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Dr. David Darmanin, a conversion rate expert brought the multi-disciplinary Hotjar team together in early 2014. Hotjar Ltd. is a European startup headquartered on the island of Malta. Our founding team includes experts in Product / SaaS Development, Web Marketing, UX and Conversion Rate Optimization.
TOPICS OF CONVERSATION:
[01:30] Since launching
[03:20] The process before launch
[06:03] The peaks
[06:41] From a Minimum viable product to scaling it
[09:21] In getting it right
[09:55] In the right track
[11:41] From the get-go
[13:53] More tools
[17:36] Data paralysis
[18:27] The right product
[20:11] Pride in amazing customer support
[21:13] All-in-one capability
[23:38] Future life of Hotjar
[26:28] Both scales
[26:56] Growth of Hotjar
[29:33] All based on methodology
[31:53] In conclusion
Reach out to David Darmanin:
Stephen: Hey everyone, it’s Stephen here from Marketing on the move and today; I’ve got a great entrepreneur.
David! David, welcome aboard.
David: Thanks for having me Stephen.
Stephen: So David, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, your company and what you do.
[00:31] David: Oh yeah, that’s quite a lot to fit in an answer, I’ll do my best. So yeah, my background is in conversion and optimization and pretty much Design if we had to give it the broadest category possible.
So that covers, UX interface.
David: Even branding added influences on marketing and yeah, the company that I now founded and worked with is Hotjar. So, what it is, we call it an all-in-one analytic and feedback tool.
So, it’s basically the tool that is going to let you understand how your visitors are using your site and why they’re doing what they do.
Stephen: Right, fantastic and how long has it been since you came up with Hotjar or launched it? Give us a bit of an idea of where you’re at with it.
[01:30] David: Yeah, it’s still quite a young start up. Early in 2014, I had the idea and I started working with some colleagues of mine from the past in different areas be it marketing and engineering development sphere and I was really lucky to bring on board some really talented people and we’re doing other projects so I had to be really use my persuasion skills.
So yeah, we all joined forces and we incorporated around middle of the year. Although we had already been working with it and since then yeah, the idea has really taken off and we’ve had a lot of interest and we just haven’t stopped since then.
Stephen: That’s fantastic!
David: And yeah, just on a side note we did kick off our public, actually it’s more of a clothes beater in September where we invited the public on a ‘by invitation’ to test our Hotjar and yeah, since then we’ve had about 50,000 or over that sign ups to try out the beater and now we’re standing at what I believe something in the region of 10,000 sites using it so…
Stephen: That’s incredible.
David: Yes, and we’ve–
Stephen: That’s fantastic! Congratulations.
David: We’ve been very surprised. Thank you very much.
Stephen: That’s a fantastic achievement and I know I came across it earlier this year and so I think what we’ll talk about it on when we have a bit of chat later on but through part of the ten pay where people sign up and they opt in and move along the line as a beta tester so tell us a bit about that.
How did you come up with that sort of idea?
I mean, it’s a great marketing move on your side of things to get people to share it with friends and obviously it’s a bit of a sort and an affiliate prices would you call it?
[03:20] David: Kind of, well actually my background funnily enough is a little bit similar to yours as in I’ve been involved in the entertainment industry quite a lot and back in the Uni years I was trying to make money while I was studying trying God knows what type of business ideas.
Stephen: I can relate.
David: And I was organizing quite a bit of parties and events and it was a great way to socialize as well but we ended up creating kind of a brand and yeah anyways, during that experience we’ve really realized how important it is to create this feeling of demand. Let’s say, so having people wait in line there’s this concept of waiting lists, the guests list and what not.
David: Actually in the later years when I started reading a lot of books and read a Psychology of sorts, “Persuasion” by Cialdini so to understand the kind of underlined principles of it. So we knew that as kind of a small start up in the quite a big expensive industry, we had to come up with a clever idea.
We weren’t just going to spend money by achieving it. So yeah, we knew we had a complex product to build and we also knew that the only way that we can scale it up was too slowly on board users within one to kind of launch it and then take on too many users that our servers couldn’t take the load. So yes, I actually stumbled upon RobinHod.com I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it.
