James Mulvany explains why he started the businesses he now has and what steps you can take to validate your business ideas to know that they will succeed.
James Mulvany of Podcast.co
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James Mulvany is a successful entrepreneur and over the past ten years has built multiple internet companies (including Podcast.co and Radio.co) plus a property portfolio and has made a range of angel investments in startups. Having actually never had a job in his life, he started his first business when leaving school.
Podcast.co and Radio.co are two companies doing pioneering things in the online audio space and James talks enthusiastically about podcasting, radio, marketing and about his entrepreneurial journey.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- How you can now learn pretty much anything you want to using services like YouTube
- Why you don’t always have to follow the “formula” that others lay out for you
- How you can fit a business round your lifestyle
- The importance of a personal attachment to any business you start as well as the commercial potential
- How getting feedback from your customers will tell you what they want and give you a list of people who are interested in purchasing those services
- Why competition is a good indicator of demand
- How groups on Reddit and Facebook can tell you what potential customers are asking for
- The importance of validating your market and not creating a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 47: How to know if your business idea will work - with James Mulvany of Podcast.co
Jeremy Cline 0:00
You may quite seriously be thinking about starting your own business. Perhaps you've been made redundant or have seen others made redundant and you're starting to think that you'd rather have more control over your destiny. But the thing is, you've got commitments, you've got a family to support, you've got to keep a roof over your head, you've got to put food on the table. How do you know that any business idea that you have, you can turn into something which is going to succeed, which is going to help you maintain the lifestyle that you want? Well, that's what we talk about in this episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:49
Hello and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. I am delighted to have as my guest this week James Mulvany, serial entrepreneur. Welcome to the show.
James Mulvany 1:02
Thank you for having me, Jeremy.
Jeremy Cline 1:03
James, why don't you start by introducing yourself and telling a little bit about you and what you do?
James Mulvany 1:08
Absolutely. So my name is James Mulvany, as you mentioned. I'm Founder and CEO of a couple of companies, my two current ventures are radio.co and podcast.co - both companies are offering services and software solutions in the radio and podcasting spaces. I've always had different internet businesses since I turned 16 years old. I left school to use that time over the summer holidays to start hustling and making money online. And as a result, I've never actually had a job working for anyone. Over the years I've had many different ventures - I've had successes, I've had failures, and these are my current two projects. Radio.co is about five years old, podcast.co is about a year old. So with radio it's pretty profitable now, it's very successful, we've got about four and a half thousand customers. Podcast.co is still in the growth phase, so we're still overcoming a lot of challenges, but you know, it's a very exciting place to be.
Jeremy Cline 2:00
And podcast.co, that's hosting and that sort of thing - services for podcasters?
James Mulvany 2:05
Absolutely, exactly. It's a platform for podcasters. So you can upload your podcast and we push it out to all the main channels, such as Apple podcasts or Spotify. And then more recently, we've also launched a spin off platform called matchmaker.fm, which is how we met, which we're billing as the Tinder for podcasters. So it's how you connect guests and podcasters together. Matchmaker's growing at a phenomenal rate. We're really excited about that project, we're making lots of valuable connections. So I'm interested to see where that's gonna go as well.
Jeremy Cline 2:34
And having seen it myself, I can say it's definitely not as sleazy as Tinder either. Not that I have signed up for Tinder. But anyway, moving on. You said that you basically left school and started your own internet business.
James Mulvany 2:47
Jeremy Cline 2:47
That's pretty unusual for most 16 year olds. I mean, most 16 year olds will either go on to sixth form college and continue till they're eighteen and maybe go on to university or they will go into work - they won't go straight into starting their own business. So how did that happen?
