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Podcast Transcript 034: How Melissa Kwan Unlocked Webinar Automation and Built a Lifestyle Business

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[00:00:00] **Melissa:** And so the way we've really implemented this is when we do the interview and we want to bring somebody on board, I tell them. That this is why we built the company. We didn't build this to be a unicorn, nor do we think we have the capability to, to run it like that. But we want to make sure everyone has a good life, make sure everybody gets paid well, get good bonuses. And when we're able, everybody gets quote unquote above, you know, market salaries. So I want to make sure everybody is kind of on board with this ethos. and I think it starts with also hiring people that not just believe in the ethos, but believe in it so much that they value it. And therefore they are self driven, self motivated, they're accountable.

You don't have to check their work. And so by doing that, we also are able to have a smaller team because everyone just kind of does their own thing and they know that the customer comes first.

[00:01:00] **Michel:** Hi everyone and welcome to Growth Leap. I'm your host, Michel Gagnon. We talked to pretty awesome business builders who are designing disruptive and meaningful companies.

## Introduction to Melissa Kwan and eWebinar

[00:01:14] **Michel:** Hello everyone. Today we're chatting with Melissa Kwan, co founder and CEO of eWebinar, a platform that automates webinars using prerecorded videos. Melissa is three time bootstrap founder, a digital nomad, and the host of the profit led podcast. She wants to give people back their time through webinar automation so that they can grow their business without being there 24 seven,

Melissa, welcome to the show.

[00:01:43] **Melissa:** Thanks for having me.

[00:01:44] **Michel:** you've been a pioneer in the automated webinar space. Ca

## The Genesis of eWebinar: Solving a Personal Pain Point

[00:01:48] **Michel:** n you share what first inspired you to start your company and the problem you aim to solve?

[00:01:55] **Melissa:** Yeah, I'm actually not a pioneer in that space. I have. I'm a close follow. so we didn't invent this technology. in my last startup, I lived with a similar problem. you know, doing the same demo, same onboarding, same training for my customers over and over because we were always bootstrapped. I had an enterprise SAS company that, Sold or offered, products to real estate agents, and then we sold to companies.

So once they sign up, we would have to do the training, the demos to make sure they get onboarded. Nobody else was doing those. So I was a person kind of responsible for them. So I lived the problem of like, you know, just burnout and doing the same thing over and over and having people not show up and things like that.

So back then I tried to look for something that would solve this particular problem. and even though there were solutions that were out there, they were just not built to the extent that I had envisioned. they were kind of old and clunky and, you know, really built for, I guess, deceiving people to think a webinar is live when it's not.

And that's really not the vibe I was going for. I wanted to deliver kind of like the Netflix of webinars where people can, can join, have an amazing experience, but also not lose the chat component. So a lot of these solutions I was using didn't have the ability to chat with somebody. If I wanted to, or respond later by email, just like any sort of like intercom chat bot or like a Zendesk chat bot.

So I always wanted something like this to exist. and so five years after running that company, it was acquired in 2019. and I wanted to do something else. And this was just the problem that. Kept surfacing and something I just really wanted to solve. So two months after I sold that company, I started e webinar particularly to solve the problem of doing the same webinar over and over once and for all.

## Addressing Webinar Fatigue and Innovating the Space

[00:03:35] **Michel G:** And there's been a lot of, discussions or, or chats about webinars. you know, a couple years ago, some, you know, people. designed a great funnel for high ticket offers. And a lot of them were actually based on webinars. And I think some of us, or some people got a bit of an overdose, in a way.

so since you're in the middle of this, like, what's your take on that? And what are you doing at eWebinar to make sure that, you know, webinars are still serving, both the audience and the users.

[00:04:05] **Melissa:** I mean, I don't think I have to do that. I think that's a big task to take on. I think it's all about people choosing content when they want it, right? I think after 2020, people that didn't know webinars existed or, or didn't work it into their business process.

Would have done it in 2020. And now we're in a completely remote world. and people are also realizing asynchronous communication means more productivity is particularly at work. just, I think people want more control of their own time. And part of that is choosing when. To consume content. So, the only thing that I'm doing is kind of riding that trend and making sure that we're more aligned with whether it's a business user or consumer user to allow them to consume content whenever they want. Right. Just saying like, I have a webinar next Tuesday at 11, you have to join it in my time zone. That is very, very not consumer friendly. Right. You don't know what I'm doing at that time. You're kind of jamming it down my throat. And that's why I think traditional live webinars have very low attendance rates. Our attendance rates for, for e webinar across the board on average is 65%. So anyone that's run a webinar before knows that that's extremely high. And that's not because our program is. Product is amazing, right? It's because we allow the host to schedule multiples of these sessions or offer it on demand.

