Mark Thompson

Co-Founder of PayKickstart

Mark Thompson is a serial entrepreneur, SaaS enthusiast, and co-founder of PayKickstart – the shopping cart and affiliate management platform that’s reinventing how startups and businesses sell online. In the first 72 hours of its existence, PayKickstart generated over $1M in sales. Besides being a successful entrepreneur, Mark is also a husband, father, and an avid traveler.

Where did the idea for PayKickstart come from?

We started PayKickstart out of sheer necessity for OUR business, before we had even thought about creating a solution that we would offer to others.

We were selling our own software products and services online, but found ourselves having to “duct tape” various solutions together in order to give us the functionality needed to maximize each new and existing customer we generated.

After switching between four or five different shopping cart solutions, we realized a common theme – lack of flexibility, minimal functionality and profit leaks everywhere!

Since we were familiar with software development and had a team of developers already in place, we decided to just create our own internal, bare-bones solution for ourselves.

So we built out a simple Stripe and PayPal integrated shopping cart that could process payments and manage simple recurring payments. Over time, we started adding additional functionality like coupon code management, new customizable checkout page templates, one-click upsell functionality, and more.

After about one year of using our custom platform internally, we had a complete shopping cart and affiliate management solution. About the same time, we realized that the frustrations surrounding selling online were real, and that other online businesses were struggling to scale and grow because of the same challenges we faced years ago. That’s when PayKickstart was born.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

First, it’s morning time with my wife and helping my daughter to get her ready for school. Then, I like to go for a short walk to clear my head before the start of the “workday”.

Once the workday starts, I check in with our team for 10 minutes or so before diving into the tasks I’ve laid out for myself from the day before.

Usually, at the end of each workday, I write out my “to-do’s” that I want to accomplish for the next day so that each morning I don’t need to think about what needs to get done.

And after work, it’s family time again.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’m a very visual person, so I will usually go to my whiteboard and start drawing out the idea before communicating it with my partner and team.

Once we’ve determined that our solution is truly going to solve a problem for the majority of our users, then the next step is opening up a wireframe app and creating a very rough sketch of what I drew on the whiteboard.

Then our team gathers together to make sure we fleshed out everything, and then it gets sent to our UI designers before we start developing the actual functionality.

What’s one trend that excites you?

One trend (if you would call it that) that excites me is the increased nature of people working remotely online.

Since 100% of our customers are selling products online, the fact that more people around the world are spending their workdays on the internet means that we have a larger reach of new potential customers.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Trying not to ask too much of someone on a daily basis.

I try to have our team members focused on a single ”task” that was assigned to them in our project management software. I’ll let them focus on it until it’s finished without giving them something unrelated, which causes them to jump around from task to task.

What advice would you give your younger self?

“Do something you’re passionate about.”

When I started my first online business, instead of following a passion, I followed the “trends in the market”. My goal then was to find something that would just make me money. However, I quickly realized that there will be tons of challenges and bumps along the way. And since I wasn’t truly passionate about my initial projects or industries, it was hard to have the perseverance and desire to overcome those obstacles.

Also, I would tell my younger self: “Take imperfect action.”

Most entrepreneurs have the tendency to want everything to be perfect. And that’s how I was too.

Before I would ever get something out the door and try to sell it, I would constantly be tweaking it, scared that it wasn’t perfect. This led to a tremendous amount of wasted energy and time.

Once you are willing to accept imperfection, it will help you get to market faster, be able to adapt quicker, and ultimately build a thriving business.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Similar to what I would tell my younger self – your product or service doesn’t have to be perfect before you take it to market. First to market is more important than perfecting a product. It will never be perfect anyway.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Provide the absolute best experience and support for your customers. Reach out to them and treat them like a real person, and not just another number. Your customers are the ones that fuel the expansion growth of your business, so treat them like you would want to be treated.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Many businesses focus on bringing in more customers, and that’s definitely an important thing to put your time and energy towards. However, we’ve seen a lot of growth by first trying to increase the lifetime value of every customer that comes through our doors.

So, once we honed in on that by implementing things like upsells, downsells, cross-sells, order bumps, and an automated dunning sequence to save failed rebills (all of which can be done by the PayKickstart software), we realized that we could still grow our revenue without having to get additional traffic than we were currently receiving.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Trying to do too many things at one time, jumping from one thing to the next.

As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to constantly be thinking, “What’s the next problem I can solve?”

Early on, I would jump from one project to the next, never giving the main project all of my focus so that it could grow to its potential.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Somebody really needs to create a better way to fit Tupperware food containers into a dishwasher without taking up so much space. Whoever gets a patent on that – you got the idea here first 🙂

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently upgraded my router to Google Nest WiFi, and my wifi speeds nearly tripled compared to what I had been using previously. Highly recommended!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We love JIRA as our project management solution. We also use it for building out all of our version releases, creating epics/sprints/tasks, tracking progress, running QA on each task, assigning the task to the appropriate employee, and much more.

The software is incredibly robust. With the number of developers and designers that we have, this software allows us to remain organized, knowing what needs to be done and when it will be done.

I also love the integrations that Jira has with other software that we use, like FreshDesk (help desk software) and Slack (our communication software).

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts about business and marketing. One that I really like recently is “How I Built This” because it allows me to learn from other founders of companies in all kinds of industries.

What is your favorite quote?

“Your time is Limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
– Steve Jobs

Key Learnings:

  • Don’t try to build a perfect product right from the start. Make the best version of the product you can at that particular moment, then iterate.
  • Follow your passion, not trends in the industry. If you’re in for the long haul, your passion will keep you motivated.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of your existing customers. One loyal customer can be worth thousands of new ones. In other words, focus on increasing the lifetime value of your existing users, not just on generating new leads.
  • Scratch your own itch. It’s been proven several times that this is one of the surefire ways to build a successful and profitable product.
  • Be focused on one thing and don’t multitask.