In episode 652, Rob Walling answers more listener questions with Derrick Reimer, the founder of SavvyCal. They cover topics from the most important superpower for developers to the best resources for learning how to code and should you ever mix no-code with code.
Topics we cover:
- 2:03 – The most important superpower for developers
- 11:39 – Combining no-code with code
- 20:31- Should you take a $5k angel investment?
- 25:30 – How to do outreach for initial idea validation calls
- 29:09 – How should bootstrapped founders handle the Section 174 changes
- 33:50 – Best resources to learn how to code
Links from the Show:
- Derrick Reimer (@derrickreimer) I Twitter
- Episode 642 I The Pros and Cons of Building a No-Code MVP
- MicroConf Remote 6.0
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.
Subscribe & Review: iTunes | Spotify | Stitcher
Welcome back to another episode of Startups For the Rest of Us, I’m Rob Walling, and this is the podcast where we talk about topics related to building, launching, and growing successful software products with an emphasis on SaaS and an emphasis on bootstrapping or mostly bootstrapping your company. Talk about doing it in a capital efficient way that allows you to have a sane life as you change your life and those around you. Today I answer listener questions with Derrick Reimer. He is a fan favorite. We answer questions like, should I mix no code with code? If I’m a developer and I need to develop one superpower to be a successful SaaS founder, what should I develop and should I take a $5,000 angel check? Plus we have two or three other listener questions. It’s a great episode today. I hope you enjoy it.
But before we dive into that, MicroConf in Denver in just about a month is now sold out. I had mentioned a few times on the show that we had, I don’t know, 25, 30 tickets left and they’ve been selling really strong. So MicroConf is sold out. But if you would like to attend, go to microconf.com/americas and get on the wait list.
I would expect a few tickets to become available in the coming weeks. In addition, MicroConf Remote is next week. That’s where we teach founders how to up their sales game, diving into cold email and doing demos, and just getting better in general as a founder at sales. That’s at microconf.com/remote. And with that, let’s dive into my conversation with Derek.
Derrick Reimer back for more punishment, huh?
Back for more. I’m ready.
We have some good listener questions that are in your wheelhouse today. I’m excited to have you back on the show. First question is from Paul Maxwell and the subject line is most important superpower for developers to learn? Paul asks, “What is the most important superpower for developers to cultivate when making the transition to SaaS entrepreneur?” I’ll let you answer first.
I like this question. It’s a tough one because there are quite a few superpowers that are nice to have as you’re building. I would say one could be developing design shops so that you can take something from both backend implementation to a nicely polished UI using something like the Refactoring UI book from the Tailwind team is a really great resource for that.
But I think my favorite superpower that I landed on is building up your shipping muscle. So I think what that means is developing a keen sense for when it’s okay to cut corners on something and the areas where you shouldn’t cut corners and where you should really go the extra mile and just really figuring out how to be okay with relentlessly cutting scope in the name of shipping things fast.
I think a lot of us founder developers, we tend to be perfectionists at our craft and we enjoy making really high quality software and that’s a great, but when you’re trying to get something off the ground fast, you have to be willing to compromise on some of your perfectionism. And for me, that has been a career long journey, I think, that I’ve been trying to hone over time. I wrote a blog post kind of about this recently called Ship Small, Ship Fast about how the SavvyCal team tries to embody this by shipping small pieces to production as we go and really aggressively trying to get things in place so that when we get a sense for this might be actually ready to ship to customers, we can sort of stop there and not keep going on what we maybe originally thought we had to do.
And I remember back in the Drip days when we were building automations into what was basically a ESP lite. Just a very light ESP that could send some emails and do some stuff, but we didn’t have any of the marketing automations. We didn’t spend five months and then drop 10,000 lines of code into production. We called it the rules engine, but it was an automation engine. I believe that you wrote the background and it was like whether it was a state machine or it was a bunch of classes, no UI, and you pushed all that to production one week.
And it didn’t do anything. You couldn’t do it. And then the next week it was a screen where you could make a rule and there was one trigger and there were four actions and I think the trigger was, you may remember, but I thought it was like click a link. It might have been the first one we implemented and then our actions were like add a tag and send someone an email and subscribe them or unsub, like there were five different actions. That was it. And then the next week there were more triggers and there were more actions.