So people can literally watch it on weekends and evenings when you are not working. Anywhere in the world, right? So I personally am not really, ensuring that I guess webinars stay on trend. I think that's, that's never really gone away. If you ask any marketer, any company that is the way that they do business and deliver content anywhere in the world without hopping on a plane, I'm just making sure that businesses have a channel to communicate with their customers and their partners in a way that fits. Their lifestyle, I

guess. Right. So it's almost like if you tell someone you can only watch your favorite show on Thursday at 7 PM, I mean, that was 10, 15 years ago. That is just not how we behave anymore. So why do we have to do that? I guess in a business context. So I think that's the, that's the message I'm trying to put out there is like, you need to make your business content just like, A Netflix where people can just choose when they want to watch it. And that's just more aligned with how, how people like to lead their lives.

## The Unique Features of eWebinar: Enhancing User Experience

[00:06:27] **Michel G:** So there's this time zone element or on demand element that you've just mentioned. What are the other key features that you have in eWebinar that makes it possible? You know, exciting, useful, and also different from, from the rest.

[00:06:43] **Melissa:** Yeah. I mean, I think there are, it's one of those things where it has to be seen kind of to be believed, right? That's why if you come to our website, ewebinar. com, we use our product to deliver our own demo. So our demo is as if you are your own customer sitting through an eWebinar. I don't do any live demos. I mean, last year in 2023, I did. For that, like over 4, 000 demos and not a single one, like I ran myself. Right. I mean, it's, I think it's the, it's the thought that we put into designing a product that's beautiful. That's professional. it's, it's, having interactive elements. So like, you know, polls, sales alerts, questions, quizzes, hotspots that you can click on.

So it's more of a two way interaction and less like a zoom where you're just sitting there and someone's talking at you. All right. So you're participating and that encourages you to walk, to watch until the end, which is really important for the person delivering it. So if people don't watch till the end, they're not getting your CTA or they're not getting educated. and then the third main component is of course the chat part, right? So when people type to you, ask you a question, if you happen to be on the other end, you can respond anywhere from your computer, from your phone, but if you're not there and you get their message later, you can simply respond by email. and they'll always get your response. So, in a webinar. Like in the live webinar setting, if you're doing the webinar and asking questions, it's really hard to manage both on your own, right? So with eWebinar, you're really just managing the chat and every single person gets a response, whether it's now or later at a reasonable hour. And people are already communicating asynchronously like that in many aspects of their life, right? Like we're texting our friends and family all day long, right? We're, you know, any website we go to, there's a little chat bubble that pops up and says, can I help you? It's the exact same technology. We just put it into our product and apply it in a different way.

## Customer Base and Use Cases: A Versatile Tool for Businesses

[00:08:32] **Michel G:** If we were to break down your customer base, very roughly by, you know, verticals type of businesses, what would that look like?

[00:08:39] **Melissa:** So we don't serve just particular types of businesses. We serve lines of business. So, two main use cases. So it's sales and marketing. So people using this for, you know, demo sales presentations, lead gen, whether it's thought leadership, whatever it might be, and then also post sales customer success. So it's, You know, it's agnostic across industries, but it's mainly used for sales and marketing or, you know, training your, your customers or your team. So anything that you want to repeat over and over, like anything you're robotic about, we are the robot who helps do it.

[00:09:15] **Michel G:** I think you also mentioned H. R. You know, on boarding for, you know, for new employees. That's another use case that I think would fit the would fit the bill.

[00:09:25] **Melissa:** Yeah. I mean, it's onboarding. Sometimes it's your customers, but sometimes it's internal.

[00:09:30] **Michel G:** You've been through the process of, you know, building a new business a couple of times. Can you share a bit?

## Bootstrapping and Marketing Strategies for Growth

[00:09:34] **Michel G:** What's your strategy to generate revenue? And I believe off often without any marketing budget. What's your approach?

[00:09:42] **Melissa:** Yeah, so we are a bootstrap company, so we don't have money to spend on any paid marketing. we probably spend like a thousand bucks a month just on like retargeting stuff. like very, very bare minimal, whether it's like, it's like so little on Facebook. Like, I don't think our, I don't think our audience is on there.

and then on Google, just retargeting people that's, that's, come to our website or whatnot. But that's really just for branding purpose. but a lot of the marketing strategies we use are 0 marketing. So, podcast marketing is one of them, you know, getting onto other people's podcasts like yourself to talk about my entrepreneur journey or, building e webinar or what it does. also writing on LinkedIn, one to two times a week, but I started at, you know, four to six times a week just to kind of like build that momentum.but now I have a bigger audience and more engagement. I want to make sure that, I'm not going to killing my own post, right? I, so I kind of wait until the engagement runs out a little bit before I put a new one on.

but I don't talk about my business, right? I really just talk about bootstrapping three businesses. the, pain and suffering that I've gone through lessons that I've learned, things like that. And then eventually people come see my profile and come to our website. So it's, it's kind of indirect. and then of course, like our product kind of has a built in, you know, virality. component where people watch a webinar, they know it's our software and then they might think it's cool and then they might come to our website. we do a lot of investment into, you know, content and SEO.

