In this episode of the GrowthTLDR, we talk to Aydin Mirzaee, CEO and Co-Founder of Fellow.
Fellow is the third company Aydin and his co-founders have launched. Fellow helps managers to have more productive meetings.
We cover how Aydin managed to sell fellow to Shopify before they ever had a product. Shopify now has over 5,000 users on the fellow app. We get into how fellow was able to acquire so many users, how Aydin decided on freemium as their go-to-market, and how Aydin thinks about focusing in on a specific customer persona to monetize.
Time Stamped Notes
[2:45] – Fellow is 2 years old, have raised 6.5M in a seed round, with 25 employees, and tens of thousands of users.
[3:45] – Fellow is Aydin and his co-founders third company. Their last company was in the online survey space; they bootstrapped it to 100 employees before eventually selling to SurveyMonkey. They want fellow to be an all-in-one platform for managers and decided to focus on meetings as the primary use-case.
[6:50] – Aydin talks about some of the things that have worked from his previous companies. Aydin would get feedback on his product idea, long before he ever had a product. He would show mock-ups and describe what the product would do. Over time, as he got more feedback, the product would evolve. For example, the first iteration of fellow was a Slack bot. Approaching product development in this way helped Aydin to sell fellow to Shopify before there was ever a fully finished product.
[10:45] – We ask Aydin how can founders pitch companies on a product that doesn’t yet exist. He feels it’s a combination of always building relationships you can lean on at some point, and doing standard outreach. You’ll be surprised by how many people will give you 15 to 30 minutes of their time if your genuine in your outreach.
[13:05] – Having Shopify has helped fellow a lot to acquire more customers. Aydin was able to leverage their work with Shopify to get other companies interested via email outreach. At his previous company, Aydin scaled their initial userbase via hosting lunch and learns. It worked so well they used that tactic for two years.
[17:40] – Fellow is an inherently viral product. If people get value from the product, they’ll naturally acquire others to use the product.
[20:15] – Fellow initially launched via a private beta. Anyone who signed up got a product demo, even if signing up for the free version. In a product-led strategy, you need to give away enough value for the end-user to know how it solves their problem/s.
[23:25] – Aydin talks about how he identified his product activation points before having thousands of free users. During the demo’s of the product, a person from their team would jot down any moments of delight people had when using the product.
[25:05] – When Aydin did have a lot of free users and could do regression analysis, it backed up what they had seen on the calls.
[27:25] – Aydin talks about how he thinks of pricing and packaging models for fellow.
[30:05] – We talk about how Aydin decides between going horizontal and vertical. Going horizontal is excellent for distribution, as the product is relevant to a broader set of people. Going vertical is better for monetization and retention, as you build features for a specific persona. Aydin feels there are advantages to specialization. He feels fellow’s specialization is for managers and leaders of teams.
[33:35] – Targeting all managers is quite broad, Aydin breaks this segment down into a subset. They need to be using office365 or Gsuite, they want managers who are very growth-minded and care about getting better, and they target managers in specific company sizes.
[35:40] – We talk about the strategies needed for the end-users (managers using fellow) vs. budget owners (the people who buy fellow) and if these differ.
[37:00] – Aydin doesn’t have an inside sales team; the customer success team helps companies upgrade their fellow accounts to higher-priced packages.