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All about Sniply as a company and the hard working team behind the product

Sniply Reaches 100 Million Clicks

Sniply Reaches 100 Million Clicks

Wow—we can hardly believe it! Felt like yesterday when we celebrated our first 100 clicks, yet in the blink of an eye, we’re now celebrating a grand milestone of 100,000,000 clicks. Whenever we pass a major milestone like this, I always try to write a post here to reflect on our progress and share our vision for the future.

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Growing a Simple App into a Comprehensive Platform

When Chris, Nigel, and I first started Sniply… it was a dead simple idea. A web app that helps you add a personalized message to the links you share. We quickly learned that app ideas are everywhere and it’s hard to build a real business out of a one-tricky-pony.

It became clear to us very early on that in order to grow Sniply into something noteworthy, we had to expand our product vision far beyond the simple app idea we came up with at the beginning. In order to build a real, sustainable business, we really had to grow our little app into a comprehensive platform.

You hear this all the time, but it’s so true… listen to your users. We’re product developers but not necessarily marketers by trade. The only way we could build a marketing product was by listening to marketers—our users. Building a business is basically helping people solve problems, and fortunately there are no shortages on problems in the world.

Through chatting with our users, we found all sorts of feature ideas and potential areas for expansion. We used to be a single-feature web app, but now we need an entire features page to house our long list of product offerings.

Over the past year, we’ve added features to allow our users to customize the look and feel of their Sniply messages. We built support for custom domain so you can share links under your own URL. We expanded the original hyperlink call-to-action to include buttons, email capture forms, and all sorts of new CTA types. We worked on building 30+ integrations with popular apps like Hootsuite and Buffer. We built a full fledged analytics platform and even included the ability to add retargeting pixels to your Sniply links to help enhance your remarketing campaigns. The list really goes on and on!

From talking to and listening to our users, we were able to expand our product vision to tackle more problems and bigger challenges. The solution to these problems became product features, which in turn expanded our once-simple web app into something more. Nowadays, I consider Sniply to be a fairly comprehensive platform, fulfilling a wide variety of marketing needs for users of all shapes and sizes. There’s undoubtedly still a lot of work to be done, but I’m extremely proud of our team for how far we’ve come.

 

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Always Searching for the Next Big Thing

The moment you stand still is the moment y0u begin to fade away into obscurity. The internet age moves so quickly that 5 years ago, something like Sniply would make absolutely no sense. Likewise, who knows if Sniply would still be relevant 5 years later. We’ve learned to preserve our curious minds—constantly exploring new problems to solve and keep experimenting.

When we first started Sniply, we knew very little about the content space. Having spent a few years in the industry now, we’ve developed a good measure of market insights. With these insights, we’re able to make more educated guesses for what’s coming next and what the next big thing could be.

One such area is the evolution of content. With the announcements of Facebook Instant Articles (FBIA) and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), the publishing industry is really going through some crazy changes. In response to this industry shift, we at Sniply HQ have been working on a new product: PageFrog.

PageFrog is a product we just launched to help content creators publish and manage content for FBIA and AMP, with support for Snapchat Discover and Apple News coming soon. The first version is designed for WordPress users, so if you’re publishing on WordPress, then you’re in luck! We’ll be working on support for additional platforms in the near future.

In addition to our core work at Sniply, we have plans to build many more free apps and plugins—just like PageFrog—in an effort to continue solving new problems within the content industry as they arise.

 

Well that’s it—I can’t think of anything else to say! Thanks for listening 🙂 If you’d like to back track on our humble journey so far, here are the posts I wrote for our previous milestones:

Sniply Reaches 50 Million Clicks

Sniply Reaches 10 Million Clicks

Sniply Reaches 1 Million Clicks

 

Sincerely,
Mike @Sniply

Sniply Reaches 50 Million Clicks

Sniply Reaches 50 Million Clicks

Last year in April 2014, we came up with this crazy idea of Sniply and shared the concept on Product Hunt, Hacker News, and Reddit. After we got voted up to the front page within minutes, we knew it was something special. 10 months later—today—we’re celebrating the awesome milestone of 50 million clicks!

