In Episode 535, Rob is joined by co-host emeritus, Mike Taber to talk about what Mike has been up to over the past seven months with Bluetick, including an exciting reveal of a big project he’s been working on.
The topics we cover
[05:41] BlueTick partnership or merger with a CRM for field sales reps
[11:52] Delays in partnerships from pandemic and potential asymmetric upside
[15:42] How far along the CRM software compared to BlueTick?
[19:32] Considering freemium and an AppSumo deal
[32:48] Another Google security audit
Links from the show
- SonarCloud (mentioned at 17:43)
- Episode 484 | Marketing That’s Working Today, Moving from 5 to 10 Employees, SaaS Longevity, and More Listener Questions (mentioned at 22:28)
If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by clicking the link and sharing what you learned.
If you have questions about starting or scaling a software business that you’d like for us to cover, please submit your question for an upcoming episode. We’d love to hear from you!
Rob: You are experiencing the next episode of Startups for the Rest of Us. Today, I talked with co-host emeritus Mike Taber. He co-hosted this show with me for the first 448 episodes, and now he comes on periodically to update us on his progress with his own startup, Bluetick.io.
Mike hasn’t been on the show for almost seven months, because he’s had some things cooking in the background that he wasn’t able to talk about. The good news is, Mike’s back on the show today, and he and I have a conversation about what he’s been up to over the past seven months, and things he’s thinking about with his startup, Bluetick, as well as a reveal of what has been going on.
He isn’t able to reveal every detail, but it’s enough that gives you an idea of why he probably wasn’t able to talk about it six, seven, eight months ago. It’s exciting stuff and I’m hopeful for Mike as he moves forward.
If you’re newer to the show and you haven’t heard of Mike before, again, he co-hosted the show with me for the first big chunk of episodes, and now he’s doubling down on bluetick.io, which is his SaaS startup. It’s Cold & Warm Email Followup Software: Personal outreach at scale for your follow-up emails.
With that, let’s dive into our conversation. Mike Taber, thanks for coming back on the show.
Mike: Thanks for having me. How are you doing today?
Rob: I’m doing okay. I’m out here in California. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on the show, actually, but we decided to take advantage of distance learning for the kids, and since our kids have been in school, this is the first time during a school year we could essentially travel, or live somewhere else temporarily.
As most folks know, I’m located in Minneapolis, which is just a lovely city. We’ve been here for years, and decided to stay. We could have moved away a couple of years ago, but decided to stay long-term. The winters are a bit of a barrier, and we normally do a bit of traveling to warmer climates just for three or four days each month during the winter, now three or four months in a row.
This year, kids are remote, and are on Chromebooks and iPads. We were like, why don’t we just go to the Central Coast of California? We used to have an apartment out here. It was a big could-we-do-that? Pretty soon it was like, yeah, find a more short-term rental and we’re going to spend a couple of months out here in the warmer weather. Although I got up this morning and it was, I don’t know, 39 degrees when I woke up, but the highs are 55–60. It’s like California winter versus the East Coast.
Mike: I will say I would love to get in on this distance learning, so shoot me your address or email, and I will send my kids so we can get this taken care of.
Rob: Exactly, it’s how it’s going on. So your kids are at home too, huh?
Rob: How’s that been like?
Mike: I’ve become the resident math tutor because apparently, either the kids don’t listen, they don’t take notes, they don’t pay attention, or the teacher isn’t explaining it well. I don’t know what the exact problem is, but needless to say they have a lot of problems with math. I’m not saying that they don’t have a lot of problems with just getting the rest of their homework done, but it’s just brutal. Some of the stuff that they’re doing, my wife’s like, nope that’s all you.
Rob: So you’re the math tutor. I think for us the challenge has not been with specific subjects because they have plenty of face-to-face Zoom calls, Google Meets, whatever. It’s that our kids would wander off onto YouTube and are suddenly backgrounding the teacher, which is exactly what I would be doing if I was in the class. I would want the class recorded so I could watch it back at one point at 8X speed, and that’s at least two of my kids wants stuff faster. Their brain can process it so fast. So for them, it’s wandering.
