Naked Entrepreneurship

Trying to Build a Business in Public Without Blushing

Publicly blogging about your attempts to start a business isn't really new, but I need to do it anyway. I promised myself (and probably a few others) that I would, but I've been putting it off for few years now. Better late than never, I guess...

Since I've spent most of 3 years working for a SaaS (Software as a Service) company—Infusionsoft, specifically—I've become somewhat enamored with the idea of building my own online software product company. I've toyed with a lot of ideas, but one dropped in my lap a few weeks ago that really sounded fun. Also, the development work is straightforward enough for me to tackle by myself, working on the side.

The Idea

Online ebooks. Yeah, I guess technically, all ebooks are online, sort of. But the typical ebook is a PDF you download. If the author gets fancy, they may provide other versions you can read on devices like Amazon's Kindle or whoever makes (or buys) that Nook thing. Put simply, they're not designed to be read online.

I work in the Marketing department of a company that provides small business marketing solutions, so my experience with ebooks is with providing them as lead magnets (something free offered to entice a visitor to your site to opt-in to receive email from you). But once a visitor hands over their email address and downloads the PDF, you have no idea whether or not they read it, or found it valuable, or just tossed it into Google Drive because they just hoard that kind of information. It's a complete unknown.

But an online ebook, one where the visitor is immediately allowed to read the information they signed up for, has some real advantages:

  • It's instant. No waiting for an email. No downloading. Just read the book in your browser.
  • It works on your phone. Have you ever tried to open a PDF on your phone, then pinch and zoom to try and actually read it? It's not just tedious, it's painful.
  • You can tell how much time someone spent reading it. Google Analytics, baby! All kinds of information about users on your site.
  • And you can see if they come back. Because it's really just a web page, Analytics will report each return visit, too.
  • You can even see how they interact with the book. If we just install a heatmap plugin (like Hotjar), we can see where visitors spend the most time, how far they are scrolling, and where they're clicking.
  • It's a whole lot easier to change and update. Just make the updates in the online app, and they're instantly available. No more updating the Word document, exporting as a PDF, uploading the file, and changing your links.
  • No worrying about where to host the PDF file. The "ebook" is secure this way. Only those who give their contact information can see it. Nobody can pass it around to their friends who haven't signed up.

Sorry. I think I just wrote an old school sales letter. I warned you, I work in Marketing.

But that's pretty much the idea, in a nutshell: create a SaaS product where people (probably marketers in small businesses) can create and publish a book to be read online. Then visitors (ideally sent to the ebook app by the customer who created it) can give their name and email address in order to read it. Now the app customer has a marketable lead they can follow up with, to try and sell whatever products they offer that relate to the ebook.

The Team

Right now, it's just me, Russell Keppner. I'm calling myself the technical founder, since I'm hoping to find a partner to take on some of the business growth aspects of this project, once I get the initial app functional. (If you're interested, get a hold of me.)

If things go well, I have some other marketing SaaS app ideas that could be rolled together for a more valuable offering. But first, I need to test this minimum viable product (MVP).


I don't know that there's anything to wrap up, but I hope you follow along at home. I need somebody to be accountable to, to get this thing done, but there's no need to discriminate. This way everybody can see how well I keep my promises to myself. Or not.

Just let me know that you're here, so I know to feel bad when I don't follow through. Honestly, that's about the most valuable thing you can do for me. Well, that and maybe subscribe to the service when I get this thing built...

Russell Keppner

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