James Mulvany 3:01
It was interesting. I did actually end up going to both sixth form and then university, but you have this period of time when you get to the end of high school year 11 called study leave - I think you have about two months where you're supposed to study for exams, and then obviously, occasionally you have to go in to do an exam. I thought to myself, well, this is a great time, I've got this time off, and I don't have to be in school. So I didn't really do very much studying. But what I did do was kind of like my own type of study, and I can't really explain exactly how or why this happened. Probably the lead up to this period, I had sort of taught myself how to use Photoshop, and I'd started to design websites, and I was kind of interested in that. This was in about 2003. So you know, the internet was still kind of in its infancy then. You know, it had been around for 10 or so years, but it was nothing like now, there wasn't huge social media channels. And the kind of the idea of launching an internet business was still very foreign to a lot of people so my friends were going out getting part time jobs - you'd go out and get a job in McDonald's or you do a paper round or whatever. And throughout that period between sort of 16-18 I just tried various different things. I wanted to make money online. I just thought, well, why should I have to go and work in McDonald's? I don't really want to do that. I'd rather sit behind my computer and kind of nerd out a little bit. So I taught myself how to build websites. I used to design those little annoying animated banners for people that used to be on websites flashing away in the corner, little animated GIF banners. So I had a company that basically provided design services, created those banners. I used to get a handful of orders every week, so really, by the time I got to the end of sixth form, I was making enough money that I was earning a kind of part-time living just from being resourceful and using the skills that I kind of picked up on my own. They didn't teach this stuff in school back then - even in IT, it was all about Word documents and spreadsheets and Access databases. And I remember thinking, well, you know, this is great, but this is not stuff that's really going to be useful in real life moving forward. I think I probably just picked it up just by sort of teaching myself but again, back then you didn't have things like YouTube, you can learn any skills you want. Now on YouTube, you don't have to go and spend a load of money on a big course or buy books, there's really an infinite amount of wisdom out there now and back then, you know, there were certain tutorial sites and things but it wasn't as good. There wasn't the options that you have available now as someone who's looking to learn so I think part of it's just the age thing as well. I think when you're that age, you have this kind of curiosity - you want to learn things, and you're very much just like a sponge. I think it's very easy to pick up new skills when you're that age. I think the older you get the more you have to focus on trying to learn new skills, basically.
Jeremy Cline 3:22
And how did you know age 16 this was something that you could do instead of going to McDonald's because you know, thinking back to when I was 16, I worked in Sainsbury's and everyone had the Saturday job at wherever it might have been.
James Mulvany 5:51
Jeremy Cline 5:52
Where did this come from? How did you know that this was something that you could do and that you could make a bit of money from it?
James Mulvany 6:00
I think it was probably partly due to my dad. My dad always said to me when we were growing up - he had his furniture business, he was an antiques dealer - he always said to us the best decision he made was going self employed. Before that, before we were born, he did various different jobs in different industries and kind of hopped from sector to sector. He just never felt like he had that sense of freedom. So I think he was probably one of the main influences - dad always just said it was the best decision he made. I think I thought, well, rather than going and working for someone else, maybe I could just try and make some money working on my own and doing what I want to do. And of course, at that age, it's trial and error. You don't have any outgoings, you're living at home with your parents, and then obviously when I went off to university I still had my student loan to fall back on. So I kind of used that that four year period to really test and develop my ideas and kind of come out of university with a business that could stand on its own two feet and I didn't have to then go out and find a job.
Jeremy Cline 6:59
And when you came out of university, was it the same sort of thing? Was it still the same sort of web design agency that you were working on?
James Mulvany 7:05
No, so at that point I pivoted. I considered for a period going into radio as a DJ. And that was one of my interests, probably towards the end of sixth form. I started doing a bit of work experience working on local radio stations and that kind of stuff. And although I like the industry, I had this fascination with the technology side of stuff. At that stage, I was learning to code properly, so I was teaching myself a programming language called PHP. Then I sort of merged the two together because I learned the process of how you actually broadcast online. So I ended up setting up a business called Wave Streaming, which I think I launched in about 2004/2005. And then that grew while I was at university into a state where, you know, it was a proper business by the time I finished. A year after I graduated uni I took on my first member of staff and then obviously things growing further from then.
Jeremy Cline 7:53
Were people at university aware that you were doing this?
James Mulvany 7:55
Jeremy Cline 7:56
So what did they think?