And over those months and we actually saw the graphs changing. The retention graphs were going up, the trials paid was going up during that time. I feel like that’s another great example of ship often, ship fast.
As I was coming up, I started writing software professionally 22 years ago now. It was all waterfall development, man. And we would spec things out. I was a consultant and contractor and we’d spec it out and you would ship 20,000 lines of code to production and it was a mess. It was terrible. And that’s still done today. I want to be clear, there are a lot, if you work at a bank today, if you work at a credit card company, if you work at an insurance company, if you work at a Fortune 1000, you probably drop big quantities of code months and months and then you drop it into production.
And if you’re going to be a solo SaaS founder or whether you’re solo or not, early stage SaaS founder, you have to ship way, way faster than that. And not even full features, but fully tested code that cuts your risk down in essence of an introducing bugs and also feature velocity. That’s one of our biggest advantages as early stage bootstrappers is that we are faster, we’re more nimble, and we’re faster than larger incumbents. And so if you’re not going to weigh into that big advantage, I think you’re making a mistake.
Yeah, I mean workflow automations is a good example of this where or our initial rules engine where we know that people want to accomplish tasks in response to certain events happening. So we know that that’s an area of interest and we can start to make first steps into that. And by shipping the first useful parts as early as possible, the concern might be that people are going to think this is an incomplete feature and doesn’t do all that they want it to do. But that’s actually a good thing if people are emailing you saying, “I can’t believe your first version doesn’t do this, this, and this,” then there’s visceral pain around that next thing and you can incorporate that into your planning and maybe that kicks it up in priority if enough people are screaming about it not being able to do something. The worst is when you’re sitting in the dark building and you’re not hearing that feedback loop from customers or you spend eight months building something and you ship it and it’s crickets, that’s major risk too.
I fully agree with your take and I also have something that I noodled on. I have four superpowers you should develop, but he really did ask for a singular superpower and so I want to lean in. For me it is learning how to market. Well, it’s market or sell, it depends. So if you’re going to be lower price point, more self-service, then learn how to market and I’ll go into just some basics of that in a second. If you’re going to sell to banks, insurance companies, $500, 10,000 a month, you need to learn how to sell. And if you don’t know how to sell, then don’t go into that space unless you have a co-founder who could do it or unless you want to learn how to do it.
The reason I say marketing is that’s kind of more my expertise, right, than selling, and I don’t just mean learn how to run ads and do SEO and tactical stuff. That’s cool. These are good skills to learn. I mean, learn how to write marketing copy. Because I don’t think, if I were to say as a founder, what are your skillsets? What are your superpowers? My guess is you would say design, shipping code, building features, UX, you have all these things. I don’t think you’d put marketing as like, and maybe even in a top four or five, and yet you write really good copy and yet you design really good marketing websites and yet how to relate to customers, you know your ICP, your ideal customer profile. You know a lot more about marketing than I think most people realize. You build great products but they don’t sell themselves. You either hire the help to help you market them or you’ve marketed them yourself.
And so I think learning how to write copy, how to think about marketing and what it is, because I remember as just as a straight developer 15, 20 years ago, you just don’t know anything. You forget how much we actually do know these days because we’ve been there and done it. And I think again, learning copywriting, learning even what the marketing tactics are, learning kind of what are the top five B2B SaaS marketing approaches. I say them on this podcast all the time and what are the next five or ten that most people use?
You don’t have to implement all these, but even if you build a step, step one business, let’s say you build a Heroku add-on or Shopify add-on, do you need to drive a bunch of traffic to that? No, because you’re in the app store. Your channel is basically you need to learn how to SEO, how to do search engine optimization for the Shopify or Heroku app store so that you rank, but you do need to learn how to write copy. You need to learn how to present features and benefits in the way that makes it attractive.
There’s so much more to marketing than just driving traffic somewhere. I think that’s such a big message of all my books frankly, but my first book especially, Start Small, Stay Small, really was trying to drive home, look, I know you’re developer, I know you can write code. You need to start thinking about this a little bit differently. There’s a mindset shift that has to happen.
Yeah, I would totally agree with that. I mean, I think classically the most challenging thing for developers is breaking out of the assumption that the hardest part is writing the code. That truly the easiest part is writing the code if you’re a code craftsperson. That’s the fun stuff, you know how to do that. But yeah, like you said, learning enough to be dangerous in those other areas until you get to the point where you can start delegating that stuff. But even then it’s important that you have some level of expertise coming from the top as the founder.
