In the first episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us since our 500th milestone, Rob checks in with Mike Taber about his progress with Bluetick.
It’s been nearly 7 weeks since Rob last checked in (Episode 494) and a lot has happened in the world since then. They talk about business trajectory amidst COVID-19, the health of the sales pipeline and unique partnership opportunities, as well as technical debt and making decisions about code optimization.
What we discuss with Mike Taber
- 6:38 Rob and Mike reflect on what made the podcast successful
- 12:05 Has Bluetick seen an uptick in interest since COVID-19?
- 16:58 Is Mike an optimist, or a pessimist (and what would Mike’s wife say)?
- 18:55 The highs and lows from the past few weeks
- 20:41 Mike on driving new prospects for Bluetick
- 22:38 Bluetick and unique partnership opportunities
- 30:47 Managing technical debt and making decisions on optimizing your code
Links from the show:
How can I support the podcast?
If you enjoyed this episode with Mike Taber, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out on Twitter:
Click here to thank Mike Taber on Twitter.
Click here to share your number one takeaway from the episode.
Subscribe & Review: iTunes | Spotify | Stitcher
Rob: I can barely believe my ears. It’s another episode of Startups for the Rest of Us. Welcome to this week’s episode, it’s episode 501. Today I talk with Mike Taber of Bluetick to get his update that I get every month or two. It’s good to connect with Mike. Last time we spoke it was the beginning of the COVIDs quarantine process, so it was good to catch up with him today.
Before we dive into that, through helpfounders.com, I have volunteered up a couple of ad slots for startup founders. Specifically, I had an ad a few episodes back. Every so often, I will be talking about someone in our community in the Startups for the Rest of Us, MicroConf, Bootstrappers, self-funded, and indie-funded founder community. This week, the company I want to talk about is called Versoly, versoly.com. Versoly is a SaaS-focused landing page and website builder aimed of course at SaaS marketers and founders.
I had the pleasure of speaking with the founder through an impromptu meeting on MicroConf Connect. MicroConf Connect, if you don’t know, is (I think) about 1100 founders and aspiring founders in the Slack community that is helping each other out, sharing info, and asking questions. We did a MicroConf meet away where we were paired up with individuals and just got to have a conversation for 5 or 10 minutes. It spun the roulette wheel and connected you with the next person. It was super fun to be able to meet other like-minded people that I otherwise just wouldn’t have connected with, I wouldn’t jump on Zoom, or otherwise wind up in Squadcast talking to them.
I had the pleasure of meeting the founder of versoly.com. Versoly solves that problem of well I need this marketing side. I don’t want to build it in my app so that I have to do a code push to change it. I don’t really want to do it in WordPress. Should I do it in Squarespace? Do I do a static site builder? Versoly’s goal is to get you past that. Their headline is conversion-focused website builder. Versoly is a single platform to build landing pages, create blog posts, and collect leads; no code required. Check them out if you are in the market for that, and help out some fellow bootstrap founders.
Also, as a final reminder, if you’ve been wanting to get involved in a mastermind group with like-minded startup founders at any stage, head to microconfmasterminds.com. Applications close this week, and we will be doing matching here in the next couple of weeks.
I’ve been getting great feedback about recent episodes. Lots of praise but also some constructive feedback, and it’s super helpful for me to hear what you’re thinking about the episodes. I’ve been changing up formats and experimenting. I received a really nice email from a listener. He said, “Best episode ever,” as the subject line. He said, “I thought you’d like to know that the two-part episode this week,” which was episode 499 and 499½ that I recorded with Jordan Gal about the first six stages of SaaS growth, “was beyond words, stunning. I don’t know if people at the start of the journey will appreciate it quite as much, but speaking from a business in the product-market fit stage, this was utterly compelling. Two things made it so extraordinary. The similarities and differences of your two experiences, which played in my head the similarities differences with my own, and number two, the way you to build up a picture so similar to the experience I’ve lived and then explained what’s about to happen next, which played in my head as news that I need to know and be aware of. Thank you and please pass on my thanks to Jordan as well. This was very informative and inspirational.”
Thank you so much for writing that email. This was helpful in a couple of ways because, of course, it makes me feel good and it makes me feel like I’m onto something with it, but he specifically called out how this was helpful to him and how I’m able to now, in the future, think of how I can shape other episodes to have perhaps a similar focus or similar format. There was some unique experimentation with that episode with Jordan. It wasn’t an interview, but it was two people sharing their parallel experiences and comparing and contrasting.