So,if you consider hiring a person to write like marketing budget, then I guess it's not completely zero dollar marketing, but we of course work with a team of writers. We have one full time writer. and then our COO also helps guide, The content strategy. So I would say content and SEO, like just organic search probably brings in over 50 percent of our demo traffic. and then, social media and LinkedIn probably, I think 20%.and then the rest is like word of mouth or, you know, people seeing our product.

[00:11:33] **Michel G:** One of the things you've, you were talking about your entrepreneurial journey, and I'm interested in learning more about, you know, how you've designed things a little bit.

## Designing a Business as a Digital Nomad

[00:11:41] **Michel G:** You're a digital nomad, which is, I hope extremely exciting, but I'm interested in understanding a bit how you've designed a webinar so that you can afford to be a digital nomad.

What are the key systems that you've put in place? You know, how do you think about strategy about hiring people?

[00:12:02] **Melissa:** Yeah, I mean, I think I have, I have an unfair advantage, right. With the webinar, because I, I had an exit in 2019. it wasn't like retirement level, but it was definitely life changing. So, I don't spend a lot of money. Like I'm not, I'm not a big spender. I like to travel, but also very mindfully, right?

Like we use Momondo to look for, you know, the best flight on which day, you know, we are always looking at, you know, Like balancing out costs between hotel and Airbnbs. And we're not in extravagant cities, right? Like we own our apartment in, in Amsterdam. That was part of the sales proceeds. So we don't pay rent, unless we are, you know, traveling somewhere else.

I'm currently in Bangkok where I spend winters. So I spend winters in Thailand. This is a new thing and costs are a lot cheaper here, than anywhere else. So I think, it's a bit unfair because I have money to fall back on for e webinar. So it's not that I specifically designed it for my lifestyle, but, it wasn't always that way, right?

I had 10 years of, of struggle, not having exit, not having a lot of money to spend. but I think for eWebinar, what we. Really nailed kind of on the first try is we started generating revenue from day one, whereas in my previous two companies, I was pretty green as an entrepreneur.

I didn't really know about product market fit. I didn't really know about, you know, building a product that already exists, but it's a better version of something else in my two previous companies. we had what we call blue ocean products, right? Like we came up with a product that didn't exist before, and we tried to convince people to buy it. E webinar is more of a better mousetrap. like I said, I'm not a pioneer of this technology. I know that this technology exists. We just want to be 10 times better. So, I didn't have to come up with a brand new product and convince people that this is something that should be on their budget, right?

They were already kind of looking for things like this. And because I had that problem for five years, I knew that people would buy this product. So, it wasn't so much about designing the business model. I think it was about choosing the idea to work on. And building it to the point where I knew people were going to start paying for it from day one, before we released it.

## Building a Remote Team and Managing Operations

[00:14:09] **Michel G:** And how many people do you have, or do you have a small team or it's more of a group of freelancers supporting you?

[00:14:17] **Melissa:** Yes, we don't have any employees. we have, you know, about 10 full time people that are all contractors spread across the world. I mean, hiring contractors is really how this company bootstrap can even exist. Like we cannot afford an office. We cannot afford to hire. You know, locally in North America or in Europe and compete with funded companies or bigger companies and, and have to offer benefits, right?

That just wasn't even an option. So, we have, you know, team members in Vietnam, Philippines, Ukraine, You know, contractors and in Canada U. S. as needed basis, but the core team is about 10 people, mostly developers that burn is as low as possible. So if we were to have this company in San Francisco, for example, you know, our burn would be four times, you know what it is right now. So I think we've done a really good job in, you know, Optimizing costs and also focusing on getting to revenue first, because we are a profit led company.

[00:15:18] **Michel G:** How do you manage the actual operations? What a lot of companies, I think, learned with COVID was that, you know, when you're not, Sitting next to each other. You cannot, your communication, your patients have to be pretty slick and clear, right? You cannot compensate your lack of organization by just, you know, tapping on your colleague's shoulder and try to fix something last minute.

