In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike review their 2015 goals and talk about whether or not they were able to achieve them and the reasons to why they were successful or not. They also set their new goals for the upcoming year.
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Rob [00:00]: In this episode of Startups For the Rest of Us, Mike and I look at our goals for 2016, and we review the goals we set in December of last year. This is Startups For the Rest of Us, Episode 269.
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.
Mike [00:29]: And I’m Mike.
Rob [00:29]: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. So where are this week’s, sir?
Mike [00:34]: Well, we have an email here from Simon who is referring to Episode 267 where we talked about scaling SaaS support. And he says, “Hi, guys. I’m a single founder, and practically speaking, the only employee, developer, support staff, etc. In that episode, Rob mentioned how the early days of DRIP involved a lot of hands-on support especially by the technical staff and Rob. I don’t have any employees, and I’m still looking to scale things up so that I can leave my day job. What suggestions do you have for a solopreneur such as me?”
Rob [00:59]: Well, you don’t want to hire a full-timer right out of the gate. You want to hire someone basically hourly, and that’s how I’ve been doing it since 2008 maybe, 8 or 9, which is when I hired my first support VA, they call themselves. But really it was just Tier 1 email support. And I’ve had folks supporting info products. We have someone who helps us with support for the Micropreneur Academy. And of course, SaaS apps, just help for products I’ve run. And frankly, until Drip, none of my support people ever worked full-time. It was always purely on an hourly basis. They would basically check the support queue once or twice a day as needed and respond, and they just build based on the hours that they worked. And it’s nice to do that through something like Upwork. Or if you don’t want to use Upwork, you can use Hubstaff to track their time because then they click the button when they working, and you’re really only paying for the hours they worked. But it’s a no-brainer. I don’t think it’s feasible if you’re still growing your app and you haven’t even quit your job yet to try to hire someone full-time. The economics just don’t work out at this stage.
Mike [01:56]: Simon doesn’t say it outright, and I definitely felt like this at one point as well, but it feels in many ways like support requests can’t really wait and you want them to be taken care of as quickly as possible. But I don’t think that most people have that expectation. When they send an email into support, they typically expect a 24- or 48-hour turnaround. And if you get back to them within 12 hours, awesome. But if not, then they weren’t really expecting it anyway. And a lot of times, those support tickets can wait probably significantly longer than you think that they probably could anyway. So that’s something else to keep in mind if you’re a little leery of going down the hourly support route just to have somebody essentially on-call for answering tickets that may or may not be coming in.
Rob [02:38]: Yeah. It really depends on your volume of tickets and how urgent they are. With most knowledge products as well as software products, there isn’t as much urgency as you probably think. And so if you need to hire someone, one thing I would advise, even if you’re going to hire someone part-time, is hire someone who is basically a full-time VA or a full-time freelancer so that they do have flexibility of schedule and they’re not just working in the weekends and the evenings. I had a couple of people like that, and it was a bit of a drag that boy, if they miss one evening because they had something, then it was like a two-day span until they checked in. That really, in my opinion, is unacceptable.
But there’s a lot of ways to make this work. I don’t like it when people come back and say, “Well, no. All the support is just really too technical,” or, “Well, I really need to get back to these people within an hour or two.” It’s like, “Pretty much no. If you’re a solopreneur, it’s probably neither of those is the case.” I know that it feels like that, but there are ways to do this. There are ways to set up a document with the process that people need to troubleshoot. Hire someone who’s intelligent, somewhat technical. I found a guy who was an old helpdesk guy, and so he doesn’t know how to code, but he was able to do some minor troubleshooting of people’s systems.
And it’s not a matter of, “Oh, this will or it won’t work.” It’s how much you’re willing to invest in terms of time to find someone and budget to pay. If you’re paying someone $10 to $15 an hour, you can get someone pretty good probably within your time zone who speaks your language. And they’re going to be pretty sharp, and they’re going to save you buckets of time. And it’s pretty valuable at this point to A, learn the skill of delegating this, but also to buy back that time.