I’m glad that it resonated. I know we had a great time recording it. That’s why I went on for so long because I felt like it was just so packed densely with information that I’m hoping can help startup founders like yourself. Keep an eye out for potentially more episodes like that in the future.
With that, let’s chat with Mike Taber, the co-host emeritus of Startups for the Rest of Us who co-hosted the show with me for the first 448 episodes, and now comes back every month or two to give us updates on his progress with his startup bluetick.io.
Mr. Mike #Taber. How are you doing this week?
Mike: I’m doing good, how are you?
Rob: I’m doing all right, man. It’s always good to chat with you, catch up, and hear how things have been going.
Mike: Yeah, definitely. What’s the news?
Rob: 500th episode went live last week, man. How does it feel to be the old guy at the club? Have you ever heard […] thing? You’re not that old, you’re just a little too old to be at the club.
Mike: Yes. I don’t know. It’s been a long ride.
Rob: Yeah, it’s a trip. A little more than a decade; 500 episodes. Although when I log into Castos, it looks like there’s actually like 523 audio files because we’ve done half episodes, we’ve done bonus episodes, you’ve done announcement episodes, and there’s this, but the numbering is what’s important.
Mike: I mentioned to my wife that out on the website there was episode 499.5 and she’s like what is that?
Rob: Here’s what happened, actually, I went to record this episode with Jordan Gal. It was just a really good conversation and I didn’t want to cut it off, but it was over an hour. We recorded for 1 hour and 15 minutes. I was like no problem. I will just cut this in half and air one this week and one next week. Of course, I had already had a bunch of stuff planned for episode 500, which was the next week. I want to do this as a two-parter. I was going to do it like a Tuesday, Thursday type thing. That’s what happened. Maybe, in retrospect, I should have just left it as 1 hour and 10 minutes episode. It worked out fine.
Mike: It’s fine. Just having those half episodes every once in a while it’s like oh here’s a little bonus or something like that. That’s totally fine. Plus it lets people split it up in their podcast player a little bit. They’re like oh what’s that?
Rob: It’s like hey 30-minute episode’s cool, and I agree. Any time I have a podcast that I like a lot and they unexpectedly release another episode, I’m stoked because I’m like oh two episodes this week. I get twice the fun. That’s a little bit what I was going for at that for 499.5. What do you think, man? In the 500th episode, I know that you’re not on Twitter, you’re not listening to the podcast anymore, but I talked a little bit about why I think the podcast has been successful and stuck around this long and all that.
One reason we stuck around is because we just kept showing up. I talked about consistency and just being authentic. We were always ourselves on the show rather than trying to play up parts, be dramatic, or play a role. Those were the two things that came to mind for me. As I listened back to 500, I was like oh there’s at least another two that I think I could name now, but I’m curious if you’ve given it any thought. The podcast has been successful, why did we stick around for so long?
Mike: Way to put me on the spot without anything in the outline.
Rob: I know. I totally should’ve given you a heads up. You have time though because you can edit out the silence, right?
Mike: I can’t.
Rob: It’ll get edited out.
Mike: I’m sure it would. I agree with you definitely on those two points. I think that the consistency of showing up every single week and being able to have people count on it and reliably know that that podcast episode was going to go live every Tuesday. I can only remember one instance where it didn’t go live on Tuesday morning when people expected it to, and it was because of some snafu in WordPress where it just didn’t get published for some reason. Everything was ready. It just didn’t go out at the time that we expected it to. It went out three or four hours later, but by 7:00 AM, 8:00 AM in the morning we were already getting emails like hey are you going to put a podcast out this week because I’m not seeing it my player?
I think that—I don’t want to call demand for it—the anticipation of knowing that it’s going to be there every Tuesday for some people, it’s part of their ritual, it’s part of their weekly commute or something along those lines. Maybe their daily run. They’re like oh it’s Tuesday, I get to go listen to this. I do think that that plays a major part in it. I also agree with you that the fact that we’re ourselves on the podcast probably has a lot to do with it because we’ve met people in person at MicroConf, other conferences, or in-person meetups and stuff like that. And I hear from people on occasion, they’re like, yeah, you’re really not any different than you sound like on your podcast.