At home, I have a router where per device just can’t go to gaming websites, block YouTube or whatever. I can just do it all on my phone because I have the eero router. But we are now at a new location and I can’t do that here because I don’t have access to the router, so it’s been a struggle.
Mike: In theory I could do that, too, but a lot of their teachers post stuff on YouTube. They’ll be like, go watch this YouTube video, and the kids are like, I can’t do my homework because you blocked YouTube. I’m like, Dear God you’ve got to be kidding me.
Rob: Here’s how I worked around that: I blocked it on all their devices, and then I have one iPad that is my old one—it’s an iPad Mini—and I have YouTube open on it. When they need YouTube, they come to me and I hand it to them, and then I set a timer or have them sit in the office, watch the video, and then leave. I’ve had them locked down. I’m not saying it’s foolproof or whatever. It’s a pain to get interrupted when they need to, but these are the struggles.
Mike: I’m just going to send my kids to you. We’ve agreed on that, right?
Rob: Yeah, do that. Exactly. Put them on a plane out to California.
Mike: I’m just going to put them in an envelope and just FedEx them.
Rob: Mail them out? Jeez. It’s been 30-something episodes. It was episode 501, the last episode that you were on, updating folks, and that was back in June of last year, so it’s been about seven months. A lot’s going on for you. I mentioned a couple of times in some of the intros for other episodes in the meantime that since you had things going on behind the scenes that basically you couldn’t or didn’t want to talk about on the podcast, and it was potentially exciting things for you and Bluetick.
This is one of the struggles with podcasts. You have to weigh how transparent and open you’re going to be about it, but at this point you’re in a place where we can at least talk a little more about it. Everything’s not finalized so we’re not going to disclose all the details, but there’s been a potential partnership brewing over the past—what has it been—eight months? Do you want to talk people through what that looks like and where it’s at?
Mike: Yeah. It was probably about eight or nine months ago when I was talking to a fellow entrepreneur that I know. He has a couple of different businesses, and the one he wanted to collaborate with me on was basically a CRM that he has for field sales reps. Essentially, what it does is they use either an Android or an IOS app that they put on a phone, and then there’s also a web-based SaaS component to it, and it’s used by them to track their activities. It integrates directly into the CRM system, so that their managers can get the reports.
Things just like talking to their phone with their notes, so they go to a customer, talk into it, and then it just transcribes stuff for them. It tracks the phone calls that they make and receive, and also does email tracking. That’s where Bluetick comes in a little bit because of my background, knowledge, and experience with synchronizing emails. I was able to help out quite a bit with that because they were having some issues. I won’t say very early on because the business has been around for a while, but early on when I started helping them out.
I got a lot of that stuff straightened out. The intent initially was we’ll have you come in and work for a couple of months to see how things work together. Meanwhile, he’s got a couple of other businesses that he owns, and trying to offload those and sell them. Unfortunately, COVID hit, and it really threw a wrench into the entire thing.
Things have stretched on substantially longer than either one of us thought that they ever would. The whole plan was we’ll do this for 3–5 months or something like that, and now it’s double that. We’re looking at 9 or 10 months at this point.
For me, I’ve been helping out with the technical side of things. They’ve got a sales rep, a support person, and a development team that I’ve been working with. I’m basically managing that development team, the support person, and pretty much all of their infrastructure as well, and then also trying to look at ways that Bluetick can plug directly into that.
We’re at the point now where he’s sold the other businesses and is working essentially on this one, more or less full-time. At this point it’s like, let’s actually work together for the 3–4 months that we were going to before, see how things go, and then try and figure out a way to make this work long-term, or is it something that after that 3–4 months, one or the other of us or both decide, this just isn’t going to work and we don’t want to do it, let’s part ways.
Rob: Got it. So it’s a piece of software that is, in essence, complementary to Bluetick. Is that right?
Rob: You can say as much or as little as you know or are comfortable with, but are you talking about a potential merging of the two into a single entity, or is it more like this is going to be a really tight partnership?
