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The Pivot

Today I'm launching a huge pivot in my startup journey, as well as committing to a single product from here on out

by Jon Yongfook · January 2020
The Pivot
The Pivot


    Today I'm launching a huge pivot in my startup journey, as well as committing to a single product from here on out.

    TL;DR, Today I'm launching Bannerbear - the successor to Previewmojo.

    If you're a subscriber of my newsletter you would have received an email from me at the end of last year titled End of Year Report. In the email, I described how I was disappointed with the response to Previewmojo so far and outlined a few ways I intended to take it forward in 2020.

    After basically having no Christmas / New Year break and working solidly for the last month on improvements to both the product and the marketing site, I'm proud… excited… and a bit nervous to announce the successor to Previewmojo.

    Introducing Bannerbear

    Bannerbear is automated image generation for Instagram, Pinterest and more.

    I'm incredibly happy and optimistic about where things are headed now, but in order to get to this point I had to come to terms with some harsh realities.

    Here's how I ended up taking this route…

    To recap: Previewmojo was an open graph image generation SaaS, that I launched in November 2019

    What is Open Graph?

    As the initial Previewmojo launch month played out and the wave of Product Hunt-fueled excitement subsided, I realised to my horror I had committed one of the entrepreneurship cardinal sins. Creating a solution for a problem that doesn't exist.

    Perhaps that's being a bit too hard on myself. Open Graph images are a useful thing to have and a tedious thing to create, so the pain point is there… it's just not big enough. It's not a task you have to do often enough (unless you have a large site) and I discovered that many users aren't even aware of the protocol in the first place or don't place a high priority on it. As a tech demo, Previewmojo was pretty cool but it wasn't solving a big enough problem yet.

    Clearly something needed to change.

    I Make Banners

    One of the common recurring interactions with customers and users was "I don't need open graph but can it make XYZ size instead?". It didn't take long for me to realise I had started off in slightly the wrong direction.

    With Bannerbear, I'm pivoting into a wider space of automatically-generating different size banners for different purposes. Out of the box, Bannerbear scans your web pages and can generate images for Instagram Stories, Pinterest Pins, Instagram Posts (square) and yes, good ol' Open Graph.

    I think this hugely increases the amount of potential use cases.

    I plugged Bannerbear into one of my own sites and boom, it's creating pins, Instagram Stories… its an instant enabler for visual social media.

    It also passes the sniff test of "can I explain my startup to other people?". Whether you are able to concisely explain what your app does is a good proxy for whether the idea will land with your target market.

    With my previous focus on open graph, I would always qualify explanations with "erm… do you know what Open Graph images are?", the inevitable blank expression of my conversation partner hammering nails in my metaphorical startup coffin.

    Now, I get to say "my app designs banners for you". Much better.

    Branding / Marketing / Customer Segment

    My previous marketing site sucked. The Bannerbear marketing site is much better. It's clearer in who it's targeting, it shows more of the product in action, and has a wider footprint.

    In the last 3 weeks of working on this pivot I estimate that I spent about an equal amount of time on the marketing site as I did on the actual app. I think that 50/50 distribution of marketing / app building needs to be my new norm.

    Why change the name though?

    There are a number of reasons for that, including a simple desire to head in a bit more of a playful direction branding-wise. But in the end, it comes down to focus…

    Spreading Myself too Thin

    I've had to come to terms with something over the holidays. I am not superhuman.

    For Mojosaas, my intention was to create a few distinct products, each with its own little marketing ecosystem, and to document the entire journey transparently on this site along with hopefully noting down some helpful advice along the way.

    I realise now, what a crazy amount of work all of that is. It's the old trade-off - by attempting to do everything you end up doing nothing. The result was me drip-feeding app and blog updates across 3 different products (mojosaas, votemojo and previewmojo) when that energy could be spent on doing One Thing Well.

    My Focus in 2020

    Bannerbear is the One Thing I want to do Well in 2020.

    I'm putting all my focus on it going forwards. The Previewmojo site is already forwarding to Bannerbear. I may port the few articles from Mojosaas over to Bannerbear too at some point, but it's not a current high priority.

    Think of Bannerbear as the spiritual successor to Mojosaas and Previewmojo.

    Bannerbear even has its own Open Startup page:

    And there's a Mojo Meter (TM) counting up to $100k ARR :)

    Jon Yongfook@yongfook
    Jon is the founder of Bannerbear. He has worked as a designer and programmer for 20 years and is fascinated by the role of technology in design automation.

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