Episode 158 | The Reunion Show

Show Notes

Transcript

[00:00] Rob: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I talk about HitTail, Audit Shark and the goings on of the last five weeks. This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 158.

[00:11] Music

[00:19] Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.

[00:29] Mike: And I’m Mike.

[00:30] Rob: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. Mike, what’s the word this week? I haven’t talked to you for almost a month.

[00:38] Mike: I replaced you on the podcast for a little while.

[00:39] Rob: I could tell. I was a little concerned. Dave did such a good job I was thinking uh oh, I might be out of a job. I might need to start and go solo or start my own podcast because yeah, I liked the episodes you guys cranked out.

[00:50] Mike: I hope the listeners did too. I hope they enjoyed a little break from you.

[00:54] Rob: Yeah. So obviously the reason I was gone was for MicroConf Europe. You and I were out of town for a week and then I stuck around for another three weeks with my family. I wanted to work about a half hour a day was my plan. Seven days a week, get up, check email, do some stuff just to make sure I kept up with it. I wound up working about an hour every three days and with the internet connectivity the way it was which was mediocre which was a very rejuvenating month and I got a lot of thinking done, I did come back.

[01:27] We launched Drip to about 1500 people while I was in Italy in October and now it’s kind of cool to see that go on. I would get the emails and then just I wanted to work through the launch list before I got back and that was kind of the only way to do it. I don’t want to be launching in November and December because we know everything calms down during that time. So how about you? Any new updates?

[01:50] Mike: Well, last night as a matter of fact I finally got the Linux support fully functional in the new UI. I’ve been kind of…

[01:58] Rob: You’re talking about Audit Shark.

[01:59] Mike: Since we cut over to the new UI there was a lot of things that just little stuff here and there is like oh I don’t know if this works or I don’t know if that works and so I was just kind of going through everything, making sure that everything still works and for the most part I mean my paying customer is still happy and has made more than one payment than this point so it’s good.

[02:18] Rob: I love that my paying customer.

[02:20] Mike: But I have had conversations with the other people who have signed on and I think I mentioned it on the last episode that we’ve got a concrete list of things that we’re working towards and trying to get those things resolved and out the door. So I’m working on certain things. My developer is working on other things and we’re kind of meeting in the middle because fortunately the things we’re working on are separate from one another and one of the things I was working on was making sure that the Linux support was working end to end. And I finally got that working again. It does work because I do have Linux policies because I’ve got the third guy who’s working for me, he’s building all the Linux stuff. I’m basically making sure that it works in the in the UI and the other developer I have is working on reporting.

[03:02] Rob: Linux is a pretty key piece right? For in terms of the early access customers or the beta list, the mailing list you had. When you’ve asked people, there may even be more interest in Linux support than you have in Windows support is that right?

[03:15] Mike: Yeah. It’s leaps and bounds ahead of Windows actually. There’s a bunch of people who have both Windows and Linux and they’re basically waiting around and saying well, let me know when you’ve got Linux support in there and then I’m willing to kind of take a look and move forward with it but if it’s just Windows I don’t necessarily care right now. And then there’s a lot of people who just have Linux.

[03:35] Rob: Yes, it sucks because you don’t want to be writing a bunch of code right now. What you want to be doing is getting people in early access and marketing and ramping up and basically you want to get to 1.0 as soon as possible so that you can slow down. You’re obviously always going to be building features but it’s like building Linux support is a big endeavor. And so are you at the point where it done and tested or is it kind of like right now we have 2 or 3 weeks to work out the kings basically.

[04:02] Mike: It’s a hard question to answer because there are other several different sides of it so there’s as I said I’ve got one person who’s working on just reporting and one of the things that’s come up is that people want to be able to see – if I run a report now, I want to be able to compare my current results versus my previous results very, very easily and they want to see where things have regressed. So there’s something going in called a regression report and that’s got to be built like currently things are just being stored using a back end blob storage. So there’s not a good way to compare things from one set of audit results to the next, so that’s one piece that’s being built in with the reports and then another one is being able to compare things over date ranges as well.

[04:47] So they basically want to see a priority on the 400 to 600 plus things that are in there now that we’re examining on their servers and they say I need you to prioritize these for me because that would be more valuable to me because right now, we’d basically just say here’s the information. Here’s what’s okay. Here’s what’s not okay but we don’t prioritize it for it. There’s this piece that needs to go in on the reports to be able to show them that prioritization and then in the back end policies, my other developer has to go in and basically assign the priorities to everything.