Chris, Nigel and I were the first 3 users of Sniply. Since then, we’ve attracted some cool new users such as HubSpot, Outbrain, Salesforce, Accenture, Deloitte, Unbounce, Experian, Blackberry, Yesware, and 99designs. We’ve been featured on hundreds of marketing blogs including Neil Patel’s QuickSprout and Michael Stelzner’s Social Media Examiner. All within the past year!

 

Path to 50,000,000 on a Shoestring Budget

Having spent a grand total of $0 in marketing, I’d like to take this time to share how we came this far in the past year. We never raised capital and never had the budget to invest in marketing. Instead, we run as a small team and really only had the resources to focus on building the product with our own sweat equity. Chris, Nigel and I spent every waking hour perfecting the product. We talk to our users everyday, listening and absorbing feedback, then injecting that wisdom back into the product. We made people happy, one user at a time.

It seemed like a silly idea to make a single user happy when everyone is going after millions of users, but it wasn’t long before we saw the impact of our philosophy. We started to notice people writing about Sniply. Not just of our tool or the concept, but of the service and dedication from our team. Our users not only shared Sniply as a tool, but they also spread the word of the commitment they felt from us as founders. We started to rally supporters—organically. No affiliate payout, no sponsorship, just relationships in good faith.

As of today, there are hundreds of blog posts out there about Sniply. They’re evergreen content that drives compound traffic to our site every single day. Every new user that comes by is treated with the same dedication. We engage, we listen, and we build. That’s all we’ve ever done, and perhaps all we’ll ever do.

 

Learning About Our Own Product

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We came up with the Sniply idea, but in many ways, the product is defined by our users. Sniply is quite simple. It’s a tool that allows you to add things to other things. What people do with it—we have relatively little control over. As a result of this, we spend a lot of time observing and learning what our users do with Sniply. How they use it, why they use it, and how they’d like to use it.

Over time, I began compiling my discoveries around these mysteries across multiple posts:

What is Sniply?
Why do people use it?
Introducing Sniply Analytics
How are people driving traffic to their Snips?
How are people improving conversion rates?
What is Sniply’s role in brand awareness?
Why do content publishers like Sniply?
Why do small businesses like Sniply?
Why do large corporations like Sniply?

 

Creating an Extended Culture

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We believe that company cultures should extend beyond internal interactions. Culture should be felt even by the user. We do everything we can to create an open culture where users feel comfortable providing critical feedback. We issue refunds on a heartbeat if anyone is unhappy. We allow users to name their own price. We do everything we can to be human beings first and a company second. We treat our users as though we would our friends. We do everything we can to help them even when it has nothing to do with our product.

We hope to think that when people think of Sniply, they think of the people behind the product. Their attachment to our brand should be beyond our logo and our technology. We want everyone to feel as though they’re part of our product development team; that they can shape our product; that they have a voice that will always be heard and respected. Whether people love or hate what we’ve built, our commitment is to always listen and challenge ourselves to do something about it. If someone loves Sniply, how can we make them love us a little more? If someone hates Sniply, how can we make them hate us a little less?

Those are the things we talk about everyday. An extended culture means we blur the lines between employees and users. This undoubtedly gets harder as we grow bigger, but we can’t afford to disregard the very thing that got us this far.

With that said, thank you all for being part of our ongoing journey!

 

Sniply Reaches 10 Million Clicks

Sniply Reaches 10 Million Clicks

Last month, 30 days ago, we celebrated our big milestone of 1 million clicks on our beloved Sniply links. Today, we’re extremely proud to announce…

We just passed 10 million clicks!

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We don’t believe that our progress has been a result of luck. It’s really the hard work of everyone involved. We call them the Sniply Family, and the Sniply Family extends far beyond the founders. It’s the work of our entire team, our advisors, mentors, evangelists, fans, users, and more.

