Episode 57 | TechZing For The Rest Of Us

Show Notes


[00:00] Rob: This is Startups for the Rest of Us, Episode 57.

[00:03] [music]

[00:12] Rob: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.

[00:22] Mike: And I’m Mike.

[00:23] Rob: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What do think about the updated intro there, Mike?

[00:29] Mike: I love that you run it by me first.

[00:31] Rob: I just feel like our audience has been expanding from developers. There’s a lot of folks who e-mail or even post on iTunes and they’re kind of like, I’m not a developer but I’d still like this. So —

[00:40] Mike: Yeah.

[00:41] Rob: Like we’re gonna broaden our audience a bit.

[00:43] Mike: I do know a sad — the Business of Software Conference ’cause I ran into a lot of people who listened to our podcast there which was kind of surprising but just the number of people who weren’t just developers who listened to it. I found that interesting as well.

[00:56] Rob: Well, hey, we have some very special guests with us today. It is Justin Vincent and Jason Roberts from the TechZing podcast. He just wants to say hello.

[01:04] Jason: Hey, guys.

[01:05] Justin: Nice to be here.

[01:06] Rob: I imagine we have a lot of overlap so a lot of people probably already know you guys. This is gonna be a roundtable, TechZing for the rest of us. I think it’s what we’ll call this episode. The theme for today’s show is how to launch something on the side. And we wanted to pick something, kind of a topic to talk around that all of us have experienced and that we could all kind of lend some insights into.

[01:26] Justin: I think that you’re about to do some updates with — you and Mike.

[01:30] Rob: That’s right. Mike, what’s new with you?

[01:33] Mike: With AuditShark? Well, I spend some time working on the ability to support more than just a single customer. That’s coming along pretty well. There’s a few things that I’m looking at that have some — have you written in code and you made a huge number of updates and you’re pretty sure that it works but you’re afraid that there’s something in there that you screwed up? That’s kind of where I’m at right now. So I have to go back through and make sure that everything is actually working the way I wanted to ’cause I’d rather find the bug than have a customer find it.

[02:01] Rob: Perfect. Doesn’t that mean it works?

[02:03] Mike: Oh, of course, you know. And everything on the internet is true.

[02:06] Rob: Yeah. What about unit test? Don’t you have a suite — or do you have a suite of unit test, I should ask?

[02:11] Mike: I do but not for UI. So this is all UI-related stuff.

[02:15] Rob: Got it. That makes it tough. Well, cool. I have three quick updates, a couple of shoutouts actually. One is — many thanks to Dan and Ian of the Lifestyle Business podcast. That’s actually one of my other favorite podcast, very cool. We’re gonna have Dan on in a few weeks and they just continued to kind of be fans of Startups for the Rest of Us and talk about us on their show. And I’ve seen some folks come to the website from theirs and they blogged about us and all that stuff. So it’s just really cool to kind of be in that community.

[02:43] And there’s another podcast I want to mention called Coder Talk. It started just maybe about a month or two ago. Joey Beninghove and a couple of other developers and they mentioned us, talked about the podcast and talked about my book and then I picked it up in a Google Alert and wound up going on the show, I think episode 8 or 9. So anyways, if you haven’t checked that out and you’re a coder, it’s heavily technical. And if you’re into that stuff, it’s cool to a bunch of coders sitting around chatting about stuff.

[03:11] And then the last one is we now have 62 ratings in iTunes which I’m stoked about. It seems to be growing every week. And I really like the most recent review is by Strict9. I like the second paragraph. He says if you’re just starting out in the world of micropreneurs and single phone to startups, head over to the podcast website and start at episode one. It’s a crash course in almost every issue you will encounter along the way.

[03:35] And what I liked about it, A, it’s a nice compliment but B, I went back and tried to listen to our early episodes and they’re so painful, like we are so stiff and I don’t know. And I actually have feedback from other folks that it was that way as well and we really kind of keep into our own in the teens I think. So anyway, I saw that was funny.

[03:53] [music]

[03:56] Mike: As Rob said earlier, the topic is how to launch something on the side. So we’re gonna go through a list of about five, I guess, high level questions. And the first one is what to build. And, Justin, I’ll ask you specifically because you had this idea awhile back and then you went out, you implement it or you started implementing it and then you ended up changing the name of it and you finally ended up with Pluggio and I’m curious to know how you decided to actually go ahead and build that.

[04:23] Rob: And maybe to start with, you could just kind of give a brief-over of what Pluggio is for new listeners.

[04:29] Justin: Sure. Well, Pluggio is basically a Twitter social dashboard. So it’s actually a social media dashboard where you can author or make twits and you can also add in RSS feeds, get content. It makes it very easy to share content, very easy to create or follow it. And so where Pluggio came from was because myself and Jason started a podcast like you guys have started a podcast and we’re on episode 156 now which is about to be release. And when we started two years ago, we were wondering how we could promote it.

[05:01] And the very first thing we spoke about in the podcast actually, on episode 1, was Twitter. And I just got interested in Twitter and thought Twitter would be an interesting promotional tool. So when I kind of explored how to make the most out of Twitter, the first thing I thought was, well, what I need to do is put good content on Twitter so that if people are following me, they’ll get great tech content and then hopefully, when I post the podcast, they’ll go and listen to it.

[05:24] So that was one idea and I found that it was a pain to do that because I had to go around the net and find great content and then copy and paste the links, store them in a text file and then post them out a few times a day ’cause I didn’t want to flood my followers.

[05:36] So I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I just had this tool where I could plug in RSS feeds, hack a news name list what I was thinking about and just manually click a little button on any stories that I like, I could kind of go and view the story and then click a button and then we’ll put it to a schedule queue and roll those twits out during the day.