I never really understood that before until my kids have started watching YouTube. They watch some of these shows where these people just act completely off the wall. They’re obviously late 20s, 30s, some of them are probably even older than that and they act like they’re 12. They make these ridiculous comments and it’s aimed at a younger audience, which I guess with YouTube, you’re not really not supposed to do that. I can almost guarantee that that’s not how those people act in real life. It’s an act, it’s a show for them, but we’re just really having a conversation. That definitely plays into what has been appealing to people. I mean, also being one of the first podcasts aimed at bootstrappers probably didn’t hurt, and the one that people recommend quite a bit. We’re actually out there doing this stuff and not just talking about it, but doing it as well.
Rob: It’s an interesting point because I have often thought, when we launched in 2010, the radio that I listened to was pretty heavily produced. I would listen to morning shows and those DJs are totally doing the performance thing with the horn honking (Sunday, Sunday, Sunday). Their voice is just like whoa. But some people have come on the scene who do have these big personalities. I think of like a GaryVee where when he actually sits down, he’s pretty chill, but definitely on his video blog, he played it up big time when he was doing the wine tasting, but it worked for him. That’s the thing is I wouldn’t say you should just be authentic because we did and it’s worked for us.
I honestly wonder if perhaps it’s to our detriment because you and I are chill, even-keeled people. Maybe if we had played it up and had a bunch of drama would we have twice the audience? Maybe it’s a counter factor and just the fact that we’ve been around 10 years has been the reason for success.
Mike: Shut up, Rob. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
Rob: Love it. We’ve never had arguments on the air, except for about desktop versus laptop, Mac versus Windows, but this will be it. This will be the argument.
Mike: We’ll just go back to an arm-wrestling match. It’s funny. I bring that up almost facetiously, but most of the audience probably doesn’t know this. The first MicroConf that we ran, the last question I put on the 45, 50 plus question survey was who would win in an arm-wrestling match, Mike or Rob? 75% of the audience said me. I think we should revisit that and put that on another survey.
Rob: Those poor suckers. We should and we should make it a little interesting. How about we put a little green down on this thing?
Mike: Then we’re actually going to have to have the arm-wrestling match at some point, though.
Rob: We’ll do the match. Once I know when it’s scheduled for, all the time when I’m on the phone calls, I’m just going to be doing curls with my right arm. Just pumping and pumping. I’m going to have a bicep on the arm. Well, man, it’s cool to have made it to 500, and I’m glad you’re able to join us again this week to catch us up on what you’ve been up to over the past seven weeks. It’s been seven weeks since our chat, episode 494.
Frankly, the two calls prior to that, our two conversations, were positive. You were upbeat, you were motivated, and things were working. You had more than doubled in about four or five months. Last time we talked, it was in late April. It was right at the beginning or a couple of weeks into the whole COVID quarantine stuff. You basically said that the current trajectory of growth had not continued. You had plateaued and I felt like both of us were like yeah, a lot of apps aren’t doing that right now. There’s so much uncertainty.
Since then, with companies that I’m working with and have insight into, stuff has started picking up again, at least to some extent. There are still those big winners, let’s say Zoom, Slack, or someone in the podcast space. Then, there are big losers that are software for schools that are all shut down. Whatever, we can think of examples. The people in the middle like 70%, at least based on the numbers I’m seeing, have seen an uptick in interest. People are marketing again and people are sending deals again. I’m curious to hear from your perspective, bluetick.io, is it following that trajectory as well over the past couple of months?
Mike: Yeah, I would say so. It definitely dipped a little bit after our last conversation probably seven weeks ago or something like that. It dipped for probably another three or four weeks after that. That was in terms of existing customers churning out and saying oh I’m going to put my subscription on hold for a little while then revisit this in a couple of months. Since then, things have started to tick back up again.
Last week, I actually had a customer who was already on board and they upgraded to the tune of another $500 a month or so. That’s good to see. Obviously, the tool itself is doing what it’s supposed to do and it’s working for them, so they’ve expanded the use of it by quite a bit. It’s nice to see that.
There were two other deals that I had been working on. One of them had that conversation internally about whether or not they were going to look into Bluetick and use it to replace the existing tool. They said look, we’ve made this decision internally that we’re not going to start any new vendor relationships right now, but we do want to revisit this. They just basically said not right now. There’s the other one that I was working on where that one’s sort of in limbo right now, still working on trying to figure out exactly what’s going on there. I haven’t been told no, but I haven’t been told yes, either.
Rob: One was a pilot and another was just a large customer on the phone, right? Did the pilot not go through?