Big thanks to our team

Chris, Nigel, Sophia and I have been hard at work on building the product. Meanwhile… Jason, Parm, George, Awaad and Jackie have been spreading the word of Sniply far and wide. As we grew our users, Jane, Jars and Vicky took great care of every single one of our guests. On top of all this, Dalia and Katie put together this amazing (but kind of crazy) Sniply Blog.

Big thanks to our mentors

When Sniply acquired Hoverpost and Headshare, we brought on Gregg and Sébastien as advisors to our team. Dean, Wayne and Christian mentored us for a whole year in 2013 and we learned so much from them. Our founding team was assembled through The Next 36, which is the hard work of Tim, Claudia, Reza and Ajay. Last but not least, Sniply is headquartered at the Digital Media Zone (Ex-Google office) in Toronto’s Dundas Square thanks to Matt, Alan and Sean.

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Big thanks to our evangelists

As I’ve mentioned before, we have no marketing budget. We’re extremely fortunate to have the support of so many amazing evangelists. You guys give us feedback on the product, tell your friends about Sniply, and even take the time to write articles and blog posts about our work. What more could we possibly ask for? We can’t thank you enough!!

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At the end of the day, building a startup is hard. It’s harder than anything we’ve ever done, and so much harder than we ever imagined. Everyday is literally an uphill battle. It’s the support of the Sniply Family that keeps pushing us forward. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Thank you everyone!

Sniply Reaches 1 Million Clicks

Sniply Reaches 1 Million Clicks

We just hit One Million Clicks!

million-click

No, we didn’t get acquired for billions of dollars. No, we didn’t raise a hundred million dollar round. However, this really is a big milestone for us! When we first started Sniply, we weren’t sure if anyone would see the value in Sniply… Four months later, it’s hard to believe that our beloved Sniply links just reached one million clicks!

We’d like to take this time to really thank our proud evangelists who took the time out of their busy lives to help Sniply grow. We’re a hyper product-focused team without a marketing budget, and we really couldn’t have hit this milestone without your help!

Big hugs and much love to these beautiful folks:

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Almost all the features we build are in response to your feedback and requests! Keep them coming and we’ll keep building 🙂 Tweet your ideas and suggestions @Sniply or email me at [email protected]

 

Sniply Acquires Hoverpost & Headshare

Sniply Acquires Hoverpost & Headshare

Sniply to Acquire Hoverpost and Headshare

Toronto-based Sniply today announced that it has reached agreements to acquire Colorado-based Hoverpost and Paris-based Headshare.

The acquisition supports Sniply, Hoverpost, and Headshare’s shared mission to introduce continuous innovation in online marketing. The combination will help accelerate growth and user engagement under a single brand.

“Hoverpost transforms multimedia content, like YouTube videos, into marketing opportunities for anyone,” said Michael Cheng, Sniply founder and CEO. “When I first met Gregg, I immediately knew that our visions were aligned in terms of where we wanted to take the product.”

Gregg Blanchard, Hoverpost founder, said, “We’re thrilled to join the Sniply family. With their support, we can extend Hoverpost to all types of content on the web with a greater user experience.”

“Headshare is practically the European cousin of Sniply,” said Cheng. “Sébastien and I have been working on solving the same problem with a very similar approach. Instead of competing, we decided to join forces.”

Sébastien Saunier, Headshare founder, said, “We are excited to work with Michael and the Sniply team to deliver a much better workflow for our users. Sniply’s integrations with numerous platforms will make a big difference moving forward.”

About Sniply

Sniply’s mission is to give people the power to customize the content they share. People use Sniply to enhance social media sharing through commentary, suggestions of relevant content, and opportunities for engagement through curation.

About Hoverpost

Hoverpost allows people to embed multimedia content into their own website through a link-shortener. People use Hoverpost to convert social media sharing into traffic for their website.

About Headshare

Headshare is a link-shortener that allows people to share links with a custom header. People use Headshare to engage their audience and drive traffic to their website.

