Ep 023 - Viral SaaS Growth with Julia Enthoven, Co-Founder of Kapwing

April 28, 2021

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In this episode, Julia Enthoven the Co-Founder of Kapwing joins Tom to share more about how they use the "viral watermark" feature to blow up the growth of their video editing software: Kapwing.

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Episode transcript

The thing that's taught us the most is just doing, I think the best way to learn about growth is just to try things and to see what works, because you'll be surprised. Growth and marketing are changing so much every day. You'll be surprised by what. Your advisors don't know about if you just come up with some creative strategies and go after them.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Confessions of a B2B marked podcast. My name is Tom Han, your host. And before we jump into today's awesome interview, we have to give a shout out to, ah, Webmaster Tools, the thing is completely free, so just Google webmaster tools, sign up, create an account. It will do three things for you.

The first thing it will do is track and tell you when anybody links to your site. This is very important so that when people do, you can obviously track to feed the progress of your link building campaigns. The second thing it will do is tell you about the. Of your site, if there's any on page issue, if you need to fix it, will alert you straight away.

And the third thing it will do is tell you which keywords are ranking. So if you are trying to do any organic SEO work, you need this tool. Google Webmaster Tools and sign up is completely free, and I assume it will be free forever. Now today's episode, I actually wanted to release this episode because just yesterday we were hiking in the countryside in the uk and I saw a van drive past and on the side of the van, he was like a plumber, I think, and on obviously the plumber, whether it's just him or whether it's multiple people, all of the vans have the brand, the nice branding on the side of the van, and I'm saying to myself, this guy, he's probably not a marketer, he's clearly a, a.

But he still does this thing. He still puts the name of the brand on the van. So whenever he's in the process of driving someone's house, whenever he's delivering the service, he is essentially marketing because he's getting those impressions from people looking at the van, especially if the van is parked outside the house that he's doing the work on, and the neighbors are over, like looking out the window to see who's doing the plumbing work.

So this gets me thinking in, that's a strategy that offline old school businesses can use. They can basically put their logo on their car. What is the analogy in the world of B2B SaaS or service businesses online, how can you show your product either as you are delivering it, or can the customer somehow show your product as they're using?

And so the interview we're gonna jump into now is the founder and CEO of a video editing called Karin, the founder and CEO is Julia Ovn, who is an incredible ceo, co-founder, formerly Google App or Stanford. All of those things. Julia jumped on to talk specifically about how Caprin have been leveraging this kind of marketing.

Some people call it product led growth, but how can you market your service or software as it's being. So let's jump into that interview right now. Julia. Hello, how are you today? Hi, I'm good. Thanks so much for having me, Tom. So, Calvin have done a couple things, I think absolutely incredible. We're gonna dive deep into them in this episode.

Uh, but first it'll be good to have like a 32nd of your background and then also how you started Ka. Yeah, absolutely. So I'm the founder and CEO of Kip. I started it with a friend of mine two years ago. Eric, my co-founder and I worked together at Google before starting Caping. Then our background is as web developers.

So, um, when we started cap, we just started building and bootstrapped for a while before we raised money last summer, I just realized that I'd been pronouncing it wrong. Oh, well, uh, tap and Kip are both fine. Uh, Kip is sort of like aia, you know, like Kip something bouncing off something else. Yeah, sound definitely sounds like much, sounds much nicer.

Awesome. So, boots strap, raised money last summer and I think the strategy that I wanna kind of hone in here with it originated in your bootstrapping period. And so I actually, I'm gonna give you the stage and explain the, the watermark thing, how it came about, why you. Yeah, absolutely. So the point is an online editor for images, video gifts, a bunch of other like modern media formats.

And so we started it with basically the idea that it was way too hard to create video and animations using like desktop software. So we started it out of sort of our own product pain, basically wanting to make something better to just create simple video format. Because we were bootstrapping at the beginning, we needed to make money essentially from day one.

Like we didn't really have any money, so we had to fund the business and, and pay. And the way that we did that was we added a watermark, uh, caping.com, uh, text watermark to the output videos so that if someone wanted to remove the watermark from the output video, they had to actually pay us a fee. And eventually we, I think we launched the paywall, like af like three weeks after we launched the mvp.

