Nick Kellet is doing just that with List.ly. He is the co-founder of List.ly which is a social platform for creating and curating lists. List.ly enables users to create lists about anything.
Nick understands that people love lists.
In the following interview you can find out how he is building List.ly.
Success Harbor: Hi Everyone. This is George Meszaros with Success Harbor and I have Nick Kellet with me. Nick is the co-founder of Listly. He’s also the founder of Gift Wrap and Answer Sets. Welcome.
Nick Kellet: Hi, how are you doing? Thanks for inviting me on the show.
Success Harbor: Thank you for being here Nick. Can you tell our audience what Listly is and and how would someone use Listly. Why would people use Listly?
Nick Kellet: Okay, well let’s just before we kind of, let’s jump into the, before I answer that kind of, let’s look at the why and the why really comes from the fact that you know we love lists. Human beings kind of organize their lives in lists. We also have moved more recently in consuming content in the form of a list. So we learn and we communicate through lists and some of our research indicated that something like 30 percent of the web’s content is in the form of a list so things like “10 Ways to” you know, “10 Brilliant Ideas for Your New Start-Up”, you know, “6 Places You Didn’t Think of Finding Your New Hire.” Whatever, there’s a list for everything. Any, any idea can be communicated in a list and there’s something magical about a list that says this is going to be easy to skim, easy to consume. We live in an info-snacking world. We don’t want the full story. We want just the bullet points and lists are like a ready-made bullet pointed argument so you listen to the title of a blog post or a you know, you read a headline in a magazine and if it’s got a list format to it, you now, it’s got a number in there, 10 ways, 6 things, 7 tricks, you know, all of those things communicate to us, this is a list I know I can skim it and and so that contract with people is why, you know, why we use lists and since since the web came along and web analysts came along, you know, publishers have always used lists but they didn’t know how effective they were when it was just print media. But with the web we can track every click and and and the most shared and most viewed posts on most websites are list posts so that’s the kind of why you would use list posts and and and Listly really comes along and says, “Just a minute, anything that’s as serious as lists on the internet has a platform. Right. So, so videos on the Internet are very serious medium. We communicate by video. We communicate via slides so we have YouTube as the place to go and look for videos, upload our videos, share our videos, watch our videos, right, and we have Slide Share for slide decks but lists have nothing. Lists, really people haven’t realized that lists are a form of media all on their own. And yeah.
Success Harbor: So that’s interesting because you know people talk about what makes a great title you know for an article.
Nick Kellet: Yeah.
Success Harbor: And like you mentioned that we, we , we process lists better than any other iinformation and it’s for the same reason probably title that include the 7 of this or the 10 of that and the 25 of whatever,
Nick Kellet: Yeah.
Success Harbor: People for some reason respond to those better than others.
Nick Kellet: Our, our, our subconscious sees that and goes oh it’s a list I can skim it. It, it matches to the title and says, “Oh you don’t need, you don’t even, you, actually see a lot of list content but you don’t even notice because maybe you’re not interested in you know retro cars or or baseball or fashion whatever right. You don’t, you don’t, you’re your subconscious skims out that stuff but when you are interested in skiing or motor bikes or you know marketing books right, when your subconscious sees, “10 marketing books you must read this summer”, you’re like “Oh, I bet I know them but I wonder if there’s something new for me in that list’” and so that’s probably the attraction for me with lists. If it’s a topic you care about you kind of expect to know what’s on the list so you’re really checking off to see how smart you are. You’re checking the author to see how smart he is and if you, if you walk away from a list with one new thing, it’s a good deal you know.
Success Harbor: So.
Nick Kellet: So I sort of think of lists as being like Vegas. They’re like a random, they give you a random reward schedule. Not every list is going to be great but you keep looking because you might hit the jackpot next time.
Success Harbor: So give me an example you know, a blog or or or you know somebody like me with Success Harbor where I interview entrepreneurs. I’m very interested in entrepreneurial topics. How would I use Listly?
Nick Kellet: Well you would, you know, you would decide that you were going to write a blog post that was a list, you know, some tricks. Basically any topic can be turned into a 10 ways, 10 things you didn’t know or whatever right. And and so what you would do is create that list on Listly and then you embed that list on your blog and so you create a blog post that’s like 10 Tricks on How to, you know, Drive Up Video Sharing or whatever your topic is and and you break that down into ten points on the Listly list and the thing is when, once that’s on Listly, people can start to vote on that list so things can rise and fall on what’s the best tips but people can also go “Oh I can’t believe George didn’t put this on the list” right, and they can add to your list so we actually make the content social and collaborative so people can add to your list so we actually make the content social and collaborative so people can add to your list and instead of being added to the comments section on your blog post, people can actually, people become a part of your list at the core of your blog post.