Mike: That’s an open question. Neither one of us really knows the answer. It could be one, it could be the other, it could be both. I don’t know, and neither does he. We have to work through things for the next couple of months and see how things play out, and see if there’s a really good fit internally, like directly inside of the app.
Is it going to be a merger, or is it going to be both applications merged together, or is it going to be to keep them separate and we just do a really tight integration? There are implications around all of that based on who owns what, and how the profits are distributed between those two applications, the technical costs and all the other stuff that goes with it. There’s a lot of stuff that’s kind of up in the air right now.
The plan is to just work through things for the next couple of months, see how they work out. Probably the most interesting thing that we started talking about was a way to sell Bluetick to their existing customer base as essentially a done-for-you service.
We’ve already mentally tagged somebody that we know of that is familiar with both products, and would be a good fit to essentially manage those email campaigns on behalf of the sales reps, because the sales reps who are using that CRM are probably not the greatest at putting together email campaigns, or managing them, or anything like that. It would be easier for us to offer that as a service. One, it gets more people using Bluetick, and two, it gets more revenue in the door for Bluetick, but it also gets more revenue in the door for the CRM as well. It gets tighter integration with their existing customer base, and really is more of an upsell to the existing customer base.
I think there are a lot of opportunities and potential there, but we really have to just buckle down and work through those things. This stuff has really started to come together as of a couple of weeks ago, but again, it’s going to be several months before we really know how things are all going to shake out.
Rob: It sounds like everything’s on the table and you’re both on the same page with that, which is probably good. And it sounds like there’s a lot of potential options, which is probably both good and bad.
When I think about selling an entire company—if I was just going to sell it for cash to a buyer—there are enough things to work out there. The moment is like we have two companies and maybe we can partner, maybe we merge them. If we merge, what type of equity does each person get? There’s a lot to be figured out there, so I think that it’s super interesting and exciting.
Obviously, I know more details than you’re talking about on the show and I’ve said it a couple of times, but I’m excited for this as a potential. If it winds up that in essence you do have a co-founder/business partner or whatever term you want to say, I think that could serve you well in this space. I think you have the tech stuff dialed in, I think you’re building a solid product, but there’s always been a lot to do, and getting the marketing engine going has just been challenging with everything else that’s going on.
That’s where having two people working on something allows for just so much more bandwidth, especially if their skillsets are not the same. In this case, that’s true. He’s not a developer, the person you’re talking to. He has a completely different skill set than you, in a complementary way, much like Einar Vollset and myself with TinySeed. He’s got more of the sales, the finances, and working on spreadsheet type stuff, and I’m on the other end.
I’m curious. You’ve been working on stuff for a while now, like you said 8–10 months or somewhere in there, and then you’re talking about now working for another 3 months. What if you get to a point where either one of you or both is like, this just isn’t going to work? Do you feel like you’ve wasted that time, like it’s kind of a wasted, lost year? How are you thinking about that?
Mike: There’s definitely a part of me that wishes that everything had gone substantially faster. I think we’re all like that where we want things to move faster than they do, but I think the whole pandemic really threw a wrench into a lot of things and it just caused delays that neither one of us really had anticipated, expected, or could have accounted for in any way, shape, or form.
If it came to that point where one or both of us wanted to say, this just isn’t going to work out. Would it be disappointing? Yeah, absolutely. Is it still a possibility? Sure, it absolutely is. Would I probably feel like I wasted a lot of time? Yeah, I would. I’m sure that I would feel that way. At the same time, I know that I’ve done a lot of good things so far for that business, and he’s a friend so it’s not like it’s the end of the world. I left him in a good position with a lot of things, and honestly, I overhauled pretty much everything on their entire technical environment.
One of the team of developers that I managed, I think right now is about a dozen people. There’s a lot there. There’s been a lot going on, and it’s been a struggle to keep on top of everything just because there are so many moving parts, not just in that particular product with the two mobile apps, the web-app, all these back-end jobs, AWS Infrastructure, and then I’ve got all the stuff that I’m managing on my side with Bluetick, Azure Infrastructure, Google Audit, and all this other stuff.
