Founder Stories: Phil Strazzulla On Building SelectSoftware Reviews

In today’s Founder Story we feature Phil Strazzulla founder of SelectSoftware Reviews. 

Read on for lessons he’s learned from launching and marketing his business.

1) Please introduce your business and share your role.

Hello – my name is Phil Strazzulla and I’m the Founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website dedicated to helping companies find and buy the right software to grow their organizations.

Mostly, we focus on helping companies find and buy the right HR tools, such as Performance Management Systems, or HRIS.

I originally started my career at Bessemer Venture Partners doing early-stage software investing.  Afterward, I attended Harvard for my MBA and taught myself to program.  From there, I started a small HR Tech SaaS, and then SSR four years ago.

2) What’s your backstory, what kind of challenges did you face, and how did you come up with your business idea?

I’ve always been interested in business and entrepreneurship.  I had a lawn mowing business as a kid and invested my profits into the stock market starting at age 12.  It was the late 90s and everyone was obsessed with the dot com IPOs.

I was lucky enough to make a few good bets and then get to cash before the crash of 2000 (thanks Warren Buffett for the advice!).

I studied finance in college at NYU and took a few jobs I thought would help me learn about startups.  During my MBA I finally had the courage to start something of my own.

My first business wasn’t that successful to be quite honest.  But, it taught me a ton about what it takes to get something started.

3) How did you prepare for, and go about your launch? 

I didn’t have a huge “launch” – my current business actually started as a side project.  I’m not sure if I even posted on social that I had a new venture, even after deciding to devote myself to it full-time.

Instead, I focused on the few hypotheses that needed to work in order to ensure that we could scale-

  • Could we get customers? 
  • What will be the best way to charge them?
  • Could we keep them happy enough to keep them around?

“FOCUS!” was the advice of a mentor of mine when it came to the number one thing a business owner should do to succeed.

I went through over 12 different monetization schemes before settling on our current business model.

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

We have really boring/serious content.  But, that is what drives trust in our research.  If we had a zany style to our content, people wouldn’t want to use it to make the right choice for buying software.  That is a massive decision, and you need the right information, not entertainment.

I have a video series on LinkedIn called Whiteboard Wednesdays that’s been successful.  We basically talk about unique insights HR teams will care about, and these videos typically get shared many times.

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

I really admire sites like WireCutter and NerdWallet.  In my opinion, their brands stand for authenticity and high authority content.

I also really like the design elements of the top Silicon Valley B2B companies.  Stripe is one that comes to mind.  They have somewhat of a bold color choice (purple), but still, have an intuitive and trustworthy design despite a very complex product.

6) What are your favorite marketing platforms/tools?

We use AHREFs almost every day given we are so focused on SEO.  Our website is built on Webflow.  This has been a decision I’ve regretted sometimes given it doesn’t have the functionality of WordPress.  But, I think over time it will prove to be useful.

Some of the other tools we use include Mailchimp, Zapier, Mixmax, Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, and Trello.

7) Who or what inspires and motivates you?

I love the process of building something and figuring out all the problems we need to solve in order to succeed.  I like learning how to write a new Javascript code, use a new SEO tactic, or understand how to better serve our customers.

I’m also learning every day how to be a better manager and CEO as we grow our team.  I didn’t realize how important this was until we had more than a handful of employees.

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? 

I would focus on the long term.  What are the key linchpins that will either make or break your business?  How can you ensure you are moving in the right direction on each?

One thing many entrepreneurs struggle with is ADD.  You have to focus on the 1-3 things that will move your business forward.  Don’t get distracted by random opportunities, and always try to make yourself more efficient while also doing things that don’t scale.

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

A good entrepreneur starts out as a missionary that cares so much about bringing something to the world they are willing to take on huge risks, sleepless nights, and learn new things at a rate that doesn’t seem possible when they first start out.

Over time, they need to evolve into a manager that needs to lead empathetically and realize their teammates won’t be as maniacal as they are.  The success of the team relies on everyone aligning around the mission, but also maintaining a culture that won’t lead to burnout.

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

You can check out my blog, LinkedIn, and website.