Interview With Reuben Swartz
Describe your product or service:
“Mimiran is a fun, ‘anti-CRM’ for independent consultants who love serving clients but hate ‘selling.’ Traditional CRMs help VPs of sales keep track of sales reps. But if you're an independent consultant, you're the VP of sales, the sales rep, the CMO, CFO, consultant, and more. So you need a CRM that helps you grow and nurture your network, does a bunch of work for you, and stays out of your way.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Help independent consultants have greater impact for more people while staying true to themselves.”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“It's been a long, strange trip, as the saying goes. I never set out to build a CRM, but I accidentally built the CRM I wish I'd had when as a consultant (ironically, a sales and marketing consultant). I was struggling to use Salesforce and other more traditional tools.
Originally, I just wanted to know if people had read my proposals, so I wouldn't have to leave those awkward ‘just calling to see if you got my proposal’ voicemails. I wasn't thinking of building an app — I just wanted a way to streamline some of the sales process so that I could get to the project work. This was so helpful that I told some people about it, and they asked if they could use it, too. So I turned it from a tool into an app. People got great results and started asking about how to get more leads because the end of the sales process was now much smoother. Looking around, I saw tons of lead gen tools for big sales teams and ecommerce businesses, but for independent consultants, who only need a small volume of leads, but where each lead might be very valuable if you can talk to them, there was nothing that worked the way I thought they should. So I added that.
Now people were getting leads from their websites, dealing with the ‘CRM-y’ follow-up in their tool of choice, and then using Mimiran to automate the proposal process. I kept hearing that they liked using Mimiran but hated their CRM (or lack thereof), and could I ‘just’ make Mimiran do the CRM part in the middle?
I kept saying that the world didn't need another CRM, and if it did, I'd be the last person to build it. I was still trying out lots of tools myself, thinking that surely what my tribe needed was out there. Finally, I got frustrated and realized that my customers were right. Typical CRMs are built for sales teams, not independent consultants, who are the VP of Sales, sales rep, CMO, CFO, and consultant, all at the same time. So Mimiran is a very different take on CRM, focused on relationships and conversations, that doesn't require any formal sales background to use successfully.”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“Mimir is the Norse god of wisdom, which seemed pretty cool when I was starting a consulting business. Of course, no one knows who Mimir is, or why ‘Mimiran’ would relate to that, how to say it or spell it, so it's a pretty terrible marketing name. But everyone asks about the name, and then I get to share this story, so it's a great sales name.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“No. When I was young and had no responsibilities, I was feeling a bit burned out from the dot-com chaos, and I figured I should start a business before life got too complicated for me to do that. I wanted to work half the time and travel half the time. I did not succeed.”
Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?
“How much time do you have? It's one string of roadblocks after another — that's what a startup is. A lot of the biggest challenges were internal — figuring out who I was, who I was trying to help, making time to do that along with having time with my family. Happy to go into details on this or the many other challenges.”
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
It took a while to find this. I read ‘The 4 Steps to the Epiphany’ and followed Steve Blank's advice but still managed to screw it up. I found companies trying to solve problems with spreadsheets that were eager to give me money to get beyond their spreadsheets. But what I found is that they always needed their spreadsheets. They needed endless customization. Meanwhile, my smallest customers loved the features of the app and felt like it helped them compete successfully with much larger firms. Plus, as an independent consultant myself, I understood the market and the psychology of the user/buyer.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“Using my own tool to create awesome lead magnets, having a podcast (Sales for Nerds), and having customers invite peers that they think would benefit.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Weekly active users, MRR, referrals.”
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“‘Startups for the Rest of Us’ is great. (I'm supposed to say ‘Startup Savants,’ aren't I?) ‘The 4 Steps to the Epiphany’ is great, even if I managed to misapply a lot of its wisdom.”
What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?
“Varies. But with The Rolling Stones visiting Austin last fall, I've been torturing my family by listening to lots of Stones.”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
“Mimiran, of course. I've also become a fan of Superhuman for email.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“How much your own mood and psychology gets buffeted by day-to-day events, even though, as a founder, you know what's happening intellectually, and that you shouldn't get too bummed about a customer churning or elated by a testimonial.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“Poorly. There are 24 hours in a day. As important as my work is, I try to make sure my family comes first. My kids will be out of the house soon, and I want to make sure I'm present while I can be. I try to maintain my own center, so I can be present with my work when appropriate, and present in other areas of my life without work constantly creeping in. It's a practice, for sure.”
What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?
“I remember so well the struggle of sales and marketing as an independent consultant who hated those things (the irony of me helping some of the biggest companies on the planet with sales and marketing is not lost on me). When I realized that so many service-oriented people feel that way, and that the lessons I had learned the hard way I could transmit so people could learn more easily, I got excited about the mission. Even on days when I'm tired, or frustrated, and/or distracted, knowing that there are so many people out there who need help keeps me going.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Perhaps the biggest one, especially as an introvert, is the habit of having conversations with awesome people. I thought I hated this kind of thing until I realized I just wanted to have conversations with the right people on the right terms. A lot of this is actually baked into the product.”
More on Mimiran
We walk through the origin story of Mimiran and discuss what’s next for the SaaS startup as they continue growing and expanding the company.
Reuben Swartz, founder of SaaS startup Mimiran, shared valuable insights during our interview that will inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs.