In 2007, Tim Ferriss published his first and best-known book, The 4 hour work week. The book is set against the backdrop of Ferriss’ journey as a founder working 14 hours a day to grow his nutritional supplement business. Ferriss’s startup has taken over all aspects of his life, causing crippling stress and anxiety. Fearing to work to the point of madness or death, Ferriss took an eight-week trip to Europe, resigned to the likelihood that his business would fail without him. But a strange thing happened. His business worked well without him, “better than ever”, and allowed him to transform eight weeks into fifteen months abroad in Europe, soaking up culture, food, music and more.
Ferriss’ initial problem is not unique. Entrepreneurs and small business owners know how difficult it is to leave the office. Like Ferriss, many believe their business will collapse without them, but a new startup in Provo aims to help founders reclaim some time for themselves.
In August, Eric Espinosa and Tyler Leber launched their new business, Coconut VA. The “VA” stands for “virtual assistant”. The startup helps small businesses and entrepreneurs find and hire skilled and affordable virtual assistants from the Philippines.
“We have a Coconut VA challenge; within 90 days of getting your VA, go on vacation and leave your laptop at home, ”says Espinosa. “We find it resonates with a lot of people because it’s the epitome of being able to let go of the office.”
The idea for Coconut VA was born while Espinosa and Leber were working with clients in their first startup, Venture Validator, which they still operate in tandem with Coconut VA.
A startup to launch startups
“I was a BYU student a few years ago,” Espinosa says. “I had an expiration date barcode extension business, won $ 25,000 through contests, and received $ 650,000 investment offers. But I knew I hadn’t fully validated my business idea. Raising money is not a validation, earning money in competition is not a validation… So I went to continue validating, and in 40 days I invalidated the idea. Where Venture Validator starts is I had $ 25,000, but no startup to put it in. So I wanted to test the best ideas. I had lots of ideas. “
Using what he learned at BYU, Espinosa systematized his process for validating business ideas. He became so knowledgeable and confident that he started consulting with other startups to validate their ideas. Soon, consulting became a full-time job, and Espinosa realized that he had inadvertently validated a startup around the validation of other startups.
“The board is not scalable and I won’t be stuck in something that is not scalable,” says Espinosa. “I doubled my prices to bring down customers, but people kept coming. I was frustrated, so I quadrupled my prices, and people kept coming. So I was like, “Okay, is there a way to make this scalable? Therefore, Venture Validator was born.
Venture Validator helps startups find out if their ideas have sufficient demand in the real world through surveys. Espinosa says that he “multiplied [BYU professor Gary Rhodes’ methods] by three, and put him on steroids in the polls. Espinosa helps startups find 100-200 clients in the target market and then present their solution. Through surveys, they find out what features the target market is looking for, their main objections, and the price they’re willing to pay.
Venture Validator has helped startups in software, real estate, retail, and more. They helped Parent Playbook launch, a startup Techbuzz previously wrote about.
Leber started out as an intern with Espinosa, although the two are close in age. The duo quickly realized that they worked well together and became full partners. After graduating from BYU in August 2020, Leber joined the company full-time.
A little help finding help
As Venture Validator took off, Espinosa and Leber hired virtual assistants from the Philippines to outsource their work. They have trained these general assistants to become an invaluable part of the workflow. Venture Validator now has three full-time U.S. employees and two to three VAs from the Philippines, depending on bandwidth demands.
“We preached to many [Venture Validator customers] saying, “Hey, this is how you stock up [Filipino VAs] and that’s how you train them, ”and no one did,” says Espinosa. “They don’t know where to find them… Hiring in the US sounds like a puzzle, so trying to hire someone from the Philippines feels like a huge puzzle.
Espinosa and Leber helped a Venture Validator client track and hire a Filipino VA. After a month, they reached out to see how she was doing.
“She wrote us this wacky email saying, ‘Oh my God, this is the BEST DECISION I EVER MADE! in all caps, ”says Espinosa. “As product-to-market researchers, we know this is huge. It’s easy to find 100 customers who like you, but it’s so hard to find 100 customers who like you. And this is our first customer, who just loves what we’ve done.
This success of a VA with a startup Venture Validator prompted Espinosa and Leber to create Coconut VA.
Coconut VA caters to entrepreneurs with little time. The company takes care of the hiring, payroll, legal aspects, and benefits, making it easy for people to hire a virtual assistant.
Coconut VA also helps with training, as many CEOs and entrepreneurs wear multiple hats and feel they can’t give any of them. Espinosa says that with the proper training, virtual assistants general can wear multiple hats, just like a founder.
“We hired a 19-year-old with very little experience,” says Espinosa. “We asked him to do graphic design and Facebook ads. After a four-day course, she was better than any BYU student at Facebook ads.
Besides graphic design and Facebook ads, it also helps with web design, data entry, product market research, etc.
On the virtual assistant side, Filipinos are also excited about this opportunity. Espinosa and Leber approach potential hires with the same approach they would have for American employees. They offer perks, a 13-month bonus, and a promise that Coconut VA won’t cut wages if an employee quits them, treating them as equals to American employees.
The many small tasks that a VA helps startup CEOs have peace of mind. They can opt out and log out of their business after hours. Outsourcing assistants are also very affordable. Instead of paying for an American assistant, which costs between $ 40,000 and six figures each year, a Filipino virtual assistant would probably cost less than half that amount, starting at just $ 10 an hour, with bandwidth and very flexible hours.
“Our client from July went on vacation without her laptop, and she was ecstatic, saying, ‘This was the first time I could do this,’” says Espinosa. “Go try a virtual assistant and see how you can outsource your life. We are looking for VAs who have a relationship with their US employer for years to come.
How Coconut VA Helps Founders Quit Their Jobs Originally posted on TechBuzz.news