[05:54] So basically that’s what I built and I just bought it for myself in the first place. We didn’t really know at that stage that we were a bootstrapping show. We were not specifically a bootstrapping show but we just talked about it a lot.

[06:05] That kind of evolved over the first few episodes and then TweetMiner was what it was called originally. And I just thought of building it and over decisions for it and everything about it have been on the air over the last 156 episodes. And myself and Jason have been brainstorming it as this has gone along. Now, it’s not hugely successful but it’s earning around $3,000 a month and has about 225 customers.

[06:28] Rob: What made you decide to change the name?

[06:30] Justin: Originally, it was called TweetMiner and the problem with that is it’s just completely Twitter related and as time went by I realized that this opportunity was a bigger opportunity than just a Twitter opportunity, the social media opportunity. And you can with Pluggio, you can post to Facebook, you can post to any social network. So we needed to remove that name of Twitter in there, the twit reference. But also, TweetMiner, the reason I called it TweetMiner was because originally it was to mine the content but somehow TweetMiner just seems a little, I don’t know, a little spammy or something so that’s why I changed the name. And what I mean with Pluggio is it’s just you’re plugged in to every social network, that’s why I changed it.

[07:09] Rob: Got it. So the advice we heard a lot is things like scratch your own itch and that’s essentially which you did here, right? You built a tool that you needed to use. Now, I’ve seen the scratch your own itch thing bail a lot. I actually in general think it’s not very good advice. I think a lot of developers try to build tools for developers and the market is just oversaturated and developers don’t tend to wanna pay and they want to build it for themselves and stuff. But in this case, it has worked out reasonable well.

[07:33] Justin: I wouldn’t do the same again. I wouldn’t. I think that, I only did it because of my naiveté of being a bootstrapper at that time, an entrepreneur at that time.

[07:41] Rob: Got it.

[07:42] Justin: If I had the opportunity now, I would do some basically anthropological research around a specific niche and find a group of people who had a problem and I would build something to solve that problem because it’s just easier to get money that way. It’s been really difficult to create a revenue of Pluggio because of the space it’s in. It’s got so much competition, all the competition is free, no one wants to spend any money in that space.

[08:06] Rob: So you’d go probably more customer development style then.

[08:09] Justin: I would. That’s what I would recommend. If I was gonna start again, I’ll try and find — Jason said something — some problem that needs to be solved that people are willing to pay for.

[08:17] Rob: How about you, Jason? You’ve built many apps. You can give people a brief overview of any of them if you want or the things you’re working on now. But I’m curious how you — ’cause I don’t know if that you’ve ever talked about how you’ve come up with your ideas.

[08:29] Jason: First of all, I’d like to say this is the longest I’ve been silent on a podcast.

[08:32] Rob: I was — I could hear you. I could hear you almost jumping in and then like holding your breath.

[08:37] Jason: I did. I got your intro, there’s about three times. I was like, ah. I’m like, all right. Give him space to talk. So one thing I just wanna add to what Justin said, I think it’s possible to scratch your own itch or find something that you’re really interested in but also do something, anthropological research in finding a niche. I mean, I think it can be dangerous to build a product in an area that you just don’t care about because this is — the going gets rough. It’s easy to just bail. So it’s like, I don’t care about this anyway. This is stupid, you know.

[09:07] And a bit of a sudden you fundamentally are excited about and understand it can give you a real advantage but I think what happens with kind of what you guys are saying is that, a lot of developers, they just want to get developing. So they just start — they code like the first or second idea that comes to their head which is the same first idea that comes to everybody which is why it’s so oversaturated. But I do agree that selling to developers is a dangerous proposition ’cause they don’t wanna pay for much. So it’s just another topic.

[09:32] So what my first — I guess one of my products that I built that may be relevant to discussion was Prezzo [Phonetic] which was a web-based version of PowerPoint and I read an article on the web that went pretty big and a lot of people seem to read how I screwed up my Google acquisition. And it was about how I perceived an opportunity with the webification of the productivity tools. And this is back when Gmail just came out. So I built a — I thought, you know what, all this stuff is gonna go to the web. If I could build one of these tools, be one of the top one or maybe three, I would have a good shot of being acquired by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, that kind of thing.

[10:12] And I thought PowerPoint would be sufficiently complicated product that there wouldn’t be a whole lot of competition. So I built it over a period of 2 years and the acquisition almost happened but it didn’t. And the most interesting thing Google read the article itself. But the problem was I built something that I really never used or would care to use. So that’s kind of a problem. In some sense, I was just like — it was just something I was building to flip. I wanted to build something that would be bought by Yahoo or Microsoft for $10 million or $20 million and be done in three or four years. And I’m not sure that’s the best thing to do.

[10:55] Mike: I have a question. Did you essentially bootstrap it? I mean, you said you worked on it for 2 years. It sounds like you bootstrap. You didn’t go for funding of any kind, right?

[11:03] Jason: No. Actually I did. So a guy I knew, a friend of mine, who is a very successful entrepreneur and had a lot of capital, had been wanting to invest in another idea that I had. I’ve been working in the trading space, automated trading, algorithmic trading and what’s now termed by most people is high-frequency trading. And right around that time, I was starting to think that the web — I started to notice the web was wakening up again. This is like 2004 and I thought maybe it would be smart to do something in the web and so he was just like, whatever you wanna build, I’ll invest in it. He kind of — essentially brought me on track.

[11:42] So I went off and I started working on a couple of different ideas. The first one was sort of like a web collaboration platform, shared tasks, shared documents, contacts, that kind of a thing. But it seems like there’s a lot of — even then, there’s a lot of companies going after that. So I changed direction once or twice and then I sort of settled on the PowerPoint concept. So I was funded. I mean, I didn’t have to do any consulting or anything. I was able to pay myself a reasonable living salary and that’s what I did. That’s how I was funded.

