From a side project to the main business. Interview with Liz Hermann

interview with Liz Hermann


We found the Krock.io review published on Liz’s Twitter and decided to interview her and talk about their product and the recent launch on Product Hunt.

Meet Lukas and Liz Hermann, the Co-Founders who are building, and scaling stagetimer.io, a remote-controlled countdown timer ideal for events, meetings, and presentations.

About the Product and Working Process

How did you decide to create the Remote-controlled Countdown Timer; what was the concept from the beginning and did it change at the end?

The initial concept came from a visit my cofounder had with a friend. Here’s it in his words: “I was visiting my friend’s studio to set up some IT hardware. He was using an old-timer app on a spare laptop and always had to run into the recording room to start the countdown timer and then run out again. I was thinking “Surely there is a nifty online app for this problem that just syncs through the cloud.” But I couldn’t find one. I almost couldn’t believe it! So I made a simple prototype that weekend, using my experience as a software developer. The post about it on Reddit got a good response. This is when I decided to make it available online.” Once the timer was live and users started to come in, the feedback we received led to many iterations and much more complex software.

How long did it take you to develop and launch the product?

The initial version of the product was developed in one weekend and went live right away. There was never a proper launch until 1,5 years later. This was good since once we launched on PH, the product was already validated and growing.

Who do you consider your main competitors?

We don’t necessarily have direct competitors since the other tools don’t offer the remote-controlled or virtual service we offer, but there are many other offline timers out there.

stagetimer-tracker
Create a timer

 

Tell us, what does your job mainly consist of? What work processes take you more time and which do you enjoy the most? What are Lukas’ responsibilities?

As the one responsible for all things operational, I take care of marketing, sales, and customer support. My main activities as of right now are answering customer requests or support tickets, running ads, and writing documentation. Lukas takes care of all things technical, meaning, coding, infrastructure, development, and bug fixing.

How do you manage the working process in the company?

I have a very flexible approach to working, meaning that I do customer support whenever requests come, but all other activities I do in blocks are based on how I feel about it. If I feel like writing, I take an entire day for documentation or writing copy for the website. If on the other hand, I feel more like learning or setting new ads, I simply take the time to do so. When it comes to organizing the work itself, I make sure everything is documented and organized on Notion, so both Lukas and I can access all information at any time.

Share interesting or curious stories you remember.

Lukas first thought that the tool would be perfect for recording studios, so he made a landing page focused on that. Once the first customer purchased a monthly license and subsequent customers came, we found out it could be a great tool for event production. We knew absolutely nothing about that industry but were very surprised by how friendly and willing to give feedback the users were. A common email we get until today is: This is such an incredible tool! How did I survive without it? Oh, just so you know, feature X is not working right now. But all fine, just wanted to let you know. Once again: awesome tool! It always makes us laugh and think: “we should never go for any other industry than that one” 😀

Product Hunt Launch

You posted quite a few tweets before and during the launch. What were the other components of your promotion strategy and how much did they help pique your audience’s interest?

I literally read a bunch of guides and checklists for launching on PH and we put together the launch in one week. We had ordered the video with Hound Studio already having this in mind, but other than that, we didn’t do much preparation ahead of time. Since we knew that our customer segment does not use PH, the stakes were very low for us. It was really just to learn how it works. What really happened was that all our indie makers’ friends on Twitter came in for us and supported the launch on PH by upvoting it and commenting a lot. We didn’t even have to DM anybody asking for support. Just tweeting out about it was already enough. Although this level of support is truly exciting, it can also be dangerous if you are using PH to validate your product or service. Getting so much attention and support from a strong community can masquerade what would otherwise be a small impact launch.

stagetimer-tracker
stagetimer.io modes

 

How did you manage to become the product of the day and what do you think played a significant role in the end?

I certainly attribute it to the support of our followers on Twitter. That was our main and almost only “marketing” channel (besides a very low-key post on LinkedIn and mentioning it on a product update) and was enough to rally everybody to support us on the launch day.

Experience in using Krock.io

How did you prepare for the launch in terms of visual content? You shared on Twitter that the illustrations & video were created by the Hound Studio and in addition to good preparation for the launch, do you think the video helped you achieve this result?

We tried to follow all the best practices: animated logo (made by Lukas), video and image posts, founder’s comments, etc. I believe the visuals made the launch much more professional and attractive indeed. Several people even reached out to me to ask how did we make the video. So one can see that it definitely had an impact.

Hound Studio Explainer Video for Stagetimer.io

 

Is it possible to say that the process went “more smoothly” than if using common communication systems and project management?

For sure! The experience using Krock is just great! Being able to view, comment, send files and point out specific changes all in one place made the whole process incredibly smooth and frictionless.

Share some of your experiences of using the platform: what did you like the most, is it convenient to receive, comment on the content, and so on.

My favorite part is being able to click on a specific part of the image or frame and then write a comment. One of the most annoying things when giving feedback on images or videos is to have to explain everything in detail: please change the X on the upper left corner. Krock makes the whole communication much simpler.

Inspiration and Plans for the Future

What drives you? What books, interviews, and people have influenced or impressed you the most?

What drives both Lukas and me is to pursue things we are curious or interested in and see where it leads. That’s how we started not only Stagetimer, but other projects as well. As for books, they are a constant source of inspiration and ideas for me. Books such as “The Everything Store” (about Amazon), “The Founders” (about PayPal), and “Boo Hoo” (a dot.com company that went bust) are some of my favorites.

Where do you look for inspiration and how to prevent burnout?

I try to be out and about as much as I can. I believe that being exposed to new things (food, places, people) brings in lots of inspiration and ideas. And that plays as an antidote for burnout as well. Lukas and I try to keep things flexible and balanced. We take time every single day for leisure (play video games, read, and in my case, painting also), exercise, and we try to get out of the house often, may it be for a walk or to eat out.

stagetimer-tracker
stagetimer.io, a remote-controlled countdown timer

 

Do you have any rituals, how do you start your day or do you have to do it during the Day?

I start every morning with 1 hour of reading and stretching, and then I go about the work I feel like doing that day. I also paint almost every day and keep a journal (5-line a day style) in which I write every evening.

What’s next, what are your plans for the nearest year? Will there be new products or you’ll focus on Stagetimer?

We are already working on new projects, both connected to Stagetimer and completely apart from it. We are also making plans for a gap year around the world starting in October 2022, when we will visit places we always wanted to while running our business.

What would you recommend for aspiring people who are to start their business?

If you can start by having side projects while having your income generated from your job, I would say you are in for a more low-stakes approach that allows you to dip your toes in the water before diving head-on. Not saying this is the only way, but it certainly worked for us.

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