When you build a company like the one you have, you know, what are the key things that, you know, you've put in place to make sure everybody knows, you know, what, what has to be done. And, you don't have to be necessarily in the day to day, 24 7.

[00:16:01] **Melissa:** Yeah. So, fortunately the team that needs managing and processes the most, I do not manage, so I don't do anything product related. I am just. You know, the person that making that makes sure we don't run out of money. I'm the person that makes sure we have enough eyeballs and gets our name out there.

but our CTO, my co founder, who's also my life partner, he's had 25 years of of Being in product, right? So he worked for Microsoft for over 15 years, very, very process driven. He's worked in big companies, managed teams of 200. He's been in startups. So he knows how to put in very simple processes that a team will actually adopt.

So we don't have fancy things like JIRA or Asana or whatever. We only use Monday.

[00:16:50] **Michel G:** Okay.

[00:16:51] **Melissa:** of our organization is on spreadsheet like, interface. So we've just got a bunch of tables and when there's an item that needs to be worked on, it's there when it's done, it gets moved when it gets, when it gets reviewed, it gets moved.

So everyone at any given time has visibility on what's being worked on and what stage it's at, and that's, you CTO, the people that work on non product things or myself, my COO and the writer. And sometimes a designer and sometimes like we do contract writers for, for different types of writing. And my COO actually handles all that.

So I'm actually kind of a lone wolf in the company. and I, and this is kind of the way I like it because I don't like managing people. I'm not, I'm very bad at it. And that's why coming to this company, I didn't want any employees. The only person I talked to on a daily basis is my COO. And he handles all the product specking, the last 5 percent of QA, the content strategy, including every single word that is in our product.

He writes that. And then, you know, I have some LinkedIn posts and he'll grammar check it. Right. So I really just work with him. but I think in terms of, of the company, I'm very lucky to have my CTO and my COO that are super, super process driven that. Like managing people. So I don't have to do any of that myself.

So I, they, they actually free up all of my time so I can go and look for new ways of getting the eWebinar name out there, like going on podcasts, starting a podcast, writing LinkedIn posts, you know, things like that.

## A Lifestyle-First Approach to Business

[00:18:28] **Michel G:** You've mentioned that you value lifestyle and happiness over revenue when it comes to structuring your business. And that's pretty different from what a lot of us are used to read about, with VC back, startups, you know, raising another round or, you know, even companies who've been in business issuing a P a press release, saying that they've been profitable for the first time.

why, are you approaching business like this? What?you know, to think in those terms,

[00:18:56] **Melissa:** Yeah, I mean, I think when you're a public company or if you're or if you've raised money, then your priorities have to be very different, right? Because you have to optimize for revenue and profitability, whether it's to raise the next round or to your investors, right? So we don't have real investors like David and I, David is my CTO, my co founder.

We wrote the first checks into the company to get it started. We have some friends and family investment, but that's it. Like we don't have any institutional investors. that is on our board. I am the only person on our board. I'm the only person that has to approve anything. So I am not working so I can have more money. I realized that I started my first company to be rich, but in learning how hard it is to be rich, I've learned to live with very little. And as I, I mean, I started my first company in my twenties. Like, what do I know? Right? Like I all, all my life, I was told that I need to be rich. And in my thirties, when I started nomadding, I left New York to nomad for, for three years, full time, I started to learn about community and friends and music and festivals and connecting meaningfully. Right. And I realized there are so many things that I love to do in my life that are not work related. And I realized that working is a means to. Fund the lifestyle that I love and the lifestyle that I love is to experience more of what life has to offer that has nothing to do with work. So I just turned 40 last year.

I would say in the last five years, I've kind of been on a mission to balance more, life and work. And you know, because when you don't have money, you don't have a choice. For many years in my previous two startups, I didn't have any money. I was always in survival mode. So I didn't have a choice to think about my life. But after I sold my previous company, I had it for the first time. And I understand that that's a luxurious position to be in, to think about why am I even doing this? And really asking how much money do I actually need so that it's enough. All right. So I thought a lot about this after my last company was sold and I just want to have fun, period. And of course I want to, I, of course I want to have a successful company because eventually I want to have a successful sale and the sale is based on your revenue and your growth rate. And I want to keep that up. But if I'm doing this to fund my lifestyle, I want to make sure that every, everybody on my team can enjoy the same lifestyle because you can't as CEO preach that everyone has to work super hard, but you go out and take a one month vacation. Right. Your people are only ever going to be as good as you are. And if I'm doing this to have fun myself, I want to make sure that everyone, everyone else has fun. So they don't judge me right when I go out and do that. And so the way we've really implemented this is when we do the interview and we want to bring somebody on board, I tell them. That this is why we built the company. We didn't build this to be a unicorn, nor do we think we have the capability to, to run it like that. But we want to make sure everyone has a good life, make sure everybody gets paid well, get good bonuses. And when we're able, everybody gets quote unquote above, you know, market salaries.