Mike: Yeah, it was the pilot that they said we want to come back and revisit this because they didn’t have the time to actually dedicate to doing the pilot. They did some things here and there, but they really didn’t spend a lot of time on it. I talked to them a couple of times about it during the pilot and they said yeah we’re just really busy. We’re swamped, we’re trying to get things with our existing customer base and trying to retain those people. They just didn’t have the time to spend on working with a new tool to see if it was going to replace an existing tool. It was just internal priorities they couldn’t do it, but they said flat out this isn’t a no, we want to come back to this later.
Rob: That could be code for we just don’t want to tell you no, but you just don’t know, right?
Mike: It could be but I feel like they would have just said no.
Rob: Yeah. Do you have plans to circle back with them in a month or two or what’s that look like?
Mike: I have it on my calendar to go back to them. I forget exactly when the date is, but I think they said six months. I’ll probably give them like four or so and then touch base with them to see where things are at and start those conversations again because I know it’s going to take a little bit of time to get them either up to speed or allocate some time or what-have-you. Even if I talk to them, they have to have internal conversations first because it’s a team of people. It’s not just one person making the decision. That’s on my list of things to follow-up on.
The other one, I have talked to the person who put me in touch with them to see if it was something that they wanted to go forward with or if they were just kind of table in it for now. But they wanted to use it mainly because their sales reps were no longer out in the field and needed a better way to communicate.
There are some educational difficulties there. Some of them are essentially using MailChimp to send out “personalized emails” to everybody. I’m like that’s not really how it should be done, but this is just a different tool. I don’t think they really get the subtle nuances between them and things with subscriptions. People can unsubscribe and then they don’t see them, what are they using it for, and all that kind of stuff.
Rob: That’s disappointing to hear. I remember at the end of the last episode I said well that would be a big win if you got both of them to sign up. You said it will be a big win if I get one of them to sign up. I was like come on, Mike. Be more optimistic, but it sounds like that’s what happened. It’s a bummer that they didn’t come through.
Mike: Right. Like I said, the other one still could come through, I just don’t know yet. But even if it doesn’t, at least it was being evaluated. I’m more encouraged by the fact that I was in the running for an evaluation with a company that wanted to do a pilot to switch over from an existing tool and use Bluetick instead. I think that that’s a very encouraging sign, especially since between that, and I’ve had somebody else who upgraded their account and added a bunch of mailboxes to the tune of $500 a month as of last week. To me, those are encouraging signs.
Rob: Do you consider yourself an optimist, pessimist, or realist?
Mike: I don’t know. It depends on how full that whiskey glass is and whose whiskey it is.
Rob: Yeah, I could imagine.
Mike: I don’t know. There’s a lot of factors around it. I used to be much more of an optimist and now more of a realist.
Rob: Then life hit me like a freight train.
Mike: I wouldn’t say I’ve turned into a pessimist, but I also recognize that just because you want something to be true doesn’t mean that it’s going to be. There are various challenges or things that are completely outside of your control that factor into it. Some things you can do something about and some things you can’t.
Rob: Let me ask this question in a different way, would your wife say that you are an optimist or a pessimist?
Mike: Oh, good question. I don’t know. That’s a good question. I really don’t know. I don’t think she would say, pessimist.
Rob: It’s not that important. I was just hearing from you. We’ve known each other a long time and just hearing you talk about the sales and being like yeah, it’s not a no. I’m going to come back to them in four months. It’s good to hear your optimism in that scenario. It does seem like you’re feeling pretty good about things. Is that accurate?
Mike: Yeah, it is. The thing is, in that particular situation, the reason I’m optimistic is because it wasn’t a no. But even if it was a no, I would at least be able to have that conversation with them to understand why it was a no and then go do something about it. To me, that’s still a learning experience. I could still take something from it and I get something out of it. If they just said no, we don’t want to talk to you ever again. By the way, we hired a goon squad to come over and kick your dog, that’s a bit of a different situation and I’d feel bad about it, especially since they can’t find my dog because I don’t have one.
I view it as an opportunity to learn more and to be able to make things better. Obviously, if they hate the color of my eyes, there’s very little I can do about that but shut off the webcam.
Rob: I always ask you what are the highs and lows over the past seven weeks since we last spoke. Would it be accurate to say that the low is probably not closing either of those deals and the high is the $500 a month expansion revenue?
Mike: Yeah, I think so. I would agree with that.
Rob: I’ve been talking about how recurring revenue is the golden ticket of software sales, expansion revenue, and net negative churn is the golden ticket of SaaS of recurring revenue. If you can build a business that has expansion revenue, it’s unbelievable when you see it. Hypothetically, if you close zero new deals, your revenue would grow, your MRR would grow. It blows your mind when you see that happen. The fact that you had that, is this true expansion revenue where their usage expanded? Did they add another team because it’s seat-based, correct? Did they add another group of people after using it in production on one team? It wasn’t just a pilot where one person is using it, we added 10 people, that’s our usage. They actually added a whole another group?