It’s been tough and interesting, but let me answer your questions directly. It is a concern or fear that I have, but honestly, what else can I do about it? It’s not a lot I can do.
Rob: Right, it’s an opportunity that when it started to happen, you knew that it has a real potential upside. It has an asymmetric upside because if it works, it could be game-changing for you/Bluetick to partner up in this way. The downside, of course, is that you waste some time. Oftentimes, as entrepreneurs, that’s the calculus that we have to do; figure out is investing this time worth the potential upside? But again, if it works out, could this potentially turn into a business partnership that lasts 5 or 10 years? In that scale or frame of mind it’s like, if that happens, you’ll look back and say, that was a tough time but certainly worth the risk.
Mike: Right, and I can kind of see that now. If it were to move forward and everything were to work out as, I won’t say best case scenario but a reasonably good case scenario, I could definitely see that happening, working out really well. But you’re right. If it doesn’t work out, that sucks. I wouldn’t have called it a complete waste of time either, because I do feel like I’ve learned a lot along the way.
Rob: Yeah, you’ve learned a lot. And like you said, you did help him and his team out, and there’s something to be said for feeling okay about that, just feeling like you made the best decisions you could along the way.
Mike: I can’t think of anything where there’s some additional piece of information that I wish I’d known three months or six months ago. Even last year early on, had I known that the pandemic was going to hit and it was going to cause it to take a lot longer for him to sell his business and come over into this one, would it have changed things? I can’t say that I think it really would have too much. I don’t know. It’s hard to say right now, but I don’t know if it would have made that much of a difference.
Rob: This other software product, is it further along than Bluetick? Is it more revenue? I guess there’s a team working on it, so how could you describe where it’s at?
Mike: That’s hard to answer. It definitely has more customers, more revenue, and a lot more technical challenges because it’s never really been managed by anybody who had an understanding of technology.
The development team that has been working on it for years—we actually switched from one development team to another, and they were in that process when I first started working with them—are the type of people who would do exactly what they’re told but don’t necessarily think ahead.
They don’t have advanced architecture experience and modular programming—all that stuff that goes with it, you would expect from senior developers—it was just handed over the wall like, here you go, we need this done. There wasn’t a lot of consideration given to architectural concerns.
I cut around $25,000 a year off from their AWS bill so far, so I’ve saved them a huge amount of money over there. But if you think about it from that perspective, that number alone is just the savings. I still think there are ways to go with this just by rearchitecting things and changing how things are done, and I could definitely cut the AWS bill by even more.
You can use that as kind of a, I don’t want to say benchmark but a datapoint to say, there are probably ways to plug Bluetick in, and help grow that business as well. Like I said, the lot of the technology sprawls across the mobile apps, the website, integrated into other services, things like that. There’s a lot of upside to it, there’s a lot of potential, and it’s a matter of us dividing and conquering.
Rob: It sounds like it’s further along if you look at business metrics, but it has more technical debt than Bluetick, right?
Mike: Yeah. The technical debt piece, I plugged a tool into it called SonarCloud that just basically analyzes the source code, and that told me that there was about a year’s worth of technical debt associated with just various pieces.
Just by looking at the source code itself, there’s logic that is different between the mobile apps and the web app. It’s been a challenge to wrangle all the technological pieces of it and start fixing them. That’s been my world for the past six months or so, just trying to manage that stuff and get things on track.
I would say by and large, it’s been extremely successful because during that time frame, there was a point where I was told that the number of incoming support requests per day were bordering on 50–60. I’m not sure how much sock I put in that actual number because I just didn’t see a lot of them, but at this point it’s down to a couple a day. It’s really not that hard to keep up with them, but early on you breathe on some things wrong and it fell over. It was just really that bad.