I think it's, I think it's outrageous that these companies try to minimize how much they pay people. I asked someone how much, like what their dream salary is so I can exceed it. Not so I can pay them as little as possible to keep them, which I think is what most companies try to do. Right. I don't know what priorities are that they're driven by, but I just know that if I'm building a company, so that makes me happy, I want to be able to offer that as a benefit to everybody on the team. And that's how they stay with us. That's how they don't get poached. Right. Because we can't offer them Amazon like salaries to get them to stay right. They're going to stay because they can work 75 percent in e webinar and get paid a hundred percent or 120 percent they can hear then, you know, versus elsewhere. And we don't have a vacation policy. If somebody wants to take Friday off, they just tell someone that they're not there. Like that you can't just disappear. There's still accountability, but we're not going to be like, well, where are you going?

## Building a Company Culture of Accountability

[00:23:29] **Melissa:** Why aren't you here? Are you going to make up for it in the weekend?

Like we're just not that type of company. So I want to make sure everybody is kind of on board with this ethos. and I think it starts with also hiring people that not just believe in the ethos, but believe in it so much that they value it. And therefore they are self driven, self motivated, they're accountable.

You don't have to check their work. And so by doing that, we also are able to have a smaller team because everyone just kind of does their own thing and they know that the customer comes first.

## The Bootstrap Journey: Starting Companies with Minimal Capital

[00:24:06] **Michel G:** do you think it's possible to start a company from scratch, like e webinar, even if you don't have the big check that you got from that previous exit? And, and if yes, how would you do it? Or what are the key things that, you know, you've thought about when you got to the third one where, you know, you had all the, the experience.

[00:24:29] **Melissa:** Yeah. I mean, I started my first two companies without any money. you know, I, I saved some money in my twenties and I used that to hire some contractors and then I was in Canada, so I had some government grants and then there were like special business loans that they would give you new founders. I racked up a lot of debt that way, actually, I don't, I don't, recommend it, but it was the only way that I could get it up and running. my second company had, you know, I had revenue, my first company, and I took a loan against that. And then I took the revenue I had, the loan against it, and I started my second company. And that's how I got, you know, the working capital to start my second company. But even then it took us so long to find product market fit that I was also in a lot of debt at that point, but it didn't have anything to do with needing to borrow money.

I just didn't know how to pick a product idea that would make money. So I had to learn that.I think it is possible to start a company like uWebinar with, with very little capital. I don't think it's, I don't think it's possible to start with zero. Cause what's zero, right?

Like you still have to pay rent. You still have expenses. You, unless you code, you probably have to have a technical co founder and then that person needs to pay rent. And, you know, so there, there is some basic expense.I think I would have made it work, but I think it would just move very slowly, like much more slowly because we wouldn't be able to hire, you know, a team in Vietnam right away to help my CTO.

Right. So, but I think as founders, you just make it work. There's no such thing as like impossible. I think one of those characteristics that is required right by a, by a founder is like, you just need to make it work. So whether you have a side gig, a side hustle that funds this, or you get a friends and family check and you fund that, you know, or maybe you saved up a bunch of money and then you're putting it into hiring people.

Like you need to figure it out, right? But I would encourage, anybody like I, like I did, you know, for e webinar to pick a product that starts generating money from day one. Not some really cool thing that, you know, you need a million users and then you sell ads. Like that's, that's not revenue, right? You need someone, you need something that someone's willing to pay for. and the way you do that is you create something with business value that they can experience right away.

[00:26:49] **Michel G:** yo

## Learning from Mistakes: Picking the Right Product Idea

[00:26:49] **Michel G:** u kind of, um, preempted my, my next question. One of the things you said was, you know, I was not good at picking a product idea. So can we drill down a little bit on this and maybe, maybe you tell us the mistakes you've made in the past, but, also maybe the tricks that you, you learned along the way to get better at this.

[00:27:11] **Melissa:** Yeah, I mean, 14 years ago, I started my first company. I didn't come from an entrepreneur family, so I didn't have a con, like I didn't have any concept of, of how difficult it would be or what products even are like, I, I didn't even know that the word startup existed. Like there wasn't Y Combinator or anything in Vancouver.

