Minimum viable products (MVPs) are the building blocks on which tech companies are created. They are low-tech solutions to high-tech problems, used to probe the market for product fit.
Creating an MVP isn’t always as simple as it sounds. Once a team goes in and programs a product, it is much harder to pivot to greater demand. For some industries, it’s pretty difficult to understand just what that basic function needs to be.
Tweet Hunter is an MVP created by French entrepreneurs Thibault Louis-Lucas and Thomas Jacquesson. The two founders spent the years following their meeting as MBAs in entrepreneurship creating tech products that couldn’t quite find their markets and scrapping (or selling) the technology.
In 2020, they decided to attack the Twitter market. They made an AI for crafting Tweets, but it wasn’t an MVP and they couldn’t find an audience. However, to create it they’d compiled a large list of top viral tweets and made a one-off webpage where people could pay to see the lists. This turned out to be the perfect MVP.
To gain traffic, the duo teamed up with Guatemalan Twitter personality and sales writer, JK Molina. The young social media superstar’s email campaign and website copy drove the business from $5,000 to $15,000 MRR. They liked him so much they made him a cofounder. Today, Tweet Hunter is at $25,000 MRR and has become the perfect base for scaling their business.
Here is how these three entrepreneurs found the perfect MVP and marketed it like pros.
Thibault’s and Thomas’ Early Career
Thibault and Thomas are both French and go back to their MBA days at ESCP Europe around 2014. Thibault is an engineer and Thomas a digital marketing specialist. They both were itching to make the next big tech startup when they met.
“We had a crazy idea to encourage kids to do their chores called Pistache,” he says. “We made an app and everything but we look at it as two years lost. It was a failure because we weren’t parents and didn’t truly understand the problem keeping children from doing their chores. We sold the app and decided to move on to different things.”
And so after selling their technology, Thomas and Thibault went their separate ways. Thibault ended up doing some more work in gamification and became the CTO at two different startups. Thomas spent time working as a COO and CMO in a retail fashion service and his own app development startup respectively.
However, fate seemed destined to bring these old friends back together. After the near death of his daughter in 2019, Thibault decided he needed a break from corporate life and moved to Thailand with his family. He asked Thomas if he wanted to quit his job and work on startups together again with their newfound experience. Thomas agreed and they began working on something new.
The Rise of JK Molina
While Thomas and Thibault were working on their MBA, on the other side of the world JK Molina was beginning his rise to internet stardom
Though he speaks English with a near-fluent American accent today, JK Molina was born and raised in Guatemala speaking Spanish as his first language. He claims he taught himself English by playing video games online and watching movies with subtitles.
Despite an admitted love of learning, JK was dissatisfied with his options when he began attending university in the mid-2010s. He studied for three degrees and didn’t like any of them so he dropped out.
When COVID hit in 2019, he was working as a personal assistant for a paltry $250 a month (a livable wage in Guatemala but still small). Stuck inside and spending long hours on social media, he began to notice how much money it was possible to make online.
“I was looking on Twitter and saw these guys making $250,000 a month of Twitter posts. I was making $250 a month so I was wondering what the hell was going on,” he says. “I saw a tweet from Lawrence King that said Gillette has 130,000 followers on Twitter and three likes on every post. He said, ‘Imagine what Gillette would pay someone to just not be bad at their job.’ I thought, ‘I can get more than four likes per post, right?’ I started trying it myself and went deep into the Twitter hole talking about mindset and self-improvement on my account.”
Slowly, JK brought in a following for his Twitter account by posting regularly his often incendiary thoughts on self-improvement and entrepreneurship. Today, his account (@OneJKMolina) has just over 50,000 followers.
Seeing great success as a Tweet writer, JK began reaching out to clients online as a one-man tweet ghostwriting service. Almost immediately, he had clients. After that, he claims his business took off. He did so well, he quit the $250 a month job and began tweeting full time.
It was around this point in his career that he was approached by Thibault and Thomas for marketing an early Tweet Hunter on his personal account.
Building Early Tweet Hunter
Leading up to Tweet Hunter, Thomas and Thibault created a startup production studio called Pony Express in early 2020. They made a plan to pump out as many products as possible in the first weeks of the year, creating at a breakneck pace of one new product per week.