Rob: It’s a big deal. You should feel good about that.
Mike: Yeah. They put one person who is technical on their side in charge of the management of the accounting side of Bluetick. That person is managing mailboxes for a bunch of people inside the company. Basically, they’re using it for two entirely different things and they have two accounts in Bluetick where they can just toggle between the two of them. It’s all billed under the same account or same subscription, so to speak. It’s just two entirely different groups of people that are using it for entirely different things. It’s nice to see that that’s an option for people because I did add that in this past year where it lets them do that. Previously, you couldn’t do that. You’d have to sign up for a brand new account.
Rob: That makes sense. I’m curious, this is something I bring up every time because there’s a couple of concerns I have over the long term. One of them has always been the differentiation; why are people signing up, why are people sticking around. The other has been how are you going to continue to drive new prospects. Over the course of a few months, you had several sales teams or companies approach you and say hey we want to sign up. We either want to do a pilot, we want to sign up and evaluate, or whatever and you were in the sales process.
Obviously, we’ve just said the two of them didn’t close. The question is, are there any other new ones in the pipeline at this point? Have those bigger prospects—we were kind of calling like $500–$1000 a month—has that pipeline continued or is it mostly dry right now?
Mike: I would say at the moment it’s mostly dry. I do have some leads but nothing that is concrete that I’m reasonably confident that this is going to come in and we’re going to start something. It’s mostly early leads. If you look at a sales funnel and you say that they’re at the top of it, like they’re the 10%–20% range where you think they’re going to close, then at the bottom, they’re closer to 90%. There’s more of them that are at the 10%–30% range than there are below that. I don’t have any that are anything more than I would think 30% able to close in the near future. That said, I think that there’s a lot more up at that 10%–30% range than there have been in the past.
Rob: That’s a problem because if you look ahead—a month, two months, three months—unless you have a bunch of smaller customers in your pipeline, which I’m going to presume that isn’t happening right now because I don’t think you’re doing a bunch of marketing, then you’re looking to be flat from next time we talk. Unless between now and then, a larger customer comes and you’re able to close them in those seven weeks.
Mike: Yeah, that’s probably accurate. I really just don’t know how quickly some of these are going to move. There are some things that I’m working on with a potential partner where we’re essentially doing some sort of a bundled deal with my software. There are some synergies between the two, and then there’s going to be educational components and basically, a done-for-you service where it’s like here’s a bundled offering.
With all these things together, this is what you get and this is what it costs on a monthly basis. There’s an upfront payment for them to do. It’s not consulting work, but it’s like services work to get them up and running. It’s almost like a paid engagement to get things started and set up for them and then after that, they’re just paying for the software, but there are other things that we’ve kicked around where the idea is to do ongoing work for them and then we’re powering the services through the software. And part of that software is obviously Bluetick.
Rob: You told me a little more about this right before we started recording. Even more than you can say publicly on the podcast, I’m pretty bullish about this. It’s essentially business development, it’s a partnership where your software is included and sold by another company. It’s not with HitTail and without an invoice. Actually, with Drip too, we’d get these emails and it’s like hey I want a white label your software for realtors. I’m like cool what’s your footprint? How many realtors do you have access to? It’s like oh we’re just starting out. I’m going to build a website tomorrow. It’s like this is a complete waste of time, you’re going to waste my time. But this company is not that.
This is a company that has reach with a lot of folks in their vertical. It’s not realtors. I’ll be very, very clear about it. It was just an example I was using. They have reach, they’re legit, and they sell a lot of stuff and Bluetick being part of that makes a lot of sense if that goes through. You’ve been spending time on that putting that together and getting that moving?
Mike: Yeah. The majority of their customers are teams of people. They’re not selling to individuals or freelancers because their software is useless for those types of people. They do have an option for those types of people if they want to sign up, but that’s not really their core audience. Their core audiences are larger companies that maybe have 10, 20, 50, or 100 different reps working for them that they’re going to have licenses for. Bluetick does fit in pretty well with that, and I do think that there are opportunities there, especially since they’ve got an established customer base.
If we can present that to the existing customer base, not just the new customers that they’re bringing in but existing customers, then that’s an opportunity for growth as well. The relationship is such that I do think that there’s a high likelihood of some of those things closing. Like I said, if you’re talking from a sales funnel standpoint, I don’t think that they’re far enough along to really justify saying that it’s further along than it actually is. It’s in that 10%–30%.
