Episode 75 | Listener Questions Answered

Show Notes


[00:00] Rob: This is startups for the rest of us episode.

[00:03] [Music]

[00:11] Rob: Welcome to startups for the rest of us the podcast to help develops, 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.

[00:21] Mike: And I’m Mike.

[00:22] Rob: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes that we’ve made. What’s the word this week Mike?

[00:27] Mike: So I have a little interesting tidbit to share. I launched a new product yesterday. Coincidentally I started it yesterday too.

[00:36] Rob: You built and launched a product in a day after working on your previous product for three years?

[00:41] Mike: Yes.

[00:42] Rob: So do tell.

[00:44] Mike: It’s more of an information product than anything else, so essentially a lot of the consulting I do is around the ulterior software line of products. And it turns out that for whatever reason, ulteriortraining.com was not taken as a domain name and I know that I may very well run into issues later on down the road. But it does get some, I’d say relatively low searches like 250 or 300 a month but it does look this competition is not very good. So even without ulteriortraining.com I could still probably rank pretty well for it. But it’s basically a membership website, I think I briefly mentioned it last week.

[01:21] I threw the whole thing together in about four hours from beginning to end. And the site is up and running, the only thing that I have to do is record the screencasts and have them edited and post them up to the website. But other than that everything looks like it’s ready to go.

[01:33] Rob: Swank. And how are you going to find customers?

[01:35] Mike: So I’ve already discussed it with the company that I do consulting through and they’ve said that you know they don’t have a problem with me doing it and doing they’d be happy to resell it and cross sell it with some of the workshops that they’re doing. So basically my product will promote theirs, they’re going to kind of bundle some of my offering in with their workshops so that people kind of get a better deal and then get a trial version of this training software that I have. And then I’ll just do basically some sort of revenue sharing deal there.

[02:03] Other than that it will be online SEO but there is a lot of old customers that I can go to that, you always run out of time when doing these types of consulting engagements and they always that there was somebody there to do a little bit more hand holding, even after you leave. And this is a perfect way to do that.

[02:19] Rob: Right and the nice part is that it’s a high price point so it actually can be fairly high touch sales if you need it to be.

[02:25] Mike: Oh yeah. And I already ran it by like the company that I’m currently working for, I said is this something you would be interested in and he said, yeah absolutely. And I asked he about the price and they said that seemed fine. I said what would be your process, he’s like I just go over and talk to so and so we get the corporate credit card and we just pay for it. And I was like, that is just perfect.

[02:43] Rob: I just go back from a two day personal retreat. I went to the coast, I try to do this every year although it typically doesn’t happen, it happens like once every 18 months. But my wife did it over the holiday, the Christmas holiday and I finally decided to do it now one month ahead of MicroConf just to kind of get centered and do some thinking. And I tried to unplug, I did wind up checking email once but the goal of these things is to not check email. And it’s actually to not get on electronic devices at all. I just had some paper printed out, I had notes I was thinking about. I had pen and paper.

[03:19] And so I did, I mean I listened to a lot of music, I just did a lot of thinking and I don’t tend to do that. I mean day to day with the wife and the kids and work and everything. It’s so, I’m so product and like task driven I think most of us are, like get through the email queue. Then you can jump into Twitter and do something and then the kids get home and you have to make them dinner and then get them to bed and then you have time in the evening. And it’s like if you have energy you sit in front of the computer and you do more tasks. But like how often do you just sit for three hours in coffee shop and just think? And think with a plan it’s not like I was philosophizing.

[03:51] I mean I was looking at what I was going to be doing for the next  12 to 18 months and what I wanted to do with my businesses, how I’m going to do that, I had several revelations about how I’m going to approach some problems that have kind of creeping up over the past several months. And some creative solutions came about that never come when I don’t have time to think about it. It was good and when I got back here I talked to my wife about it and I said, you know I think I want to do that like twice a year now. She was saying, yeah that she wants to do it in summer as well.

[04:18] So you know Mike you had said you had never done this. It’s really quite fascinating, it’s a really cool experience and not only that I just, I feel like it was genuinely productive and that I’m going to be able to kind of move things forward at a faster pace by being more effective. Obviously I lost two days of productivity but I think I’ll just more than make up for that in the next couple of months as I implement these things that I came up with during the time.

[04:39] Mike: Like you said I mean I’ve never done that myself before but I wouldn’t rule it out as possibility for me either. I mean I’ve actually been thinking this week a lot because I’ve got an hour each way to drive for the current consulting customer that I’m working with. So I’ve been doing a lot of listening to our old podcast episodes and question has come to mind for me over the past two years or so I’ve been doing better and better each year. And this year I’m wondering how I’m going to do better than the last year because it seems like there is a lot of, not necessarily roadblocks, but things that are in some ways holding me back from kind of getting a breakthrough or taking things to the next level and really moving forward with some of the things that I’m working on.

[05:21] And I just don’t have a good way to do that because I don’t think like an hour to just think about that stuff is going to do it for me. I really think it’s going to take a little bit more time. And what you said about cutting off email and electronics and everything else is probably something that I would kind of need to do in order to come up with those creative solutions in order to make those breakthroughs.

[05:41] Rob: Totally. The thing I learned, I learned from doing it is one, when I go  out there I typically have two or three high level questions that I want answered. So there’s definitely some things that I want to seek solutions for. The other thing is the first, at least two or three hours that I’m driving because it’s a three hour drive I had no music and I had no audio books. It was pure silence. And that was to kind of get all the noise out of my head because it’s was so much noise, there is so much noise in our daily lives you know. And it’s like you almost have to decompress and get out of the mindset of the day to day first. And then that’s when the actual creativity or some deep thought can start happening.

[06:19] And then I did that for a day, not having my kids was helpful for that. And then I got up on Tuesday morning and I had like a podcast interview and I had to get back into the normal thought of things and I did the interview and then I needed another two to three hours to decompressing it back to the state. You know one interruption that gets you back into like email or something really can throw you off for several hours.

[06:40] Mike: Still working a lot of MicroConf stuff and trying to finalize all the sponsorship things. I’ve got the USB drives ordered, they look absolutely awesome. I sent you a copy of what they look like then I’ve got the lanyards and the name badges and everything all ordered so that will be arriving soon. And then I’ll have to box it all up and get it ready and then box it up and then ship it out to the hotel, make sure it’s there on time. And that’s pretty much it though.

[07:04] Rob: Cool. Things are coming together at my end as well, a lot of last minute details wrapping up here we have about a month. So it feels good. So I have two other things, one is on Twitter there is a guy name Niche Site Guy. And he’s starting a Micropreneur Mastermind in Sydney Australia if anyone is interested, he’d tweeted to both of us and I thought we should mention it. And then the other thing is I have four tickets to the sold out Brighten SEO Conference. It’s April 13th so by the time this goes live it will only be a little more than a week away. But they have 1000 attendees and it sold out in like 20 minutes because they give the tickets away for free and then sponsors get some tickets as well.

[07:46] So if anyone wants one of those, you can, probably best is to reach me via email through my blog, just go my blog “about” page and you can email me through there.

[07:55] [Music]

[07:57] Mike: So we’re going to be going through a bunch of listener questions, they’re starting to stack up again. Some people we’ve emailed back already but I think it’s good for people to hear all of the questions that are coming in. So the first question is from Casey Stein. He says, hi guys I’m a big fan of your show and an aspiring micropreneur. I’ve been struggling to come up with an idea I can get excited about until just recently. I was hoping if I quickly outlined it here you guys might let me know what you think and if it has potential.

[08:21] The basic idea is a site where local merchants can go and list all their clearance items. Local customers could then either browse what’s on clearance at a bunch of stores or search for certain things. The revenue model could be free for customers, maybe $99 a month for the business owner to list as much as they would want to list. I feel like this would be a great way for local businesses to get rid of all their excess stuff and for customers to find great deals. Thanks in advance for you advice. Casey.

[08:43] Rob: So I guess I say first evaluating business ideas because it’s like you and I  can sit here and say our opinion but frankly if someone had brought Facebook in 2003 I would have said it’s a terrible idea. So from my perspective I have no thoughts on this, no one should take what Mike and I say obviously is like the end of thoughts on it. So I think my big concerns with this idea are that it’s a two sided market and that you basically need to go to stores and charge them 100 bucks a month and then you also need to get local customers to go and browse. And so that’s a really hard problem to do right. It’s like you have to now to separate audiences.