Success Harbor: So what if I wanted to come up with the 10, the top 10 characteristics of a great entrepreneur and I had an idea of what those ten were based on my conversation with all the people that I interviewed, my question is if I, if I have an idea for a Listly, let’s say the top 10 reasons why some some entrepreneurs succeed and others don’t
Nick Kellet: Yeah.
Success Harbor: and I put that on Listly and people look at it and say, you know “You’re way off George. 3 should be this, 5 should be that and 7 is just ridiculous.
Nick Kellet: Yeah.
Success Harbor: So is that kind of the idea behind Listly that it’s really not so much my opinion but it’s what the community thinks is.
Nick Kellet: Yeah well it’s not so much about an opinion. It’s about what we’re all trying to do today. What we’re trying to do today is engage people in a conversation that makes them care and want to come back and want to be a part of it right. It’s not about me being on stage telling you in the audience what’s what. It’s about us jumping into a dialogue and and and and and getting involved, and getting to know what each other is thinking about and how, how we’re progressing and and that’s hard to do and that’s what really Listly tries to do, to focus on, is creating social engagement with your audience by involving people. So going back to your idea of saying you know, these are the 10 things that determine you know who’s a successful entrepreneur, you could just start with three. “Here’s the three things I think really matter,” you know, “What do you think?” and then let the audience add to your list or you could start with 10 and just ask people to vote. You mean, you mean all of these things are valid but basically what you’re trying to do is involve people in a conversation so you don’t, you don’t want a totally black and white answer otherwise there is no conversation. You need something that’s got dialogue, debate, you know. The “no right answer” is more controversial and more open. Open ended is good today, you know.
Success Harbor: Yeah I think Listly is, it really sounds like a really really great idea. How did you come up with this idea and what was your your entrepreneurial experience before, your business experience prior to co-founding Listly?
Nick Kellet: So, so there’s two questions there. One, the idea for Listly actually came from my co-founder who’s Shyam Subramanyan and he, he actually began Listly before me. I, I joined, I found Listly in my own journey and and found Shyam and we kind of internet dated as as co-founders and and you know once I discovered Listly I kind of got talking to Shyam and I, I joined him as co-founder but he was actually looking at the web thinking about the challenges of structured and unstructured data and basically lists in a blog posts are unstructured data because we typically don’t tag everything correctly so Google doesn’t really know that that’s a list and and given how important lists are, when Shyam found out that 30 percent of blog posts are in the form of a list, he was like that’s too serious not to create a product and there’s a business opportunity there. So that was really the, you know, the fact that people loved lists, lists are highly shared and the fact that lists were not really their own kind of platform. That was the, that was the opportunity that Shyam saw and I you know, I saw that too. As soon as I discovered Listly I was like wow, kind of cool because you can involve people in your content. People are always trying to get people to participate. I don’t know if you’ve heard of something called 1- 9- 90 but it, it’s called the one percent rule so if you type that into Wikipedia you’ll find it and it, it basically means that 1 percent of people create, 9 percent of people kind of comment and and 90 percent of people just consume and that’s the kind of soft or hard rule of the Internet and even as people you know, so what, we’re always trying to get people involved and that’s that’s the sort of fun part of it but that was what we saw with lists you know, here’s a way of getting people involved, so the other question you asked me was what have I done before, what were my other kind of things have I done before this?”
Success Harbor: Yes.
Nick Kellet: And I, I’d done several things. One, I think I probably had my last kind of proper day job where I had to borrow some stuff when I was like 23 and I, I started a, a company and it kind of ended up being in the kind of CRM space but after that, and that was great. It didn’t necessarily go very far but we got lots of traction and stuff but but it didn’t come to any kind of material outcome but it was a really good learning experience and felt, when I left there, I took some of the ideas from there and I got focused on segmentation and I actually built a a business intelligence tool called Sir Analyzer that basically allowed people to visualize and use venn diagrams as a way of describing queries and you know discovering business questions instead of using, people typically use ands and ors and brackets and brilliant logic and that’s kind of confusing and venn diagrams kind of made that whole notion much more visual and explainable and that that was a company, I actually sold that company to to Business Objects, and they so they acquired that technology and integrated that into their product line and then after that I actually went on to, it was a lifelong passion to produce a board game. I’d always played a lot of games, I invented a lot of games and even as a teenager I, I tried to sell a computer version of of Connect4 back to Milton Bradley. It was funny. They didn’t think there was much opportunity for electronic games at the time. It’s kind of funny looking back. But I also created some board games as a teenager that I tried to license in the UK and I’ve still got all those rejection lettered from 1984 when that was, I was doing that, but I actually went on to produce a board game and that game went on to win 20 plus awards worldwide. It got translated into you know 12 languages and it was a game about gift exchange. If you were really bad at giving gifts we we’d lie. We basically tell everyone that every gift they’ve ever given is as wonderful and so so we give people bad feedback which means we don’t get better at gift giving. That was a fun experience to to to publish a board game and that was right at the beginning of kind of social media and social marketing and and crowd sourcing so I crowd sourced all of the content for that game. It was very fun. It was an early experience in social. Even then, that was before, I thought it was before, before Twitter which is hard to imagine a world pre-Twitter these days.