That’s right. And enough to be dangerous is a really good way to put it. Because I remember Patrick Mackenzie one time tweeting, “A developer who knows how to market is just an incredible combination because there are so few of them.” And frankly, I know about marketing, I’m not the best marketer, I’m good, I’m not great. I would say you’re a good marketer. You’re not at the level of some of the other people we’ve worked with and Patrick Mackenzie similarly I’m sure would self-admittedly say, “Yeah, I know marketing, but I’m not the best one out there.”
I remember after we got acquired and we were working with Leadpages’ team, I remember, I don’t know if I told you or just my inner monologue, I was like, “Whoa, these folks know what they’re doing. I always thought I knew what that was doing. They actually know what they’re doing.” They were better copywriters, they were better strap marketing strategists. They had a bigger team and could do all the stuff, but their design was better than, I mean just their taste, just everything about what they did. I realized that I am an amateur, which is fine because we got where needed to go with it. That’s the thing, you don’t have to be great at it if you’re a developer.
You can hope to get to the place where you fire yourself from that role, but you have to get there first. You have to get, assuming you’re bootstrapping, you need to get enough revenue in the door to where you can hire that person to really be better than you at it. And that’s what you need to focus on first is getting to that first level where you can start peeling these things off and hiring the experts.
So thanks for the question Paul. I hope that was helpful. Our next question is a voicemail from Raphael.
Hi Rob. This is Raphael from Germany. I run a wedding website that’s pretty similar to what Tracy had with WeddingLovely. Our company’s called Hot [inaudible 00:11:50] and I know your thoughts about Boots driving a marketplace and I couldn’t agree more, but I’ve been doing it for such a long time. We are pretty far along, so I’m sure that we can make it work.
Our problem is that we are profitable but not yet so profitable that we can hire a lot of full-time developers. We have full-time junior developer and then a senior developer who’s freelancing for us and we have so many things that we want to build, but we don’t have the money for it. So my question is, does it make sense if you already have an existing code base? We are written in mostly in Node.js and Angular. Does it make sense to combine this with no code or low code for new products or new features, especially if it’s not a standalone product, but it’s actually it needs to be somewhat integrated in the existing system. Would this make sense or would this just increase complexity and just be something that’s extra that would have to be rewritten at a later point anyways? So yeah, would love to hear your thoughts on this and thank you so much for your podcast. It’s been a pleasure to listen to it for the last couple of years.
I really like this question because it’s one I’ve never thought of. I’ve done a lot of talking about no code lately on the podcast, on the MicroConf YouTube channel, but this is such a cool question to think about. There’s pros and cons to it, but I think it’s something that will become more and more common. I think more people will think about this avenue of this hybrid mix. What are your thoughts?
Yeah, I mean think ultimately the beauty of this is that your customers don’t care what tools your product is built in, which has always been true but continues to be true as you think about incorporating more platforms that take care of larger parts of your application. As I think about what no code tools I’ve historically used, I mean they wouldn’t call themselves no code tools, but as an example, we never send our own emails. We use Postmark. I don’t write my own content management system, I use Ghost for people to publish articles onto our blog and I use Help Scout knowledge bases, that’s a separate website. And so for a long time I think a lot of us have been using third parties as part of our product experience, but we’ve been saying that’s either not core to it or not something that we want to build bespoke, so we’re going to pull something off the shelf.
And so I think as we ponder using more and more platforms like that as part of our actual core product, I don’t think I have a particular bias against that. I think it’s a smart move if it kind of rationally makes sense. I’m a little more cautious about taking core parts of my application and shelling them out to a no code platform. I think because there’s always going to be platform risk and I’m okay accepting platform risk with my customer support system. If something were to go wrong and Help Scout were to shut down, it’d be a bummer, but we would just switch and SavvyCal customers wouldn’t be affected. But if I had subbed out all of my calendar communications stuff to a different company and then they got acquired and shut down, then that’s existential risk to my product. So I think the big thing to consider is platform risk.
Is it a stable company that you trust? Do you have reason to believe that they’re going to be around for a while? And there’s always going to be risk with anything, so you’re not going to have zero risk, but I think you want to do your diligence to feel really confident in that.
