In episode 604, Rob Walling talks with Derrick Reimer and gets the latest update on SavvyCal, how he makes product decisions, and they also share the best things they’ve bought for $100 and $1000 that have added much more value to their lives than the price point.
Topics we cover:
[4:50] Apple’s influence on startup founders
[8:52] SavvyCal’s new Squadcast integration
[12:51] Some upcoming features in the works for SavvyCal
[14:05] Experimenting with a freemium feature—meeting polls
[17:07] Derrick’s mental framework for deciding what features to build next
[23:58] Switching from an employee to a founder mindset
[25:56] Would you rather fight one duck-sized horse or a thousand duck-sized horses?
[27:25] The best purchase Derrick has made for under $100 in the last 6 months
[33:14] The best purchase Derrick has made for under $1000 in the last 6 months
Links from the Show:
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’re traveling to another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land called Startups for the Rest of Us. This is episode 604. I’m your host, Rob Walling. Today I talked with Derrick Reimer about a number of topics. This new SquadCast integration, how he makes product decisions, whether he would prefer to fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses, and things we bought for $100 and $1000 have added much more value to our lives than their price points.
Derrick and I go way back. I’ve known him for probably 12-ish years and I always love jumping on the mic with him because we know each other well and we can go from topic to topic and just have a fun conversation. Frankly, it’s similar to a conversation he and I would have if we were just hanging out one afternoon going to a happy hour. In this case, you get to listen in. It’s much more of a conversation than an interview.
You may know Derrick as the founder of SavvyCal or as the cohost of The Art of Product podcast. If you haven’t seen his design and development work, he’s a full full stack dev. Head to savvycal.com and check it out because he makes pretty amazing products. That’s one of the reasons I want to dive into his decision-making process which is about features to build in today’s episode. Without further ado, let’s dive into our conversation.
I want to show you something. This is completely impromptu and this is not one of the topics I brought to discuss today, but a delivery from Apple just arrived. I want to show this to you. We can describe it to the listeners. Basically, Sherry has an awesome full standing desk. They make them in Portland. She has the laptop stands where you put the laptop up so it’s at your eye height. She has no external keyboard or mouse.
I walk in when she’s typing and she’s up on her chair, literally typing on her laptop. This is six inches off the ground. I’m like, what are you doing? This is the worst posture ever. I was like, would you like me to get you an external keyboard and mouse? I went to the Apple website and compared it to Amazon as one does, the prices and deliverability.
Apple says for the new wireless keyboard and wireless mouse, we can get it to you tomorrow for $8 shipping or we can deliver it by courier for $9 in the next two hours. I guess I’ll take option b. It shows up and in true Apple form, it’s a really nice bag, but the kicker is look at this.
Derrick: A pull tab?
Rob: There’s a pull tab on the top of the bag. All Apple staff have these amazing experiences, the opening experience. Listeners, I realized this is not the best radio but I’m so impressed. They just think about that. It’s the details of packaging.
Derrick: I have a similar story. My wife just sadly was pulling a towel off the counter and her Apple watch was sitting there and it went with it, hit the tile, and shattered the face of the watch. We priced it out like a new one versus repair. Repair is pretty expensive, but to get a fully tricked-out newer generation will be double the cost. We’re like maybe we’ll just repair this. Let’s see how that experience goes.
You put a request for this. They send you a box, you open the box, and it’s like a brand new Apple product box that has the little pull tabby thing. You open it up and there’s this little sheet that you pull the cover off and you nestle your watch face inside, then you press it back down, and it holds it suspended in this little plastic capsule.
They have these little pieces of tape that are the pull tabby thing that Apple provides. They give you pictogram instructions for how to close the box, how to tape it properly, peel the shipping label off so that it’s the return label on it. Everything is just highly curated. It’s so Apple.
Rob: That is something that is amazing and obviously has world-class industrial designers thinking through that stuff. They have the luxury of being able to do that because they have this amazing product line. I know Steve Jobs from day one always wanted everything to be beautiful, but they didn’t have the money to do it.
The Apple 1 was wooden. It had a wooden case where you had to build your own really. It was just a wooden board. The Apple 2 was nice for that time, but it was a plastic molded case and Steve Jobs historically spent way too much on it. Once they have a home run, doesn’t the phone and iPad make their own money?