Rob: It’s in the works, so to speak. Have you spent much time on other marketing approaches? Have you done any the warm/cold email, just anything else to speak of driving leads right now?
Mike: I have not. I have been heads down on a couple of things I can’t really talk about, at least not right now. I probably could maybe a couple of months out. I’m not sure.
Rob: It’s always hard to be on a podcast and that. I know what you’re talking about, of course, and it’s just stuff you can’t talk about, that’s where it gets tough. You’ve been spending a pretty significant chunk of your time, I’m going to say working on something else, but it’s like you’re not building another product so you don’t need to hear shiny object syndrome. You’re investing your time into something that I think you and I both agree could really lead to something for you.
Mike: Yeah. I don’t know how to really portray that for the listeners other than I’ve been fairly swamped and haven’t had enough time to dedicate to that stuff, but that’s that I have started carving some time out of my calendar from 3:00 to 5:00 each day to say this is going to be dedicated time towards marketing. That way, I at least get some of that time in. Whereas before, I wasn’t putting it on my calendar or making it a priority. Because of that it was just other things would creep in, that time would get eaten, and then the next day I’m in the same position. By allocating a couple of hours a day, I found that that has helped.
Rob: To be clear, the thing you’re investing a lot of time in it still includes Bluetick. It’s not like oh I’m going to go do this other thing and leave Bluetick behind; just for the listener. You’re not just moving from one thing to the next. Again, it sucks that we have to be coy about it, but this is the reality. I said this in episode 500 actually. I was talking about how hard it is, how I wish that every week two people could just sit on a microphone and could just update you on what we were doing and have it be just amazing radio. In my experience—and I think your experience doing it for 10 years—it’s just not always the case. Some weeks just nothing interesting happens. Other weeks interesting stuff happens that you can’t talk about.
This was a really hard thing for me during the Drip acquisition process that took 13 months and for 5 months, it was like 30 hours a week for me. Every week I’d show up and be like I got to think of something to tell people and felt a little inauthentic and awkward, but then you just can’t. You can’t talk about that. That’s what that is. We’ll circle up. Depending on timing on the next one, maybe I will check in with you and be like hey is it at a place where we can talk about it? Maybe we go a little further out. Maybe we’d go more than seven weeks in between if it makes sense to where we can talk about that.
I’m curious about the whole sealed .NET component that you had old customers, existing customers we’re still using it and you had implemented it with a feature flag such that new customers went on a different component. It was going to be, I believe, for the one that was going to do the pilot with you or they did the pilot with you, but is that on hold for now? Are new customers signing up with the new component, old customers are on old component, and you’re just there and you’re not going to migrate right now?
Mike: All of the new customers, as of a while back, are using the new version of it. I’ve not migrated over the existing customers mainly because that stuff still works fine, and it’s a lot of, I’ll say, data to just migrate for no particularly great reason because the stuff does still work. It’s just it would allow me to do other things. I will get to it eventually but right now it’s not necessarily a primary importance.
Rob: It doesn’t seem like it.
Mike: Yeah. If I really needed to switch somebody over to the new version I could do it, but I don’t necessarily know all the ins and outs of exactly which things may or may not break or may not come over correctly. I’m just leaving it as is. Honestly, a lot of the things that are not changed are from customers who’ve canceled and their data is scheduled for deletion or whatever. I’m not too worried about it. I hate to say like oh I’ll just let it go until those customers churn out and then just delete their accounts and I won’t have to worry about it. At some point, in the future, that could conceivably happen.
Rob: I don’t think that’s a bad approach. Hopefully, they all won’t churn out, but when you get down to the point where there’s a small number and you can do it by hand type of thing, migrate them over. It is technical debt, technically, but as long as it doesn’t hamper your feature development, and that’s what you said was like that prospect who was going to pay you whatever it was—$1000 a month or $1200 a month—you were going to do it what it took for them and that’s the case where you do it, when revenue is coming in. To me, more of a focus on driving leads and doing sales moves the business forward at this point.
Mike: Yeah. I don’t see any major impetus to go back and make changes to those existing accounts because, like I said, they work fine. It’s just that the new storage mechanism allows me to do more.