So the other thing I wanted to mention before we dive into our 2015-2016 goals is that the first game from Patrick McKenzie’s Starfighter has launched. And if you listen to this podcast regularly, I’m sure you know who Patrick McKenzie is, formerly of Bingo Card Creator and the Appointment Reminder. He’s been a speaker at MicroConf several years in a row, and he’s launched his new app. It’s Stockfighter.io, and this involves some pretty in-depth programming challenges, and folks can play the game for free. And then certain programmers, as they rise to the top, I’m assuming they’re eligible for really high-end coding jobs in, kind of, a lot of the best employers or most technically oriented employers, in the Bay Area and then other places are looking to hire out of this pool of people who are scoring high on these games.
So it’s a cool freemium model in a way, right? It’s like a two-sided marketplace where you need to find developers, and you need to find people to hire. And they were able to quickly find people to hire, because everybody’s looking to hire high-end developers. But getting the developers in is always the hard part. And so Starfighters is basically doing it by building games that would interest programmers, and that have really difficult programming challenges. So if you’re interested in this type of thing, Stockighter.io looks pretty cool.
Mike [05:17]: Yeah, and definitely congratulations to Patrick for getting this out there. And it looks like it’s pretty involved. And I’m sure there was a huge amount of work that went on behind the scenes behind it.
Rob [05:26]: Yeah, and this is a long time in the making. They spent the last year plus developing it, and I know there’s been a lot of long nights. So it’s cool to see Patrick and his crew get this out into the wild.
Mike [05:36]: Well, I guess we’re going to dive right into our goals, huh?
Rob [05:39]: Yeah. So in Episode 214, we talked about our 2015 goals. And so those were the goals we were hoping to achieve over the past 12 months. And it looks like we each had five goals. And so we’re going to run through those briefly, talk about whether or not we achieve them or not, and why or why not. And then we’re going to look at our 2016 goals, something that we can look ahead and probably review again in 12 months.
So my first goal for 2015 was to 2.5X Drip, so to basically grow revenue by 250%. And we did achieve that. In fact, we achieved it a few months back. You know how I’m really bad at celebrating victories? I didn’t even notice that it had happened. It’s definitely a win for me. But in the sense of recognizing that it was a win, I think I need to work on that for next year. We actually 3.5Xed. There’s still eight more days left in the year here. But assuming that happens, then we’ll be at 350% growth for the year. So far, so good.
Mike [06:37]: Well, congratulations on that.
My first goal was to run a series of what I was calling life experiments. So that included things like going to the gym every day for a month, and getting up early, and eating differently, and various other things. And I would say this is probably about 30% to 40% successful. What happened was I had this list of things that I wanted to do, and the things I just listed were on that short list, along with one or two other things. And I got through that list and then saw that there was nothing else. And I said, “Oh, I need to think of something else to do for the next month.” And then I just didn’t do it, and I fell off the bandwagon at that point. So I ran out of stuff on the list and then stopped. But while it was going on, I stuck with it. So I would say that’s a partial win, and I’m not sure how to count that.
Rob [07:19]: Yeah. This was a tough one because it’s not easily measurable. We talked about the SMART last time, the, what is it, sustainable and measurable and attainable whatever. I think this one doesn’t necessarily qualify for all that. I think you probably want to make it more specific this year if you’re going to return to it and actually have 12 things, one per month, written out in advance. And then you can easily measure it.
Mike [07:41]: I think I had four or five. I think I started out with four, and then I added a fifth one, and then I just didn’t add any after that. And I think that was my problem is I just didn’t have enough to start with and I didn’t dedicate the time to following up on it and adding more to the list.
Rob [07:56]: So my second goal for 2015 was to return to the point where I could choose what I wanted to work on. Because especially towards the latter half of 2015, I was doing a bunch of work that was not enjoyable for me, and I had gotten away from this whole “I’ve run my own show and I can do what I want and have fun while I work,” and I just was not enjoying it in the latter half of 2014. And so this is one of those that is tough to measure, right? Because I had specifics in my head, but it’s hard to communicate them on the podcast without getting into the weeds. But the bottom line is yes, I achieved that.
And I was able to do it through two ways. One is I hired someone who, I don’t know what you call her, but, kind of, an executive assistant, I guess, you’d call. She’s remote. She goes through my email inbox and catalogs stuff, and handles some minor tasks like appointment setting and that kind of stuff. And that helped get me out of the weeds in terms of that stuff. The other thing I did is hired Anna, who runs customer success at DRIP, and has been helping with growth for the past, what, six, eight months. Both of those things allowed me to step a little bit higher up in terms of setting vision and setting direction, and thinking more strategically about things. And so within probably the first four to six months of 2015 I felt like I had returned to the point where I could choose what I wanted to work on again.
