Carlos is the founder of CuriousCheck, a software finder tool for small businesses. He started in early-2019 by partnering up with a team of software developers. Since then, a series of obstacles and wins have led his path to where he is today. In this interview, Carlos shares his lessons on building a business in a quite-competitive space.
Hi Carlos! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?
Hey - So I’ll dive a little into my family background. My mother was born in Puerto Rico and my father was born in Switzerland. My friends actually used to call me Switzer-Rican during my childhood.
My father moved back to Switzerland when I was 4 years old and I’ve never been able to find him or hear from him ever again. I married my best friend Megan Crameri when I was 29. We have two amazing boys: Charlie (2 years old) and Jack - (1-month-old).
Now, my professional background has always evolved technology in some sort of way. Even though I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice degree, I specialized in Cybercrime. This led me into the world of criminal data solutions, then to financial technology and now CuriousCheck.
CuriousCheck is not your typical business directory listing. We’re changing the game by providing a full-service advertising platform, where reputable business software can gain additional exposure and educate their target audience.
We provide a free listing where software and essential business services can sign up and showcase their products in a new way. Premium features, like National SEO, Video Ad creation, and more are available.
In addition, to be considered in our listing, businesses must have online reviews totaling 3.5 or higher to be accepted. This is because our reputation score is based on a combination of ALL reviews online. Yes, we aggregate all reviews so businesses can see a clear unbiased picture of the product and make the best possible choice.
For software shoppers that aren’t still sure what company to pick, we’ve added an additional service called our Advisor Tool. This interactive questionnaire accurately finds the best services for your company, based on your company size, industry, and a couple of industry expert questions in seconds.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
As I quickly talked about before, I graduated from Kennesaw State University (KSU) in 2010 with a degree in Criminal Justice/Cybercrime and was immediately hired as a full-time employee from my college internship at a Criminal Data provider. These are the companies that provide Criminal Data to investigators, background check companies, and more.
As I was always techy, the next year I was accepted to the Master’s program at Southern Poly State University (Now KSU) for Software Engineer. After a year I dropped out due to financial situations and YouTube being a better teacher than my professors.
After a decade, moving up into a managerial role, building a failing betting app, and then the birth of my first son later, I moved on to work for the soon to be 9th fastest growing tech company in North America, bringing in over $800,000 in sales monthly (while also having a couple of side-gigs).
This is where I learned structure in selling to consumers, handling rejection, and most importantly, measuring and analyzing the right data to scale efficiently. In addition, the importance of online reputation management, SEO, and streamlining 3rd party lead generation tools.
In late 2018 I was given an opportunity to jump back into the HR field selling to enterprise companies at one of the most infamous background screening firms in the nation. Here I leveraged business trips and built as many relationships with successful business owners as possible. I learned the importance of strategic partnerships and started to mold myself into an industry leader.
Through my 2+ decades of experience working in multiple industries, startups, small and medium-sized businesses, I made sure to learn from their mistakes as well as what helped them overcome their biggest hurdles. This provided me a great path for success as well as an open mind to possible failures.
How did you build CuriousCheck?
I started in May of 2019 and partnered with a team of software developers that used to work for Zillow and Tesla.
They created a roadmap for my MVP (minimum viable product) and showed me the steps on how to scale.
While the MVP was 70% completed, the team had to close due to gaining too much work and unable to pay their vendors.
This caused a drastic delay and shift in mindset. I was actually able to gain one of their vendors they were working with and teamed up with them full time.
This team, after 3 months of delays, was able to get my MVP out in December 2019.
However, without my initial team I worked with, these developers did not create my MVP as planned and so CuriousCheck, a React web-app, was not built to be SEO optimized.
The developers I partnered with were backend developers, but were not pros in SEO, thus leaving a crucial part of the roadmap coding off.
Let me dive into the problem and make it as basic as possible. React-apps are Single-Page Applicants (SPAs). These apps consist of only one page that’s loaded once. All other information is dynamically loaded when necessary. Unlike typical multi-page apps, SPAs are quick and responsive; however, you must take additional (expensive) steps to optimize SPAs or bots that will clump all the pages into one, omitting most of your content.
We initially tried the most common approach to solving this issue, which is pre-rendering. Pre-rendering are special programs that intercept requests to your site, and if a request is from a bot, pre-render sends a cached static HTML version of your website. If it’s from a typical user, the page is loaded as usual. When we created this program through prerender.io, the pre-rendering took too long due to the number of pages and some other factors.
After speaking to famous React consultants, we finally found out the only other way to solve the issue is to install new middleware for server-side rendering. This makes browsers and Google bots retrieve full content. The main issue with this was that this would take at least 2 months and $15-25k.
It all worked out because while trying to find a new more affordable solution, I met a talented developer on Linkedin that has now recreated 99% of my app on WordPress. He had to develop numerous custom plugins to have our site fully functioning and even faster than before.
What I would tell anyone building a React-based App is to make sure you add middleware and make a server-side framework for your app. Reach out to me if you have any questions.
As I explained, If you do not do this, your app will not be accurately fetched by Google accurately.
Don’t get me wrong, React-web-apps are great, other companies that have reportedly used React in their tech stacks, Airbnb, Uber, Hulu, Facebook, Netflix, Instagram, Twitter.