So we made our first dollar, like less than three weeks, or, you know, like about three weeks basically after we launched the product for the first time. So at the start with a $1 per video to remove the water mark. That's right. It was only $1 for to remove the watermark from one video at the beginning.

And I think this is so clever because the people that either don't have the money or don't want to pay are just going to spread the word. Exactly, and there's this, we kind of like accidentally stumbled onto this like viral effect because of the pressure of bootstrapping. But for example, like Kanye has retweeted a KA meme, Joe Jonas like posted a watermarked video on his Instagram.

We have, we see that Capping videos and images are like, uh, rank at the top of Reddit. They get tons of lights on and retweets on Twitter. So we see that there's sort of like a viral effect by people seeing the watermark and then coming to like look up what it. So this is my next question is how are you tracking the impact of.

So unfortunately we don't have great ways to track it. We have two sort of like anecdotal signals I would say, that we use as a proxy. The first is when there's, when we see something really spiky, like a celebrity sharing a Kip meme or something like that, we can see how that affects search traffic for the word Kip, or for kind of related queries like a Kip text or Kip Mark or something like.

And those to us seem like it's a strong signal that people are basically curious and looking for it. Um, the second is we can see how those things affect traffic, obviously. So for example, if someone like shares a Facebook, something on Facebook with the watermark, then we can try and see like how that affects traffic.

But as we've grown and sort of diversified our acquisition strategies, it's been harder to see exactly what the effect is. Sure of that kinda. But you have, it's like having all these little mini sales people all around the internet that can sometimes firm a massive like way, like can, you can retweet one of your sales people and then have like many of the impressions, like absolutely free.

You didn't even have to create the actual meet. Right? That was someone else on your platform. Right, exactly. And because that's especially strong because our product is something that's built for creators, built for marketers and influencers, people that are sharing on social media. There's a really close like alignment between the people that have influence and our audience, which means the word of mouth effect is really strong.

Whose idea was it with it add to watermark? I don't, I mean, I don't really remember who was Eric and I or like what it originally looked like. Like I said, it was always kind of, we knew that we had to launch something that was gonna make money from day one, and so it was, we always knew we were going to add some sort of mark that people would have to pay for a move.

And so right now it's no longer for an individual video or it still is. There's also the monthly subs. That's right. So now a user can pay $6 to remove the watermark from one video. Mm-hmm. for $20 a month for unlimited access to all of our tools. Yeah. And you are continuing to buy out like a new tools like consistently.

That's right. And we also have like one sort of like more powerful unified studio, which has a bunch of the different tools together. And so we like to say we sort of have like a tea product approach. Like we still build. Individual tools that are optimized for individual tasks, but we also put a lot of development and like unified attention into the studio.

Sure. And there's also one thing that you did, which I don't think is still live with the ability to someone to skip past that paywall and get their video out with no watermark. That's right. So in the very, very beginning, like the first day we launched the product, we hadn't figured out how to like charge people money.

We hadn't figured out integration with Stripe yet. And so instead we just launched the product and people had to sign in. I think they had to, not even, they had to, we hadn't figured out authentication either. They had to give us their email address, like type it in order to get a video with no water. And we realized that we could, like, I'm definitely sure Eric came up with this idea, but he was like, you know, people should have to like tell us why they wanna remove the watermark.

Like they should have to like apologize to us cause its money for us to process their videos. And so we thought that was kind of funny. And so we decided to write, to do sort of like a kind of informal experiment to see how people like responded when we asked them to apologize for removing the watermark.

Like basically say sorry to like a tiny startup for like using our resources without helping us spread the word. And so yeah, we did that at the very beginning. We had a link that said even after we launched the pay, we still kept this link on the paywall page, which was like, I really don't wanna pay.

And when someone clicked that link, they saw Eric and I's faces a picture of us, like frowning and looking really sad. And it was like, we're a small startup. We need you to help us spread the word. If you really can't pay, you can apologize to us and get the video for free. And we wrote a blog post about that that ended up doing really well for the business.

It was kind of the first way we learned about SEO also. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's awesome. So like whenever you do something, if you're in a space where like a small startup would be your customer, whenever you hear something cool you write about, And then that will get you more customers, right? So that's not the strategy we're talking about.