[09:26] So how are you going to get all those people? I mean are you going to cold call stores, you’re going to have to have an audience first right, you’re going to have to say I have 1000 viewers a month or else why are they going to pay you 99 bucks a month? I guess you could start off and say, alright it’s free for now until we get a bigger audience and then you go out and try to build the bigger audience. But how are you going to get an audience of local people? So that’s my biggest concern, this is not a trivial, you know easily attainable idea unless you see, do you see a kind of a marketing approach that I’m missing on this one?

[09:53] Mike: I really think that you could probably go the route of like local Facebook Ad listings or local Google listings. I mean Craigslist would be good. I got an email from Google several weeks ago asking if I wanted to advertize on I think it was like search local or something like that for Google. But basically it was for local businesses to get noticed by people online. So I think there’s a few different ways to do it but I totally agree with you that because it’s two sided market you’re going to have problems and I don’t think that it’s something you could charge for upfront just because, you know without traffic who’s going to pay for you to send these out.

[10:28] So leveraging Facebook, leveraging social networks is probably the way to go and I would probably start very small, start definitely in your local area. Then you could go directly talk to local business owners who would have the say so or who would want to be able to do that.

[10:45] Rob: Because the face to face will be a big deal for the initial guys in there, right, saying you’re the local boy. So that does mean that you probably need to live in an area that is populated enough that you, I mean it would be great if you lived in a larger city because if you’re going to go local that’s the struggle if you live in small town you’re just not going to have enough revenue, you’re not going to have enough businesses that are interested.

[11:02] Mike: Right. I think the other problem or challenge would be convincing like the larger stores to get on board. So like here there is the Best Buy for example near me. How would I go about convincing Best Buy to list some of their clearance items, I guess if they’re clearance items it’s not like they’re giving away.

[11:21] Rob: Right. But then it’s manpower right, its like they need to take a digital photo of it, they need to list it on your site and they need to do that and if they’re going to do that, why would they list it say on eBay or on Craigslist? Unless you have a bigger audience and there you can get a little for it or they can sell it faster. It’s kind of an interesting, it’s like local merchants can do stuff. I’m trying to get my head around really what this serves, like are there people out there saying, I mean  I never think to myself what are the cheap things available here in Fresno?  I’ve never thought to myself. But are there people who would do that and I guess if they do that do they ship the item? Does Best Buy then ship the item or they just reserve it for the person to come pick up? I don’t know that fulfillment would work.

[12:01] Mike: I would think that the person would just go to whoever the local merchant is and just pick it up. I can’t see it being more like an eBay. Especially for like the larger stores it’s going to be very difficult for them to pipeline things so that it’s a lot more hands off so they can just say, oh we’ve got this 25 items that we’re discontinuing, we don’t want to ship them back to the warehouse, to try send them through whatever liquidation process that they probably already have in place. But the smaller merchants probably have things on their shelves that they just want to get rid of or they want to get out of there because it’s taking up valuable floor space that they could use to sell something that actually does move.

[12:35] So there is that whole logistical problem that you have to deal with with the local merchants because they’ve got floor space that they’ve got to deal with, that’s valuable to them and if you’ve got this stuff that is just sucking up space they could potentially use that for other things. I mean heck they could use it for advertising space for all I know, I mean maybe that’s more effective. It sounds to me like there’s probably something to do here. I would definitely go talk to some local merchants and say, is this a service you would be interested in using? And I don’t even know if I would push for price, I would just say, is this something you would use?

[13:06] Rob: I would ask and if they pay for it on a monthly basis if I was a local merchant. I would, if I’m going to go to the trouble of taking the photo of something and listing it somewhere I would want to get the largest audience possible and I would post it on eBay or maybe Craigslist. But if it was too big to go on eBay and I cant ship, I would post it on eBay or Amazon. If it was too big then I would go probably to Craigslist which is going to have way more local people than you’re going to be able to bring.

[13:31] Mike: Yeah I think somehow you’d have to make it easy for people to upload those things because the merchants are not going to want to spend a lot of time with that. I know photos are the way to go. If you can drive people to the store, I mean drive physical traffic to the store because somebody saw something on clearance and says, oh we’ve got these 25 things there are on clearance over at Joe Shack Costoff and you get 10 or 15 people to got into the store to actually physically look at the things because they could view them on the website then those are 15 people that the store would have not gotten in the door to begin with that may very well buy other things.

[14:08] Rob: Right. So it does seem like a problem of how to find the consumers then, how are you going to get them to your site even if you post on Craigslist and do some marketing there, you know how are you going to get people to come back. It’s an interesting idea.