[12:13] Justin: Hey, Jason. You should mention what happened to your friend who did follow the first idea, your first part.

[12:18] Jason: So when I first started thinking about the web concept, I asked myself, okay, what is the web good for and what is it not do well. And it was collaboration. People are still just e-mailing stuff around. And I thought this collaboration stuff should really work much better and so I started playing around with this collaboration. I think I called it Office G2. That was the name for it.

[12:40] But when — I read an article about Microsoft coming up with a web-based version of SharePoint and that kind of spooked me because the lesson that we learned in the ’90s was don’t compete with Microsoft. Once they’re gonna move in to a space, you might as well just get out and do something else because they’re gonna crush you. And I took that a little too literally. And so I immediately changed direction. I started going down this sort of Wiki round.

[13:02] And not too long after I changed directions, maybe within 6 months or year, I met a couple of other entrepreneurs who live right in my area in Pasadena and they started a company called Central Desktop and they were probably like 2 to 3 months ahead of me. And so when they saw that announcement about Microsoft doing a web-based for SharePoint they were too far in and they were just like, screw it, let’s just keep working on this. I mean — and as it turns out I don’t think Microsoft ever released anything of note if they ever did it and Isaac and Arnold kept pushing on and now, I just had lunch with him yesterday and I think they’re getting close to I think like 75, 80 employees or something like that. I mean, they are extremely successful.

[13:41] So yeah, I mean, I know the lesson is there but it’s just like, don’t worry about the competition or don’t worry about this big companies with what they’re doing ’cause you can’t control these forces and the markets are usually huge. If the market is big enough for a big company to go into it, then maybe it’s big enough to support lots of smaller companies ’cause they’re — not everybody is gonna choose to go with Microsoft or IBM or Oracle. There are a lot of people who are gonna choose other options for different reasons.

[14:04] And then in talking with Isaac and Arnold even if you went on the web and you looked at all the competitors in Central Desktop, there’s a lot of competitors in the space but it isn’t competing. It isn’t stopping them from being successful. They competed directly against the name Basecamp. It was sort of at least early on was a competitor of theirs and 37signals had all this love within text space but I mean, I don’t think they’re doing as well financially as say Central Desktop is.

[14:27] Rob: I think Mike and I talked about a lot about this on the podcast. We go back to episode 5 which is called how to find a niche. We talked about how to find a niche as you would expect but beyond that, I’ve done a lot of riding on it — there’s parts of my book to talk about it and I’ve blogged about this probably every few months ’cause it’s the most common question I get. I think there are way more people stuck at pre-product phase than they are actually working on an active idea. People just get stuck in the analysis of it.

[14:55] Mike: I think that both Justin and Jason agree though that just scratching your own itch is probably not the way to go in general. I mean, you really have to analyze the market a little bit and figure out — are people actually willing to pay for this and if so, what sort of revenue could you reasonably expect from that based on the amount of effort that you’re gonna have to put forward in order to build it or to have it build for you. And I think that’s really — the key is finding something, one, that you’re kind of interested in and, two, is actually gonna make you enough money that it is worth it for you to go in that direction.

[15:28] Justin: Can I just counter that with there’s something to be said for building something and creating some momentum towards moving somewhere. So even if you just stop making something, if you have no momentum and not doing anything and you’re stuck in that stage that Rob just described the kind of pre-product, pre-anything stage, I would say just give it a chance even for a few months to just move in a direction, to just get out of your lethargy and actually start making things happen.

[15:55] Mike: I definitely agree with that ’cause — I mean, there’s so many people who just sit down and they will not do anything thinking that they’re making progress because they’re reading blogs or reading books and learning all these different things, going to meet-ups and — unless you’re actually programming, you’re really not making any progress towards developing your product. And it’s not to say that you can pay somebody to do that for you but the bottom line is that you need to be working towards that and just learning and consuming the information is not gonna do it for you.

[16:24] Jason: If you’re gonna go after something, try and go after something that you can release in a reasonable amount of time because I’ve done this several times where I kind of promise that were so hard that it was just gonna take years of work. And that makes the whole thing, well, just hard, right? I mean, it increases the risk dramatically that you’re not gonna have anything ever that you can sell or make money with.

[16:47] So if you go after something simple and you whittle it down, even if you spent a month or two working on it, if it’s simple enough you might actually release even something, something simple even if it kind of sucks and only a few people are using it. That’s way ahead of like something massive that you’re like 5% done with.

[17:07] Justin: I actually take that one stage further and say if you start working on it, don’t stop programming it. Buy a copy of Balsamiq Mockups and mock that thing up in applicable format so you can start sharing it to people within a week and they can click around it and see what idea you’re thinking about and what product you’re thinking about and you can literally iterate, I mean, you can iterate on three or four products in a month and have an idea of whether people really wanted it. Are they willing to pay for it just through market research but at the same time building something that people can get their hands o?

[17:38] Rob: Yeah. My rule of thumb has been — if it’s beyond 4 to 6 months of development and marketing work to get it to market that it’s really — gonna be really hard for you to get there. I see a big drop off with entrepreneurs I worked with. Once they go past somewhere between 4 and 6 months, it depends on the person, the momentum just drops way off and they slow down. Very few people who have seen that never launched at that point. It is possible, of course, but I’m just talking an odds thing, trying to improve your chance of getting out there.

[18:04] Mike: So are you saying the odds of me actually launching AuditShark are minimal at best?

[18:08] Rob: Slim to none.

[18:10] Justin: Well, but you — here’s the thing. And this is a good thing about having a podcast and having a partner who you can readily speak to about your business. That essentially keeps you in the game, right? That keeps the momentum going.

[18:18] Rob: I agree, yup.

[18:19] Justin: If you guys didn’t have that, it probably be much harder for you.

