MicroConf 2011 – Justin Vincent

By Stephen Kellett
18 August, 2011

Justin Vincent is the creator of pluggio a tool for managing your twitter account. Justin blogs at justinvincent.com. Justin talks about his experience prior to pluggio and then how he created and grew pluggio.

The Big Idea

For Justin’s first business idea, he planned the idea and thought over every deal. He didn’t write any code. He spent some time on this activity. Finally after chatting with some people he realised he wasn’t going to get anywhere. But he had nothing to show for all this time. He spent $60K of VC money doing this.

Conclusion? Just get on with it.


Nanoflirt mixes online dating with real world dating. Real world cards, write their profile number on the back and then hand it to someone they like. Research indicated a possibly good idea. Build the site. Then printed a million flirt cards. But when a stranger walks up to you and hands you a card the reaction is not what he expected.

This was a fail.


Got involved with a social media knowledge website, spent $250K in the same space as Wikipedia.

This was a fail.


Mash API was a good idea to put together components to allow others to easily build websites with pre-built functionality. This was probably ahead of its time and the timing was important. VCs were not interested in ideas at the time they were trying to do Mash API. The VCs liked the team and the idea, but ideas were not on the menu for funding.

This was a fail.

Its hard

Doesn’t matter how good an idea is. Sometimes that isn’t enough.
Bootstrapping is hard.


Started interviewing people with Jason Roberts. Interviews formed the techzing podcast. Learned a lot by interviewing people.


Justin wanted to grow his twitter following. He found posting this every day was a pain. So he started by creating a simple RSS reader that could provide stories for him to feed into twitter. This grew from a simple idea into a product that was generating revenue in a few months.

Then he ignored pluggio for 9 months until a big argument with his wife. The result was that she persuaded him to re-focus on pluggio. Pluggio was generated revenue but he wasn’t interested in marketing it. After his refocus, revenue improved 3x immediately.

Customer research showed that his simple user interface was a bonus. People were using it in preference to the complex multi-screen twitter helpers.

Trial or Refund?

Pluggio used to offer a 30 day free trial. Used to get about 50% of people cancel and receive no revenue for that 30 days. When he switched to 60 day money back guarantee much fewer people cancel and he receives revenue for every day of the period.

Its an interesting tactic and based upon the idea that once people commit to something (they commit by completing the credit card payment form) they mentally then switch models to one that supports their decision. The main problem with this is that some people will be reluctant to commit to such a refund based trial.

Free Email Course

Pluggio provide a free email course (even if they do not signup) providing useful marketing information over a 5 day period.

Free plans pay!

35% free plans convert to paid accounts. This demonstrates that freemium can work, use the free account to demonstrate the value of the service.

The free version also has a nag screen that starts after 3 days and eventually gets more persistent over time.


To help Pluggio get off the ground Justin used the following techniques:

  • Used the techniques he had learned from the techzing interviews.
  • Found 1000 users using a signup page.
  • 100% free for all users for the first month so that he could watch what users did and determine who the top 5 users were.
  • Approached the top 5 users and asked them what functionality they wanted.
  • Get Satisfaction link on every page.
  • When Pluggio was first launched Justin was getting 10 emails per day asking how Pluggio worked. So he created video answers to each question. Each video is 1 minute long. This turned 10 question per day into 1 question per month.
  • All customer questions he uses to build relationships with customers.

Tomorrow I’ll post Hiten Shah’s talk.

Fully functional, free for 30 days