It’s an app basically that eliminated commission fees on stock trading and we felt it was similar to what we were doing in terms of really disrupting the market and making it accessible to everyone. So, we felt it was the perfect tip for this type of tool. So, yeah, basically—go ahead.
Stephen: No, no no, I was going to say, that’s it. It’s sort of a genius idea.
David: Yeah, exactly, so we decided that what we’ll do is make it a win-win for everyone anyone who signed up and recruited more users to Hotjar more of their friends or colleagues would go up on the waiting list and basically that kicked off an avalanche where everyone was inviting everyone, bit of much.
Stephen: Yeah, and have you seen a lot of gripe?
I’m sure obviously you guys have been checking the analytics more than any other company but have you seen any significant amount of growth?
Has it peaked and sort of come down or what did the sort of the results and that campaign?
[6:03] David: Yeah, I’d say there definitely was a peak or a couple of peaks and obviously when the word spreads quite quickly but now it’s settled down to a nice steady growth. So we have quite a lot of sign ups coming in everyday and then obviously we’ve boosted it with some campaigns and doing some retargeting so we’re not just relying on it just happening on its own.
We’re making sure we accelerate the promises as well.
Stephen: That’s fantastic and obviously it’s sort of like I guess, like a soft launch of a product. It sort of gives you an opportunity to nod out all of the issues and the bugs and this and that and it also asks you to grow at a city rate.
[06:41] David: Absolutely, our idea was kind of in a way to go to market with the minimum viable product and then scale it up based on demand and yeah that hasn’t been a problem having a challenge because with 10,000 sites and some of them being really, really big enterprise we’re dealing with a lot of data, yeah.
Stephen: What sort of trafficking you say?
I can’t imagine how bit it’ll be like you said there’s a couple of big websites on there hopefully the minimum viable product is supporting the service and everything like that?
David: Yeah absolutely, as I said, we’re really lucky to bring on some really great talents. So, Hotjar has been in a way that really scales really well because we’re using basically Amazon Cloud technology it’s horizontal scaling data basis, everything scales up so obviously that’s been great for us to meet the challenge and actually just last week we’ve completed one last redesign of the infrastructure which makes now every aspect of the technology scalable.
Stephen: That’s fantastic.
David: So yeah, that was a really interesting challenge and as I said if we had, I definitely give this as an advice, if we had to try and design this upfront to say, “Okay, how do we build a technology?
How do we build a back end that can sustain 30,000 clients?
There’s no way we would have even come close to building what we have today. So, yeah, I guess it kind of, we’ve been inspired by hearing investors in the past saying the biggest, the best problem that you should have is scale like every investor we’ll jump onto a project if your problem is scale.
So that means you have a lot of users wanting to use in your technology and can’t keep up.
Stephen: Well that’s it.
David: Typically investors are the other way around. They’re worried when you’re spending a lot of money building for scale but you don’t have any users yet so that influences us a lot.
Stephen: That’s right I mean, you’re looking sort of, I guess it really works across industries as well when you’ve got an intangible product and you’ve got quarters sort of seeing it but you can’t build them so it’s just a way of managing to get those product made or getting an MVP as soon as possible so you can really scale it.
Stephen: So that’s what I’m on. But a question for you now that you sort of gone through that process is there anything that you would change that you thought, ‘If I was going to go through that again that might change or make a decision to develop a software in a different manner or a different way to maybe take it to market’?
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[09:21] David: I don’t think so actually so I might change that few in a few months. But so far we’re extremely happy with the choices we’ve made.
We’ve prioritized long-term value and user value so we’re really thinking gross in terms of revenue.
David: So far it feels like, we’re getting it right.
Stephen: Yeah, well that’s fantastic and I guess it is at Hotjar within a bit of investors are involved in Hotjar or is it sort of your own team?
How are you so growing the company?
[09:55] David: Well actually we’re funding it ourselves so over the last 10 years I’ve been consulting some really big businesses and in the sphere of conversion and optimization and whatnot so I’ve helped several businesses grow, we’re talking hundreds and millions of revenue not to my pockets but to theirs obviously. But that obviously —
Stephen: Yeah, and I guess now you get to go through it as your own business?
As now you’ve seen the ups and downs of what being in business have done.