[18:22] Rob: And you’re an  experienced entrepreneur. You’ve been doing it for 11, 12 years now. You are doing it on the “side” but it’s not as on the side. There’s a lot of people where they have 40 or 50 hours a week of the job plus they commute on either end and you do have some flexibility where you take one or two weeks completely off and just work on it.

[18:40] There’s some extenuating circumstances that all make it more likely that you’re gonna get out the door. And I genuinely think that talking about it like Justin just said, talking about in the podcast period has made you publicly accountable to this thing. Like when we showed up at Business of Software last week, I don’t remember how many people came up and were like, hey, Mike, how’s AuditShark? Like guys I never met before. I have no idea who they were. And I’m like, man, you’re really on the hook. I mean, we’re both on the hook, you know. And that’s a good thing I think.

[19:05] Mike: Yeah. I was amazed at that as well. In fact, I’ve been getting people lately just twitting to me and saying, hey, how’s AuditShark coming? When are you gonna launch?

[19:13] Jason: That’s the thing with the product I brought on for almost 2 years now, that was AppIgnite which is an immensely complicated project. And I think if it wasn’t for the podcast, it would be much easier to just sort of bail. But now it’s like I’ve talked so much about it, I would feel really bad about just dropping it. But I have to say that — the couple of things that I have pumping, pushing forward — one of the podcast — the second one is I have a partner on it going on and we have sort of a regular thing where we worked together like an hour, an hour and a half every single work day. So he calls me up or I call him up on Skype and we screen share and work together. And I would recommend doing something like that.

[19:53] If you can — if there’s somebody that’s convenient to work with that you trust that maybe have complementary skill sets or whatever, at least have a very shared vision, just having someone else that you can do something with can really get you going because a lot of times what happen is work or life or whatever just starts getting in your way and it just starts pushing the startup idea further out of your daily habit and then at a point where you just lose all momentum. But if someone’s calling up, saying, hey, we’re gonna work on this tomorrow, we’re gonna work on this, or what’s going on, it just keeps you going.

[20:23] Rob: I think that actually segways really nice into the second — kind of second topic which was the logistics of working on a product, when, where, how much time, etc. And yeah, I think that what you’ve just talked about is kind of this accountability, this daily accountability that forces you to do it or not, not work it at your routine. Anyone else do that? I don’t have a daily accountability but I have a bi-weekly. Every two weeks I meet with a mastermind group here and for us now — I basically asked them to take me to task if I’m not doing the stuff that I should be.

[20:51] Jason: Like I said with AppIgnite I do have a daily schedule that I worked with going on and it’s usually right about 1:00, 1:30 to 3:00 PM every day. My time is kind of right in the middle of the day and then I also worked on the weekends on it. But lately like the project that Justin and I have been working on called AnyFu that is less of a daily through shared work session. It’s more of like we’re working on our different pieces and then we’re just communicating or either we’re talking about it in the podcast or e-mail or whatever.

[21:22] I think if you could get a regular work schedule on something I think it’s easier. I think it’s easier to keep momentum because I don’t think “let’s talk about it” is enough as the importance of that in place and just realizing our long term goal. If you do something every day, it goes so much towards pushing you through the hard spots.

[21:39] Sometimes you reach a hard point but if you’re just like, get on every day eventually, you’re gonna bust through it but if you work on it, you reach a hard part and then you kind of like don’t do anything on it for a week. It’s so easy to kind of forget about them or they won’t work on it and then it just kind of falls out of your mind space.

[21:55] Justin: I have this concept of banking enthusiast, I mean, how like when you gamble and you couldn’t bank your savings. So once they’re banked they’re not on the table anymore. I sort of feel like that same thing applies to enthusiasm. So when I feel very enthusiastic to work on Pluggio, I maybe working a class work — I’m fortunate enough that I’m a consultant so I can choose what I work on — when I get the enthusiasm like, okay, I’m gonna find this right now. I’m gonna switch over to Pluggio and work in that enthusiastic mode because I feel that it just makes it easier to get good work done.

[22:25] Rob: That’s kind of a cool idea. I have found myself since I have a bunch of different projects I’m working on all time. I’ve done the same thing but I’ve never thought about it in that respect.

[22:34] Mike: I don’t know. I think I’m kind of — approach to this sort of a Hybrid Mindset. I had a hard deadline for my master’s thesis at one point where you’ve only got so along to finish it and I had — you’ve got 7 years to finish it at least here in the U.S. and I was bearing down on that 7-year mark and I knew I had to get it done. And it was one of those sins where I didn’t want to do it. I pushed it off for so long and I’m like, okay, well, I’ve already dumped a ton of money at this college for this degree, I better get it.

[23:01] So I just buckle down and I’d wrote a little bit every day and I got a couple of books on kind of guiding you through the process of writing in and the consistent theme that I found was do a little bit every day even if it’s not a lot. And looking at a blank page when you’ve got a couple of hundred pages to write is really intimidating. But if you just concentrate on writing like one sentence, the next sentence is a lot easier than the first. And you kind of get on a role and just like Justin said, you kind of bank that enthusiasm and as you start working on it, it really can build on its own. It helps you get motivated and it helps you get through the points that get to where you need to be.

[23:41] [music]

[23:44] Rob: You know, I just commented that I have a theory about the 4 to 6 month time frame and how it drops off dramatically after that. And so if you look at it on a kind of the logistics of working on it and you think someone’s probably got to put in 10 hours a week at least during that time to get it and obviously more is better. So if we say 10 to 15 hours a week is kind of what’s gonna be required to get something out the door in 4 to 6 months, then you’re looking at 4 months of 10 hours would be like 100 — gosh, I guess it’s around 120 hours total. It seems pretty thin to me and then 15 hours a week, 6 months, the top end would be about 300 almost 350.

