Note: This week’s podcast features Gadget Flow. Submit your Kickstarter or Indiegogo project to The Gadget Flow today using code atok20 and save 20%.

For this week’s episode of the podcast, we spoke with Evan Varsamis, creator of the Gadget Flow, about how he built the Gadget Flow from the ground up and how the platform can help crowdfunding creators and backers alike. Tune in to check out this exciting episode from one of our sponsors!

Key Takeaways

  • How to grow a business organically
  • How to submit a project to The Gadget Flow
  • How The Gadget Flow can help Kickstarter and Indiegogo creators
  • How The Gadget Flow can help Kickstarter project backers
  • How to launch and scale a new business
  • What to look for when hiring and adding to your team
  • How to use Slack to build company culture
  • How to ensure your customers are recommending your product or service to others
  • How to use growth hacking strategies to grow your business
  • Why pre-launch is key to a successful crowdfunding campaign

Links

Connect with the Gadget Flow

Sponsors

Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by The Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Click here to learn more and list your product – use coupon code ATOKK16 for 20% off!

backerkitArt of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, raise additional funds with add-ons and manage orders for fulfillment, saving creators hundreds of hours. To learn more and get started, click here.

Transcript

View this episode's transcript

Roy Morejon:

Welcome to Art of the Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, president of Enventys Partners, the top full-service, turnkey product development, and crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped startups raise over a 100 million dollars for our clients since 2010. Each week, I’ll interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur, or a business expert, in order to help you take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding.

Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit and The Gadget Flow. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, and manage orders for fulfillment by automating your operations and helping you print and ship faster. The Gadget Flow is a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save and buy awesome products. It is the ultimate buyer’s guide for luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Now let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today, I am joined with Evan Varsamis with The Gadget Flow. Evan, thank you so much for joining us.

Evan Varsamis:

Thanks for having me.

Roy Morejon:

All right. Evan, you guys have experienced some explosive growth. I know, back in October, we posted on ArtoftheKickstart.com a blog post about The Gadget Flow, and I think we had had some stats around six and a half million visits a month and more than 55,000 daily email subscribers. I know you guys have been growing fast. Where are you guys at currently?

Evan Varsamis:

We’re at about 10 million visits per month. We reach about 25 million people in total in combination with our apps, both for iOS and Android, and we’re sitting at 165,000 email subscribers.

Roy Morejon:

Dude, how have you been growing it so fast?

Evan Varsamis:

Well, honestly, it’s been a great journey so far. Most of the growth was organic so far. We haven’t done any paid promotions from our side, so it’s pretty much word of mouth, a little bit of growth hacking as well, such as giveaways and sign-up tricks and stuff like that. But I would say pretty much the majority of our growth has been organic so far.

Roy Morejon:

I know the majority of our audience knows what The Gadget Flow is because you’ve been a great sponsor for the podcast for a number of years. But, please, give our audience a brief description of what The Gadget Flow is.

Evan Varsamis:

Sure thing. Gadget Flow is a product discovery platform. We launched back in 2012. Today, we’re about 20 people working full-time growing this company with 200% year-over-year growth rate. What we do is pretty much we curate 12 new products every single day, including weekends and holidays, even New Year’s Eve. The way that it works is pretty straightforward. We curate those products and our users have a couple options. The first one is to click “buy now” and get redirected into the seller’s website, and the second one is to save it to their wish list. On top of that, we have an exclusive deals and discounts section that includes listings from marketplaces, like Etsy or Kickstarter or Indiegogo, as well as the option to generate your own custom feed based on your favorite categories.

Roy Morejon:

What should someone do if they want to submit their product to The Gadget Flow?

Evan Varsamis:

It’s pretty easy actually. All we need from the customer side is to submit their preview or live campaign URL through TheGadgetFlow.com/submit page, and our editorial team usually takes it from there. We create the product listing, and, as soon as you approve it, your product will go live within 48 hours on Gadget Flow, and we’ll begin promoting it to our community.

Roy Morejon:

How can The Gadget Flow help Kickstarter project creators specifically?

Evan Varsamis:

Good question. Since 2012, we’ve worked with more than 6,000 customers, and 4,000 of them are actually crowdfunding campaigns, both from Indiegogo and Kickstarter. We’re officially Indiegogo partners and listed as Kickstarter experts. We work with some huge accounts, like Bang & Olufsen, Amazon, Sony and Polaroid. But in terms of the crowdfunding campaigns, we have a community of thousands of super backers and people that are tech enthusiasts and eager to see what’s coming out next on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. So what we basically do, as Gadget Flow, is to take your product and put it in front of them, and that increases your awareness obviously, and you generate lots of [inaudible 00:04:29] to your platform.