The interesting thing is towards the end of 2015, we spun DRIP off as its own corporation, which required a bunch of legal stuff because we have to deal with lawyers, and then move payroll and health insurance. All the stuff had to transfer. And so as I was back to the very same spot of returning to the point where I was working on stuff I didn’t want to. But it was a very defined season, and I already feel like I’ve been coming out of that in December. So I’m hoping that heading into 2016, I’m able to stick to that.
Mike [09:37]: My second goal was to spend some dedicated time each month figuring out how to systemize more of the things that are going on. And I would chalk this up to a complete and utter failure. I just didn’t do it. And I didn’t really have any reminders in place or mechanisms or [forcing?] functions that would remind me that I needed to do that. But I’m using Teamwork.com, which has the ability to schedule tasks, and I have a scheduled task in there now to do that on a monthly basis. So near the end of the month, I think it’s set for the 28th, to essentially go through and start reviewing everything that’s happened over the past month and where there are things that need to be done better. So I’m hoping that now that I have a system in place to systemize stuff, it’ll help out with that. That’s a little bit meta, but I think that’ll help.
Rob [10:18]: My third goal for 2015 was to host two MicroConfs. And my intent here was to host two MicroConfs that were as good as, or better than, previous years’. That’s what I really wanted to do, was maintain the quality and really impact other entrepreneurs and founders. And while this one’s a little bit of a gimme, and it’s a little bit hard to measure, I would give it a thumbs up. Because we put a lot of thought and care into running these conferences, and so I wanted it to be prominent last year because it’s something that takes enough mental space that I wanted it to be listed as a goal. And I feel like we had two really good MicroConfs in 2015. It may have been the best Europe conference we’ve ever thrown actually, in Barcelona, and the one in Vegas was among the top as well, in terms of the Vegas ones we’ve thrown. So I consider this one a success. Although, as I said, it was a little bit of a gimme, so it’s not as if it was some big stretch that I was concerned about hitting.
Rob [11:11]: My next goal was to build a system for maintaining an inbox zero, and I’d say I did really well with that. I hit inbox zero on a very regular basis. Obviously emails come in all the time, but I have, I don’t know, between 50 and 100 rules set up inside of my Gmail account that mark things as read or move them to different places so that I can review them as needed. And then I also go through my email once in the morning and then periodically throughout the day to make sure that if there’s anything important that’s coming in, I can deal with it right away. But at the same time there will be things that I will let sit there until I get a chance to take those things and either deal with them or put them on a to-do list someplace. So I would chalk this up to a success. And it’s interesting that maintaining that inbox really close to zero also frees up my brain to focus on other things because it’s not remembering, “Oh, I got to go back and I got to deal with this in some point in the future.”
Rob [11:59]: Yeah. inbox zero is surprisingly productive for me as well. I was always, kind of, [pooh-poohing?] it thinking that it wasn’t going to be valuable to do. But when I do it, it definitely releases a mental weight.
My fourth goal for 2015 was to launch another podcast, and that was a success. So that’s ZenFounder over at ZenFounder.com. I launched it with Sherry, and we talk about startup, family, and life, and the balance between the three. And so far, so good. The podcast is growing really well, and we’ve put out I think 48 episodes, or a few more than that. So we’re just about to hit 50 and we’ve had some good series going on over there. So I consider this one a success.
Mike [12:36]: My next one was to do a better job of systemizing my different revenue streams. And I have a tendency to jump around sometimes, and it’s a little bit haphazard at times. And I recognize that I needed to be a little bit more calculating with what I did. And over the course of the past year, I’ve come to realize that it’s not just about me jumping around. It’s about not necessarily taking a plan – and I’m good at putting the plans together, at least starting to put plans together – but what I have a tendency to do is start working on the work before that plan is finished. So what will happen is that I will have this half-finished plan, and I will get through that entire half-finished plan, but I don’t have the rest of it in place, or I haven’t really thought all of it through. So because of that, I get to the end of that and I don’t really have a good idea of what I should be doing next because I haven’t planned it out. And I don’t necessarily put together the time to plan out the rest of it. So I’d say I probably did a 50-50 job on that. There’s definitely places where I made really good progress. And then there’s other places where it just didn’t go so well. But I think that the recognition that those plans need to be taken just that much further is really going to be helpful this coming year.