Derrick: I think so.
Rob: I think that’s the thing. I think the laptops themselves don’t make much money, but they have the luxury of being able to do whatever they want. Isn’t Apple’s MPS one of the highest in the world? It’s like in the 90s. That’s crazy.
Derrick: Do you think Apple’s influence on us—because of course we are obviously heavily influenced by putting Steve Jobs on a pedestal and wanting to mimic how they operated—made creators of software pay attention to too many details or do you think it’s had a good impact?
Rob: That is interesting because one could say, if your software is amazing, people love it. A great product can help sell itself. On the other hand, if you’re bootstrapping especially and you over-engineer the UX, you make everything perfect from day one. It’s detrimental because you don’t launch.
I think overall engineers and designers who are mostly bootstrapping default to spending too much time on the product. I think just across the board, that’s in general. There are exemptions to it, man, because if you build something, I know you spend a bunch of time. SavvyCal UI, the Drip UI, the Codetree UI, you spend all this time.
To me, it felt worth it because it was just so elegant and so next level versus I think the majority of people—myself included—probably spent too much time on the code and too much time tweaking the UI, but it wasn’t incremental to the next level. No matter how much time I spent when I was a developer or I was building for front ends, I couldn’t get it to that Apple polish like you can. There’s so only so many. I think overall it’s detrimental, but that doesn’t mean I want them to keep making amazing hardware.
Derrick: Right. I do think it’s interesting because you can argue that Apple is just part of their DNA that they have these really elegant experiences, but it’s not that important. I’ve heard people say you can’t compete on user experience. It has to be more fundamental than that. On the flip side, I have several friends with Android phones, the green text message crew.
Rob: That’s savage. Geez. Starting it off right.
Derrick: From time to time I’ve looked at their phone, and I haven’t interfaced much with an Android phone, but when I try to look ahead and do something on their phone, the interactions are just jerkier. It’s 80% the same but that extra 20% makes all the difference. I don’t think I could get away from the Apple ecosystem because of user experience.
Rob: It’s subjectively not as good. Not because I’m not used to this placement, it feels cheap too. That’s such a trip. I switched from Windows because obviously I used to be a Windows developer and I switched around 2011, I think, to Mac. The reason I did it was not because of the OS. It didn’t bother me at all.
In fact, when I got into Mac OS—it wasn’t called that time—I actually found that the windowing was garbage. I always needed utility to properly window in Mac. It’s not as good as Windows. I switched because of the hardware. I wanted that metal, I think I got a Macbook Air. I wanted that metal, I wanted that trackpad. Now when I go back and my son has a Dell that he uses or a Chromebook. It’s hot garbage, man.
Derrick: I know.
Rob: The click is plastic. Does no one else know how to make this or is it just too expensive?
Derrick: Yeah, it’s shocking to me. I don’t understand. Companies with literal billions of dollars in their war chest—we know that Apple has many, many billions, their competitors are giant—and yet they can’t nail the trackpad. I don’t get it.
Rob: Yup, the trackpad. Then for me, there’s the aluminum. I just love the metal laptop and I bought a Dell that was kind of doing it, but it was made of plastic, and it wasn’t just that. I returned it and I bought a Mac and I was just like I’m just going to buy the bullet and switch. Switching kind of sucks as you know because it’s like I don’t know what to do, none of my apps work.
The other thing was the three-finger or four-finger swipe where you have multiple desktops, you needed an add-on to do that on Windows. I think they do it now, but I was just like this is fundamental. Get this in the OS.
Rob: Folks want to hear about SavvyCal. They want to know what’s going on because it’s been six months. I want to call out one thing. You integrated with SquadCast. Holy moly, that saves me time. SavvyCal obviously is a calendar, scheduling, and booking link that I send to people. What I had before was a SquadCast general room that was just hardcoded. You just have a base room that is your personal meeting room in essence and I would hard code that.
All recordings went into one room. I have 45 recordings now so it’s kind of hard to manage. You integrated with them and now it forks off a new room every time someone books, which is exactly the behavior I wanted. I’m so stoked.
Derrick: That was a fun one to build because it wasn’t a crazy amount of effort on our behalf because we have integrations like this already. We have a Zoom integration where we can very typically spend a separate room for each calendar invite. We already had a base on the codebase where that was happening.