[24:20] So somewhere between 120 is a pretty wide range. But 120 to 350 hours to get the one point out the door and that include — that’s not just coding, right? That’s actually QA and it’s getting the marketing website down and it’s getting marketing going. It’s getting all those sales page up, the landing page, collecting e-mails and then doing a launch and all that stuff. What do you guys think about that about trying to limit yourself to something like that to get a one point out the door? Is that realistic?

[24:46] Justin: I’m just thinking that perhaps you’re almost defining a new kind of rule, that rule 10,000 hours to get — to become an expert at something. Maybe there’s a rule for how many hours you need to launce something.

[24:56] Rob: Right.

[24:57] Jason: Yeah. You could break it down to like, okay, work 20 hours for this, 50 hours for that.

[25:03] Mike: If you think about in terms of 40-hour work a week though I mean, that’s 9 weeks. I mean, 360 hours is about 9 weeks and —

[25:10] Rob: Like it’s too much work.

[25:11] Mike: Oh, yeah. And if you’re putting in that much time and effort on something, if you have your idea and you know what you’re gonna do, 9 weeks seems like it’s a lot of time to put something together that is at least sellable.

[25:24] Rob: Right.

[25:24] Mike: I mean, unless it’s extremely complicated. It seems like you could do it.

[25:29] Rob: I guess the hard part is knowing — you got to know that you’re building the right thing, right? So you almost have to factor in like customer development during that time or do it beforehand and really have a good idea of what you’re building when you start that.

[25:39] Mike: Well, I think you do it beforehand ’cause I don’t think you consider it as part of the actual development time because you have to do all this upfront work to decide what it is that you’re gonna build and how you’re going to present it whether there’s competition, whether people are gonna pay for it. And that’s more or less research time. It’s not even development time. It’s the R part of the R&D.

[25:59] Rob: Yeah. I had a spreadsheet that kind of listed all this stuff out. It has all the tasks and has the hour estimates and that’s actually in the academy. I dug that out. I haven’t looked at it in probably a year and I think I did have the estimate. It was 400 to 600 hours at the time. But I’d be interested to see now with kind of just the new paradigm of getting launches out quicker for the fact it could be edited down. ‘Cause I think this is helpful for people, right? If you’ve never tried to build a product on the side I get that question a lot.

[26:24] It’s like, well, how long is this gonna take? How long should it take? And it’s like telling someone you should plan on 4 to 6 months, 200 to 400 or 400 to 600, whatever it is, is actually as kind of weird is that sounds to us to talk about, I think that’s like a decent guide, a decent general rule. You can certainly fall outside of that. Obviously, AuditShark is, AppIgnite is, Pluggio, now, did you launch Pluggio which was Twitter manner at the time, did you launch it in less time than that?

[26:52] Justin: I launched it in 3 months I think.

[26:54] Rob: Okay.

[26:55] Justin: I went from an original idea that we spoke about it ’cause we actually — I think we thought about it on the podcast and I think within 3 months I had to beat the notion.

[27:03] Jason: I know it’s quicker than that.

[27:04] Justin: I think it could have been.

[27:05] Jason: You sent me an e-mail, like, I have an idea. I’m gonna make some money. I think what are you talking about? And he was like, yeah, yeah. Let’s gonna do this thing and you’re like, I have quick idea to make some quick cash. That was kind of how I feel.

[27:18] Justin: Oh, yeah. It’s really been quick cash I can tell you that.

[27:22] Rob: Well that’s an — yeah, it’s an interesting question because a lot of people would kill to have a product that brings in three grand a month. Would you say it’s worth it, what you’ve done?

[27:30] Justin: Okay. ‘Cause I spoke at you guys in the conference, MicroConf, and part of our presentation was that I expected just like Jason said, I expected to make a load of cash and I launched this thing and I kind of went to like $600 a month. And because of my lack of experience as an entrepreneur I didn’t really understand how much time needed to be devoted to marketing from that point forward. So I kind of gave up on it and just left it for 9 months and they just kept on at this rate of $500 and then people on the show got pretty angry with me just like I kept talking about trying to start a new business and they were like, well, you’ve got this one that’s making money. All you need to do is market it.

[28:08] So then I went back into the marketing of it and it kind of took another I guess a year to take it to $3,000, maybe $3,100 revenue per month. So I was never expecting that. If I had known that when I was starting, I better would have done it because it’s like, you have to put this much work in. I mean, it’s almost like diminishing returns. It’s like to reach the speed of light, you need to use more and more explosives to get there. And that’s what I feel like — it’s been like for me with Pluggio, partly why I would recommend working at a different space, the social media for anyone.

[28:40] Jason: So let me jump in here. I think Justin launched — I think he had a beta version like 6 weeks. I don’t think it was 3 months. I think he maybe had beta for a month but you got it done pretty fast.

[28:51] Justin: Yeah, that’s true.

[28:51] Jason: I mean, Justin — once Justin gets on to something like he can’t think about anything else and he’ll just code night and day. I think that’s kind of what you did, felt like a month or 6 weeks. Then you got it up and it was making more than $500. I mean, I think it pretty quickly got up to like $800. It is like $850 or something. And then it kind of sat there. So without a whole lot of work, you got to that $800. It was just getting past that. It was hard, right?

[29:15] Justin: Well, yeah. Because what I have was — at the time I had the ability for people to pay a year in advance in the signup from and I kind of felt once again because of naiveté I sort of felt like I was cheating myself by doing that. So originally, a few people were signing up and they were basically paying a $100 upfront. And so that was really skewing the figures. So one month I was getting $600, the next month I was getting $300, the next month I was getting a $1,000. So I didn’t really understand what on earth was going on. So I decided to just remove the ability to pay the year in advance which I probably should have kept but anyway, that’s the way that I stuck at it and I just only included monthly revenue from that point forward.