The other big factor is the implementation cost. I’ve explored a couple tools lately. I’ve been reworking some of our onboarding flows in the app and I’ve had some contact with companies that provide sort of a no code implementation for in-app onboarding flows. And I did some close vetting of those because on the one hand it might save me a lot of work, but I determined in that case it was going to be just as much work to wire it up and then I was sacrificing flexibility and so I kind of looked at implementation cost versus what I’m giving up and it just didn’t work out. So I think that’s another key thing to look at.
And what’s interesting is when it’s no code like that, like AppCues is an example of a onboarding, no code tool I guess we could call it. When they get niche like that, they get really expensive. And it’s almost like the cheaper no code stuff is the Bubbles, the Airtables, the Softers, we use those at MicroConf and at TinySeed and they’re generalist platforms and they’re massive in terms of their reach and so they can price themselves cheap. Maybe it’s because they’ve raised a bunch of venture or maybe they are actually breaking even making money, whatever with that. But the further you further niche you get there, some of these AppCues and those other ones, the prices are crazy. So it wouldn’t just be your implementation hours of doing it, the effort, but it would also be expensive. So that’s an interesting one.
Something I want to double down on that you said was for core pieces of my application, and I would agree with that. If it is a core piece of a SaaS application or a core piece of software, I would have a real tough time with that. But there’s so much that’s not core, so much auxiliary stuff and so much that’s experimental.
Imagine Raphael has a wedding website he needs to put up, who wants to try a new directory of vendors and do you code all that up or do you just build, I mean you could build that so fast, right? It’s like the prototypical example of no code on Airtable is building a directory. And so in that instance, would I consider building it in no code or having someone? Absolutely, because if it works, either you leave it or later you’re at it, write it out in code, you pay someone to build it. I mean, we’re doing some stuff with MicroConf now that is going to be customer facing so to speak, is MicroConf attendee and community facing that you can’t tell is no code. And as long as it scales and we don’t have massive scale, it’s not like we need 10,000 simultaneous users. As long as it scales. I don’t think we’ll ever rewrite it, but we’re not a SaaS application and you are coming from that.
Another good example, dude, remember when we had a list of applications that integrated with us, like an applications directory, but it was just a flat page and then post-acquisition, we had time and we had a resource who basically turned that into a searchable directory with all types of information. It wasn’t a core piece of the product, but it was a nice marketing asset. So when we approached people to integrate, we said, we can send an email, we do a blog post, we do a tweet, and you go into our application directory. That’s such a cool use of no code, probably never need to rewrite that.
I have a tough time imagining a feature of a SaaS application that I would build in no code. Maybe someone can think of an example, but if boy, if I have a code base I would have a tough time. Maybe in embed, yeah, I imagine in embed, you can go to SignWell, electronic signature and they have an API and they have embeds that you could embed in your app so that people could sign stuff in your app and it’s white labeled. You could say that’s a no code integration and I would be fine with that type of thing, but I think an actual, as you said, more of a core feature that a lot of people are going to use, I’d have a much tougher time with it.
Yeah, so much depends on what the nature is of the service you’re providing. I’ll use my own product. If scheduling is a piece of your experience, you probably don’t want to build your own scheduling infrastructure. Unless you are building a scheduling tool where that is, that’s the part that differentiates you. I guess. The definition of what’s core and what’s not is kind of difficult I guess.
Little bit of founder gut there where it’s like I’m not sure. I think overall though, my answer to his question is in general I’m pretty bullish on no code. It does a lot today and it’s doing more it seems like every month and the amount of stuff we’ve now built internal to TinySeed and MicroConf is pretty surprising. And aside from some of the pros and cons, which I talked through these what, six episodes ago with Tara Reed of Apps Without Code and we talked through the pros and cons. And so if the cons that we mentioned there are not huge deal breakers, then I think it’s certainly something you could toy with. So thanks for the question, Raphael. I hope that was helpful. Our next question is a video voicemail from Drew Clements.
Hey Rob. Drew here. I’m new to the Startups Podcast and to the community as a whole. It’s been incredibly informational and incredibly helpful. For someone like me, I’m a developer with a small startup. I have a handful of alpha testers. The feedback has been really good so far. I think we have a lot of good stuff on the roadmap for features and for growth in the future.