For many of their original products at Pony Express, Thomas and Thibault created software solutions for growing Twitter accounts. Some products included a service called Tweet Butler that used AI to give people recommendations for how to grow their Twitter accounts. They also started an AI-based ghostwriting service that wrote tweets for customers and sent them out.
While the products all worked, they were still works in progress. Both founders admit they were making one of the most common mistakes tech founders looking for growth make: building tech before finding buyers.
“All of our services just couldn’t quite offer an MVP,” says Thibault.
However, they did have something to show for all of their efforts. Thomas and Thibault had built a huge tweet library of top-performing tweets for their AI to use as a learning resource. Since they were launching as many products as possible, they threw their lists together to create a new product called Tweet Hunter. The duo marketed it as a simple way to view high-performing tweets all in one place.
“You need to consume great content to be able to produce great content.”
“Our idea was to inspire people to make better Twitter content,” says Thibault. “You need to consume great content to be able to produce great content. People began paying even though it was very early-stage. “
Seeing money coming in, Thibault and Thomas realized they needed to capitalize and bring in more traffic. They reached out to JK Molina and asked him to market their product on his Twitter account in exchange for a free Tweet Hunter account. When JK saw their product he got excited.
“They hit me up with a DM and said, ‘Hey, you want a month for free?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll take them up for free.’” he says. “I tested it and I thought the tweets were exactly how I’d do it. I turned around and told them that if they gave me part of the company, I’d boost it up for them.”
Despite his short years in the industry, JK had a tremendous passion and vision for marketing as well as a giant Twitter following. Using his expertise he unleashed a marketing campaign and webpage that yielded results nothing short of impressive.
“As of September we had $4,000 to $5,000 MRR and had gone from $5,000 to $15,000 in a week on JKs emails,” says Thibault. “The product was great and so was the marketing.”
Thibault and Thomas liked JK’s work so much they agreed to make him a cofounder. The team of three was ready to change how we Tweet today.
How JK Achieved Big Sales for Tweet Hunter
So just how did JK put such impressive numbers on Tweet Hunter so fast? He was nice enough to give us some of his secret sauce in the interview.
To lay the groundwork for his campaign, JK’s first step was to clearly define what made Tweet Hunter so special.
“Tweet Hunter’s catchphrase used to be ‘An AI library that makes Twitter faster and better,’” he says. “I didn’t think that was clear enough. It wasn’t a big idea.”
To JK, big ideas look like this:
“Big ideas are the things that make the product interesting,” he says. “For example, ‘This is the secret herb that the Spanish armies use to get healthy!’” JK says. “I grilled them on the features until they told me they have 1.1 million tweets on the app. That was the big idea, ‘We have a million-tweet library.’ Second, I wanted to make it clearer what it did for customers. I decided Tweet Hunter most clearly makes you money and brings you connections.”
Once he had the branding down, it was time to update the website. Unlike with some companies, JK didn’t want to rely on brand exposure to drive sales. He wanted to create a webpage that would drive sales from the first time it was clicked.
“Usually SaaS pages focus on brand mantras,” he says. “They don’t focus on direct response. I wanted visitors to say yes to our service the first time they visited the page. To do that I wanted to figure out how we could make people feel bad for not taking what we offered. I settled on this offer: ‘We will get you profits in six days and you can cancel your subscription after seven.’”
Once the webpage was complete, JK prepared a marketing campaign on Twitter. He broke down the process into four distinct stages.
“Our launch stages were pre-hype, hype, launch date, and post-launch,” says JK. “For prelaunch, we took them to a waitlist – a free email list – that let them get in when Tweet Hunter launched. Then we all built hype for a few days online. On launch day, we got all of our friends to retweet about it and on Friday and Saturday, we were selling the service. On Sunday, we included a post-launch bonus (for example, a training session) that was only available on that day if they bought in.”
With the traffic pouring into the website, JK believes he was then given a rare opportunity to see what really worked for converting more customers.
