As part of our commitment to celebrating startup successes in North Dakota, we bring to you the story of Justin Walsh, Garrett Moon, and a business making waves in Bismarck called Todaymade. This duo founded the marketing consulting firm in 2009, and it has been growing ever since.
One of the team’s flagship products, CoSchedule, has received a healthy response from its customers. The social media editorial calendar for WordPress was built in 2013, continues to gain followers and is even in the process of spawning its own startup entity. Provided below is the text of our interview with Garrett in which he explains his company’s secrets to success and plans for the future of marketing in North Dakota.
EP: Can you tell us about how Todaymade came about, and how the original founders met each other, decided to go into business, and what your backgrounds are?
Justin and I met about five years ago working in the advertising industry. I was a designer and Justin was a developer, so it was a pretty natural fit from the start. We also shared a lot of the same principals and aspirations regarding business, cloud-based software, and the future of marketing. In the end, we were convinced that we could do things better, faster, and cheaper ourselves.
We began making business plans only months after meeting and finally broke away from the grind a year or so later. We launched Todaymade as a marketing consulting company and web design agency with a unique interest in building web-based software.
EP: How do you think the fact that you’re based in North Dakota has impacted your startup, for good or for bad?
There is definitely good and bad that comes with running a North Dakota startup. On the good side, we have had a wide-open market for the type of work that we are doing. The economy is good, businesses are doing well, and they are looking for unique ways to explore the web. We’ve been able to do a lot with that. We’ve also found North Dakota to be a pretty good place to raise capital. The money is here and there is a lot of interest in the technology sector.
For us, the hardest thing has been finding the right talent. Without a 4-year university, Bismarck has been especially challenging. We do see some of that changing though, and we are contacted frequently by professionals looking to move back to this state.
EP: Tell us about the process you went through in deciding to develop the CoSchedule product.
We developed the idea in January of 2013 and immediately began validating our idea and business model. We followed the Customer Development technique outlined by Steve Blank in his book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, meaning we validated our ideas and assumptions at each step.
EP: How does CoSchedule stand apart from the competition, and where do you see your product development heading in the future?
For us, this started by launching a basic landing page and getting a few hundred email addresses from potential users. From there, we contacted a few key individuals and showed them our early concepts. We gathered a lot of good feedback there that changed our product significantly. I can’t emphasize the value of customer validation enough. Throughout the whole beta and launch process we really relied on our users to guide us. It is a pretty beautiful thing to launch with a product that has already been validated by actual users.
CoSchedule is one of a kind. We allow users to schedule their blog posts and social media messages from a single interface. We’ve literally taken a workflow that used to rely on 4-5 tools down to a single tool, and our users are really responding to that. Most of them tell us that we’ve helped them save time and grow their traffic. This is a big win for us.
As far as the future goes, we have a lot of stuff planned. But again, it’s all focused on customer feedback. Our goal is to help publishers create and distribute their content, so we always keep things within those parameters.
EP: What is on tap for CoSchedule and Todaymade for 2014?
CoSchedule is currently seeking a round of funding that will allow us to separate CoSchedule from the Todaymade umbrella. This will give CoSchedule the dedicated team it needs to blossom and provide support to our rapidly growing user base. Todaymade will continue to grow as a marketing and web development company, and its goal will be to use its experience building CoSchedule as a catalyst for other startups in the area. Long-term, we would love to be an incubator of sorts. At the heart of it, I think we are a products company, and there is a lot of room for expansion in that area.
EP: What is the startup community like in Bismarck, and what trends do you see happening there?
There have been a few efforts but definitely not as much as we would like. One of our goals in 2014 is to start fostering that community. One success story can go a long way and add some energy to the water stream.
EP: What are your biggest needs as a company in 2014?
Talent and capital. We will be doing some hiring in 2014 and will have a lot of opportunities for someone looking to be more involved in a startup. We will also be closing the round of funding that I mentioned. We have a good handle on that already, but it will definitely be something we need to finish up this year.