My question is, I have someone interested in angel seeding $5,000 into the project, but I’m not sure if now is the right time to take that. I think I could definitely find ways to spend it on marketing and ads and stuff like that. My hesitation though is that I know the market that I’m after doesn’t necessarily respond well to traditional marketing tactics. So I feel like Google ads and stuff like that may just be spending money for the sake of spending money. But at the same time, it’s significant enough that I don’t want to just say no if there’s other ways it could be used. So I’m the sole developer on the project. I wouldn’t really want to outsource or bring on any contractors this early, especially if that’s the only amount that’s being seeded. So yeah, I’m just looking for feedback. Small project, handful of alpha testers, great feedback. I think there’s a lot of room for growth. Yeah, I’m just not sure if that’s the right step just yet. Thanks for answering.
5K angel investment. It’s unusual. What do you think about this?
Yeah, I mean I think my answer depends ultimately on the nature of the investment, what are the terms and what comes with the money? My gut is saying if it’s just purely monetary, if it’s a friend who’s trying to be helpful and wants to give you 5K to help you get your thing off the ground but is not necessarily coming with mentorship or connections or people in the other people in the industry or the other things that come with smart money, then I would say 5K, it’s not nothing but it’s not going to go super far and I don’t know if giving up a piece of equity in your company at this early of a stage for that small amount of money is really worth it.
My recommendation would be to be scrappy. This is the time to be scrappy and hustle and use your time and your effort more than money to try to get some initial traction and then seek some smart money if that’s something you want. That’s what TinySeed is, right, it’s when you have a little bit of traction, you apply to the accelerator, you get some money, but the bigger benefit is the connections and the mentorship and the network and that’s really what makes it attractive to bootstrappers who are trying to be ambitious but don’t want to go on the venture capital track. So that didn’t mean for this to be a TinySeed ad, I am a member of TinySeed and that’s the reason why I joined. So I think yeah, that’s probably how I would think about taking investment.
I think I agree with you. I think that if you don’t need the money, because Drew said, “I kind of don’t know where I would spend it,” and if you’re in that position where 5K doesn’t make a huge difference because for some people it would. If I was starting a company when I was 20 years old or just out of college, 5K, actually it was a big deal. I just didn’t have any money. And so if you’re in that position, the 5K really will help you and the terms are not terrible then yeah, take it. But it doesn’t sound like Drew’s in that position and I think I echo what you’re saying where I probably wouldn’t take it at this point. It’s almost not enough money. Because think about this, you have to have a lawyer look at a safe or a convertible note or whatever you take it and so by the time you find a lawyer and pay them, I mean what is that a thousand dollars, 1500?
It’s just when TinySeed founders come and talk about, “Hey, I want to raise some follow on funding.” We say, “Cool, here’s our advice.” And pretty much the blanket advice I give is it’s almost not worth doing if you’re not going to raise I’d say a hundred grand maybe for 75, you know what I mean? Because it’s time consuming, it’s distraction. It is legal fees. Depending on how you structure it can be more or less expensive. Certainly I would only do a safer convertible note at a round that’s that small. So I think we’re on the same page. Unless there’s extenuating circumstances, I would probably hold off and Drew, if you find yourself in a spot where, oh, you are growing and you do want to raise, then maybe have that 5K as your anchor, anchor angel, and then go out and look for others to make it a round that’s enough money that it’s worth your while.
If the question had been I am working on a product and it has some traction, but I need to license this thing for X amount of money and someone’s offering to invest to get me that money now so I don’t have to wait nine months of investing my own income into the thing, that would be different. If there was a use for the money and there was a more direct tie to an immediate impact it would have on the business, I would probably feel differently about it. But in this case, context wise, it just kind of feels like, I don’t know if it’s worth it.
Thanks for the question Drew. I hope that was helpful. Next question is from Hayden.
Hey Rob, my name is Hayden. I really enjoy the podcast. Thanks for answering questions and for taking my question. I am an aspiring SaaS Hindi founder kind of in the idea of formation stage. I’ve been reading the Mom Test and it’s a great book, but I really want to validate an idea. My idea involves feedback for the banking industry and one of the hard things would be reaching out to bank either managers or executives and interviewing them without really having much to offer them. And so I guess I’m curious what you recommend, how to reach out and even what to offer. Obviously I want to interview them and solve their problems, but especially something a little more corporate like that, I want to target credit unions, but I find it challenging to get their time of day to do something like this. So curious what you think about that, how you would go about that, and how I could really have a value proposition that is worth something to them. Thanks again.