[05:17] So there’s the two different things that are kind of moving at the same time and then the third piece that I’m working on is basically making sure that the Linux stuff runs end to end which it hasn’t been until last night. So now that’s running, once some of the priority stuff goes in which will have to be done on Linux as well, then the reporting side goes into it and its just kind of like all three things are coming together all at the same time. And once those three things are in place, then it would provide I think the value that it really needs to because I’m going to have the same question marks from people who are using it on Windows as they are in Linux because they’re going to want those things to be prioritized. They’re going to want to be able to see regression reports.

[05:53] And I actually had an in depth conversation with one person who said this information that you’re providing me is awesome but his problem was around the fact that he didn’t want to have to go in every single day and try to remember what was different from one day to the next, what he really wanted he’s just like I just want a daily email that says have things gone off the rails? But it’s called the everything’s okay alarm and it will continue to sound while everything is okay. So basically just a daily email that says hey, nothing’s changed today. Between yesterday and today, nothing has changed. You just haven’t gotten any worse. Not better, but things have just not gotten any worse.

[06:26] Rob: Yeah.

[06:27] Mike: Somebody told me specifically they were like that’s awesome. That’s exactly what I need. And if I had that, it’s like after seeing that for about two weeks or so, I’d probably turn it off knowing that you would let me know if things got worse and he’s like as soon as I decided to turn that off, that’s when I would be willing to pay.

[06:44] Rob: Nice. And this person you were talking is an early access customer is that right?

[06:46] Mike: Yes.

[06:47] Rob: Not a customer but a user, but he’s basically saying that’s what I need in order to pay you. Very good. One feature at a time. It’s like you implement one thing for one customer and then they’ll pay and that will get you this other group of customers and maybe it’s a handful and then you just branch out slowly and it’s just kind of knocking these things off the list that allows you to get a bigger and bigger market. It’s like right now you’ve solved the problem for one person and just slowly over the course of weeks and months you’ll be able to expand that market. So what’s your timeline like? Let’s say like next week do you think you will have enough done that you’ll have another paying customer? I mean what does it look like for you over the next month or two?

[07:30] Mike: The reporting stuff should be going in this week. Now, whether the data is there or on the policies to be able to do the prioritizations and things, I don’t know that yet. I have to touch with the guy who’s working on that and just kind of verify that he’s working in that direction. There’s some things that need to go in his policy builder to help him enable that or to help enable that for him to make it easier so I have another person who’s working on that side of things who he’s supposed to be doing that tomorrow or it might be done within the next day or two after that.

[07:59] So realistically if I had to guess, I’d probably say it’s going to be another 2 or 3 weeks before all of that stuff is completely ready but it will be done in bits and pieces between now and then. So I think that the reporting stuff will be done either tomorrow or the day after. The policy builder stuff hopefully will be done maybe tomorrow or the day after and once then he’s done with that then the policies can be updated. But even after that, the people who I hand this off to, they’re still going to need time to get comfortable with it, take a look at the reports and then make their decisions off of that. And that might take in the first email, it might take 2 or 3 weeks of them getting the emails and reports to be able to say okay yeah, I’m comfortable with this

[08:36] Rob: Right. And that’s that free trial period right? You’ll just be running it manually. But once they actually start using it, they don’t pay you the first day. You give them time to try it out. Like I was saying when I was doing the manual onboard and with Drip, I was giving people as long as they needed to feel confident that Drip was basically making them money, that it was saving them time and making them money. And so some people had six week trials. It was just completely arbitrary but I only had 15 people trialing in and I was manually emailing everybody individually. I was watching all of their accounts. I was watching the number of subscribers, the number of conversions that were coming in.

[09:13] And then at a certain point it was obvious. Someone had like $400 or $500 in conversions come in in 3 ½ weeks. And so I emailed them and said do you feel like this is worth it? And they said yeah. So that’s the nice part about doing manual on-boarding although its time intensive, it allows you to get a feel for how long it takes people. You’re going to be able to look at it based on the complexity of their setup, based on their knowledge, based on how much time they have, you’ll have an idea of like huh, people can actually get value out of this in two weeks and so your trial should be two weeks or maybe it will be 30 days. But whatever it is because right you probably don’t know how long your trial should be. You could take a guess but you don’t really know because you don’t have enough experience.