Things are so much better now. I won’t say it’s hands-off because we basically went through a redesign process where we’re completely rebuilding the mobile apps from the ground up, just because structurally, everything was just a total disaster. We’ve done that. we’re just wrapping that up now. We’ll be at a point where maybe within the next couple of days, we could start putting it in front of customers, and having them take a look at it directly. It’s really just a rip and replace of the old version. It does exactly the same things. It just looks better and it functions a lot better.
Rob: That sounds like a challenge. I was going to say, like a fun challenge, but actually that doesn’t sound fun. That just sounds like a technical challenge, to be all factual about it. During this time, were you working full-time, or you had some time to continue working on Bluetick on the side?
Mike: I would probably put it more along the lines of, if you have a full-time job and that was it, and you were trying to build a product on the side, Bluetick was my side business throughout most of this.
Rob: I think we’re all familiar with that. We don’t have to go all the way back to seven months because I actually remember early on, you were pretty engulfed by everything that was going on. You came into the technical situation and were trying to get a lot of stuff fixed. I know that Bluetick was humming along, but you weren’t investing a ton of time. But more recently, or in the past few months, you mentioned to me that you’re considering doing an AppSumo deal.
Mike: Yeah, I’ve been talking to them for a couple of months now. I’m still torn on that, to be perfectly honest. I haven’t pulled the trigger, I haven’t decided to move forward with it. I’ve had conversations with several people who have done AppSumo deals in the past, and one person I talked to said, think of it as a freemium offering. You are using it as a channel to get people in and talk to them, learn about your products, be able to scale things up. You will get a cash injection from it, but don’t necessarily expect or think that you are going to get a lot of them to convert into monthly-paying customers.
AppSumo’s prime offering to most of their customers is they want a lifetime deal. You pay X dollars and you never have to pay for it again, which really puts something like Bluetick in a tough spot because if there are hard costs associated with storage, processing, or anything like that, then it really makes it difficult to offer that kind of thing and come out ahead.
I’ve really struggled with how to not just position that but also to even put it into the AppSumo ecosystem for those reasons. Let’s say that I have 3–5 GB worth of disk space storage on a per-customer basis. If I get a couple of thousand people in really quickly, that could be a hefty chunk of change depending on how much data each of them has. I have no way of knowing what that’s going to be in advance.
Rob: That’s tough. I guess one thing to think about is, I think the majority of AppSumo users will either not redeem the coupon, or will redeem it and then not actually use it. There’s a good chunk that won’t actually consume that much disk space or that much cost. But yeah, you do have to think about this. It is a bit of a gamble.
To give folks an idea, if you’re listening to this, I did have an AppSumo deal way back in the day. I think it was in 2012 with HitTail, and I netted somewhere around $11,000–$12,000. I did another one later that netted about the same.
Ruben Gamez came on this podcast to talk about Docsketch and a bunch of stuff he was doing, and he mentioned on the air that he made about $30,000–$35,000 from his AppSumo deal. I think that’s so much more than mine because: (a) the AppSumo list is so much larger now nine years later, and (b) I think they’ve gotten better at doing the deals.
They pretty much do lifetime-only now. They really encourage lifetime-only because that’s what their AppSumo people like. And I think they know how to price them better and all that. And perhaps Docsketch is just a better fit for the AppSumo audience as well. The things that I pulled out of Ruben and my own experiences.
AppSumo deals are good for your app if it’s relatively low-support, there’s not a ton of onboarding, it’s not complicated—I imagine doing an AppSumo deal with Drip and that would be a nightmare because it’s just a complicated app; there’s a lot to it. Low per-user cost, as you were saying. For Drip, we had cost to send emails, so for the next infinity years, you can have a list of up to 1000 people sending emails. That would have been a cost against us.
And then, usually some type of virality. If your app just has even the modicum of virality, which Drip did have, where you had that ‘powered by’ widget. You had Powered by Drip on the widget, and with Docsketch as an example, Ruben has the Powered by Docsketch. Every document that gets sent out is some type of virality.
Those are three factors that I keep in mind, and have heard from others who were thinking about this. So I hear you. The hard costing is a gamble. If you took $20,000 or $30,000 away from the deal, and then 60%–70% of people didn’t really use it, do the numbers work out for doing this?