[29:51] Mike: But those aren’t problems. Those aren’t really the problems associated with building that. I mean the thing that comes to mind for me is the fact that when you look at like Y Combinator, for example, you’ve got these small group of people who are stuffed in a room [30:06] for like 2 1/2 months and that’s all they do, is they work on whatever their ideas. Now granted, they get more than their 40 hours a week and they’ve got a small team of people but they put these things together and like 6 or 8 weeks because they’ve got demos that they’ve got to do before their 12 weeks is up.

[30:25] Rob: Right. I think they have weekly — they definitely have weekly meetings where they all meet and they have training and they hear a speaker and they’re doing — they are doing customer development or some of them are at least so it’s not just sitting in the basement coding there.

[30:38] Mike: They also have a team of people. So the differentiating factor I think is —

[30:40] Rob: Some of them.

[30:40] Mike: Let’s say about 2 or 3 people and they’re working on it and each of them is putting in 40 hours a week. Say one person is doing the customer development. You got two other people who were doing the coding. What does it take to crank out a beta of something with 2 people working 40 to 80 hours a week on it? It’s like 5, 6 weeks. It depends on how complicated it is. But once they start to get funding, I mean, they can add people, they can start dealing with problems of scale and things like that. And most of those are dealing with much larger types of applications than I think that we’re talking about.

[31:12] Justin: Okay. So basically I’m earning $3,000 a month right now because 2 years ago, I decided to scratch my own itch and then I had the momentum of a partner talking to me about it on the podcast and fans bugging me about it in the podcast for 2 years. And that’s the reason why it’s there at this stage.

[31:28] Jason: But you also took a year off and didn’t do anything. The thing is — sometimes it’s dangerous to extrapolate too much like say, well, you know, it’s gonna be this hard for everyone because you might be that [31:40] Pluggio in a sense that it’s just a hard market to break into or to earn a revenue stream. I mean, you might be able to build something in 6 to 8 weeks and you put in some marketing effort and it just kind catches a little wind. I mean, you think of things like GetHub. They just —

[31:54] Mike: But that’s fine.

[31:55] Jason: It’s not just the right prom at the right time.

[31:57] Mike: Yeah, but I think that the issue that we’re trying to talk about is really how to launch something not necessarily how to deal with it after the launch. I mean, there’s obviously the post launch aspect of it but I think the getting to launch is the thing that a lot of people struggled with. I mean, there are so many people; so many developers out there who have half-written applications sitting on their hard drive that are just wasting space because they just didn’t —

[32:22] Rob: I’m included in that group.

[32:23] Mike: Oh, yeah.

[32:24] Rob: I have a bunch of apps from like 5, 6, 7 years ago. Yeah, all kinds of different ideas. I came across some the other day and I was like, crap, this is embarrassing. I should take a screen shot.

[32:33] Mike: It is.

[32:33] Rob: Of course, it’s public and so people can mock me.

[32:35] Mike: It is embarrassing but you know what, I think we all do it though. There’s tons of things that we start and we’re just like, nah, this isn’t gonna work and it’s not because you got bored with it or you didn’t do the customer development or somebody else came out with the product that you think would kill it. There’s all these reasons but the fundamental thing I think we’re talking about here is just how long does it take to actually get to launch from the time that you decide to do it to the time that you can get that minimum viable product out the door that somebody is going to actually money for.

[33:04] Jason: Yeah, the reason I was bringing that up, the thing about Justin, of how hard it is, it’s just that — and the reason I think it’s important is that, when you make things sound harder than they are then it just is — it can be discouraging like oh, he works so hard and he’s just came with $3,000. Well, he worked hard and he didn’t. I mean, it might have been just the idea. So I often see that people succeed and like don’t do this. It’s super hard and, oh, wa, wa. I don’t know if it’s that hard and I don’t know if you kind of take that much time.

[33:34] Sometimes if you have a better idea than other ideas, or an idea that is just sort of the moment people were more interested in or it’s gonna be more viral, people were willing to pay for. Don’t worry about it being so hard. In fact, the point that you’re bringing up, Mike, is just get something up quickly because there’s nothing that’s gonna give you more momentum quicker than having somebody write you — actually make a payment.

[33:55] So if can get something up after 2 or 3 months instead of quick and even if you get like 50 bucks in for a month or 30 bucks, it’s actually — you could feel pretty good and then I’ll get you to the next point we’re making $150 a month and then $300 and then you’re off to the races. So the sooner that you can get it up and get someone paying you, the better.

[34:12] Justin: Well, what I think has the been most important thing that’s happened in the last two years with Pluggio was very, very close to the launch time. So it really is about the early stage of the development of your business. And this doesn’t necessarily apply to every kind of business but I think that for a business where people are using your product, your SAS product a lot, this is very important. And that is getting to a stage where you have between 3 and 5 people who are like early adopters and it just takes like 3 people who just really loved the promise and the hope of what you’re doing. And they are e-mailing with you every day and basically you have this repetitive cycle where you build the features that they request. And you’re just working with just that tiny core group of people building the seed, grabbing it. That has been the most important thing I think for Pluggio.

[34:57] Rob: That’s cool. Sounds like customer development except that it’s not in person. You’re basically getting your control group together and just getting all the feedback from them.

[35:06] Justin: Well, because they’re passionate about it. They’re trying to build this thing. They got problems they want to get solved. And the chances are that if it’s gonna work for these 3 or 5 people and you’re solving problems for that tiny little group and they’re thinking, oh, well, I’ve got this person who’s building me custom software to solve my problems, then it’s gonna help you because it’s gonna work for a lot more people if they can work for even a handful of people.

[35:27] Rob: Right.

