May 13, 2017

#457. Building and Hiring for a Startup. With Alex Berman.

Alex Berman, Co-Founder of Experiment27 (X27), a company that provides lead generation services for digital agencies, joins me on this episode of #Accelerate!

KEY TAKEAWAYS

[1:56] Alex is a digital nomad, and X27 is a virtual company of 11 employees spread between Mexico City and various U.S. locations. Alex’s personal drive for becoming an entrepreneur was to get rid of the office. He wanted to travel frequently.

[2:47] Alex explains his why for the startup. He’s in Wichita now, specifically because it’s the “cheapest city in America,” for low overhead as he gets the company going.

[3:29] Alex travels to learn new things. After New York came Las Vegas, to see Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project and share a drink with Tony, then to Chicago, L.A., and Las Vegas again, for family, and San Francisco, before Wichita.

[4:41] Alex finds the tech scene in every city is growing. Besides Las Vegas, he says tech in St. Louis is very welcoming. Since he can Skype with any customer, where he lives is immaterial, and all American cities start to blend for him.

[7:02] Alex had led a Marketing consultancy for Dom&Tom, and that encouraged him to start up a company. X27 does marketing for mobile app development agencies — UX/UI design branding. They act as CMOs and run the client’s team.

[8:42] Dom&Tom had used Alex as a contractor, and he ran the operation as needed. He discusses the outsourcing and internal hiring that led to X27. In eight months they grew from two to 11 employees. The goal is to have $2M AR by year end.

[10:01] Alex started the company doing all the sales himself by cold emails. Alex explains his effective email. Content matters, but targeting matters more. He reveals his secret for finding agencies that are good leads and discusses the email process.

[16:45] Alex hired two salespeople at the same time, based on advice from Jason Lemkin at SaaStr. He also learned not to hire in Q4. Sales went to $0 for two weeks over Christmas.

[18:14] Alex hired two salespeople, to check the process. They could both be good, both bad, or one each. If neither can sell, there is probably a process problem. If only one sells, the one who can’t has a sales problem. If they both sell, hire more.

[19:33] Alex interviews in two steps, the first to check for how they fit, the second to perform a task for an hour — to build a list and write an email. Most people refuse to do the test. He doesn’t check references. Bad hires will weed out.

[28:39] The discussion goes to hiring and onboarding procedures as the company scales. Will every employee be a self-starter? Alex learns as he goes along. Stress concentrates the attention!

[32:00] Alex describes the stack X27 uses internally.