Mike: I’ve run them in a couple of different ways, and initially the answer was no. I’ve looked at what things I could change to try and make it work, and there are things that I could do that I believe would address some of those problems, but those are technical things that I would need to change in the product in order to make that happen, to make it work in a way that would be cost-effective for me.
I haven’t done them yet, but I have evaluated them a little bit and said, if I make these changes over here and I produce this cost over there, what does that ultimately mean? I do think there is a way to make it work, I just haven’t mapped out every single little detail. I do have it on my list of things to do to go through that, and I’m probably a quarter of the way through all the list of things that I need to look at and evaluate.
I don’t know how long it would take to do those things—that’s part of what I’m working through—but it is something that I would expect to know within the next couple of weeks. Like what does that actually look like? What would it take if I were to pull the trigger tomorrow? When could those things be done? Would they be done in time? Obviously, they would have to be done in time because otherwise, I would be going bankrupt from it.
Rob: Yeah, and they book way out right now. I think they’re 3–4 months out when you book a deal, so it gives you time to do it. Does Bluetick have virality? Does it have a Powered by Bluetick email footer or something?
Mike: That’s the thing, it really doesn’t. There is stuff that I could put in there, and that would be one of those technical considerations. I could put in the footer of the emails that are being sent out, Powered by Bluetick. I know that they probably would not be terribly happy about that, but if it said that and the AppSumo customers were not paying on a monthly basis, I could justify doing an AppSumo deal where I’m not going to get any additional revenue from them going forward if that were in there and there was that viral component. But there just isn’t right now.
That’s something I struggle with. I agree with you. It needs to be a marketing channel of some kind. If you can’t leverage it into the future with those users, does it really help you? I struggle to say yes.
Rob: I think it will help with short-term cash infusion, and it can help with customer development for sure. You might discover that if you get 1000–2000 new users, you will start seeing usage patterns and perhaps even there’s an industry vertical that uses it and gets a ton of value out of it—mortgage brokers, or realtors, or just something where you’re like wow, this really is the use case for it. So there could be learnings there.
I think the virality thing, maybe talk to AppSumo to find out what they think. I wouldn’t be opposed to adding that Powered by Bluetick link. If that’s a dealbreaker—which no no no, it feels like it would be for me—then if I can do this and put it in what’s essentially a free plan or a lifetime plan, but upgrading to paid removes it.
We had that with Drip with the $49 plan, had a Powered by Drip link, and on the $99 plan there was a toggle to turn that off. That was just part of it. If people wanted it turned off, that’s fine. You just need to upgrade.
Again, I wouldn’t be opposed to doing that or think that it would upset people. AppSumo, the folks that you’re talking to there will know whether that’s a good idea to do or not.
Mike: I haven’t talked to them about that specific piece of it. It’s just something that I came up with as an idea, so it’s something that I still need to talk to them about.
The other thing that I’ve actually considered is when somebody told me, think of them as freemium users. It did occur to me, if I’m already evaluating the things that I would need to do in order to essentially create a freemium version of Bluetick, what would it look like on a grand scale? Could I actually put something like that together and then offer it directly, not necessarily as part of AppSumo, but just directly from the website? Could there be a freemium plan for Bluetick that does have those viral components that would essentially help with marketing?
It crossed my mind. I haven’t really dug into that a little bit, but it is something I’m keeping in mind as I go through and try to make my list of things that I think need to change in order to make an AppSumo deal viable.
Rob: I’m iffy on a free plan with Bluetick. We’d probably need more discussion if we were to actually get into it, but I feel like one of the advantages of doing it with AppSumo is you instantly get exposure to their whatever it is million person list, or 750,000 person list. It’s worth it at that point. But if you’re going to just set up a free plan and let people trickle in, I’m not sure personally that it’s worth the effort there.
Mike: No. I mean doing it in addition to, like here’s an AppSumo deal and then there’s also this freemium version of it. So that’s entry level, then there’s the AppSumo deal, and then there are the regular paid plans. Kind of in-between, that’s more what I mean.