Rob: I think I’m just going to delete this from the future because I don’t know that it makes sense for me to keep asking you about it. It’s not done, it’s done enough, right? The fact that new customers are using something that you can write a test for and you’re happy with it, that happens all the time in SaaS. We still have 30 people on v1 billing and we’re on v6 billing. That happens, and they’re using old code. It’s not the end of the world. As engineers, I know you and we want all the I’s out and the T’s crossed, we want it gold-plated, and I want everything to be clean. It’s not always the reality.
In fact, it’s, in my experience, never the reality especially with a SaaS app that’s going quick, that needs new features, that need sales, and that needs all the stuff. You just don’t have the luxury sometimes to fix everything.
Mike: You don’t gold plate your code? We can’t be friends.
Rob: I do, but I tell other people not to. It’s funny there’s a start-up in batch two of Tiny Seed that is growing really quickly. They’re scaling up fast and he said, “When I wrote the code it felt like overkill, but now it doesn’t. I said, “Yeah, “It always feels like gold-plated code if you prematurely optimize, but if you actually do need to scale, then it feels like you made the right choice.” That’s the hard thing to know. It’s hard to know if you’re going to have to do that.
I felt like with Drip, Derrick made a lot of great engineering decisions and he wrote really good, scalable code. But we kept outpacing it and we would have, every four to six months, go back and do this and upgrade the database and stuff. That was taxing on both of us. It would have been crazy. It would have felt crazy to do a microsystems architecture from the start with all these different data stores when we were launching to 200 people. That would have sounded ridiculous, but if your aspirations really are to get to millions of dollars of revenue, I would do it differently this time. It’s such a hard judgment call.
Mike: I think that’s one of the interesting challenges that most people have as entrepreneurs is when you’re first building something and you don’t really have an audience, users, or people using the system or stressing it out in ways that you didn’t anticipate, you’re going to build it one way because you think that the parameters of the problem are a certain thing. As you start throwing stuff at it, you realize that you either made some poor assumptions or you were just wrong outright and then you have to redo them. You would have to do that refactoring process.
If you were to create a new SaaS app, if you decided we’re going to go back and we’re going to rewrite this, or you move on from one project to another that is in a similar domain or has similar types of operations, you’re going to build it fundamentally different because the challenges that you’re going to run into in the future. Most people do not have the experience of building multiple SaaS apps from the ground up. That’s what makes it hard.
If I were to redo things from today, oh yeah, there’s definitely a lot of decisions I would make very differently. I’m sure that you and Derrick would have made different decisions building Drip, but you don’t know those until afterward. At that point, you just got to deal with whatever technical debt you’ve built up.
Rob: Did you ever read the book The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks?
Mike: I think I did but it was a long time ago. I don’t really remember.
Rob: It was like an early book, one of the first books on software project management. I think it was published in 1975. They were writing a bunch of operating systems for mainframes. Old by our comparison and really complex stuff. In the Mythical Man-Month, there is this concept. Each chapter is like an essay with a concept that he learned and that he posits in the book. One of them is called the second system effect. The concept is like architects and project managers tend to over architect, over embellish, and gold-plate their second project because you do your first project a bunch of stuff goes wrong, stuff doesn’t scale, there are bugs, there’s this, and there’s that.
The next one you want to do everything right and you overdo it. Again, it’s his theory that the third one is where you dial it in between, but I don’t know, man. Having seen really harsh scaling issues and being one of the people responsible to make that better, and to see how long it takes when you do hit scale, I don’t know if I’d call it over embellishment.
Mike: I don’t know. I think it depends a lot on what the specifics of those issues were because some scaling issues are easier to contend with than others. Sometimes, it just comes down to messaging, queuing, how up-to-date certain data has to be in the UI, and when you do stuff, but then there’s all this operational stuff.
Rob: Exactly. How long can you cache? That’s the thing, man. We did all that. That was the stuff we did for the first several years was all the caching, all the grouping queries, and we had read replicas of our of the database, but it was purely write load on a single data store. You have this Postgres database with 30,000 queries per second running on it. You just hit limits and we had terabytes. I don’t member what Amazon’s biggest box was in terms of RAM, but we had eight terabytes of RAM or whatever and it still couldn’t fit the whole data.
It’s those types of things where you’re at the extreme of it’s no longer I need to improve this code. It’s like we need an entirely different data store, whether it’s at a separate Postgres database or more likely an entire document database, or something that just has incredible write throughput.
Anyway, we’re way off track. This is an interesting tangent, but I don’t know if we need to keep covering it. I’m curious, as we think about wrapping up, there are two things. One is it sounds to me like your motivation is healthy and you’re feeling good. Your sleep is okay, is it?