Derrick, what do you think about this one?
Yeah, so I think the good news is when you’re doing the Mom Test, you don’t actually want to come in with a value proposition for the person that you’re talking to. The idea is to come in more with a learning mentality. You want to learn what your potential target customer struggles with and get a sense for whether the hypothesis you have is actually valid, whether it aligns with the problem that they’ve expressed. So you’re looking to have conversations to find evidence of demand and willingness to pay. And so really what you’re looking to do is learn, and you’re looking for them to do you a favor.
So a couple ideas off the top of my head, I don’t know how much connection you have to that industry already. I mean banking industry sounds pretty specific, so maybe you have a brother-in-law in banking or something like that. But I would say if you anyone in the industry and you have a warm connection already, could you ask him to coffee under the premise that like, “Hey, I’m a developer looking to solve problems in your space and I’m interested in learning about what challenges you have day to day.” And if they agree to do that, great. And then you ask, “Do you have any colleagues that you’d be willing to introduce me to?” So you try to keep that chain of warm connections going to talk to folks in the industry.
You could get really scrappy. You could make a list of local branches in your area and you could buy a box of donuts and go in and say, “Hey, I bought these for the office. Can I have a few minutes with your branch manager?” If you’re an introvert, that probably makes you extremely uncomfortable, but it might take some bold moves to charm people into being willing to talk to you. And so just try to be as friendly and open as you can as you try to have these conversations with people who maybe otherwise wouldn’t want to give you a slice of their day.
Yeah, I think that’s really well said. The only thing that I would add is if you don’t already have connections in the banking industry, I personally would stay away from it in terms of building software for it because they are going to take months or years to adopt new things and it’s going to be very, very hard to crack in as essentially a bootstrapped founder. It’s just one of the worst industries that you can pick as someone without huge buckets of money and a sales force and all that. But if you do have context, you do have ins I think your advice is dead on. So thanks for the question, Hayden. I hope that was helpful.
Our next question is passed along from Scott Underwood. He’s a longtime listener of the show and he linked us up to a hacker news thread that is titled, How Are You Handling Section 174 Changes for Bootstrapped Companies? Under these new rules, the US, it’s a US law, so if you’re not here, maybe skip the next couple minutes, but the US says that if you spend $90,000 in developer salaries to make your software, you used to be able to write that off in one year as an expense, which makes sense because when you have a company and you pay salaries, those are an expense this year. But now the 174 changes are saying it has to be spread over five years and you can only take 10% of it in the first year. I’m not sure I fully understand that part. But so suddenly I’ve gone from a profit of let’s say 10 K to a profit of $91,000 for tax purposes.
You’ll obviously eventually get this back over the next five years, but from what I’ve read, bipartisan, nobody likes this change, but it slipped through or it expired or something. So it really is a problem. Separately, there’s this R and D tax credit that you get, and that’s what I thought this was impacting, but now I realize how bad this actually is. So there’s been discussions of it in MicroConf Connect. There’s been discussions of it in the TinySeed Slack. What’s your take on this, sir?
Yeah, I mean this is an absolute cluster, right? Because it seems to have caught founders, accountants, even the government flatfooted. Like the IRS has said, we will release guidance on this later in the year, but it applies to the 2022 tax year.
And my taxes are doing two weeks for my corp, right? If you have an LLC.
And by the way, if you’re me, Johnny on the spot this year and I already filed my taxes, that means potentially an amendment. What a lot of people are doing that I’m hearing, and again, take everything I say with a grain of salt, not an accountant, not accounting advice, but what I’m hearing a lot of people say is that their accountants are telling them to basically file an extension and wait and see if this gets rolled back.
Repealed, which I think it will. If they’re smart, they’ll do it. Because this is not good. Otherwise, how many companies do we know that their software developers are suddenly going to maybe have a different job title or it says developer, but they only spend half their time building the product. The rest of it is helping with marketing. This is no good.
And the challenge for me, so just to give you a little perspective as a founder, I actually haven’t bothered myself with the R and D tax credit because I understand that the IRS does love to audit companies that take the R and D tax credit, and I don’t want to be audited. I don’t want to increase my odds of being audited that just sounds like a massive distraction as an early stage company. So personally, that’s been my choice. I haven’t bothered with it.