Roy Morejon:

How then can The Gadget Flow help out Kickstarter product backers?

Evan Varsamis:

Well, vice versa. What we do is that we service the best products from Kickstarter. Obviously, we have an internal evaluation process that goes through every single submission, but also organic coverage that we do. It’s part of our editorial team actually. We check for some specific variables on every single product that we feature. First of all, if it’s made with high quality materials, if it’s presentable, has lifestyle photos and everything, and if it meets those requirements, we usually feature it on Gadget Flow.

The benefit of being a sponsored product on Gadget Flow is that through the native advertising that we’re doing … because we don’t mark these products as sponsored, right, and that’s the charm of it. If we think that a product is built in a really beautiful way and that it makes sense to promote it to our community, we blast it out through our newsletters, our social media channels, our featured section on both our platform and our apps. There isn’t a big difference between a product that we’re going to feature organically on our platform and a sponsored product, so pretty much our users don’t see the difference. And, from our side, it just makes sense.

Roy Morejon:

Got it. What are some of the more popular categories on your site, in terms of traffic and submissions?

Evan Varsamis:

Definitely iPhone accessories, Mac accessories, crowdfunding projects. In general, the technology section, I would say, is definitely by far the most popular one.

Roy Morejon:

Do you know how many crowdfunding campaigns you’ve backed?

Evan Varsamis:

Personally? I think I’m close to 50.

Roy Morejon:

What’s your personal favorite type of product to back?

Evan Varsamis:

Definitely, a hardware product. I’m a geek myself, so I’m definitely a sucker for tech products and hardware products in general. It’s such a beauty, being able to see all these latest innovations on Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo as well. Every week there is something breathtaking that is funding over there, and it’s just such an amazing feeling to be able to experience all this new innovation from the front seat.

Roy Morejon:

Nice. Let’s switch gears a bit here. I know we got ahead of ourselves, but let’s talk about your experience as an entrepreneur in launching The Gadget Flow. What’s the back story there, and how did you come up with the idea?

Evan Varsamis:

We were three Greco founders. We started Gadget Flow in the middle of the economic Greek crisis, back in 2012. The idea was actually created based on our personal need, I would say. We were looking for products and lines either for kits or just for our own use, and we were just finding product roundups from Engadget and Gizmodo, or the other option was do just endless scrolling on Amazon.com, right, or similar websites. So we were like, hey, there isn’t one website out there that just features high quality products, but it also presents them in pretty much the same way, not just necessarily through an in-depth review. So we came up with the idea.

We launched it back in August 15th, 2012, and we instantly had, within the first month, about 150,000 visits, which was insane back then. We didn’t even have a Twitter account back then. Our primary traffic source was Facebook. We obviously started doing affiliate marketing in the beginning. We had banner ads and everything. And one of our users, back in the day, [inaudible 00:08:05], and he was like, “Hey, I want to get in front of your community. You guys are great.” And we were like, “Sure thing.” We didn’t want to charge him in the beginning, and then he goes, “No, I want to pay you guys, so I can get in front of your Facebook account and everything.” So we were like, “Okay, whatever. Let’s just charge you $45 for this.”

A long story short, after two days, he got back to us and he goes, “Guys, I generated 40 to 1 ROI. Let’s do it again.” So that made us think whether that’s a sustainable business model or not. We started experimenting with different features. Back in the day, our packages were starting at 45, 48 dollars, all the way up to $145 and pretty much it worked. Whenever we pitched Gadget Flow and our business model to conferences, they were like, “How are you going to scale this?” Well, today, we generate more than two million dollars in revenue every year. We have more than 200 customers on a monthly basis, and our packages are starting at $280, and they’re going all the way up to $7,000.

Roy Morejon:

It’s truly impressive, Evan. I know it hasn’t been all roses. What’s been the biggest challenge that you guys have faced since launching it?

Evan Varsamis:

Definitely hiring the right people was my biggest concern, and, I guess the biggest pain point so far has been not hiring fast enough. Because first of all, we’re a self-sustained company. We started as a startup, obviously. We had a couple M&A requests and everything, but, as a business, we were just running our company with our own funding. Based on our revenue, we haven’t done any kind of funding. So it was difficult to decide when it was the right time for you to hire an editor, or an author, or your front-end, or back-end developer.

So in the beginning, we pretty much wore multiple hats. We were the accountant, the editor, the developer, the designer, and everything in between, which was, obviously, pretty painful, right? But I don’t have any complaints so far. We decided to hire the right people at the right time. If I could change just one thing, it would have been just to hire them faster. Because you have to realize that you can take your company from point A to point B, grow it 5, 10, 20x, but if you want to scale it really fast, you need to hire the right people as fast as you can.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. So what are some of those things that you’re looking for when you’re adding value to your team?