It’s cool that the SquadCast team is in the TinySeed ecosystem so we’re already friendly. I can’t remember where this one originated and it might have been just a one-off request. Podcasters are definitely a segment in the market that we’re paying a lot of attention to. We have a lot of exposure there from different marketing partnerships that we’ve worked on.
It might have been just one of those people requesting it, taking a look, and it’s like, oh, they have a nice API. We can just hit this endpoint. You pay some API key in and spend up a room. I felt like that was one of our leveraging advantages of being small and nimble and being able to just crank out an interrogation like that.
I will say that the reaction you have, I was just exposed to this group of podcasters going through this little cohort on learning how to podcast and someone brought up SavvyCal and the room just discovered it. Everyone was going wild for it which is just incredible to see.
Rob: That’s so cool to see. What a trip. Back in the day, when you wanted a SaaS app, let’s say when you were 21 and you were, I want an app that’s going to make $10,000 a month and will support me. I think we would have probably thought a) maybe it’ll never happen but b) I don’t know. Now you’re here. You’re living the dream that you’ve wanted your entire teenage years and your early 20s. How does that feel? Do you ever think about that?
Derrick: I try to. I try to remember because it’s so easy to just be onto the next thing and be onto the next stress and worry. One thing that I’m very aware of is you get to a certain revenue milestone and then you start growing your team. I was talking to some founders of MicroConf about this.
Suddenly, you feel very poor again because payroll is expensive. Now I’m graduating from reaching these milestones as a solo operator and it’s amazing and is basically replacing a nice developer salary worth of money. Then the next phase is growing the team and suddenly there are new mountains to conquer there. Now we have to grow in order to sustain continuing to grow the team.
That’s always a looming stressor in my mind, but I do try to take stock as much as I can with the fact that this is kind of the golden age for my entrepreneurial career and that’s something worth celebrating and feeling proud of.
Rob: Yeah, it absolutely is. So folks have a reference point, the last time you were public about revenue, you said you crossed $20,000 MRR and that was six months ago or a year ago?
Derrick: Yeah, I bet that was around the last time we recorded in November. I think it was around that time. Growth, I will say, has been continuing to plug along nice and consistent like any good bootstrap SaaS app. It’s been a fun journey. I feel like, back to my previous point, trying to take stock of the progress we’ve made and also feeling very aware of the fact that the roadmap is super long, there are so many good ideas, and I obviously want to build them all at the same time but that’s not possible so incremental progress.
Rob: Yeah. Are there any features that you’ve just launched that you’re stoked about or that you’ll be launching? You’ve already talked about maybe launching in the next month or two?
Derrick: I feel like the last couple of months have been investing a bunch into a couple of bigger projects that I’m hoping will have a nice return for the company. We’re really excited about a Close CRM integration that we’re about to release and I think we might be the first scheduling tool to natively integrate with that ecosystem. I feel like the type of customers that would turn to Close are kind of an ideal SavvyCal customer.
You’re not wanting to go into Salesforce yet and you want a nicer experience that focuses on being a little bit of a better tool to use. I think there’s a lot of alignment there and so I’m excited about seeing what this looks like to kind of copromote with another really great bootstrapped company.
The other feature that we’re working on is meeting polls to basically allow you to send out a poll similar to what you could do with Doodle, propose some times to a group of people, and have them vote on times that work best for them. This is going to be a free feature. We’re dipping our toes in the freemium waters.
Derrick: I’ve been kind of thinking about freemium since day one with SavvyCal. It’s always a conversation if I look at the playbook of the biggest players in my space, Calendly being the biggest one, they’ve obviously grown a lot off of the viral loop component of having a free version of their product. That’s something that I can’t ignore, but also revenue is nice too for sustainability and profitability.
I think this feels like to me a good middle ground of building something additive to what the product is today and offering that for free, so I’m not cannibalizing anything that we have already. It feels like a good first entrance into freemium.
Rob: I feel like it’s a great first link of the chain is the term I would use. Engineering as marketing plus, plus. When we think about engineering as marketing, it’s like I’m going to build a website grader, HubSpot SEO website grader and you go get your website graded. Okay, this is not the first link in the chain because the next step is not, oh, there are more features available in the website grader and it’s a paid plan. It’s like it just happened to be built by this company who also runs a CRM marketing software.