James Mulvany 7:57
You know, it's interesting because I think actually a lot of the academics didn't really get what I was doing. They found it confusing. You know, this was 15 years ago now. They still found the fact that I was running a business but it just existed online very, very peculiar. I think it was still totally a new concept to people then. And obviously it wasn't an e commerce store. So they kind of understood ecommerce stores, where you could buy shoes online or you know, buy items and have them delivered - but it was software as a service and I think they just were a bit sort of dumbfounded by it. Interesting when I was doing my placement year I said to them, I'm not going off to work for another company because I've got this business, I need to use this year to refine and grow my business. And the placement unit weren't very happy with that because they didn't sort of feel like they had a sort of structure for me, but I said well I'm not going to consider working for anyone else because I've got a good thing going here. So I then used that year to grow the business even further and really properly validate the idea I think. But they had to sort of fit me into some weird structure where everyone else was following a certain kind of formula if you like for the placement year, and obviously the employer would report back on how the person was doing. But because I was my own employer, I couldn't do that! So yeah, it was a bit of a funny one! But they did support me in the end. I had to argue with them for a bit to say that I'm really a hundred percent sure this is the right thing for me to do. But I think academics, you know, they're very sort of structured in the way that they approach things. So as soon as you throw a spanner in the works, it's 'Oh what do we do here?'
Jeremy Cline 9:27
Leaving aside the nature of the business, just the fact of running a business or starting a business when you're at university - I mean university has a certain reputation for what students get up to there - there's eight hours a week of lectures and four hours a week of tutorials and lots of free time when you're supposed to be studying, and a lot of time spent in various stages of inebriation. What did your mates at university think of this? Were you still going out and socialising, or were you going sorry guys, no, I can't come to the club tonight, I've got some programming to do!
James Mulvany 10:00
I used to get back at 4am from from nights out and sit and answer emails from customers. So yeah, I did all that as well. I suppose it was just a case of you have to find a balance between lectures and actually doing the coursework. My course was very coursework focused, I didn't do a lot of things. I didn't have any exams, actually. You'd find time to do coursework, but also, I suppose, I wasn't using every single hour of every single day to launch the business. I guess you could call it a lifestyle business at the time. So I just fitted it around my lifestyle. I was not delivering a service that required me to do anything. I was selling software online. So that's the key - you're selling something of value to someone, they're not actually paying you for your time, they're paying you to use the service, use the software. So your time really is spent acquiring new customers, and also supporting existing customers dealing with any kind of enquiries that come in about the service. So as a result that's why I transitioned from doing web design jobs and that sort of thing, because that's when you are providing a service that you have to invest your time doing into actually something that you can create once and sell again and again and again.
Jeremy Cline 11:11
The topic that I really wanted to discuss with you, which I think you're exceptionally well placed to talk about, is the process for assessing whether or not a business idea is likely to have any legs and whether it's likely to succeed. And if I just set the scene with the sort of person who will be listening to this podcast, someone who they're in a job, and maybe it's quite a well paid job, and they're doing quite well and they've got the trappings that come with that. So they've got another half, they've got kids, they've got a mortgage, perhaps commuting, they've probably got one or two other things on which they spend the money that their used to - going on a couple of most holidays a year, all that sort of stuff - but they have a feeling that now is the time that they would like to basically work for themselves. And to put this in a bit of context, we're recording this interview beginning of June when the country is hopefully beginning to come out of lockdown and coronavirus. And it's a time when a lot of people are going to be reassessing their careers, their lifestyles, and also it's going to come into quite sharp relief, how little control people have over their own destiny and their income. You could be employee of the month or employee of the year, but if your business is one that's been completely decimated by coronavirus and you're made redundant, then there's nothing you can do about it. But I think the biggest fear that people will have or at least one of the biggest fears people will have going out on their own and starting their own business, particularly if they have this lifestyle to which they've become accustomed, how do I know it's going to be successful? How do I know I'm going to get paying customers? How do I know that I'm going to be able to support myself and my family, and pay the mortgage and put food on the table and all that sort of thing? That's the sort of thing I wanted to cover. But before we get into that, can we just take it one step further back and talk about how you get your ideas for businesses, because there's definitely going to be people out there who want to go in business, but they don't necessarily know what they want to do. Or they might have a few vague ideas. How have you come up with the ideas that you've implemented?
