SaaStock Local Talks #3: interview with Gaetano Caruana [EarlyParrot]8 min read
SaaStock Local Talks are interviews we at Brainy Bees carry out with people who live and breathe SaaS.
Over these virtual coffees, we’ll discuss everything SaaS related.
The third interview features Gaetano Caruana, CEO of Early Parrot.
You are Gaetano Caruana and you are…
the founder at EarlyParrot. EarlyParrot helps online businesses to add a refer-a-friend system to their customer journey. EarlyParrot will turn your existing customers into raving fans who will go out there and spread the word about your business in exchange for a set of rewards. Business use EarlyParrot to gamify online word of mouth.
How did your journey in EarlyParrot begin? How did you get to where you are today?
I have been in business for 5 years. I started off EarlyParrot as a need. Around 5 years ago, being a technical founder, I was helping a friend launching a service. We had no clue on how to launch the service and decide to create a waiting list approach. Just like how Hotjar & Robinhood started off. Initially, I did some research and found several services that can help. However, none of the services on the market (at that time & still today) offered an easy way how you can integrate a referral program within your existing funnel.
As a technical entrepreneur, I saw an opportunity. EarlyParrot was born!
What is EarlyParrot? What makes it stand out from the crowd?
Referrals convert at a higher conversion rate, spend more in their customer lifetime and tend to refer others creating what is called a referral loop. Businesses who master the referral process, lower their cost of acquisition and reduce their dependency on customer acquisition channels that might not work as effectively in the future.
EarlyParrot is easy to integrate with your existing software stack. Our mantra is to plug with your existing software and wrap around what is already working for you. We will never ask you to change anything with your funnel but rather work around your processes.
EarlyParrot aims to lower the barrier to entry for business to have their own referral program (just like huge brands do) at a very low cost. By integrating EarlyParrot within your business operations, you can benefit from the oldest and most proven customer acquisition method, irrespective of the size and stage of your business!
What are EarlyParrot plans for 2021?
We have two parallel plans that go hand in hand together:
EarlyParrot Software Plan: Top on our list is to make EarlyParrot easier to use. The fact that EarlyParrot is very flexible and can be used in various industries and businesses cases, at times, makes it hard to understand and use. There is definitely a learning curve that we are working on smoothing.
We also plan to develop more integrations with EarlyParrot reaching out to more business, entrepreneurs who want to have a referral program with software that currently is not supported (or is very difficult to support).
EarlyParrot Growth Plan:
Content Marketing: We are doubling down on our efforts to reach out to more businesses, teaching them about referral marketing and how beneficial it is for their business to have a referral program.
Partnering up with complementary software solutions: We have existing partnerships with Thinkific and HeySummit. In 2021, we want to solidify our existing partnerships and also explore new ones.
Go bootstrapping or go to investors?
EarlyParrot is 100% bootstrapped. I think that the bootstrap approach can be applied in certain areas, when you can start slow and the initial investment is relatively small. In certain areas, it is unthinkable to bootstrap a company without the help of investors.
In my opinion, every entrepreneur should at least once in their lifetime experience the bootstrapping approach. As a bootstrapped founder, you will have to think harder at things as one ugly mistake can wipe away your digital products‘ business! Also being bootstrapped you have to be frugal and make the very best use of the resources at your disposal!
How has the pandemic affected your growth? Did you have to cope with churn, or did you deal with more clients?
A good chunk of EarlyParrot’s clients is in the online events industry. The pandemic has forced most physical events to go online. We have seen a huge growth in this area that has compensated for any churn we experienced in other industries.
Overall, 2020 was a great year for EarlyParrot. We have accelerated our growth, a trend that has continued in 2021.
When you’re not feeling motivated, how do you motivate yourself?
I normally listen to motivational talks – Eric Thomas, Patrick Bet David, David Goggins and others. It helps me to grow my mind and look at things differently.
I also have a private list of why I am doing what I do. It is written down in a personal notebook. When I feel down or experience a setback, I find that page and read it out loud I am doing what I do because of him, her, this and that….
The life of an entrepreneur is not easy, long sleepless nights, constantly faced with difficult questions to answer. But in the end, if you are an entrepreneur at heart, it is very satisfying.
What do you feel is the biggest strength of your company right now?
The top strength of EarlyParrot: was always and will always be is the team. I see myself as a conduit. I channel my team’s efforts and strengths. EarlyParrot’s team is fully remote in different countries and continents. It was always like as from day 1.
The second-best strength is the knowledge about referral marketing. We don’t just sell the software. We couple it with a lot of knowledge and experience in the field. We take a business, understand their goals when it comes to referral marketing, and help them to reach those goals by offering advice and also a platform to automate the referral requirements.
What is something you wish someone had told you during your career journey?
I wish someone had told me: “There is no perfect time to do the right thing” If you wish to do something start working on it today, not tomorrow, not the day after – today period. I feel that I have waited way too much in my career to launch EarlyParrot. But anyway we are here. I urge those thinking of jumping in on the opportunity to do it asap!
What is the best and the worst part of being a CEO?
Best Part: You get to interact with a lot of people. Customers and also your team. I am a people’s person and I love to find the strengths in people and help them do better at what they do. I enjoy this!
Worst Part: At times, when things don’t work out, you let people down, you let clients, employees down! It breaks my heart to break bad news. But in business things break all the time. As a founder, I try as much as possible to mask things, absorb the worst parts but it is inevitable that at times people close to you both in your professional life and even personal life will feel that you have let them down.
What is your greatest professional challenge? How did you overcome it and what have you learned from it?
EarlyParrot is 100% bootstrapped. In the beginning, it was really really challenging to see funds dry up quickly and reaching the end of your runway sooner than expected.
How did I overcome this? I doubled down on the time, commitment I was putting. I did things myself, worked 60-70 hours a week making sure I put more effort timewise to get more revenue generated quicker.
What would others call your communication style? Are you close to your employees or do you prefer to maintain a healthy distance, and why?
Informal. I am very informal. My meetings are informal, my communication is informal. I make sure I keep a close relationship with all of my employees. They are the heart of the EarlyParrot. I only see myself as the person who fills in the gap between the strengths of my employees!
I value health communication and I think it is a key metric when it comes to checking how healthy your company is.
If you had to give one business lesson to people who think about launching their SaaS, what would it be?
Launch ASAP/ Launch Frequently. Do not wait to have the perfect SaaS. Just launch it – ugly as it may look like. The key to success in SaaS is to get feedback and constantly improve. Don’t you ever think that you are going to reach a state where you say I am ready – no improvements are required! Forget it! Run your product, create a blog and keep going!
Talk to as many people as possible. I have seen this mistake over and over again. Some founders won’t tell you what they are building as they fear copycats! No matter what you will build, there is always going to be a competitor which does exactly what you are doing. What sets you apart is how you execute your daily operations, what features you include next and so on. Don’t wait till you have the SaaS build to start talking to people about what you are doing. It might be too late!
What other CEOs do you look up to? (and I should interview)
I don’t follow SaaS CEOs in particular. I really follow Patrick Bet David who is not in the SaaS industry.
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