You are giving them functionality that is actually heavily related and I’m guessing that it’s easy to just sign up your account and it’ll be available on that account. It truly is a freemium model and it is a really elegant way to do it.
Derrick: Yeah, and it gets their account kind of set up. You’ll ideally still want to connect your calendar accounts so that when you’re creating a meeting poll, you can see your events there and know what times you’re available. It kind of already sets your account up for success for the full paid experience as well. So yeah, I’m pretty stoked about it.
Rob: Our sponsor this week is Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub. Microsoft for Startups is on a mission to help all founders innovate and grow no matter their background, location, or progress. To this end, they’ve recently launched Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub, a platform that provides founders with free resources to help solve startup challenges.
Members of the platform get a ton of benefits that can help founders build their startups faster from day one. Up to $150,000 in Azure credits, free development tools like GitHub, free Microsoft collaboration and productivity software like Teams and Outlook, offers from startup-friendly partners, and more.
A strong and diverse network is critical to a startup’s success and so Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub is making this historically inaccessible resource open to all by providing members access to a mentor network as well as technical advisors. Members can book time with mentors to get expert feedback and advice on their product roadmap, business plan, fundraising approach, marketing plan, and more.
The program is open to everyone no matter your startup stage and unlike other programs, there are no funding requirements. The signup process takes less than five minutes. Learn more about Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub at aka.ms/startupsfortherestofus.
This is the part of the show where I ask you a question that I already know the answer to, but I know that folks listening to this who followed the SavvyCal story, they see you, your feature velocity is exceptional and it seems like there are many developers when it was just you for so long.
Also, it feels like you build the right things. Some mistakes founders make is they work on the wrong things and it’s hard. There’s certainty and uncertainty in certain areas of your business. It’s certain that once I know we should build this meeting feature. It’s certain we can build it. Now it’s uncertain if we’ll build it really well and it’s uncertain if we even should build it. Email support is a certainty. There are these things that are just pretty certain.
What to build and marketing are usually the two big uncertainties—marketing, execution, what to do next, blah, blah, blah. What is your mental process for looking at that list and saying, here’s what we’re going to build. This is our roadmap. How do you decide on that?
Derrick: It’s tricky. It’s an art form because if you try to get too scientific about it and you’re like I’ll poll my customers and the one that gets the most upvotes, we’ll build that. That’s kind of a recipe for disaster because oftentimes, your customers don’t actually know exactly what they need. You can’t expect them to necessarily be that inventive.
Also, you’re not necessarily optimizing for exactly what people are demanding. What you’re trying to do is steer the ship in a certain direction that is aligned with your strategy. I think it’s really important to have a vision that is rooted in who am I building this for and learning at a higher level what problems does this group of people experience, and how can I build to address those problems? As opposed to getting really specific with customers and trying to do one of those feature upvote-y things.
I kind of avoided those because I felt like that would put extra pressure on the masses who are voting for this feature and maybe it aligns with strategy, maybe it doesn’t. It is a careful balance like how much time you spend talking to customers and trying to soak in feature requests versus stepping back and saying this is where I think we can be different from what’s on the market today. This is where I think we can really level up the status quo outside of what people are asking for.
I think the answer is probably somewhere in between. I think I have this tweet that I tweeted once that is like product development is the art of disappointing customers at a rate they can accept.
Rob: That’s a great thing to say.
Derrick: People are always going to be mildly disappointed because you can’t build everything, even small features. A lot of small features have to wait on the roadmap for a surprisingly long amount of time just because there are always a million things that you could be building and you just have to pick a few at any given time to be working on. I think it’s like trying to stay in tune with what are the things that people are really, really needing.
When you start to spot those patterns, we used to see this all the time at Drip, I feel like where it’s just like in the last two weeks, I’ve heard multiple times of people asking for the same thing, maybe in different ways. If it’s something that seems pretty valuable, seems broadly applicable, and is low effort, then I like to build those things quickly. I think there’s a lot of value in providing some quick wins and it really generates a lot of goodwill from customers when you’re able to do that, but you can’t be that reactive all the time.