[14:20] Mike: I think that’s a mailing list issue.

[14:23] Rob: Yeah, right it’s kind of an group on thing where you build up the mailing list and you post the new deals of the day.

[14:28] Mike: Post all the new clearance stuff but yeah, interesting idea. I would hesitate to say whether it would fly or not but…

[14:34] Rob: Yeah it’s going to take, going to take quite a bit of work. I’m lukewarm about it but definitely I mean I see there is some potential here at the right place.

[14:42] Mike: So the next question is from Travis. And Travis’s question asks, is this a feasible development/outsourcing plan? And he says, I just finished start small stay small and you convinced to give outsourcing development a second look. I’m wondering if a feasible outsourcing plan would be to hire an expensive PHP consultant or a developer to turn my basic outline a concept into a detailed spec and then use that as the basis for outsourcing to a cheaper overseas developer, possibly using an expensive developer as a key weight check along the way and or at the end. I have the cash required to do this assuming it’s $3000 to $7000. Do you think this is a good and viable plan to outsource development? FYI today I listened to your recent podcast episodes, I’m managing remote developers and Vas and thought they were very helpful. Thanks and looking forward to your insight. It’s Travis.

[15:27] So I think that my take on this would be no. I don’t know if that’s going to help you unless you have a very very good relationship with that senior developer and you’re able to have discussions with them personally and if you know them and they’re able to spend a lot more time with you to fully understand what it is you’re trying to accomplish. I think then in that case it can work but I think that if you’re just hiring somebody who you don’t know and who you don’t have that personal relationship with and that they’re, you know overseas or across the country or something along those lines, I think that’s going to be much more difficult because they’re not going to fully understand exactly what it is you’re looking for.

[16:08] I just don’t think that you’re going to be able to convey that very well especially since you’re not a programmer. And I think if you are a developer it would probably be a little bit easier but I still think that it’s tough to outsource your vision. It’s something that I don’t has ever worked in the past, I mean maybe there’s just some you know rare exception somewhere but I think that generally speaking if you’re trying to outsource your vision to somebody else to kind of build that detailed spec I think it’s going to be difficult.

[16:32] Rob: Yeah. I question the value of trying to do that.  The more  people you get involved in any project the more potential you have for things to slip through the cracks and miscommunication and all that. And I’m not sure why exactly you want to hire kind of an expensive developer. I think you’re going to be better off communicating your vision like Mike said if you get a mock up tool like Balsamiq and create basically your visual spec, you create a functional spec. It’s not a detailed technical spec you don’t say all the database tables and all that stuff, you leave that up to a developer. Because I think as soon as you get an expensive developer involved, let’s say you hire someone for 75 or 100 bucks you’re going to spend  a ton of time communicating to them and it’s going fairly expensive.

[17:16] And then they’re going to write up this detailed spec but they aren’t going to leave a few things out here, they’re going to manage that other developer for you. You’re then going to have to take that, communicate it to other developer, the cheaper developer and you’re going to have to manage them. But you don’t even really know what they’re building so how can you manage them very well? I mean I guess you’re saying you would hire the expensive guy to then come back and double check that they’re doing the right thing.

[17:37] But by that time I mean you’re paying a heck of a lot of money now to have basically two people kind of doing quasi duplicate work. So I’ve never seen anyone do this successfully. It’s not something I would try. Back when I was developing I would not have taken a project like this on, I would have been considered the higher priced developer and there is just, to me this would just be a big headache. This is all the parts of development that I do not like, right. I want to be the guy writing the code, I don’t want to be the guy communicating the requirements into specs and then handing them off to a cheaper developer.

[18:05] So I don’t know if you could even find someone who’d be willing to do this. But I don’t know it’s a creative approach, I’ve never heard anyone do this.

[18:13] Mike: I think the other issue is that if you’re hiring an expensive person and then you’re going to turn it over to an overseas developer that overseas developer is going to be significantly cheaper, let’s say it’s $15 an hour. And your local developer let’s say he’s $60 an hour. Then you’re essentially having this person who you’re paying $60 an hour who is arguably equivalent to this $15 an hour developer overseas build specs for somebody who is more or less that person’s peer. And I don’t know if that buys you anything. I mean why even bother bringing in that other person because as Rob said introducing more people just introduces more complexity and more situations where somebody can misinterpret something.