Mike: Yeah, it’s generally pretty good, which I’m surprised at given the pandemic and everything else that’s going on and all the additional stress for everything. My wife’s business was holding out pretty well for a little while and then things started to take its major downturn.
Rob: I was going to ask you about that because she runs a fitness studio. I don’t know if folks know but obviously a brick-and-mortar. It’s tough.
Mike: I forget. I’d have to check with her, but I think that the revenue was down by 50% as of last I talked to her. It’s a subscription business but people are like I want to put my membership on hold. Granted, I get that. She’s done a lot of stuff to do virtual classes. She actually rented out her bikes. She has 20 spin bikes in her studio. What she did was for an additional, I think it was like, $50 a month on top of your existing membership, she would give you one of those bikes and you could take it home. Obviously, it’s got to be returned at some point, but while virtual classes are going on, you could use that spin bike to take the virtual class with the instructors that you liked and everything else.
It has offset to some extent the amount of money that she is not making, but there’s still a lot of people who’ve switched over and said yeah I just paused my membership until this is over. We live in Massachusetts and with the new guidelines that are coming out from the governor, as a fitness studio she’s in phase three. That starts presumably in three weeks. Phase two just started a couple of days ago. Three weeks, it’ll be the 28th or so of June, that’s when she’s supposed to be able to open up, but right now, it’s unclear how big her classes will be able to be. She may have to reduce the capacity to like 25%. There are lots of services types of businesses that can’t survive on 25% capacity, they just can’t. It’s a question of okay well how’s that going to go?
Rob: It’s really tough, man, for sure. Obviously, that’s got to be a source of stress for you.
Mike: It is. It’s more stressful for her than it is for me because I’m trying to not pay attention to it and keep my head down. That’s completely out of my control. It’s not exactly callousness. I guess it is to some extent but that’s her problem to deal with right now. If I get involved and get stressed out over it, there’s literally nothing I can do anyway, so why work myself up over it? She’s got things under control. I don’t know. I help out to whatever extent I can, but there’s only so much that I can do.
Rob: What are you looking forward to most between now and the next time we talk? Let’s say we talk in six, seven, or eight weeks. What are you excited about?
Mike: I have some things going on for, at least on the sales side of Bluetick, which as we mentioned before, I can’t really talk about them yet, but I’m excited to see how those turn out and what comes out of that. It’ll just be, hopefully, interesting. If not, I guess it’ll be a good story. It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of that, and it could be like additional integrations and stuff like that as well. We’ll see.
Rob: Very cool, man. As always, I hope you’re staying safe. Thanks for joining me on the show again.
Mike: No problem. Thanks for having me back. I will be back on Twitter in what is it, two days or so? Yeah, something like that. It’s been what, a year?
Rob: Was that your goal was to take a year off?
Rob: Wow. I’m fascinated to hear how that goes for you. If you feel like it is worth getting back on or if you should just stay off because I don’t know. I have some friends who’ve gone off of it and they don’t want to go back. As an experiment, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it once you get back in there.
Mike: The year off was sort of an experiment anyway, but I really just needed a break from Twitter. I found it to be fairly refreshing, although I’m not on Facebook very much either. I posted once or twice but only because, I won’t say required by law, but required by friendly threats like hey we want to hear from you. I’ve been a couple of things here and there but I just don’t check it. It’s nice to have that aspect of it, but there are definitely people that I would say I’ve lost touch with or don’t interact with nearly as much as I used to, that I kind of miss that.
Rob: For sure. There’s a social aspect of it. Honestly, I bummed that you weren’t on when we did the big MicroConf 2020 announcement, that of course had to be all changed now that COVID was. I don’t know. There’s been milestones that I wanted you to be on Twitter and engaging in and I knew that you weren’t on it. It’ll be cool to have you back there to share in that.
Mike: Give me two days.
Rob: Two days. Sounds good, man.
Mike: I have not gone to look at my list of notifications either.
Rob: I am so going to go send you a bunch of DMs and @ mentions.
Mike: I’m just going to probably ignore them, to be honest.
Rob: If it’s older than a week should you really, or a couple of days if it’s a tweet. Cool. Thanks again, man.
Mike: All right. Good talking to you and I will talk to you next time.
Rob: Since Mike’s going to be back on Twitter soon, if you’re not following him he’s @SingleFounder on Twitter. Hey, if we’re not connected on Twitter, hit me up @robwalling. I hope you have a great week ahead. Thank you for listening. I’ll see you next Tuesday.