David: Very true, that’s been very insightful. So yea, and during the period I’ve obviously been thinking and realized some problems that we wanted to address with Hotjar so let’s say I was preparing to invest myself. But yeah, as the team we’re all investing personally into it. This makes it even more interesting.
Stephen: Yeah, and I think it sort of reminds me of I just finished an audio book Rework by the 37Signals company; I’m not sure if you may have read it or heard the audio yourself.
Stephen: And it sounds like a lot of what you’re saying is very in line of how they’ve grown their business too.
[11:01] David: Agreed, the only difference I’d guess is that at a certain point we did need a substantial investment. But as I’ve said, we were lucky enough that the people on the team had the resource available to do it ourselves at least for now.
David: And, we’ve saved on future challenges and how we can deal with that.
Stephen: Of course, and I guess, if we move on to like you were saying, with what you’ve done in the past and your work with a lot of the other big businesses, where did you start with all these conversion optimizations?
What sort of got you into it, because it’s I know, there’s not that many people who know exactly what it is and how it works.
So, how did you get into the conversion optimization space?
[11:41] David: That’s a great question because it kind of ties in with the vision we have with Hotjar. So, I have a really weird background.
Stephen: Well it sounds as if even before the start of the interview, you were telling me you’re born in Sydney.
David: Yeah, I traveled around the globe so when I was very young and moved back to Europe. So, we’ve been around and equally my background, I actually, I’ve always had a really big love for Languages probably related to the travelling.
So, for some reason, where I lived as a kid, that’s equated to; ‘you’re good at doing law.’ So I ended up anyway becoming a lawyer but during that time I was involved a lot in the startup field and entrepreneurship in general so yeah, I was involved in setting up a couple of companies but my biggest passion was always design.
So, I was doing that again a lot to make money, to get through University and enjoy the weekends.
Stephen: Yeah, of course. Well, I know, go on sorry.
David: Yeah, but later on that passion for design led me to try and understand what is good design and what exactly will make people act or not and how do I really become really good at doing design and that took me through the interesting process of looking at what the aesthetics people say to how to be visually pleasing and whatnot and eventually that led me to an analysis and split-testing and conversion optimization. And, yeah, it’s a little bit my mindset but then when I discovered something, which I like, I want to become the best at it.
So that took me down the road of working with some amazing agencies, consultants and I’ve learned a lot from a lot of businesses on the way.
Stephen: Yeah, that sort of leaves really nicely into my next question which is; I guess now that you’ve consulted with a lot of these big businesses and small business and all of that, are there any specific tools asides from Hotjar that you’d recommend for entrepreneurs these days?
Are there any sort of go to tools that you’d recommend?
[13:53] David: That’s interesting because next week we’re actually kicking off the process of kind of putting together what we think was the ultimate tool set for that same design.
Stephen: Is that going to be in a blog post?
David: Yeah, well more than a blog post we’re going to take it to the next level, we’re going to approach these providers and try to persuade them to give us a really good deal so we can put together like a bundle and make it accessible to everyone. So that will be interesting.
Stephen: That will be fantastic.
David: So, say–
Stephen: Can you give us maybe a small preview?
If you don’t want to give us the whole list and we can put the links in the show notes, but just a small preview for the listeners?
David: Yeah, nothing’s been decided yet and I’d say with Hotjar our focus is mainly on the design side and I’d say that kind of obvious feeds into the marketing so it is well but our real vision is to change the way people build sites.
David: Because when you think about it, it’s quite a huge thing. It’s the storefront of the Internet and we believe that the way its being done now is maybe not the best way. It’s based on bosses opinions, or visual esthetics so we’d love to be a part of let’s say the movement to put the user at the end and at the center so I’m a standard user —
Stephen: Sort of like a visual revolution.
David: let’s hope so.
Stephen: Yeah, and it sound phenomenal, I guess, you’re going to be scaring a lot of web developers there.
David: No, I don’t think so, I think it’s going to be more challenging rather than scary and I think it’s going to be, I think they’re going to enjoy it. So far, the reaction, the feedback has been on those lines.
But yes, so based on that, so why am I blabbering on this. So obviously, the tools that we’re choosing and the ones we really believe in are the ones that fit into this visual and the ones that allow you to achieve that.