Rob [13:42]: And before I talk about my fifth goal for 2015 I wanted to circle back and talk about how I do a retreat every year and that’s when I typically set and solidify my goals. And we set these goals before I did the retreat last year. And I think within a month after setting them, I went on the retreat and I actually decided not to do this fifth one right away, and I came back and mentioned it on the podcast. But it was essentially an honorable mention, and it was to write another book. Maybe that would be the second addition of Start Small, Stay Small. I didn’t know at the time what it was going to be. But I basically said it on the podcast, and then a month later, said, “Yeah, not going to do that.” So that’s what this one is, is to write another book. Obviously, didn’t do that. And I knew relatively early in the year that I didn’t want to take the time away from the other things from the second podcast, from the two MicroConfs, from growing DRIP, to sacrifice those things in order to write that second book. And so that’s where that one is. So definitely not a win there, but it is something that I realized early on in the year.
Mike [14:36]: My last goal was to keep up my writing habit. And at the time I set this goal it was because I knew that I was going to start through that process of writing The Single Founder Handbook. And I was able to push that out. I finished it, and I forget, it was March or April of last year. After the book was out, I didn’t do so well in keeping up that habit, but the first several months of the year it was good enough to be able to publish that book.
It’s a fairly lengthy book. It comes in at 327 pages. So it was quite an undertaking, I’ll say. So I don’t know how I would count this one as well. Maybe half or three-quarters. But I’m pleased with how the book went, and I’m pleased that I was able to finish writing it.
Rob [15:13]: I think if we were to go back to that episode a year ago, I would probably have asked you to make this one more specific, because keeping up the writing habit is a little vague. I think a better goal would have been to launch your book, because then it’s very measurable. And maybe even launch your book in the first six months or something, first six months of the year, because you achieved that. But keeping up your writing habit, it feels to me like you didn’t achieve that, even though you had a success along the way, in essence getting your book live.
Mike [15:37]: Yeah. I don’t recall whether I had come out and said, “Hey, I’m going to be launching a book,” at the time. I don’t know if I had said that on the podcast yet, but I distinctly remember having that in mind at the end of the year. It’s like, “Hey, I want to buckle down and get a lot of good writing done on this.” But you’re right. I should have probably been a little bit more specific about that.
Rob [15:53]: So I got to be honest, Mike. You had five goals. I think you achieved like one or two of them. Pretty shaky record for you this year, man.
Mike [16:01]: Yeah. As I said it comes down to the planning aspect of it. And I think the other part of it is that I don’t really go back and look at my goals. Or at least I haven’t historically gone back and looked at them and stayed on top of them very closely month over month or anything like that. I think that with the reminders and stuff that I’ve put in place this time, I think that I’ll do better. But obviously time will tell.
Rob [16:26]: I think something else you could do is put it in your mastermind outline every week. Have that be some part of it so that you can check in, “How am I doing on these goals for 2016?”
Mike [16:36]: Yeah. I think we put something in there to review them on a quarterly basis. It was either a quarterly or monthly basis, I forget which, but that’s something else. We’ve actually discussed this a little bit in our mastermind group to try and figure out a better way of tracking our progress towards our [?] goals, because I don’t think any of us do it very well. And it’s easy to let things slide through the cracks because you’re focused on the low level stuff, and you’re not really paying attention to the macro goals.
Rob [17:02]: All right. So that was 2015. Let’s dive into what we’re looking to do in 2016.
Mike [17:06]: I put together my list, and I spent, I don’t know, it was probably like a day or two thinking about what I wanted to do for the coming year, and came up with a couple of really high level goals, and then some milestones to reach along the way, and some sub-goals that fit into those overarching goals. So I have two major goals that I want to achieve this coming year, and the first one is to launch my new product, ideally by early next year. And by early, I mean by April at the latest. I want to have people onboarded and using the products in March or April, and then be able to do essentially a full blown public launch by mid-year, mid-year being June or July.
Rob [17:43]: Okay. So hold on. You named many different months there.
Mike [17:46]: Sorry.