Now it becomes pretty irrational not to try to get the tax credit if you’re going to be subject to this new amortization policy, but it’s weird because it would appear the compliance requirements for actually carving out and saying, “This much of this person’s salary was R and D versus this much was not.” You have to be rigorous about that if you’re getting the tax credit. Especially if they’re giving you a benefit, then the IRS is going to want to know, in the case of an audit, they’re going to want to know, well, how did you justify saying this much was R and D?
So even if you wanted to take a broad stroke and just say, “Okay, fine, this full developer’s salary is R and D, I’ll amortize it, but I also want to claim a tax credit for that full salary.” Well, now you have to have done all of your diligence to justify it.
So it’s nasty. Talking to other founder friends seems like most people’s accountants, even those who are more tech-oriented are not super aware of this change. So I think you may have to do a little more digging or prod your own accountant with some articles on like, “Hey, this is specifically what I’m hearing. Can I get your advice on this?” Because I think a lot of accountants just aren’t even aware this is such an outlandish change. Everyone’s kind of surprised by it.
Yep, it’s a mess. Call your Congress people, let’s get this repealed. My hope is that it will get fixed because that’s the best solution here.
Yeah, I do know that Michelle Hansen, she’s one of the TinySeed mentor and founder of Geocodio. I think she’s organizing some efforts to write letters to your Congress people, so check out what she’s up to. I think that could hopefully help move the needle on getting this changed.
Yeah, so thanks for passing that along, Scott. Our last question of the day is from Dan the BA, BA stands for business analyst, on Twitter. He says, “Hey Rob, I love your podcast and especially the question and answer rounds. I was hoping you’d be able to advise. I work as a business analyst and I have okay technical knowledge, but I want to be more of a doer, more database querying integrations, file translations, automation. Currently messing around on Code Academy doing a SQL course, but I was wondering what learning resources or possible mentorships you could recommend. I personally think having a proper test environment and or mentor to actually go through scenarios would be ideal.” What do you think, sir?
That’s a good question actually. I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are on this. I know you’ve thought about this a bit. I feel like my knowledge is slightly outdated on a DIY learning how to code yourself because I’ve so far removed from that, so I’m not sure I can name specifics. I know Code Academy was like, that was big back in 2012 when we were hiring junior developers and I was teaching a course on it and stuff, but I’m not really sure what the newest, hottest things are out there. So I guess I’m curious to let you take this one first.
I got to be honest, I think if I were trying to get into kind of technical stuff when I was non-technical, I would think about no code. This is becoming an advertisement for no code, but I would start digging into Airtable to learn the paradigms and it doesn’t do everything, it doesn’t do a lot of what Dan is asking about here, but you can build full-blown SaaS apps in the thing with limitations.
If you really, really want to get into transforming data and querying the database, doing integrations, it’s shocking how much of that you can get through tools, through just external tools. But if you do want to get into code learning SQL I think is a great way to do it. I have a tough time advising on how to do it because for me, I always learned really well from books and I don’t think most people do. But I would literally buy when I try to learn SQL, which is structured query language for those, if you’re not technical, but it’s just how you query a relational database. I would just read through and be like, oh, yeah, that makes sense. But it’s like a lot of people really want an in-person course or they want a video course or they want a whatever.
I think Code Academy and the like, I still think they’re pretty good. How much has changed with learning SQL in the past 20 years? I mean obviously there’s a little bit, Postgres adds a feature where you can group by and this and that. You don’t need to know that today. You need to know what a select star from blah is and then what some basic operators do. And so I think almost any online course that you can find is probably going to be pretty good.
I know that Khan Academy has programming courses. What I don’t know is if they have SQL specifically, but yeah, I don’t have anything more up to date than you do. I just know there’s a ton out there and I think a lot of it is quite good. Egghead.io, that’s Joel Hooks who comes to MicroConf, that’s certainly going to have top quality stuff. Frontend Mentor, which is a TinySeed backed company, but been part of the MicroConf community for years. Now, they’re going to be front end stuff, not SQL like Dan the BA’s asking about, but I do think it’s honestly easier than it ever has been.
