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Bootstrapping with a Paycheck: Aytekin Tank, CEO of JotForm (Part 3)

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 7th 2015

Sramana Mitra: Did the market accept that you had a better product?

Aytekin Tank: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: Who were the competitors that you faced at that point?

Aytekin Tank: JotForm came out in February 2006. Before that, there were many forms products. All these products had old interfaces. Most of them are not very popular these days. After JotForm came out, some really good products came out. This was back in 2006. That was an important time for many web applications because there were many new things that were possible.

Sramana Mitra: How were you acquiring customers? Was it organic search, paid search, or online digital marketing? How were you finding customers?

Aytekin Tank: I believe in being open. I had a blog. I was contributing in some online communities. When I completed JotForm in February 2006 and released it to the world, I posted on my blog. Because I was a contributor, I was open to the world and people were actually excited about the product. This was how people found out about it. When you release your product, you want to find those first customers. It’s really hard to find them.

If you’re contributing to the community or if you have blogs, you have an audience where you actually find those users. I don’t think it’s a good idea to work for years behind doors and come out. Being a contributor in a community where people will listen to you is important. That’s what happened with JotForm. I actually posted on forums. There were many replies. They talked about JotForm with other people. They blogged about JotForm. They actually talked about it in mailing lists. That’s how I got my first users.

Sramana Mitra: Can you talk a little bit about numbers – whatever you feel comfortable with. When you’re talking about launching the product in 2006, how many customers were you able to get? What kind of revenues were you able to do in 2006?

Aytekin Tank: There’s something common about the two products that I launched. I first released a free version of a membership software for a student organization. I released it as a free software. I did the same thing with JotForm. I released it as a free service. For the first year, it was completely free. At the beginning, there were many problems with the product. I was able to get feedback from users. After the first year, in 2007, I released another version for $9 a month.

Sramana Mitra: What kind of conversion rates did you see when you introduced the freemium version? Free to premium conversion is a very big topic of interest in our user base.

Aytekin Tank: In 2007, it was just me and my first employee. We still had the free version but you could upgrade to the premium version. We released it very early in the morning thinking that it will be a few hours before people in the US wake up. Even though we were very early in the morning, after a minute, we got sales and it was from Portugal. It was really exciting to release a new product and getting the first customer right away. That’s when I knew that JotForm would be successful. Then we received more and more subscriptions from users on the same day.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Bootstrapping with a Paycheck: Aytekin Tank, CEO of JotForm
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