Interview with Matt Goldman - founder of Hookfeed.com

Matt Goldman has pretty much been building web businesses since he was able to tap a keyboard. Most recently he launched his own product development company, SmallHQ, focused on developing simple, yet powerful tools for entrepreneurs and small businesses. He has built Minimanalytics.com, Hookfeed.com and has created one of the most popular podcasts for startups - the Rocketship Podcast - in his “spare time” :)

We love all of Matt’s work, but we especially love his focus on simplicity…as well as his appreciation for the digest email. We recently talked to Matt about Hookfeed and his use of the digest email. 

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KNOWTIFY: Tell us a little about yourself (for those that don’t know you already). What brought you to starting Hookfeed?

MATT: I started a company called Small HQ with my girlfriend, Joelle, in early-2013 after leaving the web agency where we worked together previously. We spent several months working on our first product, Minimalytics, which would send you a daily email with analytics from various services pulled together into one simple report. All the while, we were also working on HookFeed, a news stream of events from various web services. At some point along the way, we shifted focus to HookFeed and began iterating through multiple vastly different versions, ending up where we are today.

KNOWTIFY: Give us a quick pitch for Hookfeed.

MATT: Today, HookFeed is a great tool for SaaS/E-Commerce Customer Management. Our goal is to bring together big-picture metrics, with customer-level insights, to help you run your business. Most analytics apps focus on data abstracted from your customer base which has limited use. 

Stripe is great at the basics of collecting credit card charges, issuing refunds, and managing the logic behind recurring subscriptions. But that’s just scratching the surface of what it takes to run your SaaS. Every customer has a history with your product, and we strive to reveal that history, and make you more awesome at running your business.

KNOWTIFY: From where did the inspiration for Hookfeed come?

MATT: We were using Stripe in Minimalytics and other previous products, and would continually build in (crappy) functionality to do some of what HookFeed does today. It just made sense to break that out into its own product :-) However, I don’t think I realized this until I’d built the same functionality multiple times, and then needed to make an update inside of each app due to an API change.

KNOWTIFY: I know that Hookfeed has evolved a lot since it’s first iteration. I’m interested in understanding the things that drove that evolution. How did you decide how you were going to build out the vision for the app and the specific feature set? Customer feedback, analytics, competition, etc?

MATT: Little of what we’ve done so far has been based on customer feedback, analytics, or competition. In fact, whenever we follow any of those feedback mechanisms, we go astray. Today, we use HookFeed literally every day and couldn’t run our business without it. What works best for us is looking at how we use our product, and what would make it work better for us. That is the best driver of our roadmap. Customer feedback is incredibly valuable/supportive, but in our case (and likely your case) it can’t be relied on to set product direction. Especially when your product is solving a problem in a different way - customers tend to try it expecting different functionality and then they give feedback based on the category they’re trying to fit your product into. This can be very detrimental as it pushes you towards an existing  product category and discourages innovation. It’s up to you to ensure that you’re actually innovating in the right direction.

KNOWTIFY: In many ways, Hookfeed is all about giving SaaS applications a window into the financial impact of retaining their customers (and in the case of expiring credit cards, giving them very actionable data). So…can you tell us some of the ways you are keeping your users engaged with the service?

MATT: We encourage our customers to invite their teammates and ideally subscribe different teammates to receive different alerts. For example, Stacy in Accounting may need to know when charges are refunded, but Bill in Growth doesn’t. We offer several alerts which you can’t currently receive from Stripe which help you run your business on a daily basis. When you need more information on a customer (when their charge fails, subscription renews, downgrades occur, etc), you can quickly dig into our web interface to find the info you need, and act on it.

KNOWTIFY: One of the things we love about Hookfeed is your smart use of emails - particularly your daily digest emails. How important are those emails for keeping your users engaged?

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MATT: They are critical to the product. We’re always working on finding ways to increase engagement with the insights we present to our customers, about their customers. Digests allow us to keep you in the loop, without requiring that HookFeed be open in your browser all day long.

A constant challenge is determining which information to include in daily digest emails since many companies use Stripe (a flexible payments API) in very different ways. For example, not all companies have recurring revenue.

KNOWTIFY: What are your future plans for Hookfeed? Where would you like to see it go?

MATT: We will continue making HookFeed the absolute best tool to manage your business and customers. We can’t share much more than that, but if you follow us on Twitter here, we’ll keep you in the loop :-) https://twitter.com/HookFeed