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Evolution of a startup: How you know your idea is right

The journey from Zenman to Bigfoot Web and beyond


“If we have facts, we’ll use facts; if we have opinions, we’ll use mine.”

It’s one of my favorite lines, not because it’s the mantra for my own business, but because it illustrates the approach taken by so many business owners as they develop new products or spin-off businesses. Some of them probably consider themselves data-driven, but if there isn’t data readily available, they rely on their own gut instinct instead of seeking the data out.

And sometimes, as a business owner, trusting your gut is the right thing to do. But when you’re building a business from the ground up, you need more than gut instinct to work from. That’s when looking for data is crucial to setting yourself up for success.

One of the worst things you can do is build your business based on your opinion, and your opinion alone. I’ve seen entrepreneurs do it before: they go off in a vacuum, developing software or creating a product that they think is going to change the world, but they fail to get it in front of their customers -- either because they don’t know who their customers are, or because customers for their product don’t exist.

For us, the business development happened organically. I’ve owned Zenman, a web development, design and branding agency for nearly 20 years. As the agency has matured, our clientele has become more sophisticated, and our price point has increased to reflect our experience. As such, our sales team was sending $900,000 worth of business away, largely from startups and entrepreneurs who needed a stellar web presence and killer marketing, but who simply couldn’t afford us yet.

After we crunched the numbers, we realized we could capture that business instead of referring it to other developers, especially because we knew the Zenman level of service would far exceed the service of lower-cost developers.

We’d gotten feedback from the people we were sending elsewhere that they still weren’t stoked on the product or service they’d received at the lower cost. The light bulb had gone off: we could provide great quality sites that leveraged Zenman’s years of experience, but that were less expensive and time-intensive on our end, allowing us to deliver a more cost effective product to the client. And Bigfoot Web was born.

Although the Bigfoot Web product had really been developed over years of business at Zenman, we hammered out the minimum viable product and business strategy. The Bigfoot concept was born as data distilled down, finally revealing the obvious need in the market.

Bigfoot Web launched in the fall of 2015, and our goal is to make it a multi-million dollar company in two years. Along the way, we’ll document Bigfoot Web’s evolution here in ColoradoBiz, highlighting the highs and lows of the journey. We hope you’ll follow along.

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Keith Roberts

President and Founder Keith Roberts founded Denver-based Zenman in 1998 after working with several top artists and agencies. Zenman, which offers web development, design, SEO and more, produces inventive concepts that are visually pleasing, informative and provocative. Contact him at keith@zenman.com

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