Meeting the YCombinator Partners: Sniply YC Interview

Meeting the YCombinator Partners: Sniply YC Interview

We just interviewed at YCombinator — here’s the full transcript

Two weeks ago, I published the written application that got our 4-week old startup, Snip.ly, an interview with Y Combinator. Last week, we flew down to meet the partners but alas, we were rejected. Nonetheless, I’m sharing our full interview to help others prepare for their applications in the future.

This transcript was re-constructed to the best of our abilities from our collective memory, it should be largely accurate but please pardon any discrepancies. For privacy reasons, specific names and organizations have been intentionally kept out.

11:45 am — 320 Pioneer Way, Mountain View

YC Partner: So you guys are making a link shortener?

Me: Yes.

YC Partner: Like Bit.ly?

Me: Let’s dive into why Bit.ly is not as good. We built the only link shortener that drives conversion. Bit.ly just shortens your link. We actually allow you to add a call to action to the page that you’re sharing.

So what would be an example use case?

Let’s say I’m running a charity. I can share a CNN article on the Japanese earthquake, and I can actually add a message inside that says “support these victims – donate now” and include a link to my charity.

So you frame the article?

Right.

They don’t do frame breakers anymore?

Of the top 1000 sites, 89% of them have no limitations around iframes. Typically the ones that block it are secured sites like banks, and those are not the typical sites that people share.

Do you have customers? How far along are you?

We launched 7 weeks ago, as of today we have around 700 users, and we’ve been tracking 13% week over week growth.

Who’s the biggest user?

The biggest user right now is [a University in Canada]. They’ve shared a good number of links, and I actually work with them personally to develop their call-to-actions. We give our users the opportunity write any message, but just like Google Ads, it’s not always easy to write a good one-liner. I studied everything about them and identified all their potential call-to-actions, such as job opportunities and campus tours. We do a lot of hand holding with our users to help them write effective Snips.

Have they been successful with their calls to action?

Our 700 users have created 7,000 links, and those 7,000 links have generated 70,000 clicks. The call-the-action click through rate is 3%.

Let’s check it out, see what it looks like.

I have a few articles here. This is a Forbes article on “Why Hipmunk is the best travel site in the world”, I want to share it so I come to Snip.ly (snip.ly), I put in the long url and add a message “book your flight today on hipmunk.com” (snip.ly/as6). I can generate a Sniply link, and now instead of sharing a Bitly, people who click on the link will be read this article about Hipmunk along with an immediate call-to-action to book your flight on Hipmunk.

Here’s are a few more examples:
Airbnb on Buzzfeed (snip.ly/NIY)
Myo on The Next Web (snip.ly/FtW)
Optimizely on Smashing (snip.ly/Hst)
Pebble on Gizmodo (snip.ly/xoM)

My brain filters that out. I only notice it because you pointed out the message at the bottom.

That’s actually by design. We don’t want to be intrusive. We want people to be engaged with the actual content, and this approach has resulted in our 3% click through rate. I think there’s room for improvement, such as designing different ways to display the message.

Where have they been showing the links?

Mainly on social media; Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin. We have about 30% through email and 70% on social networks.

And then you said 3% click through rate on the banner?

Yes.

That’s pretty good. So what’s the plan for this?

The reason why people use us is because we drive conversion. Everything we do is to fulfill that end. Right now we’re working on ways to optimize conversion. In the demo, you saw text links. We’re working on things like the ability to add buttons and various types of interactions. We’re closer to the bottom of the funnel than any other link shortener, we’re closer to the money, and we want to be even closer to the conversion point. We plan to integrate elements like form fields, where you can subscribe to something directly in the Snip, or payment integration so users can make purchases on the spot.

Is this a durable business? Do you think it’ll be easy for someone to clone what you’ve done?

Nearly half of our users have our browser plugin installed. So we’re integrated into their workflow and that’s going to increase.

But if Bitly added this tomorrow…

It’s typical innovator’s dilemma. Their focus is very different. Their core product, the brand tools, start at $1,000/mo. It’s quite a jump for them to do what we do. We’re willing to bet that by the time Bitly responds, we’d already be quite established. I also think this is a startup that YC could have a big impact on, because if you can connect us with the right influencers early on, it would make it very difficult for new comers to enter the space.