James Mulvany 13:19
This is a good question. And it's not very easy to answer, because I think it's different for everybody. I think, firstly, the main thing for me is you've got to be passionate about whatever it is you're getting into. There's got to be some kind of personal interest or personal attachment for wanting to do it, because ultimately, a lot of people who get to say their late 20s or early 30s, they've done a few years in corporate worlds, maybe they've climbed the ladder to a certain point, you know, like you say, they've got a kid or they've got kid on the way and then they start thinking, you know, this isn't for me, I'm sick of the rat race as everyone calls it. But what do I do? Obviously, you can't always just take your current employment, your employer, you know, the business you work for, and just duplicate that and perhaps you don't often want to. So I think the first thing is just looking at your passions - what actually are you interested in? Or what have you been maybe interested in but not had time to actually do, and then trying to think about is there a commercial angle on that. So for example, I wanted to go into radio as a DJ. I didn't think that the scope of the market meant that you know, number one, it's quite hard to break the industry anyway. Number two, making it big time in that industry, your chances are so slim - so to actually make a lot of money doing that, the odds are really stacked against you. So I kind of thought, right, okay, well, I'm interested in radio, I like broadcasting and being a DJ, but I also like development and technical stuff and building websites. So what can I do? Well, why don't I sell services to that industry, rather than actually being involved the industry directly. I thought it would be a better way of kind of growing revenue to sort of be sat on the outside. I'd learnt enough about how the industry works, how people tick I guess within that sort of market that I could write effective sales copy and make sure that I was knowing what I was selling and I could speak their language if you like. So I think starting with your passions is is an interesting way to begin and actually thinking about what it what it is you genuinely have an interest in, because ultimately you start a business and you've got to really give it your all to begin with. Like I said, I used to be getting home at four o'clock in the morning sometimes and answering emails. There'd be other nights I'd be up up till 11 o'clock at night working away. I remember Christmas Eve at midnight, first year of my university degree, I was back home obviously, and I was just on my computer, coding away late till midnight on Christmas Eve. The first year or two are always going to be intense I think when you start doing any kind of new venture. It's quite hard to guarantee success I think. Again, that's part of the risk of being an entrepreneur is you have to take risk, and you have to understand that sometimes things that you try may not work out and in that situation, when things aren't working out, you've either got to be really reactive and try to make it work - try to figure out what you can change, how you can pivot to steer it back in the right direction, or you have to just quickly move on, give up - but make sure you learn from those mistakes and make sure you're really picking up on things and errors of why it's not worked.
Jeremy Cline 16:13
Having been through that process, come up with something which particularly interests you, which you can see yourself enjoying, even if you have to work really hard on it - just because you like something doesn't mean that other people are going to pay you to do it. Are there steps you can take, are there things you can do at the outset - perhaps even you know, before you quit your job or make any substantial changes to start to look into whether or not the idea you've got is something that there is a demand for?