Rob: Yeah, I don’t know. Scaling I think is an issue I would be concerned about, but I guess we already have to be concerned about that with the AppSumo deal, right?
Rob: Anyway, that’s an interesting thought. That’s cool. Next time we chat then, I’d love to hear your thought process about whether you decided to do it or not. I think it’s one of those things that obviously, there’s potential risk. The risk really is that longer-term it costs you some money, or that scaling is just too hard, that it essentially crashes your servers or really brings your service down, which would be a bummer.
I don’t feel like the risk is that you’re chewing through all of your customer base or anything like that. I think AppSumo really does have reach that could be helpful to you and not only in getting people in there, but I remember when I did the HitTail AppSumo deal that a bunch of people signed up through the deal, and then a bunch of people signed up not through the deal.
They just signed up as normal users, and I don’t know why that happened, but people just heard about it. It’s like when AppSumo stomps its feet, their ripples just go far and wide because there’s a million people on that list, and then it just gets talked about. Suddenly, your name is just being bandied about in Facebook groups, in Slack, or whatever. I would expect it to actually drive non-AppSumo signups to Bluetick. That’s the other advantage.
If I were in your shoes personally, I would lean towards doing it because, again, it comes back to asymmetric risk. If it doesn’t work, well that sucks, but if it works, there’s a potential to really expand your MRR in a pretty quick fashion, as well as derive some quick cash that you can use to grow the business.
Mike: The other thing I still have to look at in terms of the numbers is let’s say that I’ve got a bunch of users in from AppSumo and they were lifetime deal users. I’m going to have to eat whatever the cost is for those users. The question is what actually would that cost be moving forward? How many additional customers would I need to bring in as a result of the AppSumo stomp and that ripple effect? How many additional customers could potentially come in that would just completely nullify whatever those costs happen to be? Is the net effect of that positive or negative? My suspicion is that it would be positive and I would lean towards doing it myself, but I still need to sit down and run some of those numbers a little bit more.
Rob: Yeah, given that your price plans are $50 a month, $150 a month, and $500 a month. As an entrepreneur, I am a little bit of a gambler, and I like those kinds of risks. I say that if I were in your shoes, I would do it. I would need to be comfortable with scaling, both technical and support.
That’s the other thing. Recently, folks who do these deals, if they don’t already have at least one full-time support rep in addition to themselves, they often staff up just a little bit because there’s a two or three week period where there are hundreds and hundreds of requests coming in, and you have to be everywhere at once. That would be the other thing. You have to justify that expense as well.
Mike: A couple of different people suggested to me that I hire a support rep, even if it’s only for a couple of weeks or in the initial launch of the AppSumo deal to answer questions and emails, help people through it as needed, and help serve as a filter so that I’m not doing absolutely everything myself.
Rob: On another topic, are we resuming the Startups for the Rest of Us drinking game where whenever we mention the Google Security Audit, everyone takes a shot? Why are you doing this again, Mike? Why would you do another audit?
Mike: I have to, it’s basically an annual audit.
Rob: It’s been a year already. It’s crazy. You have another audit coming up. What do you want to catch people up on what that is or where it’s at?
Mike: I’ve said this before, and I wholeheartedly agree that it’s just completely applicable to this. I either want less corruption or more opportunity to participate. This whole thing is just an absolute, utter scam. It really is. I got an appraised quote yesterday. It was last night, like seven or eight o’clock at night. I just looked at it and like, that’s not going to happen.
Rob: So they did an audit for you last year. This gets people up. Since you tie into Google’s Gmail APIs, that you need the security audit. It was a long-running thing for a year, or a year-and-a-half on Startups for the Rest of Us, where you would come on and update, yeah this audit is a pain in the butt, it’s expensive, and blah-blah-blah.