Rob [17:47]: So launching your new product by early next year is too vague. So I’m going to hold you to it. Let’s talk about a date. That is when you email your launch list. What is your goal in terms of a date for that?
Mike [17:59]: Well, I want to have people using it early on because I don’t know how much system resources it’s going to take, and a lot of things are up in the air. So I want to have the 10 people who’ve prepaid me using it by April 1st.
Rob [18:12]: Okay. So then how long do you think from there it’ll take you to launch? A couple of months?
Mike [18:17]: Yeah, I think so. Maybe two months. Possibly three. Probably three.
Rob [18:20]: Okay. So April, May, June, so July 1 then is a reasonably conservative view, assuming it takes you three months from the time you get your 10 early access people in there.
Mike [18:31]: Yup. I think so.
Rob [18:32]: Cool. So I’m going to note that down, July 1.
Mike [18:34]: Hold me to that one [?]
Rob [18:35]: Or at least holding you to it or not, I think it’s just good to have an actual date in mind. And I’m noting down early access by April 1, and then email the launch list by July 1, because I think it’s good. The July 1 is the one that I actually think has more flexibility either way. Because you remember with DRIP, it took us months to do the slow launch to build the features people needed, and iterate on that. And that’s stuff that is hard to rush. The April 1 deadline is one that at this point, since that one’s only, what, essentially 90 days out, and it’s really just you building software, that’s when you have much more control over is that you know what features you have to build. And you have to get the code out there. I feel like hitting that April 1 deadline should be much more in your control.
Mike [19:17]: Yup. Totally agree with that.
Rob [19:19]: Exciting. And when do you plan on starting to mention it on the podcast, in terms of what it is and what it does?
Mike [19:23]: I’m going to give it a couple of more weeks. I’ve got quite a bit of planning that I need to do for it to figure out how long different pieces of it are going to take, and prioritize some of the things that need to be done. There’s also some stuff that I need to learn about, because there’s pieces of it that I technically don’t know exactly how it will need to be done. So there’s a little bit of a research component there. And I don’t know how long some of those things are going to take. But I want to get through those before I start talking too much about it.
Rob [19:48]: You also need to get a landing page up.
Mike [19:49]: That, too.
Rob [19:51]: You got it.
Mike [19:51]: I’ll start a landing page up, too. [?]
Rob [19:52]: You got to start collecting emails, yeah. All right. So my first goal for 2016 is to 2.5X DRIP. So it’s basically the same goal I had last year. To grow by 250%. I’m going to need to focus heavily on this and get all my team on board and all that, because it feels like an ambitious goal. We’re on pace right now, given our current growth rate, to grow by about 1.7 or 1.8X. And to go to 2.5, it doesn’t sound like that much more, but when you actually look at how many more trials and how many more conversions we need throughout the year, just how many more people we need to use it, it’s a substantial amount. And so I feel like this is certainly measurable. It’s definitely attainable, but it feels like I’m really going to have to focus and pull some new levers this year, some new traction channels we’re going to have to find in order to hit this mark. Because we’re talking substantial numbers at this point, right, to 2.5. We’re not 2.5Xing from $10,000 a month anymore. It’s a lot more than that. It’s, sort of, finding that many more people to grow the app is going to be both a lot of work and also a lot of fun, I think.
Mike [20:53]: So my second major goal is to re-run some of the different experiments that I was running last year. And as I said before or earlier in the episode, I feel like I fell off the wagon a little bit mid-year just because I didn’t have the rest of them scoped out. So what I’m doing over the next week or so is writing down 12 different things that’ll essentially keep me busy for the next 12 months, just doing one per month, and focusing really hard on that, just that one thing, in order to see what happens. Part of it’s just about combating boredom. Part of it’s about trying new things. But I just want to try a bunch of different things, see what works, what doesn’t, what resonates, what’s fun, what’s not, and see how things turn out. But the first step is to put together that list of 12 things in the next week or so.
Rob [21:34]: All right. So I have a challenge for you. On next week’s episode, I would love to see your 12 things and which month each of them is going to be done in.
Mike [21:44]: Okay.
Rob [21:46]: A, I think it’ll make it better for you because then it’s super easy to be accountable to it. And you can review it with your mastermind group, or you can review it here on the podcast every month if you feel comfortable. And then I also think that one of the few reasons you said you weren’t able to achieve it last time was that you only had three or four of them, and then you wandered off after that. So if you think you’ll get it done in the next week, I think that’ll be a really good thing to just revisit quickly on next week’s episode.