I’ve now learned my lesson and am helping as many people as I can to deal with this costly situation.
On launch day, Jan 15th our team scheduled a successful Press Release through some great reputable companies. We were fortunate enough to gain some traction from the press release and receive additional publications with high traffic and high authority links.
After much feedback and the migration to WordPress, we’re relaunching April 15th.
I’ve tremendously enjoyed this journey and cannot wait to show the world what’s coming.
Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
Initially, my marketing strategy was:
- Grow my SEO and domain authority right off the bat, 3 months prior to our January 2020 launch, but due to the complications with my React-based app, as I mentioned previously, Google was unable to accurately locate my online content. On top of that, Google remained thinking my whole site was only one page.
- Bring in as many companies with a high online reputation into my platform as soon as possible. We partnered with over 80 businesses within the first 3 months and growing. Companies are ecstatic to join a modern business directory listing that’s actually dedicated to helping them grow.
- For the businesses lacking online reviews or having too many negative reviews, we provide review management. This is where we help create a strategic roadmap to implement and drastically increase the percentage of reviews from their clients, partners, and vendors. Many companies, especially in unique niches like Background Screening, simply believe that only pissed off customers leave reviews, which is far from the truth. They just simply don’t understand how to have a proper plan for review management.
- Educating the audience on real essential business software, by creating an intelligent and interactive advisor bot that provides your company’s top software service choices in seconds. This is all free and based on industry expert questions.
- Blogging and providing informative articles on DIY SEO showing much more affordable alternatives from the top industry leaders paying hefty costs to win bids on top Keywords.
- Reach out directly to businesses through Linkedin and Instagram and advise them for free on Software or Services that may be of use to them. For instance, advice on the best Chatbots for their industry, top Press Release companies, and the ideal payment processing companies with much lower rates than PayPal and Stripe.
We are receiving a lot of traction from small businesses. Most people don’t know exactly what type of software they need, if it’s compatible with their industry or if it’s the most affordable solution. Since the most recent study shows 94% of people don’t search past the first page of Google, this leaves off thousands of great companies to choose from. We’ve gone ahead and not only made software shopping simple, we’ve combined the reviews from all top review sites into each software profile. Here you can easily read reviews from the Better Business Bureau, Trustpilot, Google, Capterra, and much more. Our goal is to provide as much transparency to shoppers so they can make the perfect choice for their business.
What are your goals for the future?
One goal for the future is to be the #1 premier software and services finder for small businesses.
CuriousCheck wants to provide as many useful & affordable tools for business owners and executives globally, so time and money are not only saved but utilized at the fullest capacity. Partnering with the wrong business can cost you thousands of dollars and we want to make sure this does not happen to you, ever!
Our second goal is to perfect our Advisor Bot and gain as much feedback as possible so we can start having it learn on its own with minimal human interaction. Currently, we use a scoring model based on industry, size, services, online reputation, and a few others.
What were the biggest challenges you faced and the obstacles you overcame?
Obstacles?! Plenty. The most current obstacle we are all struggling to overcome- Corona.
But before all of this, my main developers went out of business, I had to migrate servers multiple times, and my wife and I welcomed our second son. But CuriousCheck has persevered.
Our goal is still the same - to simplify and provide a platform for business advancement.
We bring transparency and knowledge to a space often overlooked, because people tend to stay stagnant in their way, regardless of how technology evolves.
We understand the thought of uprooting and starting over can be hard, but we make it as easy as possible and even exciting.
Which are your greatest disadvantages? What were your worst mistakes?
I don’t believe I had any great disadvantages at all. It’s what you do with the cards you’re dealt with.
My worst mistake was not researching how to have a React-based APP optimized for SEO. I now know that you must have middleware installed which provides a server-side framework. This simple mistake has delayed CuriousCheck’s domain reputation.
What are some sources for learning you would recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting?
To tell you the truth, I don’t read books at all anymore. I simply don’t have the time.
I recommend trying to put yourself in your customers as well as your vendor’s shoes.
Follow the hashtags they follow, engage with them, ask them questions through Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, or even Alignable (a great underground small business platform).
Become a leader in your space, get to know people at their level, and build a relationship not based on a possible sale, but based on trust and support.
For SEO advice, I follow the source: SEM Rush Academy and blog, Moz, Diib, and Neil Patel. In fact, I was consulted by Neil Patel’s team on SEO for quite some time and learned a ton. However, it’s extremely expensive. Along with working with the 9th fastest growing tech company, working with Neil Patel’s group pushed me to go full-speed with SEO as soon as possible.
Going to interviews. In 2019 I applied to hundreds of companies and went to at least 50-60 interviews. Most of the time, I didn’t even have a goal of getting hired, I simply wanted to go directly to the owner and ask them their story. How did they become profitable and what steps are they doing to maintain profitability? You see, I think it’s extremely important to learn and ask questions, especially to those that have the answers. Through this time, I learned so many different channels within each industry and unique useful software that it literally blew my mind. I recommend doing this as well.
Where can we go to learn more?
Learn more by connecting and engaging with my personal account on Linkedin. Feel free to schedule a call.