[09:51] Mike: It’s not even that I don’t have the experience. The problem is that I’ll on board somebody and I’ll ask them a question would you pay for this and let’s say if it had this feature and this feature, then I would pay for it and it’s like okay well then I have to go off and build that feature and make sure that works and it might take 2, 3, 4 weeks to do that. And then once I’ve done that, you’re adding 2, 3, 4 weeks in there. It’s hard to judge at that point. I just don’t – I don’t have the data. I don’t have enough throughput through the pipeline of new customers that are being on boarded to be able to make those determinations in 3 or 4 months I think that will be a completely different story but I have no idea right now. I just can’t answer it.

[10:29] Rob: Right. You’re in the midst of what I’ve started calling the slow launch and this is basically the fact that I had customer zero on boarded onto Drip in April and we are going public tomorrow and it’s not early November. So what happens in that 6 or 7 months span, well, we were doing manual on boarding. We were building features per request just like you said where it would say are you willing to pay for this? It’d say no, I need XYZ feature, we would go build that. And slowly getting one paying customer at a time and then launching to 300, it was exhilarating and it got I don’t know, 50 or 100 trials in the door and then we saw how many converted and you just build from there.

[11:12] I think we have a luxury because we don’t have a venture funded board at our back saying you have to move faster. You have to hire faster. You have to grow faster. Now it could also be detrimental if we’re not super motivated to get things done but frankly if you have a launch list or you have customers who are interested in it, the best thing you can do is implement the features they need before you try to get them into a trial because otherwise you dump them into this trial, you get them on boarded and then poof, they’re like there’s not a value here. And then you have to go build a bunch of stuff and come back to them.

[11:43] I actually think you maximize conversion rates by doing this, this slow launch over time and letting in groups of people, working with them manually figuring out what they want, what they need, implementing it then you let in another 10% or 15% of your list seeing what happens with them. For me it’s been a huge learning experience to learn more about the customers at Drip, the people who it works for and who it doesn’t, the people who really understand it from day one and the people who need more education.

[12:09] Mike: The other thing is and I’m sure Drip is a little bit different than what I’ve got to deal with. One of the guys who had come to me and started talking to me about early access has 70 servers. Of course that falls in kind of like the enterprise space for my product because there’s at least $2,500 a month probably for just that one customer so I went back to my developer and I’m like can we even do this right now and he’s like no.

[12:36] Rob: Yeah, too much volume.

[12:38] Mike: Because things need to be re-architected in the background so as part of this reporting process that he’s working on, that stuff is going to be taken care of as well which is kind of nice to see but a lot of questions and stuff you had to answer about scaling up.

[12:50] Rob: Sure. Yeah, we actually are seeing scaling issues as well. We’re real time analytics. We have every time someone visits your website we got a ping back and we insert a record in the database because we have to be able to track referees of all the new visitors. We’ve tracked every time the popup widget opens to collect an email and we offer all that data up in the app and so we have already upgraded kind of the database hosting twice and we’re in the process of doing it the third time to fix some reports that are starting to get slow for people.

[13:23] The real time stuff which is a massive data collection like you’re doing and like actually HitTail and Drip both do it, it’s kind of a pain but I also think it’s a nice barrier to entry because a lot of folks is not just some simple crud Saas app that someone can build and then host on a shared server. It really takes some expertise to keep this thing running.

[13:45] Mike: Yeah I know what you’re talking about there. I’ve already gotten some complaints about some of the reports in there as well. These reports are slow and I’m like yeah, I know but I’m getting a couple of megs worth of data from just on audit and it’s like okay, well you throw 5-10 machines in there and it becomes a lot of data very, very quickly.

[14:05] Rob: Right. So I guess to wrap up kind of a Drip update, like I said, we launched – it was somewhere between 1200 and 1500 more people during October and then we are launching to the final basically the last 3rd of the list today. And then by the time this podcast airs, Drip will be live. You’ll be able to go to getdrip.com and basically see the tour and signup for a plan just like anyone else for a free trial. So that feels good. It feels good to finally hit that point although it is a bit anti climactic because we already have paying customers, revenue. Last month was a recurring revenue was up to $1,000 over the previous month and it’s on pace to do that again this month and so we’re already launched in my mind. The public launch is more of a formality at this point. The amount of recurring revenue that we’ve had while we are in early access, it will be several months until we basically duplicate that until we get that much revenue doubled.