James Mulvany 16:45
I think a great example of how to do this well would be what we did for matchmaker. As I mentioned earlier, I'll just give a kind of quick brief primer - so matchmaker.fm, it's a platform - we spent time building that platform. Our development team actually had to write code to make it all work, we had to design it, and it is a product in itself - it's a standalone platform. Now to actually create that obviously costs a lot of time, a lot of money. As a business, you know, we have to invest in making that happen. However, before that we'd launched podcast.co, and we were looking at different funnels of ways that we could engage with podcasters to get more people onto the podcast.co platform to generate opportunities for us. And we were looking at the podcasting space in general. And we thought, Okay, well, most podcasts are based on interviews. About 60% of podcasts are actually based on either having guests on or interviewing people. Wouldn't it be great if we can put a couple of marketing funnels on our site together to attract these kinds of people. Either people who are looking to be guests on podcasts, so not necessarily people who have their own podcast, but they might consider themselves an expert in x fields, or they might be an entrepreneur who's looking to promote a product they've just launched or an author looking to promote a book they've just launched, you know, and a great way to do all this is appear on other people's podcasts. So that was one funnel - we had a page which basically said, you know, do you want to be on more podcasts? Do you want to be on high profile podcasts, so you can get lots of listeners to raise awareness of your personal brand or your business or whatever, please complete this form. Tell us more about what sort of podcast you want to get booked on and tell us more about you and what you do why you think you'd be a good guest. And that was just a Google form. You know, we spent probably an hour creating that page. And that was just on the podcast.co site. Likewise, we had another page, which was aimed more at podcasters. So you're looking for more interesting guests? Are you sick of having to go out and find guests? Do you want an easy way of just reaching really interesting people? Please complete this form and tell us about your podcast, the sort of guests that you're looking for, you know, a bit more about the general vibe of your show. So we had these two different funnels, these two different pages. And originally the idea was, well, you know, we can then just use these this kind of like lead forms, lead magnets, so we can kind of say, Hey, you know, anybody signs up, you're interested in starting a podcast, sign up to podcast.co perhaps. So what we noticed was these forms were were getting a really, really good response rate and people were going to great lengths to actually fill out these forms and tell us about themselves, or tell us about their podcast, and why it was so great and why they're looking for guests. So we kind of sort of put two and two together, and thought well we actually need a way of now connecting these two people together. So this is a really good way of testing the market. Basically, you can spend some money on AdWords if you wanted, drive some traffic to a simple page like this with very little on. But if people are actually engaging with that page and giving you information about themselves or their podcast, we kind of knew well, there's obviously demand for this type of service. We hadn't spent any money really doing anything at this point. It was a simple exercise. It wasn't that we spent six months building a platform, launched it, and found that noone was interested. But that was the kind of catalyst that allowed us to then say, right, let's actually do this properly. Let's actually create a service to connect podcasters and guests. That's kind of a good solid tested method of validating demand from market, is just literally put up a page that promises a service - even if it doesn't actually exist. And I think again, people feel a bit sort of sneaky about doing this because you're like is this not just misleading people? Well, yeah, I guess so. But then what you've got is a good solid data set that you know that people are interested. And also not only that, but a marketing list of people who will then want your service or product, once it's ready to actually go live. So you can say, you know, follow up with them in six months, once you've built the thing and say look, here it is - just go and sign up. And of course, then you've got people already waiting to join.
Jeremy Cline 20:24
So this is in the context of your pre-existing business podcast.co, people who'd already signed up to that, people that you could get in touch with, I'm just thinking of someone who is just starting out who doesn't yet have that list, how they go through a similar process. And I wonder if a way of answering that question is to ask you how you knew that there was a demand for podcast.co in the first place. I mean, why set up another platform when there are lots of other great podcast providers out there. What told you that there was a market for another provider?
James Mulvany 20:59
The fact that you just said that there are other providers out there - sometimes competition is a good thing, it shows that there is demand, it shows that there's a market in place. I think a lot of people -especially within the tech world - assume that products have to be hugely disruptive. If you can go in and do something slightly different, slightly better than other people are doing it and take a slice of the pie, rather than thinking 'I'm gonna have to go in and completely revolutionise an industry', there's nothing wrong with that - you can build a good solid business by just going in and just taking a slice of the market. If there's competition, you know there's a demand for the market there. That was really our reason for doing podcast.co. And obviously, also because we're involved in the radio industry as well. We have more and more clients coming to us and saying that they wanted podcasts as well as running their radio station. So they were launching podcasts as a separate thing. So the question for us really was do we build this as a feature into the existing platform? When we looked at the market, we thought, well, there's a lot of opportunity here. There's lots of people starting podcasts right now. Again, if you go on something called Google Trends its a really good way of just gauging people's interest over time. If you go onto Google Trends and type in the word podcast or podcasts you can see there was a lot of interest probably 10 years, 10 or so years ago, and that sort of dips and then occasionally you get these peaks. And if you can spot a trend of something that's growing at the moment, there's suddenly been loads of investment in a certain area. Well, sometimes that can be a very good indicator this a good industry to go into.
