A year ago, Sage founder Peter Yeargin was working full-time for Cisco while getting his Q&A startup off the ground.
The startup originated as an on-demand advice platform with a mission to answer “all of life’s questions.” Users could find experts on a wide range of topics, from completing taxes to building a website to decorating a living room.
“I thought there were a lot of good pieces to the Q&A world that existed,” Yeargin said last year. “But there was nowhere for public-based questions that give you a good answer, and a way for users to monetize it.”
Since we checked in last August, Yeargin left Cisco to work on Sage full-time, and has two other founding members in Chief Data Officer Kelvin Michael and a head of community. They went through the Philly Startup Leaders Founded in Philly accelerator, and are in Baltimore-based Conscious Venture Lab currently. In growing the site, the trio also since realized how important SEO was going to be to drive brand engagement, and aimed to get really good at it.
The more Yeargin learned, the more inbound users the site received, and he realized that SEO presented a business opportunity in itself. He started investing time and energy on this new focus back in February, with the launch of the Sage Tech Advice blog. The blog uses keywords and other SEO tactics in blog posts that in turn, drive traffic to Sage.
“There were a lot of really expensive ways to hire SEO, consultants, digital marketing agencies that start at like, $5,000 a month,” he said. “I had to learn SEO myself, and with a technical background as I got better, we generated more inbound users.”
“You have to not be attached to what you’re building,.”
The traction picked up this summer, bringing enough business to the site that the team didn’t have to do any recruiting. There was a market fit for other small businesses to use these SEO-driving content creation services, Yeargin said, and in August, they launched beta services for about 25 customers that will run to the end of October. Instead of charging thousands like most services, Sage is beta testing for $100 a month, Yeargin said.
So what did the first-time founder learn along this process? Even after spending more than a year building the advice side of Sage, Yeargin said he had to be flexible and open to change.
“You have to not be attached to what you’re building,” he told Technical.ly. “The idea in startup world, is that if you’re building something, you’re mostly learning. The primary goal of any startup is to prove out the business model. And if either the business model isn’t working or you find a better business model — which is kind of where we ended up — you need to go 100% at it.”
The rest of the year will be spent on understanding the operational aspects of the SEO solutions the team is building, building out the software that allows it to acquire customers and to begin pre-seed fundraising with SEO and marketing VCs.
“I just think the SEO space is so ripe for innovation right now and that’s why we’re doing it — there’s so many entrepreneurs and small businesses struggling with it, and we’re building solutions for them,” Yeargin said.