This interview is part of our Entrepreneur Interview series.
Growing up modestly, Neil Patel thought that the best way to make a great life for himself was to earn as much money as possible. After years of entrepreneurial trial and error, Neil achieved some of his biggest goals and, along the way, realized that money isn’t everything. Today, he’s one of the top authorities on inbound marketing, startups and analytics. Oh, and he’s the co-founder of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics, of course. We had the opportunity to chat with him about life, entrepreneurship and the little things that make a big difference.
Money Isn’t Everything
1. You’ve co-founded two SaaS analytics companies, Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics, with Hiten Shah. How’d you get your start as an entrepreneur? Why’d you ultimately choose analytics?
I got started in entrepreneurship because I wanted to try to figure out how to make more money. I was doing it for the wrong purposes at the time, but that was pretty much what I was looking for. I grew up in a very modest lifestyle. I didn’t have much money growing up, so I was trying to figure out how to make cash and I realized the only way to get really rich was to be an entrepreneur. When you look at all of the really rich people in the world, most of them are entrepreneurs. So, that’s how I got my start. Obviously, later I realized money isn’t everything in life.
The first thing I ended up creating was a job board because I was looking for a job that paid well and I couldn’t find one. I realized Monster.com, at the time, was making millions of dollars, so I decided to create a copycat. My version didn’t work at all. But, none the less, I at least tried.
I decided to go into analytics because it’s a real passion. When I was getting into marketing, I realized that customers have all of these visitors, but they don’t know how to convert them, they don’t know what metrics to look at, and they don’t know how to fine-tune their business. All they were focusing on was trying to get more visitors. But if you already have a lot of visitors, why not make the most of your current traffic?
By all means, you should try to get more traffic as well, but you should try to first maximize whatever you have.
Know How to Execute
2. What’s the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur?
It really just comes down to execution. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Those who execute really well tend to do better than others. I’m a big believer that execution is everything.
The King: Elon Musk
3. Who has been your greatest inspiration and why?
There’s an entrepreneur that I really look up to. He’s well-known, but I don’t personally know him by any means. His name is Elon Musk and I just love the guy. Even when he had money, he put it all into his business and was willing to go broke just because of his passion – it was what he loved.
He continually does that and he succeeds. The reason he succeeds is because he does whatever it takes. He loves what he’s doing, doesn’t care what other people think, and is just trying to really solve big world problems.
Great Things Take Time
4. From selling black boxes in high school to consulting to founding Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics, you’ve worked on plenty of different projects. What’s the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when starting up?
They try to do too much. Or they try to create the perfect product when you really just need to get the thing out there, get feedback, iterate and continually do that. The lean startup process. And from there, hopefully, you’ll create a product that people really love.
Put in the Work
5. You famously helped TechCrunch increase traffic by 30% in 2 months, helped I Can Has Cheezburger grow to 500M pageviews a month, etc. Why is this such a challenge for so many of us? What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned from helping others scale their traffic?
They’re not willing to put in the time and energy to get the traffic. They’re looking for a quick hit, a quick fix. There’s no such thing. It actually takes a long time to generate quite a bit of traffic and you have to provide value by creating a really excellent product, educating through awesome content, etc. It’s just a lot of man hours and work that people don’t want to do.
Good Karma Matters
6. The Quick Sprout Blog is, without a doubt, a go-to destination for anyone looking to learn about inbound marketing. Why give away so much free advice?
The reason I give away so much free advice is because I really believe that if you help other people out, karma will come around and you’ll do better in life. I do it because I really enjoy helping others out.
Thought Leadership Opens Doors
7. You spend a lot of time attending conferences and speaking, writing content to help others get started, etc. How has your personal brand (i.e. being a thought leader) impacted your career/your startups?
Being a thought leader just helps get more exposure. It also opens up more doors, which allows me to get more business deals. In that sense, it’s worked out quite well.
Focus, Focus, Focus
8. You experienced a lot of success early on. In your bio, you describe yourself as “still being a kid” when running your Internet marketing consultancy. What was the toughest lesson you had to learn as a young entrepreneur?
You need to focus. I tried to do too many businesses at the same time and I should have just focused my energy on one.
About Neil Patel
Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. He was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 35 by the United Nations.
Photo Credit: Venture Beat