Evan Varsamis:

Definitely building our culture. We started paying attention to that about two years ago, when we were just 12, 13 people. Now we’re at 28 people, so it matters to be able to connect, not just on a business level with your colleagues, but also on a personal level, like to know, for example, their interests. What we’re doing right now is that we have multiple Slack channels through which you could see, for example, recipes from multiple countries because Gadget Flow is not just based in the States, right? Our headquarters are in New York, but we have people from all over the world pretty much, from Singapore, France, Italy, Greece, Canada, and the States. It’s pretty interesting to share all these values that every city or country has with each other.

So when we’re hiring someone new, definitely one of the first things that I personally look at is how hungry they are, how hungry to learn, how eager to learn, how humble they are, and whether they want to just stick to the company and scale with us or they’re just looking for their next paycheck.

Roy Morejon:

Sound advice. Yeah, it’s scalability, and maintaining company culture is always difficult once you cross that mark, I think the 15 to 20 member mark. And now I think we’re at about 75-ish, and it’s always difficult to maintain that and the relationships with the individuals on that personal level.

Evan Varsamis:

Yes, 100%.

Roy Morejon:

What would be your biggest piece of advice for someone else looking to launch their own media business, for instance?

Evan Varsamis:

Start small. Be able to control your expenses as much as you can from your side, and work definitely two times harder and more than your closer competitor because that’s something that we’ve been doing since day one. I’ve been personally working 14, 15 hours a day because in my mindset I know, for example, that my competitor works 10 or 11 hours. So let’s just say in a week, I’d be 20 hours ahead of him, which is almost a day. It’s a silly thought, but it makes sense if you think about it. Definitely keep working on your idea and keep releasing, whether that’s features or redesigned versions of your website or your customers’, let’s just say, projects. Keep releasing whatever you have as fast as you can. Don’t just wait for the perfect timing because there isn’t such a thing.

Roy Morejon:

Sound advice. Yeah, sometimes you just have to be fast and break things and test [crosstalk 00:13:21]-

Evan Varsamis:

Exactly.

Roy Morejon:

… constantly, see what the community wants and what your analytics are showing you, right?

Evan Varsamis:

Exactly.

Roy Morejon:

So if you were starting The Gadget Flow over from the beginning, what might you do differently?

Evan Varsamis:

Well, like I said, I would have hired my team much faster. Right now, at this point, I would be 40 people, instead of 28, and definitely pay attention to our customer’s needs because that’s something that we started paying attention to two to three years when Gadget Flow was five years old. Pay attention to customer’s feedback, what they want to see on your product, how they want to experience it, and what kind of feedback they have in general.

Roy Morejon:

Solid. Evan, describe your typical day. I know you’re a hustler and you’re a long day worker, so give us your typical day.

Evan Varsamis:

Well, it includes lots of treadmill, workouts early in the morning, lots of cold brew coffee, meditation early in the morning, and starting work as early as 7:30 in the morning. I usually finish up with my meetings … Well, it depends. If I’m in New York, I finish up with my meetings around 6:00 p.m. If I’m in Greece, at around, let’s just say, 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. at night, and then always a good movie or a good dinner follows up.

Roy Morejon:

What motivates you?

Evan Varsamis:

Building my own dream. When I was working on someone else’s company back in the day, I was frustrated with the idea of doing everything I can, waking up early in the morning, commuting for an hour a day, to build someone else’s dream. So what motivates me today is that I haven’t even felt, for the past five years, not even once, the feeling of work inside me. That’s something that I definitely want to keep having as a feeling because I’m doing something that I really enjoy and I’m passionate about.

Roy Morejon:

What’s been the most satisfying moment since launching The Gadget Flow?

Evan Varsamis:

Well, definitely when I hear feedback from our users and testimonials from our customers. That’s the world for us. We get so many testimonials on a weekly basis. We even have a dedicated channel. We call it Wall of Love. And our team gets super excited as soon as a new testimonial is in.

Roy Morejon:

Nice. What’s been your most successful form of marketing for The Gadget Flow?

Evan Varsamis:

I would say word of mouth, by far, because if your customers are satisfied, they’re going to definitely recommend your product to their friends, to their colleagues, someone they know, whether that’s a public forum or social media in general. Other than that, growth hacking has helped us a lot, especially during our early days. I remember we were doing these giveaways that were generating about a million participants back in the day, and that was definitely one of the most successful marketing approaches that we’ve had as a brand.

Roy Morejon:

Nice. So rounding this back out, Evan, what would be your number one piece of advice for someone looking to launch a crowdfunding project?