Yeah, there are a ton. It’s I guess why I have trouble naming one specifically because there’s just so many. There’s so many different courses out there and individuals trying to produce courses and larger companies producing courses. Pluralsight I think is one of the big sites that has video courses. Some are more like watch a YouTube video and learn as you go. Some are more step by step, each screen you type code into a thing and it tells you whether you did it right or not. There’s just so many different ways depending on how you learn best I think.
I would also say depending on what your kind of environment, the tooling that you’re working with, yeah, thinking about it as the no code being the bridge into it. I see a lot of less technical co-founders doing this where maybe they’re technical co-founders writing a lot of code and they’re trying to be useful on some parts of analyzing user patterns or something, and they have some raw data, and so then they start using a no-code tool and it introduces coding concepts. You start to learn about conditionals and filter criteria and just these things that you need to know when you’re writing SQL query, but you can learn it in a more beginner-friendly way and kind of graduate into the really low level stuff. I think that can be a good bridge.
And then seeing what environments are available with the tooling you’re using. I think about even my own dad, he’s a mechanical engineer and he taught me how to code when I was a kid, and he taught himself by writing macros in their CAD software. So there was visual basic for applications, which was a very particular environment, and he just kind of learned VBA. He learned how to code through that, and then that knowledge became more generalized, but it came by way of solving a problem inside of the tooling that he was using for his job. And it sounds like you probably have some tooling as a BA that you’re using already, so is there an opportunity to write something custom into that that might give you a hint on what to look for a course on or something to learn?
And the good news is if you’re learning SQL or Python or Ruby, there is so much information out there and don’t let the paradox of choice be like, “Well, there’s so much. I just don’t know what to pick.” Just pick one. Just like Pluralsight, Udemy, Udacity, Teachable. Go to any of those or Egghead, Frontend Mentor that I mentioned. Just pick one. They’re going to be fine. There are so many good Rails courses or Ruby courses and Python and sequel courses out. If it looks interesting, keeps you entertained and you’re learning, just do it and don’t worry about it. You’re not min-maxing, you’re not optimizing. Oh my God, I has to be the best course, just take a course.
I also have different advice. If Dan is thinking about maybe I want to become a developer, I want to transition from a BA to become a developer long term, then I would say, okay, then dig into it, really learn it, X, Y, Z. I don’t know that I would do the no code. That would be a real quick entry point, but if you think you might want to be, I would dive headfirst. I don’t think most people want to be developers, and I don’t think most people need to be developers.
So if you still want to be a BA or you want to just be a more technical person in whatever realm you’re going to be in, you’re still going to be more of on the business side, then I would do what we’ve said, and I wouldn’t dive in with both feet and I would just learn at an even pace and kind of augment, you’re augmenting your zone of genius rather than trying to switch it to something else. Because I’m imagining, let’s say I wanted to write code again, I still hack. I learned Python a few weeks ago. I learned 10 commands and syntax and some basic stuff, and I can still hack PHP and it’s fun, but I can’t write production code anymore. It would be terrible. I’m out of it, and so I’m thinking-
We locked you out of the codebase a long time ago, right?
It was years ago. “Hey, how come my credentials say read only all of a sudden?” Yep. That’s pretty much by design. The commando cowboy coding I was doing. But if I wanted to get back to writing production code, it would take a long time, even though I know how to code, it would take me months, 40 hours a week, to really get back to where I’d want to ship code that would go into SavvyCal, for example, at that level, and that’s me with my background. It’s like, well, if you’ve never done it’s going to take you a really long time, and so really ask yourself.
Most people don’t need to be at that level. Hacking scripts to transform data or analyze and do basic things that are not production code running in a SaaS app, you can be kind of a hack, which I am fully embracing as me, I’m a hack, but I can still write code to do stuff. So it’s like figuring out where you think you’re going to wind up or want to be along that continuum can help dictate how far you lean in to learning.
So thanks for the question, Dan. I hope that was helpful. Mr. Reimer, folks want to find you online. You are derrickreimer.com, as well as Derek Reimer on Twitter.
That I am.
And SavvyCal if folks want to use the best scheduling link on the internet.
Well, thank you. You’re too kind.
Thanks for joining me, man.
Thanks for having me back.
Thanks again to Derrick for coming on the show and a reminder that MicroConf Remote is focused on leveling up your SaaS sales head to MicroConf.com/remote if you are interested. Thanks for joining me this week and every week. This is Rob Walling signing off from episode 652.