My name is Justin Ferriman, Founder of GapScout. Originally hailing from Michigan, I currently live in California. I’m a person with a passion and keen awareness of life.
I choose to put all my energy into making my passions a reality. My focus has never been on the money, but on that “fun” feeling that comes with being creative. It is a simple life philosophy that has proven to be both incredibly lucrative and fulfilling.
Spending time with my wife Lorena, studying Spanish, training Gracie jiu-jitsu, traveling in Mexico and playing overly aggressive online chess all keep me balanced.
The Journey Began
Ever since I was young, I have been drawn to entrepreneurship. My first venture was going door-to-door in my neighborhood as an eight-year-old and selling car washes for $3.
I followed the traditional university and then corporate career path, but always had a side hustle I was trying to grow.
From massage chairs to selling domain names and website development, to SEO reports and free hosting, the list goes on and on. I’m pretty sure I drove my parents crazy with all my ideas, as they just wanted me to focus on my career.
The one thing my career did teach me is that I didn’t want to live in the corporate life. I was an e-learning consultant, and as a result, I was on the road for four to five days per week, living in hotels. I hated that I didn’t own my time.
While those previous business ventures had varying degrees of success, I was picking up new skills along the way. How to build a brand, how to communicate effectively, and (most importantly) how to blog.
I was introduced to WordPress in 2006. I started a blog on politics and religion. You know, the two topics everyone loves to talk about.
As I tried my hand at various entrepreneurial ventures, I always leaned upon blogging as a way to help build interest. This eventually led me to start a blog called LearnDash, which eventually became the first WordPress LMS.
I realized during my work as an e-learning consultant that WordPress would make an excellent learning platform given its flexibility.
I started to write about it in March 2012 and launched the software (after contracting an agency to build it) in January 2013. I left my consulting career a few months later in April 2013.
What started as a lifestyle business grew into an actual one, with nearly 40 employees from all over the world.
In October 2020, I decided the best course of action would be to sell, and began the long process of working with investment bankers to find a safe home for LearnDash.
I stayed with the company for a year as an advisor, and during this time, I got the idea for GapScout, an AI tool that analyzes every review about you (and your competitors), revealing the biggest, most lucrative gaps in your market.
The Need for GapScout
My goal with GapScout is to automate a manual process I used to grow LearnDash.
I am a highly competitive person. During my time running LeranDash, I would constantly read the reviews of our product and of the competition (both in WordPress and SaaS products) on sites like G2, Capterra, and TrustPilot.
I would note the common themes in the reviews, pain points, and feature requests. If a competitor was performing better in an area than me, I’d make it my priority to nullify that advantage.
GapScout does this same process, only better than I ever did. Using AI, it scrapes all the reviews for your business, and the reviews of your competitors then analyzes sentiment and themes across all of them – giving you clear insight into how you can win more customers by filling the gaps that exist in the market.
GapScout is a SaaS, which is different from my experience with WordPress products. On the one hand, it’s way easier to support. Anyone with experience in WordPress knows that support is the most challenging part (and most expensive).
However, it does come with challenges. This is my first foray into not only SaaS but also AI. People like to oversimplify AI. While it’s relatively straightforward to work with, it’s actually quite challenging to get AI to consistently do exactly what you want it to.
GapScout experienced many delays because we just couldn’t get the AI right. It was frustrating, but also we learned a lot during the process.
Advice for Business Owners
Here is the most tired, overstated advice that you’ve probably heard 100 times.
Start marketing before you build anything!
When I started LearnDash, I had only a blog. With the blog, I built up an email list of over 1000 people before launching. When I launched, the business had great traction from initial sales and Google. It took 10 months to build my email list.
With GapScout, I did the exact same thing. I started a blog to begin targeting industry-relevant keywords. After 10 months, you guessed it: over 1000 email addresses were on the list.
It doesn’t have to be a blog, but you need to put yourself out there in some capacity to cut through the noise. Be it a blog, a podcast, or a YouTube channel. It’s way easier to start a business when you have people’s attention before launch.
WordPress & Beyond
While I am not directly involved in WordPress anymore, I still have many friends and contacts in the space. I provide consulting from time to time as well.
The next five years will, unsurprisingly, be all about blocks. Say goodbye to themes as we traditionally know them. In my mind, Matt Mullenweg has made this direction crystal clear.
The only threat to WordPress is the leadership itself at this point, rather than outside competition. It’s been pretty clear to most involved in the space that the interests of Automattic have a convenient way of finding their way into the core.
This isn’t always bad, but we should just recognize that Automattic has big money backers and that big money is influencing the trajectory of the project in a very real way.
My Love for the WordPress Community
When running LearnDash I not only attended WordCamps, but I helped to organize them as well. I always looked forward to networking and simply meeting new people.
Some of the best business deals I made were at WordCamp U.S. and WordCamp Europe.
Someone who inspired me during my early days was Troy Dean from Agency Mavericks (formerly WPElevation). The guy has a work ethic that is relentless. Like me, he’s not a developer, so he focused all his energy on other areas of his business.
His marketing game is on-point. Whether you have an agency or not, you can learn just by looking at what he’s doing. Aside from that, he’s incredibly friendly and genuine.
How I Keep Myself Updated
I rely pretty exclusively on TheWPMinute for my WordPress news. It also has a great community. Matt Medeiros is the man.
I Reward Myself by
Since February 2020 I have been taking three to four Spanish lessons per week. I’ve gotten pretty good, but have a long way to go!
I enjoy using my Spanish when Lorena and I travel to Mexico (her home country). We enjoy the ocean, mountains, and any trip that gives us the opportunity to explore the outdoors on (beginner-level) hikes.