I think the probably the latest iteration in our process that has helped is thinking about things in six weeks cycles. What that does is gives you enough room to say, all right, in this time period we know we want to bite off this more ambitious project. If we don’t give ourselves the time to work on bigger projects, then we just end up optimizing for the smaller quick wins because those feel a lot better like quicker dopamine hits, right?
I like thinking of things in the six-week cycle where it’s like what’s the big ambitious thing we want to do here? Then all the rest can be kind of filled in with smaller things that are those quicker wins.
Rob: Very nice. Well said.
Derrick: A bit rambly, but those are my thoughts.
Rob: It’s a complicated topic. As you said, to me, it’s way more art than science. There is some science in it because it’s like how many requests and what percent do I think will use it? Even that’s a guess. It is an art. Then there’s a lot of, as you said, strategy, vision, founder gut, and you’re not going to bet a thousand.
I don’t know what a good batting average is or what building features that a lot of people use, 60% or 70%? There’s some number in there and I think that sometimes the bigger more ambitious features, they’re more risky. If I’m going to spend three months building something, I need a little more justification than just I think this is going to be a hit.
Derrick: Yeah, and it’s interesting. I’ve started thinking of features more as bets similar to—as Cory and I are talking through—different marketing projects that we can invest in. A lot of that stuff comes down to do you want to add time or money into the equation? If we want to up our SEO game, there are some things we could spend money on that would probably accelerate our results faster.
Some of these things, the one we’re facing right now is coming with a 12-month commitment, several $1000 a month. Not nothing for a company of our size. It’s like, what’s the ROI on that going to be? I don’t know exactly. It should show results. There are case studies that seem positive, but also don’t necessarily generalize so we can’t know exactly what the results are going to be.
That’s just kind of taking a bet. Similarly, with building products, you’re mostly betting on are you increasing technical debt in something that you’re going to have to maintain moving forward? What’s the initial cost gonna be? How much engineering time are we burning? What’s the opportunity cost? What things are we not building because we built that feature?
Rob: That’s a trade-off especially when you’re small. I know even when we got big, when we were 18 engineers or something when we left Drip, we did have more leeway and I know more bandwidth to push stuff through. When it’s just one or two of you, that’s a lot of weighing.
The thing I say all the time, mostly being a founder, is making hard decisions with incomplete information and this is the definition of that. The hard decisions where we’re going to bet $20,000, $30,000 over the next year where we’re going to bet a month, two months, three months of time to build a feature.
Derrick: Yeah, and that’s the uncomfortable part. As the numbers get bigger, the bets get bigger. In the early days, you’re betting that you don’t have much to lose, and also the upside is not as big. Whereas now it just increasingly gets bigger.
Rob: Yeah, that’s right. I was talking to a founder, this was probably over a year ago now but he really struggled. He’d been running his business on the side, but not charging for it for a year because he had a fear that no one was going to pay for it. I was like, you need to find that out now, bro.
He really struggled. He said, I’ve worked jobs my whole life and here I am and I don’t know what to do next. I just want someone to tell me what to do. I felt so bad, but I was like, that’s not what this is. You’ve signed up for something that is the exact opposite of that, for better or worse. It’s amazing because you can do whatever the hell you want, but you can do whatever the hell you want and you have to pick what you’re going to do otherwise, you’re just going to flounder.
Derrick: That is such an interesting thing that you don’t necessarily realize until you maybe have a conversation like that where you’re like, oh, yeah, that adds an extra element of stress to the whole thing because the buck stops with you. Every time you make a decision, there’s not a boss to go cross-check it with. There’s not someone else who’s like, well, ultimately, it’s their responsibility. It’s all you. Getting comfortable with that I guess is just part of the entrepreneurial journey.
Rob: It’s a learned skill, I think, and I don’t think most of us are taught that because we go to school in the US from kindergarten to 12th grade and you always know what the next thing is. You have these assignments, you’re going to do it, then you’re going to graduate from third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. You go through high school, then pretty much you’re either going to trade school, you get a job, or you’re going to college.
If you go to college, sometimes there’s a Master’s degree, Ph.D. You get out in the world, you’re probably going to get a job within your field, maybe not, then you have a job and then you have a boss who tells you what to do. The first moment when you are literally working on something it’s like, I have to figure this out. I think we’re not trained very well in a standard education system to go off and do our own thing.