[18:56] And if you misinterpret  something to the higher cost developer then he’s going turn on and miscommunicate it to the lower cost developer and now you’ve got two people who are both thinking just the wrong thing. So thanks for the question Travis, I think that both Rob and I are in agreement that we would not go down this particular road.

[19:15] So our next question is from Mark Voyer. And he says, hi guys as a suggestion for a podcast or just a Q&A podcast, could you talk about what to do when you feel like you’re losing interest in the project you’ve been building for months if not years. In my case I’ve been building this application for years. The first version was an ASP.NET then we wrote it in Silver Lay and now it’s an HTML 5 and JavaScript. It’s been three to four years in development, mostly part time and even though it’s near a 1.0 version which is actually a trimmed down version so I don’t have many more months of development and debugging, I’m lacking the energy and desire to put in the final hour. So is it better to put it away for some time to recharge and maybe never get back to it or take a last sprint to finish it? This could represent a four to six weeks of full time effort.

[19:56] If I put it out there I’m not even sure I’ll have the energy or desire for the support and marketing. Of course I shouldn’t be in the situation, having worked for so long without really showing it to clients and customers. But as developers building your own stuff we often know that it’s like that. Thanks so much for the podcast and thanks for your honesty. Mark.

[20:10] Rob: So I think both you and I have a lot to say about this thing. So I have two ideas that pop in right off the top of my head are the first thing I think you need to do is get a reality check and that’s just to look at the project, look at yourself and say is this something that I really want to do. Is this something that’s viable? Knowing what you know now, if you’ve listened to our podcast or other podcasts or you just have an idea of how you’re going to market this thing, is it even viable or is it something that you shouldn’t finish at all. Just because you’ve sunk cost into it does not mean that you should continue.

[20:43] So that’s the first thing and if you can stand back and take a reality check just yourself that’s great. If you ask friend or a colleague or a trusted advisor then do that. The second thing I would recommend, frankly I was feeling pretty frustrated with HitTail you know a month ago. And it was, it had a little dip and I’ve been working on for six and half months now, I have acquired almost seven months ago. And one of the reasons I wanted to go on this personal retreat was to say, where am I going with this and what needs to happen with it.

[21:15] And so I would suggest if at all possible Mark that you try to take at least a day and preferably an overnight away from work and away from everything. I realize that may or may not be feasible for you but it had a profound impact on the way I’m viewing HitTail, the way I’m viewing all my businesses and some of the approaches I’m going to take over the next 12 months. So that totally cleared my head and I think that you know it could potentially have the same for you and my guess you’ll come out of it with a fire and a passion to finish this thing or you’ll come out of it and say, wow this definitely should not be done, I made a mistake and I’m going to start on the next idea that I’m really excited about.

[21:50] Mike: So I think my take on it is in many ways similar to what you said and the first question to ask is, is this even a viable product? I mean because you have been working on it for a while and I understand you haven’t really shown it to customers or worked with customers but is it something that they even want? And the other thing I question which I guess doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the whole problem is why was it rewritten three times? If you’re really having problems with it and you feel like it definitely does have a market and that people would actually pay for it, if it’s only four to six weeks of effort, I mean you basically have two options. Either you can buckle down and get it done or you can go out to oDesk or someplace like that and try to find somebody and outsource to somebody to finish it.

[22:33] And that’s a perfectly acceptable option. I mean I know a lot of people say, well, especially developers they’re like, well I’m a developer this is my core competence, I really want to be doing this, I should be doing this stuff. But if you find yourself at a point where you just are not motivated to do it but you are sure that there is a market for that product, then I don’t think that there is anything wrong with it. I think it’s more of mental huddle that people have to get over that is all the code that’s in a particular product written by you, no, does it matter that it was written by you? The what matters is, is it a successful product.

[23:06]  And there is a project that probably about two months ago that had been sitting on my hard drive, for I don’t know at least a year and half, two years and it’s something that I hadn’t come back to because I didn’t really have any motivation to do it. And I said, you know what why am I even considering working on this because I’m just not motivated to do it. But the reason I was thinking that was because I know that it would make money if I were to finish it. So I actually hired somebody to finish it for me. And there is another project that’s been sitting around for a while that I know has viability and that people would pay for it and I’m outsourcing that as well.

