IQBOXY is machine powered bookkeeping for your business

IQBOXY was started by 2 software engineers with a common pain point — outsourcing the health of our company’s bookkeeping to cheap labor was slow, led to more accounting errors and exposed personal financial information to preying eyes.

Along the way we were also inspired by John D. Rockefeller and his most sacred relic, Ledger A. He kept a detailed record of his receipts and expenditures so he could always know the health of his business and life.

“No less than his business life, Rockefeller’s private life was ruled by bookkeeping entries. Since he found numbers so clean and soothing in their simplicity, he applied the business principles…to his own personal economy. When he started working in September 1855, he paid a dime for a small red book, anointed Ledger A, in which he minutely recorded his receipts and expenditures. Many of his young contemporaries kept such record books but seldom with such exacting care. For the remainder of his life, Rockefeller treated Ledger A as his most sacred relic.”

~ (Chernow, Ron (2007–12–18). Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (Kindle Locations 1321–1325). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

It is 2017 and we believe that we needed to own the pulse of our business and that machines could do a far better job than a human behind a spreadsheet in the cloud.
Enter IQBOXY — machine powered end-to-end bookkeeping. With 0 (zero) human intervention.

IQBOXY Founders - Ernest Semerda and Dmitry Birulia
Ernest Semerda & Dmitry Birulia hacking at Y Combinator (W17 — https://www.iqboxy.com)

IQBOXY Lessons

Here are a few lessons from our journey building IQBOXY during the Y Combinator (YC) W17 — Winter program.

(A) How we figured out at IQBOXY how much to charge our customers

When we launched, customers questioned our FREE model.

“what’s the catch? why is it free?”.

So we said, “ok, how about we charge you”. And so we did and peace was restored in the kingdom. We used Stripe ❤️ to process all our subscriptions — honestly don’t waste your time with anything else. Stripe is so simple to setup and get going.

Lesson: some products customers expect to pay for. Especially when it deals with their financial records. So research your market and find a spot that’s competitive. Never get into a price war since the strongest financially always wins (MBA 101).

During the YC W17 program, Dalton Caldwell (a YC Partner) encouraged us to experiment with pricing. If you are a software engineer, you know this is fast to do — ahh the power of being able to hack something yourself really fast without the need for any fancy tools. Our KPI was revenue so we used Stripe to monitor the outcome of introducing randomly rotating pricing pages. You can also achieve this in JavaScript (the crude way) or do it on the server side using Python / Django templates. Then watch your Stripe subscriptions and compare to previous historical subscription data. The goal is to find a sweet spot where the change in pricing is positive or neutral.

Here is what we settled on (IQBOXY plans): https://www.iqboxy.com/business/#pricing

(B) What metrics are important to IQBOXY and why

Our KPI has always been MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue). Apart from being at the root of business fundamentals it is also a good indicator whether your customers love your product.

It’s easy to give away product for free. Anyone can do this in today’s digital distribution market. It is a lot harder to sell. Turning a user into a paying customer requires hard work to perfect product market fit.

  • The product has to be of quality,
  • The product has to solve a pain point and
  • The product has to add enough value that your users love it.

Apart from being at the root of business fundamentals it is also a good indicator whether your customers love your product or simply using it as a temporary swap in for the more expensive one.

(C) How do you balance trying new customer acquisition strategies and doubling down on ones which are working?

book-tractionWe followed the actionable framework and advice of Gabriel Weinberg in his famous book “Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers”.

The book covers every possible marketing channel you can use to get traction, and shows you which channels will be your key to growth. You need to be organized and fastidious in measuring each channel. Then once you see 1 or 2 channels working, milk them.

Observe your Metrics

Finally, make it a ritual (a good habit) to review your business metrics daily. At first, most of it will be numbers and a bit chaotic. But over time your brain develops this beautiful connection and insights will appear.

Quick hack: To kick start this habit, create a new Chrome User called “Metrics”. Set Chrome to “Always open previous tabs” (located in Chrome > Settings). For each tab, open the sites you use to measure your business. For example:

Tab 1 — Stripe ❤️ dashboard to measure Revenue KPI,
Tab 2 — Google Adwords to measure your Campaign Strategy,
Tab 3 — Google Analytics to measure Web User Engagement or Blog performance,
Tab 4— Google Firebase to measure mobile User Engagement and catch errors,
Tab 5 — SensorTower to watch Customer Feedback and App performance,
and so on… you get the drift. Make this a habit! Otherwise you will never do this.

(D) Tips for driving mobile conversions

Today (2017) this is harder and slower than in 2012. But there are ways. And these methods require patience and persistence.

We started mobile first and did ASO (app store optimization) with the help of SensorTower. Initially it moved the needle slightly so but nothing like the early days of iTunes when the app market for keywords wasn’t so crowded.

