Seth Louey is a founder, maker, bootstrapper, and bot influencer who has been in the world of Bots pretty much since the beginning in 2016. He is a founder of Botlist, one of the largest directories of bots on the web. Before being in the maker/startup space, he worked as a creative director/product designer at an assortment of different companies including a startup and a game studio. In 2017, he was a nominee for Maker of the Year on ProductHunt and is currently working on a new product called ChatMod, which is in the Cryptocurrency space.
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💡 What inspired you to start Botlist?
I actually started Botlist with a couple friends as Facebook was coming out with a bot platform in the Spring of 2016, and getting it out before F8 was the major goal. Around that time, bots were really starting to bubble up and we thought that creating a directory would be a massive opportunity at the start.
🤖 What got you into Bots?
So a lot of people don’t know this, but before I was working on my own projects, I worked for a video game studio for about 4 years, and actually with one of my co-founders for Botlist was with me there. Both of us wanted to work on cool projects, and we even created a cool project, similar to Slack, that was built entirely on “bots’, and it was my first step into automation, even before bots really started to get a lot of steam behind it.
🔮 Did you forsee this coming, I mean the current shift towards chatbots?
Yea, I still do clearly (as I still run Botlist), but I still have vision, where Bots will be an asset to everyone’s life. There’s still so many tasks to handle as entrepreneurs (marketing, social media, project management), and automation can allow us to spend our time and mindpower on other things that we have to focus on. I still think bots are gonna be the future, but society just has to continue catching up as it all moves forward.
💰 Has Botlist always been 100% bootstrapped?
Yea, from the beginning. it’s all been bootstrapped, and also many don’t realize, but it’s 100% automated as well. We launched just a couple days before F8 2016 and got just a massive amount of people from the start and we kept it bootstrapped from there.
💵 Are you monetizing BotList? How?
Communities are usually really hard to create revenue around, and we’ve even had to change our business quite a bit through the journey. I actually closed the community part of the directory down to be a members only last year. Before I used to manually test every single bot and it became a little bit crazy so I started automating it all. We get about 300,000 pageviews per month and in terms of revenue, it’s just enough to keep the doors open, but I’m always looking for more ways to bring people on board to really see the value of bots.
🚀 What’s your coolest moment with Botlist? (Other than your launch before F8)
Biggest moments in Botlist history was obviously, as mentioned, the F8 launch, as everyone was scrambling fast to find the bots that Facebook was hyping everyone about. We were able to get on TechCrunch, Engadget, etc right from Day 1.The second coolest moment is really a collection of stories about how many stories that I just didn’t know about but heard overtime about the marketing power of Botlist. Someone recently told me that they get more people to their bot through Botlist over the default Facebook Messenger Bot tab. Another cool thing is hearing about reporters in the UK who found a Fitness Bot through Botlist and really hearing about them using the platform as a way of discovering startups.
📝 What are your biggest lessons from Bootstrapping?
It’s a lot about creating and refining a business plan. It comes down to being able to develop a way to come a quick decision and really being able to not regret that decision afterwards.
👥 How did you get beta testers and grow that network of early evangelists for your project?
Our first users and customers turned out to be bot makers. It was a little bit easier for us and it was helpful for us that we had some people from major companies who have really been with us from the start. A huge piece of the early growth and potential with the platform came from major advertisers on the site and that has really carried through even through the present day. For bootstrapping, it’s really figuring out where the money can come from early.
📈 What are some major lessons that you’ve learned about doing and sales marketing on a budget with bootstrapping?
Actually, we don’t really do any marketing, and it’s ended up being all organic. I mean, we did do a few things like writing articles and being able to get that content distributed as much as possible, and it’s all automated, which really helped keep it focused and on a budget. We try to automate as much as we can through tools that we’ve even created ourselves to really automate marketing and it really helps with bootstrapping.
🛠 So to ask further, was it a lot of tools that were using and just a few things built by your team?
Well, we like to build stuff, so we built a few tools and even helped with the creation of few tools that we have used that have gone on to become SaaS startups. We don’t really want to spend too much, so it really came down to just try doing what we can ourselves, even building tools, to keep it cheap, just since we’re bootstrapped.
📚 Where have really been the most useful places online where you’ve been able to get that early feedback, sharing the ideas around, etc?
As a maker, you only have so much time in the day to really finding a good time to be a part of those communities and even giving back with feedback is really, really necessary if you’re early on the scene. I would say IndieHackers has really been an amazing community for me and Botlist for sure. Also, ProductHunt changed my career, and it led me to going from being a creative director to a creative entrepreneur in the greater maker community. ProductHunt, IndieHackers and WIP.chat, and Dribbble have been the top places. It’s important to not just lurk in those communities, but also to give back and be engaging when you can.
🌎 What are some ways to engage in those communities?
You can pull a page from Gary V’s handbook: Jab, jab, jab, right hook. It’s always about giving back. I don’t usually shy away from someone needing advice, and I think the main thing is just participate, and then, ask for a favor. Once you’re engaging and an awesome member of that community, people will do anything they can to help you.
💻 Who has inspired you the most in your path as a founder/maker so far?
I think those influences and mentors always change. Mubashar Iqbal really got me into the whole marker/creator community, and then you can go from someone like him as the #1 Maker on ProductHunt to someone like Grant Cardone. I aim to hold as many outlooks as I can when it comes to business so I try to diversify the people I follow and take inspiration from to not be pigeonholed. When you’re creating SaaS products, there’s a lot to learn, and I myself focused on sales pretty much exclusively for this year alone. I know that Botlist has a lot of value, but I haven’t always been able to communicate that value well. When people don’t see the opportunity through metrics and numbers, there’s a lot more to try out. So, it’s about trying to take different pieces of knowledge from each of these mentors and putting it all together to really get ahead.
📌 What are some products that have inspired you with Botlist?
I think Nomadlist is something I’ve looked up to a lot in terms of community and has really helped us find our way with creating a “niche” community. IndieHackers was another fully bootstrapped project, and I think there’s so many cool new Cos out there that can be started and bootstrapped because of the tools and resources that have come about in recent years.
🤯 What do you think were some massive changes since the initial days?
The interesting bits about it is that, initially, it felt like everyone was building bots due to the number of ways to do it, which is great to figure out what is good and what is bad. But at the end of the day, you’re trying to solve a problem and make a business out of it. If there’s no inbound revenue or outlook of it, there’s no real business. The hype cycle was really cool, and it declined quite a bit, but we’re now at this point, we realize that bots are more campaign-based rather just general like a Nike bot telling a joke. It’s still though, at a point where people are trying to figure out how to interact with them, and there’s a really hopeful future. As technology grows as well, it’ll be cool to see these basic interactions to improve.
📆 What do you think the Bot ecosystem will look like overtime?
I think we’ll see people finding a lot of ways to take their data from the major platforms and try news things due to policy changes, not to dig into it too much, but like in Facebook. I won’t get into it too much, but I think there were be alternatives made to be outside of the major platforms.We’re also seeing a lot in the voice space, but until we get to the point of our own “Jarvis”, people are going to keep the commands pretty simple and it won’t expand too far for a bit.
📲 What do you think about the future of the new channels for bots?
I think, honestly, we can look at Facebook and how they’re still pushing bots quite well. I think there could still be a lot of potential as Facebook could integrate their own payment system and offer the value and tools for eCommerce brands to take advantage of something like bots.