[23:39] So you can get things done without actually having to do that and what it will allow you to do is it will allow you to back off from the development and start focusing on the marketing. And while you’re doing the marketing for it, you can help determine whether it really really is viable and if it’s not in three weeks or four weeks or whatever, if you’ve sunk a bunch of money into paying somebody to finish it and you really do find out that it is no longer viable at that point, well then you kill it.

[24:04] Rob:  Yeah. I think the thing the both of us are saying, you said it several times is assuming this has, if you’re sure this has a viable market. And so I really do think that’s the first step, right it’s like go talk to customers. Don’t write another line of code. You’ve rewritten this thing three times, it’s been three to four years go talk to customers, step number one, bottom line. Like you have to figure out if people are willing to buy and you need to figure out how long the sales cycle is going to be. Are you going to be willing to do high touch in person sales if that’s what this requires, you know if you’re selling to enterprises and large financial institutions or whatever, we don’t know what the product is.

[24:36] But really think about that if that’s something that you want to do because if you don’t then you should just shut this down now. But if it does have some other avenues you can do more online and you’re interested in doing and learning online marketing then do this. But  if you’re not, I mean honestly if you’ve built this product and you’re not interested in kind of learning the marketing and getting better at that, driving traffic and doing that kind of stuff, then it’s not something that you should be attacking at all frankly. I don’t think you should try to launch a product if you’re not willing to learn marketing and really take it head on.

[25:08] Mike: So that’s our take on it Mark, thanks for the question and good luck. Let us know how things turn out for you.


[25:15] Mike: So our next question comes from Chris. He says, hi first of all I love your show. It’s really geared me to take steps in setting up my business model. I’m preparing myself for a journey I’m just ready to begin. I basically have a product that I have resources and connections to make and ultimately have what I need in place in order to do small beta testing to get a read on numbers. But most importantly involve getting a patent. I would love to hear your experiences with patents in the past and I assume your software and such is proprietary and you would have taken these steps at some point. Any input as far as time investment, when is it time to get one etcetera would be of great value to me and I really value your opinion. Thanks so much, Chris.

[25:51] And I actually emailed him back and forth a couple of times just to find out whether it was a software product and he came back and said it’s not a software product. It’s a line of aesthetically designed children’s wear. You know he said that the concept around that really needs to be protected especially given the specifics of it because it is a physical good. So I basically told him that we don’t necessarily do  a whole lot of physical goods patents. Rob, have you ever dealt with software patents in the past?

[26:18] Rob: So I have not with physical stuff. I did acquire an in progress patent application when I bought HitTail that was part of it. They had a patent filed and I shut it down, like I abandoned it. So I don’t know if this will apply to Chris’s question. But the whole software patent thing has just gotten out of control, it’s ridiculous. You’re not supposed to be able to patent ideas and yet people are patenting ideas with software because the patent people don’t understand software. So I actually vehemently disagree with the ability to patent what we have allowed people to patent in the US.

[26:50] In 1998 I think it was the patent law used to only to able to copyright software and not patent it and then in 1998 that changed and since then it has had a major detriment on our industry and now there are people, I mean Google spent billions of dollars just to acquire a company for patents. So there’s this money that could really go into innovation and actually helping create new jobs and such and it’s going into fighting these legal battles. So for software patents themselves I almost across the board have a pretty negative reaction to them.

[27:23] So that’s one thing so that was instantly on my mind when I got HitTail of like, do I really want to do this? Do I really want to try to patent something, am I going to go sue someone if they develop the same grid that shows keywords because that’s what it was for. It was for like the display of keywords based on certain things, which to me that’s the problem with software patents. It’s everyone I hear about is an obvious patent. I did let it expire. I also let it expire because I had a conversation with a few guys it was you know Ted and Harry at Business Software said, why do I care if its patented? I just care if it works, because I was going to patent the algorithm. It didn’t matter to them, that was another step.

[28:00]  Finally patenting the actual algorithm of HitTail wouldn’t have been very smart because you have reveal the formula. It’s the same reason that Coca Cola has never patented their formula because then it’s public record.

[28:09] Mike: And Coke treats the formula for that as a I think it’s called a trade secret which is a little different than a patent.

[28:17] Rob: That’s right. And that’s what someone actually told me that I could treat HitTail algorithm, as a trade secret. So yeah but no experience with physical patents.