Why is it difficult for new comers?

Brand affinity is really important. If [a key influencer] starts using it, there’s a good chance their followers would embrace it as well. Once people start integrating Snip.ly into their workflow, it’ll create a barrier to entry. We also have a growing database of user analytics. The longer you use Snip.ly, the more data you’ll have access to in our dashboard. There’s also an opportunity to build optimization tools. Right now, I’m manually optimizing messages for our users, one by one. Consider Mailchimp and their automated optimizations to improve Open Rates, or Google Ads and their resource pool on how to write effective ads. Compared to new comers, we’ll have a lot more data in terms of what actually drives conversions.

What’s the revenue model?

A handful of users have approached us asking for a paid version. Some of the paid features include custom url, customization of how the bar looks, different colors, fonts, etc. We plan to start with a SaaS model. Our product becomes more valuable as we move into users with more followers, so when we scale into top influencers and big brands, we may consider a pay per click model based on actual conversions.

Do you think the sites will mind that you’re doing this?

Content owners actually love us. What we bring to the table is incentivized sharing. People are more likely to share content as a result of Snip.ly. We confirmed this with [a large Canadian tech publication] and they reported a rise in content sharing since the launch of Snip.ly. We matched this with our own analytics and found that before and after using Snip.ly, users share 14% more links than they did before.

How did you guys end up working on this?

We think it’s really the perfect timing. Buffer and Hootsuite have made it extremely easy to share, and there’s more content out there than ever before.

How excited are you about working on link shortening for a significant chunk of your life?

The users are the ones that get us excited. The people who actually derive value from our product. According to [an executive from Yahoo], enterprise marketing campaigns generally see conversion rates between 0.3-0.4%, so our 3% conversion is really exciting. We’re also excited about the fact that we’re tapping into the true motivation behind sharing. A lot of people share. Hootsuite has 8 million users, they’re all sharing, but almost everyone has a call-to-action. They want you to buy their book, try their service, whatever it is. We see Snip.ly as much more than just link shortening, Snip.ly doesn’t just give you more characters in your tweet, it actually drives conversion. It’s also really exciting to watch how people use Snip.ly. We’ve seen people overlay promo codes on Eventbrite pages, add commentary to give context to the content, offer limited time freebies, and everything we see inspires us on what to build next.

Is this growing virally?

Absolutely no paid marketing. Everything has been referral and word of mouth. Every time someone clicks on a Snip.ly link, they see the Snip.ly bar. The 70,000 clicks are all impressions for our product.

How many users did you say?

700 users, launched 7 weeks ago.

And how fast are you growing?

13% week over week.

How long have you all worked together?

We worked on a previous startup together, we met a year and a half ago at [a Canadian accelerator]. The previous idea didn’t work out but we stayed together.

Who does what in the team?

I come from a design background and I also spend most of my time talking to our users. [Chris and Nigel] do the technical programming.

Is it an equal split among the 3 of you?

Yes.

Okay it’s time to wrap up, thank you.


7:03 pm — Email from [YC Partner]

I’m sorry to say we decided not to fund you. It was a difficult decision because we enjoyed talking to you, Chris and Nigel and we like the idea of a link shortener with conversion.

We can see how you could build a solid revenue-generating business with this, but we worry we can’t see it becoming the huge type of company that investors like to fund. We’d encourage you to think about what this is a feature of on the path to being the next Google.

We wish you the best of luck and we’d be happy to hear from you again in the future.


The entrepreneurial spirit is all about sharing. We decided to share this to help others prepare for their YC interviews in the future. Please pay it forward, share this with your friends, we’re all in this together!

How to Get a YCombinator Interview: Sniply YC Application

How to Get a YCombinator Interview: Sniply YC Application

4-Week Old Startup Gets YCombinator Interview — Here’s Our Application

If you have an online demo, what’s the url?

Website: http://www.snip.ly
60-second walkthrough: https://vimeo.com/89670092

What is your company going to make?