Jeremy Cline 21:08
When you started podcast.co, presumably, you didn't want to create a carbon copy of the other providers that were out there. So how did you identify what you needed to do differently or do better that other providers weren't doing?
James Mulvany 22:37
Well, one of the things that we noticed with a lot of the providers were that a lot of them were very old school. They were companies that had been around for 10 years, they hadn't really bothered updating the look and feel of the the sites and the products themselves, so the UI, the UX, the user interface and user experience wasn't great. They were kind of clunky and felt a bit old school. So that was the first thing - we wanted to create something that was kind of clean, fresh, modern and simple to use. And as I say, we've got experience in that any way. We know how to design effective and easy to use products. So that was the first target. And the second thing was multi-tenanted platforms. Most of these companies didn't allow for multiple users, they would just let you sign up just me and we thought, Well, a lot of podcasts have sometimes have a producer attached to them. So we wanted to make it more friendly to people who have different team members working on different podcasts. So we kind of added a layer of user level control to it, which again, many of the competitors don't have. Some of them have started to implement it now, but certainly when we started designing podcasts, it was quite a rare thing. Again, having multiple podcasts under one account was quite important, because we see that there's a lot of podcast networks springing up, which is kind of a collection of podcasts. What else did we look at... also just the submission process. So the way to submit a podcast - I'm sure you're probably aware of this yourself, you've been through it - it's not the most user friendly experience. You have this thing called an RSS feed. For someone who's coming into podcasting from a totally different industry, they don't really understand how it works. It's quite a daunting prospect, you know, what is an RSS feed? It's this horrible looking page of code, which basically describes when new episodes are released, etc. So our perspective is users shouldn't have to see or understand what that is, so we want to build an a kind of done for you submission process. Again, a lot of the providers are now offering this but certainly back then - it was two years ago - this was still like, you know, here's your RSS feed, you're going to submit this yourself. We wanted to just have like a 'done for you' process. So all you have to do is just say, Yes, please do this for me. And we just go and handle that side of things for them. Those were a few of the kind of initial kind of key points we wanted to make to sort of make ourselves stand out in the market and things that we want to do differently from the other providers.
Jeremy Cline 24:47
Did you look at this from the perspective of these are things which we'd like to see so we're going to try them and see whether they bite, or had you done market research with the existing podcasters to find out what the existing pain points were, so you have a better understanding that these were things that they wanted? Because you mentioned out of date user experience and that sort of thing. Were you seeing people telling you they found this a pain, so you knew from other people, not just what you saw that there were opportunities here?
James Mulvany 25:19
Yeah, we did a certain amount of market research with our existing customer base of radio.co, because again, a lot of those customers would want podcasts. You also do research by just looking around at what are people discussing online. You know, go on things like Reddit, have a look on forums, you can run polls, you can do this, you can do that - just go to places where there's lots of people hanging out, discussing a specific topic. Find groups on Facebook, and just get involved with the community, get involved with the audience and see what people are commenting on. And that's another good way of doing market research. It's quite easy. You don't have to go and hire market research company to do it. I think you can do it. Again, when you bring a product to market, treat it like an MVP, treat it like something that can be reiterated and can be improved upon. You don't have to have every single feature in the world to begin with, you can kind of launch a product, get a user base, and then start listening to that user base and adding features and functionality based on what they're saying and what they're asking for versus thinking it's got to do everything in the world and suit everybody. But actually, the reality is, you can't please everyone. You're only ever gonna be able to please a certain group of people. And the more features, the more buttons and things you add to a product, the more confusing it gets. So sometimes simplicity is key, I think and certainly to begin with, you launch a simple product that just does a few things and does them really well. That will then give you a few users and then you can say to those users, Okay, what else would you like to see and start building functions and features to suit what they are asking for.
Jeremy Cline 26:48
So going back to my person who's just starting out and wants to have an idea as to whether or not a product is going to succeed, then what you've been saying about, well start with the forums, the Reddit groups and Facebook and that sort of thing. That's a good way that they can see what people are talking about and get an idea as to whether there's something in it.