So, yeah, definitely we’d recommend having a basic let’s say, SEO monitoring tool something that allows you to kind of understand let’s say how your site is being perceived or what users are looking for when they get to your sites that gives you a little bit of a view one step before your site actually kicks in. That’s kind of important.
I’ve played around with ‘Positionly‘ which is quite cool and then there’s ‘Moz‘ so yeah, we as you can imagine we love experimenting with a lot of tools and then obviously one cannot go without actually doing user testing. So, user testing that comes as a great tool, unfortunately they’ve really kicked in high gear on enterprise.
Stephen: Right, so they’re difficult for small businesses.
David: Yeah, and so we’re looking at some other alternatives, other tools that are let’s say more affordable and accessible. And then definitely, on the rapid prototyping side of things.
So, it was like proto that I owe or collecting feedback for a quickly. Such as infusion and so, so yeah, there’s a lot of interesting tools that we believe in and we’ll be talking about those recent.
Stephen: Fantastic. I think that gives our users a little bit to play around with. I think even like probably things with like optimizing as well I guess. I’m assuming you guys will probably be using a tool and just doing a lot of testing a lot of it sort of becoming a bit towards big data.
All of these big data where you can really analyze what’s going on, on the website and that sort of assists you with the development and design of how everything is running.
[17:36] David: Yeah, agreed. Yeah, absolutely, optimizing visual websites. Optimizing is a really important tool to understand what’s going on.
But I’d say our view is less kind of big data and more touch points. So it’s good to collect a lot of that kind of information but I think we’ve reached a point where the tools that are available and what’s possible has possibly led us to kind of data paralysis.
David: So, our methodologist on adjusted tool because we go beyond that is also part of determining what you should be doing first because that’s kind of quite an important thing. So Hotjar is quite important in allowing you to do that.
So what should I do today and what should I do later and what’s the biggest, hottest opportunity?
[18:27] Stephen: Yeah, and where would you so say you’re maybe an aspiring web developer or web designer beginning a new company or new website, where would you lead them start first?
Do you have any, like, recommendations or someone starting a new website, how would you get going if you’re not sure what the market’s looking for?
What would you recommend?
David: Yeah, I know it sounds crude but it’s extremely effective. I’d say the key is to speak to your potential customers or users as early as possible.
So if you do have a little bit of traffic, or a deal on your site, and you have some kind of presence or some kind of identity on social media, then build some kind of survey or build some kind of really simple minimal viable product and get feedback. So Hotjar provides the tools for that to build a survey or you set up a page, you do a poll and you can ask those questions or just get out there and talk to them or show them your ideas and see what they think.
I’d say it’s so easy to believe a lot in your idea of a product that you kind of put on the blinkers and start building and forget about the user. I admit I’ve made this mistake myself so then it’s so important to get out there and see what people think and believe me when I say this, when you have the right product you will see people getting excited and offering you money.
Stephen: Yup, yeah.
David: So yeah, we saw this having built many other products and companies before, we’ve never seen their reaction without lethargy we’re literally we have people saying ‘listen, forget the queue, we’ll just give you money, we’ll give you money today just so we can use it today. So that’s always a good sign.
[20:11] Stephen: So are people currently using Hotjar right now? Or is there a waiting line to get into it?
David: Yes, I said that there’s a waiting line primarily not just from the marketing point of view which has helped us in the beginning, but now it’s actually a necessity recently and then obviously we can’t bring on board 50,000 sites because that would obviously break Hotjar as in a one goal.
David: If not from a technology point of view, from my life point of view, now as in, we really pride ourselves in giving amazing customer support. So we really want to on board everyone in the right way and obviously learn as much as possible, improve Hotjar, use the potential from that.
But you know we already have invited a large portion of the list. So I think we have around 10,000 sites, I’d say around 8,000 users, or I think today we went past that point, so a lot of activity and a lot of feedbacks, so it’s one hell of a beat I’d say.
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[21:13] Stephen: That sounds great, I’m excited to get my ticket to get in and give it a test and give it a test run, but obviously I’m sure you know. I mean you’ve even put on your home page, there’s a lot of alternatives and a lot of other applications which, I guess, you sort of compiled into one because I’m just looking at the website now and you’ve sort of got the headline, the new easy way to truly understand your visitors.