Snip.ly is a link shortener that drives conversion. It lets you embed messages into every page you share across social media. Here’s an example of my Snip.ly message on Y Combinator’s home page: snip.ly/dBy. It works like a link shortener, but allows you to embed into the page your own call to action, commentary, announcements, and pretty much anything you want. You can promote yourself while sharing articles from TechCrunch, Forbes, Mashable, etc. Every shared link is a lost opportunity if you’re not using Snip.ly.

Why did you pick this idea to work on? Do you have domain expertise in this area? How do you know people need what you’re making?

Sharing is huge. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn Newsfeeds are filled with content people are constantly sharing. Yet few share for the sake of sharing. People share to build thought leadership, an audience, and a following, so they can ultimately push their own brand, their messaging, campaigns, and Call to Actions. Sharing is meaningless without conversion. We built Snip.ly as a link shortener that drives conversion, by allowing people to embed their own Call to Actions into the pages they share, extending their brand into shared content and driving conversion. We know people need what we’re making because we can see hundreds of snip.ly links being shared everyday. Check out this real-time twitter stream: https://twitter.com/search?q=snip.ly&src=typd&f=realtime.

What’s new about what you’re making? What substitutes do people resort to because it doesn’t exist yet (or they don’t know about it)?

Currently, people primarily use Bit.ly for link shortening. However, Bit.ly serves absolutely no purpose other than simply shortening the link. It does not drive conversion, it does not extend your brand, it does not include your call to action, it just offers extra characters in your tweet. After sitting on the front page of Hacker News with a ton of comments from the community, no one has pointed out any substitutes or similar services, which leads us to believe we’ve built something that doesn’t exist yet. Also, the fact that we were voted to the top showed us that not only is it new, it’s something that people want. We saw the same results on Reddit and Product Hunt.

Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?

Link shortening is the vehicle of which we use to deliver our value proposition, which makes Bit.ly one of our competitors, since they’re integrated natively into many platforms. To counter that, we built a browser plugin that integrates Snip.ly everywhere for our users. Another potential threat would be social sharing dashboards such as HootSuite and Buffer, both of which could integrate our functionality. However, it’s safe to say that their value propositions are sufficiently different. HootSuite focuses on managing social media relationships across multiple accounts, and Buffer focuses on enabling consistent sharing activities. On the other hand, our value proposition is driving conversion through sharing.

What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don’t get?

What we understand is that sharing is all about conversion. It’s not just about sharing more consistently (Buffer), it’s not just about managing relationships (HootSuite), it’s not just about having more characters in your tweet (Bit.ly), sharing is meaningless without conversion. It is the underlying motivation behind sharing, and we get that. We also get that the closer we are to the true motivation, the more valuable our product is, and the more likely our users are willing to pay for the service.

How do or will you make money? How much could you make? (We realize you can’t know precisely, but give your best estimate.)

We believe that when you help people make money, it’s easy to make money. Snip.ly generates a clear ROI since we drive traffic directly to the users’ Call to Action. We plan on introducing a performance-based subscription model, for example, free for up to 100 CTA clicks/mo, $10/mo for 1000 CTA clicks/mo, etc. We could also charge premium for customization features such as custom positions, sizes, colors, fonts, etc.

How will you get users? If your idea is the type that faces a chicken-and-egg problem in the sense that it won’t be attractive to users till it has a lot of users (e.g. a marketplace, a dating site, an ad network), how will you overcome that?

Snip.ly is inherently viral. Every Snip.ly link that is shared serves as promotion for us since we have our logo on every Snip. The people who use snip.ly are influencers, people who actively strive to build a following, so our reach grows exponentially over time with each user we acquire. Many who follow influencers tend to have a following of their own, so the viral cycle keeps rolling. We don’t face the chicken-and-egg problem since Snip.ly is a tool that rides on natural sharing behaviors and existing networks.


The entrepreneurial spirit is all about sharing. We decided to share this to help others prepare for their YC interviews in the future. Please pay it forward, share this with your friends, we’re all in this together!