Tom Lackner – POP

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Tom Lackner is Chief Technocrat of POP, an easy way to launch your business or idea online with a custom domain name.


We’re intensely focused on stripping away cognitive load and simplifying the sign up process. We literally only ask users for 3 pieces of simple information to fully set up a account. To get to this point required us to step back and examine built-in assumptions, like: Do we really “need” your mailing address to register your domain name? Do we “need” you to verify your email address in order for us to trust you?
 Do we “need” your credit card in advance to give you a free trial of our product?


We have members of the team all over the country, so our morning conference call is an important time to come together to refocus on our goals, review our progress, check on morale, and forge ahead. We keep it short, casual and fun — and use Speek so there are no awful 9 digit PIN codes to enter.


Our sign up process and our customer service takes place via SMS. This makes it even easier for our customers to reach out to us with minor questions and to quickly get convenient responses, without crazy ticketing systems and annoying boilerplate emails.


Relentlessly optimize your pitch. Simplify and remove words. Once you’ve gotten it as simple as you possibly can, you’re just getting started — now rewrite it from the perspective of your customer and the specific problem they’re facing. Think results, not the actions taken to reach those results.

SELL was hatched by the same team behind .CO, which is firmly entrenched as the domain name for startups and innovators. Through those connections, we were able to show POP off to a variety of startup communities, and it was an immediate hit. Once we got some initial users in the system, we closely watched their interactions with our site, and provided preemptive customer service that users found refreshingly direct, honest, and helpful. From there we begged them to invite their friends. 🙂


We had to create a custom DNS server to get our signup times down from 3 minutes per sign up to under a minute. It was a huge leap of faith, and required a ton of work, but we realized that this was the “Signature Moment” of our service, and thus it was worth the time to optimize. Don’t be afraid to invest a lot of resources to optimize the key-defining characteristic of your product: the delight (or disbelief) on the faces of your customers will be well worth it.


Our seed investment comes from the same co-founders behind our parent company, which runs the global marketing for the .CO domain. Even though we have not yet had to seek external funding, it turns out that we still need to be as urgent about gaining traction, as diligent about reporting results and as vigilant about demonstrating ROI as if we had external investors.


When you encounter a problem, identify how much it impacts the end user. If the problem is really just an annoyance for your internal team, put it off. Also treat each customer support incident like it’s your only customer support incident. So many startups let customers fall by the wayside because they’re so drunk on programming power.


Two particularly embarrassing experiences come to mind.

First: When POP was first birthed into the world around March, we went to SXSW to show it to some friends of the company and VIPs. Everything went pretty well and we had our first validation of the concept. Until about 4 hours later, when those same VIPs started reporting that POP was sending them crazy text messages about their domain expiring. Turns out we had just added the logic to send expiration texts, and of course we had fudged the scheduling time. We distributed many apologies that day.

Second: We had gotten a rare opportunity to demo POP in front of 400 of Miami’s best and brightest tech people at Refresh Miami. We were demoing from an iPod Touch via Apple TV, so we were careful to turn off iMessage and Google Voice and all the other little notifications that could pop up and ruin our vibe. Of course, we forgot about Snapchat, which around that time was becoming very visible to the general public as a naughty way to send illicit self-destructing videos. The Snapchat notification came in just as we were finishing up our 2 minute lightning pitch, and I exclaimed something like “Dear God, please don’t open that!” Once my pulse returned to normal levels, we all had a good laugh about that.


If your idea is a valid one, and if you are passionate about it, nothing else matters. Execute relentlessly and you will eventually break through those frustrating walls that we all encounter. I’ll leave you with a trite quote from Robert Schuller: “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

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