Mike [22:05]: Sure.
Rob [22:05]: So my second goal for 2016 is to support Sherry with her ZenFounder book. She’s starting work on a book about startup, family, and life. And I think my role is going to be helping her shape the outline, reading drafts of it, helping contribute to it, and adding anecdotes and stories to help beef them out. Because she has a lot of research background, and she has done consulting with founders. But obviously I have more reach into the community and stories of my own. And so I think, technically, I’ll be listed as a second author on the book. That’d be my role, but I really want to help support her to get it out.
I found that over the years, I love being involved in a lot of projects. And in the past, I’ve done too many of them myself, right? I want to write the second book. I want to start the startup. I want to run the conference. I’m going to do all these things. But I’m finding now that the more I focus on running DRIP and just doing only a few things, but if I have a little bit of input into other things like advising startups or doing some angel investments here and there, being able to talk to entrepreneurs, that I get that same endorphin rush and that same feeling that I am involved in a lot of things. And so this is one of those ways where I feel like I can be involved in a book, but the weight of it and the vast majority of the work will not be on my shoulders. But it will still allow me to learn and be interested and to be involved in something exciting that’s happening. So Sherry’s goal is to get it out before the end of the year. To be honest, I don’t know if she has a particular month in mind yet, but we’re working out the details. And so my goal is to basically support her and help her get that out the door.
Mike [23:37]: Very cool. That’s, kind of, exciting.
So the next things I have in my list are essentially sub-goals, and they fit into the two that I just talked about. And the first one is to be much more deliberate about where I spend my time. And that involves separating things out into work time, family time, and then me time. And my intent is really to work less and enjoy my off time more, and essentially be overall healthier, both physically and mentally. Because I have a tendency to think about work when I’m not working, and I really need to start drawing walls of separation between those things so that when I start working, I’m essentially more fresh on it. I can just sit down, and with a clear mind, start working on things that need to get done, and then draw that line on the sand that just says, “Okay, this is family time,” or “This is alone time,” or “This is time I’m spending with my wife,” and I’m not going to be thinking about work, or thinking about other things that are going on.
Rob [24:25]: Do you know how you’re going to measure this one?
Mike [24:27]: I have some ideas about it. It’s a little difficult because I think that if you start thinking about work, for example, in the middle of the evening while you’re eating dinner, it’s a little difficult to just turn that off. But part of it’s going to involve time-boxing a little bit and saying, “Look, these are the hours that I’m going to be working on this. And these are the hours that I’m going to be spending doing that.” I think that’ll help me to put things in perspective a little bit. And I’ve also found that just putting that added pressure on myself of saying, “Oh, I’ve only got these hours to work on something,” that really, really helps me.
Something else I’ve found is that earlier in the week I’m much more productive than I am at the end of the week. So Mondays and Tuesdays, I can put in 12-hour days very easily and I don’t really get interrupted by the kids who are coming home from school, and I don’t have to watch them when they get home because my wife’s around. And what I find is that later in the week, on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, I don’t have that – I’ll call it a luxury – but it affects me more. It gets me out of the zone much, much quicker when they walk in the door. So I think that focusing on the Mondays and Tuesdays as being my highly productive days will help with that, and then blocking off Thursdays and Fridays and saying, “Yeah, I know for a fact I’m just not going to get as much work done. So I’m just going to, rather than try and fight it and try and get things done anyway, I’ll just accept it and say, “Look, I’m just going to push these things off and not worry about it until Monday because I’m not going to be as productive on it anyway.””
Rob [25:45]: This is one that I think you’ll need to review on probably a twice monthly or monthly basis or else you’ll forget it, I think.
Mike [25:51]: Yeah, I agree with that. I wouldn’t call it so much as a goal, as more of a strategy of trying to get to some of the other things.
Rob [25:58]: Yeah. That’s what it seems like. It’s like a behavior change rather than an actual goal that you’re striving for.
Mike [26:03]: Yeah, I guess that’s probably a better way to put it. Maybe calling it a goal was a misnomer, but that’s the way I was thinking of it. It’s like what has to happen, or what do I need to do in order to be able to achieve those other goals that I set forth.