Derrick: Yeah, I would agree.
Rob: All right, so I’m going to mix it up. I have a fun question for you. Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or is it a hundred duck-sized horses? That was a question someone asked to Courtland Allen and I and people have just been talking about it. I do want to hear your answer. I don’t know if you heard our answer.
Derrick: No, I did not.
Rob: One horse-sized duck or a thousand duck-sized horses? It’s either a hundred or a thousand, I forgot what the number is. It doesn’t really matter, right?
Derrick: Oh, man. It’s a great question. I’m stalling.
Rob: That’s a terrible question. Can you give me a definition of the word? Can you use the word in a sentence?
Derrick: I guess death by thousand duck bills sounds terrible, so I would rather have one organism to fight.
Rob: Oh my gosh, really? Look at you. Geez. I went with a thousand or a large number of duck-sized horses.
Derrick: Oh, duck-sized horses. They’re little tiny horses.
Rob: Duck-sized, little, tiny horses. That doesn’t mean your answer is wrong. I just thought a horse-sized duck, that bill is going to do some damage.
Derrick: Death by a thousand hooves. That doesn’t sound great either. I’m going to take on that giant duck.
Rob: The big guy? Your weapon of choice? Freemium.
Rob: I do have another question, a little more serious but still on the fun side, what is something that you’ve bought, let’s say, in the past six months for under $100? It can be right around under $100 that you feel like has given you way more value than that $100? We’ll both answer it and then we’ll do it for $1000 as well. What do you have for $100?
Derrick: This one kind of impacts my daily life so I put it in this category and it’s a coffee roasting kit.
Rob: Tell me more.
Derrick: This was about $65 and it’s basically a stovetop popcorn popper. There’s this company called Sweet Maria’s and you can buy green coffee beans from them, unroasted, in small batches. I generally roast coffee once a week using this and it takes about 15 minutes total, so it’s not a huge time commitment.
In exchange, I get this added element of joy because coffee is a big part of my life. I drink it every day, I have several cups, and usually in a couple of different forms. I have a cappuccino in the morning and maybe a pour over in the afternoon. Getting to play around with different roasting levels and different regions, and every time I have a cup of coffee, it’s just a slightly different experience. I get to take a little joy in that.
I feel like it made that kind of daily ritual just slightly more special. I think that has been a big value add in my life. Also, it helps that it’s way cheaper buying green coffee beans, significantly cheaper. Before that, just buying locally roasted whole bean coffee was $20 a bag or whatever. Now I’m spending $100 on beans every six months or something.
Rob: That’s cool. You’ve always been the artisan with the manual latte cappuccino machine and I know you temp it to exactly 31 psi or whatever. That’s not the right number, but I know you tamp it. Your cappuccinos are second to none. It makes sense that you’re going back further in the chain. Soon you’re going to have a coffee plantation. You’re going to get an acre of land here in Minneapolis.
Derrick: I think that’s where I draw the line. I’ve watched videos on this website. Here’s a video of the place where these beans were made, so hipster, but man, that’s a very manual grueling process just to get these like unroasted little beans, oh my gosh.
Rob: It stops there. Cool. That’s a good one. For me, it’s an Amazon Echo Show in the kitchen, which is $125 but they’re always on sale for around $100. Then I had an old Echo Show that I traded in so I got like $25 off plus 25% off, so literally, we paid $50 for the new model.
What I like about it is it’s an eight-inch screen and it sits on the counter. It’s got a nice speaker so you can listen. The tunes sound great because it’s got speakers all around it. I set a bunch of timers. I have three four-timers going at once when I’m cooking and you can pull up recipes on it and they’ll be on the screen. You can scroll it, it’s a touchscreen. It’s only eight inches so it’s not huge and it’s kind of widescreen, but it totally does the job.
For us, our house is big. We live in Minnesota so we have a basement, we have a first floor, we have a second floor, we have a rooftop deck. To get a hold of kids who have headphones on, even listening to anything on an Audiobook quietly, is impossible in this house. The Echo is basically an intercom. I can either drop into any of them, I can drop into all of them, or I can just do an announcement.
In fact, when I’m traveling, often in the morning when I wake up, I will type in an announcement that goes through all the Echoes and they do it in the Alexa voice. It’s like, hello, this is your father speaking. I miss you today.
