Ryan Kulp, Founder of Fomo
Who are you?
Ryan Kulp, 3 time startup founder and musician. Prior to Fomo I worked in venture capital, launched an incubator in Detroit, and helped grow alumni companies from Techstars, Ycombinator, and 500 Startups.
Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?
In fall 2015 I moved from NYC to Chiang Mai, Thailand, to teach myself to code. While there, I got in touch with a VC fund in San Francisco. Shortly thereafter I moved to San Francisco and became the in-house marketer for our portfolio companies.
Fast forward to February 2016, I found a Shopify plugin called Notify that I thought could be a good investment for our fund. Within 30 days, I ultimately acquired the plugin myself, and a few months later quit the VC fund to focus on it.
From day 1 the goal was to expand Notify beyond the Shopify app store, and to make it compatible on any website. In august 2016 we achieved exactly that, and subsequently launched on Product Hunt as Fomo, to a much larger audience.
What has been your biggest failure or struggle?
We have a product machine. If a customer makes a reasonable request, within hours that feature or improvement is spec’ed out, on the roadmap, and assigned to a team member.
The same is not true for our marketing and sales process. Even with weekly standups, task tracking, goal setting, and regular KPI reporting, the acquisition component of our company lacks predictability.
While some of this is just “the way it goes,” I look forward to improving our marketing machine in the months ahead.
And what has been your biggest achievement or success?
Acquiring Notify, the Shopify plugin that we rebuilt into Fomo, was by itself a fascinating process. In particular, the unorthodox deal structure we agreed to with the original founder have allowed us to scale the new business with less risk than initially anticipated.
Further, we’re lucky that our target audience (digital marketers for ecommerce stores) are already searching for solutions in our space — social proof apps, recent sales notifications, etc — and that we rank very highly for those terms.
What’s your must read business book?
All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin.
This book is a manifesto on the importance of incorporating [authentic] stories into your marketing strategy.
tl;dr — make sure your business has a point of view.
Who’s your most inspirational CEO or founder?
Easy: Elon Musk. He’s an animal. I wrote once about how to tell if someone is an A-Player, and Elon is effectively the archetype for my post.
While he could have quit years (and several companies) ago, his tenacity to make the bold move has made the world a better place indeed.
And can you tell us something weird or interesting about yourself?
When I was younger, I thought I was going to be a rock star. I didn’t apply to college after high school, and instead spent some time making gold teeth for a living. Ultimately I did go to college, but experiences like this one shaped who I am today.