James Mulvany 27:08
Oh, absolutely. If you think about Reddit or Facebook groups, there's literally a Reddit thread for any anything you could possibly imagine now isn't there. Again, you could go down a bit of an internet hole I think on those types of things, but there's lots of people discussing stuff so it's certainly a good way of starting to pick out what potential opportunities there could be. One of the things that's come around recently on LinkedIn - you can run polls on LinkedIn now. We've just run a couple and they've had really, really good response rates. I don't think it's a feature that's existed for a long time. I don't know exactly when it was released, but I think it was maybe just released the last couple of weeks. The benefit of LinkedIn obviously is it's more of a business-focused community. So with Reddit, for example, there's all sorts of stuff going on there. Some pretty crazy folks out there discussing some pretty weird stuff, which isn't always gonna be the best thing to base a business decision on, right? But if you say look on LinkedIn groups, or you run a poll on LinkedIn saying which of these are most important - so for example, the poll I just ran on LinkedIn, What's the most important thing to consider when starting a podcast - gave four different options, good concepts, good equipment, great name, marketing strategy. And another one we ran, Why did you first start podcasting? It was business marketing, branding, to engage with customers, to make new connections, or as a hobby, and it's kind of interesting to see then what people comment and start discussing below these polls, but it's a good way of opening up the conversation with a potential market.
Jeremy Cline 28:28
So if you use polls like that, to start to see what people are saying in terms of what the pain points are, and what the difficulties are, do you start to have conversations about possible solutions? Or do you go to them and say, okay, so I see that you've talked about that - well, would something like this help you?
James Mulvany 28:47
Yeah, absolutely. That's the key thing isn't it, it's actually engaging with people, having conversations. I've had people actually come up to me - because obviously, we've now kind of got our foot firmly in the door of the podcasting space - I think I've had two or three different meetings where people have just come to me and said, I'm thinking about launching a product in the podcasting space, can I get your opinion on it? Generally speaking, people say, yeah, if you're not going to be in direct competition with someone, but it's a similar tool in a similar space, it could compliment your customer base, its good to start having those conversations and building your network, I think.
Jeremy Cline 29:19
Do you do beta testing? So when you've kind of identified a thing and you've maybe spent the minimum you can to get your minimum viable product - do you then get some people to have a look at it when it's in a rough and ready state? And if so, how would you go about getting those people?
James Mulvany 29:37
With podcast.co we had a private beta. So actually, before launching podcast.co, we spent a year creating the brand. So we actually had lots of content, videos, all that sort of stuff before we even had anything to sell, which meant that by the time we actually launched a product, we already had a solid group of people which we could say do you want to test this out, and then obviously, once we finished testing, do you want to become a customer? So it's quite straightforward for us to start getting testers but you know, if you haven't spent time doing that, go hit up some groups, go hit up some communities. Just say, look, we've got this software, we're looking for testers, people love playing round with new things I think as a whole.
Jeremy Cline 30:17
And going back to my person who's getting quite interested about this, what's the one piece of advice that you'd give someone who is starting out, maybe it's the first thing they should do or just the thing that every someone, every person who's starting out should know?
James Mulvany 30:33
That's a good question. You've thrown me a bit there. Just one piece of advice for someone who's looking at say, jumping ship and going into starting something on their own - I'd say just make sure you validate the market first. That's the main bit of advice I'd give, which I discussed. I think we've we've talked about a few different ways you could do that really, but I think that's probably the most important thing, because I have seen it where people have spent loads of time working on something, you know when you watch Dragon's Den and you sometimes you see these inventions and you're just like, What's this for? It's a solution for a problem that doesn't exist. And you want to make sure that you're definitely not creating something that's a solution for a problem that doesn't exist.
Jeremy Cline 31:15
What's the sort of biggest word of warning you'd give? You've already done that in saying that you should go out and validate - what's the most difficult thing, the thing that as an entrepreneur, if you had a magic wand and someone could say, I can take away one problem, what would you like me to take away? What would it be for you?