[28:25] Mike: I know two different people both relatives of mine who have patents. My uncle has a patent, he’s a taxidermist or was a taxidermist, run taxidermy for a long time. And he actually created a patent for, was it molding fish heads out of some synthetic material because you can’t dry out a fish head and mount it on a fish because basically it just looks terrible. So basically he created the system where you could create a molded fish head. And then my grandfather has a couple of patents. One for, and this is a little bizarre. It’s basically for skinning animals and then something else for delivering newspapers.

[29:04] But those are all four physical goods. I mean that’s the kind of what patents were originally intended for. So I don’t think that it’s unwarranted to go after a patent for something. But there is also a very long and complicated process that you have to follow. You know the one thing that I would mention though is if you’re interested in getting a patent you want somebody to talk to about who actually knows it because Rob and I obviously don’t, you should go talk to the guys over at the Lifestyle Business Podcast, both Dan and Ian have a lot more, a solid grasp on that type of thing because they deal with physical products all the time, that’s what they do. They sell these physical products all over the place.

[29:39] So they may very well know about it but at the same time they may not because they also deal outside of the US so I don’t know what international patent laws cover at the point. So that maybe something they could help you out with.

[29:51] So the last question for today is from Brandon. And he says, hi Mike and Rob. Love your podcast, it was the first thing I started listening to when I started even considering to develop software products. My question is this, I’m located in Canada and building an app which caters specifically to Canadians. Similar services exist already in the US but cannot be used here. I spent hours trying to find a suitable Dot Com domain to use for my application and name of the product and came up with one that I’m only about 60% happy with. Given that I’m catering to Canadians, I got to thinking that maybe I should ditch the Dot Com and go with a different name and a Dot CA.

[30:22] There is obviously going to be a lot more choice that way not to mention the fact that it might help to emphasize the fact that this software is built in Canada. My only concern is the Dot Com is always pushed as the beachfront internet real estate. How important is this? Your thoughts will be very much appreciated. Thanks, Brandon.

[30:35] Rob: Basically you pointed out if someone searches on Google.com then they’re going to be more likely to get a Dot com, if they’re searching Google.ca then a Dot CA domain name is going to be more likely to rank higher. And Google actually looks at you know it’s been said that they look at where your website is hosted. So if you’re actually hosted in Canada that you will tend to have a little bit better chance of ranking in Google.ca. Remember there are over 100 factors that go in, a 100 signals that they use. So you know these could be dialed down pretty low. So you pointed out that if you really want to go out to Canadians then Google.ca is probably be fine and I would agree with that. That assumes that is going to be at least some search traffic for this and I don’t know whether there is or isn’t because we don’t really know the software.

[31:20] But I would say going after Google.ca is fine. The only hesitation I have is absolutely a bias towards Dot com. People just know Dot com, it’s the gold standard it’s the beachfront property as you said. And I think if you have any inkling that you’re ever going to expand outside of Canada , that trying to come to the US and sell something on a Google.ca domain will absolutely be a detriment to you. People do have biases against the country specific domain names. So I would definitely think about that, that if you ever plan to expand I would think about going with the Dot com.

[31:55] Mike: What you just said there was something I hadn’t actually thought of, was if he tries to expand outside of Canada then it’s going to totally blow apart any SEO that he was doing. So in that sense if he’s never going to expand outside of Canada for this service or product then it’s worth I think considering the Dot CA domain but otherwise I think that a Dot Com would probably be better. And I don’t know if your product name needs to match the company name. That was something that was kind of thrown in there that I know a lot of other people have kind of run into this in the past where they start a company and then name the product after the company.  And then they throw the product out there and for whatever reason they find out that the product doesn’t fly or it doesn’t fit or they just decide to shut it down for whatever reason or pivot.

[32:40] And then they go after something else. Now they’ve got a company name that was geared for a specific product in a specific market and no longer matches whatever the new thing is that they’re going after. So I’d be very careful about having those two things be the same. I think Rob you know the company that you formed is called the Numa Group which is very ambiguous. I mean that could be just about anything.

[32:56] Rob: I did that on purpose and the Numa Group was my consulting firm for years. And then I just, as I started owning products I put them under the umbrella and it transitioned into, it’s all products from me, I don’t do any consulting anymore. So yeah I didn’t put the name consulting or software or anything on it, I had an imagination that it could, house a lot of things. And at one point I even considered like buying some real estate under it. I mean it was just basically going to be an umbrella LOC to own different things. Whereas, you formed two corporations and you put the same name but software in one and consulting in the other right?

