Thought I would write a few posts to reflect on what I’ve learned with my startup, Alikewise, day jobs, and NYC. This is the first.

Quick history: I decided to leave a comfortable job at a great design firm in early 2009 to pursue this idea, spent about a year getting things off the ground, and launched earlier this year. A couple of months ago I took an opportunity at Stack Overflow.

Alikewise is a two-person company, and we are quite enamored with the DIY thing. I figure there is nothing I can’t learn.

So we decided that PR was one of those things. We figured it was all about putting in the time, finding the right names, sending email, following up. Almost nothing resulted from that.

We reluctantly hired a (very) small PR firm. We are paying in the low 4-figures on a 3-month contract.

The results have surprised us — a steady stream of articles and blog posts, probably 20 substantial ones so far. Each article manages to ripple out to Twitter and Facebook and other blogs. We’ve gotten around 1000 new users over the last month.

Our PR team is not particularly tech-savvy, but they’ve gotten it done. I don’t think it’s magic — I think it’s elbow grease and good instincts.

Editorial articles (ie, written by real people at real publications) have given us the highest-quality traffic: low bounce rates and high time-on-site. Them’s our customers.

Aggregators like Reddit and StumbleUpon are lower quality but higher quantity traffic. StumbleUpon is our largest referrer, but the bounce rate is high. We’re not complaining, but aggregators will not make your business.

(Facebook and Twitter, btw, and medium in both quality and quantity. That’s to be expected: they are halfway between editorial and aggregator.)

Each new customer acquisition at this early stage is disproportionately valuable. The first 1000 real people are the difference between existence and non-existence. If it ain’t happening, you gotta consider getting help.

So, lesson learned: I am glad we tried the DIY PR route. When it became clear we weren’t getting it done ourselves, we switched from DIY to “YDI”: alright, You Do It.

Coincidentally, it’s allowed me to focus on our product and our customers. :)

Future topics:

  • A day job can be good for your startup
  • Focusing on the “normals”