So do you want to expand a little bit on that?
David: That’s correct. So during these last few years that I’ve worked with a lot of these companies, I’ve obviously had to recommend a lot of tools and use them myself and it’s been a constant pinpoint that in a few words the industry’s quite under-developed. So what you’re got is, you’ve got a lot of, kind of, split up tools.
You’ve got Crazy Egg, that does just heat maps, you’ve got quite a loop that just does polls, then you’ve got another tool that surveys, you’ve got ClickTale that do playbacks and stuff but then they’ve gone uber enterprise so it’s like impossible for anyone to use it because you need thousands of dollars a month.
David: So it was really frustrating and then you have different interfaces, different user experiences, and lot of these companies invest a lot of money in optimizing their sale side of things. Like how they collect revenue and less the actual interface and the features.
But then at the same time they’re bogged down with a lot of extra settings and features that most people don’t need. So yeah, it’s been just one big pinpoint and the kind of 8-20 rule kicks in here so literally having spent 10 years working with a lot of these tools you really start to see what actually has an impact and what doesn’t.
So we said listen, let’s just take all the items that really have a big impact, let’s help users by making it one affordable accessible, and to actually giving them information about how to use these tools in the right way. And literally kick off as you said this visual revolution.
[23:38] Stephen: Yup, that’s phenomenal. And then you’ looking to keep Hotjar affordable for the everyday small business owner or are you looking to grow for enterprise and small business, where’s the future life of Hotjar?
David: That’s a very good question. We actually have an interesting development and I’m actually saying this for the first time today. So that’s interesting.
Stephen: Hey we’ve got a, well first, we’re listening.
David: Yeah, absolutely. So because of this, let’s say, aggressive vision we have and because we want to achieve so much, we’ve decided we’re actually going to have a free version of Hotjar.
It’s going to be limited in terms of functionality, not in terms of what you can do but by the among of items you can have. So rather than having a limited surveys, that would be a, limited account but we’re actually going to make every feature available on the free account.
So that’s part of it again, our vision of, it allows pretty much anyone with any skill sets, any size website to use all this functionality which is critical in growing kind of your site and your business. So that’s quite a big announcement and–
Stephen: That’s huge. Me and the half of every of other 10,000 websites, and they are going to be very pleased to get that.
David: I think so. But at the same time we’ve also been working closely with bigger businesses that they’re actually real happy with our approach because obviously you’re always into sacrifice something.
So, Hotjar is an awesome tool, it’s definitely not for the analyst have loved their data paralysis let’s say. So it’s not a tool like ClickTale that collects every click on every page.
Hotjar is much more reports it’s much more on demand. So you have this problem, let’s go identify it, let’s solve it. So that’s that allows us to keep pricing low.
So let’s say. However, we all working close with these enterprises and discovering their needs and obviously scaling up hard drive to meet those need sis definitely not a problem for us so we’re finding ways to make it, let’s say work in a mutual way where kind of obviously, these extra costs that will take on to kind of accommodate these bigger enterprises will be reflected in the service.
So yes, there’s potential in both ends but our focus will always be making it affordable, accessible to everyone. That definitely is our focus and even though we’ve kind of said ‘listen, we’re not after big enterprise, we’re focused on fast moving companies that want to grow.’
And a lot of the enterprises have been running after us because they love this way of doing things. Speeds, results actionable data.
[26:28] Stephen: That’s fantastic. And I think that’s super exciting as well .I mean being able to support both of the big enterprise companies and also the small businesses.
Is it the exact result that you want?
You want to be able to have, offered the free trial and it’s not even a free trial, you’re just giving a limited perspective on what’s available?
Or you’ll also be targeting the big business, you want everything, so having those both ends of a scale, it’s phenomenal.
David: Glad to hear you say that.
[26:56] Stephen: So that’s very exciting. I won’t give you much longer but a couple of last questions. What’s one of the biggest growth strategies that you’re saying for Hotjar?
So are you guys focusing on content creation or is it going to be on sort of your paid advertising, you’re retargeting, where do you guys sort of see the growth coming from Hotjar?