[15:10] So about two weeks ago we launched to a group of about 600 on the list and it was before that, we had basically nothing. All we had was a signup page, a signup and a login page and then you can get it and the app was fully done but there was no marketing website. And about two weeks ago we got just a shell marketing website up and it was like an about page privacy policy, terms and service FAQ, just a couple things. And some of it was lorem ipsum and some of it wasn’t finished. I mean it was kind of up there and I didn’t link to any of it. I really just linked to a pricing page where they could sign up. But the pricing page did have footer links to some of those pages.

[15:44] I specifically called that out in the emails and said look this stuff isn’t done but you can poke around if you want. Right away, we started getting emails that are about page was lorem ipsum and some guy tweeted me saying is this serious? I’m going to cancel my trial because your about page isn’t done. And we probably got 4 or 5 emails within a week of people who were flipping out about the about page. It was crazy. It was all lorem ipsum texts. It was our images, the actual images but it’s at getDrip.com/about if you want to check it out. I was totally surprised and the fact that it wasn’t just one person really was indicative to me that people wanted to find out who was behind it or something. There was some desire to see this about page and for it not to just be plain text.

[16:28] Mike: Yeah. That’s kind of crazy. I don’t even know what to make of that.

[16:31] Rob: It makes sense now that it happened but I never would have expected it. I mean if the privacy policy in terms of service for lorem ipsum, they weren’t but if they were, I bet no one would’ve cared.

[16:40] Mike: Well, speaking of adding new content to the website, I implemented that content strategy that Brett Palombo from the bootstrap with kids podcast had talked about on air and Patrick McKenzie had also talked to me about over – I think it was last week I put more than 400 pages of content live on the website that’s all generated from the policies that were executed on people’s machines.

[17:03] Rob: Very nice. Have you seen any results from it yet?

[17:05] Mike: Yeah, Google hasn’t indexed it yet so still kind of waiting for that to happen and then once it does, it will be interesting to see what sort of traffic it generates. I don’t necessarily have very high expectations for it. They’re very, very specific things that if people were searching for those, then great. And maybe they would sign up. I just don’t know. I don’t have a good sense of whether or not those people would come to the site and say oh, well I’m not going to have to do these things on my servers anymore because they may just be doing them as one off things and they just don’t need to do them again. I want to see how it goes. I want to see what sort of traffic comes in but I have to wait for Google to index it because they just haven’t done it yet.

[17:43] Rob: Sure. You can certainly keep an eye on it. I mean you’re going to want a call to action at the bottom of everyone. I would also if you don’t already have the Drip widget installed, I think that will be a nice way to connect with people is to collect their email address because the idea of someone stumbling on it and signing right up for a trial is probably not going to happen that often. But if they’re at least interested in that topic and you can stay in touch with them over time and use your nice auto responder sequence you’ve already created in Drip, that’s certainly a good way to nurture those leads and stay in touch with them. I think that will be a better converting source than trying to get them to sign up for a trial on the spot.

[18:18] Mike: Yeah. Drip is already installed there and it’s already available so when you go to those different policies and the different items that are on there, they do show up right away, the Drip courses down there so they could sign up for it. But yeah, I totally agree with that. I don’t see any reason why that wouldn’t at least help.

[18:34] Rob: Sure, very cool. I did some more investigation and kind of had been watching HitTail over the past month since we last discussed it. Our last update we talked about how Google was going to 100% not provided and I think they’re in the 80% or 90% at this point. what I noticed is that Google at least in the US is about 67% of US search traffic and what’s funny is that HitTail is still doing quite well on the other 33% like it’s using AOL and Bing and Yahoo and kind of the other market.

[19:08] And so there have been some customers who their key word suggestions through HitTail have decreased substantially and that’s a bummer obviously. If they had 95% Google traffic, there’s not much to be done there. But at the same time it hasn’t been as much of an Armageddon as I had imagined. There still is room for there to be keyword suggestions. I mean if you think about it, no one is going to have this data and every single keyword you have now is worth so much more than it was a month ago when it was abundant.

