Notes from Makin' Bac'n: From Idea to Web Startup in 21 Days (WebVisions 2009)

Makin' Bac'n: From Idea to Web Startup in 21 days
Scott Kveton & Jason Glaspey
This was my favorite talk of the WebVisions 2009 conference. Fun, interesting, applicable.
Top three highlights
  • Using a combination of open source and free tools (detailed below), they were to go from domain name to full website in 2 weeks, including fully functional store and checkout process.
  • Their operations costs for all web/phone infrastructure are $84/month
  • They’re having lots of fun, and people of all kinds are contributing just for the fun of it, like the Playboy bunny who took photos of herself wearing an “I love bacon” T-shirt.
Full Notes
  • Started blog called bacondesk
  • My first online order of bacon from BaconFreak.com
    • “Bacon is like meat candy” ™
    • He had an affiliate program
    • It was clear they were getting about 1,000 orders a week. At about $100 an order, it was clear this was a business
  • Decided to have a Bacon Meetup
    • Listed on Upcoming.com
  • At Christmas, everybody gave me bacon gifts
  • 3 guys…
    • We’re going to make money from day 1
    • We’re going to launch in a month
    • We’re going to have fun
  • Confirmed plans between the week of Christmas and new year’s.
  • Wanted to launch by Master Bacon, on January 21st.
    • Forced themselves into a 3 week process
    • Bacn.com (the “o” is really, really expensive)
  • Recipes drive organic traffic and sales
  • Bacon is a shelf stable product when cured. Then shipping isn’t a problem.
  • Where are we going to get our bacon, and what’s it going to be?
  • Decided on 3 suppliers… the suppliers were saying “we’ve got people who have moved out of our distribution area, and now they want bacon”
  • Have instructional cards on how to cook and store bacon
  • Fulfillment isn’t that tough
  • U.S. Postal service gives you free boxes. Just go to their website, and they’ll send you hundreds of boxes to your house.
  • Website
    • Used a basic content management system, plugged into Google checkout. Do 3-4 hours of work each evening, plus Saturdays.
    • Hired local guy to do design.
    • Didn’t get design until 2 days before the launch
    • Fully functional website in 5 days
  • Twirl.cc: is a url shortener. Leveraged the code to do bacn.me to create a bacon url shortener. Can impose a big bacon picture across the website. Picked up mashables story, lots of promotion.
  • Blog lets them take bacon related content (have you seen the bacon 747?) and put it on the site really quickly, drives more and more organic traffic.
  • Used twitter to solicit people for photo shoot
    • Made bacon tshirts, gave shirts plus PBR away to people whose photos they could use
  • Budget: To get to launch…buy domain name, plus everything else, was $15,000. the biggest chunk was the domain name. Bacn.com was about $5,000. Bacon.com was $750,000.
  • Used all open source for everything…
    • Djenko
    • Wordpress
    • IntenseDebate…great commenting system for Wordpress
    • UserVoice: really easy to get feedback. Don’t need to login.
      • Found out really quick: bacon lovers are really big dudes. Offer 4x and 5x sizes.
  • Total operating cost is about $80/month: fax, hosting bill, etc.
  • Cool group bacon photo was actually a photoshopped picture…all people wearing bacon shirts lined up on wall. Pictures were taken individually, then photoshopped together.
  • T-shirts are their biggest product. They licensed the design of existing bacon t-shirts from individuals / small other businesses.
  • They don’t do any Google adwords revenue, instead they do all affiliate revenue with sites that are bacon focused. They offer 10%, but it is only on purchases, not clicks or views.
  • The vast majority of users don’t like to be referred to another website for payment. So Google Checkout is a major deterent. Having to sign up for a Google account is a major turnoff. But didn’t spend time up front to delay launch. Could launch quickly using Google checkout.
  • Having their own product…
    • Bacn sausage
    • Bacn hamburger
    • They are the only online distributor for these products
  • Q: Did you need to get legal support?
    • A: The company runs as an LLC. The company never opens or handles the bacon. They don’t need to worry about handling the bacon. There aren’t a lot of legal ramifications, other than those that are the usual ones.
  • Q: How do you manage inventory?
    • A: Turnaround from suppliers is just a couple of days. So only hold a little inventory. USPS has priority mail…can ship bacon anywhere in U.S. for 2 days for just $9.80.
  • Q: How did you find out that people didn’t like Google checkout?
    • A: From UserVoice. Someone mentioned it, so then offered it as a choice people could pick “Would like other options for checkout”, surprised by number of votes for it.
    • Use crazy egg to make heatmaps of site
  • Comprehensive list of equipment
    • Craigslist for equipment
    • Friends for models
    • IntenseDebates for comments
    • WordPress for blog
    • GoogleCheckout
    • Endicia for postage: prints label and postage all together. Works with custom label design.
    • UserVoice for feedback.
    • Mimeo for video
    • Django content management
      • Even does packing slips and manages inventory
    • Mycorporation.com to incorporate. Used LLC, but would do it again as a C corp.
  • Use google adword keyword service to assess market size per month
  • Use videos to do education: how to make bacon with a grill bacon. Has a splash page, but it isn’t primarily an advertisement.
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