“For me, every single money problem comes down to a lack of traffic or a lack of a good offer”
“For me, every single money problem comes down to a lack of traffic or a lack of a good offer,” says JK. “With a good offer, people will feel dumb for not buying. If you’re not selling with a good offer your only problem is traffic. With great traffic, the only thing preventing buys is the offer. On Cyber Monday we were getting so much traffic that Thibault said we should stop running ads but I thought we weren’t converting enough. The huge traffic helped me increase conversion rates.”
Besides using Twitter as a major marketing channel, the Tweet Hunter team utilized the power of social media for product feedback as they built the tool.
“As a maker and a Bootstrapper, Twitter was the best place to talk about our work,” says Thibault. “Every time we completed something we’d put it out on Twitter and have some really interesting conversations.”
The Best Tweets All in One Place
As for the functionality of Tweet Hunter today, JK describes it like this:
“I think people overcomplicate Twitter,” he says. “It’s people trying to get inspiration or hop on trends. Tweet Hunter lets you see all the marketing tweets that perform well and show you the patterns on Twitter. It speeds up how you understand ‘the Twitter game.’ Once you see high-quality tweets all the patterns seem clear to you. Better engagement leads to better connections and more money.”
Besides giving customers inspiration for better tweets, the team has begun adding in the features they had originally built for other products. Now Tweet Hunter also uses the AI Thibault and Thomas built earlier to help customers draft and schedule tweets within the software.
“From the very beginning we had a big vision but a very short road map,” says Thibault. “The big vision is, ‘AI to make you a better tweet writer.’ On the day-to-day, we have only a one-to-two-week roadmap. Our tool keeps getting better and has more features than our competitors. We’ve doubled down on AI while improving our full suite of tweet writing features. We hired our first developer three weeks ago.”
Now that Tweet Hunter is up and running, JK, Thomas, and Thibault all have fallen into their specific roles in the company. They believe having a founder awake at every hour helps them too.
“Our startup works out great because everyone has defined jobs,” says JK. “Thibault does the coding. Thomas makes sure it works, doing all the email flows, and setting up the marketing. My job is to sell it and retweet stuff. So far it’s working. Also, we’re three founders on three different continents. We basically have 24-hour coverage.”
Thomas and Thibault also like the lean nature of their team, finding it a welcome departure from previous projects.
“When I was working on an earlier project with Thomas we had 10 very young interns that we had to train every day,” says Thibault. “We spent more time training and teaching them than actually building stuff. This time, it’s different. We want to stay lean to stay flexible. Right now we will stay just the four of us and begin focusing on content.”
Turning Down VCs
Today Tweet Hunter is fast becoming the profitable SaaS startup the founders always dreamed of.
“When we started I thought success was $20,000 MRR,” says Thibault. “I thought that seemed amazing and now we have beaten that.”
Since money started coming in, Silicon Valley has also taken notice of Tweet Hunter. All three founders have received funding proposals from venture capitalists. They have discussed acquisition but are weighing their options.
“We are getting a few VC proposals,” says Thibault. “They are not interesting for us because we’re still figuring out how to spend the money we have.”
Thibault and Thomas are well aware that their type of business is hot for SaaS companies. They have been refusing acquisition offers from the beginning.
“Two months after we started Tweet Hunter we got a $100,000 cash acquisition offer and $400,000 in stocks,” says Thibault. “However, we also had a two-year commitment to work for the buyer so we turned it down.”
Using An Online Presence For Marketing
While he may be slightly biased, JK thinks the method of using a spokesperson who already has a large Twitter following may be the new way for startups to sell fast.
“The upside for building a personal brand is huge and there is little downside.”
“Having an audience as a founder is crazy valuable. You can get feedback in two hours,” he says. “I feel this whole movement coming around where builders are partnering with influencers to get their distribution. Twitter makes it easy to find those types of people. The upside for building a personal brand is huge and there is little downside.”
Thibault agrees and thinks a lot of their success came from letting JK hold the reins on their marketing.
“When companies partner with influencers, they try to heavily control how they talk about the brand,” he says. “We let JK control how we talk about the business and he changed it to a way that was more profitable.”
It’s hard to trust a stranger with branding one of your creations, yet the perspective of someone disconnected from the process may be one of the most valuable things a founder can find. While Thibault and Thomas may have understood the tech and the product, JK understood what an audience of 50,000 wanted to hear. That is just as important.
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