Eventually, you decide to bite the bullet and do it. You had to negotiate it way down and you got it done. I remember the episode where we celebrated that it was done and all that, and now a year later, you essentially need to do it again and have it updated. They give you a quote and it’s more than the initial audit last year, but you already have everything in place, right? You already have (I’m assuming) a bunch of documents and a bunch of other stuff you need, and that’s all done. How can they possibly justify raising it? Shouldn’t it be maintenance? You know, half the cost? That’s what I would think.
Mike: That’s the thing. That’s what they told me when I first had it done. They were like, if you have this done, in a year if you come back and you use us, then it should essentially be reduced. You won’t have to pay as much the next time because you’ll have already gone through this process once. Of course, fast-forward one year and I ask them for a price quote and they do everything and send me the price quote, and it’s almost double what I paid initially.
I’m like, wait a second. No, hold on. I sent them an email this morning saying basically, this is what I was told, this is what you guys said to me. Essentially, what you’re saying now is that literally everything that we did, we’re just going to throw it all out because it’s all completely worthless, and it can’t be used at all. In addition to that, the cost is double because the work that needs to be done at this point is double what the initial work was, including all that we initially did was worthless. Something’s not adding up here, you need to explain this.
I feel there’s a lot of room for them to come back down to reality, so we’ll see what they say. I’m getting quotes from three different companies, so I’m not too worried about it, but it is something that kept me up at night and made me get up early this morning.
I know that for a fact because when I woke up at four o’clock this morning, it was the first thing on my mind. I’m like, man this sucks, this has already impacted my sleep. I know that I can do something about it, I know that we’re going to be able to figure something else out, but it’s just a pain.
Rob: It’s been a long-running pain. It’s a bummer it comes “so soon.” It just feels like we were just talking about it, but I suppose a year has passed since that. No other updates at this point on, right? You’ll negotiate, you’ll find another vendor, and then you’ll just do it again. You know what to expect this time because you’ve already been through it. There shouldn’t be too many surprises.
Mike: I do talk to other people who have to go through it, so it’s not like I have zero visibility or information about the things that are upcoming, that need to be taken care of. I already have an expectation in my head of like, I need to go do this before we actually get started with the audit.
Right now, I’m just getting the price quotes, but on the side, I’m also looking at those things and saying I need to get this done, I need to get that done. Otherwise, they’ll just come up and say, that’s a fine and you’ll need to fix that before we’ll approve it, so I’m going to have to do it anyway.
Rob: To be continued in our next conversation. Sir, it’s always great to have you on the show.
Mike: Thanks for having me, it’s good to be back.
Rob: It’s fun catching up with you. You and I have only caught up maybe one time. No, that’s not true because we’ve emailed and done some texts. But in terms of voice, we’ve only had one voice call since the last show. It’s good to get you on here and get dual purpose: for me to hear about the ins and outs of what’s going on, and also create an update for the long-running Startups for the Rest of Us fans. Thanks again for coming on. Are you active on Twitter these days?
Mike: A little bit here and there. I check in maybe once a week, or maybe once every other week or something like that. It depends on the week, but I don’t really have a whole lot of time for it. Honestly, I’m starting to come back out of my shell a little bit.
There was that one year period where I just did not touch Twitter at all, and then I started posting a little bit a couple of months ago. I’ve slowly been easing back into something social media but not a huge amount. I’m still not in consumption mode by any stretch of the imagination. I’m starting to slowly unfurl that.
Rob: And if folks want to keep up with us there, they can go to @singlefounder for you, and @robwalling for me. It’s great to have you back.
Rob: Thanks again to Mike for coming on the show. It’s always a pleasure having him on, and just easy conversation. He and I have had a lot of on and off conversations over the years, so I do enjoy the episodes when he’s able to make it on.
A couple of folks have asked me recently how they can maybe give something back to me or this podcast that’s been running for free for more than 10 years. Realistically, leaving a review or a five-star rating always helps. Also, just a tweet or something on LinkedIn about perhaps how this podcast has impacted you, or just a testimonial of, hey this is a great show and if you’re a founder, you should check it out. We are @startupspod on Twitter.
Thank you so much for joining me again this week, and I’ll be back in your earbuds again next Tuesday morning.