[19:40] Dave Collins talked about that in MicroConf Europe just about how valuable, how hard keyword data is going to be to come by. And so it’s that funny thing of like a tool like HitTail or long tail pro or market samurai, it may take a hit with the not provided stuff. It can still be as or more valuable than any other resource you have because you don’t even have that data in your Google analytics anymore. That’s not the end of the world. I thought HitTail wasn’t going to make it and at this point, it doesn’t seem like that like it seems it’s going to stick around.

[20:13] Mike: So here’s a question for you. You said that when you were on boarding people you were kind of watching to see what they were doing. Did you have dashboards built into your application to monitor I guess user activity and overall user health or did you put that onto another application that you subscribed to?

[20:33] Rob: Are you saying like how often they logged in or something?

[20:37] Mike: Yeah, things like that. So did they perform a certain act? Did they perform a certain action or when was the last time they logged in? Have they sent on a campaign, that kind of stuff?

[20:47] Rob: Right. So we talked about using a service like intercom.io or customer.io or one of those retention services that allows you to have insight into what folks are doing, the further we looked into it, the more I realized that we wanted to just look at our database. It was literally some select queries to figure out what people are doing. Basically we have a last log in date. We also have a number of logins like a quantity of log in for every person and so I can see if they’re active and I can see when they last logged in.

[21:18] And then just by doing a select count from campaigns, you can see if they’ve activated a campaign. We did write some code to go like hit their URL and figure out if they’ve installed a java script. We look in the database to see if they’ve created a goal. There’s there steps someone needs to completely to basically get the full on boarded part of Drip that we can get that all from our own database. We don’t need any type of real instrumentation to do that. And I think if we did need instrumentation I would probably have just built it myself. Again, the further we got, the more I realized well I’m going to have to sink my data and all my customer stuff with an external system. And every time we add, edit, delete something, we need to call out and do that. That just seemed like more trouble than it was worth when we can kind of just run an ad hoc query and get that info out.

[22:03] I do have a dash board. I do have an admin area where it shows me a bunch of checkmarks, who’s done what? Who hasn’t done what? And those people of course get different emails. We have this whole custom email course during their trial that sends them different things at different times based on what they have and haven’t done and it tries to help them get on boarded. And it doesn’t just push it off on to them either. It doesn’t say go do this. It actually says please rely to this and we’ll be in touch. Please reply to this. We’ll do it for you. We’ll walk you through it, that kind of stuff. I’m assuming you’re asking because you’re at the point with Audit Shark that you’re looking at options?

[22:37] Mike: Yeah. I mean I’ve looked at the ones that you have mentioned came across, Woopra and Totango. It’s funny because they all saw a slightly different problem and none of them really solves the problem that I was actually looking to solve. So I can kind mash things together but some ways I’m kind of leaning towards building my own dashboard like you were talking about. It’s just like I don’t want to have to add that to the engineering plea. You know what I mean?

[23:05] Rob: Yeah. No, I hear that. It is when its building new features or building basically that’s instrumentation, it makes it tough. I think it took us less than four hours to do it because it was – I can hack that together with literally some sequel queries that just display on a white background on the dash board. So it’s not like a ton of – unless you have a ton of stuff you need to instrument, it’s not that hard to get this done. Sending the emails is, that’s not trivial. Well actually to be honest, sending the emails isn’t. It’s a big case right? If they’re on this day and they’ve done this, then send this email. The hard part and the part that took longer than the development was writing all the emails.

[23:47] Mike: Yeah. And I’ve already started working on the emails themselves. It’s just the kind of matter of deciding how those things are going to get sent out and how they’re going to get triggered.

[23:55] Rob: Yeah and that was where – here’s what I did. I put together a spread sheet and I looked all the cases and all the days of what people could do on what point and where we wanted it to be and I mapped out how many emails needed to be sent and I gave them all names and then I went off and I wrote all of them and it probably, that process of mapping it out and writing them probably took me 12 hours. It was tremendously time intensive.

[24:22] And then once I had that mapped out, I showed it to the developer, to Derek and he was basically yeah, I can get these to send out based on these cases that you said in like two hours because its literally select this, check if they’ve done that. If I haven’t, send them this variation of it. It didn’t take him very long. So the mechanism of sending the email again is not, I don’t think it’s that intense and I think trying to do it internally, I don’t know, it seemed to work for us.