Look, I get it. Some people just do not want Amazon listening in your house and I get it. I don’t care. I use it all the time. In fact, I have the little one on my bedside table, my nightstand, and that’s my alarm. I ask it about the weather. I can use it to turn plugs on and off in the room. None of this is news to most people, but it really is home automation. I don’t want to rewire the house.
You just buy this $15 plug, you plug it in, you name it in the app, and then you just say, Alexa, turn on the sound machine or turn off the sound machine or whatever and you can set timers. When the Christmas tree was here, I would plug them both into smart ones and I had automatic schedules. It’s just all the things and it works. You want it to be simple, you want it to work, and you don’t want it to be expensive. It’s finally here, the promise they’ve been making since 1985 of all this automation, it’s pretty sweet.
Derrick: That’s cool. I think I’m probably going to need to revisit it. We haven’t had voice-commanded devices in our house for a while, but we did have quite a few smart devices like hue bulbs and the little switch thing you can plug anything in and it’s on an internet-connected thing. We have that for our sound machine and lights in the bedroom so you have to get up.
I’ve just observed that a lot of this feels like truly a downgrade from the analog iteration before because now if I want to turn this light off, I have to pull up my phone, open the right app, and click the thing. There’s a little bit of latency. Whereas this is more like bringing the technology of the clapper, but a little smarter.
Right now, in my setup, there’s kind of something missing where to me it feels most of the time a downgrade. I actually have a remote that ties in wirelessly to the IoT switch thing, which just feels funny. It’s probably routing through the internet when I click a button instead of just speaking directly to the device.
Rob: Very cool. How about $1000? Something you bought for $1000 that you feel like it has been super cool.
Derrick: This one’s a quirky one, too. Again, along the theme of things that impact daily life, I have this device and I promise it’s G-rated, but it’s called the BedJet.
Rob: Oh, this is going to be good. What does it do?
Derrick: It’s this little thing, I think it was like a Shark Tank product actually. There’s this little device that has a hose and you slip it under your sheets, basically, so it’s on top of your mattress and there’s a remote for it. You can turn on heat or cold at different levels. It’s similar to what you get from an electric blanket, but it’s even more versatile and it just pumps air under your sheets.
Derrick: I live in a newer apartment building and these things are extremely well insulated. Even in the wintertime, there are points where we are like, do we need to run our air conditioner right now? Just because they retain heat so well. I’ve talked to other apartment dwellers and temperature control, especially at night, is just so tricky to get right. This has been a huge upgrade.
When I started using it, figuring out, and dialing in what the right settings are, I was getting a consistently better night of sleep. I wasn’t waking in the middle of the night or kicking a leg out because it’s hot or whatever. But I always like to sleep with the covers on. I don’t like just sleeping all exposed. This just helped dial in just the right experience.
Rob: Anything that can help you get a better night’s sleep is worth its weight in gold. Whether you use a sound machine. I wear an eye mask because I used to wake up at 5:30 in the morning. As I’ve gotten older, I’m more sensitive to light. I used to be able to sleep in. I used to sleep very deeply and very heavily, and I used to sleep through everything. I don’t anymore.
I think once we had kids, things started changing too. I now use an eye mask and then usually, in the middle of the night, I wake up and actually put earplugs in, which I didn’t use to do. Temperature control is not a huge issue for me, but I can imagine anyone who has that issue, this can be a big deal, man.
In true fashion, my $1000 item is another technology product, but for me, it’s this big curved monitor that I have. I got it about maybe a year ago. It’s a 38-inch Dell. It was right around $1000. I think it was a little more, it’s probably like $1200, with tax maybe $1300. There’s a 34-inch.
One of the reasons I realized it is because in the spirit of Sherry getting that keyboard and the mouse that I talked about at the beginning of the show, she got the 34-inch equivalent of mine. I’m going to be honest, the 38-inch is a little too big. I have it on an arm and I can move it. I never look at the right six inches of the screen. The 34 would have been fine, but it’s curved. When you get that big, it’s hard. Your head has to move so much—first world problems, right?
The reason it’s amazing beyond just it being an awesome monitor with a lot of screen real estate, because I believe you can kind of never have too much, is it is a USB-C hub. As much as I like Apple products, I […] hate that there are only two Thunderbolt, USB-C ports, whatever they call them. There proprietary stupid name for them.