Rob [26:14]: Very cool. So my third and final goal for 2016 is to make another handful of angel investments, and I’m thinking probably three to five in 2016. And what I found is, in total I’ve made about nine small angel investments – about six of them I’m a little more involved in, where I’m actually helping and advising, and they’re a little more substantial. And I found that my sweet spot is, not surprisingly, helping folks with B2B SaaS. Hopefully if they’re at product market fit, post traction, that kind of stuff. So folks who are at $5000, $10,000, $15,000 a month in revenue, and there’s some type of path to start getting this thing going.
And frankly, as weird as this sounds, it’s like investing in bootstrappers. And that doesn’t make a ton of sense, right? Because typically bootstrapping means that you’re doing without funding. But it’s this new model of “fun-strapping”, as Colin from Customer.io talked about, where essentially folks have the intent of raising a single seed round to grow quickly, get to profitability, and then that’s it. They don’t plan to go the venture-funded route. And those are the businesses that I like. And I’ve made a couple of investments recently that I’m very excited about because A, there’s a lot of value that I can bring. But B, they’re not trended to grow hundred million dollar businesses, and they have a very high likelihood of becoming seven-figure businesses and potentially even low eight-figure businesses. And that’s where I’m looking to be.
So that’s where I really enjoy it, and where I have some insight and value to add. And this again comes back to I don’t want to start other things because I really want to focus. But just being involved in a little way with these founders who are getting stuff done is exciting and it keeps me learning. And it keeps me, kind of, interested in knowing what’s going on. And so I guess if you are a bootstrapper and you hit that point where you start getting some traction and you’re thinking about raising this small, single round, certainly drop me a line because I’ve been talking to several folks lately.
Mike [28:09]: The last thing I have on my list, as you pointed out earlier, is more of a strategy than a goal, but is to be more complete with my planning. And essentially that involves creating a full plan rather than a partial one, essentially walking the process of the projects that I’m working on all the way to completion and mapping out everything that needs to be done, as opposed to getting it 70%, 80% of the way and then stopping and saying, “Oh, that’s enough of a plan. Let me dive right in and start getting things done.” So, as I said before, I have a tendency to get to near the end of those plans and then I’ll start thrashing because I don’t really know what I should be working on because I haven’t planned it.
Rob [28:43]: Yeah, that makes sense. Again, like you said, this is a strategy or a behavior change. It seems like launching your new app by April 1 to early access, and then July 1 to your launch list, is probably your main goal, and that’s where you listed it, as number one. And so, if I were in your shoes, that is what I would totally be focusing on and getting weekly milestones nailed down and planned out. Especially if you know you have that tendency to not follow through in the end; to get to the point where, like you said, you start thrashing, I think that you need to be keenly aware that around March or April, your lizard brain is going to start finding reasons why you shouldn’t be working on it, or why you should wander off and try to start something else. Or other stuff is just going to magically come up because it always does. So I think it’s good to be aware of this in yourself, and I think that as you go through the year, it’s something to review on a monthly basis of like, “Am I letting this one get the best of me like it has in the past.”?
Mike [29:45]: Yeah. I noticed that I’m for thrashing a lot because my productivity just plummets. I spend more time looking at my ever-growing list of things to do that there’s things that just get added to it. And I’m like, “Oh, I’m not sure what I should be working on.” So what ends up happening is I don’t work on anything. And I’ve already started putting together the weekly milestones like you just pointed out, and finding ways to hold myself accountable to those different milestones, and making sure that things aren’t getting pushed off, and making sure that I’m also assigning a reasonable number of tasks to each of those milestones so that I don’t get so far behind that things just go completely sideways, and then I’m in a position where I’ll never catch up.
I don’t know about you, but I think this coming year it’ll be pretty exciting.
Rob [30:24]: Yeah, I’m stoked to get started with it.
Mike [30:25]: Well, I think that about wraps us up for the day. If you have a question for us, you can call it into our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690, or you can email it to us at email@example.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for “startups” and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.
I’m trying to create a blog post about what I’m calling the “Micro Capital” funding option, which you are calling fundstrapping and would love some more info on how you are doing it.
Are you doing convertible notes? If so how do they convert? Are you expecting a return from a share of the profit? Do you include profit taking terms?
I’m trying to define this additional option for companies who are “Self Incubating”.