Have you ever met a designer who loves writing client proposals?
Didn’t think so. Neither has Nathan Powell. To spare creative professionals the burdens of putting together proposals, he’s been hard at work building his startup, Nusii, proposal software that lets the pros spend more time doing the actual work that brings in money.
10-hr days, relaunch, trouble with developers… Sound familiar? Nathan graciously took some time out of his packed schedule to tell us about Nusii and his bootstrapping adventures. His is a proposal you probably shouldn’t refuse.
What’s your company about? What do you do? Who are your customers?
Nusii is an online proposal service for professionals in the creative sector. I’m co-founder of Nusii and the creative force behind what makes it tick. Our customers range from freelance designers to digital agencies around the world.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website? Why is it better than the competition?
We’re most proud of Nusii’s simplicity. Many of our competitors believe in “more is more.” We’ve stripped out all non-essential elements and made proposals lightning fast.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
Nusii began life in Spanish. As I’m sure you know, “Si” is Yes in English and elongating the word gave it a kind of fist pump! It’s short, sweet and I hope not to difficult to remember. Even if people do pronounce it in all manner of ways.
What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?
My first computer was a Spectrum+2. I had it for games, games that loaded via cassette and only ever loaded half the time. Ah, the noises it used to make… I didn’t actually get on the web until relatively late. I think I was about 19 or so, and I didn’t have my first “real” computer until I was 21 or 22. I was a late bloomer.
What time do you usually start work each day? How many hours a day do you usually work?
I usually start around 10am. Depending on the day, I finish about 8pm. It’s quite a long day. I’m hoping that Nusii will help to shorten this.
When’s the last time you went on vacation and where did you go?
The last vacation we took as a family was to Portugal. We rented a house in a national park. It was completely isolated, a pool and no internet. Lovely!
When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? During dinner? On your third beer?
Usually just before I fall asleep, which is a little annoying as I have to get up and write them down.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
Nusii started as myself. I contracted out development of the MVP and now I have a technical co-founder, Michael Koper. He’s a great developer and has a real interest in the business side, which helps greatly.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?
It was actually the classic “scratching my own itch” that was validated through interviewing other creative professionals and ultimately through paying customers. Nobody likes writing proposals, at least nobody I know. The fact that there were already other established services out there gave me the confidence to say, “what the hell, let’s do this!”
Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.
Getting the initial MVP developed was challenging. I had $2,500 put aside to see if it was worth pursuing. I’m sure you’ll agree that 2.5k is not a huge sum of money, but it was what I was prepared to lose. The developer I hired got the job done, but there were so many bugs, UX problems – and it was UGLY. This was a frustrating time for me, but it did one thing. It proved there was a need for Nusii, and I found my first paying customers.
How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?
I get very frustrated when things go wrong. I’m quite impatient, just ask my co-founder. Probably my biggest frustration though is time. We always want our services to be perfect from day one, but its never the case. Businesses grow, as do founders. Patience is the key.
What’s your office environment like? Do you listen to music? Watch movies? Play video games?
We work remotely, so my office is a home office. I have my own private space where (in theory) no one disturbs me, but with a family, two cats and a dog it can get tricky. When I work, I tend to listen to music. I love podcasts, but I can’t concentrate when I’m focused. Podcasts are reserved for the car.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
I’d love to see Nusii as the point of reference for proposal writing. Our blog is already sizable in terms of valuable content, but I aim to make it the place to go when you have any proposal writing doubts. Financially, I would love for Nusii to be my sole focus and to provide for both my own family and that of Michael’s.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food?
The people who inspire me are the every-day folks who work to make a better life for themselves and their families. Tales of millions being made is always great, but I love a good underdog story. I want to be one of those stories.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowdfunded? Where’d you get the money, man?
Nusii is 100% self-funded. In the short term we have no interest in outside funding. We’ll get there on our own terms.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
With time in such short supply, if a task isn’t pushing your startup forward, leave it and work on something that will. Focus.
What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?
Take a gamble and go for it, but have a limit. Whether it’s time or financial, put a number on it. If after X, it’s still not working, be brave and bin it. On to the next!
What would you do if you had a year off and $500,000 to spend (on something other than work)?
I’d buy a house for me and my family. Sorry, boring I know.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur? If not, what’ll make you feel successful?
No not really. I consider myself to be very much in the trenches and under the radar. I’ll feel successful when my business allows me to decide when I work and not the other way around.
Top 5 websites you couldn’t live without and why?
- Twitter: I need my feed.
- Dribbble: I come from a design background, and it’s great to get a regular dose of design.
- Mailchimp: I’m in there most days, playing with some autoresponder or another. A solid service. Just wish it had a bit more in terms of functionality.
- Invision: I use Invision to mockup, prototype and test pretty much any new functionalities.
- GoSquared: Analytics. When it’s not crashing, it’s lovely.
What is your music streaming player of choice, and what are you listening to right now?
Spotify. Right now it’s on Radio…
Three people (other than you) we should follow on Twitter and why?
- @pjrvs – A greatly creative guy with an answer for most things.
- @brennandunn – A very clever guy when it comes to consulting and looking at the numbers.
- @robwalling – Looking to bootstrap a startup. Rob is the guy.
Please share some specific numbers (funding, revenue, visitors) that highlight your growth.
Nusii is actually relaunching this month (September 2014), so numbers are difficult. Put it this way, over the last 4 weeks our trial to paid customers has increased by almost 100%. Ask me again in a couple of months.
Courtesy of Nathan Powell | Nusii