[35:28] Jason: And I got something to add to that actually. So you can actually get to that sooner. So when you have a product, great, you get this early adopters and strike conversation with them. But if you talk about your idea as you’re working on it and I don’t care if you’re talking about on Twitter or on your blog or Facebook or Google Plus, or whatever, then you can start getting some feedback from people because if — you don’t even have to ask for it outright.

[35:52] When you talk about something that’s of interest to other people, they’re going to respond and they’re gonna say, hey, that sounds kind of cool. And people don’t like to talk with their ideas ’cause they are so worried that people are going — that someone’s gonna steal it. But no one’s gonna steal your stupid idea because at this stage it’s just an idea and it hasn’t been proven that it’s gonna make any money. And if it’s already been proven so — but if you’re going after a space where there’s already people doing it, then there’s nothing to steal, right?

[36:16] If you’re gonna steal something, they’re probably gonna try and steal an idea or whether they’re gonna compete with an idea that’s already demonstrated that’s making money, you’re idea hasn’t demonstrated anything. So don’t worry about people stealing your idea. Start talking about it and then you can feed off the enthusiasm that you get back from people saying, hey, I can’t wait to do that. Sounds really cool. Let me know when it’s available, that kind of stuff. But on the other side, if nobody, if it’s crickets — like if you talk about it in your blog and nobody seems to care about it, then that might be an indication that maybe we’re kind of on our own thing.

[36:45] Rob: All right. I think another piece to that is that if you have an idea that’s so easy to steal, that someone could go out and build it and beat you to market then when you launched, you’re gonna launch and they’re gonna build it in two months and they’re gonna eat your launch anyway, right? It’s not really about the technology, it’s about — if they can steal your idea and out market you, then they’re gonna out market you now or in 6 months. Would you rather build it or not?

[37:12] Justin: There’s been a lot of times when people have said, well, I don’t want to tell you my idea. I don’t want to tell you my idea. And then — because it’s like you need to sign some kind of idea or whatever and then they ended up telling me that “their” idea and I just don’t understand it. It’s like, what the hell are you talking about? Like most of the time even when you have an idea or it’s probably not even well formed enough that people actually get it.

[37:33] Mike: Oh, yeah. I remember explaining AuditShark to you at MicroConf and it took a while before you understood what it actually was and what it did.

[37:41] Rob: It takes a while for —

[37:42] Justin: Because you missed out like the key piece of information about AuditShark. I think that — I know I still haven’t heard you say it which is that you actually have actual software that gets installed on each person’s machine and that’s the kind of key component that makes it just work really easy for them. They just install the software and then they don’t need to do anything else from that point forward. Just click a button, the software takes care of everything else.

[38:02] Mike: It’s actually the opposite. They install the software, one machine and they don’t have to install all the others but they still get the information from them.

[38:09] Justin: Right. But the longer the shorter is they don’t have to do anything. They just — it just works from that point forward and it’s like — it collects all their information and saves them an awful lot of hassle and boredom.

[38:20] Mike: Yup.

[38:21] Jason: But in terms of stealing idea, a good example is that the project that Justin and I are working on. We talked about the idea that we’re working on now, AnyFu, a year and a half ago. And not only that we talked about the idea that we thought it could work. We’re saying someone should go do this ’cause we’re working on our own. I was working on AppIgnite and he’s working on Pluggio and a year goes by nobody is doing it, right?

[38:42] Justin: But not only that but we’re talking to an audience of between 1,000 and 1,500 entrepreneurs.

[38:47] Rob: If anyone’s gonna take it, it’ll be them, right?

[38:49] Justin: Right.

[38:50] Mike: Well, but the thing is, those people are also your audience and I think that if they were to do that, and if they were trying to take it “from underneath you”, there’s a certain amount of loyalty that your listeners are gonna have and they’re not gonna want to do that too.

[39:03] Jason: No, no, we actually — we’re telling them that somebody should do this idea. We’re not gonna do it. Somebody should do it.

[39:09] Justin: We wanted it to exist.

[39:12] Rob: If people are curious if you’re listening and you don’t know what AnyFu is, you can go AnyFu.com.

[39:19] Mike: I wanna know, is that intentional?

[39:21] Justin: No, no. AnyFu, you know, Kung Fu, so Fu is — one interpretation is it’s an expertise. So basically any expertise dot com except it’s AnyFu.com.

[39:31] Rob: Right. So it’s just in time expertise. It’s kind of like a high level, hourly Elance or oDesk. So on their landing page, let’s say if Elance and oDesk are the 99 cents store, AnyFu is gonna be like a Tiffany & Co. So it’s high level experts. People who have published, are speakers, who are just super knowledgeable and as far as I know, you guys are gonna limit the number of folks who can be on any given expertise. So if you have a Ruby on Rails or a NodeJS or Backbone or whatever, it’s like the best of best.

[40:01] Justin: It’s people like you, Rob, but not Mike. Like you’re so offended.

[40:06] Jason: We outlined what we thought was a good idea why it would work, why we had paid people for something similar on our own and just by like we needed experts, we want hundreds of dollars web, went through all the problem of trying to communicate them from e-mail and hire them and all that kind of stuff but even though we outlined the business case and how the technology worked, it was still like, okay, so that might work, right? There’s still no proof that would be a business. And that’s why nobody would steal it, right? You can go on the web and you could look at any number of these little startups that are popped at Y Combinator or the other incubators. They’re making money. It’s a good idea. I’ll go compete with them.

[40:42] Mike: The problem with AnyFu I think though is that whoever puts it together is left with this problem where you have to bring two sides together and without one the other one is kind of useless.