James Mulvany 31:33
Oh, that's a good question. Part of what you do is is that is overcoming challenges, and that could be anything from staff to not having enough customers, not generating enough revenue through to, you know, difficult customers or people not being happy. There's no magic wand to erase any of those things. You have to be a really good problem solver. You have to be able to be faced with sometimes complex situations or situations that don't seem ideal and try and think about rather than kind of getting stuck, you have have this clarity of how you can get around that problem. If you could just make one thing go away... that's a tough one, I don't know if I could really answer that. This is the thing, there's so many things that can trip you up. It's not as simple. It's not as plain sailing as you just start a business and everything works, of course not.
Jeremy Cline 32:17
In your journey, have there been any particular resources, books, tools, quotes, something that you found particularly helpful, particularly useful, maybe a book that you find you tend to gift or a quote, which you have stuck on your wall or something like that?
James Mulvany 32:31
The resource which we discussed pre-show, which I'm going to mention, is called marketingexamples.com. What I really like about this, and it's something I've only really discovered recently, I think I've been subscribed to it for about six months. You get a few emails, maybe once a month, maybe not even that frequently, and they just kind of condense concepts and principles of marketing down into really short and easy to digest chunks. I think if you're thinking about going into business, thinking about leaving your job, obviously sales and marketing, even if it's not your area of speciality, they are important, right? You have to be able to go out and say, I've got this service or I've got this solution or I've got this product, here's why you should buy into it. I remember years ago when I was kind of starting out, I wasn't really that interested in marketing, I was much more focused on programming and writing code and stuff. I haven't written any code now for eight years or so. But I was really more interested in the technical side of things. And I used to not consider myself a marketer. Now, I love marketing. But I remember someone saying to me back it back when I was at university, one of the mentors I had, they said you need to spend at least one day a week on marketing and just focus a whole day on just marketing your product, marketing your services. It's very important. So check it out - marketingexamples.com. I've got no affiliation with it, but I just think it's really good. And there's some really interesting stuff on there that's kind of just condensed down that anyone could really get their head round.
Jeremy Cline 33:54
Fantastic. I will link to that in the show notes. And where can people go to find you, find a bit more about you and what you do?
James Mulvany 34:01
Yeah, if you want to check out JamesM.com/Connect, there's a link there to all my social profiles. I'm putting up content all the time on LinkedIn and YouTube, etc. And also, obviously you can check out podcast.co radio.co and matchmaker.fm.
Jeremy Cline 34:17
I will link to all of those in the shownotes. James, this has been absolutely fascinating. I've loved talking to you, so thank you so much.
James Mulvany 34:24
Cheers Jeremy, thanks for having me.
Jeremy Cline 34:26
Validation. That was the key word for me that came out of this interview with James Mulvaney. Validating that your idea is going to succeed. And James had some great practical tips for how to do it using forums and discussion groups on things like Reddit, Facebook, LinkedIn. All these tools are available to us to find out what people want, what people are struggling with, what problems people have that perhaps you can find the solution to. And it's all free, so you can dive right into this without spending any money on it, just spending a little bit of time on it. I think it's great that these tools are out there to help us if we are seriously thinking about starting our own business. Links to the tools and resources that were mentioned in this interview are on the website along with details of how you can get in touch with James, and they're all at changeworklife.com/47. And whilst you're there, there's a tab in the menu at the top of the website called Find Career Happiness. And something that might help you, including if you've started thinking about starting your own business, is a couple of exercises to help you work out what sort of stuff you enjoy, and also where you think your life might be going. And it's useful because particularly the second exercise can help you to make decisions. You can kind of draw this picture of what you would like your life to look like in ay five years time, and then when faced with a decision maybe to start a new business or to start a new job, you can look at that picture and think is this going to help me get there? Does this fit in with the picture, the future picture that I want for my life? So if you go to that tab, as I say it's marked Find Career Happiness. Then you'll find some exercises which hopefully will help you out. There's another great episode coming next week, so if you haven't hit subscribe on whatever device you're listening to, I can't wait to see you at next week's episode. Cheers. Bye
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