Success Harbor: Yeah and then you you started you started Listly after after.
Nick Kellet: I had done a couple of things in between, little experiments and research projects and I was researching and that’s when I came across Listly and I had an idea for something kind of similar to Listly and I found Listly hence I got talking to Shyam who is my co-founder and and realized it was just him working on it and so we you know, we kind of swapped lots of emails and then we had lots of Skype calls and then eventually we decided you know what we should team up so we a month later we met in person and that was kind of 2 and a half years ago so.
Success Harbor: So how many people use Listly today?
Nick Kellet: Oh we we have something around maybe 140,000 users of Listly so far so you know people you know people, I mentioned before the 1-9-90 so people kind of you know 1 percent create, 9 percent comment, contribute and vote on lists and then 90 percent of people kind of consume that content. Some people just discovered Listly for the first time just because they find a list on Listly. They were looking for something you know. What apps can I use as a lead in startup and then they find a start-up list and then go “Oh this is a list of useful things. This is cool stuff. Oh it’s on Listly.” Then they begin to realize what Listly is and then later on they might vote on a list or they might say there’s something missing on that list, they might add to it and then they’ll come around to going, oh I should create a list myself.
Success Harbor: So 140,000 people use it. How many lists are on Listly today?
Nick Kellet: Oh God. I think something like 70-80,000 lists yeah.
Success Harbor: 70, 80,000. Okay so how do you promote Listly? How do you get the word out about Listly? What is your marketing strategy?
Nick Kellet: Well really basically I kind of think of you know, Listly is a living machine. It really is. It’s alive because people create it and people contribute to it, people embed those lists on their blog, they share them and they are kind of the living advert for the rest of the platform. So it’s a living machine where there are inputs and outputs and what we’re trying to do is have a machine that grows itself and really that’s, for a social platform to take off, you need to have that self-propulsion and and so that’s really what we have with Listly is you know, people using lists on their blog, they’re sharing them, they’re contributing to them which which helps other people discover Listly so right. I think you can in the early days of Listly you, I would get involved in you know, and jump in and try and convince people to use Listly and and that’s not a really scaleable model right. It’s very early, enticing people to come and once the platform is more mature it really needs to have its own self-propulsion and Listly definitely does have that kind of mechanic in place where it’s growing naturally on a daily basis.
Success Harbor: So how, I mean you, you, you’ve been involved with Listly for about two and a half years you mentioned.
Nick Kellet: Yeah.
Success Harbor: So what is the growing you know what kind of curve you know, you’re at 140 now where were you 12 months ago in terms of number of users?
Nick Kellet: Oh my God. I don’t know honestly. It’s I mean it’s been a steady steady you know growth, kind of just I think when I joined Listly we had 15,000 users so it just it comes in waves of different projects. Some projects bring in lots of users. People run a contest and bring in lots of users so it’s it’s a steady growth as people discover Listly and you know there’s a, we built, and and we’re sorting of building out the product as we go so we’re building out capabilities, making it easier, simpler. I think one of the things today you know is to bear in mind is, people, you have to create something so super simple because people just don’t have the attention span to actually figure out what something is so they really want it spoon fed and one of the best ways of spoon-feeding people is to is to take stuff away and just keep it. I mean Listly is a very very simply concept of a list, right, a list is a header and number of items and keeping it simple is what makes it what you’re what you’re always trying to do is figure out where’s the friction. What is it that’s stopping people signing up to do something right now, right? You got to try and find out what it is that people need and and a lot of it, what we found is, people, the longer you exist, time is time is a really a powerful communicator. People have like heard of Listly, seen it you know, people have got it on their their short list of things to focus on but they haven’t even touched it yet because we, you know a social sharing tool like Listly or platform like that gets seen by a lot of people right so people have, people are aware of it. It’s maybe necessarily haven’t used it yet so that’s what you’re really trying to build up, is is to raise that awareness and you, you want to get people to come to the platform and try it out and start using it you know and make sure you’re finding out where the friction is in the processes so you can actually try and remove that so we’re always, we’re always iterating to figure out what it is that’s stopping people and then finding those opportunities of when they can, where and when they can contribute and that’s that’s what we look at all the time is how people are using it and you can get, you get an incredible amount of data from your web analytics and how long people spend on the site, the more content, where they find you from and where your search ranking is in a bunch of key words, key word terms right. A lot of people, like 60 percent of our traffic on Listly use organic content to be able to discover us through the lists right.