Word of mouth ended up being the strongest driver for us. Our early users love the product and kept on spreading it to their friends and colleagues. A mobile bottom up approach is truly the most powerful form.

We ended up creating a communication strategy around this and would reach out to our users asking for reviews and comments on iTunes. Positive reviews & comments moved the needle the most on iTunes. This started to push our app position into a more visible spectrum. More downloads, more love, more ratings and more visibility — recursive circle.

~ Ernest & Dmitry
IQBOXY Cofounders
Y Combinator W17 cohort

Thanks to Alexander Strunkin (Deako YC W16), Urszula Semerda, Olia Birulia and Andrzej Bakonski for reading drafts of this.

This post was 1st published on March 20th on Medium under YC Stripe Publication: https://medium.com/yc-stripe/iqboxy-is-machine-powered-bookkeeping-for-your-business-f7c9af314866

Show up. Follow up. Close.

Steli Efti from Close.ioShow up, Follow up and then Close the deal. This is the core of what Steli Efti taught me during the Y Combinator (YC W17) program.

Steli Efti has changed my perspective on sales. He made me appreciate sales more than ever before. Thank you Steli.

Steli Efti is CEO and Co-Founder of Close.io, a public speaker on the art of sales and an alumni of Y Combinator. Steli helps thousands of startups succeed in scaling their sales efforts.

I must confess, before Steli my view of the sales process was clouded by years of bad experiences. One time in the past, I asked this so called sales expert for some tips on selling and he sent me a link to a James Altucher’s sales blog post. Don’t get me wrong, James Altucher is badass. But this was like asking a software engineer to tell you a bit about their art and they send you a link to Stack Overflow. Not cool.

Having experienced this contrast, both sides of the fence, I am now enlightened on sales! Sales, when done right shouldn’t feel like dealing with a used car salesman. Instead it should feel like being with a Rockstar — inspirational and educational.

Show up. Follow up. Close.

Early in a startup there are ONLY 3 ways to make a difference:

  • Design product,
  • Hack them (coding) and/or
  • Hustle them (sell)

Anything else is a waste. Ask yourself, what are you working on?

When selling, be friendly & strong

(a) You cannot be Unfriendly & Strong — you don’t want to kill people, you only destroy value by being this way.

(b) You cannot be Friendly & Weak — in human psychology, we unfortunately abuse friendly and weak people. I have seen this style all too common — it’s something about people living in a dream of goodness but fail to close a deal.

(c) You want to be Friendly & Strong — this style helps you close customers that want to buy your product. eg. Think of a good parent who loves their child setting ground rules. You need to tell your customers what to do. You are the expert, they will listen to you.

Don’t get emotionally involved

Emotions will fuck with you. It’s that endless loop inside your head of “what ifs”. Recursion at it’s best.

Learn to work with your emotions. Some people meditate and others go for walks in the park. Find something that helps you deal with your emotions.

If a prospect questions you, use the primary mode of communication to respond and then go into the pitch on how you can give them value with your product. But never get emotionally involved when resistance arises. And don’t forget your body language is 80% of the communication when meeting people face to face.

Consistency is what wins, not charisma

The foundation of winning is the 10% of showing up and 90% is following up and going for the close. If you don’t show up then there is little chance you will follow up and go for the close.

I have often seen inexperienced sales people sitting around at the desk checking email every 5 mins. This behavior became consistent and that’s all such people do most of their time. My gut feeling is they start to believe selling is answering emails vs closing deals.

I cannot emphasize this one more. Consistency is king!

Don’t confuse talking for selling & selling for talking

Selling is trying to move someone to a decision. We hate closing because this is the “moment of truth”.

We are afraid to do it because it’s easier to say “they loved it but need to think more”. Learn to ask early and ask often. Expect the no and embrace it. Don’t delay it.

Be upfront to see if they want to buy. If they are unsure, then explain “You seem like smart people and I don’t want to waste your time.” and come back to the question towards the end of your pitch.

Make sure you ask what it takes to close. If they say you don’t have X, Y and Z then say “if I get you X, Y and Z will you buy?”. Boom!

Fear, we are all afraid

Fear, the feeling of emotion, is the same feeling in everything, it’s just context.

The difference between a hero & a coward is they both feel fear, but the hero acts despite his fear.

We are all afraid.

On Procrastination

A feature of being human. When you don’t feel like doing something tell yourself

“shut up and do it anyways.” — you don’t have to feel like it. Get over yourself and do it.

“Emotional Alchemy” — learn to deal with them so they don’t stop you from doing amazing things.

Video of Steli teaching how to Show up, Follow up & then Close

Got any sales tips you want to share here? Write below!

~ Ernest

Thanks to Dmitry Birulia (IQBOXY — YC W17), Urszula Semerda, Andrzej Bakonski and Steli Efti for reading drafts of this.