[40:55] Jason: Right. It’s the market place problem, right, which is so —

[40:56] Justin: Yeah. And something else is — and I’ll just add to this discussion here is that when we first spoke about this idea, this goes to show you essentially it’s about execution rather than the idea. Because I don’t think that AnyFu would be as successful as I think it’s gonna be if we haven’t spent a year thinking about it, talking about it because it is not. By the time we’ve worked it all out and basically the product that we’re creating, I can pretty much guarantee you it is not put together in the way that you expect it to be put together. It’s completely different to what I had imagined it.

[41:27] Rob: But you know, something that I think listeners should take away from this is every time I’ve seen you guys whether it’s been one on one or at MicroConf, you guys are talking about the idea, you’re asking people questions and you’re listening to the feedback. Both of you guys, last time I was down in LA, we met for a couple of hours each and you guys have really pointed questions, very specific and were genuinely interested, you weren’t just talking about it to blah, blah, blah, here’s an idea. It was like, we’re working on this part, what do you think? Do you think people would use this? Would you use it? How are we gonna get around this problem?

[42:02] And it was like, you really have spent a lot of upfront time developing this idea and being very open about it and public and as a result you have the — maybe the best opinions from the 50 people you talked about whether it’s me or the group of people you were — you had a whole dinner table at MicroConf and you guys were all chatting about it, and they’re all giving you feedback and I know you change the idea because of these things.

[42:26] Jason: Oh, yeah. That was like a 2-hour, that was a 2-hour brainstorming session with I don’t know, 8 to 10 successful tech entrepreneurs. These are all people who would be potential clients and also potential experts and we went through and you sat down, Rob,  for a while and we went through a number of like business models and how to make it work and we iterated through about 3 or 4 different versions of it until we hit on what was gonna work because every time someone says well, do you charge an expert to be on the side, and we’re like, no, that’s gonna make sense for this and this reason that a couple of people would throw out and then we’d go to another version and say that’s not gonna scale for this. I mean, like we iterate it so fast because it wasn’t just Justin and I talking. It was a group of 10 people for like 2 hours.

[43:07] Rob: Yeah, and that’s invaluable, right? If you’re sitting in your basement or even the two of you talking on the podcast, the idea would never have evolved that quickly or maybe never would have evolved to that point at all without getting the feedback.

[43:20] Jason: Right. Right, I agree. Absolutely.

[43:23] Mike: We definitely talked about your ideas.

[43:25] Rob: Yeah, man. I think that’s tech way right? Figure out a list of questions. Actually, at BOS last week, I had a list of questions and you know who’s good at this? It’s Harry Hollander and Ted Pitts. They are founders of Moraware software. Every time I go to a conference with them, they come and — they’re always at the beginning to say, yes, well, I have these two questions I’m asking everyone. We’re trying to figure out the, you know, this year it was like they’re trying to hire someone and figure out what the other one was. But that was their goal. It was to get that question “answered” by as many people as possible. And I think that’s a really kind of a cool way to do it.

[43:55] Mike: You know what Ted’s question for me was, why haven’t you launched AuditShark yet.

[43:59] Rob: Yeah, I know.

[44:00] Jason: Well, it’s funny bringing up Ted and Harry because they were at that table with us and I think Ted had a couple of very important points in that conversation and they’ve built successful business themselves so they had some great advise for us and then both of them were saying listen, whatever revenue model you have you got to make sure it scales with the usage because if the first is withdrawing out, it just weren’t gonna scale.

[44:22] Rob: It was like flat fees, right?

[44:24] Jason: Flat fees. It’s like give us a flat fee. You’re gonna charge that and you’re gonna be very sad. I’m saying that craziest — you’re gonna be sad.

[44:30] Rob: You’re gonna make your experts a lot of money and you will get $10 or whatever.

[44:35] Jason: Exactly.

[44:35] [music]

[44:38] Rob: We have three more points that Mike had planned that we answer but frankly we have to have you guys back on.

[44:45] Jason: I’d love to be — I’d love to do it.

[44:47] Rob: That’s the take away here is that we all have a lot to say and we have a lot of experience and stuff. So hopefully folks enjoy the episode and we can either finish up this topic sometime in the future or just choose another potential random one and go at it.

[45:02] Mike: Absolutely.

[45:02] Rob: I had a lot of fun. This is cool.

[45:04] Jason: Same here. It was great. Thanks for having us on.

[45:07] Justin: It’s really, really fun to be on the show.

[45:09] Rob: And if you’re a listener of this podcast and you haven’t checked out TechZing you definitely should. The URL is techzinglive.com. And of course, if you’re on iTunes in search for TechZing you can find both of these guys. And then guys, I know you both have — you both have blogs. You also both have products so each throughout one website, one URL where someone could get in touch with you or where you prefer that they’d go and checks out about you.

[45:34] Justin: Justinvincent.com. That’s my blog.

[45:37] Jason: Yeah, and for me would be codusoperandi.com.

[45:41] Mike: Interestingly enough if you also searched for Startups for the Rest of Us in iTunes, their podcast comes up. So with that if you have a question or comment, you can call it in to our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690. Or, you can e-mail in an mp3 or text format to Questions@StartupsfortheRestofUs.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt used under creative comments. If you enjoyed this podcast please consider writing a review in iTunes by searching for startups. You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or via RSS at StartupsfortheRestofUs.com. A full transcript to this podcast will be available at our website StartupsfortheRestofUs.com. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.


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5 Responses to “Episode 57 | TechZing For The Rest Of Us”

  1. This is a fun one to listen to, and also very educational. I can relate a lot to myself too.

    In the past 10 years, I’ve probably built more than a dozen small applications in java/c++ etc. but they have never seen the light. I still keep them in my file system though.

    Now that I recall what I’ve done, most of the programming at my leisure time is more of learning to program in a particular subject in computer software.

    So, even though I might have wasted time for writing programs, but still worth it.

    These days, I am more “practical”.

  2. I got lot of useful information from this particular podcast.

    BTW, How do you spell plugeeo?


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