How to turn any video into an interactive, automated webinar | Melissa Kwan - eWebinar
- What problem is eWebinar solving?
- eWebinar top features
- eWebinar pricing plans
- Use cases for eWebinar
- How big is your team right now?
- What is your story, Melissa?
- Why do you prefer bootstrapping?
- The bootstrapping mindset
- What’s your social media strategy?
- Why removing freemium was the better choice?
- What’s your favorite software, Melissa?
- Connect with Melissa
What problem is eWebinar solving?
Melissa: eWebinar saves people from doing the same webinar over and over again by turning any video into an interactive webinar that you can set on a recurring schedule. You can imagine sales pitches, demos, onboarding, training, webinars, etc. There are other solutions that are out there, which I’ve tried in the past with my previous startup, but there was just nothing out there that did exactly what I wanted it to do. This was actually a problem that I had lived with for five years in my previous company, and when that was acquired, I decided that this was the problem that I wanted to solve.
eWebinar top features
Melissa: The first one is the asynchronous chat that works like Intercom, or Zendesk, where you can hop in and respond. If you’re not there and the attendee is offline, then they’ll get an email, just like any support chat system. That’s number one. Number two is we have the widest variety of interactivity – programmable program polls, resource questions, contact forms, and things that pop up during the experience to engage the audience to stay until the end. I would also say that our design is definitely something that stands out because we put a lot of love into designing a product that people are impressed with right away, and it makes your brand look good so that they’ll stay until the end.
eWebinar pricing plans
Melissa: We start at $99 a month from the bottom, then it goes up to $299, and then above that is usage-based.
Use cases for eWebinar
Melissa: Our biggest use case is actually customer success. You can imagine training and onboarding webinars for any tech, SaaS, and non-tech company, right? That needs to train continuously on new products, new regulations, and things like that. Our second biggest use case is, of course, sales and marketing. You can use this to automate your demo or create an on-demand demo that people can join.
How big is your team right now?
Melissa: We have no full-time employees. Everybody is a contractor. I don’t pay myself, and I’m like kind of a nobody within the company structure. But at any given time, we have ten full-time contractors, and then we’ve got five part-time that we use for specific things, like writing long-form pieces of content or short-form pieces of content or design, we have five people that are kind of on and off on an as-needed basis.
What is your story, Melissa?
Melissa: My first company started in 2011. Before that, I had a lot of different positions in different industries, but always in sales and business. That’s my core competency. The last job that I quit was at SAP, where I was part of a large enterprise inside sales team. That’s really where I learned how to sell software and get in front of people.
My first company was a product company turned agency. We were building mobile apps on the iPad for real estate developers that would sell buildings. If you’ve walked into like a real estate sales center before, you get a beautiful coffee table and a brochure because they want to sell you a home before it’s built. We were the iPad version of that, and back then, the iPad had just started coming out. It was cool, but because we were bootstrapped and everybody wanted to customize, ultimately, when you’re selling real estate, you’re selling a dream. Every dream should be different, we had to say yes to everything, and before we knew it, we were a custom apps company.
We wanted to be a product but turned into an agency by saying yes too many times. And that business became super hard to run, right? Anyone that’s run an agency knows that you’re chasing the customer, chasing invoices, chasing new customers, and I did that for four years, and I really hated that. So after four years, I wanted to build a product we own that we offer everybody else. And that kind of bridged into my second product, which was an iPad check-in for open houses. Mostly in North America, when you’re selling a home, you hire an agent, and on Saturday and Sunday, they stand inside your house, and random people come in to look at your home. So that was a way for real estate agents to get more customers.
We sold that product to brokerages and franchises on the enterprise level. We didn’t really sell directly to real estate agents. And that was when I moved to New York, got into the startup community, and ran that company for five years, which was acquired in 2019. Because I had lived with the problem of repeatedly needing to do the same webinars to make sure my customers would stay on the platform because it was so hard to make the sale, I felt compelled to start eWebinar.
I sold that company for life-changing money because, at that point, I had been in startups for ten years. I never had money before that. But I didn’t sell it for retirement-level money. I saw how much consumer expectations were rising and changing. And I knew that if I waited any longer to start a new company, it would be much harder to get a product out there. I think it’s easy to start building something, right? It’s getting incredibly hard to get someone to give you their credit card. That’s becoming harder and harder. And I felt more in a rush to start a new company.
Why do you prefer bootstrapping?
Melissa: Over time, I turned into a serial bootstrapper. When I moved to New York, everybody was raising money. Everybody around me, every new friend, asked me if I was raising money or needed some intros. And that environment makes you feel like you need to raise, or otherwise, you don’t have permission to build your startup, you’re not successful, and you’re not ambitious. I also fell into that, and that was seven years ago. When YCombinator started becoming really big, Techstars became very big, and everybody was out there wanting to do this.
Honestly, back then, I was doing so poorly in my business because we couldn’t find a product that someone would pay for. We couldn’t find a product market fit. And I was in so much debt that I thought I could go to a VC, and they would give me money and save me. I saw that kind of as a way out. I tried to raise. And I would do exactly what people do, right? Download a slide deck from the internet, and have someone teach me how to pitch, go to pitch competitions, polish my pitch, and then I would go and get meetings with investors.
I had 20 conversations, and I was never actually successful, but looking back, it’s because our product was not very venture-scalable. It was very niche, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was I was telling a story that I didn’t believe. I was telling a story I thought they wanted to hear because someone else told me that this was what I needed to say to raise money. I didn’t want to be a unicorn, I didn’t want an IPO, and I didn’t want to build my product more than it was.