Success Harbor: So you have a your site has a very impressive 7,000 ranking on Alexa and we, which obviously means what you’re saying is kind of a viral effect although I don’t, I just don’t like this word viral. It just reminds me of a disease.
Nick Kellet: So here’s a funny thing right. It sounds like a catching lightning in a bottle right. You had your China get millions of people to do one thing. I think what we. Listly has grown by lots of little, lots of interest by lots of people, slowly and slowly over time and so the, it’s like you’re building this, we have thousands of people that cone to the site on a regular basis and they’re all committed to it in different ways right and the way many of these things work because people fall in love, in and out of love with all sorts of services on the web and they’re just too many services out there for us all to love them equally all at the same time and so really it’s a battle for attention. It’s a battle for emotional connection and and that’s what we’re really trying to do you know is build up people’s preference to choose Listly as a place to go, as a primary destination. Oh I must do this on Listly and I think one of the things that we think of with Listly is very much as a tool and to me a tool is something you know like. A tool can do many jobs. First is an app is is something that’s applied to do just one and apps sometimes are easier to use but they only do one thing. Tools can be a little harder to use but they do many things and I think one of the things we think of as Listly is definitely as a tool. You can use slides on Slide Share to do many things. You can use video to do many things and we think of Listly in the same way but the lists and that’s what we really see Listly as as like Listly has this Slide Share but lists so we’re elevating the idea of lists as a platform and making it, making people realize, “Oh I could use Listly to make a playlist of videos. I can use Listly to make a playlist of of slide decks or I could use Listly to track all of my guest blogging or I could use Listly to create a curated list of the best bloggers or the best blokes to visit on this topic. It’s like there are 100 different ways to use Listly and when people realize you know that they can use these things in many ways they go it’s much easier to use one tool like Listly that to try and remember to use different apps. So that’s
Success Harbor: So. I’m sorry go ahead.
Success Harbor: No go on yeah. So how much, how much traffic does Listly get a month today?
Nick Kellet: Oh God. Well we you’ve seen our Alexa ranking which is kind of a reflection of that right so, we don’t we don’t publish all of this data but Alexa is a pretty good indication of that traffic so it’s it’s, you know, it’s like, just a committed base of people and then new people coming and going and joining up and creating new lists all the time so.
Success Harbor: Okay and so what is the revenue model for Listly? How does Listly make money?
Nick Kellet: Well we, we basically have a premium product where we our target audience is really brands and publishers and and bloggers who who want to you know involve their audience and build audience participation and so we, we have a premium product that basically allows you know more control of how they embed their lists. More control over you know, how they manage that process and what options they have to you know, on a list. How they can control who can vote or not and you know, how they curate a list, if they can hide the curation queues. There’s there are lots of little options that we have that give people control as a publisher and so that, that’s. Everyone can create 3 premium lists for free and they can try out those options but then you know once they’ve tried them out people convert to to owning our premium product and and and using that for their their, to support their marketing efforts so.
Success Harbor: Okay. I have read that you were self-funded for about 18 months and recently began raising the small age-around of 350K via Angel.
Nick Kellet: Yeah.
Success Harbor: At this point what do you need to invest invest in? Is it your technology, is it marketing, what what what do you need to ?
Nick Kellet: First of all there’s always, it’s always a balance of both you know. Basically it’s been very much a lean start up so you know which basically means you know we don’t overdo anything. You know we try different features with the basic feature set and see what people use and what people don’t use right. So we’ll take things away if people don’t use them and we’ll extend the things that people do use so there’s there’s always more that we need to add to to fill out our vision of Listly becoming SlideShare for lists as a platform and some of that you know. A lot of the time we’ve invested along the way in infrastructure to make it scalable, the number of people who are hitting Listly. You know think of a world design architecture so makes it fast and responsive and reliable and and then the other side of Listly is kind of business development and we’re looking to outreach to to bloggers and to brands and publishers, to have them integrate Listly into their product line or to use Listly on on a regular basis. So that takes, that takes kind of, you know, people can find Listly and discover Listly through social means so but it’s, we can also reach out to people to have them use Listly on their on their branding, and their blogging and their publishing platforms so.