[33:32] Mike: Right.

[33:33] Rob: Moonriver Software which is your product business and then Moonriver Consulting.

[33:37] Mike: Yeah. But that was primarily for legal reasons anyway.

[33:41] Rob: Right it was to separate it because you tend to have more liability because you work with the large enterprises and have a lot of exposure.

[33:46] Mike: Yeah. Back to this person I really think it’s a judgment call that you’re going to have to make when you decide whether or not you’re going to go after Dot CA domain or not. And I think that there is some ways you could probably do some quick testing to figure out whether or not a Dot CA or a Dot Com domain would be better. And I think if you were to try and create you know like both a Dot CA domain for something and then you can just buy like four or five different domains and test this out fairly inexpensively. But get hosting in Canada, get hosting in the US and then register some domain name that means absolutely nothing and nobody would consider ranking for in either country. And it could be just something that’s completely nonsensical.

[34:26] And then you know make sure that those domains match in both Canada and in the US and then build the sites. I mean they could be identical sites other than the Dot Com and the Dot CA domain. And then test going to those sites or searching for them in Google from a server or a computer that is in Canada, search for the same thing from a server or computer that is located in the US. I mean you could do simple Windows hosting or something like that for a month or two months or something like that. And then figure out whether or not what those results come back in Google, see if it actually matters to you or not.

[34:59] Rob: Make sure to us an incognito window in Google Chrome so that it doesn’t track with your results by the way. Another scroogle.org got shut down by Google that’s kind of…

[35:09] Mike: Oh they did?

[35:10] Rob: Yeah it sucks. Yeah we’ve been recommending them in the academy for years I had to go remove the link. Yeah I think that’s an interesting idea, do a parallel test that’s going to matter if SEO is going to be a substantial part of the business. I think another approach to think about is to talk to some potential customers and ask them if they even care, if they care it’s Dot CA, if that means something to them. If that will actually help your sales or hurt your sales, you know ask them if you had this Dot Com and this Dot CA whether it would matter to them.

[35:40]I realize that it seems kind of odd to ask a potential customer that but they’re going to know more than you know Mike and I about your potential market. I have certain predispositions to think of certain domains of being more valuable or just more legitimate than others but that’s mine and I’m probably not going to be buying your products. So what really matters is what your customer thinks.

[35:59] Mike: One thing that I find interesting is there is a lot of companies out there that will make plays on words with strange domain names. So like for example bit.ly and basically play around the with the country extensions. If you’re doing something like that I think that to people it probably matters a lot less.

[36:16] Rob: That’s a good point.  Yeah that you can actually make a  word out of it.

[36:19] Mike: Yeah Rob makes a really good point about the SEO and whether or not that makes a difference. You’ve got to take all those different things into account and figure out whether or not, how people are going to find you, whether they are going to be linking back to your site and whether it inspires confidence in your service or not.


[36:38] Mike: So If you have a question or comment you can call it into our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can MP3 it and email in a text format to questionsatstartupsfortherestofus.com. So our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt used under Creative Commons. If you enjoyed this podcast please consider writing a review on iTunes by searching for startups. You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com where you will also find a full transcript to this podcast. Thanks for listening we will see you next time.


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3 Responses to “Episode 75 | Listener Questions Answered”

  1. @Casey – Will a store make more than $100 a month using your site? I think the amount is too much. If it’s a big store, they already have a way to get rid of clearance for free; Slick Deals and Fat Wallet 🙂
    @Travis – I think an option not mentioned is to find a technical co-founder.

  2. @Mark I was in a similar position last year. I had been working on my software idea on and off for years, started from scratch a couple of times, and had just run out of steam. Around February of last year, I decided that I needed the project out of my head for a while. I shelved it for 4 months, and then came back to it with fresh eyes. It’s been 9 months since then and I will likely launch next week. Take a break from it and an answer will emerge.

  3. @Casey – My idea would be to make it completely self-service for the merchants. They can sign-up, enter their store details (address, contact info, etc) and use a single rich text editor to enter their clearance items or specials. Nothing complicated.

    Then, design a really sharp-looking logo for your site and have window decals made. Each store would be sent two or three. Provide a couple of templates to the stores (Word docs are fine) so they can make their own flyers to publicize your site to their customers. Make it cheap and self-service. $20/month. Market to municipal chambers of commerce. They love this kind of thing.