Um, back to the . So back to the watermark. So you guys have essentially seen, like over time since you, well, since you launched, I'd assume you've see a lovely upward ticking curve of organic searches for your brand name. As more people come to the platform and create more memes that spread out into the internet, is that accurate?

Definitely. And actually now, just as of the last, I think in March was the first month when searches for our brand name are like, we get more searches for our brand name than we do for the tools themselves. Oh, cool. Now the brand has sort of become the most popular way that people find the product. The first.

Cool. I actually remember reading somewhere that you did, you had an early strategy where you were just ranking for mean creator, all the other like many tools you have. So now you're saying that actually more people searching for your name than for Yeah. That's really cool. So good. Are you doing anything to optimize or to try and improve that growth engine going.

Yeah, definitely. So one thing we did to improve it was we changed the watermark itself. So it used to be just this like plain white text that said our name complain.com, and we updated it to be like a branded image and like logo with the text. That has done well for us. We've seen now that that basically across the internet, like Kapwing is sort of taking on its own brand.

Mm-hmm. Like uh, on Reddit for example, someone will share cap meme or something like that and someone else will comment, Kip just the word capping. And that comment will get like upvoted basically to the top, all like the comments for the meme. So we also see like people making YouTube videos about it and other things.

We also have optimized it in various other ways. Like we know that if we made it bigger, if we made it like a little bit more obnoxious, then people would probably like convert at a higher rate. But honestly, our focus has just been on growth right now, not conversion. So even though we know there's like a lot we could do to help people, to make people convert, even done that much in the vein of increasing our conversion.

Last thing I'll mention is we also, like did, I don't know if this is something interesting to you, but we did an engineering trick where we basically moved the watermark so that it's not overlaid on top of the user's text, so that if they do add text to the video, we don't obscure the text with. Okay.

And so that's, that was a growth focus change, not a revenue focus change, right? That's right, that's right. So good. As of right now, it doesn't say kaling.com, it says Kaling and is branded. Right. Okay, cool. So you took off the.com. So that would mean you'll be getting less direct, you would assume less direct visits, but more people are like recognizing the company brand cause you have your branding and colors and they'll be searching for the brand name.

That's right. Yep. Cool. And it's so interest, like it's like a new culture, right? Especially on like place like Reddit where people are like using your, that's so good, right? Like absolutely incredible growth channel. Awesome. So we have a quick fire around just three questions I wanna go through now, Julia, as we wrap up.

Mm-hmm. favorite marketing or growth? Definitely traction and I'm gonna forget the name, which is just terrible. Or sorry, the name of the author. It's like Jesse something. Uh, yes. Yeah, yeah. He does. The Founder Behind Doc do go, yeah, that's the, but it just goes through like 16 channels. Yes, it is. Like I have every new employee read it.

I buy them a copy when they start the thing. It's super tactical and just like a great read for anyone who's trying to learn how to grow their startup the first time. Fantastic. Favorite SaaS business apart from your own ? I would say, I mean, this is such a cliche answer, but I think Slack is an incredible product and has like incredible viral growth.

We think a lot about how we can introduce like more communication and teamwork into sort of inspired by. And the person who's taught you the most about growth slash marketing? I would actually, this is kind of a trick answer, but I would say that the thing that's taught us the most is just doing, and so probably the person who's taught me most is my co-founder because we work together on doing a bunch of these stunts.

I think the best way to learn about growth is just to try. and to see what works because you'll be surprised, you know, growth and marketing are changing so much every day. You'll be surprised by what your advisors don't know about if you just come up with some creative strategies and go after. That is an incredible piece of advice.

Julia, thank you so much. I want encourage people to go to Ka w or Google Kaling or go to kaling.com, , even if you just want to see that process of like going in, creating a free video and then having the watermarked video because it's an absolutely incredible growth channel. Julia, thank you so much for coming on.

Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

All right. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed that discussion. I hope it inspired an idea for how you can get other people to see or experience your product as it's being used, whether that's as a B2B service, or whether that is as a b2b. Piece of software and my name is Tomlin. Thank you so much for listening.

Again, if you would like to get a shout on the show, simply go to Apple Podcast, leave an honest rating and review, and I'll get you a shout out. And of course, thank you for listening.

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