There are two of them. Why are there not four? There should at least be four. There should be six. I had so many dongles and then the dongle stopped working and you’re carrying it around. Even at my desk, I’m just like plug, plug, plug. Now it’s at the back of this monitor. I plug my hardware, my ethernet cable right in for my mesh. We have a mesh router because we can’t get the service out of the house without a bunch of them.
I have that ethernet cable plugged in and then I have the mic. I have a camera plugged in. Then there’s just a single USB-C coming out of the Dell monitor and I plug it into my laptop in the morning. It’s my docking station, really, and it is huge. I was kind of iffy about it because you can get the I think the same model without the USB-C hub in it. It’s an extra $100 or $200, I’ll spend that and I did, and it’s like I’m not going back now. When Sherry started eyeballing my setup she’s like, I’m ready to grow up and move to that setup so I just ordered her a monitor today.
Derrick: That’s great. Yeah, I went ultra-wide probably six months ago and it has been nice. It was an adjustment figuring out how to do windowing on it properly because you’re not maximizing anything anymore getting real close to that, so that was tricky. I’m currently maxed out on my ports and it was a serious puzzle to solve.
Unfortunately, my monitor doesn’t have the hub built-in, but I have this old external hub that I actually dug out of an old bin where I had electronic stuff from prior iterations of setups. It has just enough ports and my camera communicates well with it. I have this other simpler Apple dongle thing, but it wouldn’t feed my webcam feed through at the same time as the other. There’s some kind of data rate thing. I don’t know why Apple makes it so difficult, come on.
Rob: It feels like they could do better. When I got the new Air and it had two, I was like I’m going to send this back for the MacBook, then the MacBook Pro. I looked and it only has two ports too. I’m like, how are they doing this? I get that there’s no headphone jack in the iPhone anymore. That still irritates me because their AirPods are so and so. This is a real mess.
I use windowing software called Magnet, which is in the Mac AppStore, probably $20 where I have keyboard shortcuts and I can just boom, boom, boom, place in a grid, and I can do left third, middle third, right third. I can do top or bottom, I can do quartiles. You can set up custom ones, but frankly, they have 20 presets. Do you use software like that? Because I cannot stand dragging the edges of the window. It’s not going to work for me.
Derrick: I did a little searching around and I was surprised that there didn’t seem to be one like the de facto winner. Where’s the Coda software equivalent? I couldn’t find it, but I did find this one called Rectangle that’s very simple and I think it might even be open source, but it’s actually good.
Rob: Geez, he’s throwing shade. Send emails to Derrick.
Derrick: The UX, I’m saying. Open source is not known for fantastic UX.
Rob: I know what you’re saying. I use WordPress. I like it, the UX is a bit rough.
Derrick: It doesn’t feel like a developer made it, I’ll say that. I only learned a few of the keyboard shortcuts. I haven’t committed all of them to memory. It’s something that I will gradually probably build up muscle memory on those things. It’s still a little bit frustrating and I hop around a lot too so I’m only at this station for a small fraction of the week and then I’m like hopping around to go sit in the living room for a while, go to a coffee shop. I just love moving around a lot. That means my muscle memory is very slowly building up on it, but that’s about the best I can do.
Rob: You learn what you need. All right, sir. Well, thanks for taking a few minutes to come chat with me today. I got some feedback at MicroConf that some folks were like, when you bring on people that you have a rapport with and that you know already, those are the best shows. The Courtland Allen’s, when Einar and Tracy went and we went off the rails about news stories. It’s good to have you on because it’s just always easy conversation and good radio.
Derrick: Yeah, thanks for having me back. I echo their sentiments. Every time I hear some of the regular guest hosts rotate, it’s always a pleasure. Glad to be part of it.
Rob: Awesome, man. If folks want to keep up with you, obviously, savvycal.com, if they want to check out what you’re working on, and you are @derrickreimer on Twitter. Thanks again, man.
Rob: As we wrap up this episode, thank you so much for joining me this week and every week. I hope this episode provides some motivation, maybe some thought process, or some strategies that help you grow your business in the coming weeks and months. I’ll be back in your ears again next Tuesday morning.