[24:49] Mike: And I’ve looked at that as well. I don’t think that sending the emails would be that difficult. I’ve got about a third of them written. I think there’s a list of about 15 or 20 that I wrote down different situations whereas like I want an email to be sent out if this happens or for example when they first get their first set of audit results, I want to send them an email and say hey, just letting you know you got first audit results and explain them a little bit and walk them through what the next step of the process is and if they have any questions, to get in touch with me.

[25:16] There’s obviously the other side of it which is the dashboard information is like has this been sent to them? Has this situation occurred for such and such customer and then being able to take those events and just kind of throw them into a database or something like that and be able to report on them. But as you said, I mean I can throw those into my own database and then just report on them. It’s just a matter of the engineering time and effort needed to build those reports. And I‘m kind of leaning towards taking my other developer and putting him on that stuff. I haven’t made a solid decision yet.

[25:48] Rob: Yeah. That makes sense. I think what I found with kind of the backend admin stuff, the reporting like you’re talking about is that figuring out what I want and then kind of specking it out is as much time as to just write it. Since our app is in rails and I don’t code proficiently in rails, it does make sense for me to give it a lot of thought and speck it out and everything. But if it was in a language I knew I would probably at least with Drip, I would probably sit down and hack it out myself. That’s what I did with HitTail when I needed any type of reporting I would just write the sequel and execute it myself.

[26:24] The Numa group which is my little company that has Drip and HitTail and all the other stuff, I was up to five people. Did I tell you that? Not employees because it said W2 versus 1099 was it, really matter but in essence it was five almost full time people including myself and I feel like I should be kicked out of the Micropreneur club for that.

[26:45] Mike: I think the Micropreneur route is more about bootstrapping it yourself than it is about the actual size.

[26:51] Rob: Yeah. I think its bootstrapping. I think it’s also freedom. Like I had again five people including myself so its four folks but I still didn’t need to be anywhere at any given time unless someone ran into an issue, I didn’t need to be online 9-5 on Skype or something like that. I didn’t need to go into an office and see folks. So the freedom aspect that I enjoy was still in place. And to be fair, I mean one guy is Derek – him and I have now worked together for well, about a year and a half I guess. I enjoy hanging out with him. We hang out outside of work. We’re friends.

[27:26] One of them is my support guy. It’s Andy. He does support for the academy and for HitTail and now for Drip. So he’s kind of autonomous unless he has a question he’s just rolling. He’s in another country all together so he’s just rolling and stuff. And then I had the growth hacker intern who I talked about hiring a few months ago and he’s only here for 90 days. He’s a three month internship so he’s leaving at the end of November. And then the other guy was a rails developer we hired through Odesk and he was with us for about maybe 6 or 8 weeks and he got a ton of stuff done. He

[27:59] Actually got caught up and really got Drip to 1.0 like between he and Derek he kind of gave us just enough of a boost to get – now I have a service side API, a JavaScript API, a bunch of reports I needed, just some little things that I felt like weren’t getting done quick enough. And I was planning to keep him around but he was good. He just wasn’t fantastic like he didn’t quite fit perfectly with the team. And so once he had completed his stuff, he was just a little too much work to speck things out and Derek had to spend a little more time going through his code than I would’ve liked. So we did decide to let him go.

[28:35] So now we’re down. It’s down to just me and derrick and Andy again along with contractors, contractors who just kind of work on an ad hoc basis. It feels good. It feels good to slim down for the holidays I’ll say needing to be online lesson handle the fires that come up less. It’s good.

[28:53] Mike: See, part of my version to kicking you out of the Micropreneur club with five people is because I’m currently five as well.

[29:00] Rob: Nice. It all comes out. It is funny. Its funny how you – you get there slowly and it doesn’t feel weird and you know everybody and you hire them slowly and to say you’re five people sounds big. I mean two years ago I would’ve said holy Toledo I don’t want to be working with five people. But I know now a lot of Micropreneur that are MicroConf attendees or bootstrappers from the academy or just folks we know who were solopreneurs for a while and just over time, as you hire people and they’re really good, it doesn’t make any sense not to bring them on full time especially if they’re good and they can be autonomous and you can just kind of roll with it and you get way more done and they’re really valuable to you like the thought of not hiring someone simply for a principal reason because you want to be that true solopreneur, it stopped making sense to me maybe a year or two ago.