Like I think all those things were just starting. there was just meetup. com and people would go to a restaurant and talk about their ideas. Right. And so, I think there's this misconception that like, if there, if you have an idea and someone else is doing it, that's bad, right? Like if you say, if you tell someone I'm going to do this thing, well, it already exists, but they say it with a connotation that that's bad. I have since learned that if someone else is doing something, it's good. Cause it actually validates the market for you. It means the market has a need for this product and not every product can hit a hundred percent of the market. Right. So, in my first two startups, I chose ideas that didn't exist because I thought it was a good thing. I knew there was a business need for it, but the fact that it didn't exist in blue ocean means that I was the only company that was educating companies in my industry, which was real estate, that this needs to sit on their budget item, like a line item in their budget. These big companies, they make purchases based on budget. So when they, if you want them to buy your product, something else has to go for you to come in. So which one has to go? And if your product is not proven, how do they know that there's ROI? And if they take a risk in buying your product, then they're going to be in trouble. So how can you alleviate them from that risk? So that sales cycle was very long. For both of those companies, but both of those companies span 10 years, and I'm not saying that, you know, there's no room for for Blue Ocean. I mean, think about, you know, DoorDash or Uber, like we, we couldn't imagine our lives without those, those companies right now. And they were all, you know, they didn't exist.

Like the concepts of those didn't exist before they came along, but those are massively funded companies, Airbnb included. So I think you just need to know what you're getting into when you're coming out with a product that doesn't exist. Like what you're actually getting into. You have to factor in your time to market and time to education. And how I got better at that was I was talking to a friend in, in Vancouver where I was still living at the time. And he's like a wizard at building companies and he sells consumer products. Like he does, he's not in tech and I've seen him build a furniture company from zero to like 50 million in revenue within five years.

Like this guy's insane. And he just does one company after one company after one company. And he was like, the best thing you can do is to pick a product that exists in the market that you know, you can do 10 times better. Like the reason why Spacio, my, my previous company was so hard was because it was brand new and it, it didn't click for me until he said that. And I'm like, yeah, you're right. Like every conversation was just an uphill battle. So I knew coming into eWebinar that I would pick something that already exists and make it either different or better or both. So this is what I call purple ocean. Like red ocean is like a CRM where like, it's very, very saturated. The purple ocean is really taking a validated business idea and applying it to a different use case or different business vertical. And that's exactly what I did. Right? So we didn't pioneer the idea of evergreen webinars. It of course already exists, but it was serving a different market. We wanted to serve proper SMBs and large enterprise. Most products before us were serving, you know, marketers or individual consultants. So, and while we have those customers, it's not our. It's not our focus. It's not where our language goes. It's not where our marketing goes. So I just got better at it because I had that epiphany of like, yeah, you're right.

Like pick something that exists because someone else has opened the market for you and there is no better way to validate a market than people who are already paying for it right now, even if they're not paying for your product,

## The Evolution of a Startup: From Idea to Market Fit

[00:31:15] **Michel G:** I heard you on a, another interview talking about your experience with product development and how maybe your initial experience was, challenging, let's say,

what are the learnings that you've had, you know, over three years where you say.these are the three things that, really changed how I'm building a business and why I'm successful with Webinar.

[00:31:35] **Melissa:** It's hard to answer because I, I feel like we're constantly screwing up. I mean, you know, things are never moving as quickly as you want it to. everything that we do feels like it's not moving the needle.I mean, the ironic thing is nobody in our company, like the executive team, right, nobody in the company has ever done what we're doing right now. That is the biggest challenge, right? David has never built a product from ground up, which has had adoption and been successful. He's worked at, Microsoft and he's built, you know, features of a product that already exists. He's worked at startups that never took off. So he's built initial V1, V2, V3 of products that didn't have know, we've run in the last three years, over a million webinars. Like we just looked at that yesterday. Like that's pretty significant. My COO has worked for startups that didn't take off, right? He's never done digital marketing, but we needed to own it because we couldn't hire an agency that could take us from zero to one, and so we needed to own digital marketing and keyword research.

And all of that stuff is new to him, right? He's, he's done, you know, product management in, in other big corporate jobs, but he's never done it for a startup and to spec companies. Features from nothing. I've never run a product led startup. Like I've never done inbound. I've never had to do marketing and create content and write on LinkedIn.

Like I'm a salesperson. I only sold large enterprise. So everything we do is new. And as I think about this, I just think it's so bizarre. It just means anybody can start a company if you can just figure things out. But if you're like, well, what are these three things that you say you're doing really well, that makes, you know, that, that makes you guys successful.