David: That’s a good question. I’d say in the first year, reach is going to be very important for us. So this is a completely new way of doing things so we want to make sure everyone becomes aware of us very quickly.
David: So we’ve actually just finalized another round of financing which will allow us to achieve this in 2015. So we are definitely now like riding on the result we’ve seen from the Beater and seeing the feedback we have from users, we have a lot of fans, addicted users; we know that it’s now time to kind of spread out the message.
So definitely advertising is going to be an important aspect although we want to do it in, let’s say, in an education form that is here’s how you can basically grow your sites and here’s how you can have access to this type of tools in an affordable way. So that will definitely be a part of it.
Content will also, is also definitely part of our strategy. We plan to do things a little bit differently, which is not a surprise for Hotjar.
We have played around a little bit with content in the beginning but since then, we’ve shifted all company resources on to building Hotjar, finishing it in time in the Beater. So once we’re out from that, we’re going to have some really interesting contents coming which are much more, let’s see, research-driven.
So four in one was interested to hear about that. We’ve put our blood on outside, that’s HotJar.com. It’s kind of our twist on outside the jar so…
Stephen: That’s interesting.
David: So anyone can sign up.
Stephen: Was that your witty creativity?
David: Honestly I don’t remember anymore. Let’s say it was a group effort because we come up with so many crazy ideas that it’s more turning down ideas now rather than executing them. But yeah, so that’s definitely going to be interesting.
So think on the lines of research-driven company content. So analysis of sites, analysis of landing pages, analysis of campaigns across yet multiple companies.
[29:33] Stephen: Yeah. Well just to give you an example, I think one company that’s doing that really well leadpage I’m sure you’re familiar with.
Stephen: And I think their blog and their podcast which they run is very much similar to I think what you’re trying to get to which is that content-driven around education based on the product.
So that entire, how is it, how are these case studies being applied?
What’s going on?
And I think their lead chapter system using their blog and the content is phenomenal. So, I think, is that sort of what you’re trying to give me to build the idea of?
Or is that probably one of the clauses of blogs and software companies that you’re, I guess, going to be similar with?
David: Yeah, in a way it is. But our blog is going to be much less product oriented so it’s going to be much more talking about what’s happening in the industry and what people are doing.
Stephen: Got you.
David: And that’s why I want to use kind of an outside the jar kind of way so it’s more inside from what’s going on but then rather than doing like product related blogging we believe that that shouldn’t be in a blog format. Instead it’s more of a community format.
So, that’s going to take the shape of Hotjar community users sharing their stories of how they used Hotjarand us obviously sharing experiences of how best to leverage the product. But we don’t – we’re not big fans of preaching let’s say how to do stuff.
So, we, more than anything have built a methodology and by methodology we mean how you go about actually achieving your results.
So what’s the process?
It shouldn’t be random, it shouldn’t be just let’s look at this heat map or let’s just look at replaying this visitor how he’s using the site. Instead, it’s more based on your sight has barriers, it has drivers and there are hooks so we have this three elements and then we show how to use the tools on Hotjar to discover these 3 areas get the big picture and then go out and start making changes.
Stephen: Yeah, got you and that’s fantastic I think something like that with content being put out is going to give you a whole fresh perspective and a whole lot of methodology like you’re saying and going out and applying their own business.
[31:53] Stephen: That’s fantastic well look I’ll leave it there thank you so much David for coming on. I think the guys are going to be super excited with Hotjar coming out.
We’re looking forward to that blog post as well, the value you’re going to be giving outside the Jar so guys, and if you want to have a read about the blog I believe you said it was outside.hotjar.com is that correct?
David: That’s correct.
Stephen: So you can go over there and have a look. Actually I had a look at it the other day I was just reading I think you analyzed 20 awesome starts up homepages and what you’ve learned from them that was a great post. So there’s a lot of value on there that you’ll get hooked on very quickly so you can actually put an hour or so at least to start reading through it.
But no, it’s been fantastic having you on David. So, thanks for coming on.
David: Thanks for having me Stephen and we’re really looking forward to giving you access to Hotjar and hearing your feedback.
Stephen: Awesome. It would definitely be coming soon. Alright David, thank you I’ll speak to you soon.
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