[29:55] Mike: Yeah. I totally agree. I mean I realized a while back that the whole single founder moniker is more of I guess a rallying cry against angel and VC funding than anything else. It wasn’t necessarily that you can do everything yourself. It’s just that you can certainly start a business yourself and do a lot of things but in order to make something that extends beyond you, it’s very difficult to do it alone but that doesn’t mean you can’t be the person in charge of everything and kind of manage it all pieces and that’s kind what I’ve backed up off at the moment. it’s just like I’m managing all these individual pieces and kind of putting them together towards this greater goal and everybody’s managing their own work and I’m just managing the interactions between them at this point. But it’s no longer just me.

[30:38] Rob: Right. I always took you single founder moniker that you didn’t want cofounders, not that you wouldn’t hire people. But that it’s you didn’t – you wanted to kind of do the initial founder part yourself.

[30:49] Mike: Yeah. It is. I‘ve had people get confused though so…

[30:54] Rob: That makes sense. You know, this is actually a good time to bring up a question. I’ve received I know – you may have as well. It’s interesting that you and I are attacking larger product ideas. And so someone listening to this might think back to our very first episode where we talk about attacking these super tiny niches, making $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 per app and just cutting your teeth at it and getting some successes under your belt and then kind of scaling up or even just compiling 3 or 4 of those smaller earning apps and being able to quit your job.

[31:30] And I’m kind of moving away from that you would say. Now that I have a couple employees, now that I don’t really have any small apps, I’ve started divesting myself with my really small apps because at this point, they are more trouble than they’re worth because one hour spent building Drip is worth 10 times what was spent building some old B to C app that I had lying around. And so it’s important to clarify that old approach still works. I still see people doing it. I still see people having a lot of success in those niche markets, making a couple grand a month and building their skill set and doing the stair step approach that we talked about.

[32:07] You don’t need to go big. Don’t go – I mean if you’re a first time founder, don’t go build an app like Drip. Drip is in an incredibly competitive market. There’s so many email startups right now. They’re venture funded. There’s all types of stuff going into them. There’s money coming in. The reason I’m attacking it is very specifically because I have the money. I have the experience. I have what, 10-15 successful apps under my belt. I’ve been solo now, full time not consulting for four years. Four years before I brought anyone on full time. So all of that works and you can be totally happy and have a lot of freedom under that model.

[32:44] The fact that you and I have now decided to tackle larger projects that are more – they just take a lot longer to get off the ground. They’re more difficult but they have a larger market space, it’s not something I would advice for a first timer but it is the next logical step for myself and wanting to be challenged and learn and grow. Me doing another app that makes $5,000 a month or $10,000 a month, it just isn’t that interesting anymore because I’ve done it enough that you have to constantly carve yourself out of those new challenges. Have you thought about this at all? Have you been asked that?

[33:20] Mike: A little bit here and there. I’ve heard where you and I are clearly not going after those types of things and it’s not that we’re no longer going after those smaller markets because it doesn’t work. It’s just that our level of experience with those things and the types of thing that we’re interested in doing have kind grown beyond that. It’s not to say there’s anything wrong with them or there’s anything wrong with them or anything wrong with that approach because I agree. I totally think this still works. Especially when you get into things like you’re building and I’m building where it takes lot of effort and expertise to be able to do those things and if you don’t have the experience building a team and putting out good products and building a business, it’s a lot harder to build it from the ground up when you have no experience.

[34:06] I ran into a guy probably less than a month ago who wanted to build a two sided market place for an application. He’d never built an app before. His partners have never done it and he really didn’t necessarily know what he was doing and he was going against venture funded companies and he wanted to bootstrap and I was just like no, this is a bad idea 10 times over. Several other people talked to him and basically told him the same thing. Fortunately he took it the right way and it wasn’t like oh, you guys are just bashing me. It’s like maybe I’ve miscalculated this, maybe I really should take a step back and think about this because they’re going to fumble me and I’m going to waste 2, 3, 4 years of my life doing something that is ultimately not going to be successful because they’ve got the money and they’ve got the backing and I just can’t compete in that particular market because I don’t have the experience.

[34:54] Music

[34:57] If you have question for us, you can call it in to our voice mail number at 1-888-801-9690 or email it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt used under Creative Commons. You can subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for startups or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com where you’ll also find a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

Comments are closed.