Founder Stories: Kevin Yun On Building GrowSurf

In today’s Founder Story, we feature Kevin Yun, the Founder of GrowSurf!

Read on for lessons he’s learned from launching and marketing his referral program software.

1. Please introduce your business and share your role. 

Hi, I’m Kevin Yun. I’m the founder of GrowSurf, a referral program software that helps marketing, product, and engineering teams build customer-to-customer referral programs without dev time.

We help tech companies automate customer acquisition at the lowest possible cost through referrals. With our software, GrowSurf customers launch faster and enjoy results like these: 312% return on investment, 30% of new leads from referrals, and 15% of ARR from referrals.

My role involves wearing all the hats of a founder. Some days there are dev-ops issues that pop up, other days there are customer issues I need to hop in to help my team with.

2. How did you prepare for, and go about your launch?

When we first launched GrowSurf, it was a very tough time. It eventually took years to get our first true customer and some semblance of product-market fit.

We didn’t start with an audience because we didn’t have personal networks we could tap into to get connected with our ideal customers. We also didn’t have an email list of subscribers or any “coming soon” landing page. While we did do some cold outreach attempts for product development, it was nearly impossible to get responses from people.

Because of these hurdles, we instead placed a heavy emphasis on an attempt to get exposure. When we launched the GrowSurf version 1.0, I originally posted all over the internet to places like Hacker News, ProductHunt, and BetaList. If the site was on a startup marketing checklist somewhere, you can bet we did it. It was about making lots of noise, catching what fell through the cracks, and iterating from there. One of the hardest things we did was creating the product from scratch and tuning the product to finally get customers.

3. Since launching, what types of marketing campaigns and designs have worked best to attract and retain customers?

For our SaaS in its current state, it’s now the boring, common answer: SEO, inbound and content marketing, and outbound efforts. Other than some money keywords for SEO, there’s no one strategy that works incredibly well for us. Revenue is still hard-earned. We’ll get a lot of inbound leads, and we’ll generate calls on the books from outbound campaigns, but customer acquisition is not a relaxed journey. It takes effort and commitment, even to this day.

4. What have been the most influential brands for your business? Whose branding and marketing do you aspire to and why?

I find bootstrapped SaaS companies incredibly inspirational. Companies like WPEngine, Mailchimp (pre-acquisition days), and Basecamp are great examples. We aspire to be like them – providing a great product and focusing on making customers happy and successful.

5. What are your favorite marketing platforms/tools?

My favorite tools include Versoly (CMS) and (for drip campaigns). We also use HubSpot, MailerLite, and ComplyDog (my own SaaS I created to help with our GDPR compliance needs).

6. Looking ahead, what are you most excited about?

We have been on a sales-led model for almost one year now. I’m excited to see what growth will be like continuing down this path.

7. Who or what inspires and motivates you?

There are a ton of guys on X (formerly Twitter) that are inspiring. The obvious suspects like Pieter Levels, and Danny Postma. But there are also some not-so-well-known behemoths that run $50-100MM ARR SaaS companies who nonchalantly share their golden nuggets of wisdom.

8. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would share with entrepreneurs hoping to launch or who have just launched? 

Keep going. The true stories are the ones you never hear about. 90% of the time it’s eating a shit sandwich and working on improving the small things, which add up over time. Also, it’s easy to conflate correlation with causation for successful outcomes. Being aware of that is something I would recommend keeping an eye out for.

9. What do you believe are the qualities of a good entrepreneur? And what makes a team successful?

There are different types of people in this world that all possess different skill sets. Building a 0-1 company from scratch takes different skills than scaling a company that already has revenue, customers, and maturity in the market. Knowing what your strengths are, leveraging them to work with people whose skill sets complement yours, and being able to persevere through tough times are top qualities that make a team successful.

10. Let us know where we can go to learn more!