First of all, I don't, I don't really think we're that successful. I think we're moving way slower than I anticipated. which is, you know, somewhat disappointing, but I also have no bar cause I've never done it before. but I would say the one thing we're really good at is just figuring things out where we previously have no concept. being, I guess the second thing is maybe just being patient, like not being super hard on ourself. Like I say that like a lot of things we do don't move the needle. Like we do 10 things in marketing and we don't know if any of those things contribute, but revenue grows every month and attribution is really hard. Right. And there's this whole thing about dark social that Chris Walker, from refined labs talks about a lot is like, if we're on this podcast and then someone hears about you, webinar goes to my website. I'm not tracking that person, but does that mean I'm never going to be in another podcast? So I think being patient with things that may not work, but doing them anyway, is probably the second thing. And I guess the third thing is, I guess we don't take ourselves very seriously. Like, we know that there's a company here. Finally, we're profitable slash breakeven. Like I say that because like we, we did hit breakeven, but we're not getting market salaries. So every month when we make a little bit more money, we distribute that so that we're pushing ourselves up, you know, every few months to, to try to match our quote unquote market salary. but other than that, I think, I think these are kind of like qualitative things. but I, I would say those are the, the three things it's like, you know, if it works, it works.

If it doesn't, we're not, we're not crying about it. And we understand that we can only do as, as much as we're able in how many hours in, in a day. And we're, we're okay with, with growing slowly.

[00:35:24] **Michel G:** It's interesting that you're saying that you've, nobody on your business has ever done what you're doing at the moment because I, personally have, been an outsider. in many, different roles. And I always thought it was a weakness, until, you know, you start connecting the dots. So maybe that's your superpower as well, like to, as you said, figure things out and be able to think outside the box.

[00:35:47] **Melissa:** Yeah. I mean, it's tight. It's tiring. Right. Right. Because you're like. I thought I've learned this already in 10 years of startups, but it turns out like when you're selling a sales led startup, it does like, you know, big contracts, those skillsets don't translate to a product. Let's start up when you're selling a hundred dollar product and trying to get people to sign up on a trial and convert and all those things.

Right. So you, when you thought that you're kind of at the peak of your career and you can apply all the things you learn, and then you realize, Oh, actually you. Didn't learn anything. And that was a big realization about a year into you webinar, like, and, and really, I guess, surrendering to that and just coming out from a different starting point of like, okay, actually, I don't know everything. So what are the things I need to know now? Because we need to pay the bills.

[00:36:40] **Michel G:** you were saying that you're not seeing necessarily the, the pace of the growth that you would have expected, or you would have liked. What are the.

## Navigating Growth and Setting Future Priorities

[00:36:50] **Michel G:** You know, your key priorities for the next six to 12 months. What are the, you know, the big rocks that you want to be able to look back 12 months from now and say, okay, tick, tick, tick.

We, we did what we wanted to do.

[00:37:03] **Melissa:** Yeah. So, I guess my biggest concern as a bootstrap company. And having really not like, we, we don't have product market fit, right. People aren't flying over to sign up. Right. Like we don't have hockey stick growth. I think that's a myth, by the way. we don't have any budget to test things. Right. So my worry is always like, what if we don't hit a good growth rate for this year? And why that matters is, when you're at zero to, you know, 40, 000 in the first year, and when you want to double that in the second year, it's super easy, 40, 000 a year to 80, 000 a year or whatever, right? Super easy. But when you get into the millions, it's hard to keep a really high growth rate. And the reason why growth rate is important is because. The multiple you get when you sell a SaaS company is based on your revenue and your growth rate. So if you have a 3 million ARR company, but you're growing at 2 percent a year, you, you don't have a growing company, right? You're getting one to two times, you know, revenue maximum for that. But if you are a 3 million company and you grew, you know, 50 percent last year or whatever that might be, then, you know, that's when you're getting into those strategic multiples. And I don't have another startup in me. I don't want to do this again. Like this is my retirement plan.

[00:38:34] **Michel G:** Okay.

[00:38:35] **Melissa:** while I'm like, okay, I don't mind growing slowly.

I also have to be very mindful that we're growing at a reasonable pace that will give us a good multiple. And everything that I do now is focused on that. Right. So how do we activate more people when they come in? How do we retain them so they don't leave and how do we stop them from churning by making sure that they actually use our product in multiple places in their business? So these are kind of our priorities this year. Like if I look back at the end of this year, now that we're in the beginning of this year, if we're able to solve, you know, those three things, which we've never spent time on, by the way. Cause in the past few years, we're just catching up to features and making sure things are stable and more people are coming in.

So things can't break down and you know, a thousand people are in the chat. So the chat can't be slow. You know, we're just, we were, we're just so busy catching up that we haven't had time to really look at how do we tighten the bolts, you know, in the product. So the people that are at the party will stay for as long as possible. So while we're doing that in the product, I have to go out and get more eyeballs. Right. So I think as far as like big initiatives, like that's what we're thinking about.