That meant that my pitch was bad. Anytime they asked me a question like, what’s your exit strategy? I didn’t have an answer for them because I didn’t have an exit strategy at that point. All I wanted was to not be in debt anymore. I just wanted a break, and because I couldn’t raise any money, I needed to continue to focus on profitability. Eventually, we did find a product that people would pay for. After that, we started closing bigger and bigger deals because we started selling to enterprises. As we were getting closer and closer to profitability, things got easier, and I started to call all of my own shots.
The bootstrapping mindset
Melissa: I left New York to travel full-time. I was working as much for as little as I wanted. Nobody was telling me what to do. No one told me the growth rate because I didn’t care about the next round. So I didn’t depend on outside capital, and I started to understand that when you can create your own destiny because you don’t rely on other people’s money to grow your business, you can live a pretty awesome life. And meanwhile, on the other side, I have lots of friends in the industry over just time of being there with who would tell me – I’m so stressed out about raising my next round, I don’t know if I can raise my next round, we have to hit this growth rate, and we have to grow at all costs. And I kind of saw the other side, and I don’t want to go back.
Over time I realized. I’m just not willing to make the sacrifices that it takes to become a unicorn because I don’t want to live that life. I want to live a life where work is a small part of what I enjoy. I enjoy many other things – parties, festivals, traveling, food, friends, and family. So I don’t want work to be my only thing. And I think when you take venture capital, it has to be the only thing you want for maybe the next five to 10 years, and that’s the story that you’re telling.
That’s the mindset I went through and the transition – I wanted to be in the club, and then I couldn’t get in the club, and then I started to make my own money and do everything I wanted, and I realized this is pretty nice. And that was kind of the mindset that I had going into eWebinar. Luckily, I had sold my previous startup, so I have some financial freedom and cushion to do what I’m doing now. And now we’re mostly funded by revenue. We’re not totally profitable, especially because I don’t pay myself. Still, I started this company not so it could be a huge success or so it could sell for a hundred million. I started this company to pay myself, my co-founders, and my team a reasonable salary and give everybody the life they want to live.
What’s your social media strategy?
Melissa: I only started posting once a day on LinkedIn about four months ago. I took a course by Justin Welsh. I don’t know if you follow him, but if you don’t follow him, you should. He’s a self-made solo entrepreneur that started his journey about three years ago. I realized that when you sell a product to SMBs, like a MailChimp product, you have to build a community of people who do not just know what your product does, right? Now people actually care about the people behind it. What do you stand for? What’s your mission? I think the future of sales is community-led and social validation.
I basically just took Justin’s course. It was around $150. I spent about a month doing all his exercises and following his model. I don’t have many tips for that, but the best tip I have is to start because there’s a reason why people are doing it. And number two is to be really consistent, right? It’s super easy to say you don’t want to do it today. In the last 12 years of being in startups, I learned that a lot of things that you specialize in, and you might take for granted, but someone else might see that and say that’s really helped me. So I am focusing on the things I’m good at and the community I can help. I write once a week. I write every Sunday 7 to 10 posts. And then I look at the post the day before to make sure it’s what I want to communicate, and then it just kind of goes out automatically.
Why removing freemium was the better choice?
Melissa: It was my previous company where I learned that. I think there’s this myth – the more people you get, the better. People think that if Dropbox did it, so could they. But if you’re comparing yourself to Dropbox, it’s almost like you’re comparing yourself to Facebook. Most people are not Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Dropbox, right? You have very limited resources to support your customers. Back then, I also fell into the trap of thinking – well, the more people, the better because the more people come onto my platform, the more potential paid users would come in because they could just try my product.
When we opened up the product to free users, and then they could upgrade for more features, our conversion rate was something like 1%. It was so low, and we saw that most people who came in were not motivated to complete the signup process. They would just sign up and be like – I could do this later because they’re not, like, they’re not losing anything. If I’m not investing in something, then I don’t have a reason to continue because I’m not losing something, then I don’t really care about getting something back. What ended up happening was not only did we have a lot of people that didn’t activate, we had a lot of people on our platform that just didn’t care. What happens when you don’t care? You don’t value the founders. You’re rude, loud, and demanding because you don’t appreciate this, right? It’s almost like a free party versus a paid party. It’s like a free meal versus a paid meal, and I don’t have to finish my free meal.
My mentor at that time, who was also in the industry, told me that I needed to start charging because we would be left with people who cared enough about our product to pay for it. They’re going to be more respectful, and they’re going to give you honest feedback because they’re actually going to use your product in your business. You shouldn’t actually care about the people who don’t use your product in their business. You shouldn’t care about their feedback because it doesn’t help you. They’re not paying you. That was kind of my light bulb moment. And from that point on, we made the flip. We made the flip, and we made it a 14-day trial, and then everybody had to pay. We had people threaten us and say they’ll tell their whole network that we’re horrible software or they’ll stop using us if we start charging them. You pay me nothing, so those threats were actually just kind of empty.
Our conversion rate went up to 20% immediately, and then we started getting people who were really respectful that we cared about serving. We got a really loyal group of users that would give us valuable feedback because they were actually using our product. And that was actually when our products started growing. My advice to people thinking about providing a free product is that if your product requires any support, literally any support, and you are a bootstrapped team, you can’t afford to spend your time on people who don’t pay you. You have such limited hours in a day. Focus on people who value your time, product, and service enough to pay you in exchange for your product. From there, those are going to be your loudest customers. Those are the people that are going to write reviews, tell their friends, care about it, and those are the people that are, are going to stick with you.
What’s your favorite software, Melissa?
Melissa: My favorite software is Monday.com. I also like Slack, but I think everybody says Slack. I really like Monday because I work on spreadsheets, and we use it as our project management and CRM tool. We don’t have Jira, but with Monday, I see everything in one view, allowing me to create automation. It’s the simplest, easiest software I’ve ever used for that specific purpose, and you can use it for many different things.
Connect with Melissa