6 Questions with Victor Santos, Co-Founder of PopTalk

Victor Santos is the Co-Founder of PopTalk, an app that provides free calls, texts, and pre-paid data powered by mobile advertising.

1. First of all, can you tell us a little about your role and what you do at PopTalk?

I am the co-founder and CEO of PopTalk. We are the world’s first free over-the-top carrier that provides free calls, texts and pre-paid data powered by mobile advertising.

As the CEO of an early stage start-up I wear many hats both internally and externally. I am responsible for fundraising, developing partnerships, growth, product management and probably the most important – building the vision and culture for the company.

In addition, my co-founder and I handle customer support during down time, replying to customer support tickets or talking to customers on the phone.

We chose to do this ourselves because founders should know the customers inside and out, as it provides useful and real feedback when improving our product and testing our assumptions. Not to mention our customers love it!

2. Can you tell us a little about your go to market strategy, current growth/marketing channels are working for you right now?

Today we have 2 different strategies for distribution, a direct to consumer and another leveraging a partner’s large install base; primarily a Mobile Wireless Carrier.

Our B2C strategy is quiet simple we try to get people to download the app through traditional online marketing channels such as Facebook / Google etc where we can measure fairly accurately our CAC to LTV ratio and create many different A/B tests in minutes.

Although effective, we’ve put this on halt for now because of our strategy #2 which we call it PopTalk as a Service for Mobile Virtual Network Operators (Think Cricket Wireless, Virgin or Boost Mobile – there are 60+ of these carriers in the US alone).

It is a B2B to B2C distribution strategy. We partner with Mobile Virtual Network Operators and come pre-installed in their android devices.

We share our advertising revenue, create new digital revenue streams for their user base and increase their ARPU. In exchange we get instant access to a huge user base.

We have 3 MVNOs around the world signed-up to the program and we will launch a co-branded initiative late February of 2016 to 1.2M subscribers.

3. What is the biggest mistake you have made with PopTalk so far that other founders can learn from?

Dont be afraid to Pivot or switch your growth strategy. Analyze if there is a quicker way to generate revenue or partner your company into growth and product market fit.

Focus on what will drive the most value / impact in the short term although that may not be what you want to do in the long term. That short-term solution may help you fund the long-term vision.

Pivoting a strategy is hard but sometimes it can save you. With PopTalk’ example: 6 months ago we had many mobile virtual network operators approaching us and interested in what we were doing but I kept putting it off because I wanted to pursue the consumer strategy.

After 4 months of beating my head against the wall and realizing how hard and expensive consumer acquisition was I realized we had to change gears.

Although for us the total addressable market and opportunity is far greater going directly to consumer, it costs a lot more money and time building a successful consumer brand with predictable revenue streams.

That is why we created PopTalk as a Service B2B strategy focusing on a smaller market and on more predictable product revenue streams while leveraging someone else’s distribution.

That new strategy will get us to a place where we can use those funds and traction to pursue the long-term direct to consumer strategy.

4. Let’s talk you… what apps, blogs, and tools can’t you live without?

I can’t live without Evernote, Slack, Trello, and Calm (meditation app) I also love reading Andrew Chen’s blog.

5. What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

Make time to workout and meditate because it trains your focus, in addition to making you aesthetically fit! I’ve noticed tremendous productivity improvements when I do both.

6. What resource have you watched/read/listened to that’s had the biggest impact on your business/life so far this year, and why?

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. I enjoyed this book because its not an academic or self-help book with formulaic frameworks that simplify running a successful business but its written by an entrepreneurs’ point of view and experience without any sugar coating.

The sheer truth is that running a start-up is immensely hard. As Elon Musk pointed out “Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death.”

This book provides a lot of pragmatic advice that helps you get through the downs and deal through things like firing someone, rejection from investors and other gloomy moments.

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