Success Harbor: I’m very interested in the life of a business especially during the first couple of years because that’s when most businesses fail and so I, I you know want to ask you in your opinion what is the most important thing for an entrepreneur to focus on for during the first 12 months of being in business? What do you think they should spend their time on?
Nick Kellet: Well I, Ikind of alluded to this before, thinking of it as a living organism and I think in the beginning you push, you’re pushing this, not even a boulder, it’s a small pebble right and it grows into a, it grows bigger as you go and you’re pushing this boulder uphill and I think you need to keep looking for signs of life that it’s actually pushing itself right. If you always need to be their pushing forever more, you you haven’t really built something that’s, I mean you can build businesses that way but it costs, it takes more money because you’re always having to provide all of the growth momentum by advertising and promoting so it’s it’s managing that mix of paid owned and owned media, the discovery that your product has a natural appeal with people and is going to promote itself virally on its own.
Success Harbor: So so you mean if it’s all push all the time there is something wrong with either your pricing, the product or the market.
Nick Kellet: Or your pitch yeah.
Success Harbor: Or your pitch? Okay okay.
Nick Kellet: If it works you don’t have to try very hard. It does, it promotes itself right? And that’s something to keep looking for is you know, am I pushing or is it propelling itself and then once you’ve got that natural propulsion what you’re looking for is to keep removing friction because then this boulder can gain more momentum, it can roll more easily, it can, it can grow itself more quickly, so you’re always looking to remove friction but before you can remove friction you have to make sure it has some natural momentum so.
Success Harbor: Yeah yeah so that’s excellent actually. I think that’s great advice. I do have a couple of more questions so I know we’re almost at the 30 minute mark. Do you have time for a couple of more questions?
Nick Kellet: Sure.
Success Harbor: What do you think is the biggest time waster for entrepreneurs?
Nick Kellet: You know I think sometimes, listening, listening to the wrong people, listening to too much advice. Sometimes you need to like you know you don’t want to live in a bubble but if you have a belief in something you’re heading towards, listening to too many people will simply detract you from that goal right and I think the listening I try and do is through the platform, you know looking for natural signs of life. Is it growing faster, where, how etc. right. But if I listen too much to people, I tend, you know you can get very questioning. You start questioning their questioning and you know that that can be a bad thing.
Success Harbor: Okay and if somebody came to you, maybe somebody in your family, good friend that had a job but they saw your entrepreneurial success and say you know “Nick you know I want to be successful,” what would be the first thing that you would teach him or her?
Nick Kellet: You know I, that’s a good question. I think I think it’s just figuring out why you’re doing it you know. I think you have to. If you want to become an entrepreneur I don’t think I’d do it, I wouldn’t do it for the money. I’d do it because you love the thing you’re doing, because you love the challenge, you believe in the idea. If you do it for, if you think you’re chasing money I think you’re motivations are a little bit askew. So money comes if you do great things. To do great things you have to believe in something, stand for something you know. If you haven’t found that yet I would stay where you are. You don’t got that natural you know topic that you care about, something that you see that’s wrong that needs correcting, some source of friction , some opportunity, if you haven’t got that yet then stay funded by somebody else. Learn at, learn at somebody else’s expense because once you start you’re on your own nickel and that’s kind of ,that can be hard, that’s when the ideas have to work.
Success Harbor: Well Nick thank you very much for sharing your story and to talk about how you’re building Listly. How can people find out more about, how can people connect with you or find out more about Listly?
Nick Kellet: So you can, so you can find Listly, L-I-S-T dot -L-Y on on the web and we have a blog of blog.listly and I’m Nick Kellet on Twitter, N-I-C-K-K-E-L-L-E-T and so I’m pretty findable via the web, via Twitter, you know LinkedIn, well these things, I’m in all these places, I welcome to accept invites from people that want to link up on LinkedIn and and follow people back on Twitter yeah so it was always good.
Success Harbor: Well thank you Nick and everyone check out List, L-I-S-T dot -ly to learn more about Listly. Thank you very much. I wish you much success with it.
Nick Kellet: Thank you.