Evan Varsamis:

Do a pre-marketing campaign, for sure. That has been the trend for the past year or so. People that get it and they’re looking to raise more than a 100k, they should definitely invest in Facebook leads ads. They need to generate as many email addresses as they can with, let’s just say, a minimum would be 500 to a thousand, and scale that to as many email addresses as they can. Because that, obviously, gives them the advantage of launching on Kickstarter or Indiegogo with already 500 or a 1,000 or 2,000 ready-to-buy customers.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Yeah, we’re always trying to educate our clients on the importance of building up that pre-campaign email list and build that groundswell of traffic on launch day.

Evan Varsamis:

Yep, I feel that’s 80% of the total preparation that you need to make before you launch your campaign.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. What’s new for The Gadget Flow? What do you have on the horizon for us?

Evan Varsamis:

Oh, god, so many features actually. We’re working on an AR feature utilizing ARKit from Apple. We’re going to be releasing something later this year, most probably, I am told, 2017. We’re also working on our academy, so we’re going to be launching a portal in which we’re going to have interviews with CEOs, entrepreneurs, successful crowdfunders, podcasts, as well as resources in terms of checklists, blog posts, guides, and courses on how to be successful as an entrepreneur, how to grow your business, and how to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign. So we’re definitely busy. On top of that, we have lots of features that we’re working on for Gadget Flow. We keep improving it on a weekly basis. We try to release even small versions with bug fixes and improvements. In order to have a super successful platform, you have to pay attention to your users, like I said. So the only way to do that is to post frequent updates.

Roy Morejon:

Exciting stuff on the horizon, Evan. This gets us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. You good to go?

Evan Varsamis:

Awesome. Yep, 100%.

Roy Morejon:

What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Evan Varsamis:

I actually answered that earlier today. It’s the fact that I want to build my dream, instead of just working on some other person’s dream.

Roy Morejon:

If you could have a cold brew coffee with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Evan Varsamis:

Definitely, Gary Vaynerchuk or Kevin Rose from Digg.com.

Roy Morejon:

All right. What would be your first question for Gary V.?

Evan Varsamis:

What were they thinking as soon as they got the idea for Digg.com? That’s for Kevin. And for Gary, what was the incentive behind the fact of leaving his one business and starting a media agency in New York?

Roy Morejon:

Who did you look up to when you were growing up?

Evan Varsamis:

Definitely my grandfather and my father, as well. My grandfather was a super successful businessman, and he was the one that taught me being humble in the business world in general. He taught me the business ethics, and he had a pretty successful career.

Roy Morejon:

What book would you recommend to our audience?

Evan Varsamis:

Definitely the “Onward” by Howard Schultz. It’s how Starbucks pretty much fought for their life without losing their soul. It’s a must.

Roy Morejon:

Where do you see The Gadget Flow in five years?

Evan Varsamis:

Definitely one of the main media players in the industry. Definitely having as direct competitors Gizmodo and Engadget, and become the ultimate marketplace for discovering great, cool products.

Roy Morejon:

Last question, Evan, what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Evan Varsamis:

Well, it will definitely keep growing and become mainstream for businesses to validate new product ideas because it’s so much cheaper than just doing their own R&D, right?

Roy Morejon:

Indeed. Evan, this has been awesome. Please give our audience your pitch. Tell them what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they should be visiting The Gadget Flow every day.

Evan Varsamis:

I’m the founder and CEO of Gadget Flow. I’m an investor and an advisor as well, a contributor at Forbes, Inc. and AMEX Essentials. You can follow me on Twitter at @evanvar. And I would also like to offer to our listeners today a 20% discount code for our services, for any of our plans. Just make sure to use coupon code ATOK20, ATOK20 on the submission page, TheGadgetFlow.com/submit and take 20% off any of our plans.

Roy Morejon:

Killer. Evan, thank you so much. Audience, thank you for tuning in. Make sure to visit ArtoftheKickstart.com for all of the show notes, a full transcript, links to everything we talked about today, including the generous coupon code that Evan offered to us today. And, of course, thank you to our podcast sponsors, The Gadget Flow and BackerKit. Evan, thank you so much for being on the show today.

Evan Varsamis:

Thanks, Roy. My pleasure.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a business, world, and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, awesome. Make sure to visit ArtoftheKickstart.com and tell us all about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episodes, our Kickstarter guide to crushing it, and, of course, if you loved this episode a lot, leave us a review at ArtoftheKickstarter.com/iTunes. It helps more inventors, entrepreneurs, and startups find this show, and helps us get better guests to help you build a better business. If you need more hands-on, crowdfunding strategy advice, please feel free to request a quote on EnventysPartners.com.

Thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll see you again next week.