Hey - Pat from Starter Story
Today's interview is a really cool, unique story.
A couple of programmers spent their nights and weekends launching a 'physical' product around the whole crypto craze.
They took orders before they even had a product, and they got a ton of press. CBlocks.io
- Name: Auston Bunsen
- Revenue/mo: $32,000 in first 30 days
- Started: January 2018
- Location: Miami, FL
- Founders: 3
- Employees: 0
Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?
My name is Auston Bunsen, I am one of the founders of CBlocks.io
! CBlocks is the easiest way to acquire and learn about cryptocurrency.
We do this by generating random wallets from the top 100 cryptocurrencies for our customers, funding them & shipping them on a USB drive along with software to manage & learn about them.
We launched in mid-January and made about $32,000 in our first 30 days. I co-founded CBlocks with PK Banks & Mario Aguayo, two of my former coworkers.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve been a web developer for like 12 years, I’ve learned about all sorts of cool technologies over the years.
In 2011, I went to a meetup called Hack&Tell and heard about Bitcoin from another developer named Michael Greenberg. A couple years later, in 2013, I started to mess around with the technology in my free time. In the middle of last year, I started getting into Ethereum and began to evangelize the technology. I believe it’s an awesome platform to build on. I convinced almost every single person I worked with to buy Ethereum and always got feedback that it was “so hard to get started with”.
So, my co-founder Mario and I were all hanging out on Mario’s last day at Wyncode
(where we all worked together), and Mario was saying he wanted to get into crypto.
We actually did not even know what the product would look like when we got our first orders. It wasn’t until we actually had strangers paying us money that we designed the CBlock.
I had recently seen this website cryptoroulette.info
and told him he could literally buy anything and he would probably learn something and make money. PK (my other co-founder) had recently sold his friend a preloaded ledger of cryptocurrencies and walked over to us and told us we should “sell people wallets preloaded with random cryptos”.
We thought that there was no way people would pay us for this kind of service, but we spiked out a site over the weekend and launched that following Monday. That first day, we made $300 from friends and family buying. The second day, we made almost $3000 after being featured in TheNextWeb
and we’ve been getting orders every day since.
Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.
We built out the site using Landing Lion
- most of the work was just around writing copy that was clear. We used Mario’s experience writing copy ads at his previous businesses. We also wrote a little bit of code for payment processing.
As far as our actual product; we actually did not even know what the product would look like when we got our first orders. It wasn’t until we actually had strangers paying us money that we designed the CBlock. We are big fans of the Lean Startup, which aims to eliminate market risk before technical risk. It basically says that the question is not "Can this product be built?" Instead, the question is "Should this product be built?". It’s right in the principles.
A great lesson we will take with us moving forward; customers before product.
Once we realized we had demand for the product, we ordered custom USBs. We spent all of our weeknights, literally 8PM-5AM, writing custom software that encrypted our customer's private keys, automating wallet generation, building a nice user interface, and getting the CBlock USBs shipped out.
We have been iterating on the software and we have some really awesome stuff planned for the hardware side of it as well! All in all, the process took us about 80 man hours over about one week working every night.
Describe the process of launching the online store/business.
We actually created the site over the course of about 12 hours split over 3 days. Mario got the front end of the website done using Landing Lion and then I wrote like 20 lines of code (gotta love Ruby) to handle the payment processing & we launched that Monday.
We had customers immediately. The lesson we learned was - if you get press, you get sales. We just cold emailed TheNextWeb and everything just cascaded from there, we have been featured in TheNextWeb, Forbes
, The Outline
all within those first 3 weeks.
It was a pretty hectic few weeks, to say the least. We lost a lot of sleep, spending time working on fulfillment and automation after regular work hours. On some nights, we were working as late as 5AM.
Since launch, what has worked to attract new customers?
We got pretty lucky that big publications covered us early on. We are just now starting to experiment with things like retargeting & Twitter ads - it’s a bit too early to tell how this will pan out.
We have some big plans for content guides that will allow us to educate customers on all things crypto - we really look up to Digital Ocean
in this aspect. Their community guides on how to set up servers are a model for what we plan to do with our content, helping educate people on the technical aspects of managing their crypto.
How is everything going nowadays, and what are your plans for the future?
We actually have had some interest from Venture Capitalists, so we are engaging in those conversations now. Hoping those will be finished in the next month, and then we are going to be releasing updates to our hardware & software.
We think that crypto is way too hard to understand and way too hard to use for normal people - we are focusing in on making it all easy to get started with & easy to use.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One thing that really stuck out to us is something that has been espoused greatly by the lean startup movement - which is “resolve market risk before technical risk” - that is to say in most cases the real risk of the business is in finding enough people to buy your product or service from you.
The risk is not that you will not be able to build or provide that service - you will probably be able to do that part fairly easily. So that’s a great lesson we will take with us moving forward; customers before product.
Also, timing is really advantageous - we are still in the hype cycle for cryptocurrency so lots of people are curious.
One thing that definitely blindsided us was the order volume, we are currently two weeks backlogged on orders & we are trying to process them as fast as humanly possible!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Stripe for payments
- Landing Lion to set up our landing page
- MailChimp for our waiting list
- Google Sheets for order processing
We have a bunch of custom software in place to generate wallets & load USBs for our customers - this was easy since we all write software.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources for your business?
As far as books, some of our favorites:
- The Lean Startup
- Venture Deals
As far as online resources, Hacker News is a long time favorite!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Think about how to find customers before thinking about developing a product. If you are selling something standard like shoes or something to that effect - definitely get sales before spending lots of time & money on inventory.
And if you can find lots of customers, try to have a good execution plan.
Where can we go to learn more?
Our website is cblocks.io
. Definitely go get on our waitlist for when we relaunch and start accepting more orders.
Also follow us on Facebook
for updates on the business and giveaways we will be doing!
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