[00:39:49] **Michel G:** So that's your retirement plan,

[00:39:52] **Melissa:** Correct.

[00:39:54] **Michel G:** right?

## Seeking Financial Freedom Through Entrepreneurship

[00:39:54] **Michel G:** If you have a, uh, time horizon,

the sooner the better.

[00:39:59] **Melissa:** yeah, I mean, always the sooner the better, but there's the reality of like, what is I, and I just wrote about this on LinkedIn is like, what does financial freedom look like, right. And financial freedom, like, and I just wrote about this as like a lot of people think it's a freedom to buy everything you want. But it is not that right. Financial freedom is the freedom from letting money make your decisions. I don't have to start a company because I need money. I don't have to take a job because I need money. Right. I can, my definition of that is I can travel anywhere I want, say at any Airbnb, any hotel, and I'm not extravagant.

I just want to be able to do that for months at a time without worrying about not being able to afford it. Right. Or income.material things don't give me joy, right? Experiences and meaningful connections give me joy.but there's a reality of like, yeah, ASAP, but also like, how much money do I need to sell this for so I can have that financial freedom? And not have to ever worry about starting another company because I have to. I might do things because it's a passion project and I love the win, right? I love creating things. I love generating revenue, but I don't wanna do it because I have to do it. I had to start e webinar. There was no other choice. So I would love, and, and the thing is my, my CTO, my co-founder, who, who's, I mentioned my life partner, he's 52, he's 12 years older than me. I don't want him to be working for. Another five years, right? He needs to just go chill and have fun. And he has two kids are going to university. So ideally, I think in the next two to four years, maybe, but you know, who knows? Maybe it could be, it could be a pipe dream. I don't know. We'll find out.

[00:41:45] **Michel G:** ju

## Final Advice: Choosing Happiness Over Career Path

[00:41:45] **Michel G:** st maybe, I don't want to take too much of your time, but before I let you go, can you give maybe a last advice to our audience, you know, if they're trying to follow your path or, you know, maybe pitfalls to avoid or, you know, things to remember to make sure that, the path is, you know, we know it's going to be tough, but at least the journey is somewhat enjoyable.

[00:42:08] **Melissa:** Yeah. I think a lot of people choose their career paths because. Of an experience they had, right? Like I went to school or I, that was my last job. So I have to start a company in this. Right. And they never think about what makes them happy. Like people don't pick careers because of the things that make them happy. Right. They pick a career because they studied in it. They find a career and then they try to find things that give them joy. I think this is why people live for evenings and weekends. Like I was like that. I was in real estate. I sold real estate. I thought I needed to start a company in real estate.

Right. I don't even like the industry. So for 10 years, I'm selling to people that I don't like. So every day I wake up and I'm a little bit frustrated. I could never feel successes because I didn't like my job. And I don't think that's abnormal, right? I have a lot of friends that are doctors that are lawyers, same thing. I went to school for that, but now I'm here. Oh, but I'm now on path to making partners. I'm going to stay. Like I would, I would challenge people to think. That you always have a choice, number one, but number two is really think about the things that make you happy. And I don't mean like a job. I mean, write down your 10 non negotiables that you need in your life that makes you happy. So is that being able to work remote? Being able to work with your friends, being a nomadic, having a product that could sell a hundred percent over the internet. So no in real life meetings, no conferences like that was my list, right? I made a list of 10 non negotiables that I needed. And then I found a business idea that fit that not the other way around. An e webinar, was, you know, one of the top on the list. It fit all the criterias and it was a problem that I, that I identified with. So now, even though things are hard, I know that they're hard for a reason. And I know that they're hard, but they're still serving my happiness because I get to work remote.

I have no employees. I continue to nomad. I have a product that doesn't require me to go to conferences, all those things. So I think people should put their life ahead of their career and then pick something that fits their life instead of the other way around.

[00:44:23] **Michel G:** Thank you so much. I hope that your retirement plan works out in two years instead of five. Thank you so much. Uh, the best way for our audience to find you is on LinkedIn. I assume.

[00:44:35] **Melissa:** Yeah, absolutely. and I post, you know, weekly about my journey bootstrapping three companies. So if you want to connect with me, Go to LinkedIn and type in Melissa Kwan K W a N. And if you want to see how eWebinar can help you in your business, just go to eWebinar. com. and I'm always managing the demos.

If you have any questions about the product, I will be responding to you.

[00:44:55] **Michel G:** Thank you so much. I have a great one.

[00:44:57] **Simon:** Thanks again for listening, I hope you enjoyed the show. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast. And as usual you can find the show notes at stunandawecom.

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