steady revenue growth and an exciting new addition to the team: Tina.
And interesting contrast in business model between Tina (productised service) and Virtual Valley (online marketplace) led Tina to almost eclipsing Virtual Valley’s monthly revenue figures in a fraction of the time.
Though will Tina eventually become profitable?
Currently she is not at the $197 price point with 4 paying customers.
Will we need to increase price or invest further in marketing to boost customers?
Find out next month…